It was a beautiful spring morning in Mossflower Wood, and everybeast was enjoying it.
- Especially Rhenk the Spy!
- The swift male sable was an unusual grey-brown in color, and better at disguises than any other beast serving Rubbargz the Merciless, the new ruler of all Southsward.
- He traveled alone, for he needed none to go with him.
- He was Rhenk the Spy!
- He dashed along a seemingly endless ditch that ran along the wayside of a path until he halted at his destination: A red sandstone Abbey.
- "Ah, now, what was this Abbey's name?" Thought Rhenk.
- "Oh yes," he said aloud to himself. "Redwall." He liked the sound of it.
Part One: Redwall
Rubbargz the Merciless, Lord of all Southsward, as he called himself, was a stoat of massive weight for his body size. It wasn't uncommon to find him these days in the dining hall of Castle Floret, quaffing ale and grog and jamming food down his throat as quickly as he could, as if he'd just learned of a three-season famine. many of his beasts would have been ashamed of what their leader had become; a fat, rediculously rotund stoat. In his early days, Rubbargz had been quite a handsome sight. Now, he hid himself from his own horde, letting his captains speak for him to hide his appearance from his hordes of vermin.
- He was finishing a blueberry scone when Vamza, one of his older captains, pushed open the double doors and strode into the hall.
- "Your Mercilessness," began the fox captain as he always did when addressing the stoat, "Rhenk has returned with news of the Redwall fortress."
"Oh?" asked the stoat, downing half of a cherry pie in one mouthful. "Do let him in, then, Vamza."
- "Yes, your Mercilessness!" replied the fox, turning and swinging open the double doors to leave.
- "'Ey, close those!" hissed Rubbargz, who was very afraid of his horde seeing him in such squallor.
- "Right, lord," said Vamza,
"shall I send my sons to scout ahead?" "Alright," replied the pompous stoat, "But see that yer don't do that again, dogfox, or my throwin' spear'll be 'twixt yer scrawny ribs!"
- "Yes, Mercilessness!" replied Vamza, quickly leaving and shutting the doors.
- Out in the courtyard of Castle Floret, which had been in horrible disrepair ever since Rubbargz had arrived, several awnings could be seen. Skalj, Ranja and Zlanka, Vamza's three sons, lounged about in the shade of the awnings with a few beasts; the others stayed out in the sweltering heat. Vorrel, a pure-black vixen, crept away from her mate, Scumouth, who was dozing beneath an old sycamore, and made her way to the awning. "Lord Skalj," she whispered in the fox's ear, "thy father is coming this way; I have seen him! Arise, and make thyself ready to meet him instead of lounging here like our all-wise Emperor, 'The Merciless'!" Skalj kicked her away with contempt.
- "Yah, yer thinks I didn't know that? Stupid idiot, talking like yer me mudder," He did, however, straighten himself up and, with a mocking flourish, thrust a shining scimitar through his belt.
- "Away wid ya, 'fore 'e sees me talkin' wid th' likes o' ya, vixen!" Vorrel had not been gone fifteen seconds before Vamza strode in. "'Is Mercilessness would 'ave ye on the march, Skalj, an' your younger brothers, as well. Since yer the oldest ye will be in charge. Take fifty Unmercifuls; with yer brother's forces ye should well make up to a 'undred."
- Then Vamza lowered his tone. "I saw ye talkin' with that spyin' vixen. Watch yer back or ye won't live to be much older with that one skulking 'round and 'bout, mark my words. Anyways, I'll tell ye th' plans. Ye are to head north."
- "North to where?" inquired Skalj, though he knew already.
- "North to Mossflower...and Redwall." answered Vamza, as his son repeated the word, "Redwall."
- By eventide Skalj and fifty 'Unmercifuls', as Rubbargz had titled his horde, were ready to march, banners waving and weapons held aloft the body of soldiers. There was a groan as the great drawbridge was lowered, followed by a loud Thud! as it hit the earth on the other side of the moat that wound around the castle in a cresent shape. The tramp of vermin ranks began, from the courtyard to the bridge, across the bridge, and off into the grounds immediately around Castle Floret. Skalj signalled to his brothers, and they each collected their tracking parties, thirty vermin in one, thirty vermin in the other. With a nod from Skalj, both parties took off at a quick run, leaving the scene behind.
- While all this was happening, an evil smile had crept upon the face of Vorrel the vixen.
- The time would be ripe. Soon, too.
- On a wooden raft in the middle of a placid pool in Southsward, about five leagues or so from the marching force, stood Teak Brytebough.
- A most fearsome squirrel in every aspect, Teak looked a grim figure as a young squirrelmaid named Embrel scampered down a heavy oak on the bank and waded to the raft, which belonged to Rissle Spearspikes, the leader of about seventy hedgehogs. "Brytechief," she began, "I report that I've seen two small groups of Unmercifuls coming this way. One will miss us, but the other, 'tis running straight for us! They seem to be paving the way for a larger army of those Unmercifuls. That's my report."
- "How many are there exactly in the group headed for us?" asked the squirrel chieftain.
- "About thirty."
- "Good work, young miss," said Teak. "Do you think we c'd route 'em, Frezza?" Frezza, Teak's wife, nodded in agreement, gathering ten squirrels to her. "These should be 'nuff, Teak. We might be able to do with a few o' Amellia's otters and a couple 'ogs, though." Five otters and three hedgehogs joined the fighting party without further discussion.
- "Wait f' meee!" cried Olmer, Rissle's son, dashing toward the raft, which had been joined by two others.
- "I, for one, think all o' us chieftains should go, as well," decided Amellia, and the chieftians joined their groups, Rissle giving in to Olmer at last. "Okay, but stay wit' yore ol' pop, eh, Olmer," said Rissle. "Enuff dawdlin', an' let's go!"
Without further ado the raft's cables were cut. Hedgehogs with punting poles sent the raft out of the pool and into the wide and rushing river. "Harharr, me cullies, 'tis time fer a battle at last!" proclaimed an older otter, flexing his powerful limbs before hefting a short-handled battleaxe that looked like just two iron blades and a handhold.
- They reached their destination with a hearty cheer. "Ssshh, our en'mies are at hand!" cautioned Teak, and they fell silent. But somebeast had already heard!
- It was late autumn already, and at Redwall Abbey the Brothers and Sisters had just pulled in a bountiful harvest of pumpkins and squashes. Abbess Laurena looked over the crop, and Friar Broteyr decided along with his "Assistant Cooks"(A marauding band of Dibbuns that "helped" the good Friar to eat the victuals) that the season should be named "Autumn of the Bountiful Pumpkin" in honour of the large bumper crop of the said plant.
By the time the evening of the day of harvesting came in, everybeast was so tired that they all voted to call it a day, and resume harvesting the next morn. A feast was called, and almost instantly the preparing began. A host of pies, squash pies and pumpkin pies mostly, came pouring out of the Kitchen, with swarms of cooks and servers streaming back and forth from Kitchen to Great Hall, Kitchen to Great Hall, bringing forth their scrumptous wares, which included trifles, cakes, fruit, and all manner of breads and pies. By nightfall every Abbeybeast was ready to eat, and they got situated at the four long oaken tables. The Abbess bowed for the blessing, and the beasts all grew tense, hunger from working all day consuming their bodies.
- Suddenly, there came a great banging noise from at the front gate, and it was growing louder.
- "Will somebeast please see what that's about?" asked the Abbess, a small woodvole in her middle seasons.
- "I'll do it," replied the Abbey Warrior, Narvan, getting up from his chair at the table. Curiosity took everybeast from their seats, and they joined him at the gate. Skipper of Otters crept up the wallsteps onto the walltop, and the Abbeybeasts grew silent with suspense.
- "I-It's a hare!" called the otter chieftain in a warning tone. "Don't let 'im in!"
- "I say, sah, bally bad form, not lettin' a blisterin', hungry ol' chum int' y' charmin' Abbey! Desist from y' action, dear sir, an' let a bloomin' chap in!"
- At once the gates were opened, and at once a tall, lanky hare in a minstrel's clothing hopped in, a mandolin in one paw. "Vermillion Harefew the Minstrel, at your service, sah!" said the hare, full of enthusiasm. "I merely request a room in which to rest this frigid bod of mine on such a cold and blusterous day as this, wot!"
"Hmm, I dunno 'bout that...I'll 'ave to consult me friends, ay," said Skipper nervously. He and Narvan held a small huddle for a minute. "Wot luck 'as a-fallen us, aye, Narvan me cully. O woe! That hare'll eat us out o' house'n'home, an' even more'n that, more like out of woodland an' river! Wot d'you think, chum, should we let 'im in?"