"Aye matey. Ask as many questions as you need to. I just hope you ain't accusing me. I'd like to see this murderer brought to justice as much as anybody. SHARKS! That reminds me!" Skipper grabbed a passing otter, "Fetch Lily Starudder and young Thia Starudder! Hurry! Bring them here, quickly!"
As the otter ran off Skipper smiled and winked at Gregory, "If the murderer killed Kendra, ee' might go after 'is family. Eh, smart. I got more 'n sea water twixt these ears ya know."
One day later…
Sebastian yawned as he glided on air currents up the river Moss. For a few hours he'd kept himself awake by talking with a group of migrating geese, but they weren't very good conversationalists. Now, he was only about an hour away from the holt. He angled down and alighted on the branch of a tall tree. He yawned again and gripped the branch with his back claws, hanging upside down. He grabbed his hat and pack and secured them to the branch, then wrapped his wings around him and fell asleep.
"SHARKS! That reminds me!"
Gregory jumped in suprise.
"If the murderer killed Kendra, ee' might go after 'is family. Eh, smart. I got more 'n sea water twixt these ears ya know."
"You sure do, Skipper, ehehe," he attempted a laugh. Meanwhile, two young ottermaids approached them with a sad expression on their faces.
Greyfang and Deadtail didn't realize they were hitting a sleeping Sebastion with a long branch in an attempt to steal his pack. Greyfang was standing on top of Deadtail's shoulders as he swung the to the tree limb.
"Move closa! I can' touch it yet!" Greyfang yelled at his brother as he tried to inch closer to the right.
(OOC: You can drive them off. I just felt guilty because you were handling more charas than me.)
Sebastian quietly woke up, having taught himself to always act as if he were still asleep. He cracked one eye open and rolled it up in his head, so he was looking down. He saw a pair of vermin right below him, trying to whack his pack out of the tree but hitting him instead. He rolled his closed eyes as they argued loudly and continued clubbing him. He waited a moment, then flexed his legs and let go of the branch. He spun right side up again and grabbed his pack and hat before falling down on top of the twin rats. He flattened them then landed on the ground in front of the pair. Effortlessly, he swung his pack and hat on. Next, he drew his sword and crossbow, pressing the sword to Deadtail's neck, and the crossbow, to the side of Greyfang's head.
Don't worry boys, I won't be killin' ya today, regretfully. No real harm done, to myself anyway. You two on the other paw might have some nasty broken…" Suddenly, Sebastian froze and his ears swivelled everywhere.
Slowly, he knelt down between the two confused rats and set his weapons on the ground, "I'd advise you two to follow suit. I have the sinking feeling we're about to be captured." He slowly stood with his paws over his head as a score of large otters came out of the forest on all sides.
The rat brothers were scared out of their wits. They have never seen so many riverdogs! Greyfang ignored the bat's advice and whispered to Deadtail.
"On da count o' three, we make a mad run fer it. One, two, " he whispered to his frightened brother.
"THREE!" Deadtail yelled and ran headfirst into two skinny looking otters and the suprised Greyfang scrambled after.
The two skinny otters gently but firmly took the rats by an arm each, and two larger otters walked up and towered behind them, as a new otter came out of the forest and approached Sebastian. He smiled warmly at the bat, and now that he looked around, Sebastian saw that none of the otters looked all that threatening.
"Welcome friends!" The new otter announced brightly, spreading his paws wide, "Welcome to Holt Starudder. I am called Bellnuu. I am the temporary leader of our holt while our leader is away. Please, come. Join us for breakfast and perhaps stay for a day or two."
Sebastian eyed the otters around him with suspicion, eyeing the new otter, Bellnuu, with the most suspicion, then he lowered his paws and picked up his weapons warily, "Alright… I suppose we'll stay for a day or so. And we won't cause any trouble, you can count on that," He shot Deadtail and Greyfang a hard warning stare.
"Excellent! I'd like you to meet Fenn, my son," A nervous looking otter who kept his eyes on the ground came out from behind Bellnuu. He was only about twelve seasons old, and was absently drawing in the dirt with his foot, "He will be your guide and escort for as long as you decide to stay with us. Now then, come. We're missing breakfast." He clapped his paws and smiled broadly. Everyone started walking in one direction and Sebastian was about to follow after a pause when he happened to glance at the ground at Fenn's feet. At first, it just looked like scribbles, but then it clicked in his mind, but it wasn't even a second before Fenn turned to follow the others and wiped his message away with his tail.
It had been just an arrangement of meaningless letters, eraweb, but then, Sebastian had read it backwards.
(OOC: SUSPENSE! ;D)
Greyfang and Deadtail squirmed in the otters arms. Kicking madly, they shouted, "Let goes of me, yew riverdogs!"
They were soon dropped back down confused.
And we won't cause any trouble, you can count on that.
Seeing his glare, they nodded like good little dibbuns. At the sound of the word breakfast, the two rats followed the leader of the otters.
Back at Redwall…
Thia held on to her mother Lily's dress, reluctant to let go, while her mother walked into a room with Gregory to be questioned. Her mother looked at her sadly and knelt down, putting both paws on Thia's shoulders. She hugged her tight, then stood and walked into the room with Gregory.
Thia stared at the door for a moment, sniffed, then turned to look for Skipper. With her father dead, Skipper was one of the only beasts she trusted. She walked down a hallway, holding her paws together over her chest and looking around. There was an air of shock and sadness around the Redwallers she passed. There hadn't been a deliberate murder in Redwall since... well, no one could even remember the last one.
She walked over to her father's body, which was being prepared for burial. The wound on his head had been wrapped in white cloth, and he'd been put in a fine set of clothes. If it hadn't been for the paleness of his skin, it would have looked like he was still alive, and just sleeping. She put a paw on his and looked at his expressionless face for a long moment. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, then continued her search for Skipper.
Thia spent the next five minutes quietly crying as she wandered the halls, halfheartedly searching for Skipper. She looked around the hallway she was in and realized there was no one anywhere that she could see. She spun slowly, rubbing the tears from her eyes and looking everywhere but the hall was vacant in both directions. She suddenly had an uneasy feeling, like it had just gotten cold inside her.
She felt somebeast watching her, and she slowly, very slowly, turned around. At the end of the hall, at the bottom of a flight of spiraling stairs and behind a bright dust moat, there stood a tall figure in an enveloping cloak. Because of the shimmering dust, she couldn't tell what color the cloak was, and because of the hood he wore, she couldn't see his face.
They stood perfectly still, watching each other, then the cloaked beast took one step forward, into the moat. His cloak was black as night. Thia stood, petrified by a bombardment of emotions. Anger at her father's killer. Fear of being hurt. Shock at the situation in general. But all those emotions vanished and were replaced by a single jolt of adrenaline as the figure pulled a sort of throwing club out of his cloak and hurled it at Thia's head. She darted to the floor, narrowly missing the projectile, but when she looked up, the hall was empty again, like the killer had vanished into nothingness.
emotionalvery emotional interrogation with Mrs. Starrudder, he found out that Kendra was last seen by her helping out in the Abbey kitchens. He was perfectly content according to her and she knew that her husand would never do anything harmful to hurt anybeast. Well, except vermin.
Gregory escorted her out of the room.
Drying the last bits of tears, she asked, "Where's Thia?"
Barely noticing her disappearance, Gregory's eyes grew wide. "She's not here?"
"Of course, she's not here! There's no ottermaid in the Hall." Worry grew in her voice.
Realizing the danger she and Thia were in, he grabbed her paw firmly and led her on a rampage through the building. "We need to find your daughter quickly. After we find her we need to get you and Thia someplace safe. Someplace that no abbeybeast may know of," he murmured to her with searching eyes. Skipper's words kept repeating in his mind.
"If the murderer killed Kendra, ee' might go after 'is family.
Gregory turned a corner sharply while dragging Lily behing him and bumped into a beast.
Gregory and Lily rounded a corner and bumped right into Skipper, who was going in the opposite direction. He pulled to a stop and looked startled, then he quickly apologized and kept walking briskly.
As Skipper disappeared around another turn behind Gregory and Lily, Thia came running up. She clung tightly to Lily's dress and buried her face in it. Lily gasped with relief and held Thia tightly, rubbing her cheek against her daughter's head. After several minutes of silent, terrified shivering in her mother's dress, Thia stuttered out what had happened, turning pale as she described the killer.
Sebastian watched everything suspiciously as the otter holt moved around him and the two rats. Friendly otters tended fires and cooked fish. They also fixed up salad and hauled fresh water for drinking. Two pretty otter maids came up to Greyfang and Deadtail, carrying plates heaped with food and smiling sweetly. Fenn was also smiling, but Sebastian could tell it was a forced, upset smile. He took Fenn's paw and discretely led him away from the others. As expected, he didn't resist, and the instant they were out of sight of the other otters, leaving Greyfang and Deadtail alone, he quit smiling. Instead, he glanced back at the camp fearfully every ten seconds.
Sebastian led him far from the camp, down near the river, then turned to the young otter, "Alright Fenn, you don't seem to be in league with those other otters, at least not willingly, so I'll level with you. What is going on around here?"
Fenn looked back again, then looked at Sebastian, biting his lower lip fearfully. He glanced back and forth several times, then the foney smile returned, "Nothing. Come on, we'll miss breakfast."
Sebastian exhaled loudly as Fenn turned and hurried back to the camp. There was obviously something very wrong with this place, something so bad, Fenn was afraid to say it out loud. This could, probably would, be dangerous.
Gregory listened closely to all the details, writing almost every single word that escaped from her mouth. That poor child. She just wants to know who killed her father. he thought to himself. When Lily had finally calmed her down and when she had returned to her normal color. Gregory as the young ottermaid calmly, "Now can you show me exactly where you saw the creature that tried to kill you?" Then Thia led them off into the Abbey while Lily and Gregory trailed right behing her.
Greyfang and Deadtail were in paradise. There was vittles everywhere, pretty young maids as servants, and shelter. What more can a rat ask for? They started eating all of the food in set in front of them as if they had been through a seven-season famine. They drank and laughed heartily with the other otters. Told the cheesy corsair jokes which to their surprise made the riverdogs laugh. They even danced and sang to their music horribly. Although they were too busy living it up to see that something was passed in between the otters.
Fenn sped back to the camp, his totally phony smile returning, and Sebastian ambled along behind him. He casually looked around, slouched and relaxed looking, but he was paying attention to every detail. He carefully avoided all the food and drink, and watched what every otter did closely. When Bellnuu and several of the male otters snuck off, Sebastian couldn't help but follow.
Thia led Gregory and Lily back to the hallway where the cloaked beast had tried to kill her. They rounded the corner and Thia clung apprehensively to her mother's dress, but there was no one there. Lily looked around, then noticed something on the ground. She leaned down and picked up the throwing club. She turned it over in her paws and Thia watched it from below, "Gregory, have you ever seen one of these?"
They arrived at a deserted hallway. He was looking about the area, when Lily had picked up another clue.
"Gregory, have you ever seen one of these?"
Gregory took the club from her hands and inspected it. "This type of wood only grows near the ends of Mossflower near the shore. I'm not sure if I've ever seen this weapon before, it's awfully light, which makes it a good weapon. I need to recall where I saw this…" he rubbed his temples and tried to go through his memory of Mossflower. He knew he had seen an otter use one of these before. "I think it was a sea otter.....he was using it to...."he snapped his fingers.
Then the whole scene came back to him. Gregory was walking in Mossflower when he passsed by a group of frolicking young otters playing with a club like the one in his hands. They were passing it around to each other like a ball. "I remember now! A group of otters were playing with one! I didn't know it could be used as a weapon though. Those otters were most likely part of Kendra's holt. That means are killer is someone sent from his holt!" Finally, one question had been answered. he thought.
Sebastian flew up into the foliage of the treetops and started following Bellnuu and the others. He hopped from branch to branch, careful to make as little noise as possible. He followed the otters to a small clearing, where they all gathered around and started talking. With his large ears, Sebastian was able to hear fairly well what was said.
One of the males, one of the pair that had seized Greyfang and Deadtail, spoke first, "I know it's important to keep them here, but I don't think I can keep this nice thing up for much longer."
Bellnuu replied, "Do not trouble yourself Oren. It is only until tonight."
The otters all nodded.
"Now then, Sven, did you drug the food as I ordered?"
An otter just entering adulthood nodded, "Yessir. I used the recipe you gave me. They should wake up at about a few minutes before midnight."
"Oh yes, I'm sure they will, but you seem to have missed something," Bellnuu lashed out, raking his claws across the youth's face, "The bat hasn't eaten any! Or were you too distracted by your own drugs to notice!? We need three to complete the ritual! Three! Not two!" He wiped his claws off on the grass as the young otter quivered on the ground, "No matter though, I was able to compensate for your lack of attention myself. It's so frustrating when things go wrong, wouldn't you agree, Sebastian!?" He called out, and the bounty hunter went rigid. His ears swiveled behind him as he heard a sound, but he didn't have to react before something slammed into the back of his head.
Gregory, in an attempt to place himself in the killer's shoes, threw the club down the empty hallway. The club went flying gracefully chopping throught the air, and finally landed with a thud on the floor. He walked toward it and picked it right back up saying, "Yup, you could definitely kill a beast with this."
Kneeling next to Thia, he told her, "I promise you. That Mr. Holmes and I will find your father's killer," he spoke with comforting tone. "Now we need to get you and your mother to safety. I'm taking you two to Skipper," he said knowing that they would be safe in his paws.
Greyfang in Deadtail were crowded by otters who fed them, massaged them,and even fanned them. They were sipping out of they're glasses when, they fell asleep abruptly. The otters, seeing that their job was done, tied up the buffoons to a tree and trundled off back to the feast relieved that they were done serving the idiots.
Skipper opened the door to his room when there was a knock on it. Lily stood there, with Thia clinging to her dress behind her.
"Oh… 'Ello Mrs. Lily. Um, need somethin'?" He asked, a bit surprised.
"Hello Skipper. I'm sorry to intrude, but Gregory said we needed to be somewhere safe, and you came to mind so..."
Skipper waved a paw dismissively, "Pff, you ain't intrudin' marm. Tis the least I could do f'you, seein' yur situation. C'mon in," He waved them in, closing the door behind them with an ominous boom.
Sebastian fell out of the tree, unconscious, and landed with a thud on the ground. Bellnuu walked up as Fenn came down from the tree. Bellnuu started telling all the other otters to prepare for the ritual, while Fenn sat guiltily next to Sebastian, ashamed of what he was doing, but afraid to cross his father.
"Alright you louts, and son, grab the two rats and the bat, and take them to the clearing. I'll get things ready for the ritual here." Fenn gnawed on his knuckles as he followed the other male otters to the clearing.
As Skipper closed the door behind him. Gregory turned around to see a flash of black at the corner of his eyes. Making sure, he wasn't hallucinating, he scrubbed his eyes and took off after the flash. He turned the corner to find the very same hallway Thia led him to. Still doubting, he scrubbed his eyes once again to see a cloaked, black creature. It turned it's head toward the the throwing club Gregory still had in his paws and looked back at Gregory. Then it took out a knife.
The two rat brothers, Greyfang and Deadtail, were still knocked out and tied up to a tree.Meanwhile the rest of the holt began to prepare the ritual. They had already started a big bonfire and painted their faces. Bellnuu arrived with the unconcious Sebastian yelling an unknown chant word as the rest of the holt cheered.
Sebastian flicked his ears as he came awake again. Feeling himself tied against what he assumed to be a tree, he lay perfectly still and just listened for a while. There was chanting going on in front of him. Crickets chirruped all around and he heard a fire going so he assumed it was night.
Carefully, he cracked an eye open. It was indeed night, there was indeed a fire, and he was indeed tied up to a tree. On either side of him were Greyfang and Deadtail, still knocked out but stirring. He returned his attention to the fire. He estimated about thirty otters, males, females, and children, dancing and chanting around a big bonfire, almost five feet across. There was a huge iron spit held above the fire and Sebastian wondered what it was for until he spotted three, oversized wood platters that seemed to be stained deep crimson.
Things did not look good.
The cloaked figure slowly circled Gregory, keeping the dagger trained on him, then dashed forward, leaned down so he was striking up, and slashed at his throat.
Greyfang awoke to his throbbing forehead. "Whadin da world?…" he trailed off. Fear overtook the crazed rat. It didn't take a scholar to figure out what the riverdaogs were going to do to him, err... them.
Greyfang started flailing, "Argggh! I'm tied up! I'm gonna be killed, mateys! I'm too young ta die. Take Deadtail he has more blood! No, not me!!" he kicked and wriggled. Deadtail was still fast asleep like a young dibbun and snored peacefully, not knowing where he would be when he woke up.
He watched the cloaked figure's every move, holding up the club, he teased at it.
"Oh! You want this!?" he mocked a look of suprise.
The cloaked figure simply went for his throat. He jumped to the right as the dagger was a hairsbreath to his neck. "Okay, so we'll play the hard way..." he muttered to himself and took out his own dirk. The cloaked figure turned back around seeming to be more angry. They both charged on sight, then using both the club and dirk he got to slash the figure's arm that he left unguarded.
The figure retreated for a second then attacked once again. The small blades clashed with each other and the grinding of iron was earpiercing. The dagger slid to the side and made a gash at Gregory's wrist. Gregory jumped back, as the warm liquid started to slide down his arm. He held his dirk back on ready and went in for a second attempt. He went for the left with the club and right with the dirk.
The cloaked one appeared to be a weapons master because every blow was easily deflected or parried away. Gregory wiped the sweat once more with his brow, and wondered to himself, "Why isn't anybeast coming?"
Sebastian winced and flattened his ears against his head as Greyfang started wailing like a wounded toad. The movement of the prisoners caught the eye of all the otters. Everything went eerily quiet, except for the crackle of the bonfire, as the dancing, chanting otterswatched the flailing Greyfang, the stoic bat, and the unconscious rat.
His cover blown, Sebastian took a closer look around. Over the tops of the trees he could see blackish blue triangles that he recognized as mountains. In the light of the huge fire, the friendly group of otters transformed. Their paws were trembling, their eyes seemed to be sunken into their skulls; he saw the two little maids that had served Greyfang and Deadtail. They were looking at Greyfang and grinning widely.
He grimaced and pulled his head back with revulsion. Their teeth were stained red and filed down to little points.
"So, you're awake are you?"
Sebastian turned his head and glowered as Bellnuu walked up. Fenn was trailing along behind him. The young otter looked shy, ashamed even, and refused to meet Sebastian's gaze.
"I assume we can all drop the charades now?" Sebastian asked calmly as he tried to think of a way to escape.
"Bellnuu smiled. His teeth weren't filed, "They do seem rather superfluous now don't they?"
"It would appear that way," Sebastian remarked. A dark shape flashed across the sky. It looked something like a bird. As Sebastian tried to think of what it could be, he asked, "So what do you plan to do to us?"
Bellnuu smiled, "Well, first, we're going to slit your throats and drain all the blood from your bodies, then we're going to cook you, then…" He continued with a gruesome list of deeds but Sebastian paid absolutely no attention. He'd realized what the dark figures flying overhead were, and which mountain they were near.
He leaned a little closer to Greyfang and whispered out the corner of his mouth, "How high can you scream?"
"Why isn't anybeast coming?"
At that moment, as Gregory was asking himself this, Skipper was in the hallway, reassuring worried Redwallers that there was nothing wrong. Gregory was just practicing a play.
"Are you sure Skipper? It sounds awfully real to me," Lily said as a yell came down the hall.
"Don't ya worry marm. Tis just Gregory preparin' a little cheer for tonight's supper. 'Lieve me marm, after all," He glanced behind him, down the hall, and a glint of something sinister flashed in his eyes, "Ya can trust me."