Stand Up Strong

July 3, 2011

Ripple strutted across Skipper’s room in his Long Patrol jacket, the pistol held at a jaunty angle. Commander Eliwood was ready for battle!

“Let’s give those rascals a jolly good drubbin’. Wot wot!” Ripple twirled his whiskers. The best officers always had a great big moustache to frighten the enemy. The otter struck a pose, thinking of Locria. She would appear over the hill, spyglass in paw. Raising it to her eye, she would shake her fist at the tactical genius that had thwarted her battle after battle. And yet their love blossomed over the inferno of war…

There was a knock at the door. “Ripple?”

Ripple was already flinging his jacket under the bed as Uncle Rigg strode in. Of course, this meant he was standing around in his nightwear.

“Um, hullo, Uncle Rigg.” Ripple put his paws behind his back. Rigg grinned broadly.

“No need to hide it, the Abbot told me all about your reward. But what good’s the pistol if you’ve never fired one in your life, eh?” Rigg winked. Ripple shrugged. He knew how to! It was like a bow, surely. Aim and shoot.

“Well, ‘spose I won’t need to just yet,” Ripple suggested. Rigg knelt and produced something from behind his back. He held out a powder horn, lead musket balls and some slips of paper.

“My own personal gift, young Rip. From an uncle that knows how important this day is to you.” Rigg beamed. Ripple’s heart jumped. Real powder? Real shots too! He bet Foweller and Bludd would be impressed.

“Thanks, Uncle Rigg!” Ripple exclaimed and scooped up his prizes. Time for some fun.

~~~

“Half-cock. Pour. Close pan. Pour down the barrel. Ball. Paper. Draw ramrod. Ram it down. Return ramrod. Full-cock. You’re really slow, you know!” Foweller commented. Ripple gritted his teeth. So, Commander Eliwood was more of a strategist than a musketeer. So what?

“I’m gettin’ there, Fowel,” Ripple replied, carefully tipping the powder down the weapon’s muzzle. His paws shook a little, he wanted to rush. Foweller had already finished loading. Rigg and Virrel stood by them on the lawn, waiting. A few Abbey beasts had come to watch the otters shoot, Brother Isidore among them. Ripple felt there was a certain cold attitude amongst some beasts towards the Abbot’s plan, but this was going to be too much fun to worry about that.

“Ye cheated, anyhow. Ye just spat down the barrel and left the little rod thing,” Ripple muttered. Foweller’s replied by firing across the pond into the tree that had been marked for practice. Ripple jumped, dropping his musket ball.

“Oh!” Ripple snarled. That was loud. They definitely had the attention of the onlookers now. Foweller was already loading again, muttering something about the position of the ‘dogfox’. Hah! Now he thought about it, the metal jaws that clamped the flint did rather resemble a fox’s head. He bent over to retrieve his precious shot and poke it neatly into the barrel. Next, the scrap of paper and the rod.

“And Commander Eliwood aims…” Ripple whispered, returning the short ramrod into its groove. He pointed his weapon at the target. That was no tree, it was a vermin Lord, clad in the green uniform of the enemy!

“Yer aim’s off,” Virrel pointed out. Ripple scowled. The moment was ruined.

“I’m doin’ fine.”

“Nah, it’s more t’the left. Here, lemme show…” Ripple hopped back, twisting the pistol away as Virrel tried to snatch it.

“I’m doin’ fine,” he protested, taking aim again. Virrel laughed and pulled the pistol away.

“Virrel, that’s mine!” Ripple fumed. He wrenched at the weapon and started pulling it from Virrel’s claws.

“Steady on, lads!” Rigg called, moving to intervene.

“Give it here, Father Abbot said—”

BANG.

Ripple gasped as the shot rang in his ears. Oh, bother, now all he could hear was whistling…

“Give it… back,” Ripple slurred, wresting the pistol from Virrel’s grasp. He pushed the weasel aside and stumbled down the lawn. Foweller was beside him, waving his arms and shouting something. That was no good, Ripple could not hear anything…

“Aye, hot day!” Ripple shouted back. “Knew the sun was bad.”

“…got to lie down! Get a surgeon!” Foweller bawled in reply. Ripple nodded. Lying down sounded like a good idea. All this traipsing around was not doing his paws any favours. He clutched a paw to his chest. It ached.

“Think I’ll dip my paws in th’ pond again,” Ripple muttered. His lungs felt like they were seizing up. Something hot and sticky dribbled over his paws. He shook his head, baffled and annoyed. Why was everything so uncomfortably warm?

“Fowel? I need…” Ripple waved in the direction of the pond. Foweller’s lip trembled, but he nodded.

“I-I’ll help you, Rip. We’ll get there,” Foweller sounded all choked up. Ripple leant on his friend’s shoulder with his paw. Together, they ambled down the slope. Ripple could feel his breathing growing more ragged.

He collapsed into the shallows and sighed and gazed at the miniature waves that swished across the water’s surface. He had swum the whole length of it today. Skipper sure had been proud. The otter smiled and paddled his paws lazily, watching red ink blossom and flow in spirals and eddies.

“Hey Fowel… I got an idea… I figgered out the problem we had with… the game,” he said. Foweller was tugging at his arm, shouting something at startled onlookers. Ripple noticed Skipper running from the Abbey, screaming.

“Rip, hang on! Just keep breathing, don’t worry! I’ve seen that before… you just need it extracted. It… It’ll all be better. I promise!” Foweller shook him. Ripple giggled. Foweller was such an emotional kit. Was he crying over a card game?

“Lissen. We get a block of wood. ‘cept we cut it up an’ put numbers from one to twenny on each face. Then ye roll it…” Ripple started choking. He knew those celebratory scones had been too much. “It’s random, see? It takes the numbers away… leaves it up to chance…”

“Don’t worry ‘bout it now, Rip! Just keep calm. Somebeast, get me a bandage! Oh hellgates!” Foweller screeched. Ripple watched the younger kit struggle to drag him up. Not more swimming, he hoped.

“Leave it, Fowel,” Ripple muttered. He reached out a paw and stilled his friend with his touch.

“R-Rip?!” Foweller squeaked.

“I’m too tired to go swimmin’. Let’s just relax. Take the afternoon off.” Ripple murmured, closing his eyes. A nap in the sun would not go amiss. Maybe Foweller would save him something from afternoon tea. Then they could go back up to the attic and all would be well. “We’ll work on th’ game more. Chance! It’ll be a whole new game, f’rget four… four point five… it’ll just be five. Can ye imagine it? Takin’ the numbers out…”

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