Wolverine War Dance (Horde Arc)

Arra's claw tips scoured the inner edges of the clay pot, smearing the cold ochre paint across his paw pads. With his now red-coloured paw, he beckoned the young weasel to kneel in front of him, as he sat on an old tree stump. The soldier obeyed, his chain mail clinking and mingling with the rustle of the leaves at the edge of the forest clearing. The sunless dawn sky grew brighter, lending light to Arra's work. Arra gently drew his claws along the weasel's cheek, leaving wavy trails of paint.

"The mark matches your inner fire," Arra intoned softly, letting his paw stroke across the other cheek, giving the weasel matching fire patterns of the red ochre. "If you harness it in battle today, the spirits of the ancient weasels will guide your sword."

The weasel shivered. He was young and weak, perhaps only a season or two out of adolescence. Arra already knew his story; the weasel's real name was Falmere, but his horde nickname was Pike. He had run away from a crowded family home, and journeyed south for warmth and easier times. He wasn't here for his family, and he didn't have many in the horde he could call friend. He was here for himself, because he wanted more. Arra liked that in a fellow vermin. Self-preservation and just a touch of greed, enough to convince a beast to join a horde for the spoils of war.

"And if I fall?" Asked Falmere, or Pike as he preferred to be called. The weasel was shivering inside his cold armour, his ragged old green cloak useless against the cool morning breeze. Arra stood, and motioned for Pike to do the same. The fox led the weasel to a patch of grass where the sun, low and orange on the horizon, shone through a gap in the trees. The horde had camped on a hill, a good defensible location in case of an attack.

The two beasts stood and warmed themselves in the sun. Arra breathed deeply, contemplating Pike's question. The weasel was a cautious fighter, he had already proven himself in a couple of skirmishes. From what Arra had heard from Ulath, the majority of the hares were having some celebration further south. It didn't seem likely that Pike would die today. He patted the weasel's shoulder with his non-painted paw. "I see no such thing happening today."

"Oi! Pike!" A harsh voice crowed. Arra sighed and turned with a sneer to face one of the horde's sergeants tromping up to them. "Not listenin' to Arra's nonsense, are ye?"

Pike looked shocked, and gave Arra a look as if to say 'I'm not with her!'

"Sergeant Shale, these sessions are private," Arra growled, folding his arms and giving the ferret a hard look. The burly sergeant was not as tall as Arra, almost nobeast was, but she had a way of making everybeast feel smaller in her presence. She also never let her real name slip, instead going by 'Shale'. Everybeast in the horde had a nickname, but Arra very rarely failed to find out what their real names were.

Shale gave him a smug grin. "Go on then, Seer. Predict me somethin', ye loony."

The corners of Arra's mouth twitched. He knew this game. Shale could never resist provoking him. He closed his eyes and thought for a moment, then opened them, grinning. "You will soon face great humiliation."

Shale snorted. "Oh, aye? Well, if ye're such a great Seer, how come ye didn't predict… this!"

Shale's paw was about halfway to colliding with Arra's nose when the fox deflected it with one paw, his other paw quickly pressing a knife to the ferret's throat. The two froze for a moment, before Shale shook the fox off her, giving a loud guffaw.

"As I said. Humiliation," Arra said lightly. Scoring points off Shale was easy; the ferret was rather predictable when it came to trying to prove Arra wasn't a Seer.

"Ah, go boil yer head, foxy. Pike, if ye're done with yer face paintin' class, it's time to report fer vittles," Shale continued. Pike saluted obediently and trotted off back through the rows of horde tents. Arra watched him go, smiling faintly. He almost forgot Shale was still standing beside him, till she lightly punched him on the shoulder. He winced, rubbing the sore spot and giving the ferret a hurt look.

"So, today's the day. Our big conquest, aye." Shale said, her scornful tone turning serious for a moment. "Arra, takin' Sal'n'astron is one thing, but I'm worried discipline'll break down amongst the horde, once we're sittin' pretty on good food and shiny treasure. We'll be vulnerable to a siege. The badger won't abandon his mountain so lightly."

Arra nodded, faintly amused at the sergeant's nickname for Salamandastron. Finding the whole word far too long, she had converted it to "Salam And Astron." Nobeast seemed to know who Salam or Astron were, and the nickname had become 'Sal'n'astron', in the sergeant's rough, inarticulate tongue. The nickname was catching on, most other beasts were using it as well.

"I'll do my best to keep the horde alert. If we can keep the mountain till winter, the hares will be so hungry and cold they'll have to run back to Redwall. They're soft, unused to living without all their comforts." Arra replied. He wasn't sure if he himself believed his words, he had read many histories of the tenacity of the Long Patrol. But his answer seemed to satisfy Shale. She nodded, oddly polite for the ferret, and left.

Arra stretched, groaning. He would have to go see Ulath soon, to see the plan started smoothly. He swaggered lazily back to his tent and dipped his painted paw in a bowl of water, washing clear the dried ochre. Then, he headed through the camp, flicking his paws to dry them of the water.

Hordebeasts let him pass freely. He did look rather impressive, if he did think so himself. A fancy ruffled silk shirt, if a bit ripped here and there, with a black waistcoat, lined with silver thread. A tattered, blue-grey cloak over his shoulders, and once-red breeches down to his knees, though rain had run the dye till they were a pale shade of pink.

To another Falsson, Arra would have looked shameful, with his fur dirty and mussed up and his clothes torn and bleached by the sun. But to the hordebeasts, his clothes were fine, rich and mysterious, giving the fox seer an air of power amongst them. Except for the less credulous of them, like Shale. She was a smart ferret, Arra had to admit. Smart, a good fighter and very good at keeping the beasts under her command alive. Despite their rivalry, she was one of the only friends the fox Seer had.

Ulath's tent was the largest, with the wolverine's standard flapping in the morning breeze. There was only one guard at the tent flap - nobeast was foolish enough to try and assassinate the enormous wolverine in broad daylight. The guard saw Arra approaching and politely tapped on the tent flap. "The Seer's here, sir."

Arra waited patiently, smoothing down his waistcoat. The basic plan was getting somebeast inside the mountain, then opening the gates wide for the horde to attack. Viper had been an obvious choice, she was a young mouse, the sort of beasts the dull-witted hares left behind would trust. But Arra had learnt early on that Viper was cunning, remarkably intelligent and a brilliant infiltrator. He could hardly wait to see her in action in their biggest conquest yet.

Iris gently ran a small shell comb through he head fur, checking her appearance in a small mirror she kept in her tent. Even among the filth and dirt of horde life she still liked to keep up her image. Iris, or Viper, as the horde beasts called her, saw herself as superior to the common rabble. And why shouldn't she? She had everything they didn't: brains, looks, hope for a future. Viper returned the comb to a small back she kept such items in, made sure her log book and writing implements were in her belt pouch, and then pulled up her dark hood over her head. It hid the majority of her pretty face, making her difficult to recognize from a distance.

A quiet rap came on the wood of her tent pole, followed by a raspy voice. "Miss Viper, are you ready?" it asked, "we are to meet Ulath and his shaman soon." The voice was deep heavy, and constantly seemed like it was on the edge of a growl.

"It is as much a fault to be early as it is to be late," Viper answered curtly as she exited her tent, "I try to arrive for my appointments directly on time." As she pulled the tent flap aside, she found herself toe to toe with the most monstrous of ferrets. Even though Scarelles has been her traveling companion for some time, Viper was still taken aback by his appearance for a second. With his hood down, Scar's half metal face and gemstone "eye" were easily noticeable. "Scar, I would recommend putting up you hood for the time being," Viper said, "we do not want to attract undue attention before our place in the horde is firmly fixed." Scarelles nodded and did as she ordered, silent except for his heavy breathing. "Come on, let's go," Viper continued, heading off in the direction of the warlord's tent.

The horde beasts probably wouldn't have bothered to clear the way for Iris, as dangerous as she was. A young mousemaid wasn't particularly impressive. But with Scarelles by her side, they practically scrambled to get out of the pair's way. Though the ferret's trousers hid most of the heavy metal plates bolted on his legs, the clacking noise they made as he walked was hard to disguise. With his free paw, Scar kept his cloak pulled over the heavy metal claw that made up his right limb.

The pair soon found themselves near Ulath's tent, arriving just a little after Arra. Though she had soon realized that the fox's seer powers were a sham, Viper respected him for his intellect and ability to inspire the troops with his "abilities." "Morning Arasmus," Viper greeted the fox, "I trust you are doing well?"

"Where is the wolverine?" Scar asked in his raspy tone, "is he still within his tent?"

"Don't be so brash scar," Viper reprimanded the hulking beast, "as warlord, Ulath will choose his own time." The mousemaid withdrew her writing book and tools from her pouch, ready to make notes on their conversation.

Ulath was currently practicing for the upcoming battles. He was in his armor, wielding his war hammer in his paws. Three wooden manikins stood in the center of his tent with him. Swinging his hammer, he advanced on the practice dummies, each of them shaped like a different woodlander.  With a side sweep of his hammer, he crushed the mouse on the far left, sending it flying across the room. He turned to the otter on the far right. He swept the hammer low, knocking its stand out from under it. He brought the hammer up over his head and then brought it down on the chest of the wooden otter. He then turned on the final dummy, a hare. He reversed his hammer and swept it up, taking the hare full in the side of the head. He brought the head of his hammer close to himself and yanked the wooden head of the hare off of the spike on his hammer. It had been a very short, vicious practice, just the way he liked battle. He was even breathing hard as he reached for a small, clear flask sitting on a table nearby. He removed the cork from it and took a swig. The harsh, wolverine vodka burned its way down his throat. Everything about the wolverines was harsh and brutal, even their drinks.
"The Seer's here, sir." The guard at the tent flap said. Ulath put the cork back in the flask then set it back down on the table. He picked up his golden crown from the other end of the table and placed it on his head. He also grabbed his tortoise necklace and placed it around his neck. Finally, he picked up his sword and placed it in its sheath. He stepped in front of a large, full body mirror and looked at his reflection. He made a few small adjustments to his armor then stood up to his full height. He smiled at his imposing figure. He knew that part of being a warlord was looking like one. He lifted his war hammer and then made for the tent flap. He pushed back the tent flap and stepped out into the sun. He rose to his full height, hammer held in his right paw. He looked down at Arra, then turned his head and looked at Iris and her hulking companion, Scarelles.
“You’re all are here, good. Then we can get started working on our plans. Get in.” He said bluntly. He held open the tent flap, not out of kindness, but to ensure that none of them got behind him. He didn’t like anyone being behind him with a weapon.

OOC: Sorry if this isn't of the highest quality, I was kind of distracted while writing this.

Arra nodded politely at the mousemaid. She was immaculately neat, as usual, and politely formal. Her companion on the other paw, had always unsettled the Seer. He had heard Viper was an ex-Redwaller, which seemed to make sense, even if it was just a rumour. Scarelles, however, was a complete mystery. He never said much, didn't exactly make an abundance of friends, nor did he often seek the Seer's skills, like so many other hordebeasts. Why he chose to be the constant companion of Viper, Arra could not guess.

"It's been a productive morning, so far," Arra replied, thinking of Pike and Shale. Before he could comment any further, he heard the sound of a large hammer striking wood. There were heavy thumps and the crack of split timber coming from Ulath's tent. Arra shifted his weight from one footpaw to the other. He had a feeling he knew what those sounds were.

Ulath stepped from the tent, dwarfing even Arra with his impressive height and sturdy warrior's build. The wolverine ordered them into the tent, but the fox was used to Ulath's bluntness.  Ulath had a right to be wary of turning his back on Arra, the fox had assassinated Ulath's father on his orders. Arra knew he would never really betray Ulath. He couldn't lead a horde, and being under the wolverine's command had its advantages.

"Good morning, sire," Arra greeted his warlord. He bowed to Ulath and stepped through the tent flap, examining the interior. As he had suspected, the remains of the wooden manikins littered the floor. It was a cheap, easy way for the wolverine to practice with his war hammer without using other hordebeasts as targets. Beasts that sparred with Ulath tended to end up in Arra's tent being treated for broken ribs, fractures arms and missing teeth.

The tent was comfortably spacious, with enough headroom even for Ulath. A table with a map of the area caught the fox's eye, and he glanced idly at it, spotting Salamandastron's name. He smiled and tried to imagine what living there would be like. He hoped they had proper beds. And a bathtub. With warm water heated over a fireplace. He would like that. But first, they had to get in. And that was where the Viper would show her skills.

Viper's ear perked suddenly at the sound of breaking wood. Her face turned blank as stone as her brilliant mind calculated the source of the sound. Scarelles, on the other paw, was far less patient or intelligent. "What is the warlord doing?" he said in his growling tone, "smashing furniture?"

"No, a training dummy more likely, with a large blunt object by the sound of the shattering," Viper answered quickly. She and her companion fell silent as Ulath stepped out of the tent. Viper gave the wolverine a practiced bow, while Scar snapped him a brief salute. "Greetings, Lord Ulath," the mouse-maid said curtly. Viper liked Ulath's blunt and straightforward manner. She hated wasted time with a passion.

Viper and Scar entered the tent and stood to one side of the entrance, awaiting Ulath to come in behind them. Scarelles found the height of the tent, made for a wolverine, to be to his liking. Even his own tent was a bit small for the hulking ferret. Viper took a look at everything in the tent, noticing that she was correct about the wooden targets. But, her gaze finally settled in the same place as Arra's, the map. "Seems relativity detailed, though I think I could do better," she muttered. She then turned to her notebook and began writing at an alarming pace, making notes of everything that she had seen and heard.

Ulath waited until the others had entered the tent, and then went in himself. He stopped just inside though, poking his head out so he could look at the guard. “Get somebody to clean my tent” he ordered. He fully entered the tent, letting the entrance fall back in place. He walked toward the map, eyeing Viper with distaste. He didn’t care for the fact that she wrote down everything. He was always suspicious of mutiny. He stopped in front of the table and map, and then turned to face the others in his tent. “I trust you know why I brought you here. We need to find a way to get inside the mountain fortress of the badgers, Salamandastron. With Salamandastron under our control, we will be able to conquer the surrounding lands with ease. But first, we need to get into the mountain. It is very well fortified, with the main gates being the only entrance that we have found. We would need to get the gates open if we want inside.” He told them, “Do you have any ideas for getting inside?” he asked them.

Viper had already made several plans for entering Salamandastron, and had been in deep thought about them. But she had one in particular she thought might work. "Lord Ulath, your horde is mighty and unstoppable, with the strength of your brethren we will make short work of the hares. The only difficulty is the gates," she stated, "but I believe I can get them open. If you would allow me, I could enter the badger mountain alone and gain their trust, they believe all mice to be their friends. Once inside, I can slay the gate guards and open them for your beasts to enter." She turned to a page in her book where she had additional notes on the plan, mostly for her own reference. "In addition, I could perhaps weaken their forces for the attack, to further assure your victory," Viper explained, "they keep the majority of their drinking water in barrels that are occasionally refilled. With some common ingredients most likely found in their kitchen, I can create a sedative and lace their water with it, further weakening the resistance."

( ooc - because this one was left alone for a like a year, a lot has changed. TJ is just about finished a plot for a new arc. As well, Ulath is no longer horde leader (Dusk stepped down). But I can't see why it can't be a "set in the past" kind of thing. )

OOC: Is TJ's plot any good? I should join as abbot.

( ooc - I don't know, I only know the basic plot. She hasn't put it up yet, so we'll have to wait and see. )

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