Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

June 19, 2011

“Mr. Cobb, Tamarack!” The young otter scrambled through the sopping graveyard towards the pair. Bludd bounded after him, sacrilegiously leaping on the markers to avoid muddying her paws.

“Brother Andrew… he’s… the Abbot….” Foweller leaned over, paws on his knees, gasping for breath.

“Fowel, what’re you saying?”

Cobb and Tamarack crowded around the newcomers, their clean-up duties forgotten in the intrusion.

The otter caught his breath and continued. “Brother Andrew’s dead. Me and Bludd heard it. We were in the Abbot’s manor. Abbot Carter, he murdered Andrew!”

“You’m be sure about that?” Cobb looked the pair of young beasts over.

“Me ol’ Gob, have ye ever known me t’ be a fibber?” The kitten’s tail switched behind her. She was playing with something inside her blanket, pawing at it nervously.

“There be the toime with th’ spoider, Bludd. But, Foweller, you’m can’t be accusing th’ Abbot of murder without proof. Even if he be a roight creepy beast.”

“Proof?! Andrew’s dead on the Abbot’s front steps and we heard the fight. And I have this pin!” Foweller brandished the silver pin with the red jewel in it’s center. Cobb and Tamarack leaned over to see it up close.

“Aye, that’s the same kind of pin we found, Mr. Cobb! Where’d you get it, Fowel?”

“It was in the Abbot’s study, along with a flintlock pistol. We went and told Rip first, but he didn’t believe us.”

“Th’ landlubber told us we must’ve ‘eard wrong! He said that th’ Abbot would never do that.”

“I reckon the Abbot does more than most beasts might expect. Right. Let’s get to the bottom of this.” The vixen strode off towards the gates at the entrance of the graveyard.

“Miz Tam, if Andrew be dead, shouldn’t we’m bring Mr. Colm along with?”

Tamarack stopped and turned back to the others. She screwed up her face for a moment and twitched her whiskers. “No, Colm’ll only tell us we can’t go on account of it being too dangerous. He’ll tell Papa, and we’ll get sat here to mind the yard. And if Mr. Andrew really is dead… Let’s go!”

The group of beasts picked their way around the grave markers and mud and squished their way towards the Abbot’s manor. As they neared it, they could hear the schoolmaster trying to herd the dibbuns back into the school. Kits were sobbing and pointing as the group approached the flower-lined pathway that led to the Abbot’s front steps.

Cobb led the others through the small group of beasts gathered to watch the spectacle. Andrew’s body still lay on the steps, his face twisted into a horrible grimace. Abbot Carter was sitting on the steps, a little ways from the body, being tended by Sister Delores.

As the group approached, Carter eyed them all as he continued to moan about his injured arm. Sister Delores was trying to bandage it, but the Abbot was too engrossed in recounting his tale of what had happened.

“He cut me! I saw something change. Something in his eyes. I should have listened when everybeast said he was mad, but I had to try.”

Skipper arrived with a guard of otters and pushed his way to the front. “What’s going on, Abbot Carter? What happened?”

Carter allowed Sister Delores to finish bandaging his arm before he stood up to speak. “Brother Andrew confessed to me that it was he who murdered Brother Raimun.”

A murmur went through the crowd, and the Abbot allowed it to die down before continuing. “I was holding him in isolation for questioning. When I opened the door to interrogate him, he went mad. His eyes widened and glazed over. He starting shouting about those Things that he always ranted on about. Then, he attacked me and cut my arm. I had to kill him, you see. Brother Andrew tried to kill me.” Carter looked at Cobb and Tamarack and gave them a half smile.

“Miz Tam,” the mole whispered. “Oi doan’t think Andrew could kill nobeast.”

“I reckon you’re right, Mr. Cobb. This was murder.”

“Shouldn’t we’m tell somebeast? Maybe we’m should tell th’ Skipper about it.”

“Who’d believe us with the Abbot sitting there pretty as you like? Let’s just offer to get rid of the body. Papa’ll have a fit that nobeast called him.”

Foweller broke into their conversation in a low hiss. “He’s lying right out! Th’ Abbot’s lying about it all!”

“We believe you, Fowel, but don’t go telling nobeast. The Abbot already threatened me and Mr. Cobb when he found out about us sniffing after the pins.” She looked at the kitten next to him. “That goes double for you, Bludd. Don’t go telling nobeast. If he’s willing to murder Mr. Andrew out in the open like this…”

“Come on, Miz Tam. Th’ Abbot be looking at us funny again.”

The pair mounted the steps and approached Carter. “Father Abbot, zir, we’m wanted to know if you’m wanted us to clear out th’ body.”

“My children, that would be wonderful. Now I won’t have to call your father to do it, Tamarack.”

Cobb grabbed the mouse’s shoulders and Tamarack lifted at his ankles.

“Oh, and Tamarack,” the Abbot paused, “there won’t be a funeral. A traitor to the Abbey doesn’t deserve to be mourned. Or remembered.”

“Aye, sir. I’ll let Papa know.”

Dinner was over and the sun was beginning to set as Cobb and Tamarack dug the grave for Andrew.

“It isn’t right, Mr. Cobb. He should have a proper funeral.”

Cobb grunted as he moved a rock out of the hole. “Oi think so too. Perhaps Zir Colm could say something when we’m bury him. Or you’m could. Th’ Abbot can’t stop us from remembering Andrew.”

“I suppose you’re right. We’ll have to think of something really nice to say.”

Cobb glanced up and saw a lean figure striding through the graveyard toward them. As it came closer, he could see that it was Noel, the campball coach.

“Hello, Tamarack, Cobb.” Noel nodded at each in turn.

The vixen whipped herself around and beamed at the weasel. She quickly brought her paws up to wipe the mud off her face and to straighten her fur. “Hi, Mr. Noel!”

Cobb looked up from the deepening hole. “What be you’m doing here, Noel?”

“I wanted to talk to you more about Cassius.”

“That’s the fellow you said ran a gang?”

“Aye. You see, I used to –”

“Miz Tam, Oi think there be something here you’m need to know.”

The vixen sighed and leaned over to peer into the hole. “What is it?”

“Well, Oi was digging an’ well… you’m know how Oi can feel things in the ground? Well, under this hole isn’t as solid as it should be. Oi think there’s another hole under th’ hole.”

Tamarack pulled a face at the mole. “What do you mean a hole under the hole?”

“Oi mean, there’s something down under this graveyard.”

The trio looked at each other. Noel and Tamarack grabbed shovels and hopped into the hole with Cobb. They all dug as quickly as they could, the mud flying out over them.

They hadn’t dug far when Cobb’s claws broke through the dirt into open space. He stopped the others before the floor under them collapsed. It took a bit of creative digging, but they managed to create a crude ramp down into a long, open space.

“Mr. Cobb, can you tell how far it goes?” Tamarack squinted into the darkness, trying to see the end.

“Oi can’t feel an end. This must be a tunnel of sorts.”

“Wait here. I’ll get the lantern.” Noel went back up the ramp and returned a moment later, his face lit up by the flame. “It’s not much, but we should be able to see around us.”

“Oi’m not sure we’m should be exploring this. That way,” Cobb pointed in one direction, “be closer in towards th’ Abbey.”

“Then we’ll go the other way!” Tamarack set out down the tunnel, the two males forced to follow her into the darkness.

The tunnel twisted and turned but never branched off. They followed it until Cobb held up a claw to stop the other two. He stood still and felt the walls of the tunnel for a bit. He sniffed the dirt and nodded.

Tamarack sighed impatiently. “What was that all about?”

“Roight above us be th’ Abbey walls. Th’ south walls.”

“Could these tunnels lead to Redwall City?” Noel looked as far ahead as the small light allowed him to.

“Oi can’t tell how far they’m go. Perhaps we’m should go back naow.”

Tamarack frowned at the mole. “But we need to know where they go.”

“Miz Tam, your parents will wonder where we’m be if we’re not insoide for bed.”

The weasel spoke up. “We could go back, get some better lanterns, maybe some bread and cheese to bring with and come back. Tam’s right, we need to know where these tunnels are goin’.”

“Aye!” The vixen smiled at Noel. “Mama and Papa won’t know if we come back after they’re asleep.”

Cobb sighed. He knew he’d already lost the battle.

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