Terrouge E-zine Archives
Redwall FanFiction Review: Oni's The Chaotic Soul
We all know how the big, climactic battles invariably go in Brian Jacques' Redwall novels: the brave and noble woodlanders triumph, victorious as always, while the menacing vermin villains are vanquished. Sometimes the bad guys are wiped out to a beast, as when Cluny's horde in "Redwall" found themselves caught between angry Abbeybeasts, hardnosed Guosim and the teeth and claws of Squire Julian and Captain Snow. In other instances, the goodbeast victors are left with the messy fact of prisoners of war, enemy fighters who either surrendered in the face of a hopeless cause and overwhelming odds or who were captured in the course of the conflict. Banishment seems to be the preferred method of dealing with these remnants of war, whether it's Tsarmina's surviving troops chased out of Mossflower under pain of death or the Juska sent running by Lord Russano and his magically-appearing thousand Long Patrol hares at the end of "The Taggerung." The Marlfox's water rat minions were far easier to cope with, simply being left on their isolated island in the middle of the Big Inland Lake to pursue a simple farming life.
And it is just as certain, in the official books, that the spirit of Martin the Warrior speaks only to brave and selfless woodlanders in time of need, intrepid souls who will sacrifice all if need be to safeguard the sanctity of Redwall Abbey. We have seen it time and again throughout the published novels, and no doubt will many times more before good sir BJ lays down his Recorder's quill and puts to rest his chronicles of Mossflower and the surrounding lands.
But in fanfiction, these longstanding traditions are prime fodder for resculpturing in the paws of eager writers. What if some of the survivors from the defeated vermin horde were kept in the woodlander society, in some attempt to reform them or keep them as virtual slaves to perform hard labor? And what if Martin ever decided to reveal himself to a rat, weasel or fox instead of the usual peaceloving species?
Oni explores both these possibilities in her novelette The Chaotic Soul. Inas Riez was a weasel child whose parents served in the horde of the pine marten warlord Issvor Turack. When both his parents are killed in a failed attack on Redwall, Inas is "adopted" by the squirrel warrior Aeno Straek, who came to the Abbeybeasts' aid during their battles with Issvor. Raised away from Redwall on the Straek farm from the time he is four until the age of sixteen, Inas comes to know Aeno and the squirrel's son Trat as his only family ... and as his cruel masters.
This cruelty is underscored in the story's opening chapter, when we see Inas toiling in the fields under a scorching sun, struggling to ignore his parched throat and cracked lips while Aeno sits on a shady porch nearby, seemingly oblivious to his charge's suffering. Inas knows from painful experience that it is not his place to ask for food or water, that he will be given these things at his master's discretion and at no other time, and that when his basic needs are finally provided for, his meagre rations will be severely measured. Things go from bad to worse with the unbidden arrival of Trat, who taunts Inas with a canteen of water. When Inas refuses to play the young squirrel's game of humiliation, Trat clobbers him on the skull with the canteen and explains to the injured weasel that it's Inas's place to beg and grovel for water he will never get anyway. To add insult to injury, when Aeno later finds out that Inas "fainted" in the fields without finishing his day's work, the retired warrior punishes him by making him go to bed without dinner.
In a dream that night, Inas is visited by the spirit of Martin. Redwall's founding warrior is furious at the way Inas has been treated, and opens the weasel's mental eye to the fact that Aeno has kept Inas docile and obedient by secretly feeding him doses of Tairefen Herb which impairs the memory. But when Martin urges Inas to take up the legendary sword, this is more than the simple weasel can take, in spite of his anger. That rage is still fresh in his mind when Aeno jerks him awake for his nightly drink of Tairefen, but this time Inas violently refuses the pacifying potion. For standing up to the old warrior, Aeno hauls Inas outdoors and whips him.
Trat awakens Inas early the next morning with the news that the three of them will be visiting Redwall that day. This is not the first time Inas has visited the Abbey, but that haven holds no allure for him, since in the past Trat and Aeno have blamed everything that goes wrong during their visits on the weasel, lowering the Redwallers' opinion of him. But now, with the visions of Martin burning in his consciousness, Inas must wonder what will happen if the legendary warrior's spirit contacts him again while under the Abbey's roof, even as Aeno secretly schemes for a way to permanetly dispose of the young slave who has clearly become dangerous to him.
The only other instance this reviewer can recall of a "vermin" standing in Martin's good graces was the ferret Makala - played by Erin Shorestar - from the ROC: Survivor II writing contest. Makala ended up wielding Martin's sword and serving as Abbey Champion. Can Inas, with an esteemed retired warrior and ally of Redwall standing against him plotting his demise, persevere to win the same acclaim in the eyes of the Abbeybeasts?
The opening chapters remind me somewhat of Searat's short story When Water Falls, which I reviewed in this column last May. Both these fanfics deal with woodlanders who take vermin as virtual slaves, forcing indignities upon them that no goodbeast would ever dream of forcing upon another creature. The main difference here seems to be that instead of institutionalized slavery practiced without apology by an entire woodlander community, Inas is the victim of one warped and twisted master, who is able to play upon ingrained woodlander prejudices to keep Inas in servitude by making him appear a dimwitted troublemaker who can't even read - due, of course, to the fact that Aeno has made sure his weasel servant never learns to do so.
Oni has been a prolific contributor to the body of Redwall fanfiction for several years now, with many stories to her name. The Chaotic Soul is one of her best, and a good introduction to her works, raising many of the goodbeast vs. vermin issues so often discussed in the ROC and addressing them in her own unique style.
Oni's The Chaotic Soul can be found here: