The First Patrol Bossess

Thunder boomed and lightning flashed across the stormy black sky. Enormous waves topped with foam creashed endlessly against the shores of Salamandastron. Inside the mountain, however, it was warm and cozy. Inside the ancient home of countless badger lords, a young haremaid bearing a tray knocked timidly on the door to Lord Russano’s study. “Enter!” boomed the badger Lord’s thunderous voice. Balancing the tray carefully on one paw, the haremaid twisted the knob and stumbled into the room, catching the sliding tray before it hit the ground. Pushing the door closed with her left footpaw, she hurried forward, holding the tray out. Suddenly tripping over her large clumsy footpaws, she fell forward, unable to stop the tray from flying through the air. Whoosh. An enormous paw swept out and caught the tray. As the tray thudded onto the paw, steaming tea sloshed out, splashing across Lord Russano’s tunic. Immediately the haremaid was up, whipping forth her handkerchief which she used to busily wipe the hot liquid from her lord’s clothing, mumbling a hasty apology. “Er, er, sorry, sah, truly, thanks, er, for catching the bloomin’ tray for me, wot! Tripped over my bally paws, yesee, always clumsy and tripping, sah, that’s me! Clumsy big-pawed Grace, wot wot? I jolly well thank you, sah, er, pray art thou burnt, sah?” Lord Russano chuckled as he took the wet handkerchief from the haremaid and helped her up. “Well, Young Grace, looks like you’ve had quite a difficult time getting my afternoon tea up to me. Are you alright?” “Hee, hee, hee, sah, twas should be you asking that question to yoself, that’s right, wot, wot?” Grace stammered, looking up into Lord Russano’s kind, brown eyes. “I’m just fine, Grace, don’t you fret. Thank you for bringing my afternoon tea. Why don’t you share it with me?” Grace blinked, surprised that the badger lord of Salamandastron wanted to hve afternoon tea with a low-ranking clumsy-pawed haremaid like her who had just splashed hot tea all over him. “Er, er, er, sah, I wouldn’t dare dream such an honor, sah. Don’t wont to get my bally clumsy paws near yer lordship, sah,” Grace stuttered, taking a step back towards the door. Lord Russano caught Grace’s paw in a gentle but firm hold. The young haremaid looked into the badger lord’s gentle kind brown eyes and her nervousness vanished. “Please, Grace,” Lord Russano said quietly. “It truly does get lonely up here in my study. It’s been a while since I had a visitor. Will you do me the honor, Milady?” Grace smiled, all awkwardness gone. She curtsied prettily, fluttering her eyelashes. “Of course, sah, my pleasure.” Scurrying around the room, the eager haremaid pulled the thick curtains shut, lit the snuffed-out candles, and tidied up the badger lord’s dusty desk without any trace of clumsiness. All of a sudden, the dreary dark study of Lord Russano transformed into a place of warmth and smiles. Grace eagerly seated herself beside the badger lord on the carpet. Together they munched on hazelnut raspberry pastries, sipped steaming dandelion rosehip tea, and shared the famous Salamandastron trifle topped with meadowcream. Grace minded her manners carefully, wiping her mouth with her hanky, making sure the badger lord was first served, and chewing softly and slowly with her mouth shut. After a period of listening to the storm outside, Lord Russano carefully wiped his sticky paws on a napkin and cleared his throat. “Now, Grace,” he said in his deep, yet very gentle voice, “as you know, I have finished writing the tale of Lord Brocktree many seasons ago. I’m sure you heard it that night in the Dining Hall.” “Yes, yes, yes, sah, best flippin’ story I’ve ever clapped ears on, sah!” Grace said eagerly. Lord Russano smiled with pleasure. “Now, young Grace, tell me. Who was your favorite character in the tale?” “Dotti, sah!” Grace proclaimed immediately. “I thought so,” the badger lord chuckled. “After all, she is your ancestor. No wonder.” Russano pretended not to notice Grace’s shocked expression. “Sah, what did you say?” “Dotti is your ancestor, Grace. Didn’t you know that?” “No, no, no, sah, me ole Ma never told me. Pardon sah, but why say that?” “Well, I—” the badger lord stopped, thinking. Then he rose and lumbered over to his desk. Rummaging about in the many drawers, he gave a grunt of satisfaction and proudly drew out a thin scroll of bark parchment wrapped tightly in silk. He went back over to Grace, who was watching curiously and unwrapped the silk with great care. “This, Grace, is a family heirloom passed down through the badger lords. It doesn’t have much fame, but it is a very special object.” Russano took the edge of the parchment with the gentlest claws and unrolled the parchment. Grace brought a candle over to get a better look and gasped. The parchment depicted a beautiful painting. Grace recognized the picture immediately. The painting showed every character, drawn with perfect detail, in the great tale of Lord Brocktree. The first badger lord stood out in the picture standing head and shoulders taller than every other creature. A big smile was spread upon his big striped muzzle and Grace could see his great double-hilted battlesword strapped to his broad back. And perched between the double hilts was Skittles the tiny hedgehog. The artist had even perfected the mischievous expression on his face. Grace let her eyes rove over the other creatures. Gurth the wrestling mole, Log A Log Grenn and her Guosim, Jukka the Sling and her brave squirrel tribe, Fleetscut, Stiffener, and the other old hares, Brogulaw the Skipper of Sea Otters, standing with his mother Frutch and his otters, Bucko Bigbones, former king of the mountain hares, and last but not least Dotti. With a sweet yet tough smile on her face, the brave haremaid stood jauntily on the sand in the painting, her long ears cocked to the side with her two admirers, Southpaw and Bobweave standing adoringly behind her. The mountain of Salamandastron loomed majestically behind them. “Is…is this what all the bloomin’ animals truly looked like, sah?” Grace gasped. “Yes,” Lord Russano said proudly. “The original paintings were painted by various artists of different animals. But the artist who painted this took all the portraits of the creatures, copied them, and combined them into this painting. Isn’t that cool?” Lord Russano beamed. Grace was not listening. She was too busy staring at Dotti. “What is it, Grace?” Russano asked, placing a large paw on her trembling shoulders. “D-d-d-Dotti…she looks exactly like me, sah!” exclaimed the young haremaid. “Yes, Grace,” the badger lord answered. “When I first saw you, I knew there was a resemblance. I started tracing you family tree, then, and yes! Sure enough, you are descended directly from the Dillworthy family.” Grace waggled her ears happily. “Oh, sah! I can’t believe I am actually blinkin’ related to my bally heroine! Oh Lord Russano, sah, do you have any more stories about what happened to Dotti, sah? After the flippin’ story of Lord Brocktree? Sah?” Lord Russano chuckled at the eager young descendent of Dotti. “I certainly do, Young Grace. In fact, the main reason I summoned you up here is so I could read it to you. I just finished writing the tale. I named it, ‘The First Patrol Bossess’.” “Oh, sah!” Grace cried, practically dancing with excitement, “will you read it to me? Please say you will, sah!” Lord Russano chuckled as he lumbered over to an enormous locked chest in the corner. He unlocked it with a key from around his neck and opened. “Hmm, hmm, now where was it? Ah-hah!” The badger lord pulled out a bundle of thick scrolls numbered and wrapped with a silk ribbon. Grace assisted him over to his favorite armchair beside the window, lit a nearby candle, and poured him a beaker of steaming tea. “Ahhhh,” Russano sighed as he settled comfortably into the overstuffed pillows and unrolled the first scroll. His eyes twinkled at the attentive young haremaid sitting on the carpet as he began to read…

Dorothea Duckfontein Dillworthy stood on the beach of Salamandastron, her paws on her hips and her long ears cocked jauntily to one side. The shadow of the enormous mountain Salamandastron leaned over her small form. The young haremaid’s hipbones cracked loudly as she leaned to the right. “Ahhhhh, oh, oh! Uhh, ah, yes, oh!” she grunted as sharp pain from her stiff bones shot up and down her spine. Leaning backward, Dotti squeaked with shock as explosions of popping sounds reached her ears. She straightened up and leaned down, her paws reaching for her toes. They had only gotten to her shin when her leg muscles started to hurt. Jumping back up in pain, the haremaid tripped and fell flat on the sun-warmed sand, panting. “Wellwellwell,” she remarked flatly to herself. “Looks like the ole fatal beauty is not quite bloomin’ flexible, wot wot? I fell absoballylutely sore all over. Eeerrr! Patrol Bossess exercise ain’t goin’ quite flippin’ well! Maybe I shall quit the bally job. After all, I’m just a blinkin’ ole fatal beauty.” “Not giving up, are you, young’un?” a deep voice thundered behind her. Dotti leapt up, arching her back in the process, and doubled over in pain. “Wotwotwot? Owowowow! Oh, yes, pardon me, sah? You were saying?” Dotti looked up at the enormous badger looming in front of her. From her point of view, he blotted out the entire mountain with his size. “Whatwahtwhat?” Skittles the little hogbabe chortled from Brocktree’s back. “Aren’t you supposed to be having your morning training with Stiffener?” You’re not supposed to be dozing on the beach! Where is Stiffener?” demanded the badger lord “Wherz Stiff rabbet?” Skittles giggled, tugging on Brocktree’s ears. Dotti fluttered her eyelashes and gave him her sweetest smile. “Oh, my good sah, I was just warming up. As for Ol’ Stiff…I’m afraid I don’t know where the bally hare hisself is.” Brocktree frowned slightly. Turning, he addressed a young bright-looking hare standing behind him. “Trobee, have you seen Stiffener? My best boxing hare?” Trobee thought for a moment. “I’m afraid not, sah, but I can dash off and find him. I think Sage told me he was with Southpaw and Bobweave in the gardens. For what reason, I dunno, sah.” “Well, young Trobee, do you mind running off to the gardens and bringing Stiffener over here? If he isn’t there, you can ask other hares around the place.” “Yes, sah!” cried the eager leveret. “You mean, you do mind carrying out your lord’s orders, young laddie?” Dotti asked gravely, her eyes twinkling. Trobee blinked, confused, then seemed to understand. “Oh! My apologies, sah! I mean, no I do mind. I mean, yes I don’t mind. No, that’s not right either.” The young hare took a while to mumble to himself and figure it out. Finally, he folded his ears and said proudly, “Of course, sah! Your wish is my command!” He shot off down the beach, his big powerful paws churning up clouds of sand as he ran to do his lord’s bidding. Lord Brocktree chuckled as he looked down at Dotti. “What an eager young’un. I’m quite lucky to have him as a personal servant. He might serve well in your patrol, Dotti, did you see those enormous paws? Good for running.” The badger lord stared thoughtfully into the distance. Skittles performed a neat somersault from Brocktree’s shoulder to Dotti’s back. Grinning cheekily, he tugged on the young haremaid’s long ears. “Dooti gonna be patol bossesi. Hee hee hee. Then Skikkles can be yo cap’n!” Dotti giggled as she lifted the little hedgehog down from her back. “You great spiky lump. Still can’t pronounce your name right. As for being a captain, weeeeel I’ll see about that bloodthirsty little barbarian.” She placed Skittles on the ground and watched the hogbabe toddle off down the beach, waving an imaginary sword and yelling, “Vurminnies! You betta watch yo behin’ cause Skikkles be a’comin! Roooooaarrrghh!” With a fierce shout he charged, tripped over a sandy mound, and fell flat on his face in the sand. Staggering upright, the brave little “warrior” continued his gallant charge, screaming, “Eeueuuulllaaala! Skikkles is comin’!” Dotti scuffled a paw in the sand as she tried not to laugh. “Brave lil’ warrior, eh, sah? Huh, I wonder who taught him the Salamandastron war cry.” Brocktree smiled fondly at the antics of his little friend. “I suppose that pestilence has heard it too many times over the months.” His dark eyes grew serious. “Let’s hope our warcry won’t ring too often over the seasons, Dotti.” The haremaid nodded in silent agreement, recalling the great battle and the thundering Eulalias that had swept the Salamandastron shores only months ago. Just then, Trobee, accompanied by a panting Stiffener and his twin grandsons, Southpaw and Bobweave. The young servant of Brocktree was not even breathing hard. Saluting smartly to the badger lord, he announced, “I found Stiffener in the gahdens sah. These two wanted to come along as well. For what bally reason, I know not.” There was a pause, then Trobee faithfully filled it in with an added, “Sah.” “Well done, young’un,” Brocktree said, patting the leveret’s shoulder. Dismissing him, the badger lord turned to Stiffener with a half-frown. “Well, Stiff, I wanted you to be up at dawn training with this young patrol general here and where did youg Trobee find you? In the gardens of all places! I demand an explanation.” Southpaw and Bobweave started talking. “Yah see, sah, ol’ Blench wanted us to get her some apples and pears from the orchard to make some flippin’ flans, wot wot!?” “Gramps was taking a stroll out there so he bally helped us pick ‘em wot?! “Wouldn’t have allowed him, sah, if we knew he was supposed to be training. Ho ho ho bally ol’ blighter turned out to be late, wot, wot?” “Gramps, better apologize to Miz Dotti, wot! Apparently you have kept the young beauty waiting!” Here, the twins stopped and leaned towards Dotti with admiring winks. The pretty young haremaid smiled sweetly and fluttered her long, dark eyelashes at them. That was apparently too much for the twins. Blushing furiously, they moved down the beach and crouched into boxing stances. “Now, now, Southie, what’s that silly ol’ grin you have on yo blinkin’ horrid face? Keep in your bally little mind that she was looking at me the whole flippin’ time!” “Well, Bob me lad, you’d better pay for speaking that little beauty piece for Dotti. That was supposed to be me, laddie! What made you think you could say it?” The twins argued as they boxed. Stiffener’s ears stood up straight with indignation as Brocktree chuckled. “Beg pardon, sah, but I don’t see what’s so funny. Those two scamps have their bitty heads so bloomin’ filled with that young’un Dotti they don’t pay no bally respect to their grandfather. Hmph!” Dotti turned her lovely smile onto the grumpy old hare. “Well, sah, shall we start? I’ve been waiting for a bally long time, yah know.” Stiffener nodded and threw his chin up. “Apologies, me beauty, beg your pardon for my tardiness and reckless ignorance. Let us begin.” Brocktree took a step back and bowed to the teacher and student. “If you two will excuse me now, I best get about my business as lord of Salamandastron. I wish you both the best of luck in your training.” The badger lord turned and strolled off down the beach, with Skittles repeating his words from Brocktree’s shoulder: “Aye, best o’ luck in twaining to Dot and Stiffy! Hee hee hee!” The haremaid stifled a smile as she turned to face her newly appointed trainer. “Well, sah, just say the blinkin’ order and I’ll try it!” Brocktree turned at the entrance to the great mountain fortress to watch the two hares in the distance. Stiffener was instructing Dotti in the boxing stance. Crouching on the sand, he called out orders to Dotti. Brocktree heard: “Stiffen up your ears, young’un lest your opponent takes a swing at them! Pull your bottom back slightly and stoop your back. Bend you bally knees, more, more!” “Och, sah, this is the most blinkin’