Shall We Not Revenge?

July 26, 2011

She hadn’t thought Saskia would be able to carry a full-grown bat up a flight of stairs; she hadn’t thought Saskia would be able to do a lot of things. A light frame seemed to balance out the heavy heart contained within the winged scholar, though, as the hare dragged him up and out of the cellar. Tamarack waited for the lurching silhouette to disappear before skittering over to Noel.

“Just a few scrapes.” The weasel preempted the question on her lips. “I’ll be fine. I… We need to get out of here.”

“Aye.” She held out her paw to him, and they departed, fireflies stealing through the aisles of ale and port.

The moon watched them through her hooded gaze as Noel and Tamarack paused just outside the cellar door.

“Noel, we almost…”

“I know.”

“What’re we going to do? What if he’s hurt bad?” This wasn’t how spying was supposed to be. Aloysius was supposed to stay away, safe, locked in his archives where the worst he had to worry over was a paper cut. She’d turned to him for help at the start, but how could they trust a beast in the Abbot’s thrall?

Noel tugged at her paw and they began to walk. The night paid no mind to the events in the cellar. The rustle of leaves and reeds filled their ears with a low roar while the staccato chirrup of crickets repeated in every direction. A cool breeze brought the scent of flowers and dewed grass – fresh, clean smells.

“I’m sorry, Tam,” Noel said once the chirrups had given way to the steady lap of the pond against the shore. She glanced up at his face, but he was looking away, out over the water. “I panicked. Fates, I didn’t think I would…”

“You did what you had to.” She wanted to believe that as his jagged claws and well-worn pads brushed against her paw. “Ms. Saskia’ll take care of him, make sure he’s all right.” Neither added the millstone that would weigh down those words: ‘until he wakes up.’

“We can trust her.” It was more question than statement.

Tamarack thought of the fierceness in the hare’s eyes and the words as sharp as her blade. Saskia was a good beast. She wouldn’t let them get caught… would she? “We have t–Ack!”

It was only the weasel’s campballer reflexes that saved the vixen from plunging snout-first into the lawn. Once they’d both caught their balance, Noel, pointed their lantern at the spot she had tripped.

A bloody digging claw reached toward the circle of light.

“Don’t,” Tamarack whispered, even as the weasel raised the lantern higher.

There could be no mistaking the jacket, though the body lay twisted, and jagged white shone through the velvety black fur. What she’d taken as a puddle was something darker, thicker.

“Tam, that’s not… is it?”

She couldn’t scream. Death didn’t hear screams. It was deaf, dumb, and blind, but it certainly touched everybeast – had no choice in the matter. Murderers, though…

“He ain’t wearing his goggles,” the vixen noted, sticking her paws into her pockets and tracing the cloakpin. She’d bullied him that first night into helping her, needling just right to get him to come. The other pocket held the pamphlet Saskia had given her the day she’d dug Andrew’s grave: Policraticus, on the Right to Revolt.

Noel shone the light where the mole’s kindly features had been. A mess of blood and bone greeted them; she heard the weasel gag.

“Do you got a knife or something, Mr. Noel?”

“Why?”

“I’m going to go kill Abbot Carter.”

What?”

The tone of disbelief sparked something inside of her. Ice melted away as fire infused every hair on her body. Her paws snapped up to grasp the weasel’s coat and jerk him down so they were snout-to-snout. “That murdering son of a harlot did this! Can’t you see that? Look at Mr. Cobb. Look what that… that plank-tailed scum-sucker did to him!” She didn’t have seasons of memories for Cobb. Two months? Not even that. They burned away, each of his distant smiles and chuckles fueling the flames.

Noel’s dark eyes lit with understanding, and she felt a heat to match her own growing within him. “They must have heard him talkin’ to Saskia. Rigg. I bet he helped drag Cobb up there.” He jerked his muzzle toward the bell tower.

“He ain’t getting away with this. Not this one.” Tamarack bared her teeth as tears blurred her vision. “I don’t care no more. Beasts is got to know!”

The weasel’s rough paw closed over one of her own. “Let’s go. Right now. Before he has a chance to lie, to cover it up.”

They didn’t have swords or pistols, nor even a dagger between the pair of them as they ran toward the Abbot’s house. Teeth and claws would do well enough for a monster, the likes of which not even Andrew’s imagination could conjure from the depths of Hellgates.

The upstairs window glowed, a brooding orange eye in the night. Tamarack might have paused by the Abbot’s flowerbeds, at the unspoken line dividing what was his from what was theirs, but there was no time to plan, no time think. They had to do this, for Raimun, Andrew, Ripple, Cobb, and all the beasts dead by the old otter’s paws.

She reached the doorway first and twisted the handle. Locked.

Our doors are always open.

Noel nudged her aside and kicked it in.

Their first sight was of Isidore, one paw holding a candle and the other wrapped around a pipe. Tamarack could taste the sweet tobacco wafting toward them – summer nights on the porch with Papa and Colm… but not Cobb. “What is the meaning of this, Noel?”

“Where is he, Isidore?”

When the rat did not answer immediately, but stood considering them, Tamarack barked, “Where’s Abbot Carter?”

Isidore descended the rest of the steps, entering into the foyer. “The Abbot is where any beast save those with invitation should be at this hour: in his own room.”

Tamarack started toward the stairwell, but the rat moved to intercept. “Get out of the way, Mr. Isidore.”

“I don’t know what fire is in your belly, lass, but you’d do well to quench it,” the rat said, puffing on his pipe. “I’ll ask you to leave only once.”

“He murdered Mr. Cobb.”

“Cobb?” He frowned. “No. That’s complete nonsense.”

“Just move!” She swung out at the rat. He simply stepped to the side and let her twirl in the stairwell. It was good enough. Tamarack shot forward and up, but the rat’s claws clamping down on her tail halted the charge.

“I will not let you–”

Noel made no sound as he moved to attack, but the foyer was suddenly plunged into shadows as the rat dropped the candle. Tamarack heard a grunt and then felt a sharp yank on her tail. The dark spaces stretched out for a moment as she flailed through the air, connecting with what had to be Noel. They collapsed in a tangle of limbs.

“You helped Abbot Carter! You’re only fighting because you helped him!”

“Helped me what, my child?”

All three beasts froze as the Abbot appeared, releasing the hood on his lantern so that light flooded the stairwell and foyer.

Noel was the first to regain his voice. “Helped you murder Cobb, Father.”

“What are you talking about, child?” For a moment, Tamarack might have believed he was honestly confused. From the furrow of his graying brow to the nightcap atop his head, he looked the picture of an elderly beast preparing to retire after a drink with a friend. It was only a moment, though.

She didn’t bother to answer, just launched herself up the stairs once more. This time, Isidore was not fast enough, and from the growling at her back, Noel had risen to challenge him once more.

The vixen bounded up the stairs on all fours, leaping at the Abbot with claws out-stretched. She would scratch and tear and bite, gouge out his eyes and rip off his ears so that he could never hurt anybeast again.

Abbot Carter kicked her in the chest before she could even land the first blow. Tamarack crashed back down, hitting the hard wood with a crack. The air whooshed out of her lungs in one great rush, and she rolled the last few steps to level ground. The otter descend at a more sedate pace, eyes narrowed to slits. Noel’s paws were around her in an instant, pulling her close as she struggled to breathe.

“She’s just a kit,” the weasel spat.

“Kit or full-grown,” the otter replied, “I do not take well to beasts breaking into my home and attacking me and my companions, my child.”

“Stop…” Tamarack managed. “Stop calling us… that.”

“I think, perhaps, we shall need to escort young Tamarack back to her home, Brother Isidore.”

“You lay a paw on her, I swear to Martin I’ll rip it off.”

“You are more than welcome to accompany us, my child.” The otter smiled, all teeth. “I think, perhaps, that would be for the best.”


It was a much longer walk than usual to reach the graveyard. It felt like at least a half-dozen of her ribs were broken, and the thought that the Abbot would just shrug off Cobb’s murder made her blood boil. She wouldn’t let him.

Isidore banged on the front door, and Papa answered almost immediately – no hour was too unreasonable for an undertaker. He blinked several times at the beasts before him.

“Abbot, sir?”

“Good evening, Emmerich, I’ve come to return young Tamarack,” the otter said. “She and Noel felt it necessary to break into my house some few minutes ago.”

“What?”

“He murdered Mr. Cobb,” Tamarack challenged, bristling. “Me and Noel found his body by the bell tower. He killed Cobb just like he killed Brother Raimun and everybeast else!”

“What’s going on?” Mumma’s voice came, thick with sleep.

“Wake up the boy, Larch,” Papa called. “Cobb’s dead.”

“He’s not just dead, Mr. Coffincreeper,” Noel interjected, “he’s murdered.”

“And you saw the Abbot, here, do him in, did you, lad?”

“I know he done it, Papa,” Tamarack said. “Fowel and Bludd saw him kill Mr. Andrew.”

“A terrible thing to see, to be certain,” the Abbot bowed his head as Papa, Mumma, Ida, and Colm filed out onto the front porch. “I wish I had been able to stop Brother Andrew without harming him, but when he came at me with his knives and guns…”

“He’s lying! He’s–”

Smack.

Tamarack cringed away from Mumma’s blow, her paw landing perfectly on the still-healing welt that Locria had left.

“You will be silent, girl.”

“But he–” The older vixen wrenched Tamarack’s ear, dragging her over to Colm.

“Put her in her room,” Mumma commanded. “Now.”

“I’m awful sorry, Father,” Papa sniveled while Colm marched her inside. “And to you, Brother Isidore. That lass gets some fool notions in her head.”

“You would do well to keep your children under closer watch, Mr. Coffincreeper,” Isidore advised.

“She wasn’t lying!”

Tamarack lost the rest of Noel’s protest as the door closed behind them.

“By all the Warriors of Redwall, Tam,” Colm muttered, “what’s in your head? You don’t go accusing the Abbot of murder.”

“He is a murderer. And you know it, you yellow-bellied Chickenhound.”

Colm boxed her ears before shoving her into her room and slamming the door shut. It clicked a finality she had not known in seasons. “Better a coward than kill us all, you damned fool. I told you not to stick your nose in it!”

The vixen pounded her fists against the unyielding wood before stomping over to light her lantern. A gleam of something on the bed caught her eye, and she went to pick it up.

Cobb’s tinted goggles. Why would he leave them in her room, unless…?

It hadn’t been the Abbot. Tamarack collapsed on the bed, curling into a ball around the goggles. She let the tears come as every bit of the fire inside went out. Just this once, it hadn’t been him.

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