Judgment Comes from Experience – and Experience Comes from Bad Judgement

June 7, 2011

Morning came to Redwall in a dramatic manner, the light of dawn surmounting the walls and tingeing the sandstone a dusty rose hue. Some of the light found its way onto Andrew’s eyelids, causing him to sit up groggily. He hit his head on a low branch, and decided to lie down a bit longer until he could collect his thoughts.

Let’s see…last night… escaped from the kitchen and visited Aloysius with Tamarack and that mole. Bob, was it? Something like that. We went our separate ways and then… Urgh. Should have thought through the sleeping arrangements better. Which probably explains why I’m lying under a bush right now. I miss my kitchen.

Still, at least it had been a fairly uninterrupted sleep. Andrew felt ready to face the day, at least if it didn’t put up too much of a fight. He crawled out from under the bush and dusted himself off. As he did so, the mouse realized that there were several tears in his habit, as well as a couple of painful-looking scratches on his body. Must be from the glass in that window, he thought. Amazing, I never felt a thing. Should probably stop by the infirmary later to get that bandaged up, though.

Thankfully, the door to the main Abbey building was open. Andrew strolled through, and made it about ten yards before somebeast noticed him.

“Hey! Aren’t you that mouse who locked himself up?” called out a squirrel.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“What are you doing out here?”

“I came out.”

“Oh. Well…good job for that, then.”

“Thank you.” The mouse was already growing tired of this conversation when he remembered the job that the Abbot had entrusted to him. “Oh, and by the way, remember how I said that I was worried that monsters were going to kill us all?”

“Aye?” The squirrel cocked his head. “You finally admitting that you were wrong?”

Andrew laughed. “‘Gates, no! I’m telling you that the only thing keeping those Things from running rampant through the Abbey is the lockdown. So, I suppose it turns out that we’re in slightly less danger, but it’s not really too much comfort.”

“Ah.” The squirrel stood still for a moment, allowing the mouse to widen the distance between them. Then, he seemed to reach a conclusion and ran to catch up with Andrew.

“You sure about that?”

“Positive.” Andrew hesitated before playing his ace, but he suspected his warning would be better received if it had an authority figure attached to it. “The Abbot himself told me.”

The squirrel goggled. “Really?”

“Cross my heart.”

The squirrel was left in a thoughtful frame of mind while Andrew continued walking. His time locked in the kitchen had allowed him sufficient time to forget the layout of Redwall, though, because it took a full ten minutes to remember that the main kitchens were not, technically, in the main building of the Abbey. He hurriedly retraced his steps and made his way across the lawn to his destination.

Redwall’s kitchens! Not that small thing that he had been locked in for days, but the real kitchens that had stood since time immemorial. The atmosphere flowed through Andrew’s senses – the clamor of pots and pans, the smell of food cooking (and burning… beasts tended to become flustered this close to a feast), and the air so thick that if you stuck out your tongue you could almost taste it. He was back.

The mouse sidled through the crowd to his old spot on the counter. Luckily, nobeast had taken it in his absence. Andrew still had the cleaver, and while he wasn’t going to stab anybeast he certainly would have gestured in a very pointed manner. His return had gone unnoticed in the general chaos, although Reynold, the hedgehog next to him, gave a cheery wave. The mouse grinned and did likewise. The kitchen workers were obviously big believers in “forgive and forget,” particularly the latter part.

Andrew settled back into the familiar groove of chopping vegetables, seasoning fish, and kneading dough. While his memory of the Abbey geography had suffered somewhat during his self-inflicted imprisonment, his cooking skills had not. The mouse would never make head cook, but he worked quickly and efficiently, even if he did cause beasts around him to become slightly nervous when he held large knives.

Ah, the Nameday feast. Always Andrew’s favorite feast of the year. He had been quite looking forward to it, and it was a shame that he had missed a good deal of the preparation. Still, it was amazing how much food went uncooked until as late as possible. It was about eight hours before the feast, and there looked to be about seven hours worth of work. Putting off work until the last moment was a revered Abbey tradition, at least in the kitchen.

***

“Oy, Andrew!” barked the lanky otter outside the window.  “Come out for a minute. I’ve got something I want to show you.”

“I can’t,” Andrew replied. He had yet to acquire the haggard look of the constantly vigilant. “The Nameday feast is tomorrow, and Melina said that if we don’t finish this lot of pies before the day is over we have to work all night. And I’m not going to be tired during the feast; the last thing I want is to spend hours preparing this food and then fall asleep in the trifle before I get to eat any.”

“She drives you fellows like slaves. You’ve already got plenty of pies finished. Nobeast’s going to miss you if you duck out for a couple of minutes.”

“Well…” The mouse shrugged. What harm could it be? “All right. I’ll meet you outside the door.”

“Excellent!” The otter beamed, as he took the opportunity to swipe one of the smaller pies before bounding away.

Andrew sighed as he exited the kitchen, but there was no real frustration behind it. Casual food theft was one of the things that you had to put up with if you were friends with Bayard, but for the most part he was an honest soul, if a little over-exuberant.

“Ah, good that you showed up. Come on to the bell tower, I’ll explain as we go along.” With that, the otter bounded off with the mouse trailing behind.

Whatever he’s come up with this time he’s pretty excited about it, thought Andrew, though he had to concede that Bayard never stood still at the best of times.

Andrew mounted the spiral staircase behind Bayard as the otter started to babble.

“I was sorting books for Batty earlier today, and I came across an old recording by Abbot Saxtus about all the things he and his friend Dandin got up to when they were young. Great reading, got a lot of good material from it. Anyway, one thing that I saw in there really caught my interest, and I just had to try it out. So…here we are.”

He handed one of the vine ropes that were slung over his back to Andrew and tied the other to a crenellation. The mouse figured out what was going on after Bayard fastened the other end of the rope around his paw.

“You can’t be serious. You’re not really going to jump out of the bell tower!”

The otter winked. “Why not? Dandin did it, and he came out fine.”

Andrew pushed his headfur back and gazed out across the lawn. The view was amazing, but he was more concentrating on the distance between himself and the ground. He tried to reason with his friend. “That’s the same thing that Nick said when he tried to make the legendary Colossal Flan. He missed one step, and we were cleaning vegetables and dough off the ceiling for weeks. And poor Nick still screams a bit when he sees celery- Hey, what are you doing?”

Bayard had finished securing Andrew’s rope while the mouse was talking. The otter gave him a friendly shove before he had a chance to protest, and then followed the screaming mouse over the edge.

Andrew had to admit that the journey down was exhilarating, though the fact that he was screaming the whole time somewhat detracted from the experience. The whistling of air in his ears and the currents that threatened to steal his hat were not pleasant either. Then an unusually strong gust of wind pushed the mouse over the Abbey pond, and he felt his panic beginning to subside. This was wonderful, just like flying. Why had nobeast tried this-

Suddenly, the rope snapped and Andrew landed in the pond with a loud splash. He surfaced, sputtering, and began to yell at the otter hanging upside down a few yards away.

“You’re crazy! I could have been killed! What in all of Mossflower were you thinking?”

“It was fun, wasn’t it?” Bayard chuckled, paws akimbo.

“Well, yes, but…”

“Then what’s the harm? You survived, just like I said you would.”

The mouse swam ashore and flopped onto land. He lay on his back watching his chest rise and fall as he tried to compose a reply, but he could not come up with one that didn’t feel like lying.

“Is it wrong that I want to do that again?” he asked finally.

“No,” said the otter. “That’s called the spirit of adventure! Great, isn’t it? But before you go jumping off any more bell towers I think you should get back to the kitchen. You do have a feast tomorrow, remember?”

“I completely forgot! See you later, Bayard.”

The mouse fished his hat out of the pond and ran back to the kitchen, leaving his friend still hanging upside down. It would be tomorrow before the otter was discovered, which resulted in a very interesting and entertaining explanation on Bayard’s part.

***

Andrew smiled as he remembered that day all those seasons ago. It remained one of his favorite memories, even after he went back later and realized that one of the Things must have cut his rope and it was only a fortunate wind that saved him from an early death at the paws of his unseen enemies.

The mouse looked around him sometime later when he noticed the background noise of the kitchen had changed. A few apprentices were stacking dirty pots and pans for washing. The food had disappeared with most of his companions. The light had changed, too. Afternoon had wandered toward evening, and outside, the mouse could see beasts gathered and dancing. How the time flew when one was not barricading oneself in a small kitchen and standing a constant vigil for the Things.

Andrew stepped out onto the lawn, and wondered idly which table or activity he should pursue first. He’d picked up in the general kitchen chatter that Saskia was visiting the Abbey, perhaps he could see if she had any new pamphlets on guns. On the other paw, the small library on the subject that he had in his room was not approved of by the older Brothers and Sisters, and he was getting tired of the constant, “What’s that you’re reading? Guns? Don’t you know those things are horrible, not becoming of an Abbeybeast, etc, etc,” lecture. He didn’t expect them to understand that these weapons offered him the hope that he could combat the Things, but the mouse did not understand why they were so suspicious of new technology. With any luck, the Abbey would accept guns around the time somebeast invented a way to shoot lightning from their claws.

He glanced over at the haremaid’s cart, but through the carousing revelers, he could see that Saskia had taken her business elsewhere for the moment. He failed to sight the elusive printmaker on a scan of the Abbey lawns, but there were many tall ears to sort out.

The main building would be quiet. He could carefully plot out his next movements from there. The Abbot’s lockdown would protect them, but Andrew knew the Things could be crafty. He would have to remain on guard. Opening the door, the mouse noticed that Tamarack and the Abbot were talking just down the corridor. Perhaps she was telling him about the pin. The Abbot would certainly be a useful ally in their investigation.

“Tamarack?” he called. This precipitated an odd series of events in which an envelope dropped to the floor between the two beasts, Tamarack dove for it, and the otter stomped on her paw. There was some discussion between Abbot and gravedigger, which ended with the vixen picking up the envelope and massaging her paw.

“Brother Andrew, young Tamarack was just speaking of you,” said Carter.

Ah, well that just about confirmed it. Tamarack had told him about the pin and their research into its origins. Andrew mentally congratulated the fox for her display of initiative.

“Have you found out more since last night?” he asked her as he strolled over.

The Abbot proceeded to puzzle Andrew by saying, “What were you and young Tamarack up to last night, Brother Andrew?”

That was strange. If not about the pin, what could they be talking about that involved him? Maybe they were in league with- no, that was a stupid idea. Tamarack had a somewhat suspicious look about her, but the Abbot would never betray Redwall like that. Whatever the reason for this confusion, he decided to clear things up.

“We-”

“Brother Andrew! I just found something out. Come on, we need to ask Brother Raimun about it.” The fox grabbed the mouse’s paw and pulled him back toward the entrance of the building.

What on earth is going on? “Eh? But…”

“Run along, Brother Andrew,” said Carter. “I’ll find out soon enough. Don’t you reckon, Tamarack?”

Tamarack seemed to react badly to that enigmatic statement, practically dragging Andrew down the hall.

“Just what is going on here?” he asked after they had rounded a corner.

“Mr. Merrit asked me to deliver this here package to Brother Raimun,” explained the vixen. “Told me to be discreet about it, too, but the Abbot was getting nosey. Acted downright strange when he saw what was inside.”

“Oh? What is inside, then?” said Andrew, his curiosity piqued.

“I… I just told you, Mr. Merritt told <i>me</i> not to tell nobeast except Brother Raimun.” Tamarack frowned and hugged the envelope tighter to her chest.

“I’m sure he only meant beasts who might take it,” Andrew reasoned. “I’ll give it right back, I promise.”

The vixen balked. “I can’t, Mr. Andrew. But… Well, the Abbot saw it, so… It’s about some fellow named Julian Case. I don’t think it were nothing too flattering, neither. Something what happened to him here at Redwall.”

Not this nonsense again. Would the speculation over the Julian Case incident never cease? Raimun was purchasing some trash demonizing the Abbey? Just ridiculous. If the recorder wanted a factual account of what was secretly going on at the Abbey, all he had to do was ask Andrew. The mouse was always ready to enlighten others about the threat of the Things.

“Listen,” Andrew said, eyeing Tamarack and her envelope, “you go and deliver that rubbish. I’m going to go and talk with the Abbot, who obviously needs to speak with me about something very important.”

With that, he spun around and stalked back down the hall. The nerve of that vixen, trying to keep Father Abbot in the dark about their investigation. He was a very important beast, and deserved to be informed about anything that went on in his Abbey. Besides, Andrew had a feeling that this pin was related to the murders and the Things, and Carter was one of the few beasts who believed him about that.

“Sorry about that, Father,” said the mouse as he drew within hailing distance of the Abbot. “I don’t know what got into Tamarack there.”

“Think nothing of it, Brother. Now, what was it that you and Tamarack did last night? I heard about your flight from the kitchens, and took the liberty of telling the Abbey Council not to apprehend you when you appeared again.”

“Thank you for that, sir,” said the mouse. See? There was proof that the Abbot was on his side. Tamarack was just being paranoid. “Well, I ran into Tamarack and some mole named…Cobb, that was it, on their way to see Brother Aloysius. Apparently she found an interesting cloakpin lying ab-”

“This cloakpin, what did it look like?” asked Carter. Andrew had the dignity to be somewhat annoyed. What was this, Interrupt Andrew Day?

“Well,” he continued, “it was silver, and shaped like the Abbey, except there was a red jewel in place of the gates.”

The Abbot’s face moved, just a fraction, but enough for Andrew to register the fact and catalogue it in his memory as ‘Important.’ Perhaps Carter knew something after all.

“Anyway, we brought it to Aloysius, and he said that he thought he remembered seeing it in some old book, but he couldn’t find it. Then we all went home, except I couldn’t really go back to the kitchen, so I slept under a bush.”

“Thank you, Brother Andrew. This information is very useful to me,” said the Abbot, who turned and slowly walked out the door.

The mouse felt the sweet nectar of pride intoxicate his brain. He had made a useful contribution! He was sure that this was an omen of things to come, of a day when he would be respected by all of Redwall and finally be proven right about the monsters.

Then he heard a loathsome skittering in a darkened corner of the hall, and beat a hasty exit.

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