The Great Fishing Competition

To even the most dedicated chronicler in Redwall, the lands of the north have always been somewhat of a blank space.  While there were landmarks that were known, yes, as well as the general terrain, there was very little known of the beastd that abided there, and where they inhabited.  This ignorance often leads to the assumption that the lands are scarce and dark, and the beast that live there, if not savage, then at least quite hardened.  Nothing could be farther from the truth, that sunny day on the coast of the western sea.

It was time yet again for the annual Fishing Competition.  While originally it was an even sponsored by otters, for otters, over the seasons many beasts have come to spectate and participate in the quite unique event.  Beasts came from many miles away to witness the event that only happened once every four seasons, and among the young and ambitious, a chance to take part in what had become a prestigious sport.  Of course, wherever there is beasts, there are beasts that try to sell to them, and it was not long after the even had gone from a humble contest to a grand competition that vendors of all sorts began to set up along the beach.  A young squirrelmaid who started at one end of the pavilions that paralleled the seas and ran to the other end could expect to see no less than two circus troupes, four groups of singers, a knife maker, a fire eater, at least ten different bread sellers, countless stalls selling fishing tack, three sellers of blankets, countless vendors of other vittles, and the odd wandering hare that always hawked his latest batch of noonberry bread.  It was a lot of commotion, and to make it to the other end and still have coins in your purse would be quite the accomplishment!

Of course, all of this would not have come to pass if it was not for the fishing competition, of which there was one event that mattered: who could catch the largest fish.  Every year the fish to catch was different, last year it was grayling, this year it was cod.  The fish was chosen in an elaborate ceremony that started the competition, where the skipper of the local otter tribe drew a small wooden representation of the fish of choice from an old fishing net.  It was quite the affair.  From there, all contestants had three days to find and land the biggest fish they could, measured by length from tail to snout.  Otters were the among the largest body of contenders, but by no means were they always the best.  For two years running the beast to beat was a hedgehog named Gallum, who’s skill throwing a harpoon from a boat has earned him quite the name along these shores.  Squirrels, mice, shrews, a few rats, and a smattering of others were suited up and ready to either stand ashore or put to sea in small boats in order to see who would be the best, for the prize this year was coveted.

The prize, a single mast skiff, donated by the shrews, had been lovingly created by its makers as a work of beauty and practicality.  Gilded carvings of sea creatures lined the outer rim of the vessel, which was large enough to hold a compliment of at least a half score of sailors, complete with a sail that was stitched with a image of a mighty shark.  It was said to be a big enough boat to conquer the open sea, while still agile enough to manage the inland rivers.  It was quite the prize.

Celebes the sea otter was glad to be in attendance this year, as a young pup he had remembered the festivities before his family had come to Redwall.  He knew he had a few days to stay here at least, for of course every beast who had messages to send down the path with Celebes wanted to wait until they could share the news of who won.  The sea otter knew he would have quite the load of mail on the return trip, but no matter.  Perhaps with the boat, he could simply sail down the coast with his parcels!  Yes, wouldn’t that be somethin’?  Never mind he hadn’t fished on the high seas since he was a dibbun, he was an otter as good as any!  Landing a cod here on a calm day like this couldn't be any harder than from the River Moss.  He had his harpoon ready to go, now all there was for it was to go sign his name in!

A wandering mouse, whistling the most horrible noise imaginable, stopped to take in the view from the top of a hill he had just climbed. It was his first time in the fabled North, and he was looking forward to what he might find there.

"I don't recall hearing anything about a festival," Liam said to nobeast in particular, looking down at the various festivities going on from afar. "I mean, there was a holt that talked about some fishing competition, but nothing quite on this scale!"

He shrugged, readjusted the pack, and headed down the hill.  Whatever was going on, he was definitely going to participate in; after all, he wouldn't be much of a traveler if he didn't least try new things he encountered.

Golly, one thing he would never miss when he was on the open road was waiting in line.  But, the whole reason for lines was because there was something good at the other end, and so Celebes eagerly awaited in the group of beasts that streamed into the main pavilion.  Eventually, the sea otter was at the front of the queue, and with a swagger in his step he came to the table.  Making is mark, he realized yet again his writing had not improved a bit since he was a Dibbun, he could hardly read his name himself!  But he supposed he earned his keep by delivering messages, not writing them.

Exiting the tent, Celebes strode a few paces inland, away from the water.  The sandy shore was a wide one, from the waters edge at high tide to the vegetation that began to grow along the dunes, it was a good hundred meters.  It had to be, with the amount of beasts that crowded along here.  He had to go a good way from the shore to find a rock that had not already been claimed, but upon finding bare boulder he greedily plopped himself down on it.

The sea otter stuck his harpoon in the sand, watching it reverberate for a few moments in the sand.  That pointy stick was goin' to win him a boat, no doubt about that.  Celebes watched pensively at the small white piece of parchment fluttered in the sea breeze, which had been attached to his harpoon by a piece of string.  He knew it bore in contestant number, 413, but he had no idea how he was going to keep it dry.  Howz' he supposed to turn in his catch with a soppy, waterlogged tag?  Bah, he'd figure it out.  For now, he'd await the start of the excitement.

'This is quite the festival,' Liam thought as he idly munched on a hot scone he'd picked up at one of the stalls. A lot of creatures had shown up, mostly otters it seemed. As he walked past a vendor hawking 'the best tea bread you'll ever taste north of Redwall!', he noticed a long line of creatures, stretching all the way to the main pavilion. The excitement in the air was palpable.

"What's all this about?" he asked a nearby otter, a burly fellow who was carrying a harpoon.

"The whole reason reason we have this celebration in the first place!" he exclaimed, looking Liam over. "'Tis the annual Fishing Competition!"

"So I was right. Kind of," Liam muttered to himself, then turned his attention back towards the otter. "Can anybeast join?"

"Of course, matey!" the otter grinned widely. "You've got three days to find yourself the biggest fish you can find! Course," he winked, "you have to compete with everybeast else. But that's the fun of it!"

Liam looked at his spear, wondering if it would be enough. "Well, it couldn't hurt. Where do I sign up?"

"Over there," the otter pointed towards the end of the long line.

"Thanks," Liam replied, feeling the beginnings of a headache, and made his way towards it.

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