The Abbey's great walls gleamed like copper and ember-fire in the waning sunlight. Here, hidden like a gem in the forest, stood the doom of vermin, a safehaven for goodbeasts, the greatest center of learning and craftsmanship in all the land. The bells rang in the hour, muting for a moment the voices of its inhabitants. 'Yes,' Shaleslip thought as he gazed upon on the towers and ramparts. 'This will do.'
The big badger hefted the cart loaded with all of his earthly domain and breached the threshold of Redwall Abbey.
"It has been many seasons since we have had a badger within our walls," the Abbot said with a gracious smile. "How long do you think you will stay?"
Shaleslip's gaze held the mouse for a moment too long before his heavy head bowed in subservient gesture. "As long as you would find me useful and require my labors. I am a carpenter by trade, a cooper and a woodsman, and I offer you my skill of my paw and the strength of my back in exchange for shelter and sustenance."
The knotted scar on the badger's brow cut through the clean lines of his stripes like a snake broke through grass. The Abbot's eye fell from it to the massive beast. "Have you seen war, my friend?"
Again, Shaleslip seemed to consider his reply. "Yes," he said at last. "And if evil comes to your doors, know that I will see war again."
"I pray that the shadow of evil never falls on the Abbey. Yet it comforts my heart to know you would fight with us. What vermin would stand against the likes of you, hm?" The Abbot's solemnity broke into a kidding grin. Shaleslip lifted his head and fixed the Father with a distant look.
"I, ah, will Salamandastron be calling for you?" The Abbot gave a self-conscious brush of his habbit, unnerved by the badger's gaze.
"No," Shaleslip replied. "My family has no claim to that place. I am a carpenter, not a king."
The Abbot gave a forced chuckle. "Right, well, good. We would hate to get used to having you around only to have you leave us." He nodded and stood. "We need a good carpenter around here. I welcome you to Redwall, Shaleslip. I will send to have a room made for you."
The badger bowed, then rose to his full height. Colored light from the stained glass windows blurred across his broad back.
Shaleslip leaned against the carpentry shed, resting in the cool of the shade. He had just finished splitting a massive oak with the aid of a couple otters and the cellarhog. The two halves lay on rockers nearby, where they would live until the badger milled it. The wedges, the largest of which were pieces of whole trees themselves, waited to be put away. It had been two days of labor felling the tree, cleaving off the branches, and hauling it into the Abbey grounds. But it was worth the cost of sweat and aching bones; there were much needed tables, chairs, and windowsills hidden in that wood, along with dozens of other objects, tools, and char.
But for now, these things could wait while Shaleslip caught his breath and sipped his sour beer.
Redwall had been good to him these last two months. The Abbeybeasts had welcomed him with open arms, and their sense of awe at his presence had given way to familiarity and ease. Some had never seen a badger before, and most knew only the stories of badgermums past or the tall tales of the lords of the west, of which they had all regaled him eagerly.
The former interested him; it had been years since he had seen a female of his own species. The latter amused him, and it hadn't been the Dibbuns who had been most persistent that Shaleslip wasn't fit for that mountain or that his paws could crush the brains of dozens of vermin in one swipe. The childrens' favorite games were tag and war, where they plied the big badger into wrestling with and gobbling up all the hordes of tiny, wriggling vermin they pretended to be.
For now, he pretended to not notice the few Dibbuns lurking in the distance in hopes that it was time to play now that he was finished with the log.