NOTICE: This story arc takes place, chronologically, after ALL the Redwall books currently published.
The theme of this story explores what it really means to be good, or bad. In a way, it also begs the question of why vermin are stereotypically bad… if perhaps goodbeasts are at least partially to blame. Perhaps being bad is a stereotype that vermin find it hard to escape.
Anyway, this is long, but it's so worth it. If you make your browser window smaller it will make this post easier to read...
-There is a small group of vagabond vermin messing around a little bit in Mossflower. They are not doing much real harm, just a lot of bullying and goofing off.
-There is a much bigger army of vermin being led by Fehrin (http://www.redwallslegacy.com/SMF/index.php?topic=359.0) that will encounter said band at some point. They have most recently been pestering the Lutran holts up north, and have hunted most of the Lutrans down, although a few remain. Their specific target is now the city Floret. This army takes a detour through Mossflower to gain some supplies and recruits on their way south.
There is a somewhat shy teenage male squirrel living in Redwall (profile here: http://www.redwallslegacy.com/SMF/index.php?topic=356.0) He's nice and everyone generally acknowledges him, but he doesn't really have any special friends and often wishes he did. (There is some equally quiet girl in the abbey that has has been secretly in love with him for years, but she's not really important right now.) So this squirrel, Harack, is just another nice beast in the abbey, although he has a bit of a temper on bad days. One day, he contracts a horrible disease known as mange (this is a real disease, btw). It will make all of his fur fall out–ALL... from tip of tail to nip of nose--and leave him with black, oozing, scab-encrusted skin. It's sort of an animal-version cross between poison ivy and leprosy. It leaves his skin very tender.
Because mange is highly contagious, Harack is instructed to stay away from other abbeybeasts as much as possible until he gets better. The problem is.... Harack doesn't get better. Many of the abbeybeasts feel bad for Harack, but no one wants to spend time around him (would you?). Some of the less mature teenagers start to pick on Harack. When he can bear their goading no longer, he gets really mad one day and blows up at them. He gets in a fight and the meanest teen ends up with a broken arm. Harack is severely reprimanded (especially for having extending contact with other abbeybeasts, considering his condition). He gets really mad, and runs out in the middle of the disciplinary hearing. He doesn't come back.
The interesting thing is, without his fur, Harack looks like an exceptionally gross rat. After a couple of days in Mossflower, a group of vermin run into him while he's taking a nap. They immediately assume he's a rat, and surround him in awe of his impressive disgustingness, trying to figure out how he achieved such a spectacular overall effect. After the initial shock and fear, Harack realizes they are a chummy, easy-going bunch (as far as vermin go), and they invite him to join their group. This is the first friendly gesture Harack has experienced in seasons, and since he has no desire whatsoever to return to Redwall, he accepts.
Harack will be gradually tainted. He first sees death when a meaner group of vermin attack them and he has to fight for his life and the life of his friends. Then there is a squabble within the group and one of the vermin he doesn't like so much is killed... then he helps his vermin friends steal while no one is home, and then they pillage a little, and then a little more.... then he begins to enjoy teasing goodbeasts... and so on. You see the demise.
About this point, where Harack is used to never bathing and used to no one running away from him, winter comes. Food is scare. The bigger army (mentioned at the top) runs into them and recruits the small band. They travel slowly, collecting vermin, pillaging, and gradually easing out of Mossflower.
Possibly due to the increase in physical activity and morale, in the Spring, Harack starts to get better and his fur starts growing back. He tries to hide it by shaving, but word gets around and Fehrin, the horde leader, has a talk with him. He convinces Harack to let his fur grow back. Because Harack demonstrates loyalty to the horde, Fehrin uses him as a spy and sends him places no vermin would ever be allowed (like Salamandastron, and Castle Floret... in both places he will be welcomed as an honored guest). During his stay at Salamandastron, spying for Fehrin, he wavers a little when he is treated well again by goodbeasts. There is one incident in particular where he does something on accident and his hare friend immediately forgives him. This surprises Harack. Before Harack can really decide anything though, his fur starts to fall out again, and afraid of being shunned, Harack completes his mission and returns to the horde full-time. He steals huge amounts of food and weapons from Salamandastron, in behalf of the horde, and the horde travels South to their final destination: Floret.
They wait out the year piddling in mundane things and pillaging. To keep his army from going stale, Fehrin sends out small groups of vermin to take care of specific missions and then return (he's a good leader, and inspiring, so basically every vermin will return...). Several of the groups are sent to deal with the Guosim shrews, which keep being a pain. The horde bunkers down for the winter. Fehrin is careful to make sure that Harack is happy, and keeps giving him assignments that will ensure he stays evil and becomes progressively more so, hoping that his fur will return. (The assignments given rely largely on survival, adrenaline, and revenge of past wrongs). As winter starts to expire and all Fehrin's army has come back together, they lay siege to Floret (at this time specifically because everyone's larders inside the city will already be low).
In the Spring, Harack's fur does indeed return. Fehrin trains him on how to be cool/popular, and sends him inside Floret as a special spy with the assignment to open up the city in with maximum vulnerability and let the army in....
Ferhin has done a good job of training Harack... Harack now wears a cool headband, his fur has gotten special treatment, so it's now slick and gorgeous, and he wears a sword around his waist that is intriguing and functional without being intimidating. Even more helpful, Harack is now a full-grown beast and when he looks normal, he's very handsome. He comes into the city Floret, slightly wounded and roughed up, claiming to have cut his way through the border and offering his services to the king. They fall for his guise and welcome his help. He's just one beast though, and the city is still in major trouble. Harack arranges things with Fehrin so that he occasionally looks like a hero and occasionally fails, because it's real life. Meanwhile, he scouts out the city and lays the groundwork for a plan that will leave the city at his disposal.
The catch: the female squirrel from Redwall that had a crush on him since the beginning comes to Floret. It turns out that she was originally born there, and lots of her extended family is there. There is a gap in the siege (probably a hidden waterway) that allows some minimal traffic in and out of the city... this is how she got in. She recognizes Harack and reminds him who she is, then asks where he's been all this time. The news that he was originally from Redwall is in conflict to the story he told the king, and so he has to hash out a new story that will explain the discrepancies. Harack is still evil, he is still plotting the destruction of Floret. He uses the girl to gain certain advantages, and uses her information to gradually shut down the gaps in the siege.
But her tenderness, innocence, and love of life cuts through some of Harack's defenses. Unexpectedly he finds himself falling in love--not just with her--but with her view of life. He finds joy again... emotions worth more than adrenaline. His plan is almost ready to execute Fehrin's plan, but the guilt returns, and he starts to back down. However, as he's trying to figure himself out, the mange comes back once more, very rapidly. The girl insists she doesn't care, but Harack doesn't want her to catch it. More importantly, all the other squirrels immediately shun him again and retaliate against his ugliness, even despite the hero they believe him to be (Floret squirrels are notoriously proud). In anger and hatred and pain and confusion, Harack makes a deal with Fehrin. The girl is kidnapped by the vermin and taken far outside the warzone where she should be safe, and then Harack breaks open the city for Fehrin's complete disposal....
However, the girl escapes and--unaware of Harack's betrayal--flees back to Floret to save him from something she has realized will result in his death. She breaks back into the city. Fehrin has semi-control... he has already murdered the king, who was a jerk and a bigot anyway, but he is searching, trying to kill one of the king's councilors--the wisest, most righteous, and most respected beast in Floret, and one of the few who had ever been kind to Harack without ulterior motives. The councilor is fleeing from Fehrin and runs into the girl, where they have a rushed conversation.
You learn that the councilor suspected something wrong with Harack from the beginning, and had been trying from the beginning to ease whatever good was left in Harack back to the surface... he had been trying to save Harack. The councilor lays Harack's history out to the girl, in all its ugliness. She is heartbroken, but agrees to help him try to still save Harack and Floret. They hash a plan.
The councilor allows himself to be caught by Harack and has a conversation with him on the way back to the palace. It is very brief, but the councilor informs Harack that he had known all along and plants one last seed of uncertainty in Harack's heart.
The councilor is taken to the palace, while what is left of the king's guard sneaks into the palace as well. They all meet in the throne room (where Fehrin is) at the same time. As Fehrin reaches for his sword to kill the councilor, the girl squirrel bursts through the door (with squirrel soldiers fighting Fehrin's soldiers in the stairwell...) Fehrin's guards bolt the door after she slips through, but she is grabbed by one of Fehrin's guards, who holds a knife to her throat and is about to kill her. Harack screams for the soldier to halt. Fehrin waits too, slightly amused, (the old squirrel is already disarmed and bound anyway). Everyone holds still as Harack takes everything in and weighs it all. He commands the guard to drop the girl, which the guard does. Then Harack turns and slays Fehrin.
Harack pays the price for everything he has done. He helps purge the city of vermin and slays a large number of them with his own paw. Since he designed the plan that let them in, he knows exactly how to collapse it and catch the maximum number of vermin. Once the city is recovered, Harack goes out on his own and has a good cry, and then returns and asks to be tried before Floret's court of judges... The trial is held in public because so many beasts want to attend it. After several days of heated debate, Harack is declared guilty, but pardoned. Since Fehrin was already planning on taking Floret, and was cunning enough that he would likely have been able to do so, and would have kept at it at any cost, the judges decide that Harack only acted as a catalyst, and was a tool that enabled Fehrin to act much more quickly... perhaps sparing lives in the process. One of the wisest judges admitted (to the displeasure of many present, but nevertheless it was true) that in some small part, the citizens of Floret were probably somewhat to blame for their reaction to Harack when his sickness returned. Harack accepts the ruling of guilty with relief,
and is shocked when they decide to pardon him anyway. He begs for punishment.
One of the judges--the councilor--steps down and kneels in front of the kneeling Harack. He does not mince words, summarizing all of Harack's offenses again, and points out the awful guilt that would plague Harack for the rest of his life... the memories that would never fully disapear. He lays out everything that Harack has already lost. He points out Harack's tireless labors to help rebuild the city and otherbeasts' lives since the city has been recovered. He points out that a beast motivated to recover lost time and make up for many wrongs would be able to accomplish significant good over the rest of his life... perhaps enough to make up for every act of dishonor. The councilor requests that the judges sentence Harack to a lifetime of service. The sentence is approved.
The wise councilor is crowned as king and rules well... Floret becomes more peaceful and prosperous than it had ever beed. Harack and the girl squirrel get married and they travel all over the place building up the things Harack broke. They even visit Redwall, briefly. It turns out that Harack's mange is a rare version that is not actually contagious, so no one else ever catches it from him. It comes and goes. His wife doesn't mind and loves him despite it... Harack uses his sword to defend others, attempting to make up for the lives that he took. After many years when his own kids are grown up and his wife passes away, he breaks his sword and buries it deep in the ground, unable to bear the burden of taking another life--goodbeast or vermin--and vows to never pick up a weapon of slaughter again, no matter what the cost. He wanders, seeking greater peace and reparation until he finds Noonvale, which accepts him despite his appearance and past. He stays there for the rest of his life. In the end, Floret recovers, Salamandastron recovers, Mossflower recovers, the Lutran holts recover, and vermin are very, very rare for a long time because Harack purged them from the land. Goodbeasts everywhere live in peace for a long time. Most especially, no beast forgets the story of Harack... Sooner or later, each of them wonders privately how differently everything might have turned out if someone had shown a lonely, repulsive-looking teenage squirrel more kindness than it was comfortable to give.
btw, if you don't know what mange is, this photo will give you a pretty good idea:
Comments/suggestions/questions? Anyone feel free to join, just keep in mind that I want to post fast. We've started here:
Please let me know what charas you want… I call Harack and Fehrin, and I'm going to be picky about who gets to be the girl... (I have an issue with doing the romance thing with a bad writer, sorry... it's ruins momentum). Basically anyone else should be up for grabs.
***edit: No one gets the councilor yet. That will be determined later on, once we have a good feel for who will be the best person to play him. The best way to get a good chara is to just participate and be a good writer for now...