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.
Haru had been hunting far and wide away from his home in the great oak. He had been away many days before he came back to see that his tree was gone, chopped down by somebeast. He saw the tracks and muttered "Badger." He had not known of any badgers that had come this way as most went to the west at the mountain of Salamandastron. What use would a badger lord have to do with his home? Would none give him any rest? He was angry and followed the tracks to Redwall Abbey. He had visited the abbey on rare occasions. They had good food there and he was fond of the cakes.
He hovered over the courtyard. A badger would not be able to hide himself and the falcon could spot a tiny mouse from far off. Then he saw him leaning against a shed with the remains of his tree nearby, split in two. He dived down and landed on one of the halves.
"So this is the stripedog who cut down my tree!" he said angrily. "What do you have to say for yourself?" He hid his inner feelings. Could this be the companion he had dreamed of? He would see how this one would react. Sure didn't look like one of the badgers from Salamandastron. Not the look of a lord.
Shaleslip cracked an eye open at the sound of somebeast's furious squeaking. Expecting a cub, it took the badger a moment to recognize the words for what they were, and a moment longer to find the speaker. It was a falcon, of all creatures, full of savage curves and a yellow gaze hot enough to throw sparks. The badger's ears tipped back as he rolled forward to rest his brawny forearms upon his knees. He hadn't expected a bird.
"I'm sorry," he rumbled, brow furrowing in bemusement. "I asked your neighbors if anyone nested in the tree and they told me no one dwelt there. They must have forgotten." Shaleslip lowered and canted his head but kept an eye locked on the falcon. "It was not my intention to cut down your tree, yet I have nothing with which to recompense your loss," he said, spreading his paw to show the little he had to offer. He certainly could not rebuild the tree, and as far as he knew, falcons would not deign to dwell in a box like other birds.
"They forget me? Haru, of direct descent from Laird Rocangus, son of the Great Laird Mactalon?" he said, pacing back and forth on what was left of his home. This was no ordinary badger, he thought. No badger would apologize so quickly. He would bear getting to know.
"There is one thing you can do then," he said, "I can move in with you." A mischievous glint was in his eyes. "That's how you can make up for taking away my home."
A bold move, and a dangerous game with such a big badger, but well worth playing, even if he got plucked for it. But boldness was his specialty.
There was no sign that the badger recognized the names at all. Shaleslip simply tracked the bird, Haru, as he hopped across the log. His neutral expression remained even after the falcon's brazen declaration. There was a long silence before Shaleslip finally frowned and shook his head.
"I cannot give you that. I live in the Abbey, but I do not own it. You must ask the Abbott's permission, and even then I do not think you would like my room. There are no windows for you to fly from."
Shaleslip heaved himself to his feet and took a step nearer. Even from Haru's perch on the log, he would have to look up to meet the badger's eye.
"But if that is what you want," he said slowly, "I can help you inquire with the Abbott. However, I do not think he would mind if you chose to roost on the spires."
((Are there Sparras at this time?))
Haru paused. This was going to take some time. Those dreams he had of a badger companion only gave the end, it seemed. Or this one was holding his cards close to his chest. "If that is what it takes, then I will go with you to the Abbot," he said.
He spread his wings and flew around, landing on the badger's shoulder. "I told you my name, but what is yours?" he said. It felt so natural being at this particular perch. As if it had happened before.
((I don't think there are any Sparras up there))
Shaleslip paused. This was not how he had anticipated this going. The falcon wanted to live in his room? It clearly had not been indoors before, and not in a place like Shaleslip's basement hole. It was dark, stuffy, small, with just enough room for his own bedding and a chest for his clothes. Perfect for a makeshift badger set, but for a bird?
He shrugged, finished off his beer, and with the falcon on his shoulder, he started toward the Abbey.
"My name is Shaleslip," he said. "I do not think you understand how I live; it really is not fit for a bird. I could build you your own house."
((I guess we'll need an Abbot soon. If somebody wants to pick him up, please go for it. I don't think anyone's got him as a PC currently.))
"You would build a house for me? I'd like that, Shaleslip," said Haru. This was going well. "We started out on the wrong wing, but maybe…" He couldn't bring himself to say it yet, but he knew eventually he would be as Skarlath was to Sunflash the Mace. "... um...have you ever heard any of the old stories?"
((Not sure. He could be an NPC until somebody else jumps in.))
"I will hang it in whichever tree you desire," Shaleslip continued. "I saw another oak deep in the forest, and several fine elms that may be satisfactory." His path had adjusted to account for the falcon's change of mind. The Abbot would not need to be bothered after all.
His ear twitched back toward the falcon. "There are many old stories. I can get the house built today. We may even have it hung by nightfall."
A little rearrangement of today's plans to accommodate the falcon was far better than having to accommodate Haru in Shaleslip's own quarters. He would need to find a pair of squirrels or mice to help. Haru's kind preferred to perch in the high branches and there was little chance that the trees could support his weight way up there.
Haru sighed. This wasn't working as he hoped. "Shaleslip, if I didn't know any better, I would think you're trying to get rid of me," he said. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, he thought to himself. "Have you heard the tale of Sunflash the Mace and his companion Skarlath? It may be that it's happening again." he looked up to the badger. "And, I do think we still need to see the Abbot. I didn't see any Sparras up there at the tower when I came in. I'd like my house to be there or nearby." He wasn't about to give up. A descendant of falcon Lairds stuck to their dreams.
Shaleslip took another step and then stopped. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply before turning his head to look at the falcon. "You are a dreamer, Haru," he said at last. There was a faint growl of thunder in his voice and a hard glint in his dark eyes. "What do you know of me? What do you think you will do? I am not a story character that you can impress yourself upon. As far as you and I are concerned, Sunflash and Skarlath are a fiction. I am a carpenter, Haru, no warrior. If you intend to be my, my sidekick," he scoffed, "you will spend your days picking dust from your eyes and splinters from your talons."
The badger lifted a heavy paw and pushed it against Haru's feet, and when the bird had perched, he moved the falcon to his front where he could fully look at him. "I will speak to the Abbot on your behalf for permission to roost in the towers. I felled your tree and it is my honor and duty to aid you in replacing it, but I cannot permit your fantasy to continue. It is not for a bird of your skills and ferocity to be bound to the earth, nor to a stranger, and I have no intention to change my ways. Consider your future wisely, for what you propose is foolishness."
The growl had faded and Shaleslip's tone gentled, but the intensity within him had not.
Haru's feathers fluffed out, making him look bigger than he was. The spark was back in his eyes and he looked like he could spit fire. This was one mortally offended falcon.
SKREEEEEEEE! "Silly ignorant stripedog! Fantasy? Fiction? Foolishness? When will you ever wake up???" he said. "There is only one fool here and it isn't me! You call me a dreamer? The dream was true. The warrior mouse appeared to me, Martin himself, and he said to seek a badger who had lost his way and never leave his side. You mock him at your own peril."
He calmed down as fast as he became enraged. "Don't you see? You and Sunflash have more in common than you know. He was a farmer at heart and when he wasn't defending the helpless, he loved raising crops and looking after the beloved children. He called himself Sunstripe when he wasn't battling vermin. You are a carpenter at heart, and I accept that.
He fluffed out again. "I offer you friendship and companionship, and you respond with scorn, repaying evil for good. Do you think I care if most of the time I will pick dust from my eyes and splinters from my talons? It is worth it to offer my companionship. You will thank me one day, though you don't believe it now. Wake up and smell the flowers!" The mischievous glint returned to his eyes. "Since you are no badger lord, I am under no obligation to obey you anyway. We meet as equals then. Shall we be friends? I am no sidekick to anybody, but a better companion you won't find."
Ooc: I'll chip in as abbot. :) no one has any objections?
((None. Welcome aboard!))
Shaleslip's expression hardened to stone. His ears pinned with his mounting frustration at the falcon's unexpected tirade and the prickle of sharp talons against his flesh. He understood anger at having lost a home, and a desire to find better lodging, but this, this Shaleslip could not understand. He was too tired to follow, too tired to deal with Haru's madness and insults. And then the topic changed again and now the falcon was wheedling on about being friends? Shaleslip had half a mind to shake him off and be done with Haru then and there.
But he had a duty and he would complete it. "You will speak with the Abbot and then you will leave me alone," he growled. "You are not Skarlath." Shaleslip surged forward then, dropping his paw and stalking toward the Abbey. He would be rid of the falcon now. Damn Martin and Sunflash and the bird's petulance. "I do not need your friendship."
Coming down the steps into the Great Hall, Tessa was talking away with the Abbot Bob, coming back from one of her advenures around Mossflower. The flame colored squirrel with two swords on her back and trinkets won from her enemies in her hair, she was caught up on what was happening at Redwall. She was surprised when she heard a badger was working within Redwall, "Are you sure he isn't from Salamandastron? a future Badger Lord." Abbot Bob shook his head, "Nah, he claims that he is just a carpenter by trade and that is that." Tessa frowned at that remark, "So he hadn't have any callings or visions then."
"No, if he did, he hasn't told me." Abbot Bob replied as they stepped outside of the Great Hall. "Odd, last I heard Salamandastron is without a Badger Lord." Tessa looked around at the familiar grounds and gave a content sigh. "Miss it much?" Abbot asked her, Tessa smiled, "Always..its good to come back home."
Tessa's looked to where the Abbot was looking and saw the Badger, Shaleslip was his name, and an unknown falcon, now Tessa prided herself on knowing everyone coming and go in the Abbey and for the most part around Mossflower, it was her duty as captain of the guards to know all of these things. The Abbot halted and Tessa slightly behind him as Shaleslip strode over to them with the falcon following. Tessa looked up at the huge badger, defiantly looked like Badger Lord potential. She would have to inquire further at a later time, she turned her attention to the falcon and scowled slightly, she never had good dealings with any type of birds.
"A Shaleslip, what seems to be the problem, who is your friend?" The Abbot asked.
((Before the Abbot came down))
"Shaleslip, I know I'm not Skarlath. My name is Haru. Say it with me. Haaaaaaaruuuuuu. I only use Skarlath as an analogy." He looked at the badger. "Are you under the delusion that this was MY idea? I told you Martin was the one who told me to find you, and he's not one to take no for an answer, so we're stuck with each other. I like it even less than you after I have gotten to know you."
He continued, "And you convince me more and more that you do need my companionship, even if you don't want it, or even whether or not you deserve it, which is an open question. And if I had my way, I would rather be a companion to a regiment of hornets than a rudebeast like you! But this is my duty not to leave you, as you are my mission. But I have no choice in the matter."
((after the Abbot comes down))
"Father Abbot, I am Haru, of direct descent from Laird Rocangus, who was son of Great Laird Mactalon. I ask to be part of Redwall and to stay here. I am companion to Shaleslip, though we are negotiating the details."
Relief at the sight of the Abbot flickered briefly across Shaleslip's features, only to promptly turn beleaguered with Haru's continued harangue. The badger's gaze tipped toward the squirrel, her swords, her scar, before falling back on the Abbot.
"Please," he said, coming to a stop before the mouse. "This one is not my friend, nor companion. The oak tree I felled for the tables and supports was his home. He wants to roost in the spires. I leave the decision to you, but I would advise caution as the falcon is clearly of unsound mind."
Shaleslip's hard stare never left the Abbot's.
"Father Abbot," said Haru. "I do not blame Shaleslip for thinking that I am mad. It is hard for those to believe who would rather not. It is not by my choice. I was content to fly free in Mossflower, but I was visited by Martin the mouse warrior. He told me to seek this badger and not leave his side. It is hard for me to believe it as well. If there was any way, I would gladly fly away as he desires. But I dare not disobey the Warrior."
Tessa had a growing dislike for Shaleslip, but she didn't show it, she stepped up to the abbots side, hand on the hilt of her dagger. Just in case, but before she could say something Father Abbot stepped up, "I Understand your anger my friend, but perhaps we can talk this through." His gaze turned to Haru. "Welcome Haru, Redwall is a place for all creatures, no matter who they are." Giving a pointed look at Shaleslip before turning back to Haru, "I'm curious about your vision that Martin the Warrior gave you, please tell. Maybe we can resolve this issue."
Tessa stepped back relaxing and then said quietly, "Yes I would like to hear this too." She looked at Shaleslip and Haru, "Captian Tessalina Streamlily, second into command to Abby Champion and Captian of the Guards. Welcome, any vision from our beloved Martin is greatly appreciated. Usually a vision from Martin signals that danger is on the horizon or near future." She and the Abbout sat down on a bench and Abbot Bob guested for Shaleslip to sit also.
Tessa's paw moving to the dagger wasn't missed. Shaleslip straightened, only to have his own reply cut off by the Abbot. At the squirrel's introduction, Shaleslip's demeanor shifted, softening, and he dipped his head in a show of respect. In his time here, he had not seen Captain Streamlily around the Abbey grounds; odd for a captain of the guard. And the dagger – she had seen him as a threat? He had done nothing wrong, and the gesture only served to further embitter Shaleslip toward the falcon.
After a moment's hesitation, he settled on the long bench and turned his gaze toward Haru. "What of this dream?"