Terrouge E-zine Archives
Ulaid: Chapter V
This was another of the many folklore names which abounded for the great red citadel. It suited it well, in Freja's estimation. Redwall Abbey was a massive place, and one which had certainly not been neglected by legend. The sandstone walls, victim to siege and frontal assault and not least of all time, still endured and from that, Freja herself garnered a deeper and more powerful word than leviathan. To her, this place was bedrock. Unerodable, indefatigable, forever carrying out this one duty. It was like a never-sleeping, undying sentinel stationed in the heart of the Forest, a goodwilled knight who wished to save all who could be saved and shelter all those who could be helped in any other way.
She saw beasts appearing on the threshold walltop as she approached. The hares of Salamandastron, she'd been told, were welcomed here, though had a reputation for dealing injurious damage to the larders. She would pose as a hare of the Mountain then, to gain ease of passage and hopefully the right to pay her respects to the mighty blade which lay in wait here, the sword known by no name at the beginning, then called Ratdeath and Verminbane and a host of names from the folklore pantheon - Vengeance for the terrible, hollow revenge Martin wreaked for the loss of his dearest Rose, Liberator for the death of Cluny at the hands of I Am That Is, Rainmaker for its role in the Battle of a Thousand... the sword appeared everywhere, in every set of legends and every bateria of myth.
She had become distracted. A voice filtered through her thoughts: "State your name and your purpose!" It took her some time to realise that this was directed to her from the walltop, and when she finally tilted her head up to reply she saw an arrow pointed at her. Her voice jumped a tone or two and she bellowed up at them:
"I am a hare from the Great Mountain, come on pilgrimage to touch the paw of the Abbess and the hilt of the Ratdeath! "
A moment's murmuring - she stopped where she stood and held her arms out to show that she possessed nothing with which she could shoot at the beasts on the wall. A moment later, the huge wooden gate hissed open with the sound of moving gravel, and a mouse scuttled out to meet her.
He was an odd little beast, hunkered down to appear far shorter than he was - but this also made him look broader and much more dangerous if he were to become violent. It was an innocent appearance though, so Freja reasoned that all she would have to do was watch what she said around him. Beasts of this kind - and she had encountered some before, in the farmlands around Saviour - tended to be extremely strong but lacking in some of the better functions of the mind, and that invariably included the little voice which allowed them to tell a joke apart from an insult. "Mn," he said. "Josey at your service, ma'am. I, mn, need your weapon?"
The mountain hare complied. She unhooked both of the oddly-built swords from her belt and handed them over, wooden scabbards and all. He reached out long before she actually proffered them, but waited with what appeared to be an immense effort of patience to receive them. Then, holding them as though they were going to leap out of their scabbards and go for his neck, he grunted affirmatively and led her towards the gate.
Freja wondered why they would send out such an infirm beast to relieve a mountain hare of their weapons. The entire situation was unfamiliar - though Redwall had never been a military place, they had never before complained about the presence of weapons within the abbey. Now they were disarming even the hares, who had long since been the allies of the Citadel? It was almost discomforting in its oddness.
The vast chestnut door slipped by her un-noticed, but when a waft of the most delightfully scented bread passed her nose she looked up, brought back to earth again. A host of beasts was present and watching her, and not all of them appeared friendly. From some she was even getting distinctly hostile looks. She gazed impassively across the crowd, looking for a leader. That would appear to be...
"Welcome, Hare of Salamandastron. May we ask your name?"
...yes, him. The officious-looking grey squirrel with a quill and sheaf of paper in his paws, sided for some reason by a young-looking otter armed with a kitchen knife. She smiled at him, anxious to dispel the awkward air from around them, and bobbed a curtsey. "M'name is Freja, sir. Freja Kusanagi."
He wrote this down laboriously. "...na...gi. And may we ask your purpose here?"
The mountain hare nodded, with a little chuckle. "I come to request a short audience with Mother Dinah and if it is permitted, to pay my respects to the sword once wielded by the Warrior Mouse."
This time, the pause was even greater. Much to Freja's relief, the mob had dispelled hugely since she'd entered. Only about ten beasts were milling around in curiosity now. The squirrel scritched each and every word she'd said down on his paper. "And," he said in between two of the last few words. "May we ask your favourite colour?"
She blinked. "That's an awfully odd question for official records. It's nettle green, but may I ask why you wish to know?"
He replied after the 'gree' of 'green'. "We check it. If another hare comes through pretending to be you, we ask their favourite colour and if it's wrong, we don't let them in. There we are, Miss Kusanagi. Please enjoy your time here in the Abbey." He folded up the top sheet and disappeared into the gatehouse. After a few seconds of Freja wondering what to do next, his head popped back out. "Josey," he called. "Can you take Freja here to the Abbess' aide?"
There was another somewhat tedious journey, and Freja found her mind wandering to the subject of the raspberry tarts she could smell being cooked on the way to the aide's room. She let her body do most of the thinking when it came to following Josey's steps and though she noticed the circuitous route he took, she did not comment until he said "Here mn'are."
"My feet are killing me," was all she said before she knocked on the door.
"Come in!" A low voice, one that sounded somewhat heckled and stressed as of late. "don't mind the potted plant," he said as Freja opened the door and padded into the room. "He doesn't bite." And then, to Freja's unamused expression: "Oh, come now. It was a joke! You were supposed to laugh! A-ha-ha-ha! See? Well, alright, a smile's good enough for Frammon. What brings you here today, my fine young ladyhare?"
Freja carefully wiped the inane grin from her face and sat in a small wooden chair opposite him. "I'm here on pilgrimage." This was becoming rather boring. "To see the Abbess and the Ratdeath."
He nodded, quilled something down, referred to three separate sheets of paper on his desk, looked up and nodded briskly, a smile on his mousy face. "Just past noon tomorrow, the Abbess will be free to see you. She will probably grant you permission to look upon and possibly touch the Ratdeath, though please don't take that for granted as I do not know her will completely. And until then, Miss Kusanagi, please enjoy your time in this glorious Abbey!"