Get Carter

April 17, 2011

The hooded figure paused at the window, taking in the sights and smells of this new day. One paw lay on the shade, as if unsure whether or not to draw it.

Smoke clouded his perception of the scenery below him. The winter was almost over, and the snow was already melting off the lawns. Somewhere out there, the birds chirped over Mossflower as they had for countless ages.

“Father?” A tentative voice sounded from behind him. The figure supposed that the speaker must have thought he’d nodded off.

Sighing, the Abbot removed the pipe from his mouth, blowing out the smoke into the chilly spring air. Life’s simple pleasures; no need to be old to appreciate them.

He turned around slightly, not deigning to acknowledge the interruption. Instead, he faced them, the twelve beasts seated at the table. Each one of them was hooded, and whispering silently amongst themselves.

There was even an incense burner adorned by candles as the centerpiece; father abbot was smoking right now, to rid his nostrils of the pretentiously bad smell.

It was a ridiculous nod to the old days, back when being a Redwaller actually meant something. Not like now, this time and this place…

“Give me those papers. I need to review them one more time.” Extending his right paw, the abbot took the bundle and leafed through it.

Everything seemed to be in order, very proper. Not a bit of viable information had been left out.

It was the reply back from Salamandastron regarding Redwall’s current situation. They were refusing to send a regiment of Long Patrol hares to aid the abbey, and they had also refused to give a reason why.

The abbot bit his tongue; below the hood his mind raced for a solution to present to the council.

This was one of the worst pieces of news in a long time.

“They’re not coming.” He said at last, jamming the pipe to the side of his jaw as he did so. “I followed this up, and our spies know why, but first…”

He was interrupted again as a paw shot out in the air. “It was my understanding that Redwall has traditionally maintained a mutual relationship with the Mountain. If they know the predicament we’re in why would they refuse aid?”

The abbot stared at him, so cold and intensely, that the speaker shut up. Beasts with no brains should not be allowed to speak, in his honest opinion.

“The spies tell me that the antagonist made a visit to the Mountain some time ago, within the past season. Somehow, he convinced the Badger not to supply troops in Redwall’s general direction. The beast didn’t do this by pounding on the side of the Mountain with a massive army. Nor did he hold a sword to the Badger’s throat, from what I hear.”

There was a stunned silence in the room, as every beast wondered what the Abbot was going to reveal next. The stench from the vapor was so intoxicating; it made one think funny things in one’s head.

“No, what seems to be the case was they had a nice and civilized chat over tea in the dining room. The fate of Mossflower discussed over crumpets and saucers!”

At this point the abbot slammed a paw down violently on the table. The hood slid off his head from the impact, revealing a rather tall and muscular river otter. His whiskers were tinged gray at the very tips, fairly typical for a beast just entering middle age. However, his eyes were fierce and determined, as if no force could shatter their gaze.

“Abbot…your hood?” Again with that annoying and pretentious little insect? The day when he learned his place would be a joyous cause for celebration indeed.

“Forget it.” There he was, staring out into a sea of hoods, all wanting to hide their faces in an area where everyone knew who they were.

One of the other members started to rise, presumably to check the door lock.

“Sit. Down.” The other hooded beast froze in his tracks. Slowly, and without turning, he resumed his former position. In all of this, the Abbot hadn’t even deigned to turn his head at the offender.

From within his robes, the otter brought forth an ancient rolled-up parchment. With a grand flourish, he spread it over the table a map of all Mossflower.

All the old locations and dates were labeled there in meticulous detail. Hard quill marks scratched some areas out or inserted new markings and places in. There were even addendums added to the very edges of the map, to refer to places that had been out of the knowledge of the ancients.

His paw was pointed right in the centre of the parchment, at that point labeled ‘Redwall Abbey’. Slowly, he gestured every beast to draw in closer and watch what he did.

“At one time, Redwall’s influence stretched all the way across to the very borders of the western sea. Mossflower answered to us, the guardians of the red stone abbey. The great fire mountain, and Redwall. Commonly accepted for ages as the lone bulwarks of civilization. The ancients were wrong, however, on this point. Dead wrong.”

Without blinking, the Abbot slid the map across the table.

One of the hooded beasts grabbed for it, actually leaning forward on his chair to try to reach it. He missed however, and as they all watched, the map fell right on to the incense burner.

There was a sharp, crackling noise as the map folded into itself.  The flame followed the edges, burning them to a crisp. Then black charcoal crept out from the center, and crawled over the rest. Then it was nothing, completely gone.

The abbot blew out his pipe breath over his captive assembly. His eyes flashed almost as hot as the end of the pipe he was smoking.

“The rest of the world has changed. Ships from far regions come to our shores, promising new insights into the operation of everything under this sun. In the taverns, beasts laugh and joke with each other regardless of species or creed. Why have we been the only ones to stay placid and monotone? Why are we stale and motionless?”

The paw shot in the air again. This time there was no mistaking the face behind the hood. No way anybody was hiding those floppy ears, much less a dirty rabbit.

This time there was no interruption right away, only a silent wait for the abbot to voice his permission to speak.
“Speak your piece, lad.”

The rabbit actually got up, seemingly so self-important that he felt the need to do so. Turning, the hooded bunny faced his abbot straight in the eye.

“Forgive me for speaking thus, Father Abbot, but I cannot keep still any longer. I have a suggestion; if I may… that we try and resolve this matter in the traditional manner prescribed to us by our founders. If we turn against our principles now, what will Martin think of us? We are the light in Mossflower, a bulwark against all intruders.”

The new initiates were always like this, idealistic and wanting the abbey to conform exactly to the way they had been taught in the history books. They tried his nerves, causing him to crunch down on the end of his pipe out of sheer disgust. However, if this creature noticed at all how annoying he was being, he was doing a good job ignoring it.

Wasn’t this the very beast that had been interrupting him all meeting? The otter was very tired, and he couldn’t quite remember, but it seemed so. He needed to act fast right now, because it seemed as if the other members were already nodding their heads.

If they had a quorum against him…

“Come here, Brother Doorkeeper.” He sneered derisively, combining the beast’s occupation and title into one. Come look out the window and tell me what you see.”

He pretended to step aside as the rabbit waltzed right past him to the windowsill. Slowly, he sidled right behind him, as if to show him the view.

In the distance they both could see beyond the wall tops of Redwall. There, not half a days march, was a small village, with many dwellings visible. On a clear day like this one, the smells and sounds of the place drifted over many miles.

It looked at first glance like it was peeking through the trees. The forest clearing wasn’t very large, and the density of the trees made it difficult to see any more.

If one looked to the right or left of the window, it soon became apparent that the village wasn’t as small as it had originally appeared. The otter motioned that the rabbit should lean out the window slightly.

Now it was obvious that even the space between the trees bustled with life. There were beasts traveling to and fro on varied errands, merchant carts kicking up dust as they came back from distant lands.

In all of this bustle, Redwall alone remained quiet. The bell had not yet chimed for morning duties. Indeed, the abbot noted mentally that he’d seen more life in a graveyard in the abbey at this hour.

“Now further ahead, you can see what I had wanted to show you. Just a tiny…bit further.”

Somehow no beast noticed that the abbot had his foot paw right on the rabbit’s cloak. The rabbit leaned forward, his cloak suddenly tightening as the friction stretched out to its maximum length.

The abbot actually stopped to exhale the smoke from his pipe before releasing the pressure from his foot paw.
It was a long drop. Brother Doorkeeper didn’t even have time to register what had happened before he’d hit the ground. Yet no noise stirred from Redwall Abbey…

Wordlessly, the abbot drew the shade and faced the assembled beasts. “Does any other beast have an opinion?”

No. Didn’t think so.

“Another unproductive meeting, I see. However, our late friend did have one point. There is always a place for tradition, even in a changing world. We must be open to that, no matter where it takes us.”

The beasts assembled all leaned inward, expectantly. Everybody knew what he was going to say next. There was only one piece of tradition in Redwall that should remain, must remain. If all else should fail….

“Redwall needs a champion. Not a hero, nor even a warrior. We need a champion for a new age. I will submit my draft of the prophecy at the next meeting.”

Every beast stood up, taking that as a sign to leave. They were all only too happy to go, and some of them actually kicked the chair back against the table as they got up.

Nearly all of them managed to escape the chamber before the abbot’s attention was upon them.

“You. And you. Dispose of the rabbit downstairs before anyone sees it. You, get the damned scented candle off my nice table.”

As the door slammed behind them, Abbot Carter put his paws to his head. That Society crowd really did give him a headache at times. Yet…they had elected him, so he had to play by their rules.

Nonsense. The Father Abbot of Redwall didn’t bow to the wishes of cowards and weaklings. Even if they were right about the Lockdown being all his own doing….

The otter saw the future where others chose to stay stuck in the past.

There were so many opportunities in this new world; it was a shame that the inhabitants of this Abbey were squandering so many.

Carter took out the weapon that had been cleverly hidden against his habit cord.
This was the future.

He smiled with satisfaction as he cocked the hammer back, and dry-fired the flintlock into the ceiling.

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