The Worth of a Book

June 9, 2011

Aloysius flew high overhead. It was a starless night, the moon bright and full, following the bat as he traversed an open field, books scattered hither and thither, no rhyme or reason. His eyes scanned the covers, sharp vision unquestioned as he searched for the one lost to him. A flash of color caught his attention, and he veered his path to land next to the jewel encrusted book. The Mossflower Heraldry was finally in his claws. Relief flooded him, then drained to nothingness as he found no text contained within the pages. He slammed the book closed with a growl and took off. There, to his right, but this one contained no text either. Three more books he left behind, his heart hollow and empty as he realized the fool’s errand he had undertaken. One more book, and he would end his search for good. He opened the gemstoned cover and grinned at the ink-filled pages. He had found it at last.

Slam!

The abbey historian awoke with a start, his dream fading away like ripples on the abbey pond. He cast a stone, clutching at the memory before it was lost to him entirely. The Mossflower Heraldry had returned to him. Where had it been? A field, it was somewhere lying in a field.

“Oh, sorry, Brother.”

“Ripple, Ripple?” Aloysius said, cold reality seeping into his senses. His face was moist. Looking down, he found the pages of his ledger damp and translucent. Without sparing a thought to what he was doing, he wiped at the drool with a wing, unaware of the words and letters smeared. Turning to the otter, he blinked. Ripple’s shape refused to dissolve into focus. “How may I help you, child?”

“I was just … looking for an escape … from the festivities.”

“Ah, there is no need to be ashamed. It is rather commendable to turn to your studies in times of such temptations, temptations.” Rising from the floor, the bat lifted his ledger and placed it on his writing table, the only space available. He grimaced when he realized what he had done. “If you would like,” he said, gathering his quill and ink pot, “you may aid my search for the Mossflower Heraldry. It seems to have been misplaced, misplaced. You haven’t taken it, or know where it might be?”

“What? No! I would never take a book without askin’.”

Aloysius folded his wings and smiled. “Yes, I had assumed so. You are a good lad, young Ripple, always polite and courteous to others.”

“Actually, Brother. I was wonderin’ if I could borrow a book.”

“Oh?”

“Aye. Miss Saskia mentioned she gave ye one that I was rather interested in.”

Aloysius face lit up like a full moon. “Ah! You mean the Two Treatises on Government. An excellent historical debate on the philosophy of vermin government, vermin government.”

The gatehouse door slammed open, causing the bat to cringe at the resulting noise. Silhouetted against the abbey lawns was a diminutive figure, its shape unrecognizable to the bat. “Ke ke ke,” Aloysius squeaked, and the figure’s form appeared to the bat as a young female wildcat.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, child. May I ask your name, and why you felt it necessary to shake the walls of my archives with such a grandiose entrance?”

“’M Bludd. Who’re you?”

Aloysius blinked at the young wildcat. “I am Brother Aloysius, the historian of Redwall Abbey, Redwall Abbey.”

“I’m-a call you Ysius, because it sounds like vicious!”

“Brother Aloysius if you please, if you please, or Aloysius if you must. I am not one for nicknames, I’m afraid.”

But Bludd was already marching around the bat, her voice loud and dissonant as she composed a quick ditty. Aloysius curled his ears at the volume.

“Ysius, Ysius, he’s so vicious,
‘Cause he is a bat.
He thinks all beasts are quite delicious
‘Cept, of course, the cats!”

“He does not,” Ripple retorted, but it sounded hollow and doubtful.

“Please, please,” Aloysius said, extending a wing to collect Bludd as one would a wayward dibbun. “Perhaps we can continue this conversation in a less precarious location, location.”

He ushered the pair outside, away from his spired archives.

“Oy, I thought ye said ye knew him,” Ripple hissed.

“I do,” Bludd hissed back.

“Then why’d ye ask who he was?”

“Cause he asked first!”

Aloysius breathed a sigh of relief as he closed the door behind them. “As much as I enjoy your company, company, there is a feast going on, and it might be better for young ones to play than stay cooped up inside.”

“But Brother Aloysius,” Ripple started.

“Now, now. Don’t forget I was once a Dibbun myself, myself. Perhaps one day I may relate the mischief that seemed to follow me wherever I went.”

Ripple’s mouth snapped shut after a moment of gaping.

Aloysius shook his head. “It will be good for you, good for you. There will be time for studies later.”

“But Brother, please! I won’t spill shrimp on anythin’, honest! Let me stay!”

“I’ll be good!” Bludd joined in. Aloysius wished the night would settle faster. It was getting rather hot.

“Unfortunately, with the work I must do, I am incapable of supervising a pair of young ones. Besides, we are in the midst of a feast, and I have come to the startling conclusion that I have had nothing to eat all day, all day.”

“Ye don’t have to supervise! We’ll sit outside, ye won’t even hear us! I promise!”

“No, Ripple. Please, entertain your friend, your friend.”

The otter huffed. “What about the book?”

“I will bring it to you at the close of the festival. Now run along, run along.”

The two wandered away, Bludd swiping at Ripple’s bowl, which he held high above her reach. “Ke ke.” Bludd was in the air. “Ke ke.” Their paws connected, and Ripple’s bowl was falling. “Ke ke.” The two were staring at the ground. “Ke ke.” Bludd was running to the abbey lawn, Ripple in hot, well, lukewarm pursuit.

Aloysius hesitated, then locked the door to the archives.

Once in flight, it was not long before Aloyius’s nose led him to the feast, and with a few squeaks, located Brother Raimun sitting amongst their brethren at a table. The bat landed softly, clambering next to him on the bench. Raimun did not bother hiding his surprise.

“Brother Aloysius! You’ve joined us!”

“Yes, well, the Abbey has always been known for its feasts. It is a shame that I have failed to attend one until now, until now.”

“Try the black currant tart. It’s some of Andrew’s best.”

“Perhaps. I am not one for sweets.”

“Ah, perhaps you’d like some of the October Ale, then. Ambrosia’s quite proud of her barrels. Said she’d been saving some for a special occasion.”

“Ah, yes, thank you, thank you. I’ve always had a soft spot for the cellarhog’s recipes.” He grasped the mug Raimun presented him in both claws and leaned in for a draught.

“Ha, that’s you. Always one for tradition. In that case, try some of the moles’ famous Turnip’n’Tater’n’Beetroot pie. Still sweet, but there’s enough bitterness to cut it.”

Before Aloysius could protest, Raimun had a plate in front of him. Relieving himself of his mug, the bat picked up a fork, fumbling with the handle. “Pardon me, pardon me,” he said as his wing brushed Raimun’s side.

“You’re looking a touch more blotchy than usual. Rough day in the archives?”

“Yes. I’ve been searching for the Mossflower Heraldry, which seems to have gone missing from my shelves.” Aloysius sighed as a piece of pie fell from his fork.

“Just hold it as you would a quill.” Raimun demonstrated. “It’s not so different.”

“It is quite different, quite different. It is much easier to dine mid-flight.” The bat returned to his drink.

“Speaking of the Mossflower Heraldry, Foremole was asking about that the other day. He’s a trustworthy soul, so I let him borrow it.”

Aloysius turned from his drink to cast a disapproving look in the mouse’s direction. “Brother Raimun, the ledger is there for a reason, for a reason.”

“Aye, sorry about that. Slip of the mind. I didn’t think you’d be needing it.”

“You’d be surprised at the things that go bump in the night, in the night. Still, I am pleased to hear it is in safe paws. Foremole, though? I never would have imagined him to show an interest in such a tome, such a tome.”

“Who knew? Didn’t say much about it, only that he was ‘gurtly ‘appy’ and that he’d have it back as soon as he could.”

“Is he around? I would like to know what it was that interested him so, him so.”

“He’s off putting the younger Dibbuns to bed.”

“Ah, I will catch him on the morrow, then.” Aloysius made to rise.

“Come now, you aren’t leaving so soon? Let me pour you another mug; you’ve barely touched your pie!”

“Thank you, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline, decline. I have soiled the ledger, you see, and I must make note of Foremole’s sanction.”

“Well, hurry back! Abbot Carter’s set to deliver his Nameday Speech at any moment.”

“I will, Brother Raimun. Thank you, thank you.”

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