A Series of Nonfortuitous Events [Closed, Snowdrop + Maulings]
[OOC - not sure if this goes in non-traditional or not.]
It hadn't started out bad. Perhaps that is what made it so bewildering, so frustrating - there had been no indication at any point, at any time, for things to go so…. well. "Wrong" wasn't quite the word for it. In battle, the tide can turn in a heartbeat, change can happen faster than soldiers can grasp - he knew, of course, that to expect the unexpected was a part of his job, his lifestyle, even - and truth be told, he was quite good at it. But this…?
Major Mahalo Maulings exhaled heavily, closing his eyes as he did so, shutting out the sight of the arched abbey infirmary ceiling stones, red as the blood still matted in his fur. He vaguely wished he could shut out the sound of torrential rain thrumming at the windows, but it would have been churlish - and utterly childish - to cover his ears.
Just last week Mahalo had been given a very simple - but very much coveted - assignment. Take a small pawful of patrollers and carry a message to the abbot of Redwall congratulating him on a third season jubilee. This was the simplicity of the assignment. The coveted part came from getting to stay for the abbot's jubilee feast - oh, and such feasts they made at the abbey...! Mahalo had been only too happy to snap up the offer. His patrol, though small, was a perfect mix of young greens and experienced vets. His route was a well known and well worn one. All known dangers had been pre-assessed, and all unknown dangers had been dealt with exemplary military efficiency, including the skirmish near the abbey which had landed him in an infirmary bed.
And it was not the plethora of dangers that come with traveling cross country and forest in Long Patrol uniform which caused the Major such consternation presently, nor even the sudden downpour which was most certainly causing flash floods somewhere in the forest. It was not even that he had been wounded, something he was fairly proficient at avoiding in small battles and skirmishes. No, the thing which had Mahalo's ears all atwist had nothing to do with himself nor his assignment, and everything to do with the Redwall infirmary keeper.
Or rather, the infirmary keeper's assistant.
[OOC - Nah, it's still traditional because it has traditional characters in it XD Omg maybe I should have made the first post, I have no idea how I'm gonna do this one any justice X3]
Redwall's Infirmary Keeper was, and had been for many seasons now, was an older mouse by the name of Freedom. She was known for her quiet demeanor that could turn to one of cold steel when her patients were being unruly, her gentle touch, but mostly for innate ability to cure the seemingly incurable. Beneath her Madame-Sickbay skin, she was actually a gentle lady, and very well respected. She just did not, ever, play around when it came to treating the wounded and ailing. That was tomfoolery.
However, as she skillfully cleaned and stitched up the wounded Major's side, she couldn't help the rare smile that twitched at the corner of her lips as she absorbed the interaction between this monstrous warrior and her young assistant. The two had barely said a word to one another, and already there was tension in the air. Tension and….maker knows what else. This intrigued the jet-black mouse greatly, and her green eyes danced with wonder.
Well, young_er_ assistant, that is. Snowdrop was not exactly what one would refer to as a haremaiden, but then again…..she really hadn't ever been. No, Snowdrop Aster Whitlowe would definitely not fall under that category, period. By any standards. The youngster acted more like a hardheaded young buck more than anything, but despite that she was quite lovable and made up for it in different ways, reminding you that she was, indeed, a haremaid. To some degree.
Freedom had taken her under her wing a few seasons back, taking the youngsters enthusiasm of the surrounding Mossflower Woods to heart and putting it to use. She had proved to be a very quick learner, though perhaps not the most skilled right off the bat. Which is normal; not everyone can take to things like a fish to water. Freedom just happened to be the exception to that rule, as others surely have been as well. Snowdrop's eagerness to help encouraged the mouse, and with that she caught on quicker and was now the full-time assistant in the infirmary. She interacted with the patients fabulously, especially the younger ones. Her rather large family probably had something to do with that; being the oldest of about fifteen definitely had its perks. But for some reason…..Snowdrop and the Major were like oil and water, for lack of a better term. The mouse watched as the younger hare's left ear-tip twitched slightly, her jaw set in a grim line. Whatever it is that had been said or done, had Ms. Whitlowe in a tizzy.
Freedom mentally shook out of her musings and finished closing the wound up, cutting the thread loose and taking up her herbal compress. "You were lucky Major, it was a clean wound. Missed all of your vital organs entirely, and did not do much tearing. I would dare to say that, given the proper treatment and time, and providing you do not bother it much, you will be healed up nicely in about three weeks, four tops."
[OOC - ya know, looking back, we did pretty good for three in the morning, there. XD]
Mahalo, in keeping with his typical stoic demeanor, remained silent and largely unresponsive while Freedom labored with medical efficiency over his wound. He did his best to ignore the assistant hovering nearby, thinking instead over the skirmish outside the abbey. The foxes had taken the patrol largely by surprise, and though the hares had known there were foxes somewhere in the area - three vixens and a large dogfox, to be exact - they were tricky beasts and a challenge to track at best. The foxes and hares had been playing a loose game of cat-and-mouse between the river Moss and the western plains, where Mahalo - tired of tracking in circles and not about to loose a load of vermin on the abbey - gave the order to bait the trap, as it were. The foxes took the bait, but not in the way the hares expected. Even so, the battle was short and brutal, ending with minimal casualties for the long patrol and all the enemy slain save two who ran. When the young lieutenant Mahalo had brought along to play healer pronounced his Major fit to be carted to the abbey, the hares double marched the remainder of the journey.
Mahalo knew he could rest easy where he was, the chain of command would ensure all pleasantries were exchanged and messages delivered, but he found it hard to. He might have liked the assistant healer if she hadn't opened her mouth. He worked his jaw silently, forcing himself again to think on other matters as Snowdrop made a faint noise somewhere off to his left. It was well into supper time - he supposed his hares would be stuffing their faces just now. The thought brought the ghost of a smile to his face, though the corners of his lips remained slightly downturned. The storm continued its relentless beating on the abbey stones, and in the brief, brief space between when Freedom cut the thread, and brought her paws to a dressing of some sort, the storm was deafening. It lessened and faded to white noise when the infirmary sister spoke, however. Mahalo had found her to be an agreeable little mouse, one who struck him as running a tight ship aboard the infirmary boat and had a no-nonsense air about herself. Shame the current sawbones at the mountain fortress didn't share the trait - medical emergencies at Salamandastron were turning into quite the production these days.
"You were lucky Major, it was a clean wound. Missed all of your vital organs entirely, and did not do much tearing. I would dare to say that, given the proper treatment and time, and providing you do not bother it much, you will be healed up nicely in about three weeks, four tops."
The Major cleared his throat and twitched his whiskers politely up at the infirmary sister. "Thankee, marm, and y've done a fine job o' patching me up, too, wot." How unfortunate that he would be virtually bedridden for almost the entirety of the trip. Mahalo knew he could count on being fed, though, so it wouldn't be a total waste. All those lovely abbey victuals…. the assistant caught his eye again - quite by accident, he was sure - and he dipped his chin briefly in cool acknowledgement. "Ah, ye have m'thanks as well, miss." She had helped, after all, and although it had taken him less time to decide he disliked her than it would've to scoff a scone after a long march, there was the reputation of the patrol to consider, as well as setting an example for his young recruits. He turned his eyes away from her and focused almost haughtily on the next most interesting thing in the room - the window.
The wind changed again, throwing the storm heavily alongside the glass. Attempting to sit up slightly, the mountain giant addressed Freedom. "Am I to take it h'I've been confined to bedrest, marm, or is a stretch out in the orchard out of the blinkin' question, eh?" This was an important question. Maulings had the sinking impression of who he'd be answering to if he were confined entirely to the infirmary.
"Weather permitting, of course."
[OOC - lol ikr?! XD]
The younger hare's ears stood rigid for a moment, the Major's haughty air further rubbing her the wrong way. But, she decided to let it slide right off of her; more for Freedom's benefit than her own. She definitely was not going to succumb to this authoritative, puffed-up, windbag of a hare. No sir.
She snorted slightly at his inquiry, folding the unused bandages back up to store in the supply closet. "That depends on how long you actually want to stay bedridden. 'twould be a shame if you popped a perfectly good stitching job on the first day." She twitched slightly as Freedom flicked her ear as she passed by, shooting the mouse an angry glance before shutting up.
Freedom smiled kindly at the Major, fluffing a pillow before handing it to him. "No, that's not out of the question entirely. I would just prefer if you took the first couple of days easy, just to let things settle. I would hate to have to restitch you anytime soon, Snowdrop was right about that." She spread a blanket over his frame, puttering around like an old mother hen around her fussy chick. "If you need anything, please do not hesitate to ask. If you feel any discomfort at all, let me know and we will fix that. I am going to leave Snowdrop in charge of you, for when I'm not around. She's highly capable of making sure your every need is met, and she is very skilled. That does not be I'll be gone; she's just going to be helping a lot more."
When she was satisfied with her fretting, she straightened up and felt his forehead for a moment, making sure he wasn't feverish in the slightest. "Snowdrop will go fetch you some dinner, and after that I will give you something to help with the pain and to help you sleep. Does that sound alright to you?"
Mahalo's eyes whipped back to Snowdrop with an almost audible snap when the haremaid snorted derisively. For a moment, both their ears stood rigid. The Major was not used to disrespect and didn't typically put up with it.
"That depends on how long you actually want to stay bedridden. 'twould be a shame if you popped a perfectly good stitching job on the first day."
This haremaid was so completely and utterly… insufferable. Maulings had to grope about mentally for a word to label the young assistant with. Absurd. Boorish. Impertinent. Vulgar? No, no…. uncouth. Yes, that's what she is. A completely uncouth excuse for a maid. Her saucy response - to a question decidedly not directed at her, thank you very much - did wonders at rubbing him the wrong way. Absolute wonders.
In fact… had anybeast ever ruffled his feathers like this? True, his sister Mahina had come very close in the past, but this was…. different. Exceptional. Pure.
Pure dislike, that is.
With some effort, Mahalo regained his mental composure and responded in a quick deadpan, "I see." It was the best he could do without showing some kind of negative emotion. Think of the Patrol's reputation, think of the Patrol's reputation… He remained stiff and composed while Freedom puttered and fussed around him. She was a calming presence. He marveled rather that this infirmary keeper had such an obnoxious assistant.
"Snowdrop will go fetch you some dinner, and after that I will give you something to help with the pain and to help you sleep. Does that sound alright to you?"
Mahalo chose not to respond to the Snowdrop comment. It was too bewildering to think of - on one paw, Redwall fare; on the other, he wouldn't put it past Snowdrop to spit in it, even for as long as he'd known her; then again, it would get her out of the room for a wee bit; but she'd be around even more after that. Bother.
"Well I thankee kindly, marm, but h'I don't think I'll need any help sleepin' - can't abide the sleepin' aide stuff, wot?"
"If that is your wish, then I will forego the tonic. But, it's there if need be." She nodded her head curtly to him, turning to face her irate assistant. She grinned smugly, seeing the youngsters being boil underneath the surface. "Snowdrop."
Don't you say it. Don't you dare. Don't you say it you cheeky old mouse or I swear I'll- "Ma'am?" Snowdrop asked, clearing her throat and urging her twitching ear to cease its rhythm. If it were anyone else, she would have scoffed and stalked off. But this was Freedom, and the mouse was pretty much her second mother.
"Run along now and get the Major some dinner, before the entirety of it gets demolished. After that see to it that he's comfortable. You are not to leave until he has dropped off, and then you will check on him every hour. Understood?"
I'll get you back one day, old lady; if it's the last thing I do, ohohohoooo just you wait. Snowdrop clenched her jaw and stood rigid, her eyes narrowing at Freedom for a moment. "Only because it's you, and you asked so nicely."
Freedom fluttered her eyelashes at her sweetly and ruffled her head fur fondly. "That's a good gel. Now, run along; we don't want to keep the Major waiting."
Snowdrop nodded her head stiffly and stalked off towards the door, still clenching her teeth. Before she exited the room completely, a sudden thought hit her and she turned towards Maulings slightly. She glanced at him a moment before she redirected her eyes to the door frame. "There wouldn't be anything you're allergic to, by chance?"
Mahalo watched the exchange between Freedom and Snowdrop from the corner of his eye, just as irritated with the arrangement as his uncouth haremaid appeared to be. At least they had that much in common - and it is always better when two parties mutually dislike each other and both know about it. In this case, safer. For everybeast.
The Major entertained the idea of informing Freedom he wouldn't be having this sort of behavior from her assistant, but thought better of it. It wouldn't do to offend their hosts, especially considering the nature of his mission and that they were looking after him at all. Since when had reccy trips to Redwall become such a chore? Maulings suppressed a groan. Hardly a few hours since he had clapped eyes for the first time on Snowdrop Whitlowe and already she was unraveling his self control and turning him into– into-- what was this? Something like bloodwrath, but colder.
He was impressed on some level. Very few creatures could bring out the worst in him.
Maulings was so wrapped up in his inner dialogue, he almost missed the question directed at him from the infirmary doors.
"I-- allergic, miss?" The thought crossed his mind that she was looking for a way to poison him. He almost laughed at the thought. There were so many more creative ways for a healer in training to poison a beast, it was utterly laughable.
Still. The idea struck him a valid one. Odd... or not so much.
He watched the back of her ears until they disappeared from view. It was depressing, how much time they'd be spending together. There was no way he could sleep with the ache in his side, nor could he stomach the thought of putting up with Snowdrop for some period of time every hour. He almost reconsidered the sleeping tonic - almost. Couldn't stand the stuff, honestly. Which did he dislike more, sleeping draughts or Snowdrop? It was a close call.
The Major sank back into his cot with a faint sigh. This was going to be a long trip.
Snowdrop muttered darkly to herself all the way to the kitchens; something along the lines of 'puffed-up-windbags', 'old ladies', 'madness', and 'own flippin' dinner'. She huffed loudly as she pushed the door over, and was promptly knocked flat on her scut by at least six little ones, the tiniest one seated on her middle.
Her tirade was soon forgotten as she burst out into uncontrollable laughter, the young'uns and cooks laughing along with her. An excited babble of voices broke out soon after, and she was laughing among a chorus of, " 'ntie Show!" "SISSA SISSA!" "Miss Whitlowe are you alright?!" "Gor! C'n we do th' agin, sis?" and other various squeaks and squeals.
The oldest of the bunch, an otter pup named Kale, that had just turned ten, shooed the others off of her and helped the hare to her feet. "Sorry abou' tha', Sis. We've been waitin' fer ya f'r a long time now. Mum said you'd be here any minute."
Snowdrop giggled and pat the youngster on the head fondly, tweaking the ear of a little mouse, Shana, standing next to him. "No need to apologize sugar, I needed that." She dusted herself down and bent to kiss each one on the forehead, ruffling hair here, and tickling there. Four of the six were were leverets, which just so happened to be Snowdrops nieces and one nephew. Kale and Shana were her adopted brother and sister. Two, out of MANY.
The oldest of her nieces, Aster, clung on to one leg while the youngest, Charlock, sat on her footpaw. Aster giggled and stared up at her aunt as the older hare strolled through the kitchen, haphazardly fixing a tray. "G'anma wouldn' say 'ow come you've been gone, wot. Wot's taken s'long, 'ntie?"
"Well," Snowdrop said hesitantly as she grabbed random things and put them on a tray, her own stomach controlling the contents of her mind. Sure, she asked him if he was allergic to anything, but she wasn't about to ask what all he liked. She had to draw the line somewhere. The cooks, after deeming the situation under control, went back to their duties. "Auntie Snow has been very busy. Ms. Freedom put me to work and just now let me go." She winced slightly as Charlock climbed up her leg, toddled onto the table, and then climbed up her arm to perch on her shoulders, his sticky little paws gripping her fur fondly. She didn't mind though; she didn't get to see her nieces and nephews all that often. "But now Auntie has a break to get this heathen some food."
All six of them squealed at once, and once again she was hit by a chorus of inaudible babble. 'Wot's a heathen?', 'Is he a sickbeast?', 'C'n we play wiv him?', ''ntie wan' go wi'yooooou!'
At that her ears stood up straight and her eyes narrowed slightly, a grin spreading across her face. "Of course you can come with me, my little tots. He would love to play with you guys."
And with that, two of them whisked his tray up and dashed out of the kitchen, three of them dragging her along by the hands, while little Charlock held onto his Auntie's ears and giggled happily. She didn't even have time to collect her thoughts.
Whatever Major M. Maulings had expected upon Snowdrop's return, it certainly wasn't this.
The babies swarmed the infirmary, conquering the stones with their fuzzy little paws, tiny squeaks and squeals, and large, excited eyes, bright with energy and curiosity and babyness. They swarmed all over Snowdrop as she re-entered the sickbay with a laden tray, and then they swarmed all over Maulings, heedless of his injury. The halfer giant could have sworn the infirmary assistant had dumped them on him, but he couldn't be sure because he'd had to do some quick squirming himself to get in a position that would ensure his injury wasn't made any worse by flailing little paws. He'd hate to be stuck under Snowdrop's nose for any length of time. Like he was now.
Propped up in a semi-seated position against the headboard of his little infirmary bed, Maulings stared grimly down at the cheerful fuzzy faces turned up to him. He was struggling again to keep a reign on his emotions. This was something of a problem for Mahalo - this being the babies, and babes and young ones in general - and had been for as long as he could recall. Being a commanding scout major of Salamandastron, he was held to a certain regard concerning the younger set, and though Mahalo always tried his hardest to maintain this and his reputation as well, babes and young 'uns were always… they simply... they were all so...
The smallest among the tiny furry brigade, a small male leveret, climbed Maulings's chest - easy to do, given his position, though the young one still used his claws more than the Major would have liked - until he could reach Mahalo's face, which the babe promptly clapped his sticky paws against repeatedly. "Nunky Mawler!" he squeaked, enunciating each syllable with an extra-hefty high-five to the face. Maulings's ears dropped dangerously low.
The Major lifted the harebabe away from him with one paw, balancing the little one in a neat paw seat, perfectly sized for the child in question. "Master Charlock," Mahalo intoned gravely, "it is right bad form to slap a beast wot's lyin' in 'is sickbed, wot." And then the officer could hold back no longer, and he smiled, eyes sweeping all the young creatures around him. "Wot in the name o' fur h'are you lot doing here, eh?"
Charlock clapped his chubby little paws and giggled madly. The other leverets surged forward, all chattering at once, eager to be the first one to give their Nunky Mawler the battle plan.
"A surprise! It was a flippin' surprise, wot!"
"We came, um, came here be– we came b'fore daddy, and shupsied him, nunky, sah!"
"Wif mummy, ahcuz daddy is pwatolling wif you, nunky!"
"Oh, la, sir, did we surprise him good!"
They all fell about with laughter.
Given the fact, that even more dibbuns piled into the infirmary with Snowdrop and her entourage what with all the din they were making and all, she was unaware of the exchange taking place between her little nieces and nephew and Maulings.
Instead, she was busy juggling a heavy laden tray, babes that crawled out of the woodwork, and her giggling. Unfortunately…...she couldn't quite handle all of that at once, and once again she found herself on her tailscut once more that day. Fortunately, she managed to save the tray, and Freedom was on the scene to relieve her from it before she was piled on by more youngsters.
And again, the wild babbling broke out, filling the sickbay with raucous giggles, squeals, squeaks, and chatter. 'Sisser sisser you ok?', 'WHOA lookit him, he's hooj!', 'TEEHEE he's playin wif' Charchar! He getted him all sticky!', 'DOGPIIIILE ON SIS'R SNOW!', 'EEEEE SNOW STOPPA TICKLIN' MEEEEHEHEHEEEEEEEE!'
Eventually, Freedom was able to shoo the bulk of them off, leaving a rather exhausted Snowdrop lying prone on the floor, and her three nieces and one nephew. Kale and Shana had giggled and skipped off with the rest. Snowdrop giggled helplessly and remained on the floor, flat on her back, still not quite sure what had just happened.
" 'ntie Snow, 'owcome you didn' say Nunky Mawler was 'here, wot?"
"Oh I dunno dearie, probably because I was being trampled upon by all of your cousins."
Charlock giggled and snuggled down into Maulings' fur, successfully spreading even more the sticky mess around. "Nunky, 'ntie Snow sez you woz a -"
With that Snowdrop bound to her feet in one single fluid motion, sweeping Charlock off of the giant hare and into her arms, tickling the end of his nose mercilessly. "Oh you cheeky little monkey; what are you insinuating Charchar? Can't you see you're poor Nunky Mawler - " and with that she stopped dead in her tracks and speech, Freedom, who had done the smart thing and kept out of the way, holding her breath momentarily.
She spun around on her footpaws, Charlock once again scrambling up onto her shoulders. She stared at the Major long and hard, an indifferent expression on her face as she soaked this information up. Really it was quite comical; her fur was sticking up in odd places from maker knows what, her dress was rumpled, she was smeared in stuff, she was dusty, and she had a sticky babe on her shoulders, who was currently making the fur on the top of her head stand up.
"What.", was all she could say.
The leverets had only been the beginning. If Mahalo had been capable of making the noise, he would have squealed like a leveretmaid in love. Babies, babies, everywhere! This was what really made visiting Redwall such a treat, apart from the food - all those dibbuns living carefree, happy lives - it was adorable.
When the Major was done having this shamefully feminine mental moment, he let himself be trampled and prodded and hugged and questioned to the little ones' delight. Everything from "mista hare, mista hare, why you so ginomus?" to "nunky mawler, guess, guess wot? I ate a worm t'day!" Mahalo hadn't had such a jolly time since… a while.
Freedom began clearing out babes at about the same time Maulings's wound had taken enough abuse. He had to press his lips together and scowl a bit to keep from wincing at the pain, but it was increasingly difficult. Fearing the thought of being confined to the infirmary any longer than necessary, Mahalo sank down and back into the sheets, breathing carefully through his teeth. He had counted to 20 and back again before the pain ebbed enough for him to assume his taciturn mask without any bother. He became aware of a small, giggly presence splayed across his chest, and realized that Charlock was the only dibbun still with him - or indeed, near his bed at all - despite the fact that he could still hear the young uns making their racket.
He ruffled Charlock's ears gently. "Better be gettin' back to y'ma and pa, sirrah. Wot 'ave all your little friends gotten into?"
Charlock bounced to his footpaws, windmilling his arms to keep his balance on the bed. "Dey-- dey-- der wif auntie Snow!" thus explained, the dibbun jumped from Mahalo's bed and, presumably, joined the squealing pile on top of the obnoxious infirmary assistant. He remained stationary until the infirmary became largely free of dibbuns once again, looking up only when he heard Charlock's small voice. The last to leave, again.
He was just in time to meet Snowdrop's gaze as she spun suddenly, staring him down. He returned her expressionless gaze, not in the least bit disturbed. For a moment, all he could discern was the storm. And then Snowdrop spoke first.
"What," she said.
Mahalo arched one thin, elegant eyebrow, just slightly. Normally, he would not have graced such a ridiculous statement with a response, especially when such ridiculousness was coming from his uncouth haremaid. But the sight of Charlock turning her headfur into an impressively accurate replica of the salad gardens at Salamandastron nearly caused him to seize with laughter. Laughing in public is not something Major M. Maulings does. In an almost desperate attempt at keeping his composure, he forced his face into a look of what he hoped was aloof disdain, and when he felt the beginnings of a giggle at the base of his chest, he choked out the first thing that came to mind.
"Wot, indeed, miss. Don't stand there with y'mouth open, there may be flies about."