I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten
the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Bludd meandered past a wild thicket, a nice and quiet one she played in often when she was bored. White patches of bishop’s lace met her before the unfurling expanse of the abbey causeway ahead. The corsair could smell salt in that air as the flowers fluttered in place before her, a fine captain with a heart so bold that lightning would crack at the straightening of her cravat.

It was strange to see the path so empty for midday. To the left, the kitten glanced furtively at the high walls of the abbey archives. Maybe she could get some kind of reaction out of Brother Aloysius? Loping forward, she peeked between the mullions of a tracery window, stretching her haunches for a better look. The books she had scattered with Eilonwy were still in shambles.

A sad mewl escaped her gullet. She hoped her new friend wouldn’t get in trouble because of her, like Ripple had with those silly bees. The kitten sighed and waggled her paw; her ring gave off a comforting twinkle in the sunlight. She decided she’d be back to apologize later. All she wanted to do now was give Ripple a hug and be on her way. Foweller too after what he had done for her in Carter’s-

The kitten blinked for a few seconds.

She scrambled toward the Abbot’s house, her tunic flapping in the wind as the thorns of the rose beds magnified in size before her like the needle ends of some domestic comb. Bludd stopped short when she saw two shades standing before her under the grasping trunks of the curling hazel trees. One of them spoke.

“Lass.” She recognized the rat Isidore’s voice, the same one whose hive she had melted. “Come to me.” His voice was calm, like smoldering brimstone.

“What fer?” the kitten said, shifting a bit. “Where’s Abbot Carter? ‘M s’posed ter be seeing ‘im.”

“What’s she talkin’ about?” Rigg demanded. He was sitting on a bucket, picking at his teeth with a claw.

“Me… my training,” Bludd said, lost. “Abbot Carter. He promised he’d be teaching me a few things.”

Isidore shook his gray head. “If still you have respect for the Abbey, then you’ll come with us. There are responsibilities you owe.”

Stepping back further, Bludd flashed the rat a toothy grin. “The only responsibility a Cap’n’s got is to ‘er crew.” The dirt below the kitten’s footpaw felt soft; it was the consistency of sand.

“Enough of that, lass,” Rigg commanded. “Yer not a cap’n, not a corsair, not even a swimmer. Have ye even seen the ocean?”

With a kick, the kitten tried to blind the otter with soft earth, but it missed. She darted in the opposite direction, hearing the bucket swivel as he rose. The southern wind wailed from behind, as if granting haste to the legs which scampered beneath her billowing tunic.

She flew past the second cellar and the infirmary, confident in her own agility. From the sound of the steps behind her, she could tell that she was out-running them- or was it one? She dared not turn back to see, but she couldn’t help a snigger. If it was the riverdog chasing her, he sure wasn’t as good at running as he claimed to be at swimming.

Bludd dashed toward the Abbey graveyard, sliding under a loose bar in the iron fencing. Bounding past, over, and on wooden gravemarkers and slate sepulchres. A large marble statue of Gonff and Martin stood prominent in the site’s center. The kitten hid behind the base, its cool slab pressed against her cheek as she peeked around a corner for her pursuer.

Rigg huffed and puffed toward her from the distance. She could feel the eyes of the frozen warriors looking down at her. Were they angry?

“Cluny’s shaft!” Rigg cursed as she watched him struggle to hop over the fence. His slacks had caught on the wicked metal tips.

A pair of voices rising together in laughter caught her attention. She should warn Foweller and Tamarack while she had the chance… and the gravemarkers begged for her paws. The brownish waves lapping all around would never take her alive.

— —

“Fowel! Tam!” Bludd cried, hopping from gravemarker-to-gravemarker. Her eyes shone, her head was held high. She looked every bit the usual kitten. Foweller hated her, suddenly, fiercely. The bullet of emotion ripped through him in an instant, leaving a hole he packed tight with regret. She was so blithe, so very much like he wished he could be right now.

Foweller felt Tamarack’s hot breath as she snorted. “Don’t jump on the markers, you stripy-faced terror. Papa’ll yell at me.”

“But I’ll fall int’ the sea,” Bludd whined, motioning to the half-dug grave the otter and vixen stood in.

“Worse things than the sea to fall into, Bluddy.”

She cocked her head to the side, considering this, then nodded. “Veggible salad’s the worst, aye.” The kitten glanced back in the direction she’d come from. “Lissen, Rigg the Pigg an’ Dizzy Isi are after me. I’m gonna be hidin’ fer awhile. Don’t tell ‘em ye saw me. Cap’n’s orders!”

Foweller raised his paw to salute on reflex, but Bludd was already racing away, ignoring Tamarack’s plea for respect toward the gravemarkers as her claws scraped stone and marble.

“That kitten’s battier than a belfry.” He heard the vixen sigh, but when he turned to look at her, she was smiling, a soft expression for her wiry features. “Nice she can still play, though.”

“Aye.” He rested a paw on the hilt of Isidore’s knife. “Somebeast should after what’s been happening.”

“Though the way I hear it, if she’s made Mr. Isidore mad, she’s not long for this world.” Another smile, this one thinner. Foweller knew that sort of smile well. He plastered a grin on his own face and punched her arm lightly.

“I expect she’ll go out with her boots on, when the time comes, that one! Anyway, they’ll have to catch her first.”

“Oy, ye two!” They both started and turned to see Rigg running along the side of the graveyard fence. “Ye seen that kitten, Bludd?”

“Aye, sir,” Tamarack called.

“She went that way.” Foweller aimed his claw west to the infirmary while Tamarack pointed east into the orchard.

Rigg slowed to a jog, his impressive brow furrowing. “Right, then… which way, kits?”

“Headed for the kitchens, sir.”

“Toward the pond.”

The furrow deepened, splitting the older otter’s forehead like a great ravine. He muttered curses Foweller might reserve for a jammed pistol and sped up again. The younger otter and vixen stood in silence for a moment, staring after Rigg. Then, Tamarack snorted and started giggling. Foweller couldn’t help joining in; somebeast had to after what had been happening.

— —

Bludd navigated the roots of ancient hollies and alder trees, stringy moss tickling her crown as she ran deep into the Abbey woods. There was an old whitebeam there whose limbs she knew well. It waited for her, loyally as a ship does in port. She climbed it, easy as the ratlines of a foremast and felt the bark beneath her claws.

“Come off it, lass!” She heard Rigg’s voice close behind her from the base of the tree.

She had been chased before, but nobeast had ever come this far into the forest, not into her hideaway. Once she had tried to bring Ripple here, but he whined about the idea of treacherous tree snappers and magic pollen so he went back to his card game like he usually did. At least he had promised to take her sailing one day. He said he’d let her have his toy ship so she could build a real one of her own. He said-

Rigg’s burly paw closed around her footpaw. The kitten screamed. She kicked her protracted claws into the otter’s paw on impulse. Rigg let out a bark of pain but she could still fell his tight grip as her legs wiggled and she thrashed her tail.

“Hold still ye bloody brat- nothin’ t’ be worryin’ about if ye just behave!” Bludd could hear more footsteps below, and she swiped down from the left, the nails of her right paw still sunk desperately into the pulpy bark of the whitebeam. Going for the smallest digit of the otter’s paw, she curled around the crevice of his grip and pulled quick, satisfied at the sickly crack that answered. He recoiled, bawling in pain as the kitten climbed to the highest bough.

She crouched, then leaped, plummeting as she inhaled ocean air for a few sweet seconds before being caught by the yews’ tangled arms. Through the canopies of leaf, sun splattered the branches like paint, marigold and gray, and the kitten lifted herself and skittered into the recession of the parting light.

— —

Rigg believed in fate. He felt that it twisted like the graceful spine of some coy lady, undulating in and out of his grasp, to be his own at the right opportunity. He had tangled with it before, had anticipated the flamboyant fancies of its whim, no stranger to victory at the brush of a well-aimed stratagem.

But this time he had grabbed too soon.

Spitting a slew of curses, he descended the base of the whitebeam and anchored his bottom on its jutting roots.

Brother Isidore tramped up to him. “Are you hurt?”

“Mattimeo’s stinkin’ mug, she broke one of me claws!”

“Let’s see it then.” Isidore took his paw. “It’s out of the joint.”

“And nothin’ else?” His fur bristled.

“It may be broken too. I’ve not the eyes to tell. The infirmary would be the best place for you now, my friend.”

Rigg cursed again. “Though tell me ’bout that nasty little witch in the wood, what’re we goin’ t’ do about that?” He pulled his paw away from the rat and yelped.

“I brought Brother Clacher.”

Rigg looked past the rat into the tunneling wood and saw nothing. He heard nothing too, just the wind’s whistle through the reeds, the rocks and the logs stained with lichen. Clacher. He remembered well what the badger kept in his house, not just in the open but in his pantries, and the cellar.

“’s he at?” The otter asked at last.

Isidore tapped a claw on his nose and smiled.

— —

Twilight had descended, and the woods were bathed in a crimson light, and she heard the bell ringing – more rings than the hour warrented. Skittering down the downcast branches of an elm, the kitten landed with grace, a soft crunch on the forest floor. She wiped off some of the nettles and sap that clung to her and patted her tunic. One of her pretty buttons were missing. She mewled just a bit before holding back.

Calming herself, she held up a paw to her forehead. A few strings of light were penetrating the forest from the west but that was all. She had found her secret spot, a rocky outcrop of mica where the mushrooms glowed and lit up the stone with a blue aura. There was a great big moldy log that sat beside it, too. Bludd really liked this log, but she was scared because she knew it would last for very much longer. The bark had long ago chipped away, its body cracking, its insides rotting into dust, things she wouldn’t be able to ignore for very much longer.

“Cor,” she chirped. She couldn’t hear the usual chorus of green leggy jumpers or whizzing silk bugs, just the creaking of wood and the usual shifting of leaves. It was odd. Her ears perked; a twig had snapped some distance behind her.

“Tam?” she called out, turning to look. A thicket occluded her view, but she could hear light steps from behind, rustling for an entrance. “That you, Fowels, matey?”

No answer. But who else could have known about here? The only beast she’d ever told about-

“Ripple?” she cried, all smiles. “You finally came!”

She waited for a bit but heard nothing. A sob was welling up in her throat but she suppressed it, then she continued.

“It’s so shiny here, Ripple! I just wanted you to see for yourself. See, the mushrooms shine like your cards. Isn’t that great?”

Still no answer. The light steps went away.

“Wait! I wanted to say I’m sorry!”

Silence.

“I’m sorry for the bees, and being bad, and making messes. I don’t think I want to be a captain anymore! I don’t care about pins and paw dragons and maniac adults, I just want to play. I want to play while we still can.

She curled her arms around her knees and rested her head there.

“I might not be able to stay here anymore, Ripple. I-” There was a cracking noise.

Warm blood trickled down her face, but it wasn’t from a nosebleed.

The club fell on her again, and again until she couldn’t feel anything anymore. She couldn’t tell if her face was covered in blood or tears or both, but all she knew was that she was disappointed in herself. Ripple wouldn’t have lost like this, he never-

*Written and posted by Bludd’s sub.

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Here We Are, Juggernaut

June 19, 2011

Under Ripple’s desk.  Behind the bottom step in Great Hall.  Inside the keg of strawberry cordial in the cellar.  In her napping spot by the abbey pond.  In the abbey pond.

Bludd emerged from the water, slipping onto shore like a seal.  Her ears flicked back savagely, scattering droplets, and she uttered a high, worried trill.  Just where did she put that blasted ring?

The wildcat owned little; nothing to match the elaborate cloak pin that Brother Tompkins carried, or even half of the treasure trove of cards and maps that belonged to Ripple.  A roving adventurer couldn’t be weighed down by anything more than what was strictly necessary.  Like her blanket!

The gaudy yellow cloth lay flat like a downed kite in the grass and Bludd hurled herself atop it, rolling over onto her back.  She inhaled it’s scent, comforted by the warm sting of blood, and gazed up at the ragged clouds, black sails unfurled to catch the wind.

The only other thing that truly belong to her, aside from her trusty freebootin’ bandana, was her special treasure: a tarnished silver ring.  Normally it would be tucked away in a pouch she’d cut from her blanket, but she had checked all over and it was gone, disappeared like the White Ghost.  The kitten’s claws slid in and out of her pads; she wasn’t even sure how long it had been missing.

The wildcat closed her eyes and tried to think.   Going back a ways in her memory, she recalled a pair of dusky wings pushing her outside.  Oh!  It could have fallen out there.

In a trice, she was on her footpaws.  The blanket draped over her shoulders, she raced the wind, her arms held out stiffly as if she were a mighty albatross on the hunt.  Spotting her prey, she let out a warbling screech.  Bludd lunged against the unsuspecting gatehouse door with her claws splayed.

“Hahar, ye scurvy dog!  I’ve come ter-” Bludd blinked.  Aloysius looked a lot smaller all of a sudden.

“Oh! Who are you, are you?” the bat perched atop Aloysius’ writing desk asked.  Bludd’s ears quirked apart from one another – And he also sounded like a female!

Obviously, a proper introduction was necessary.  Bludd’s lips curled into a smile that was mostly fang. “Yer a brave ‘un to ax a corsair’s name so freely.”  It was moments like these that she wished she had a cutlass or scimitar to brandish, but she made do with swiping at the air with a thistle-clawed paw. “Ye may call me Bludd, Captain of the Blistered Gullet!”

The bat stared for a whisker-twitch, and then erupted into a fit of clicking giggles.  “Kekekeke! That’s the silliest name for a ship I’ve ever heard, ever heard!”

“Oi!” Bludd’s tail switched in irritation and she crossed her arms.  “What makes yer th’ expert ship name master, then?  Don’t tell me ye gots a ship wot ye thinks is named better?”

“Of course not!  I don’t need a ship.”  The bat spread her wings, grinning cheekily.  “But I’ve seen scads of ’em.”  She tilted her head so high that Bludd could nearly see up her nostrils.  “I’ve been all over, all over!”

The wildcat’s eyes narrowed.  “‘ave ye, now?  Ever been to Sampetra?”

“Of course!  The island is so beautiful, but the creatures there are nasty, nasty!  All sorts of mean pirates and crusty vermin.  A beast like you would be right at home, at home.  We went to a few taverns; they all smelled like dead fish.  There were so many fights!  I saw a rat try to nab a pawful of coins right out of a weasel’s pocket.  He got his tail chopped right off, right off!”  She made a slicing motion with one wing.

The more she heard, the more skepticism disappeared from Bludd’s eyes.  “Cor!  Are there still monitor lizards crawlin’ about there?”

“Uhh…” The bat faltered for a moment.  “I… didn’t see any.  Lizards are tricky, tricky.”

“Oh.” Bludd had heard all she needed to know the bat was a fibber, so there was no use in talking to her anymore. “Well, ‘ave yer seen Ycious about?”

It took the bat a moment to understand.  “Oh, I don’t know where he is.  I was sure there would be something great in here ‘cos he keeps telling me to stay away, but it’s just old books, old books!”  She let out a gusty sigh. “It’s like Uncle Alo knows they’re too dull and was trying to spare me from being bored by them. But adults aren’t nice enough to think like that, think like that.”

Bludd grew deathly still and stared at the bat with eyes that were suddenly filled with a complete and total understanding.  Yes. That’s true. And then her tail flicked and the moment was gone.

“Ye ‘aven’t seen a ring, ‘ave ye?”

“A ring?” The bat made a clicking sound with her fangs and fanned her ears out.  She looked disappointed.  “If Uncle Alo found it, he probably would have stashed it away by now.  Crazy old moth-chaser!”

“Hmmm…”  Bludd paced from one side of the gatehouse to the other, 5 steps each way.  There was a stuffiness in the air and the lemon-sour scent of ancient ink and wizened pages wafted over the wildcat like an invitation to break things.  “‘ow spittin’ ticked d’yer think Ycious would get if we searched the place ourselves?”

The bat’s eyes lit up.  “Oh, he’d be furious, furious!”  She opened a drawer, but then looked up right after.  The smile on her face made her muzzle positively vulpine. “By the way, my name’s Eilonwy.”

The two youngsters swept over the neatly-ordered confines of the gatehouse like a hurricane.  Books were tossed, parchment pages scattered, scrolls unraveled themselves and tumbled earthward in serpentine dances.  But where was that ring?

The door opened.  Bludd and Eilonwy froze, the former peering down from her tenuous perch atop a bookshelf.  Aloysius’ voice was eerily soft and controlled.  “…Get… get out.  Get out.  Now.”

They scampered, each one sprinting off in a different direction.

Safe once more under a mantle of clouds, Bludd felt the slightest pang of guilt; it was one thing when grown beasts yelled and threw a fit.  Aloysius looked as though he was seconds away from meeting Vulpuz.  She hadn’t meant to upset him that much…

She turned around, her jaw set.  She would apologize this time.  Aloysius wasn’t like Isidore, she told herself.  He’d be the kind of grownbeast who would listen.  She gulped; hopefully.

“Ah, Bludd.  Come here, my child.”  Bludd kept the growl inside her chest as she turned to wave to Abbot Carter.   The otter’s eyes crinkled.  “Come with me, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

She opened her mouth, but then closed it again and allowed the otter to lead her toward the abbey.  She glanced back at the gatehouse with longing, her tail curling nervously.  Well… maybe he’ll be feeling better later, anyway. She didn’t want to make the Abbot cross with her again by admitting that she’d wrecked Aloysius’ study.

They walked in peaceful silence, through the door and into the entrance hall.  At length, the abbot cleared his throat.  “Now, Bludd.  Have you given any thought to the possibility of staying here?”

Bludd stopped pretending to skewer the otter’s head between her clawtips and put on a smile as he turned to face her.  “Cor, sir, ain’t I stuck ‘ere anyway?  I mean, not that I don’t loves it, but-”

Carter’s chuckling cut her off.  “No, no, that’s not what I meant.  Have you given any thought to becoming an Abbey Sister?”  He spread his paws.  “Our gates are open to anybeast who wishes, and I know that Ripple would be delighted if you chose to stay.”

Any objections Bludd might have had fizzled and popped like the bubbles in strawberry fizz at the mention of Ripple, and she couldn’t bring herself to look at the Abbot.  The very idea of being trapped in any one place forever – She trilled anxiously, staring at the armored mouse on the tapestry in front of her.

“Don’t worry, my child.  You don’t have to make up your mind right now.  And if you do choose to continue your travels, nobeast will hold it against you.  I promise.”  He paused.  “But… there was actually something else I needed to tell you.  Bludd, you know about Martin the Warrior, correct?”

The cat was all smiles.  “Sure do!  e’s a champion fighter, an expert swordsbeast an’ slayer!” The wildcat jabbed out, impaling imaginary foes on the invisible blade of Martin.

“Well, now, keep in mind that Martin was a wise and kindhearted leader.  There was – is – much more to him than fighting.  But yet…”  Carter’s brow knit, as if he wasn’t quite sure how to continue.  “I had a dream just recently.  Martin showed me a vision of the future, and of the beast who he wished to become our warrior.  This creature fought with all the grace of a seasoned veteran, with a skill so fantastic that she could pierce the foebeast’s very shadow.” He stared directly at Bludd.  “It was a fully-grown wildcat, Bludd.  There is no doubt in my mind that it was you.

Bludd’s eyes shone like full moons and could have measured twice as big around. “Yer serious?!” If it was true, not even Gabool himself would be as feared!  She would rule the seas!

Carter nodded gravely, setting his jaw.  “It’s true… although certainly not anything to be happy about.  But yet with times as they are, I would have you begin combat training immediately.  And I will be the one to teach you.”

“You know ‘ow ter use Martin’s sword?” Bludd asked, wonder in even her whiskers.  The Abbot shook his head.

“A simple sword will not be enough, I’m afraid.  Even the Sword of Martin.  Come with me.”

All the while they were traveling, Bludd’s mind raced like a pike in search of blood.  What sort of weapon could it be?  A massive javelin as tall as the Skipper?  A bone-white scythe, even sharper and more gristly than the one Vulpuz carried?  An enormous obsidian cutlass hung with the skulls of Redwall’s enemies?  The kitten jigged behind Carter as he lead her into his study and went about searching for something in his desk.

“Ah, here we are.”  Finally, he lifted something up and out.  Bludd peered closer.  “This,” Carter said, “is what Martin wished for you to wield.”  He showed the cat the heavy flintlock pistol.  “Somebeasts call it a pawheld dragon.  With this, you can use the very power of lightning and fire as your weapon.”

Bludd reached for the pistol, but Carter scooped it up and returned it to the safety of its drawer-home.  “Before we begin… I have a task for you.”  He began rummaging through another drawer.  Bludd imagined that it was Aloysius’, still pristine and untouched, and a fresh wave of guilt pounded into.  Her tail curled and uncurled.  She hoped she could escape soon.

“Take this.” The Abbot handed over a tiny vial of clear liquid.  “Mix it into a drink, any drink, but mind you don’t have any yourself.”

Bludd’s ears quirked apart.  “Poison?!”

Carter held up his paw.  “Not entirely.  My child… can I trust you wish a secret?”

Blood mewed, leaning forward in a plea for more information.  Carter nodded.

“Somebeasts in the abbey have been causing trouble.  Spreading lies… about me.  I don’t know what they want.  I fear that they are spies, working for whatever creature is killing our brothers and sisters on the outside.  Perhaps you’ve seen or heard them.  One, I know for certain: A mousemaid.”

Bludd pictured the very same creature, embraced by the cellar’s shadows.  She nodded, but said nothing. The Abbot continued.  “Her name is Selendra.  I know she at least has been speaking about me, perhaps even trying to get others to think I’m bad or untrustworthy.  How unfair it is.  If only they would talk to me in person in stead of going behind my back.”

The wildcat gasped, her tail standing straight up.  “So, yer gonna poison ‘er, then slit ‘er gizzard?”

“This,” the Abbot said, gesturing to the vial, “is not poison.  For a while, she will feel ill and be forced to rest.  It won’t last long, just enough for me to come to the bottom of what exactly is going on.”

“Oh.” Wildness danced in Bludd’s eyes.  “And then yer gonna slit ‘er gizzard?!”

The abbot forced a smile.  “There will be no slit gizzards in my abbey.  I will make quite sure of that.  Now, run along and do as I say.  Do not worry; the damage won’t be permanent.  If she is not alone, then wait until she is.  And not a word to anybeast.”  His eyes flashed.  “I have to know I can trust you.”

The wildcat stared at the vial for a moment but before she could even ask, Carter spoke for her.  “I know what you’re thinking. Why am I asking such an important task from you?  Remember.”  He winked.  “You are going to be my champion.  I believe you can do this, Bludd.  Selendra will not have any doubts about accepting a drink from you.  Now go.  Return to me when you’re done.”

The otter shooed Bludd out and shut the door behind her.  The wildcat stared at the bottle in her paw and a grin crept across her face.  Captain Bludd, Queen of all sea-born assassins would get the job done, come hellgates or high water!

Oh, I fergot! Her eyes widened, and she shot off in the direction of the kitchen. Friar made apple pie!

Bludd crouched, sliding through the grass on the abbey lawn like a sneaky serpent.  The wildcat suspected that that most serpents didn’t actually need a canteen of spiked cider to poison their prey, but that just made her even more deadly.  She was more unpredictable than the wiliest viper!

She saw Rigg and Skipper discussing something by the pond, and sneaked by Sister Amery administering a bandage to a young squirrel.

“This is why you come to me,” the Sister said, “when you get a splinter.  It would be that much worse if it got infected.”

But all the same, no Selendra.  The kitten was just beginning to suspect that the mouse knew somehow and was hiding just to make her angry, but she was too angry to think straight at the moment.

Oh, but there she was!  A fair distance, nestled by a cluster of juniper bushes as if she was one herself, Selendra whittled away at a branch with a small knife.  Little flecks of wood fell to the ground like autumn leaves in the wake of winter.  The mousemaid hummed softly to herself, and the sound was harmonious with the wind in the pines.

And then her paw slipped and she cursed, and once again she was only a mouse and the only colors were earthen.  Selendra looked up, and there was something in her face, some sort of unspeakable sadness that reached out to where the wildcat was hiding.

Bludd was familiar with sadness.

She’d nuzzled it and inhaled its rancid scent.  She’d felt the sting of broken bones.  She’d heard the screams of the dying.

She remembered each one.  Selendra must too.  And that’s what it meant to be an adult; It was either get hurt or hurt others.  Like Carter. He’s probably put real poison in here, after all.

She looked at the liquid in her paws and for the first time felt real hatred turn her blood to molten lava in her veins.  She wouldn’t stand for it.

Bludd kicked the canteen.  Selendra snapped up at the noise, but let the knife fall to her side when she saw the kitten running to her.  “What’s the matter?”  Selendra asked, and the innocent question broke Bludd’s heart.

“Run.”  Bludd’s voice was free of all inflections.  “Y-you need to get out of here or you’ll die.”  Tears sprung to her eyes.  “I don’t want you to die!

“Quiet, now.”  Selendra’s eyes flashed to the canteen, and she gathered the kitten closer.  “It’s all right, nobeast’s going to die.”  Her muzzle close to Bludd’s ear, she whispered.  “Was it the Abbot?”

Bludd nodded, pulling away from the mousemaid’s grip.  She forced herself to calm down.  “Do you have anyplace to go?  I… think I can get closer to him, but you need to be gone.”

Selendra was quite still for a moment, but she nodded.  Bludd continued.  “I can show you the way I got in when I first arrived here.  Come with me!”

Bludd tugged on her paw, but the mouse resisted.  “Before I go,” she said, “promise me that you’ll tell Berend where I’ve gone.”  Bludd nodded and Selendra allowed herself to be half-lead, half-dragged to the south wall.  A few paces away, the mousemaid stopped in her tracks.

“…He’ll probably want to see the body,” she said.

They stood, dappled in the afternoon light, and puzzled.  Bludd’s ears perked in realization, and she whispered something to Selendra.  The mouse stared for a moment, but then drew her knife and cut a notch from one of her ears.

The odd transaction complete, they continued on.  Bludd tested the wall until she found the stones near the bottom that she had pried loose a few weeks ago, pleased to see that no other beast had tampered with them.  It would be a tight squeeze, but Selendra could just manage to fit through with a little scraping and wiggling.

Before the mousemaid could truly disappear, Bludd grabbed her paw.  “Don’t become like them.”

“Mm.”  Not perfect understanding, but good enough.  “Be careful around the Abbot… and thank you.”

And it was as though Selendra never existed in the walls of Redwall Abbey.

Bludd stood on her side of the wall and suddenly found herself staring across a glassy field, a spectral mist covering everything.  She could see Selendra running, and she even saw herself standing watch, but… different.  Taller.  She clenched a mighty sword in one chain mail-clad paw.  A knight? Nearby, she caught the eye of a mouse, smiling at her with paternal care in his eyes.

She took a step toward the vision.

And then a butterfly fluttered in front of her face and she chased it back home, dancing and skipping under the clouds.
A corsair, free and bold.

“Hahar!  I did it!”

Abbot Carter looked up from his reading to see Bludd parading about his room.  He inhaled sharply.  “You… did?”

“Sure as I’ve got stripes on m’tail!”

The otter’s eyes narrowed.  “Where is she now?”

Bludd presented to the abbot the bit of Selendra’s ear.  Noting Carter’s vexed expression, she explained.  “I chopped ‘er up into fishbait.” She brandished the knife.  “I used ‘er own knife ter do it!”

Carter’s eyes bugged.  “What.”  He collected himself just as quickly.  “What about the poison, Bludd?”

“Oh.”  The cat’s ears quirked vainly toward one another.  “Din’t work.”  She picked her teeth with the knife.  “I ‘ad to impervise.  ‘id the rest of the body, I did.”

“Did you now.”  The uncertainty that flickered across Carter’s face was sweeter than fresh-baked tarts.  “Hm.  Well.”  He shrugged.  “A promise is a promise, I suppose.  Your training will begin tomorrow.”

Dancing on the Edge

June 8, 2011

“Where’d yer get those funny specs, Cobby me ol’ Gob?  Can I try ’em on?”  Bludd swiped at the mole’s goggles, less out of curiosity than the fun of watching him squirm.  He was jumpy as a riled up pike!

“Um… Oi’d appreciate you’m stopping that, Bludd. Besoides, you’m would be bloind as a bat wearing these, burr hurr!”

“Oh.” Bludd’s ears straightened as though an electric current had run through them.  “Aloysius is blind?!”

“No, no!  Oi mean… er…” Cobb cleared his throat.  “Oh, forget Oi said anything.”

The wildcat giggled, licking the scraps from her whiskers.   “Yer a canny one, Cobby.” Her eyes shifted to the mole’s plate. “Ahoy, gonna finish yer vittles, mate?”

“Not so fast.” Cobb guarded his food against a testing swat with his claw. “Oi’ll even get you’m some of that fresh custard if you’m tell Oi more about th’ cloakpin.”

Bludd leaned back so that her chair reared up and balanced on its hind legs.  “Pins is pins. Aintcher already got one of yer own?”

Cobb fiddled with his claws. “Aye. We’m do, Miz.”

“‘s rotten swag,” the wildcat murmered, slouching forward.  “Too runty t’swipe. Why’re you lubbers so keen on it, anyway?”

“Hurr, we’m not be looking to take it from him! We’m just be coorious.”

Bludd’s only response was a long, level stare. Cobb nearly shrank from the sudden silence, but pushed on.  …”Were Brother Tompkins wearing th’ cloakpin? Did you’m see it recently?”

The kitten blinked. “See wot?  Y’mean that monster longy-leg spider wot just crawled on your noggin?”

To her surprise, the mole grinned widely.  “It’ll be on your’s soon if you’m doan’t tell Oi more about th’ pin!” He reached up to feel for the arachnid. There was nothing there.

And then neither was Bludd.

“Creepy ‘ol git!” The wildcat gasped for air as she scurried away under the tables as fast as her paws could take her. Reaching the end, she considering making a break for it across the courtyard when voices reached her.

“Hey, Rip, let’s sit over here.”

Bludd crouched perfectly still, recognizing the voice as Foweller’s.  Her tail wiggled like mad as she leaned back on her haunches.  Ripple would never see it coming!

Another set of footpaws approached.  “Oh, hi Foweller.  Can I see you for a moment?” Bludd gave her whiskers a little twitch in recognition of Noel’s voice.

“All right.  Be back in a tic, Rip.”

The two males wandered off and Bludd nearly cackled with glee; her target was isolated.  Now was the time to strike!

Ripple let out a bark of surprise as a furry cannonball struck him square in the chest.  His chair wobbled perilously, but didn’t fall back.   “Oi!  What have I tole ye about doin’ that?”

“Don’t.”  She batted him on the nose.  “But yer looked so down!  So I thinks to myself, me ol’ second mate could use a bit of a pick me up!”

Bludd wriggled away to the unoccupied chair next to Ripple.  He glowered. “Ye know, I wouldn’t be lookin’ so down if somebeast would behave an’ stop gettin’ other beasts in trouble… an’ lyin’ about there bein’ hares.”

“There wuz a hare sellin’ stuff! I saw ‘er earlier today.”

Ripple gave the kitten the stink eye, and she curled her tail around her shins. “Cor, mate, I’m sorry…”

“I know ye are, but sometimes just sayin’ ‘sorry’ ain’t enough!”

Bludd’s ears drooped and she mewled pitifully.  Ripple’s own expression softened.

“Look, if ye want to be my friend, ye gotta learn how friends ought to treat each other.”

The otter leaned back, on account of the cat’s face suddenly close to his.  “How do I learn that?!”

“Um, I don’t really know how to explain it right now.” He pushed her away.  “I’d have to ask Brother Aloysius. He’s got a chant for it an’ everythin’.”

Bludd wiped her nose with a paw.  “Sounds great, mate! But first, Cap’n Bludd’s gonna liberate a few tankards of sweet cordial.”  She swiped at the air with a paw, sporting a grin that would have made a shark jealous.  “Yer wanna come with me?”

“Um…” Ripple looked around.  “I would, but I’m still s’posed to be doin’ chores. I gotta ask Skip when I can be done…”

Bludd’s face fell.  “Oh.  Well, later then?”

“Aye, maybe.”

The wildcat scurried off, her tail at half-mast.  She had wanted to tell Ripple about Aloysius being blind, but didn’t much feel like it anymore.

Bludd sighed, flopping over the side of an open keg of strawberry cordial like a bandy rag.  It wasn’t quite seaweed grog, but the rosy liquid did have its perks.  She licked her lips – fizzy!  Just the right tonic to heal a wounded corsair’s spirits.

The kitten craned her neck at the other barrels and the truth unfolded before her.  It was so obvious:

Hidden inside the deepest depths of the Castle lay the wooden vessel holding the fabled and miraculous Ale of Wonder. The evil, greedy King Carter wanted to keep it for himself, but Captain Bludd would be the one to liberate-

What was that?

Bludd’s ears perked – voices. With an otter’s grace, she slipped out of the cordial and crouched beside the barrel, hidden in its shadow.

“You checked the doors?” That was a female’s voice, but unfamiliar.

“Of course.” This one was male, and Bludd saw the speaker in her mind even before the hedgehog stepped into her line of vision. Brother Sebastian was always nice to her, letting her taste the cordials when she came down to play about the cool stones of the cellar

“Mm.” The other beast revealed herself as a mouse.  “Tell me,” she whispered.  “What do you make of the young weasel?”

“Virrel?”

“No, his brother.  Noel.”

Sebastian nodded. “Oh, aye.  I’ve seen ol’ Carter’s taken an interest in him as well.”

The mouse’s eyes slit to the smallest of half-moons.  “I think he might have seen the incident with Cassius’ lot.  It would certainly explain our abbot’s newfound interest in him.”

“If that’s the case, we might need to protect him, Selendra.” The hedgehog’s silhouette flickered, and he toyed with something unseen.  “Just this morning, I caught the tail end of a conversation betwixt Brother Tompkins and Sister Delores.  They were talkin’ about Noel.  Apparently, he gets into scrapes an awful lot… I imagine it wouldn’t be difficult to do away with him and make it look like an accident.”

Bludd’s ears grew hot; she nearly spit her anger at the two beasts.
Poor Brother Tompkins had been her very first friend at the abbey. It seemed everybeast and his brother was picking on him when he wasn’t even around to defend himself!

It wasn’t right.

And now all this nonsense about pins.  Bludd wasn’t sure what make of it all.

It took a moment for the wildcat to realize that silence that had once again washed over the cellar walls.  She peeked over the barrel only to see familiar shadows and nothing else.  She leaned back against the barrel to think.

Should she tell somebeast?  Her ears perked.  Of course!  I’ll tell Ripple.  May’ap e’ll know wot ter do.

The kitten was already galloping up the stairs when Ripple’s disinterested face swam into view, and she felt her paws deaden even as she stepped outside into the cool air.  He probably wouldn’t care about what she had to say.

“Hello there, Miss Bludd.”

She let out a startled hiss, but let her fur fall flat when she realized it was only Abbot Carter approaching her.  He chuckled.

“No need to be alarmed; I won’t be keeping you for long.  Just one thing…”

“Yessir?”

“Do you consider young Ripple a friend?”

Bludd looked fixedly at her pawpads.  “Aye, sir. I tole ‘im I wuz sorry fer gettin’ ‘im in trouble like I did, but-”

A strong paw ruffled the fur on her head, and she held back the urge to give it a good slash  “That’s a good lass,” Carter said.  “And I know you didn’t mean anything by it – dibbuns will be dibbuns after all.  But all the same… do try and keep out of trouble.”

Despite his kind words, there was a very clear Or else lingering in the otter’s gaze.  Bludd was used to picking that out.

His piece finished, Carter smiled and walked off.  Bludd stood for a moment, her blanket cape rustling faintly. An idea struck her and she bolted, in pursuit of Noel.  He might be interested in what she’d heard…

Friendship First!

May 26, 2011

“No.” Ripple finished picking up his cards, then crossed back to his desk and plopped down in the chair.  Bludd expected it, but huffed all the same.

She pranced up to him, batting the wheels to make them spin.  “C’mon, matey!  I know ye’ll fancy it.”

“Oi! Stop that.” Ripple kept himself still by gripping the desk with both paws.  “An’ that’s what ye said last time, an’ it took until all night to get all the ink out.”

“Yer only sayin’ no a’cos yer skeered.”

“I sure am! Now can ye go away?”

The wildcat stood on tip-paw, peeking over Ripple’s shoulder.  She toyed with something in her paw. “Whatcher got there thas’ so bloody poncy anyway?” There was something bright and colorful and-!

“None of yer business.” Ripple hunched over his cards and shoved the kitten away with his rudder.

“Fancy!” She scurried around to the side.  “Hahar!  Can’t fool me, dat be yer secret ‘idden treasure!”

The otter shifted to better shield his possessions. “Yes.” He paused.  “No.” He uncovered a big square of parchment all covered with numbers.  “Here, I’ll show ye.  This is the base attack, then ye add in this number here, but ye got to subtract it from their defense stat, which is this number, then ye tally up the uses of the weapons an’ shield an’ mark them down, then ye can figure out how much ye wounded ’em…”

“Gerrofit!” Bludd pushed the sheet away, her ears nearly disappearing against her head.  “Yer dodgy, ‘at’s wot! Addin’ a bunch o’silly numbers all day.”  She kicked at the wheels of the chair, forcing Ripple to grab onto his desk again to keep from rolling away.  “I’m goin’ t’play with th’ ‘ares.”

It took a moment for Ripple to comprehend.  “Um, hold on, don’t go.”  Bludd stopped mid-storm in the doorway.  “…what do ye mean by… hares.”

the kitten shrugged. “Th’ones with th’fancy clothes.”

“Uniforms? Are they here? At Redwall? When did they get here?”

“Aye, thas’ right.  Jus’ today.  I saw ’em when I was comin’ inside ter get you.”

Ripple bit his lip. “Now, this ain’t like the time when you said there was an adder in my room, right?”

“That wuz diff’rent…” Bludd sniffled, paws behind her back. “‘sides, I wuz only playin’ with yer.”

The otter sighed.  “Well, then, um… I didn’t mean to snap at ye, then. Ye should have tole me earlier! I’ll tell ye what: help me see the hares, an’ I’ll let ye show me what ye wanted to show me.”

A thrumming purr roared up in the kitten’s chest and she rollicked about in the doorway while Ripple got ready to go.  As he turned to grab his cane, Bludd skipped past the desk, a card slipping from her paw to join its brothers.  The long patrol hare standing at attention on the card’s front smiled up at her.  She smiled back.

“All right. Just a moment…”  Ripple gathered up his cards and shuffled them back into a neat stack.  He paused.  “Oops.  Missed ye there, Sergeant.”  Satisfied, he set the pack down and stumped toward the door.  Bludd raced ahead of him, taking the stairs three at a time.

Ripple shielded his eyes from the lances of light tearing through the window at the bottom of the stairs.  The wildcat danced from stone to stone, skipping ahead and constantly wheeling back to make sure that her friend was still following.

The two made their way outside. “Are y’sure they went this way?” Ripple asked, glancing back longingly at the door.

“Sure as m’name’s Bludd.  Ooh, look o’er there!” She dashed toward the orchard.

“Grk! Bludd, stop!”

Ripple pulled back at the end of the blanket tied about her middle before she trod on a heap of broken glass.  Bludd looked from the shattered kitchen window to her savior.  “Thanks a shipful, Ripper me matey!”

“I wonder what happened…” Ripple pondered out loud.  “Think the cook’s finally tossed it?”

“Hope so; His vittles are rubbish.” Bludd circled around the glass, entranced by the rows of skep-hives laid out on shelves in the orchard.  Smoke wafted lazily like dragon’s breath from a small fire.  Isidore looked up from tending the flames as the wildcat and otter approached.

“You two young’ns care to lend a paw over here?” he asked.

Ripple opened his mouth, but Bludd was faster.  “Oh, yessir!  I loves bees.”

“Mm. Just stay over there while I get this ready.”

Unable to contain her excitement over such an important job, Bludd began shuffling about.

“I’m a stripey bee
Buzzy li’l buz
I makes a lot o’ honey and I gots a lot o’ fuzz!”

Isidore smiled faintly although he didn’t turn from his work.  “Aye, that you are, lass.”

In the middle of her dance, Bludd whirled, grinning.  “Watcher!  I’m gonna sting ya!” She dashed backward at Ripple, her tail a striped lance.

Ripple side-stepped with room to spare as the cat rocketed past him.  She tripped over the tails of her blanket and tumbled in the grass, just missing the lowest row of skep hives.  The otter hissed a short breath and then crossed his arms.  “Please don’t point yer rear end at me ever again.”

“Not a bad song, kitty.”

Bludd’s ears swiveled and she mrrped at the unfamiliar voice. Another otter, this one smaller than Ripple, looked down at her with his paws akimbo.

“I’m norra kitty. I’m Bludd.” She skittered and leaped to her footpaws.

“And I’m Foweller.”  The young otter cocked his head.  “Huh.  You don’t look bloody.”

“Just wait,” Ripple said, glowering, “until she’s leanin’ over my new Fourth Edition rulebook.”

“Whatcher doing?” Foweller asked.

Bludd flicked her tail at the hives.  “Bees!” She said.  Foweller nodded in understanding.

“An’,” Ripple added, although his voice was a little softer, “we’re goin’ to talk to those hares, aye?”  He craned his neck, peering further into the orchard.  “I don’t see them.”

“Hares?” Foweller asked.  Ripple turned to Bludd.  She shrugged.

“They said they wuz comin.'”

“They said they was comin’ here or they said they’d be goin’ here?”

Bludd was following the path of a stray bee. “Both!” She stretched her paw out, providing a furry landing pad.  The insect alighted for only a second, and she giggled as its wings tickled her pawpad. The kitten crouched beside the row of skep hives, tail wiggling.

“I wuz thinkin’,” she said. “What ‘ave they got in those ‘ives anyway?  It’s th’ secret of their honey-makin’, I bet.”

Foweller knelt beside her.  “You think so?”

Bludd glanced over to Isidore – the rat was still focused on his work.  She lowered her voice. “Let’s crack one open an’ ‘ave a look, aye?”

Ripple was suddenly on her other side, looking her right in the eye.  “No. Definitely not. Even [i]you[/i] would have to realize how addlepated an’ dangerous that is.  Bees aren’t friendly; they’re little wasps!”

“Break into their fortress and take their loot…” Foweller showed his little needle teeth.  “It [i]does[/i] sound dangerous.  You sure you’re up for it, Bloody?”

Bludd snorted.  “Cap’n Bludd ain’t skeered o’ buzzy bees.”

That seemed to spark something in Foweller.  “Captain, huh?”

“I’ll show yer!”

Before Ripple could grab her, the wildcat pounced.

The hive toppled into the nearby fire.  Red hot jaws of flame snapped it up in seconds, sending a magnificent plume of smoke into the heavens.  Foweller hop-skipped backward.  Isidore shouted something, but it was drowned out by the roar of the fire and the drone of panicked bees.  Bludd yowled, set upon by dozens of striped sentinels.  She was scooped up by the scruff and hauled backward, out of the seething, stinging cloud.  She twisted about in the beast’s grip.

“Oof!  Keep still, will ye?”  Bludd’s ears perked in recognition of Ripple’s voice.  And then she saw Isidore’s face.

Her tail bottlebrushed, the wildcat squirmed and wriggled like a hooked shark.  Her footclaws dug into Ripple’s stomach and he let go with a bark of pain.  Landing on all fours, she shot off across the grass.

In the courtyard, Noel looked over his team, campball in paw.  He nodded in approval and turned around, only to be nearly bowled over by a panicked wildcat.  “If Isidore comes by,” she said, “tell ‘im I ‘aven’t been ‘ere!  Oh, I’ll play later.  Bye!”

Bludd tore out of sight, leaving a befuddled weasel in her wake.

Bludd

April 21, 2011

Female Wildcat

Enemy Attack!

Captain Bludd bared her teeth, balancing on the remains of her ship.  The once-mighty Blistered Gullet was now nothing more than flotsam, doomed to be lost to the cruel waters.  But even that wasn’t as cruel as the laughter of the beast standing at the edge of the burning wreck: Dedgutt Venomfang!

The wildcat captain hissed and spat at her archnemesis. “Cross my ‘eart, rotscales, I’ll ‘ave your eyes for this!  Burn me ship and slaughter me crew, you’ll never find the treasure wot I hid! I’ll-whoa!”

A gust pushed the old barrel from beneath Bludd’s footpaws and the kitten toppled, yowling, into the abbey pond.  She recovered with unusual grace, surfacing with only a minimum of flailing.  She clawed all over at the bobbing barrel to right it.  “Garn! rotten ol’ moldy planks, that’s wot you are.”

“What in the name of Martin’s whiskers are you doing?!”

There was a frantic splashing and burbling as Bludd tried to escape.  She clung to shore, claws splayed against the earth, ears flattened, quivering.  She looked up at the squirrel, wild eyes wide.  “…I can explain.”

A crimson gobbet spattered the front of her tunic.  “…Oh bloody ‘ellgates.  I mean, sorry!”  Sputtering and sniveling, she undid the wet kerchief from between her ears and held it up to her nose. It always happened when she got scared.  Ikkle Bluddy pinknose.

“How’d you get in here anyway?”  The squirrel curled his lip as Bludd, who had clambered onto dry land and slithered beneath her blanket, let loose with a series of wet sneezes.  “Tch.  Go on, then.  Get home before I tan your hide.”

The cat’s ears drooped, apparently no longer able to support their own weight.  “Got no ‘ome, sir.  I’m an orphan, I am.”

The squirrel didn’t budge, so Bludd added another bubbly sniffle. “Me parents were killed, sir. I seen it ‘appen wif me own eyes. ‘ey was both done off with…” she cycled through the various possible reasons. “Eaten.  By sea-otters.”  The squirrel cocked an eyewhisker and the wildness tinged her eyes again.  “They dunked ’em in ‘otroot sauce and-!  Oh, sir, you gots to believe me!  I was only ‘avin’ a bit of sport, anyway.”

The squirrel already had a rejection on his lips when the first badger-growl of thunder rumbled through the clouds.  He glanced upward, then to the saturated wildcat and sighed.

“Thank your lucky stars it wasn’t Mother Agnes who caught you, young’n.  Come along now, hurry up.”

Bludd’s ears perked and she was on her paws in a tail-twitch.  She followed the squirrel in a romp across the courtyard, sniffing at the coming rain.

“…and we’ll know if the scones are stolen, so don’t even try.  Are you listening?”

“Oh aye, sir.” Bludd offered a fluttery smile until the squirrel turned back to the path.  The cat continued swatting at his swaying puff-tail until they got inside.

“…Can’t have anybeast out in times like these. Even vermin.”

His words floated out the door unheard.  Bludd’s eyes widened and her nose started dribbling again.  “Cor…!”

No wonder this place was more difficult to break into than the rest.  It was like a castle!