"The faces of all islands resemble one another."

July 17, 2011

The child.

That sat heavily on Isidore, like a stone on his shoulders. He didn’t think of it; he would find her and bring her to the Abbot, and no more than that. Blood stained him already: Berend’s blood, and that of others countless as stars. There lived worse beasts, beasts that plotted and schemed, beasts like the kinslayer Case. He murdered his family, aye, and deceived the young. He tore the throats from innocent beasts and left the dead for ravens and thieves.

Abbot Carter would have his head from Isidore, but none else.

He sang to the poor young flower-maid as she shivered and wept. “Sel,” she cried, “oh, Sel, come to me!”

“She’s gone,” he said, and he wrapped her in a ragged blanket. He had duties.

Foweller he found playing in the orchard, throwing his knife at a withered apple from the stores. He thought of sitting the child on his back so they could tilt at trees. Instead, he nodded at the abbey complex. That day, the Abbot had called the seasonal meeting of the Order, an inquest into the Abbey’s affairs and the matter of the Skipper’s son.

“Let’s be off, lad.” He patted Foweller’s shoulder. “Don’t tell anyone about what you mean to do. That’s between us.”

“Nobeast would argue,” Foweller said. “Except for Noel.”

“Aye, but it’s his brother.”

“And Ripple was mine.”

“Listen,” said Isidore, “you’ll have your justice. I promise it. I’ll help you– but you must trust me. We’re going to play a game today.”

The heat of a hundred bodies filled the Great Hall, more than ever attended any council. They hissed and rustled. Isidore sat at a high table, with Rigg, the Abbot and the Order. Father Carter stood with paws outstretched, and his voice boomed and echoed in the vaulting like a rumbling stormcloud.

“My children!” he said. “I call the council to attention. Let us kneel.” The crowd bent, some hesitantly, and Isidore looked for those he knew. Foweller jostled a footpaw impatiently, and there was Noel watching the Abbot with red-rimmed eyes. He sought Selendra, then remembered and bowed his head.

“Martin guide us,” Carter said. “Your spirit is our rudder. Show us what you will. Rise, Redwall.”

Brother Aloysius extended a wing, quill in claw. “The order of proceedings. Sister Melina, you have leave to speak, speak.”

A portly shrew rose. “My kitchens are short a cook. I nominate Brother Beric.”

“Does anybeast second, second?”

“Oh, I do,” said the Abbot. “Beric’s baking is the finest in Redwall.”

“My thanks, sir,” said a trembling red-gold squirrel.

Aloysius huffed at this interruption. “All those in favor, say aye, aye.” A chorus of approval met him. He nodded. “May you serve long and well, Brother Beric. Sister Redronnet, you have leave to speak, speak.”

“The Belltower ropes need replacing. I’d ask that–”

“What is this?” An otter surged forth from the crowd. “Ropes? My son is dead.”

“If you will wait, wait,” said Aloysius. “The matter of Ripple…”

“I give my consent.” The Abbot nodded. “Duster, come forth.”

Skipper’s brow wrinkled with bullish determination. His paws clenched, opened, clenched again, and finally he spoke. “I want… I want t’ know why Ripple died. I want t’ know why the Abbot let firearms in the Abbey. Seems t’ me this is a place of peace.”

Rigg stood suddenly. The leg of his chair clattered against Isidore’s shin, and the rat winced; he noticed the otter fondling the pommel of Martin’s sword as he spoke. “I object. I object!”

“Rigg, calm yourself,” said the Abbot. “Let your brother speak. Duster?”

“I never asked for ‘em. My crew–”

“They ain’t your crew.”

“Shut up, Rigg!” Duster stamped his foot. “Remember the garrison at Southsward, when their powder went up and half the castle with ‘em? Dragons are danger, we all know it, and my son– my Ripple–”

“We’re Redwall, not Southsward!” said Rigg. “Duster, you got a knife. I’ve seen y’ use it. And that ain’t a danger?”

It’s not the same!”

“Rip woulda died with a blade in his belly, too.”

“Sit, both of you,” the Abbot snapped. “We won’t solve this with bickering. I want our defenses put to a vote. Will anybeast speak?”

“I said my piece,” said Duster. “Aye, and his blood is on your paws.”

“Order, order,” said Aloysius. “The Abbot wills it, wills it.”

“No one, then?” Carter tapped the table with his claw.

That was Isidore’s command; he stood, almost trembling as he did it. Again he sought Foweller in the crowd. Let him know, he prayed. Let him know there are other ways of waging war than weapons. Let him know we do it for him. “Father, I ask leave to speak.”

“Do, Brother Isidore.”

“Duster is right. This is a place of peace. We are workers, not warriors– and we shouldn’t bear the dragons any more than we should bear the sword Rigg wears now.”

“That is the Sword of Martin, my son, and Rigg is our Skipper.”

“I know. I traveled before I came here. I’ve seen all the east, even the lands beyond Marshank and the sea, Saltpans and the Crag. I know the evil a beast can do, with blade or shot or fire. I saw New Noonvale fall to the fox Tyrell and his hordes–”

“Aye, and fought for him, most like,” said Rigg. “I know your stupid stories.”

“Redwall is peaceful.” Isidore bowed his head. “That’s all.”

Rigg slammed his fist on the table. “If New Noonvale had cannon they’d be around today. Redwall rules these woods. Are we cowards?” He looked around the room, then slammed his fist again. “Are we cowards?”

“No,” someone in the crowd shouted. Foweller. He waved his sash as if bearing a standard for battle. “No cowards!” Others took up the cry. “Redwall! Redwall!”

“An’ Martin’s sword? Do we cast it off?”

“No, never!” came the response. Foweller screamed loudest.

“Our friends died, and we should too?”

“No cowards!”

“And we let murderers live?” Rigg brandished his sword. “Give us our pistols. I’ll have the head of the beast what killed Rip, and them in the forest too. The Abbey will live, forever.” The cry that met him crashed on Isidore’s ears like the surf.

“Order,” Aloysius squeaked, “order, order.”

“My children,” the abbot said, raising his paws. “Let us vote. Will we arm ourselves, or no?”

Rigg held Martin’s sword aloft. “Aye.”

Then came Sister Melina, Delores, the cellarhogs, a hesitant Brother Tompkins, more of the Order than Isidore could count. He nodded to Rigg. “I was wrong. Skipper, I’ll lend my paw in whatever you do.”

“It is decided,” said the Abbot. He cupped his paws around his mouth. “What say you, Redwall?”

“Redwall lives. No cowards!”

Aloysius called the meeting to an end, and they surged from the hall. Carter linked his arm with Isidore’s, and leaned in. “Remember what I told you, Brother. Be my eyes and ears.”

“A little bird told me,” he began, and he thought of Berend on the floor of the cellar, weeping. “A little bird told me who chased her from the roost. A cat.”

“I think I understand.” He clapped Isidore on the back. “Bring me that cat.”

“Aye, Father.”

They parted. On the way to his shed in the orchard, he met Foweller. The otter danced about him, knife in one paw and sash in the other. “A game! A game! Does this mean I get Virrel?”

“You may as yet. I’ll help.” It’d be enough a price to pay, if the child’s other friend would die. “Have you practiced your tricks today?”


“Good lad. How about another game? A real one. My brother and I played it.”

“What now?” he said warily. Isidore lunged for him and grabbed him about the waist. After wrestling with him, Foweller sat astride his shoulders. They stumbled about the orchard; the otter shrieked and cackled, stabbing at branches as he would with a lance. “That’s for Andrew. That’s for Rip. And that’s for Martin!”

He left Foweller there, marking his name on the bark of conquered tree, and went to fetch a flagon of wine. He thought of Berend again, and then the cat, the child. Isidore hoped Foweller would remember the afternoon. Isidore hoped he would never know.

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