Friendship First!

May 26, 2011

“No.” Ripple finished picking up his cards, then crossed back to his desk and plopped down in the chair.  Bludd expected it, but huffed all the same.

She pranced up to him, batting the wheels to make them spin.  “C’mon, matey!  I know ye’ll fancy it.”

“Oi! Stop that.” Ripple kept himself still by gripping the desk with both paws.  “An’ that’s what ye said last time, an’ it took until all night to get all the ink out.”

“Yer only sayin’ no a’cos yer skeered.”

“I sure am! Now can ye go away?”

The wildcat stood on tip-paw, peeking over Ripple’s shoulder.  She toyed with something in her paw. “Whatcher got there thas’ so bloody poncy anyway?” There was something bright and colorful and-!

“None of yer business.” Ripple hunched over his cards and shoved the kitten away with his rudder.

“Fancy!” She scurried around to the side.  “Hahar!  Can’t fool me, dat be yer secret ‘idden treasure!”

The otter shifted to better shield his possessions. “Yes.” He paused.  “No.” He uncovered a big square of parchment all covered with numbers.  “Here, I’ll show ye.  This is the base attack, then ye add in this number here, but ye got to subtract it from their defense stat, which is this number, then ye tally up the uses of the weapons an’ shield an’ mark them down, then ye can figure out how much ye wounded ’em…”

“Gerrofit!” Bludd pushed the sheet away, her ears nearly disappearing against her head.  “Yer dodgy, ‘at’s wot! Addin’ a bunch o’silly numbers all day.”  She kicked at the wheels of the chair, forcing Ripple to grab onto his desk again to keep from rolling away.  “I’m goin’ t’play with th’ ‘ares.”

It took a moment for Ripple to comprehend.  “Um, hold on, don’t go.”  Bludd stopped mid-storm in the doorway.  “…what do ye mean by… hares.”

the kitten shrugged. “Th’ones with th’fancy clothes.”

“Uniforms? Are they here? At Redwall? When did they get here?”

“Aye, thas’ right.  Jus’ today.  I saw ’em when I was comin’ inside ter get you.”

Ripple bit his lip. “Now, this ain’t like the time when you said there was an adder in my room, right?”

“That wuz diff’rent…” Bludd sniffled, paws behind her back. “‘sides, I wuz only playin’ with yer.”

The otter sighed.  “Well, then, um… I didn’t mean to snap at ye, then. Ye should have tole me earlier! I’ll tell ye what: help me see the hares, an’ I’ll let ye show me what ye wanted to show me.”

A thrumming purr roared up in the kitten’s chest and she rollicked about in the doorway while Ripple got ready to go.  As he turned to grab his cane, Bludd skipped past the desk, a card slipping from her paw to join its brothers.  The long patrol hare standing at attention on the card’s front smiled up at her.  She smiled back.

“All right. Just a moment…”  Ripple gathered up his cards and shuffled them back into a neat stack.  He paused.  “Oops.  Missed ye there, Sergeant.”  Satisfied, he set the pack down and stumped toward the door.  Bludd raced ahead of him, taking the stairs three at a time.

Ripple shielded his eyes from the lances of light tearing through the window at the bottom of the stairs.  The wildcat danced from stone to stone, skipping ahead and constantly wheeling back to make sure that her friend was still following.

The two made their way outside. “Are y’sure they went this way?” Ripple asked, glancing back longingly at the door.

“Sure as m’name’s Bludd.  Ooh, look o’er there!” She dashed toward the orchard.

“Grk! Bludd, stop!”

Ripple pulled back at the end of the blanket tied about her middle before she trod on a heap of broken glass.  Bludd looked from the shattered kitchen window to her savior.  “Thanks a shipful, Ripper me matey!”

“I wonder what happened…” Ripple pondered out loud.  “Think the cook’s finally tossed it?”

“Hope so; His vittles are rubbish.” Bludd circled around the glass, entranced by the rows of skep-hives laid out on shelves in the orchard.  Smoke wafted lazily like dragon’s breath from a small fire.  Isidore looked up from tending the flames as the wildcat and otter approached.

“You two young’ns care to lend a paw over here?” he asked.

Ripple opened his mouth, but Bludd was faster.  “Oh, yessir!  I loves bees.”

“Mm. Just stay over there while I get this ready.”

Unable to contain her excitement over such an important job, Bludd began shuffling about.

“I’m a stripey bee
Buzzy li’l buz
I makes a lot o’ honey and I gots a lot o’ fuzz!”

Isidore smiled faintly although he didn’t turn from his work.  “Aye, that you are, lass.”

In the middle of her dance, Bludd whirled, grinning.  “Watcher!  I’m gonna sting ya!” She dashed backward at Ripple, her tail a striped lance.

Ripple side-stepped with room to spare as the cat rocketed past him.  She tripped over the tails of her blanket and tumbled in the grass, just missing the lowest row of skep hives.  The otter hissed a short breath and then crossed his arms.  “Please don’t point yer rear end at me ever again.”

“Not a bad song, kitty.”

Bludd’s ears swiveled and she mrrped at the unfamiliar voice. Another otter, this one smaller than Ripple, looked down at her with his paws akimbo.

“I’m norra kitty. I’m Bludd.” She skittered and leaped to her footpaws.

“And I’m Foweller.”  The young otter cocked his head.  “Huh.  You don’t look bloody.”

“Just wait,” Ripple said, glowering, “until she’s leanin’ over my new Fourth Edition rulebook.”

“Whatcher doing?” Foweller asked.

Bludd flicked her tail at the hives.  “Bees!” She said.  Foweller nodded in understanding.

“An’,” Ripple added, although his voice was a little softer, “we’re goin’ to talk to those hares, aye?”  He craned his neck, peering further into the orchard.  “I don’t see them.”

“Hares?” Foweller asked.  Ripple turned to Bludd.  She shrugged.

“They said they wuz comin.'”

“They said they was comin’ here or they said they’d be goin’ here?”

Bludd was following the path of a stray bee. “Both!” She stretched her paw out, providing a furry landing pad.  The insect alighted for only a second, and she giggled as its wings tickled her pawpad. The kitten crouched beside the row of skep hives, tail wiggling.

“I wuz thinkin’,” she said. “What ‘ave they got in those ‘ives anyway?  It’s th’ secret of their honey-makin’, I bet.”

Foweller knelt beside her.  “You think so?”

Bludd glanced over to Isidore – the rat was still focused on his work.  She lowered her voice. “Let’s crack one open an’ ‘ave a look, aye?”

Ripple was suddenly on her other side, looking her right in the eye.  “No. Definitely not. Even [i]you[/i] would have to realize how addlepated an’ dangerous that is.  Bees aren’t friendly; they’re little wasps!”

“Break into their fortress and take their loot…” Foweller showed his little needle teeth.  “It [i]does[/i] sound dangerous.  You sure you’re up for it, Bloody?”

Bludd snorted.  “Cap’n Bludd ain’t skeered o’ buzzy bees.”

That seemed to spark something in Foweller.  “Captain, huh?”

“I’ll show yer!”

Before Ripple could grab her, the wildcat pounced.

The hive toppled into the nearby fire.  Red hot jaws of flame snapped it up in seconds, sending a magnificent plume of smoke into the heavens.  Foweller hop-skipped backward.  Isidore shouted something, but it was drowned out by the roar of the fire and the drone of panicked bees.  Bludd yowled, set upon by dozens of striped sentinels.  She was scooped up by the scruff and hauled backward, out of the seething, stinging cloud.  She twisted about in the beast’s grip.

“Oof!  Keep still, will ye?”  Bludd’s ears perked in recognition of Ripple’s voice.  And then she saw Isidore’s face.

Her tail bottlebrushed, the wildcat squirmed and wriggled like a hooked shark.  Her footclaws dug into Ripple’s stomach and he let go with a bark of pain.  Landing on all fours, she shot off across the grass.

In the courtyard, Noel looked over his team, campball in paw.  He nodded in approval and turned around, only to be nearly bowled over by a panicked wildcat.  “If Isidore comes by,” she said, “tell ‘im I ‘aven’t been ‘ere!  Oh, I’ll play later.  Bye!”

Bludd tore out of sight, leaving a befuddled weasel in her wake.

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