When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.

June 29, 2011

Cobb led Tamarack through the graveyard to the tunnel entrance. Each carried a satchel filled with bread, a hunk of hard cheese, and a canteen of mint tea. Noel had not yet arrived, so they sat down to wait, the light from their tin lanterns glowing like over-sized fireflies in the darkness.

Tamarack broke the friendly silence first. “What do you reckon we’ll find down there?”

“Oi doan’t know. Oi didn’t go any farther than you’m did, but Oi know it be dug boi moles.”

The vixen’s eyes shone, twin sparkles of excitement. “Maybe Foremole helped dig it… and his crew! Reckon it’s a secret tunnel the Abbot to uses if the Abbey’s attacked?”

Cobb started at that idea and chewed on his digging claw while he thought. “Oi doan’t think so, Miz Tam. Th’ digging is newer closer to th’ Abbey. It be dug from th’ outsoide in. Somebeast dug it to come into th’ Abbey.”

“But then they can’t leave. Why would anybeast want to be stu–”

A figure leapt out of a nearby tree onto the vixen.


“Watcher doin’ sittin’ by a hole?” Bludd sat up on Tamarack’s chest and began to clean her paws.

“Get off, Bludd.” She shoved the kitten onto the ground and sat up.

“We’m be waiting.”

“Waitin’ fer wot? Is sommat gonna come out? Ye didn’t bury any treasure down there, did yer, mates?” Bludd bounded to the side and peered into the darkness. “I don’t see nothin’.”

Tamarack looked at Cobb and raised her eyebrows.

“We’m be waiting for th’ King of Spoiders to come out!”

“Yer lyin’!” The kitten’s eyes went wide and she jumped back from the side of the hole.

Tamarack joined in the fun. “Aye. An’ all his spider sons and daughters. They’ll crawl all over you, too!” She crept up behind the kitten and tickled her claws along Bludd’s back and neck.

Bludd turned to the side, her back arched, her tail poofed, and hissed at them.

“Bludd, doan’t get you’m’s hackles up! We’m only be joking with you’m.”

“O-of course ye were, mateys!”  The kitten’s eyes darted. “Well, ye might as well tell me what yer waitin’ for. Cuz I’ll just wait til it comes.” The kitten plopped herself down to wait with them.

Cobb and Tamarack looked at each other. He sighed and nodded.

“We’re waiting for Mr. Noel so we can see where that tunnel leads.”

The weasel walked up to the group, his own satchel in paw. “And now I’m here, so, Bludd, you can scamper off, and we can be on our way.”

“Fft! I’m comin’ along, too. Ya needs a ‘sperienced adventurer ta lead ya!” She marched down the ramp and into the tunnel. “Are you lot comin’ or not?”

The three beasts looked at each other. “She be trouble, Oi ‘spect.”

“Aye, but now she knows, what are we gonna do?” The weasel looked at him and shrugged.

Cobb helped Tamarack down the ramp, and the group set off to see where the tunnel led.

Tamarack suppressed a yawn.

“Do you’m want to go back, Miz Tam? We’m could sleep before morning chores.”

The vixen pawed at her eyes and glanced over at Noel before replying. “Not a chance, Mr. Cobb. Expect this here tunnel’ll end soon as you like.”

Bludd came bounding back from the darkness ahead. “There’s a door up there!”

“A door?” Cobb sniffed and felt around the walls, trying to figure out where they were. “We’m be in Redwall City, Oi believe, but Oi doan’t know where in th’ city. Perhaps we’m shouldn’t go in yet.”

Tamarack sighed. “You’re worse than a little old mousemum crossing a road. What was the point of coming if we ain’t going through. That door might well lead to the truth, Mr. Cobb. About the pins, the Abbot, Mr. Andrew, Brother Raimun… even my gramps.”

“But, Miz Tam, we’m doan’t know who be behoind that door. What if it be more beasts loike Abbot Carter?”

“Gobby, it’s an adventure! We should duel ‘em!” The kitten mimed brandishing a sword about and hopped around the tunnel.

“Shhh. Bludd, you’m be quiet. What if somebeast hears you’m?”

Noel chimed in, then. “He’s right, Bludd. But, Cobb, we came all this way. We have to find out what’s behind that door. And the only way to do it is to go through. What do you say?”

Cobb was silent a moment. “You’m wait here. Oi’ll dig a tunnel around to th’ soide. Then Oi can peek in an’ see what be behoind th’ door. We’m can decoide what to do after Oi get back.”

Tamarack opened her mouth, but it shut it again before speaking.

“Cobb, I think… well, I think that’s a good plan,” Noel said.

Cobb smiled and nodded as they agreed to his plan. Tamarack sat Bludd down and took out her bread and cheese to share with the kitten.

The mole went a few feet farther down the tunnel and felt the wall. Digging his claws in, he tested a few spots before he started his own, smaller passage. Soon, clods of dirt were flying from his claws in a steady stream, collecting in piles as he burrowed further into the welcoming earth.

The dirt felt delicious. It had been such a long time since Cobb had dug just for the sake of digging. He relished each clawful as he allowed it to slip through onto the floor behind him. He could smell the earth worms and the recent rain that still dampened the soil.

Five minutes passed before he paused, letting the vibrations of the earth move through him. He could feel movement coming from what must be the room behind the door. Somebeast was pacing back and forth. Cobb also felt something bouncing: Somebeast bouncing his leg whoile sitting, maybe? He turned and dug towards it, stopping just short of breaking through into the room. With one claw, Cobb made a cautious hole. He put his eye to it and peered through.

Inside the room, there were three beasts sitting around a table and a pine marten pacing the floor. As Cobb watched, they all stiffened, then the hedgehog yelled at somebeast he couldn’t see. There was movement along the wall where Cobb stood, and he felt more than heard the door being opened. The beasts inside drew their weapons and faced it.

“You there!” Cobb heard somebeast shout from the tunnel.

He turned and ran back towards his friends, no longer taking the time to enjoy the earth encompassing him.

When he reached the main tunnel, he saw Tamarack, Noel, and Bludd on their footpaws, being led into the cellar by a pair of otters, each brandishing a sword.

“You’m sea dogs leave Miz Tam alone!” Cobb threw himself at the nearest otter only to be slammed into the ground.

“Up ye come, hero! Yer goin’ in, too.” The otter plucked the dazed mole off the floor and shoved him forward.

Inside, the group was met by a pine marten, a hedgehog, a young haremaid, and a burly mouse with a bandaged ear.

The haremaid looked at the hedgehog. “Should I kill ‘em, Case?” She raised her pistol and pointed it at Cobb.

The hedgehog gave a small, thin-lipped smile and nodded.

“No!” A voice broke through the tension. “Case, that kitten is the one that saved my life.”

“Selendra!” Bludd hurried over to the mouse, arms open to hug her. Selendra pushed the kitten away, and instead mussed her fur between her ears.

“Very well, Sel,” the hedgehog said. “We’ll hear what they have to say, then we’ll decide. Locria, do lower your pistol.”

The haremaid put her weapon away and sank back into her chair, arms crossed across her chest. Selendra led Bludd to the table and the pair sat down.

Case gestured for Cobb, Tamarack, and Noel to sit as well. Cobb moved towards the table to take his seat.

“Well, Cassius, what do you think of our intruders?” Case turned to the marten.

The marten said nothing, but let his eyes wander over the group. His eyes fell on Noel and stopped, then flitted back to the hedgehog.

Shifting in his seat, Cobb cleared his throat. “Hurr… hurr…” He began, but stopped when he looked around at the stony faces of their captors. The mole lowered his eyes to the table.

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