Not accustomed to attention, Lily flushed bright red. She laughed with embarrassment, but her eyes danced. Giddy with happiness and caught off guard, she offered a simple curtsy.

"Well hello, friends. Um…" Another laugh. "I didn't catch all your questions, so you'll have to ask me again, one at a time. May I sit with you for dinner? We can talk while we eat."

The girls were delighted! Hovering around her like bees around spilled honey, they escorted her to the main table where they usually sat. That's when a small argument started. Farina was using her height to seem older so Miss Lily should sit by her. Liona was taller, of course, but squabbling about who was going to sit next to who wasn't in her nature, she sat back in her normal spot and laughed as the others argued. Aster was playing the pretty card, I mean, Miss Lily was to pretty to sit next to plain people! The pretty must stay by the pretty! Raen was pointing out that she was the one who saw her first and talked to her first so she should sit next her. Tali had wandered off to steal some poor beast's cup of strawberry cordial but she came back just when the argument was heating up. Quietly sipping her cordial, she nodded to Liona, who pulled Farina away from Aster and sat them down on either side of her. Tali immediately plopped down into a vacant chair and patted the seat next to her, motioning for Lily to sit in it. She smiled charmingly.

"Sit next to a fellow otter Miss Lily! The others are all being far to rowdy….except for Liona, she's watching them all for you. Our Mum taught us to be sensible as you can see."

Lily laughed and sat down next to Tali.

"You had a very good mum." In a rush, Lily felt homesick. She remembered her mother gently picking burrs out of her fur when she was younger and laughing together over wedding plans for someday. Now someday had come and there was no way her mother would be able to be a part of that day. When she ran away with Thad, she had known in the back of her head that it would have to be that way, but she had not acknowledged  it until now. Lily slid Tali onto her lap, trying to ignore the sudden tightness in her throat.

"So, tell me again all of you, what did you want to know?" She nodded to the shortest girl. "You first."

OOC: Many deleted comments

I'm going to expedite things here…

IC:

Back in the circle of Elders, the discussion had become fervent. A burly shrew ripped off his green headband and threw it on the floor.

"No, it's stupid and unnecessary. The lad is old enough to survive on his own."

"He's just barely 15!" objected another. "And he's never been a fighter. I mean... good grief, he decorates food with flowers."

Lol-a-log spread his paws wide. "So, you're going to put well over 200 beasts in danger for the sake of coddling the poor child? Survival will make him strong. He will cope. I'm happy to transport him downriver where fruit grows wild and he will have a better chance."

"It's cruel. I don't like it."

"I don't like it either! Either way, somebeast is going to be put out, and I would rather deal with the problem while the casualties can be counted on one paw. This isn't a petty stomach ache. We're talking limbs and lives here."

An otter on Log-a-log's right spoke up. "I agree. Have we forgotten what happened at Loamhedge?"

A male hedgehog across the table rolled his eyes. "We don't know what happened at Loamhedge."

The otter slapped his paw on the table. "Exactly! We know there was a plague, we know everyone died, nothing more, nothing less. How do we know we aren't dealing with something that big?"

A profound silence fell across the corner, and in the emptiness, the dinner bell toiled like a death blow.

"Father?"

Abbot Grumm was slumped in his seat, paws clasped in front of him. He shook his head. "Iff'n et wur up t' oi, oi wud ruther curtch the sickness thun send anutherbeast away. Oi wurd ruther make a turrible mistake do'in whot oi fult weres koindest."

"But Father," pled the otter, "if Harack stays, there is a definite possibility that this illness could spread. Mange is known to be highly contagious, extremely painful, and potentially lethal. Your love is good, and your hesitations are understandable, but would it be compassionate to place every other beast under this roof in such a dire situation? It is one thing to personally assume such a risk, but is it fair to require it of others?"

"I know," Grumm replied softly. "I know." He looked up, squinting around the circle. His eyes paused on an ancient hare who had been remarkably void of commentary throughout the discussion. "Wurren, when ee wur in ee Long Purtol, an one uf ee friends wur wounded on thur field, what did ee do?"

Warren looked the Abbot in the eyes. "We never left a bally soul to fend for themselves if we could help it, sah. Sometimes the opposition was far too great, though, and we knew we didn't have a chance if we fought them head-on, so we'd back off for a while." His whiskers lifted and he straightened his crooked back as much as possible. "But we always attempted a rescue, when night came. Blood and vinegar and the good old' left… Sometimes we failed, sometimes many good soldiers died trying to save their friends, but just the same... Whatever it took, we never left one of our own behind without losing a fabulous fight, sah, and that's the bloody truth."

Grumm let that comment hover in the air for a moment. He directed his response at the council as a whole. "I think we durn't love Huruck loike ee Long Purtol loved each urthr. Oi think we durn't see ee young beest as er brother, loike we shurd. As ee abburt, oi hurve had ee spurcial chance to woitch ee dibbuns grow. Oi lurve them one boi one. Oi wurried 'bout Huruck fer ee long toime, beecurse ee hasn't made a specul bond with anybeest, beecurse he bees happy tur watch and smile on ee side, and he dursn't wurnt anybeast tur fret 'bout he."  Grumm sighed heavily.

"And now oi wurry thurt ee has no frends 'tur fight fur he, no beest thurt lurvs him enough tur let him stay. Wurt if et were someburdy ee loved, that wur sick? Wudn't ee do whatever ee cud?"

Log-a-log stood up, collected his headband. He bowed somberly to the Abbot and left without speaking another word. There was no anger in his face, no blame, just sorrow.

Grumm stared at the table. "Oi think I hurv a solution, one thurt wud bee burst fur everybeest, if'n ee wull hur et."


“I can live with that,” conceded Russet, a younger adult squirrel. He touched the birchbark parchment that lay on the table. It held the summary of the entire discussion, as collected by the Abbey Recorder. “It’s a good plan. With all due respect, though, may I take the message? I… I understand what you have said, but I am still afraid to stay. I do not have your courage.”

Grumm smiled. “Et cums with age. Ee get old, an’ then et dursn’t matter so much wut happens to ee. Ee may take the musurge. [Insert name of current Recorder] will write eet fur ee.”

Russet clasped the mole’s huge paw with relief. “Thank you, Father.”

“May ee wind favor ee, and may ee nuver have tur travel boi water.”

They all laughed, and Russet left the hall to collect his belongings.

The abbeybeasts chatted nervously, restlessness and hunger mounting. A few of the dibbuns who had managed to pilfer food were congregated underneath one of the tables on the far side of the great hall.

Harack slipped through the outside door. His face was redder than normal, having been scrubbed longer and more thoroughly than ever in his life. Harack had walked to the river to bathe instead of jumping in the abbey pond, out of consideration. Fully half of the chunk of soap Sister Burlspike had given him had been used up. Fur combed to a gleam, he had even gone out of his way to rub himself with pine oil so he would smell nice.

After all the effort, though, Harack looked at his bandage, then at the enormous room filled with the happy gurgle of gossip, and more than ever before, he felt out of place. In the corner he could see a large group of the oldest and wisest beasts in the abbey bent over the table, holding an earnest conversation. Curious abbeybeasts kept straying close to the conversation, only to be shooed away. One of the elders caught notice of him and stared for a moment before offering a weak smile and returning his attention to the argument.

Unable to bring himself to talk to anyone, fearing questions more than answers, Harack turned and fled back outside.

The bread was already cold and the drinks had grown a little warm when the Elders concluded their discussion. Several large pots of steaming soup were finally summoned from the kitchen. Grumm stood and gestured for everyone to quiet down. It took a little longer than normal to obtain order, despite the general mood of impatience for the food to be served.

"Dur frends, oi be surry fur the wait. Oi'll say ee grace so ee ken sturt eating, but please stay quoiet after, becurse oi have sum vury impurtant things to teel ee."

Graditude was expressed, the plates and bowls were passed around. Even though the carrots were completely overcooked, everybeast dug into the delicious stew with overripe enthusiasm, forgetting their worries as they savored the fabulous flavors Redwall was renowned for. Unappealingly bright pink cream puffs dotted with apricot blossoms sat on one table, while sage and basil breadsticks were devoured at another. Peach nectar and spring water with a hint of lemon complimented the whole affair. Even at all the wrong temperatures, the flavors came through, every one unique and delicious. Once the clatter died down a little, Grumm stood again and conversation slowly died.

In the intermittent silence, a dibbun sitting unfortunately close to a tray of garlic and hotroot scones heaved a spectacular sneeze.

After the laughter subsided and order had been restored, the Abbot banged his spoon on the table for attention.

OOC: For the sake of convenience and speed, just pretend the following dialogue is written in mole-speak. Thanks. XD

BIC:
"Brothers and Sisters, I have a great deal I need to tell you. I would prefer for this to take as little time as possible, so please be patient and wait until the end to ask questions.

Harack sat on the windowsill outside the abbey, with his ear pressed against the uneven glass, listening.

"Harack, one of the youngbeasts in our abbey, was diagnosed today with a sickness called mange that will affect his fur, skin, and overall health. He might die. We don't know how bad his particular case will be. This is very important because the disease is contagious.

“To prevent the disease from spreading, please do not touch Harack until further notice. Avoid all physical contact. Please still be kind and do your best to be his friend and include him in your games and chores. This will be a lonely and hard summer for him, so please be respectful and treat him normally in all other ways. For those of you who do not know who he is," Harack cringed. "Harack is a male squirrel, about 15 seasons old, with grey fur. He is fairly quiet. He is currently wearing a bandage around his shoulder. His rash has not spread very far yet, so he will continue to join us for meals as long as Sister Burlspike feels it is safe.

"Because some of you may have already been infected, immediately after dinner is over, every beast in the abbey will be required to take a thorough bath, including dibbuns…" A cry of dismay met this proposal, and a few spry critters attempted to get a head start on running away. "...before we go to bed. As an extra precaution, since it is now warm enough outside, everybeast will sleep outside on the grass for the night." This suggestion was met with a murmer of surprise, and a few cheers from adventurous youngsters. "We know that this is not ideal for many of you, but we believe it would be a wise thing to do. Tomorrow we will work together to scrub out the dormitories and wash all the habits, sheets, blankets, and towels.

"Harack will no longer be sleeping in the dormitories, but he will continue to live at Redwall. He has been given his own room on the highest floor, where he will have some privacy and likelihood of infection will be minimal."

Burning with embarrassment, Harack forced himself to stay and listen, not wanting to hear everything from someone else, face to face. Abbot Grumm went on to summarize the concerns that had been raised about Harack remaining at Redwall, and why the Elders had decided that Harack should be allowed to remain as long as he wished to stay. "Redwall is a sanctuary. We cannot turn away those who we believe to be in need. However, I also understand that this disease poses a certain risk, and allowing him to stay means Redwall is no longer completely safe for you and your families.

"We have already sent a messenger to Noonvale informing them of our situation. My brother is an elder there, and in the past he has offered Noonvale as a place of refuge, should we need it. I do not feel right sending Harack to Noonvale, since he already has mange, and Noonvale is clean from the disease, while anybeast currently at Redwall has already been exposed to it.

"If you do not wish to remain here, you are welcome to go to Noonvale until the problem here has been resolved. It is not a difficult journey and should only take a few weeks. You will be asked to bathe frequently as you travel, and once you arrive at the borders of Noonvale, if you show no symptoms of mange, you will be welcome inside. However, if you do develop a rash, even if the kind beasts at Noonvale welcome you, we ask that you return to Redwall."

The Abbot took a deep breath and placed his paws on the table to steady his old legs.

“Do ee hav any querstons?”

OOC: hey Moonsong! Welcome to Redwall's Legacy!

Great first post, and we'd love to have you join. Just one problem:For story arc purposes, no one else is supposed to actually contract mange right now.

Here's an overview of the story arc: http://www.redwallslegacy.com/SMF/index.php?topic=612.0 . Skim that, and then PM me with any questions you have.

Thanks for posting! and good luck here. Your writing shows promise and I think you'll do well.

(This has been inactive for a little. I'll be reading it and join if there is no opposition. oh, and another thing Bump XD)

ooc- Thanks for the nudge, Nothsa. Point taken. And yes, you are more than welcome to join in.

Bic- After several moments of silence ((months actually cough cough)) Raun spoke. "Wisely spoken, Father Abbot. I think we all understand. However, for those deigning to leave for Noonvale, what would their instructions be?"
    One elderly shrew sputtered in surprise. "But Raun, surely you are not leaving with them?"
    The ancient otter stiffened. "Of course not. I have, in fact run across a number of minor cases of mange in my time and fully intend to help however I can, but I am sure that not everyone here feels the same way."

ooc- Sorry it's been a while. I'm trying to stay tuned where I can, but time's a rare comodity lately. I'll be earning a lot more it soon, however.

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