A Loose Seam

August 31, 2011

The door to the archives burst forth with an unexpected clatter. Aloysius jumped from his perch with a squeak, spilling his inkpot over the tome he was studying before he could react. In haste, he removed the pot and dabbed at the page with his habit, but half the well had emptied, and the page was ruined.

Taking care first to place protective sheafs astride the ruined page, he turned in fury towards Noel and Foweller. The pair were whooping and hollering as if they had just won a campball match, with those wide grins on their faces and rubbing their bodies against one another in typical male fashion. Aloysius never cared for sports, and now he had another reason.

“Foweller! Master Noel!” Aloysius hissed, fluttering their way before landing hard on the ground, his wings spread before them.

Their grins vanished as soon as they saw the bat’s livid face.

“Brother Aloysius,” Noel began.

“Knock first, Master Noel, as any courteous beast would do, would do before disturbing a beast at his work.”

“I didn’t mean—”

“Well I didn’t mean to spill ink on Brother Timothy’s compendium, but it seems we’re all filled with surprises, surprises.” The words were out of his mouth before he had meant to speak them, and regret filled him as Noel’s face fell. Foweller grasped the back of his neck and looked away. Aloysius sighed. “My apologies. It seems these past few days has taken quite a toll on me.”

“You haven’t slept yet, have you?”

Aloysius stood, curling his wings around himself. His habit was damp with ink, but he tried not to think about it. “I have not, have not. But then, it seems neither has she.” He nodded to Tamarack, curled up as she was beside his desk. She had stirred with the commotion, but aside from a whimper, she wasn’t bothered too deeply.

“Tam’s been keeping you company?”

“Indeed. I requested her leave from grave duties on account of recent,” he faltered, “events.”

“I’m surprised Larch allowed it.” Noel had a questioning look, but he didn’t press, for which Aloysius was thankful.

“On the contrary, contrary,” the bat said, keeping the conversation on Tamarack, lest Noel become more intrigued. “Larch was delighted Young Tamarack was turning to her studies.”

Somewhere during their chat, Foweller had escaped the bat’s field of vision. Aloysius squeaked in a few directions until he spied the otter tossing a capped inkwell in the air. His hackles rose on pure instinct. “Foweller,” Aloysius called, “be careful, please. I can’t have that breaking.”

“I’m just playing!” Foweller said, tossing the small pot in the air at a new height. He had to stumble over a few scattered books to catch it.

Aloysius felt as if he was going to sick up. On the next toss, the bat took off in the air, snatching the pot at the peak of its throw. He landed at his desk, where the inkwell went promptly into a drawer. “That is not yours to play with, play with! Now if you please, and you have nothing better to do, do kindly take your leave.”

Foweller gave a goofy grin, which only irritated him more.

“Come on, Foweller, I’ll catch up with you later,” Noel said. The otter saluted and bolted for the exit, and Aloysius had quite a time turning a blind eye as he bounded over scattered books and papers.

“Thank you Noel. I don’t have quite the knack with young ones as you do, you do.”

“It’ll get worse with age and studies. Have you found anything?”

“I’m afraid not, not,” Aloysius said as he sat down properly at his desk. “There are clues, clues to the secret that lies within the Heraldry, but I’m afraid we are at an impasse.”

“In what way?”

“Brother Timothy mentions writing two hundred and twenty-two entries as abbey recorder, but my compendium only lists two hundred and twenty-one.”

“Could you have missed one?”

“Impossible,” Aloysius scoffed. “The official abbey records was my first big project as historian. I scoured these archives for every one, every one I painstakingly transcribed into this very volume. No, Noel, if Brother Timothy had a two hundred and twenty-second record, I’d have it, have it.”

The archivist didn’t need to see Noel to hear the intake of breath that would soon become an argument. “And even if I had,” the bat said before Noel could speak, “it would be impossible to find with the archives in their current state. It is useless, useless!” He slammed the compendium closed, wincing as he remembered the spilt ink, still damp and bleeding.

Noel was silent, but Tamarack was not. The young vixen stirred from her slumber, stretching her limbs and giving a wide yawn as she recalled where she was.

“Noel?” She blinked at the weasel.

“Mornin’, sunshine.” Noel grinned.

Tamarack stretched a second time before she stood, peering over Aloysius’s shoulder at the closed volume on the desk. “What’s going on?”

“Old Brother Case has us chasing doomwytes,” Aloysius said. His tone would have made any dibbun scrunch their face.

“Brother Alo’s mad because there’s only two hundred and twenty-one entries in his compendium, instead of two hundred and twenty-two.”

Tamarack yawned once more, digging her paw pads into her eyes. “And why’s that a bother?”

“We are missing the last entry, entry,” Aloysius said.

“Well, we only need the two hundred and twenty-second, right?” Tamarack’s voice was hopeful. “What’s to say there ain’t one missing in the middle?”

“The last entry in this compendium tells nothing of a secret in the Heraldry, Heraldry.”

“What’s it say again?” Noel asked.

Aloysius took a laborious effort to open the book to the last page. “Extract from the diary of Brother Timothy Churchmouse, Recorder of Redwall Abbey,” he began.

“It has been many a season since I first brought quill to parchment as the Recorder of Redwall Abbey, and I fear I am at the end of my days. Worry not, for I am quite well, as are we all, those who are still healthy enough to lay by the abbey pond and bask in the sun’s warm gleam, the water lapping at our paws.

“A great silverfish was caught by Cheek Stag Otter, not quite as big as the one Matthias pulled from the pond all those seasons ago. Or at least, so the elders tell me; I was but a Dibbun during that time, and can hardly remember such epic events in our history. No, most of my memories lie beyond the great sandstone walls, when Mattimeo and his wife, my sister Tess, were captured along with me by the evil Slagar the Cruel and sold into slavery to the wicked polecat Malkariss.

“I have lived through the time of two great Abbots, Mordalfus and Durral. He’s still our Abbot, Durral, you know, and more spry and energetic than any Dibbun I’ve seen. He’s got quite a few seasons left—he may even outlive Constance!

“Yet, while we live in such peaceful times, I cannot help but reminisce about the past, when war threatened our peaceful abbey time and again. The abbey has changed, I’m afraid to say, and for better or worse depends on who you are asking. I envy the young, those who are naïve and ignorant of the blood that’s stained these abbey walls. Sometimes I wonder how much of our walls are still tinted red with the sandstone that built them, or if it’s been replaced by the blood of our fallen.

“And so I pass my quill to Rollo Bankvole, lest my disposition taint these hallowed walls. He has grown much since General Ironbeak laid siege on our abbey, when he was still just a kit. He’s quite learned, and skilled with a quill. I’ve no doubt he will make a fine recorder of our abbey, one that’s still innocent to our bloodied past.

“I will still be writing, don’t get me wrong. My greatest achievement and gift to this Abbey has yet to come, but I cannot be bogged down with the duties of a simple recorder. A Mossflower Heraldry, I’ll call it, on the Order of Redwall Abbey and the Orders that inhabit our fair woodlands. I’m afraid, though, it will be quite some time before it’s finished. Once it’s complete, I’ll spend the remainder of my days in the Gatehouse, ready to welcome any beast that knocks on our door.”

“Seems rather cryptic,” Noel breathed.

“I’m afraid Brother Timothy has lived through troubling periods, periods of our history that he did not bother to record,” Aloysius said.

“It’s in the Heraldry, then,” Tamarack said, triumphant.

“Yes, but there’s no secret to unveil. If there is another entry, it would be impossible to find in this mess. This is nothing more than a fool’s errand, errand.”

“Well…” Tamarack leaned over Aloysius, peering at the entry. “He says he’ll spend the rest of his days in the Gatehouse. Perhaps we could look there.”

Aloysius exchanged a look with Noel.

The weasel shrugged. “I don’t see any reason why not!”

And so the three of them found themselves in the Gatehouse, though what they were looking for, none had any idea. Aloysius yawned and rubbed his eyes. He could not fathom how these beasts could keep the hours they kept, working all day and playing vigilante by night.

“And you think there is a hidden tomb somewhere in these walls, walls?” Aloysius asked.

“Don’t see why not,” Tamarack stated. “After all, weren’t it Abbess Germaine what was buried beneath the cellar? And Boar the Fighter had his own tomb in Salamandastron.”

Aloysius opened his mouth to object, but his admiration of the kit stopped him. “Well, I suppose you are right. As a matter of fact, each Recorder does have their own little tomb here in the Gatehouse. Look at the bricks built against the ramparts, ramparts.”

“There’s names here,” Noel said, brushing a paw against the small inscriptions.

“Every recorder of Redwall has had the privilege of carving his name in a Gatehouse stone.”

“Does Brother Raimun have a stone?” Tamarack asked.

“He does, he does, at the far north corner.”

“Will you have a stone, Brother?” The kit grinned at him.

Aloysius could do naught but smile back. “Alas, historian and Gatekeeper do not qualify as Recorder.”

“But we need a recorder. Perhaps when this is all done, you can take the position.”

“Perhaps, my child, perhaps.”

“Here it is!” Noel called out. “Right between John Churchmouse and Rollo Bankvole.”

In a trice Aloysius and Tamarack were at Noel’s side. The vixen pushed the block, as if she expected to activate a lever. She sighed.

“Maybe it’s loose,” Noel suggested, taking Tamarack’s place and rubbing his paw against the stone. “No, it’s wedged in there, all right,” he said, disappointed.

Tamarack crossed her arms. “Hmm, well, it can’t be anything else.”

The three of them stood there silent, contemplating. Then Aloysius chirped.

A silver lining washed over the wall before him, emphasizing every inscription, every bump and flaw, including the tiny crack that lay in the mortar between the bricks. Without a word Aloysius withdrew a spare quill, placed the metal nib in the crack, and pulled. The stone shifted a fraction.

“It moved, did you see that?” Noel said, failing to hide the excitement in his voice. Aloysius continued to wiggle the stone, freeing it enough until Noel had the leverage to remove it entirely from its placement. Dropping the stone to the floor with less care than Aloysius would have wanted, the weasel reached inside the hole, a full arm’s length and beyond. Then he screamed.

Aloysius jumped back in a panic; Tamarack scurried across the room.

“I got something!” Noel said cheekily.

“You’re a buffoon!” Tamarack yelled. Noel giggled in response.

Despite his mood, Aloysius could not stop the curling of his muzzle into a faint grin. “Well? What is it, is it?”

Noel pulled his paw free. He held a rolled up parchment.

Tamarack was jumping with excitement. “What’s it say? What’s it say?”

The weasel tossed the scroll in the air, then paused when he caught it. He turned to Aloysius, a look of sincerity in his eyes. “I think you should do the honors, Brother.”

“Thank you, Noel,” Aloysius whispered. He extended a claw, and his wing shook as he took the ancient record. It was aged, there was no doubt about that. Despite the dried and brittle cloth, he could feel the weight of a thousand seasons grasped in his wing. He pulled at the string that bound it together and unraveled the parchment.

“Wait!” Tamarack yelled.

Aloysius paused mid-breath.

“Where’s Ms. Saskia? She should be here for this!”

The bat’s heart sank. Any elation of finding a lost record dissipated like smoke on the wind.

“Yes, where is Saskia?” Noel asked, turning his head towards the door as if expecting she had been there the whole time.

“Saskia…” Aloysius drew a shuddering breath, turning his gaze to the page to hide his face. He could not tell them, not now, when their spirits were so high. Saskia would not have wanted it, or perhaps it was just him. “Saskia had duties to attend, to attend with Merritt.”

Tamarack frowned. “Just like that ferret to steal her away when we need her like this.”

“Well, it can’t be so important she can’t take a break. I’ll go get her,” Noel said. He turned to leave.

Aloysius bit his lip hard; focusing on the physical pain and the taste of blood that washed over him.

“This is too important to wait! We’ll show her later. She’d understand,” Tamarack said. Her tail twitched with anticipation.

Noel looked again at the door, then at the parchment in Aloysius’s claws. “Oh, all right.”

Holding the record before him, Aloysius trembled. The words jumped around the page; he couldn’t possibly read it now.

A strong paw patted his back. “I know,” Noel said. “I’m excited, too.”

He didn’t know how, but the weasel’s touch was calming enough to keep the page steady. Aloysius dabbed at his eyes with a wing as quick as he could manage, then cleared his throat.

“Ex—Extract … from the Diary of Timothy … Timothy Churchmouse, Recorder of Redwall Abbey…” he began.

In the pages of A Mossflower Heraldry lies Mossflower’s greatest secret. To those that wish to know the truth of Redwall Abbey and all that it stands for, I present thee this riddle:

I – am that is the page
The grandson is the line
The churchmice are the word

Tim Churchmouse (Recorder of Redwall Abbey
in Mossflower country).

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