Martin and the Mask

September 2, 2011

“Don’t you let this out of your sight, young digger!” Major Shanar tossed the muddied shovel out of the earthworks at the kit’s dozing form. Foweller started awake, his rudder thumping the mud with a wet smack. The shovel had been brand new, the blade sharp and bright.

“Sorry, Lock,” Foweller groaned.

Major, on duty. I think you should find a strap for that, eh, Fowel?” Shanar’s whiskers twitched into a smile.

“I’ve decided my shovel’s called Fowel,” Martin snickered, playfully twirling his own shovel. “So I can stick Fowel’s head into the mud if he starts jawing too loud.”

Foweller gave the stoat a baleful glare then tackled him to the ground. The bigger otter kit soon had his friend pinned.

“Aye, well mine’s called Martin. One day I’ll break it in half, to match your face!” Foweller growled. Martin looked indignant. The both of them started to cackle like little kits.

~~~

Foweller headed out of the tunnel. He was eager for this mission to come to an end. The open tunnel door gave him an uneasy feeling. If the Abbot found it, then they would all be at risk.

“Who goes there? Noel?” Isidore called from the cellar door, a dark silhouette against the moonlight. Foweller cursed and looked back into the tunnel. Merritt’s lantern was a pinprick, flickering and finally disappearing. “I know you’re there, boy.”

Foweller said nothing. He silently hoped Tamarack and Noel had heard this. Perhaps they could surprise the old rat as he came down the stairs.

“Noel, I saw your band of escapees. This is treason.” Isidore warned. Foweller’s face flushed as he tried an old trick from his days in battle. He slumped against one of the wine barrels and let out a sad sigh of surrender.

“Don’t struggle, Noel. If you will not see reason, then perhaps young Tamarack will. She is here also, is she not?” Isidore came down the steps, approaching the figure he had sensed in the shadows. Foweller tensed, his grip tightening around Martin. He pictured in his mind the sharp blow that would keep Isidore down whilst they escaped.

Foweller lunged forward, the shovel raised. In that instant, Isidore struck with the sword had held behind his back.

The sword cleaved the shovel apart with a loud crack and kept going into Foweller’s head. The otter sprawled heavily against the barrel with a sharp cry. The decapitated head of Martin clanged to the cold stone floor in defeat.

“The trouble with old soldier’s tricks, boy, is old soldiers know them,” Isidore growled.

“Aye… ‘member this’un?” Foweller forced the syllables out past his pain-wracked jaw, drew his pistol and fumbled to cock it. Isidore drew back in horror.

“No… No! Idiot boy! I would never… Foweller! My child…” Isidore dropped the sword and reached in the shadows for the otter. By the shaft of moonlight from the door, Foweller could make out sword’s lettering. “It only nicked you! It only nicked you, boy! Come here.”

“Gerroutta my sight…don’ wanna shoot…” Foweller slumped to the ground, the ruined remains of Martin falling from his limp paw. I…AM…THAT… The last word of the blade’s inscription was masked by his blood.

Foweller!” Tamarack screamed from the alcove. Noel gave an animalistic bellow and charged the old rat. Isidore was routed; his only choice was to retreat to his superior officer. Carter.

Isidore ran.

The cut was seeping blood into Foweller’s left eye. He could have sobbed; his body could have shaken with grief. The shovel, that heavy bit of wood and metal had been on his shoulder for four years. He would miss it. The handle could be replaced, but it would not be the same.

Foweller squeezed his eye tightly shut. He could hear Noel’s footfalls slow and hesitate as they neared. A rustle of cloth, Foweller squinted up at the dark face kneeling over him. The weasel’s paw held the back of his head up.

“’s gonna leave a mark,” Foweller muttered between clenched teeth. It did not hurt too much once the shock had worn off. Foweller felt his body going numb. He heard nothing for a while, but he had the light, floating feeling of being carried. They were out of the cellar, the air was cool and free again. The moon lit his face, giving Noel a good look at the damage.

“’S not so bad, Fowel. It’ll… just leave a scar. Might suit you,” Noel choked. Foweller closed his eye and went limp. For a moment he was peaceful, but the weasel shook him back to consciousness. “Foweller? Don’t you go nowhere.”

“Fowel, we need a… a serious talk about avoiding trouble,” Tamarack squeezed his paw. Foweller gave her an apologetic grin. “You stay with us, now.”

~~~

Foweller stirred, his claws weakly stretching to find his shovel. He had been ordered never to lose it, after all. The otter felt quite lost. Had he fallen asleep for a moment?

“Who’s that? Ripple? Martin?” Foweller asked, giving the blurry weasel an unfocused stare. A fox was there too, dabbing blood from his eye. “Where’ve you been… silly stoat…?”

“No, it’s Noel. Tamarack’s here too. We’re your friends, Fowel.” The weasel blinked back tears. Foweller frowned a little in confusion. It wasn’t Martin at all.

“Friends? I only know my brothers… and my sisters,” Foweller slurred, his voice growing drowsy, “Are you my brother?”

“Yes, Fowel,” Noel replied. He gasped, Foweller dimly realised his shivering paw was tight around Noel’s. For a moment he was scared, until he heard Ripple’s comforting voice on the breeze. Foweller gave a short chuckle.

“If a weasel can be my brother… this must be… Dark… Forest…”

Foweller rested in Noel’s arms.

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One Response to “Martin and the Mask”

  1. Isidore Says:

    Noooooooooooooooo. 😦


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