Scones and Guns

July 3, 2011

Foweller barely heard anything after Ripple’s last words. He watched, helpless as Skipper took his son in his broad arms and wept. Foweller could not think. This only happened on the battlefield. Not here, not in Redwall. The smell of smoke mixed with blood curled in Foweller’s nostrils, making his stomach heave.

“Fowel? Fowel, I… help me.” Virrel knelt besides him, his voice a tremulous plea. Foweller’s gaze did not leave Rip’s body as Skipper bore it away, rushing to the infirmary, followed by a stone-faced Isidore. No beast had the heart to stop him, to tell him it was too late. “Foweller?”

“They’ll kill you. I should.” Foweller muttered faintly. His claws tightened around his loaded pistol, the warm iron suddenly bidding him to kill.

“Fowel, I didn’t mean…”

“I don’t forgive you. I hate you and I want you to leave my abbey. Run away.” Foweller wondered how he could sound so calm. There was a clear path to justice, but he could not take it. A shot ought to be buried in the vermin’s throat, but Foweller knew he could not.

“Run? Run where?”

“Out. While every beast is busy.” Foweller looked at Virrel for the first time. He tried to see a murderer, a vicious weasel. Instead, he saw a terrified young beast with tears staining his cheeks. Foweller knew that Virrel was a fully grown vermin, yet his face was the most honest of any beast he had seen in his life.

“You’re not gonna…?”

“One day I hope so. I don’t forget my debts, remember? You helped me. Now I’m letting you go. If I ever see you again,” he trailed off, raising his weapon. Virrel did not look twice before shooting off across the lawn. Foweller squinted at Virrel’s retreating back. The weasel rounded the corner of the dormitories. With the dangers outside the Abbey walls, would he even survive?

“Five, four, three, two, one. Here I come, ready or not.” Foweller stumped from one footpaw to the other, making wayward progress after Virrel. By the time the otter had reached the east gate he was in tears. With Uncle Skip out of sight, it was alright for Foweller to be a kit. He blinked at the gate and sniffed. It was wide open, the old lock easily overcome. So much for a strict lockdown.

Foweller fired his pistol into the ground outside the Abbey and turned away.

~~~

“Foweller! Foweller, what happened? Did you see Virrel? You didn’t… shoot him did you?” Rigg’s voice had raised at least a whole tone. The otter crew had gathered outside the infirmary. Skipper was letting no beast in but Sisters Amery and Delores. Foweller had wiped his eyes fervently with one paw as he had meandered back from the gate.

“He escaped. I missed,” Foweller lied, holding up his smoking pistol. Rigg’s face seemed disappointed for one moment, then the look was brushed aside.

“May I have your attention please!” Abbot Carter strode up the path to the infirmary, his face plastered with grief. “Friends, let us keep calm and brave for Skipper in such a trying hour…” Carter never finished. A sob from the door parted the otters to reveal Uncle Skip. His face was streaming tears and saliva had dribbled down his chin.

“Those weapons… must go!” he shouted, his red eyes accusing the Abbot. A few otters nodded furiously. Foweller paled under his fur. It had not been his fault, had it? He had only wanted to show Rip how to load the damn thing.

“The security of my Abbey-…”

“No! No muskets!” Uncle Skip roared. The Abbot fixed him with a glare that could make a badger think twice. Skip glared right back. For once, it seemed Carter was not in control.

“This otter crew has a duty and you have a duty, Skipper.” It was the first time Foweller had ever heard the gentle Abbot growl.

“Then I stand down, sir. Any beast against this horror, with me!” Skipper folded his arms. A steady trickle of them backed away, leaving few otters beside him.

“Foweller?” Uncle Skip’s eyes pleaded with him. Foweller quailed under his gaze. He had said he would defend the abbey only this morning. Betray that for Uncle Skip?

“Shame on you. Appealing to him at a time like this!” Isidore’s voice cried from behind Foweller. The rat’s paw patted his shoulder. “Lad, let’s go for a walk.”

“Thank you, Brother Isidore. As for the rest of you!“ The abbot drew himself up to his full height. “I pronounce Rigg the new Skipper of Otters!”

“You can’t do that!” Gabriel shouted from Uncle Skip’s side.

“Which side’s got the guts to defend our home, ye spineless whelp,” Rigg bellowed back, balling his fists and baring his teeth in Gabriel’s face. Gabriel punched Rigg square in the jaw. The new Skipper fell like a stone. It would have been an outright brawl if Sister Amery had not intruded between the otters.

“Enough! Fighting when our Skipper needs you the most!” Amery thundered, giving the unconscious Rigg a frigid glare. Foweller’s heart missed a beat when he saw her red-slicked arms.

“Come, child. Let’s get away from here.” Foweller tagged along, holding the rat’s burned paw. Brother Isidore was not his favourite Abbey dweller right now, but he would gladly get out of Uncle Skip’s sight.

Foweller was led down to the orchard. Foweller was surprised to see how much the same it was. Nature had not stopped to mourn Rip’s death. If Foweller did not know any better, it would have seemed like any other sunny afternoon. He was content to stay silent like that all day, but something in Isidore’s eyes prompted him.

“I let him go.” Foweller confessed. Isidore nodded and led him on, towards the old rat’s shed. “I let Virrel escape. It didn’t seem right otherwise.”

“No beast can blame you for that,” Isidore reasoned, “Justice will catch up with him.”

“I’ll catch up with him.” Foweller affirmed. He closed his eyes. All he could see was Ripple’s own, staring up at him.

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