It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and all was well in Mossflower Wood.
A sudden shriek split the air, and sent the birds screaming out of the trees. It was the most horrible sound that anybeast could imagine, the very sound of evil itself. A moment later, a jovial, whistling mouse walked past the bend, wondering why the birds had suddenly taken flight.
Paskflaur tucked the hem of her smock into her belt and stepped quietly through the cattails and into the pond's shallows. Around her, dragonflies whizzed by and bees tumbled from flower to flower. The water was cool and the fish were hungry after last night's rain. She adjusted the weight of her woven basket where a fine pond fish rested on a bed of loosestrife and nettles. It would cook nicely with a pair of duck eggs, and the vixen licked her whiskers in anticipation of the meal. The ducks themselves were vacant from their nest hidden in the cattails, leaving the six eggs unprotected while the parents foraged for their own dinners and preened. Pask could see them in the middle of the pond, unaware of her paw slipping into the feather-down nest. She set one egg in her basket and reached for the other. Two was all she would need. Besides, she enjoyed a young duck almost better than the eggs –
The blood-curdling scream sent the egg leaping from Pask's paw as she startled. Her fur stood on end and her heart caught in her throat, empty paw rising to her muzzle. The egg rolled into mud at her feet, unnoticed, as a flurry of birds winged overhead.
"Hell's teeth," the vixen panted. Her ears swiveled, hunting for the source of the scream but there wasn't another and she couldn't scent blood from here. She reached down, not dropping her eyes from the forest, and felt around for the lost egg. Finding it, she dropped it to into her basket and slunk back through the cattails, her path wavering with indecision. Track the source of the scream in case someone needed fixing, or flee home? It could have been a dibbun at play, or the hawk she had seen earlier, or a murderer.
She hesitated at the edge of the pond, whiskers flaring and an ear turning at the sound of -- a whistle? Not a very good one, off-key and rasping, but coming from the same direction as the scream. Pask looked down the path, then up it, and stepped out into the open. It had probably been some creature fooling around. Just then, the whistler came into the open and Pask's gaze narrowed on the mouse.
"Was that you?" she called.
Liam shrugged, his mind flashing back to similar times and similarly angry creatures . "Could be," he responded casually, eyeing the vexed vixen. "I'm pretty sure that you're referring to my whistling, but you've got the wrong beast. I can whistle pretty well. Here," he added, "let me show you."
The mouse pursed his lips, then began to blow air from his mouth to produce music, the tune from a popular ditty about hedgehog, a mole, and a cranberry pie. He continued to whistle, not paying attention to the fact that it sounded like the screeching of ten rats who'd had too much grog to drink. For a whole ten seconds, the ear-rending shriek echoed throughout the entire area.
"And there you have it. Can't be me," he finished. Taking a better look at the vixen, it looked like she lived around the area, or at least was a better woodsbeast than he was. She certainly was no fighter (the dagger on her belt notwithstanding), as her garb clearly suggested otherwise. Too brightly colored, her clothes too restrictive. Most likely she was a seamstress, or perhaps a healer. Actually, now that he thought about it, maybe she could help him figure out where he was. The whole forest looked the same to him.
"Is there any chance you could tell me more about Mossflower?" he asked sheepishly, spreading his paws wide in a gesture of peace. "I'm just traveling through these parts, and I have no clue where anything is."
"Only if you promise me you will never start that infernal howling until you are out of the forest." Pask removed her paws from her ears and gave her head a pained shake. "I thought someone had been murdered, you terrible little mouse. Fates bless me, I have never heard anything quite so awful." Her bared her teeth briefly in something between a grimace and a nasty grin.
"Well." She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, she offered the mouse a strained smile as she patted down her skirts. "If you promise me that, I will even make sure you're well-fed and on your way. Where is it you are wanting to go?"
((is cool to for me to join up? got a character I have been wanting to try out))
((Yeah, sure! Maybe give us a round or two and then feel free to come in at your leisure.))
(go right on ahead)
Liam winced at the vixen's expression, and wondered if nobeast would ever appreciate his whistling. Perhaps one day, he would find that creature.
"I promise," he answered her, slightly surprised (in the good way) at her offer of a free meal. Rule number one of traveling was to never turn down free food. "Anyways, I'm looking for the way towards Redwall Abbey. I was there once before, but it's been quite a long time, and I can't seem to recall any landmarks that would tell me where I am. As you can see," he grinned sheepishly, "I'm quite lost, and I don't think that I'll manage to somehow find my way there. I guess that makes you my only hope."
"Redwall Abbey?" Pask gave her head another shake and shifted her basket on her shoulders. "You are quite a ways off, I fear. It's several miles to the southwest from here." She gave the mouse a considering look, clicked her tongue, and gestured for the path. "We had best be off now if you want to get there by dinner. Come along, my home is on the way. My name is Pask."
As they walked, Pask's harsh demeanor softened. She had met more than one young goodbeast who was armed and more violent than any self-respecting vermin mother would tolerate. But this one was polite and he hadn't treated her as though she was a threat. He had been wandering for quite awhile, too, if his tattered and pieced cloak and thin tunic had any say in the matter, or at the very least couldn't afford a new garment. The Abbey would do well with a creature like him, Pask thought. And she would do well to make friendly relations with the mouse warrior. One never knew when tension between the races would reach a fresh breaking point and it would favor her to have friends on both sides of the conflict.
"Now then, what's your name, and where are you travelling from? You're quite far from any road that would take you to the Abbey."
"My name is Liam," the mouse told Pask, watching her as she expertly guided them through the woods. "As for where I'm from, well…," he shrugged, "I don't really have a place that I can call home. So I just travel the land, meeting new creatures and experiencing new experiences. I've had my fair share of troubles, but there's hasn't been anything so far that I haven't been able to handle."
He ducked under a tree branch, narrowly missing tripping over a root, and continued talking. "I didn't expect to be as far away from Redwall as I was. This time, I took a slighty different path, but something must have changed in the season or two since I last visited. Eh, it doesn't matter anyways," he grinned. "Part of being a traveler is experiencing things like this. I got to meet a new creature, so it's been a worthwhile detour."
Pask shot a curious glance down at the mouse, her brow furrowing in spite of her muzzle wrinkling in a half-smile. "I suppose that's true, Liam. My name is Paskflaur, the herbalist. I have never strayed beyond Mossflower, but my father was a fierce wild rover, and my siblings took after him. When he returned from his ramblings, he was always bringing gifts and stories of strangers he had met on the road." The vixen shrugged and shifted the weight of the basket on her shoulder. "As for me, I like the certainty of home, of this forest. Where a traveller may see many things and meet many creatures, he doesn't get neighbors to know and gardens to tend and friends to rely on. Maybe when I was a younger fox, I would have wandered, but these old paws like the worn trails these days."
The path in question had left the road and wound its narrow way through the soft grasses and the trees. It canted upward, climbing a small hillock where a broad-branching oak tree reigned in shadow. "My home is not far," Pask said. "Just on the other side here. We had a great storm last spring that flooded the lowlands and felled a number of trees. Your path may have been washed out and grown over since you last came."
Pask slipped under a mossy branch and waited on the other side for Liam. "If I may ask, what brings you to the Abbey now?"
Liam shrugged, making his way towards Pask and taking in her home. "Does there need to be a reason?" he asked rhetorically. "Although it is a fair question. I don't often return to the same place twice, even if it is Redwall. If I have to be honest," he continued, "I have the distinct feeling that I'm needed there. Lately, I've been dreaming about a warrior mouse, trying to reach me about something terribly important. A warrior mouse who happens to look like the fabled Martin, a founder of the Abbey."
Liam sighed. "I don't put much stock in dreams. My master said that they're just funny little things our minds like to come up with. Somehow though, this feels like something else, a dream more than a dream. If that makes sense," he shrugged again.
(Rodo, you can join now)
"Your master is not wrong," Pask replied as they crested the hill and came down on the other side. At the far side of the hollow, a thatched roof rose just above the mass of grasses, flowers and berried shrubs that crowded the glade.
"But perhaps he does not have full understanding? In foxlore, we believe that dreams, especially those repetitive or vivid ones, may also be portends or messages from beyond the Black Forest. If I may offer my own advice, you would do well to not ignore these. Especially if that Martin mouse is in them. Too many misfortunes have befallen those who dream of that specter."
The vixen swung open a stick gate, the only upright piece of an old and bowed fence that marked Pask's territory. Basil crowded along the fence, along with mint and rosemary. Within, clover and lilies crowded with wobbly rows of garlic, leeks, and vegetable greens. Herbs for food and medicine mingled freely, and bees bounced lazily from flower to flower. Violets tucked in the shadow of the larger plants, and here and there, a tangle of foxglove of primrose grew above the rest.
She padded down the path toward her cottage. Roses crawled up the sunlit side of the low, little house. Rows of drying herbs hung from the roof, nearly obscuring the bone windchimes and the pair of old wicker chairs before her door.
"Perhaps. She always said that nobeast could ever hope to learn everything," he murmured in reply to Pask, eyeing her home with a look of wonder as he trod the path to her house. It wasn't like he was expecting her to live in some hovel, but this was something else. A home not just well cared for, but well loved. Each part felt to him like it told a different story of how it came to be; from the diverse garden, to the charming cottage. This wasn't something that could be built in a season or two, or even a few years. It was the result of a lifetime effort, and he found that he could not tear his eyes away from it.
Something vague stirred his mind. Laughter, sunlight, happy feelings. Then, as quickly as it had come, it vanished, and he was left a familiar feeling of emptiness that wouldn't go away.
"You have…an incredible place here," Liam managed to say. Then mouse shook his head, and coughed, cheeks red with embarrassment. "Sorry, I don't know what came over me. I'm not usually this starry-eyed, but I did mean what I said. For some reason, it strikes a chord in me."
Paskflaur cast a sly look over her shoulder at the young mouse. "It's home," she said with a smile. "Come now."
She led the way to the threshold of the cottage, where herbs, flowers, and garlic braids hung from the overhanging rafters. A windchime made of some animal's bones clinked together in the thin breeze and a rattle in the distance proved that there was another out of sight. An weathered bat's skull and spread jaw bones hung over her door, a guardian grotesque. With a hum, the vixen bumped it open with her hip and entered.
The front room of the little cottage was clearly a workspace. A broad table rested within, and jars of tinctures and dry ingredients lined shelves under the windows and over the hearth. Everything was neatly arranged and labeled, tools sorted, and a spinning wheel was tucked against the wall. Embers flickered under a thin layer of ash, and a cast iron pot hung out of the way on its hook. Still humming, Pask set her basket on the table and removed the fish, the egg, and began removing a thick nest of leaves and nettles.
"Water is there," she said, gesturing to the far side of the door where a wooden buck crouched. A dipper gourd hung above it on the wall. "Get yourself a cup and take what you need. I'll have lunch ready in a minute."
She busied herself with filleting the fish, glancing up occasionally to follow Liam.
Liam nodded. He removed his pack and spear, placing them beside the entrance, and went to fetch some water for himself. A thought occurred to him, and he removed a cup for Pask as well, filling both up and setting them upon the table. Sitting down, he took in contents of the cottage as the aroma of the filleted fish filled his nostrils. He drummed his paws upon the table for a few moments. Then stopped, because he couldn't stand it anymore.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" he asked, looking at the vixen. Sitting around while others did work made the mouse feel mighty uncomfortable. "I mean, any sort of work that needs to be done to prepare for lunch? I'm sure there's something that needs extra paws."
A beast walked down the path towards the cottage. Donned in these black robes that practically made it near impossible to identify. He approached towards the cottage after noticing the various herbs and plants. Hmm perhaps this is a place I can get some more medicinal herbs The beast thought as he approached. He didn't bother to take any precautions as he approached the door despite his rather intimidating attire. Especially with the notiable fact that…you cannot see his face. Instead there was a black bird like leather mask that covered his entire face and even glass lenses that covered his eyes. This mask seemed rather unusual but once you get a close look the mask is clearly just a blackened version it's white counterparts that "plague doctors" wear. Upon reaching the door he extended a leather gloved paw out to knock on the door.
"Yes," Pask replied, "Fetch the greens from the–" A sharp rap-tap sounded on the door. The vixen's ears pricked and she turned, knife in paw. "Could you get that? I'm not expecting anyone. May be Ferrus, if he decided to come early." She clicked her tongue and cast a glance between Liam and the door before slipping toward a shallow wash basin.
As her paws touched the water, her nostrils flared as she caught the scent of the stranger, and the edge of shadow from the window. Paskflaur squinted, wiped her paws on her apron and turned to face the door.
"Sure thing." Liam got up and approached the door, pulling it open to reveal their visitor. A large, hooded figure stood in the doorway, wearing a tricorn hat and bearing a black mask that resembled a bird. He carried two bags in his left paw, and a cane topped by a pair of wings in his right paw.
The mouse took in all this, and paused for a moment. There was something familiar about this creature, something that he was sure he could remember if given a little time.
And then it came to him. "You're the Raven, aren't you?" Liam addressed the creature standing before him. "I've heard the tales that surround you, though I'm not sure what you're doing here." He turned towards Pask. "Shall I let him in?"
The beast look a bit surprised at the small mouse for recognizing him, let alone the fact that there are stories about him. Regardless the mask did not show any surprise and in fact it didn't display any emotion. Regardless he gave a elegant bow. "Well, it appears that I seem to have a reputation already from the short amount of time I have been in this err, Mossflower if I am correct." He said before standing back up. Just as his youthful and foreign accent did appear slightly as he spoke. "Please do forgive me if I am intruding Madame, I was wondering if this was a area for a quick restock in supplies. But if I am disturbing you I can leave" He said rather respectfully as he adjusted his hat