Terrouge E-zine Archives
BoH: Chapter 3
The Emperor of Night stood almost knee deep in snow. No light reflected from his sheer black fur, and no emotion shone in his eyes. He did not feel the intense cold as the whirling winds whipped the frost into his fur. The Emperor was never known to feel anything. A huge rat, he feared nothing and no one, and no soldier knew his real name. His palace, behind him, stood on a hill, overlooking the cages of the enslaved. He snarled, baring cruelly pointed fangs, and began to march down the hill to the newcomers he'd set to guard the prisoners.
Seven days ago, a patrol squad had come upon a bunch of wandering searats. The fools had lost their ship to a bunch of otters, they claimed. The pitiful cowards had begged for him to spare them, beginning the second his name was mentioned. He could still see the looks of terror covering their sniveling faces. He'd spared most of them. It suited him that these should serve him. Instead of killing them all, he merely executed all those with rank. He'd set the remainder to guarding the slaves. A task for untrustworthy fools, for the slaves had nowhere to go, but useful for rooting out dissenters. A half-score of the loyal Night kept constant watch from the towers of his palace.
He watched the one mentioned to him closely. A searat in ugly, garish garb was talking with one of the slaves. His eyes narrowed as he strode downhill, tail whipping back and forth behind him. The pitiful fool didn't even notice him coming. Neither waiting for nor asking for an explanation, he sliced a shallow cut in the arms of both the slave and the searat. Turning, he walked away, leaving the searat to drop to his knees in shock.
Rijahk Straightsword stepped forward from behind the Emperor to confront the confused and terror stricken guards. He had the look of one who feared nothing, and his power granted by the Emperor was clearly visible. His garb of was of the same cut as the Emperor's own, panels of red where the Emperor's was gold. A heavy broadsword hung at his waist and a venomous scowl filled his face.
"Scum! Talking with the slaves? The Emperor has punished him." Seeing their confusion at the searat's tiny wound, Rijahk sneered. "Fools. Both the slave and your friend have just received a poison that will take nearly a month to kill them off. And torture them for every second of it." He paused, and when he continued, the contempt in his voice was clear. "Why would he talk with a slave anyways?"
A young brown rat, slightly braver, or perhaps slightly more foolish than the rest, swallowed and bowed to Rijahk. "Breath of the Night-", he started. The hordes of the Night were not allowed to address their betters by name. "Martail was always a bit soft. 'E wouldn't stop listening to the stupid mouse's tales of this big castle place 'e came from. Redhall Abbey or something. Said 'e wanted to go there too. We told 'im yer wouldn't like it."
Rijahk nodded and snatched the slave by the scruff of the neck and dragged him uphill, leaving the confused rats behind him. When he was fifty paces uphill he stopped and turned and pointed at the one who'd been talking to the slaves. "You! Rat! Whatever your name is, you leave now. If the Emperor sees your face again, you will wish you had never been born!"
Later that day, Rijahk was inside the chambers of the Emperor. "You see, your Majesty, if what this mouse told me is true, this place is even bigger than your palace. And held by a horde of peace-loving woodlanders! It is located in a place called Mossflower Woods." He tapped a claw to the area on the map. He was sure it was true. It was amazing what results his methods of questioning could produce.
The Emperor was silent a long moment, holding the charts in his paws, examining them. The ornate gilt edging on the walls and furniture glinted brightly in the darkness of the chamber. The single candle flame flickered. Then the Emperor of Night spoke. "You will go to this place, this Redwall, for me. I give you one Claw of soldiers, a Wing of the Brethren, and a Claw of Nightraiders. Send word when this place is enslaved, and I will come. Do my bidding well, and you will be amply rewarded. You will leave at the next sunset. The Night has spoken. You may leave me now."
As Rijahk bowed and turned to leave, he could barely contain his glee. The Emperor had entrusted him with a full half of their forces; fifty score of soldiers, two score of crows, and a score of the elite guards and assassins of the Emperor himself. Redwall could not stand against him! When he conquered, he knew the reward: slaves, gold, and perhaps even being named as heir to the Throne of Night. Redwall WOULD fall to the Night!