Tamarack Coffincreeper

April 21, 2011

Female Fox

“Oy, Colm!”

“What?”

“Something’s wrong with this grave.”

“Aye, you spent yesterday yapping instead of finishing the dig, scraggtail.”

Tamarack snatched up the nearest clod of dirt and chucked it at her brother’s head. He ducked into the grave he was digging. “There’s a body in here, you half-wit.”

A snort accompanied his reply. “Expect that’s quite the novelty in a graveyard, Tam.”

Resisting the urge to climb out of her hole and introduce Colm to the business-end of her shovel, the vixen shot back, “I mean there’s one here as ain’t supposed to be.”

Colm’s head appeared over the rim of his grave, a brow raised askance. “What are you on about now?” He pulled himself up and out before trotting over.

“I think it’s a rabbit.”

Pale saplings of bone rose at irregular intervals from the molehills of misshapen flesh and fur as the foxes stared down at the body – a garden fit for a grave. A mask of congealed blood, dirt, and insects hid its identity, but the long, floppy ears protruding from the top of the putrid mound were unmistakable.

“Who is it?” Colm wondered.

“Can’t rightly tell when he’s fixed himself up for a fancy do in Dark Forest, can I?” Without waiting for the older fox’s retort, Tamarack knelt to paw at the body.

Maggots, fur, cloak, and- “Here, now. What’s this?”

The vixen brushed away a beetle and wrenched the silver fastener from the rabbit’s cloak. It was in the shape of Redwall Abbey, a red gem set in place of the main gates. “What do you make of it?” she asked, standing and passing the curious piece of jewelry to her brother. “Think we could sell it?” Tamarack climbed out of the hole and dusted herself off as Colm rose and began cleaning the fastener with his pawkerchief. “I hear Sister Felso’s been sniffing around for something pretty as won’t turn too many heads on the streets. Looks like the abbey, so maybe she’ll… You listening to me, Colm?” She prodded her brother’s bony hip, but he did not move, did not even snap at her to quit. “What’s wrong, Co–Oy!”

Colm whirled on the spot and hurled the fastener back into the grave, eyes wide, ears flat against his head, and chest heaving. “Fill up that hole. Now!”

“What? But–”

“Forget about it! You forget about it and that rabbit. I mean… There ain’t no rabbit. Nothing to forget about. Get to filling, Tam.”

“W-what about a marker?”

“I said there ain’t nothing to mark!”

“I ain’t just going to forget seeing a body, Colm,” the vixen snarled. “We have to report this. I don’t want our graveyard to be no dumping ground to some maniacs. They’re like as not to rob half the graves we ain’t got to looting yet! And what if they come aft–Argh!”

Colm’s fist connected with her jaw, and the vixen performed a graceless half-twirl before tripping over a mound of dirt and flopping onto the ground.

“You will leave it be, Tamarack Coffincreeper! Put it out of your mind and don’t you even think about sticking your pointy little nose in problems as ain’t none of your concern.”

“Tch!” The vixen rubbed at her smarting jaw and sat up as Colm stalked back to the other grave, the foul stench of sweat, rot, and oil polluting his earthy-tobacco scent. Not likely. There was more than one way to mark a grave, and anything that scared Colm enough to set his tail bottlebrushing warranted a nose stuck well into the problem.

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