Scones and Guns

July 3, 2011

Foweller barely heard anything after Ripple’s last words. He watched, helpless as Skipper took his son in his broad arms and wept. Foweller could not think. This only happened on the battlefield. Not here, not in Redwall. The smell of smoke mixed with blood curled in Foweller’s nostrils, making his stomach heave.

“Fowel? Fowel, I… help me.” Virrel knelt besides him, his voice a tremulous plea. Foweller’s gaze did not leave Rip’s body as Skipper bore it away, rushing to the infirmary, followed by a stone-faced Isidore. No beast had the heart to stop him, to tell him it was too late. “Foweller?”

“They’ll kill you. I should.” Foweller muttered faintly. His claws tightened around his loaded pistol, the warm iron suddenly bidding him to kill.

“Fowel, I didn’t mean…”

“I don’t forgive you. I hate you and I want you to leave my abbey. Run away.” Foweller wondered how he could sound so calm. There was a clear path to justice, but he could not take it. A shot ought to be buried in the vermin’s throat, but Foweller knew he could not.

“Run? Run where?”

“Out. While every beast is busy.” Foweller looked at Virrel for the first time. He tried to see a murderer, a vicious weasel. Instead, he saw a terrified young beast with tears staining his cheeks. Foweller knew that Virrel was a fully grown vermin, yet his face was the most honest of any beast he had seen in his life.

“You’re not gonna…?”

“One day I hope so. I don’t forget my debts, remember? You helped me. Now I’m letting you go. If I ever see you again,” he trailed off, raising his weapon. Virrel did not look twice before shooting off across the lawn. Foweller squinted at Virrel’s retreating back. The weasel rounded the corner of the dormitories. With the dangers outside the Abbey walls, would he even survive?

“Five, four, three, two, one. Here I come, ready or not.” Foweller stumped from one footpaw to the other, making wayward progress after Virrel. By the time the otter had reached the east gate he was in tears. With Uncle Skip out of sight, it was alright for Foweller to be a kit. He blinked at the gate and sniffed. It was wide open, the old lock easily overcome. So much for a strict lockdown.

Foweller fired his pistol into the ground outside the Abbey and turned away.

~~~

“Foweller! Foweller, what happened? Did you see Virrel? You didn’t… shoot him did you?” Rigg’s voice had raised at least a whole tone. The otter crew had gathered outside the infirmary. Skipper was letting no beast in but Sisters Amery and Delores. Foweller had wiped his eyes fervently with one paw as he had meandered back from the gate.

“He escaped. I missed,” Foweller lied, holding up his smoking pistol. Rigg’s face seemed disappointed for one moment, then the look was brushed aside.

“May I have your attention please!” Abbot Carter strode up the path to the infirmary, his face plastered with grief. “Friends, let us keep calm and brave for Skipper in such a trying hour…” Carter never finished. A sob from the door parted the otters to reveal Uncle Skip. His face was streaming tears and saliva had dribbled down his chin.

“Those weapons… must go!” he shouted, his red eyes accusing the Abbot. A few otters nodded furiously. Foweller paled under his fur. It had not been his fault, had it? He had only wanted to show Rip how to load the damn thing.

“The security of my Abbey-…”

“No! No muskets!” Uncle Skip roared. The Abbot fixed him with a glare that could make a badger think twice. Skip glared right back. For once, it seemed Carter was not in control.

“This otter crew has a duty and you have a duty, Skipper.” It was the first time Foweller had ever heard the gentle Abbot growl.

“Then I stand down, sir. Any beast against this horror, with me!” Skipper folded his arms. A steady trickle of them backed away, leaving few otters beside him.

“Foweller?” Uncle Skip’s eyes pleaded with him. Foweller quailed under his gaze. He had said he would defend the abbey only this morning. Betray that for Uncle Skip?

“Shame on you. Appealing to him at a time like this!” Isidore’s voice cried from behind Foweller. The rat’s paw patted his shoulder. “Lad, let’s go for a walk.”

“Thank you, Brother Isidore. As for the rest of you!“ The abbot drew himself up to his full height. “I pronounce Rigg the new Skipper of Otters!”

“You can’t do that!” Gabriel shouted from Uncle Skip’s side.

“Which side’s got the guts to defend our home, ye spineless whelp,” Rigg bellowed back, balling his fists and baring his teeth in Gabriel’s face. Gabriel punched Rigg square in the jaw. The new Skipper fell like a stone. It would have been an outright brawl if Sister Amery had not intruded between the otters.

“Enough! Fighting when our Skipper needs you the most!” Amery thundered, giving the unconscious Rigg a frigid glare. Foweller’s heart missed a beat when he saw her red-slicked arms.

“Come, child. Let’s get away from here.” Foweller tagged along, holding the rat’s burned paw. Brother Isidore was not his favourite Abbey dweller right now, but he would gladly get out of Uncle Skip’s sight.

Foweller was led down to the orchard. Foweller was surprised to see how much the same it was. Nature had not stopped to mourn Rip’s death. If Foweller did not know any better, it would have seemed like any other sunny afternoon. He was content to stay silent like that all day, but something in Isidore’s eyes prompted him.

“I let him go.” Foweller confessed. Isidore nodded and led him on, towards the old rat’s shed. “I let Virrel escape. It didn’t seem right otherwise.”

“No beast can blame you for that,” Isidore reasoned, “Justice will catch up with him.”

“I’ll catch up with him.” Foweller affirmed. He closed his eyes. All he could see was Ripple’s own, staring up at him.

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O2 In Love

July 3, 2011

Foweller folded his shirt on the infirmary bed. He only had the one and it would simply not do to be swathed in a scratchy green habit. Even Rip’s stripey trousers were more passable than that.

“Fowel! Skipper told me ye needed me?” Ripple hobbled through the door, pausing in uncertainty as he caught sight of Foweller.

“Uncle Skip thinks I should tell you,” Foweller tried to steady his voice, “it’s the right time. For both of us.”

“What is, Fowel?” Ripple asked, drawing near. Foweller turned and gave him a radiant smile.

“We’re joining Skipper’s crew!” He exclaimed. Ripple blinked.

“But I… I don’t want…” Ripple mumbled something and tugged at his habit. It was then Foweller noticed a flash of blue cloth underneath. Before Ripple could stop him, Foweller grabbed the otter’s habit sleeve and yanked it up. The bright brass button on the cuff of a Long Patrol jacket shined up at him.

“What…?” Foweller’s maw cracked into a grin. Rip stumbled back, hiding his jacket in silent fury. It was then Foweller started to laugh. First a snicker, then a fit of hysterical gasps that made Sister Amery look into the room with a puzzled expression.

“I never realised the Long Patrol had infiltrated the abbey!” Foweller chuckled, buckling over to hold himself.

“Oi, lemme be. I don’t make fun of yer sho—of Martin. Anyway, did Skip say what ye gotta do? He’s always got a test planned.”

Foweller noted the rapid change of subject.

“We have to swim all the way across the pond. Under water!”

“The pond…” Ripple flinched. “Uh, I don’t have to, aye? Skip knows I… I’m not ready.”

“Oh…” Foweller’s face fell, “Well, I was hoping you could help me. I’m not the strongest swimmer, what with my rudder gone. I suppose I can manage without you.”

“Ye can’t swim? Um, that is, ye can swim, but without yer rudder, er… Can’t be that different, aye? It’s not, um, a real rudder, not like a ship, I mean, just a tail I thought…” Ripple blustered. Foweller shrugged.

“Oh, well since I lost it, swimming has been a lot harder. I usually paired up with another otter to get through it. But I reckon I can do it myself this time.”

“An’… if ye can’t?”

“I drown!” Foweller winked and skipped off, his footpaws askew. His ears perked as he heard Ripple hobbling to catch up with him. That had been easy.

~~~

The Abbey pond did seem larger than usual today. Foweller suspected recent rain had something to do with it. The two otters stood together, shaking a little under the expectant gaze of the Abbey’s population of otters. Foweller could name a few faces from the crowd. Uncle Skip, Rigg, Remy, Gabriel and even Abbot Carter were amongst them. An image of Andrew’s body flashed before Foweller and he set his teeth in resolve. He would show Carter that he was not such an easy target as the mouse had been.

“Right, lads, ye know th’ rules! Ye must swim without takin’ no breath o’ fresh air from this end of the pond t’the other. A test of strength an’ endurance what’ll prove ye to be fit fer Skipper’s crew!” Skip bellowed in his most officious tone.

“Uh. Fowel. Did yer mother ever try to drown ye as a kit?” Ripple murmured. Foweller gave a nervous snort.

“Tried, yes. She was cunning alright, getting me by the neck at the crack of dawn. The trick was to learn to swim. She gave up after she realised she had no hope of succeeding!” Foweller puffed his chest.

“Aye. Mine tried to lure me in with promises of mussels. Then she made me dive for ‘em,” Ripple recounted darkly. Carter stepped forward and gave the two kits a reassuring smile. Foweller found the Abbot an eerie sight. He felt behind those friendly eyes, Carter suspected him. Or worse, knew about the break-in.

“I know you two will do Skipper and our Abbey proud. This is your first step towards becoming the wholesome and noble goodbeasts that Redwall needs in such tempestuous times as these. You have no need of luck, my sons. Martin is on your side.”

“I know!” Foweller replied smartly, earning a chuckle from the assembly.

“On yer marks. Take a breath! Go!” Skipper shouted. The cheers of the crowd were instantly muffled as Foweller plunged in. The cold shock was enough to get his heart racing as he spread his webbed paws and paddled through the gloomy depths.

Foweller soon lost his sense of time as he swam, knowing nothing but the muffled reverberations in the water and his own pulse. He fell into the easy rhythm of strokes and started to wonder why he even needed a rudder at all. Swimming was dead easy. The moment he thought that, he found himself belly-up, flailing about like a drowning pup. So that was what his rudder had been for!

Something tugged at Foweller’s arm. He shook it off. Weeds, or maybe even a little fish. It grabbed at him more ferociously and Foweller realised that Ripple had caught up. Ripple pulled him back on track and Foweller gave him a thumbs-up. He squinted through the water. Rip did not seem pleased. Something was wrong.

Ripple’s face was scrunched in panic, his claw desperately jabbing at his muzzle. He was running out of air. Whilst Foweller had been fooling about, Rip must have been desperately trying to make it to the other side with his sore, sad legs.

Ripple pointed to the surface but Foweller shook his head. No. They had to get across together without breathing fresh air. It was the rules, or they would not be allowed on the crew. No expeditions with Skipper, no visiting shrew clans, no defending Redwall Abbey. Foweller tugged Rip along, both of them thrashing for the end. But the end was not coming. Instead of a friendly shore, more dark water stretched on as far into the gloom as Foweller could see.

Foweller realised he was no longer pulling Rip along; he was more pulling Rip down, away from the surface. Bubbles issued from Rip’s snout. His friend needed air. Foweller began to feel his heart pounding. What if they were going in circles? What if Rip really drowned? Foweller had forced him into this!

Foweller was trained to act rather than think too much. He was not going to fail this time. Rip needed air. No fresh air. No fresh air… Fresh air!

Foweller grabbed Rip’s head and forced the otter’s muzzle against his own. He breathed out, trying to ignore Rip’s muffled cry of distress. Foweller’s breath entered Rip’s depleted lungs, causing Ripple to shudder in relief. Foweller kicked and paddled, feeling Ripple start to move with him.

~~~

Foweller shot out of the water, heaving onto the sweet dry land. He coughed and collapsed to his knees, sensing Ripple crawling up the bank beside him.

“We… augh… made it!” Foweller wheezed. He could hear Skip’s footpaws drumming the earth as the big otter hurried to the pond’s edge.

“What… were ye… doin’?” Ripple choked.

“Buddy breathing, you mean?” Foweller caught Ripple’s glare.

“Ye made that up.”

“Did not!”

“Lads! Are ye alright?” Skipper called, rushing to Ripple’s side. Foweller snickered as he heard Rip spit profusely on the ground. He could hear the applause rising from the otter crew.

“I knew they’d do it, pair of strong young fellas like that!” Rigg cheered, pumping an arm in triumph. Foweller tried not to retch.

“Well done, my sons.” The Abbot’s clap was slow, deliberate and soon quietened every beast. Foweller had never heard a beast clap with such deadening menace. But then, he was not going to forget what had happened to Andrew. “Today you are no longer mere dibbuns. You take on the responsibility and the pride of the Skipper’s crew. To celebrate, I have arranged a surprise in the Great Hall!”

“A… surprise?” Foweller repeated. He staggered to his feet and helped Rip up with one paw. What could Carter be planning? The two otters staggered across the bright green lawn, tired but grinning. Carter strode in front to open the doors of the Great Hall himself.

Foweller blinked. Boxes, neatly lined along a table. They were open, their contents padded with hay. He leant over, his eyes adjusting from the bright morning sun. Oiled, varnished and shined. Muskets. Foweller lifted one of the weapons from the hay and kissed it. It was a flintlock, no dirty old matchlocks for Redwall.

“Now here’s a familiar group of friends,” he joked, nudging Rip. The otter crew stared in silence.

“Where did these come from? Are we allowed to send out packages?” Ripple piped up, a tinge of cautious hope in his voice. Rigg laughed and slapped Rip’s back.

“’Fraid these have been here a while. The Abbot had me store them in the cellars till the time came!” Foweller noted Ripple’s crestfallen expression. The Abbot clasped his paws together.

“Foweller and Ripple are the new blood in this clan of otters. This Abbey cannot remain closed to the new forever. These firearms symbolise our future in the modern world and the safety and security these walls harbour. We must embrace them or perish in obsolescence,” he announced.

“Oh. I was just hopin’ for jam scones,” Rip said. The tension was broken and there was laughter again. The Abbot smiled and surrendered his audience to the kitchens. Though Foweller tried to wriggle his way through the throng of hungry otters, somehow the Abbot caught up with him.

“My son, I have a special gift for you,” Foweller shivered as the Abbot’s whiskers tickled his ear. Reluctantly, he was steered from the hungry congregation and back to the boxes of firelocks. It was then he saw what lay on the table beside them.

Two pistols. Foweller recognised both. The first was his, a worn looking wheel-lock made of iron. The second was the heavy flintlock that he had pulled from the Abbot’s drawer. He tired not to recall the last he had seen the weapon. In Andrew’s paws, right before…

“I once told you a dibbun had no need of such things,” the Abbot continued, lifting the weapon. “But of course, you’re not a dibbun anymore, nor is Ripple. And in the coming times, I fear you shall need this more than ever.”

Foweller picked up his pistol and caressed it, his pads brushing along the old familiar lines in the metalwork. It had been for nothing. Andrew would have lived if only Foweller had not been so reckless and impatient. All he had to show for his escapade was a cloakpin and a mystery. Foweller looked up to realise the Abbot had left him. Instead, there was Ripple, scoffing a scone.

“Mmf, woffit?” Ripple said around his bulging cheeks. Foweller pointed at the flintlock, putting Carter out of his mind.

“Present for you!” Foweller turned away as Ripple took it, his eyes lighting up. Foweller was still hungry. He stumbled for the door in excitement, placing a paw on the tapestried wall to steady himself. Scones and guns, what more could he want?

Breaking and Entering

June 19, 2011

Foweller lolloped up the stairs, bouncing from wall to wall through the narrow passage. It was easier to go on all four paws, even if Badgermum Agnes had made him wash them before lunch. What really troubled him was that Ripple had slept through a funeral.

“Rip! They’ve gone and buried your dead body!” Foweller called up the attic. Obviously, since Ripple had found Brother Raimun, it was his claim. Without Ripple to talk to, Foweller had pointedly tried to avoid eye contact with Tamarack the whole morning. He did not much fancy being put on the fizzer, though he certainly deserved it.

“Rip?” Instead of Rip’s smiling face as he expected, he saw an alarmed mouse. It was that cook Foweller liked. The one that was always too distracted to ever notice him sneaking another round of ale.

“Who goes there?” Andrew quavered. Foweller waited for him to come down, wondering why the adult was so nervous in the dark.

“Foweller goes there. And here. Is Rip up there?”

“Rip? Oh, no, nobeast’s up there,” Andrew replied. Foweller trotted to keep up with the cook, tugging at the mouse’s habit to keep balance. Luckily for him, Andrew seemed more interested in getting away from the attic. “I was just searching.”

“Searching for what, squire?”

“Andrew. Brother Andrew, to you. Just… Things.”

“Right you are, squire. I’ve seen things too!” The door ahead of them swung open and a familiar otter’s head popped out.

“Fowel? Don’t tell Brother Andrew that!” Ripple jested half-heartedly. Something about Ripple’s face told Foweller that he was being serious.

“Aw, I was just being friendly, like!” Foweller stuck out his paw to shake Andrew’s. The mouse’s eyes lingered over the burns on the otter’s rough pads, before shaking it gently.

“Some marks you’ve got,” Andrew commented. Foweller smiled and fired an invisible gun in explanation.

“Burning powder. Musketeers get that the worst though, burns their whiskers right off!” Foweller chuckled haltingly at his joke. He stopped when he noticed Ripple giving him an uneasy look.

“You have a musket?” Andrew asked, his platelike ears perking. Foweller blinked. What did Andrew care?

“Er, no, squire. I had a pistol, lovely little thing. The Abbot’s looking after it though. Shall I ask him to show you?”

“He’ll carve out yer gizzard afore he would do that, me hearty!”

Foweller sighed as Bludd tumbled from under a pile of dirty linen left in the dormitory hall, swishing her tail upright in greeting. The otter kit put his paws on his hips, giving the kitten a withering look that could make even the vilest weasel hesitate. Andrew jerked back and gave the laundry an accusing glare.

“Little vermin nearly gave me a heart attack!” Andrew spluttered.

“Bludd’s no vermin, she’s too little! She’s just a spy,” Foweller grumbled. Bludd ignored him, flashing her teeth merrily at Ripple. “Besides, no decent commander would deny his beasts their rightful prize. Even a humble sapper gets a mark or two for his next mug of ale!” It was just good common sense, after all.

“Ye drink ale? How do ye stand the stuff. Blegh.” Ripple wrinkled his snout.

“How do you stand drinking fizz for babes?” Foweller shot back. His disdain for dibbun drinks like strawberry fizz had caused more than a little shock for some beasts. His preference for ale had delighted Skipper, even under the badgermum’s stern disapproval. Another reason why Skip deserved his affection.

“That greedyguts Abbot stole me booty, I tells yer! He’s keepin’ it locked up in ‘is fancy ‘ouse and won’t even let me ‘ave a ruddy peek!” Bludd interjected, throwing her paws wide for emphasis.

Foweller was stunned. His precious belongings were confiscated? Scandal! No beast had business coming between an honest otter and his prizes. Not if he could help it! He clapped his paws together and strode into Uncle Skip’s room. Why had Rip slept in here? The attic was much better.

“Right! We’ll see about that! A debt is a debt. If the Abbot withholds our loot, then we must loot the Abbot.” He frowned as Ripple stuck up his paw.

“Fowel, um, that sounds… well, barmy. The Abbot wouldn’t steal nothin’ from us. I’m sure he’s got reasons for keepin’ it all in his house. Have ye tried askin’ for it back? That’s the best way. Always ask first! It’s not like… ha… not like ye have to try somethin’ nutters like breakin’ in.” Ripple gave a squeaking laugh. Foweller’s cheeky grin soon quietened his big brother.

“You’re right on the ball, Rip! Here’s our strategy…”

~~~

“The Abbot should be having afternoon tea by now. Code of the day is ‘Gildalily’, Commander.”

“I’m not shoutin’ that,” Ripple replied, fidgeting with his habit sleeves. Foweller pouted. This was no fun if Rip refused to play along. “What do ye even need a pistol for, Brother, sir?”

“Oh, academic interest, Ripple. It can’t hurt to have a little look!” Andrew breezed, as he eyed the Great Hall’s windows opposite the Abbot’s house. The band of four loitered outside the Abbot’s manor, trying to look nonchalant. At least, Foweller was. Bludd, he noted, was too easily distracted by butterflies.

“You do want to help us, don’tcha Commander?” Foweller wheedled. Always use the officer’s rank. Flattery never does any harm.

“Not really! Yer gonna all get in trouble! An’ me, again!” Foweller slumped his shoulders and gave Ripple a pleading look. Bludd took the less subtle approach of mewling like a milk-starved kitten. Foweller held Rip’s eyes in his gaze as he watched the otter sag. “Only ‘cos yer my friends. I’ll, uh, do a sparrow trill, how about?”

“Oh! Bird calls. Brilliant.” Foweller was back in his element, hopping in anticipation. Bludd looked uncomfortable.

“There’s not gonna be any real birds, right?”

“No,” Foweller said. “That shouldn’t be a problem. Unless the Abbot has all the sparrows locked up!”

It was Ripple’s turn to look consternating. “Don’t even joke about that. Bludd, yer not scared of birds, are ye?”

“Scared?! No! But don’t blame me if one starts peepin’ an’ cheepin’ an’ I come outta there wid feathers all in me mouth! I can’t ‘elp it!”

The otters rolled their eyes. Foweller checked nobeast was watching and gave his little platoon a webbed thumbs-up. Bludd skittered around the corner to the north side whilst Andrew hurried to the front door. The master planner himself felt along the Abbot’s south walls to the dining room window.

The Abbot’s home was a tidy stone manor with flowerbeds arranged in a neat parade. Vines had scaled the Great Hall’s masonry, but the master of the Abbey had such unwanted growths promptly routed from his property. The house had no fences, yet Foweller had always felt there was some invisible line around the garden that was understood to be the Abbot’s private territory.

Foweller slid the window frame up and waited. He did not dare even peek over the windowsill. He was coiled on his haunches, ready to spring. His fur prickled in the breeze as he gazed up at the unmoving, heavy curtains which guarded against any intrusion into the Abbot’s domain.

A sparrow’s trill fluttered across the noise of the dibbuns squabbling in the Abbey School. Foweller leapt up through the window. This was the moment where he felt just like a pure-blooded fighting stoat. He tumbled across the kitchen table, rumpling the pristine white tablecloth. No foebeast could catch him! He swiftly rolled off, knocking down a high-backed chair with a loud clatter. It was the only chair in the room. The Abbot did not have guests. In fact, there were very few signs anybeast lived here at all. The walls were undecorated apart from the candle holders, which had been scraped free of wax.

“Now, squire!” Foweller growled as deep and officer like as he could. His eyes roved the dining room, noting the collection of pokers at the fireplace. Andrew burst in gallantly through the front door and slammed it behind him, causing the candles to topple to the floor. A tearing noise and a bump informed Foweller that Bludd had successfully commandeered the Abbot’s curtains on her entry through the sitting room window. He bent his knees low and crept to the hallway where Andrew stood looking lost.

“Jolly good. I don’t think quite everybeast heard us,” Foweller said drily at his intrepid team. Bludd flopped through the sitting room doorway, wriggling free of the curtains.

“You’ll make the Long Patrol yet, Bludd!” Foweller grinned.

“Why d’you always talk so weird, Fowel?” Bludd asked with a chortle. Foweller’s mess of whiskers drooped.

“I… sorry,” he mumbled.

“You were in the Long Patrol?” Andrew asked, his eyes shining in wonder.

“Psh, no! I was in a militia company attached to a Patrol battalion…” Foweller’s reminiscent overtures died out at Andrew’s look of non-comprehension. “Er, not important. Let’s go.”

The trio stole up the stairs as stealthy as thunder. Foweller hesitated in the semi-darkness, his paw resting on the door at the top. He silently counted down with his claws before dashing through, executing a messy forward roll. Bludd followed suit, brandishing an invisible cutlass. Andrew plodded in after them. Foweller recognised the Abbot’s study from his first visit, its atmosphere even more stifling with only the window to illuminate it.

“He must keep it in here,” he whispered. Though the Abbot was not in, the desk emanated Carter’s austere presence. Worse, the Abbot’s portrait stared at them from the back wall above the fireplace. The artist had given Carter a soft smile of benevolence, welcoming travellers to his abbey. Yet something about the positioning of his arms reminded Foweller of a weasel holding a dagger behind his back. The otter kit crawled around the immaculately varnished desk and began shuffling through drawers with practiced ease. Andrew fretted over him, wincing at each scrape of wood against wood. Out of the corner of his eye, Foweller could see that Bludd’s quest for her loot was sending papers raining from the neat piles stacked on the desk.

“Here! No…” Foweller faltered. The weapon he pulled from the bottom drawer was not his own. It was a heavy flintlock pistol, unloaded and bereft of adornment. He held it up to the window’s light in confusion. For a moment, even Bludd was stilled.

“This isn’t right,” Foweller mumbled, at a total loss. Bludd resumed her destructive search.

“Aha!” Bludd cried in triumph, holding up some shined object. She hissed in disappointment when she realised what it was. Foweller barely noticed; his snout was pressed to the flintlock’s pan, smelling for powder. Andrew’s reaction was a little more explosive.

“Hey! Let me see that!” he exclaimed, forgetting all manner of stealth. Foweller’s ears twitched and he tugged Andrew’s arm. Another sparrow trill! He trembled as the Abbot’s voice floated through the open window downstairs. Andrew froze. Foweller exchanged a worried look with him.

“Ripple? Were you looking for me?” Carter’s voice sent a chill through the frightened kit. Escape! But there was no escape now.

“Aye! I was practicin’ my sparrow calls while I waited for ye, Father. I, uh, I got a problem. I think I got sold somethin’ I didn’t pay for yesterday, an’ I don’t know who to ask… I can show ye, it’s in the attic…” Ripple’s reply came. Foweller silently punched the air, his muzzle silently mouthing yes yes yes! Rip really was the bravest otter he knew.

“My dear son, must you make an old beast traipse all the way to the attic?” Carter sounded more impatient than concerned. Foweller pulled at the hem of Andrew’s habit and pointed down. Andrew’s eyes were transfixed on Bludd’s treasure.

“The pin…” he breathed. Foweller tilted his head and examined the pin. It was a little silver version of the abbey, with a red jewel encrusted within it.

“Tamarack found one just like it. When I told the Abbot, he seemed to think it was important,” Andrew explained.

“Int’restin’!” Bludd chirped, although she elaborated no further. She handed Foweller the pin and held aloft the real treasure; her precious silver ring. Foweller glanced down at the pistol in his other paw.

“This one’s been fired. Seems nobeast bothered to scour it properly afterwards.”

”Ma’aps the Abbot killed somebeast! Shot ‘im right in th’ face!” Bludd theorised, her eyes widening in excitement. Foweller could have sworn the cat seemed happy about it.

“That’s foolish, Bludd! The Abbot would never.” Andrew rebuked, taking the pistol for his own inspection.

“We can talk later. Let’s get out while the Abbot is busy!” Foweller darted for the stairs, almost dragging Bludd out. Andrew thumped after him, making the otter grind his teeth in frustration. They clattered down into the hallway, Foweller racking his brains for an exit strategy that would be both rapid and suitably heroic. The window again? The sparrows were getting quite loud outside. Wait…

His eyes caught the door handle turning. Before his mind could even catch up he had taken a rapid dive to his right, through the dining room doorway. Ignoring Bludd’s yowl of protest, he clamped his paw over her muzzle and crawled to cover, under the cloth on the dining room table.

Foweller heard the Abbot stride in. A pause, as he imagined Andrew and the Abbot seeing each other. The mouse was silent. Something was hurting Foweller. He realised he was still clutching the pin, his stomach threatening to meet his throat as a wave of hot blood cascaded through him. Being on the verge of discovery was unbearable.

“Brother Andrew?” The Abbot’s voice was quiet and betrayed no hint of surprise. The slight hint of fury in the otter’s tones made Foweller shudder. The kit’s face was stony as he released Bludd. Two beasts under his protection captured in as many days? He deserved a belting for that. Foweller’s heart jumped as Andrew spoke.

I Shovel Well

June 4, 2011

Foweller scurried from the attic, his chest heaving. Betrayal, in his keep!

“Hitting me over a silly picture. Wasn’t even worth the ink they printed it on, wot!” Foweller grumbled out loud. If Ripple was so interested, all he had to do was see the train of maids that followed your average battalion…

Still, Uncle Skip had been fair on Foweller. Perhaps he would forgive his friend. Ripple was a good beast after all. Yes! It had all been in fun, he was sure. He ambled through the hallway, rubbing his jaw. Ripple admittedly punched like a very angry weasel.

“Oi!” A harsh voice rang out across the hard stones. Foweller skidded to a halt. There was a young weasel staring at him from the door of one of the dormitories. Foweller nodded his head at the vermin.

“Virrel,” he muttered curtly. The larger beast loped over to the kit, checking that nobeast was coming. Virrel’s grinning teeth seemed very prominent to Foweller.

“Been having fun with me brother?” Virrel asked. A smirk passed across Foweller’s features.

“Always a jolly pleasure showing a weasel his place. Same goes for you, squire,” Foweller remarked. Virrel looked hurt, placing a paw to his heart.

“You say the cruelest things, mate. We’re not all bad, us weasels. I been the very soul of kindness to you and Rip,” Virrel said, slinking back into his room. Foweller followed, casting his eye curiously at the book laid open on the weasel’s bed.

“Teaching yourself to read, eh squire?” he asked. Virrel’s face twitched. He almost threw himself backwards on the bed, sitting firmly on the book.

“Yeah, very funny, mate,” Virrel’s whiskers drooped, his ears flicked as he heard the badgermum’s calls from outside through the window, “I know they don’t like me here. But if there ever was a blackhearted vermin to stroll right in here, it’s me brother! He frames me for everything, always has, y’know what I mean? ‘course you do, you see right through him, don’t you?” Foweller nodded slowly.

“Proved meself though, didn’t I? That first night you came I brought your food up and everything,” Virrel reminded Foweller, his eyes staring into the kit’s. Foweller smiled. Martin had told him to put Virrel to rest with his blade, the night Skipper had found him and brought him to these red stone walls. Foweller’s stomach had won the argument; the weasel had been on kitchen duty. The embarrassment of being nursed to health by a weasel was not lost on him.

“I don’t forget my debts, squire. I’ve got my eye on Noel,” Foweller replied, holding out his paw. Virrel shook it with a wink.


“It’s been quite an adventure today, Martin. Razed a fortress, defeated that big weasel,” Foweller crooned to the shovel. He slung the strap into the familiar groove on his shoulder, the comfortable weight once more on his back. It would be unfair to leave Martin cooped up in the infirmary all day. Foweller bounced down the stairs, scraping his claws against the curving wall.

“Lad!” Foweller cocked his head as he spotted the rat at the foot of the staircase. Isidore’s face creased as he recognised the otter kit. Seeing his look, Foweller’s paw drifted to the shovel’s handle behind him.

“Don’t you give me that look lad. Are Skipper and Ripple upstairs?” Isidore asked with a frown. Foweller sneered. His eyes glinted with malice.

“Why, sir, I expect he’s recovering,” he hissed. Isidore started forward, his paw raised. Foweller skipped up the stairs backward, tripped and slumped against the wall. Martin sounded a metallic clatter. Both beasts hesitated, before Isidore’s paw dropped.

“Watch your step, little one,” Isidore muttered as he passed by the kit. Foweller was mad, but he was not blind. The paw raised to the light had been slashed with white searing burn marks. Foweller waited for the old vermin to disappear before bounding down the steps, nearly falling over himself in his carelessness.

“Vermin, trying to scare me! Huh!” Foweller followed the wall, navigating around the Great Hall until he reached the large arched doorway. He could hear loud voices as the Nameday Feast preparations got underway. Foweller sidled out of the Abbey and along the rough stone walls, watching Rigg lumber past him, a chair under each beefy arm.

Foweller ducked behind some bushes, avoiding work. That was the trick, go missing for a little bit while jobs were being handed out. Then if anybeast did see you, dither about looking like you’re helping lift something heavy. Foweller’s neck fur prickled.

Some beast hauled him out of the bushes by his shovel. The little otter hissed and swinging his fists uselessly. He heard a snicker. Foweller fell to the soft grass, slipping out of his strap.

“Leave Martin alone!” Foweller fizzled between his clenched teeth, taking a swipe at the vermin who held his friend aloft. The fox dodged him and smiled, not unkindly.

“Foweller, isn’t it? I heard you was in the business of war. What’re you doing hauling around this piece of driftwood?” Tamarack examined the rough digging tool.

“Miss Tamarack, you’ll creep your last if you don’t…” Foweller was silenced by one fox paw over his muzzle.

“I got a mission for you, Fowel. Do you know who Mister Merritt is?” Foweller nodded, his eyes focused on Martin. Tamarack winked and dropped her paw from his mouth.

“I need you to give me a shout if you see him near the cart.” Tamarack glanced over at the ferret. Merritt had become distracted by the emergence of the famed Redwall October Ale from the cellars. The ferret was taking little steps towards the Great Hall, inquisitive and eager to sample some.

“Martin?” Foweller pined. Tamarack lowered the prized shovel into the kit’s grabbing clutches. Foweller straightened up and combed his whiskers. “I accept. Code word of the day is “Gildalily” and if he catches you it’s your bally lookout, fox.”


Foweller fidgeted, hopping from one footpaw to the other. He did not dare move from his guard post at the door to the Great Hall. He watched Ripple talking with a hare down on the lawn, their arms loaded with jubilant streamers. Oh, how he wanted to go down and meet them! He had not crossed paths with a hare since he last stood beside the dwindling beasts of the Long Patrol. Yet the Mission came first…

Foweller eyed the shadows of the trees moving as the pale yellow light came closer. Two vermin, the stupid creatures never seeing him in the dark. The light flashed in his face and he bared his teeth, thinking himself caught. He swung at the dark shape holding the lantern. There was a pained cry, the light dropped into the mud. The shovel blade hissed as Foweller swung it down. He heard the vermin’s head drop…

“I didn’t know ye danced, Fowel,” Ripple said. Foweller blinked at the otter. He had hop-skipped from the door all the way across the lawn. Everybeast had taken it for joyful frolicking. He grinned, feeling blood rush to his cheeks. Not that anybody would notice. He would bet his fur on it.

“I… I love a jolly good feast, wot!” Foweller exclaimed. There was something he was sure he was supposed to be doing, but his mind could not focus.

“Where do you ‘ail from, young… Fowel?” the hare beside Ripple asked. Foweller resisted the urge to salute, but at least stood to attention.

“Mossflower Country, marm. Though I’m just as bally well a Redwaller as any other beast, don’tcha know?” Foweller effused, his hare-like speech thickening in the presence of the maid.

“As you like. I’m Saskia, I work at the print shop,” Saskia explained, Foweller giving Ripple a knowing glance, “I say though, oughtn’t you ‘ave more an otter’s way with words?”

“Whatever a streamdog such as myself has to say is an otter’s way with words, wot!” Foweller retorted, making the haremaid laugh. Ripple coughed awkwardly and opened his mouth…

Foweller opened his maw and bit the vermin’s face. The creature howled, dropping Foweller. In the dark, Foweller more sensed his prey than saw him. He thrusted Martin into the softer midsection of the vermin; where no bones would get in his way. The foebeast gurgled and dropped. Foweller examined his handiwork by the lantern’s weak flame. A headless rat and… a stoat. Foweller knelt by the noble corpse and stroked its head, gazing into its lifeless eyes. He had no right to leave such elegance to rot away in the open. He would bury it with Martin’s help. Foweller began to sob…

“- really hope we can still be friends. So, um… do ye forgive me, then?” Ripple finished. Foweller had been staring past him, his mouth hanging open. Realising he looked a bit foolish in front of Saskia, he shut it. What was Ripple talking about?

“Forgive… oh!” Foweller jumped forward and embraced his friend, “Nothing to forgive, Rip!” Ripple squirmed away, abashed as he noticed Skipper had seen that from the table.

“Come on, let’s get our seats!” Foweller ordered, skipping ahead. He stopped dead in his tracks as he spied a ferret waltz across the Abbey grounds to the cart.

“Oh… Oh! Gildalily! Gildalily! Gild… ah…” Foweller winced, his whiskers drooping. Merritt had gotten through. His had failed his mission.

War Games

May 27, 2011

“Hold still, dear. Still! There’s a good muffin… no! No! Oh, Foweller!” Sister Amery threw up her paws in exasperation, watching the grinning otter kit dance out of her reach across the midday sunbeams that streaked through the infirmary windows.

“Jolly rotten ointment there, Big Sis,” Foweller stuck his pink tongue out at the jar in the mouse’s paw. He scrambled in an ungainly lope to the door, only for Amery to dart forward and catch him. He squirmed in her arms, not having the heart to put Amery to sleep.

“Come now, let me see your poor rudder, babe. My word, how did this ever happen?” Amery hauled him back to her seat by his bed.

“Dropped the ball, Sis. I had my eye on a stoat. Scummy weasel snuck up and took a slice!”

“Foweller, you tell the most beastly tall tales,” Amery huffed, “Scummy stoats indeed!”

“No, Sis, the stoat were lovely! I can always tell ‘em by the black tipped tails. Much stronger too, proper beasts they are. Weasels are the slimy, runty ones.”

“Such language! Who taught you those words? It’s bad enough your mother let you have that horrid sword,” Amery muttered, her face creasing in frustration at holding Foweller still over her lap, pulling up his cream-coloured shirt. He trembled at the touch of her cold paws.

“Weren’t Mum, Sis. She prob’ly still thinks I joined the travelling players. Swords are boring anyway. Every beast has got a sword lying about. I want an axe instead. Bet nobeast’s got one of those.”

“You shouldn’t have anything of the sort til you’re older. You should play with the rest of the dibbuns at the Abbey. I’m sure you’ll make lots of friends,” Amery reassured him.

“Got friends, Sis. Rip. Blood. Martin,” Foweller replied. He beamed at the shovel that leant against the wall by his bed, a steadfast guardian to keep him safe in the dark. He had cried every night since they had taken away Martin. Wisely, the shovel had been returned to the kit for the sake of every beast getting some sleep.

“Of course, muffin. Martin’s every good beast’s friend,” Amery agreed. Her mind was certainly not on the shovel.

Foweller was released from the infirmary with a cleaned and bandaged rudder stub. The scent of fresh berries and pastries drew him down stone steps and arched halls to Cavern Hole. It was easy for the kit to move through the Abbey with one paw trailing across the walls to help him balance. He barely glanced at the tapestry in the Great Hall, his mind on lunch.

“Over ‘ere, Foweller! I saved ye some dandelion an’ burdock cordial, an’ some blueberry pancakes. How’re ye feelin’?” Skipper fretted over Foweller, offering him a seat amongst a group of otters. Foweller nibbled the first pancake under Skipper’s hopeful gaze.

“I was thinkin’ ye might want to play campball after lunch,” Skipper continued. Foweller considered Skipper’s gentle tone and tentative wording. He contemplated his pancake, before holding out a paw.

“Honey, please,” Foweller commanded. His stomach fluttered as Skipper obediently delivered the pot of sweet, thick syrup.

“Thank’ee.” He remembered his manners.

“It’ll be a good old romp. I’ll be playin’ an’… an’ Noel,” Skipper trailed off.

“Noel,” Foweller repeated. The conversation seemed to turn cold. Skipper winced.

“Aye, he’s a fair campballer, so he is. It… it’s just a game…”

“I wanna play, Uncle Skip!” Foweller’s face brightened and all seemed jolly again. Skipper perked up and grinned as he watched the kit spread too much honey over his pancakes.

“To the winner, the spoils,” Foweller whispered gleefully at the honey. He would teach Noel a lesson in campball!


Foweller staggered out into the sun, his arms spread out to keep his balance. In the open field, where there were no walls or trenches to support him, the little otter truly missed his tail. He blinked and squinted, hazy images forming themselves into… vermin!

Noel,” Foweller intoned dramatically, or so he imagined.

“Hey, Foweller,” Noel replied, a bright smile on his face.

“I’ll give you one chance to surrender now,” Foweller threatened, glowering up at the weasel. Noel laughed good-naturedly, misinterpreting the otter’s tone. Around them, the campball players gambolled about while Badgermum Agnes watched intently.

“Don’t think we’ll go easy on you,” Noel joked. His face grew more serious and he shuffled from one footpaw to the other.

“Foweller, do you know how Ripple’s doing? I heard he got into trouble.”

“Rip was very brave,” Foweller explained gravely, “he stayed behind so we could run. A rat was upon us!”

“Isidore, though – he wouldn’t really harm anybeast,” Noel faltered, his eyes not quite looking into the otter’s.

It would and did. Enough talk. Let’s play!” Foweller stumped across the field to his goalposts. The whistle blew and the game started. Foweller’s eyes were fixed on the brown ball’s every movement as it was kicked down the field. From Remy to Skipper back to Remy and then to him! Foweller kicked it up the field and chased after it like a wild monster, zig-zagging in case of musketeers at the goals. Foweller was a stoat among weasels, no beast getting between him and victory.

“Dribble it, Foweller! Small kicks!” Noel cried as he darted after the otter.

“You’d know about dribbling, slackjawed weasel,” Foweller hissed between his yellow teeth as he nearly reverted to all fours to catch up to the ball.

“Nicely done! Now line up your shot at the goals! Here, let me show you,” Noel’s coaching was starting to really aggravate the kit. Ignoring the weasel, he booted the ball with all his childish might and watched a young mouse muck up his green habit diving for it.

“I know about lining shots, thanks. Had a bit of practice with a few beasts like you,” Foweller panted at his arch-rival. Noel missed the hint and ruffled Foweller’s fur with a smile. Foweller chose not to respond to this humiliation. He stuck his snout in the air and strolled snootily back to his side of the field. Skipper gave him an encouraging thumbs-up.

“Nice goal, Foweller!” Foweller smiled up at the older otter in adoration.

“Easy, Uncle Skip!”

Noel had retrieved the ball and kicked off. Foweller turned. His eyes widened as he spotted the projectile headed straight for him…

All Foweller could hear was the telltale whistle of the cannonball. He dove for the mud instinctively, his eyes and nose choked and reddened by powder smoke. The ground shuddered. He could feel tears streaming down his face. He was screaming…

“Foweller? What’s wrong?” Noel was standing over him, looking confused. Foweller realised he was curled up on the grass, shivering. The ball had rolled past him through the goalposts. He jumped up, puffing out his chest.

“I’m tired is all,” he snapped. He stormed off the field, his footpaws leading him in a curved, drunken line back to the Abbey. He could feel Skipper was watching him. He imagined the big otter’s disappointment and shuddered.


“Oh, um. ‘lo there, Fowel.” Foweller looked up to see a familiar otter, the habit he wore not quite able to conceal his nightwear. Ripple was holding a half-eaten scone, jam and crumbs hanging off his fuzzy maw; comfort food after his run-in with the rat. The Great Hall was near empty, every other beast enjoying the afternoon sun.

“Rip!” Foweller threw up a snappy salute. He awkwardly let his paw down, feeling embarrassed. The other kits always mocked him for that. His heart leapt when the older otter gave him a salute back with an enthusiastic grin.

“Rip, you’re the bally bravest otter ever!” Foweller exclaimed a little too loud.

“Um, I am?” Ripple looked at the shorter kit quizzically as he devoured the scone.

“The way you stood up to that rotten blood-starved vermin!” Foweller gushed, not caring who was listening.

“Oh, he was just, uh. Upset. A little. About the bees,” Ripple reasoned, hobbling along with Foweller up the stone steps to his room in the attic. Foweller was perfectly content to go at Ripple’s easy, ambling pace, his paws leaning against the walls to steady him. The pair of otters made their winding way through the abbey’s halls and soon arrived in the cooler, quieter upper levels of the building.

“What derring-do! What a cavalier! Older beasts would have faltered in your place!” Foweller skipped into Ripple’s room among the bookshelves, squinting at the model sailing ship in the corner.

“Well, I, uh… was nothin’, really,” Ripple said shyly, wincing as he rubbed his sore rump. “Um, so, do ye have a moment?”

“You mean for…?” Foweller turned and winked. Ripple waddled to the window and closed the curtains. Foweller smiled, illuminated by candlelight. Now, nobeast could hear them. Ripple glanced furtively about, making sure Aloysius was nowhere to be seen.

“Fowel, I… just wanted ye to know…” Ripple quavered, taking a careful step forward. Their eyes met.

“Yes, Rip?” Foweller asked. Ripple took a deep breath, bent over and pulled something from under his bed.

“It’s ready!” Ripple announced in an excited hush. The two otters gazed down at the masterpiece.

“Thirty squares by thirty squares. Rip, you’re brilliant, don’tcha know?” Foweller breathed. The map was the biggest any beast had ever seen, with hundreds of squares for a huge battle.

“Just a bit,” Ripple said with proud modesty.

“We need something to change the landscape, though. Big cannon and mortar’ll change play, plus this game is in jolly desperate need of sappers…” Foweller muttered, his eyes roving across the grid.

“I worked up some, uh, some ideas fer ground cards. No more paintin’ straight on the map. An’ I sketched up some, er, artillery cards. Tried to do it like ye described ‘em,” Ripple replied, ruffling through a drawer of papers in his desk. Foweller’s attention was diverted to something at the bottom of the grid. He was not a very literate kit, but he knew his numbers.

“Four… point… five,” he read. Ripple twiddled his paws.

“Well, if we ever get it printed… that’s what it’d be,” he explained. The word ‘printed’ seeming to resonate around the room. Foweller could have sworn the candles fluttered.

“Edition four-point-five,” he whispered reverently. The very idea made him shiver with trepidation. To think in this little room, they could forever change the face of the game they loved!

“How close do ye reckon it is to, uh… ye know… the real… the real thing?” Ripple murmured. Foweller tilted his head.

“Well, this game’s a lot quieter. Unless you start shouting your orders. Easier t’see too. No smoke in your eyes or firecrackers. The other players don’t scream half so much,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Oh, well… the Fourth Edition still hasn’t included firearms yet…” Ripple mumbled, rubbing the back of his head. Foweller laughed and scooted over to the desk.

“Well, let’s fix that, shall we?” he said. His eyes seemed to light up as he began to draw by the candle light.