== Author's Notes ==
A/N: This is a fan fiction story by WildloughRhulain. It is not considered canon, nor is it a policy or guideline.
This story takes place a few seasons before the events in "Outcast of Redwall."
'''Krazgore the Cruel! Just the mention of his name sends chills through the spines of anybeast alive. A notorious slaver captain, nobeast challenges his authority. One stormy spring evening, a slave named Scath shows up at Redwall's door bearing the vicious gashes of Krazgore's barbed slave whip, Tickler. Thus begins a quest to free the other slaves and bring vengeance on the evil rat.'''
The trees and branches of Mossflower woods were awash in evening shade as the small band of slaves and slavers trudged wearily through the grass and roots of the forest floor. We had been walking a good part of the day, with only short breaks for meager meals.
The progress had been slow, and Krazgore’s temper was extremely short. Walking behind the two rows of slaves, he shouted insults at us from time to time. “Pick up the pace you lazy, rotten sops!” he shouted, kicking a stone at one of the stragglers. Onward we trudged, pawsore and tired.
“Perhaps we should stop for the night, Sir?” piped up one of the slavers. “We’ve been pushin’ dem awful ‘ard and such!”
Krazgore landed the slaver a hard cuff in the jaw, sending him sprawling. “We’ll stop when I see fit to stop, slobberchops. You watch your mouth afore you find yourself chained up with the rest of them!” Krazgore then turned his wrath upon rest of the vermin slavers. “The same goes for all of you! Now get those worthless slaves going again before I let Tickler loose on your flea-ridden hides.” The slavers obeyed with the utmost quickness. Nobeast wished to feel Tickler across their backs. Krazgore’s barbed slaver whip was notorious for tearing through flesh and fur.
As we continued through Mossflower, dark clouds begin to roll in, threatening rain. Very quickly, the woods were shrouded in inky semi-darkness. A distant rumble of thunder could be heard over the clinking of heavy slave chains. Krazgore was contemplating setting up camp when a commotion from the front of the line diverted his thoughts. One of the younger slaves, a shrew not much older then a babe, had tripped over a large root sticking up from the ground. The young shrew was wailing piteously as the entire slave chain ground to a halt.
The slaver captain had had just about enough. His short temper had hit boiling point. Shoving one of his slavers out of the way, he unwound Tickler from his belt and began stalking towards the still-crying shrewbabe. “Liddle brat! I’ll give you somethin’ to wail about!” he growled as he headed towards the defenseless shrew. Many of the slaves and even some slavers looked away. They all knew the damage that Tickler could inflict. Krazgore was almost upon the wailing babe when I stuck out my footpaw. In his anger, the rat didn’t notice until it was too late. Tripping over the outstretched footpaw, Krazgore fell face first to the ground. All noise stopped. Even the shrew ceased his wailing and stared, dumbstruck, at the fallen rat.
Krazgore lay on the ground for several seconds, seething with red anger. Then, quick as lightning, he sprang up to face the slave who had just signed his own death warrant. An otter stared back at him with unblinking eyes and an expressionless face. Krazgore dealt me a vicious blow across the face. “What’s your name, slave?” he hissed. I turned my head back to face the rat, my lip bleeding. “Scath is my name, vermin!” Then, like a venomous snake, I spit blood in Krazgore’s face. A muted gasp arose from the slaves. Krazgore stood shaking with rage. Wiping blood and spit off his face, the rat leader turned and addressed the two nearest slavers, a ferret and a weasel. “Tulk! Skag! Unchain this rotten streamdog, find two nice, big trees, and tie him between them."
Deeper in the forest, away from the slave chain, two large oaks had been found. I stood between them, tied by my wrists with strong ropes. My tattered tunic had been removed. Krazgore stood before me, smiling. His mood had drastically improved with the opportunity to punish a rebellious slave. At his side was Tickler, unwound and ready in the rat’s tight grip. “Filthy, rotten streamspawn! Dirty otterdog! Trying to be the big, brave beast and protect the younger ones? Look where it’s gotten you!” he crowed, leering as he began to circle slowly around the trees.
In one swift movement, he brought Tickler across my unprotected back. A violent crack sounded out as the whip cut deep into my flesh. I cried out in pain as Krazgore sneered in delight. “Get down on your knees and beg for your life!” he ordered. I refused, standing up against the searing pain that shot through me. “I said kneel down!” Krazgore screamed. Again, he brought the whip down across my back. Again, I refused to kneel. Krazgore was furious. He viciously began to lay into me with everything he had. Blood poured from the open slashes, matting what was left of the fur on my back. The pain gnawed at me, sending waves of nausea through my stomach. The pain was so intense; I thought I would vomit. I lost count of the times I felt Tickler lash into my flesh. The world was swirling around me and I had no control. The stench of blood was overpowering; it filled my nostrils and made me gag. Finally, I blacked out.
Krazgore stopped his punishment, and stared at what was left of my back. Then he turned to Tulk and Skag, both of them as pale as bedsheets. “You two! Cut him loose. Then return to the slave chain.”
“What about the streamdog?” asked Tulk.
Krazgore sniggered to himself, then spoke. “Don’t worry about him. No beast can survive thirteen lashes from Tickler. He’ll be dead before the sun rises.” Then, laughing to himself, Krazgore started in the direction of the slave chain.
Darkness had fallen, bringing with it a thunderstorm.
A light rain was drizzling, slowly sprinkling Mossflower with life-giving water when I began to stir. At first, I had no recollection of where I was, or what had happened to bring me there. The pain searing through my back brought my memory quickly to me. Krazgore! Tickler! So much blood! Slowly, I brought my arm around to find out what was left of my back. What I felt there brought on a fresh wave of nausea. Meat! No fur or flesh. Just bloody, stinking meat.
Cringing, I tried to stand, but my legs would not cooperate. Slumping back down to the ground, I tried to collect my bearings. Most of my memories were a jumbled mess, but I knew one thing; I was thirsty. Pressing my face to the sodden earth, I began to suck up moisture from the wet forest floor. Ignoring the grit and dirt, I drank greedily. The little water I was able to get was a blessing.
Spitting the remaining mud from my mouth, I began to pull myself along the ground. Knowing the best chance for my survival would be to find somebeast that could help me; I continued crawling. Maybe luck would be with me. Perhaps I would stumble across the camp of a wandering traveler. This in mind, I went on.
The rain had begun to pick up; bringing some relief to the searing pain that crisscrossed my back where Tickler had cut into me. Time seemed to stand still.
My paws were sore and stinging from crawling through patches of nettle, and I was slightly aware of hunger gnawing away at me. I hadn’t eaten since morning, when the slaves got the leftovers of what the slavers hadn’t finished for breakfast. Even eating what vermin wouldn’t eat was better than eating nothing at all. Vowing that I would live to make Krazgore pay for all the half-eaten food, the hours of marching on sore paws, and the constant fear that every slave lived in, I pressed forward.
After what seemed like an eternity of crawling and getting nowhere, I came to a long dirt road running south. Pulling myself onto the muddy road, I laid my head down, allowing the cool rain to run around my face. I was weak, tired and had about given up all hope of finding any help. Suddenly, a forked bolt of lightning pierced the darkness. In the distance, illuminated by the lightning, I could see the spire of a bell tower pointing towards the sky. An Abbey! I could see it faintly through the darkness now: The large wall surrounding it on all four sides, the battlements and the buildings that rose above the wall, some with soft lights in their windows. Mustering the last of my strength, I began to pull myself along the road, towards the large, red stone abbey.
Dinner had just been finished at Redwall Abbey. It was a simple meal by Redwall’s standards consisting of turnip and leek filled pasties with a dark, rich gravy, hot oat scones with warm honey dribbled on them, a delicious blackberry and apple crumble, and warm mint tea. Dibbuns had been put to bed, tables cleared, dishes were being washed, and everybeast safe and warm inside Redwall was oblivious to the rain outside. All was well.
The evening found Abbess Meriam sitting in front of a cozy fire in Cavern Hole. Alongside her sat Bella, Redwall’s ancient badger mother.
Pulling a worn shawl close around her shoulders, Bella spoke. “My seasons, Meriam. If I had known it would be this chilly, I never would have looked forward to spring. I’d have skipped right into summer.”
Abbess Meriam stared into the fire, Bella’s words bringing about a sudden shiver. “I think you may be right Bella. It has been rather nippy this spring, hasn’t it?”
A voice piped up from behind them. “It’s been downright cold out, it has! It’s as if the winter just don’t wanna go away.” Abbess Meriam turned to see who it was. Skipperjo poked his head into the doorway.
Meriam smiled. “We didn’t know there was anybeast listening,” she said. Skipperjo strode into the room and stood next to where Bella was seated. “Sorry marm. Didn’t mean to be an eavesdropper. Just passing by and thought I’d add me opinion.”
Bella shifted in her seat and pushed the small crystal glasses she wore back up on her nose from where they had slipped down. “Well Skipperjo, your opinion is very welcome.” Skipperjo nudged the old badger playfully. “Well even if it wasn’t welcome, you can bet your stripes that everybeast would still hear it.”
Meriam chuckled at the comical otter.
Bella yawned sharply and slowly began to rise from her chair. “Going to bed, Bella?” asked the Abbess.
“Yes Meriam, I think I will. It’s getting late, and when you’re as old as I am, staying up late is not as great an adventure as it used to be.”
Skipperjo plopped down in the chair Bella had vacated.
“I can’t think of anythin’ better than curlin’ up in front of this nice, toasty fire and catching a few winks.” he stated. Scratching at an annoying itch on his thick tail, the otter turned over, looking for the most comfortable position. Finding it, he quickly began to drift off into sleep.
Bella began to lumber towards the door. Stopping, she turned to where Abbess Meriam was still seated. “Will you be going to bed soon, Meriam?” she asked.
Meriam stared into the flames of the dying fire. “I will soon.” She replied. “I’m just going to sit here a little while longer.”
Bella smiled. “Very well.” she said. “Goodnight Meriam.”
“Goodnight Bella. Sleep well.”
As Bella turned to go, she was met head-on by a small mole going full speed. The mole ran smack-dab into the broad badger’s stomach, knocking both of them to the ground. Abbess Meriam sprang from her chair and rushed to help Bella up from the ground, berating the young mole for his haste.
“Bruglow! What on earth are you dashing around the halls for? You should be much more careful!”
Assisted by Meriam, Bella was quickly up on her footpaws again and dusting herself off. “Are you alright Bella?” questioned the Abbess, concern showing on her face.
The great badger mother chuckled. “I’m fine Meriam. Just startled a bit. I certainly didn’t expect to meet a speeding mole on my way to bed.” The Abbess turned a stern gaze towards the young mole.
“Bruglow, why exactly are you running around the halls at night?"
Bruglow was still panting from his run. Breathlessly, he began to speak in his quaint molespeech, a tone of urgency in his voice.
“Oi’m suury yon h’Abbess, but zumbeast be layin’ out boi yon ‘atehouse. It be um’ h’otter un ee’ be gurtly ‘urted!”
Abbess Meriam’s gaze went from stern to frightened. Placing her paws on Bruglow’s shoulders, she looked him right in the eyes and began to question him.
“Somebeast’s hurt? Who is it? How did they get hurt?”
Bruglow shrugged his shoulders. “Oi not know m’bout yon h’otter. Ee’ noit be a Redwaller. Oi noit ever see ‘im afore.”
Quickly the Abbess released the young mole. Turning to the chair where Skipperjo was snoozing comfortably, she began to shake the otter’s shoulder.
“Skipperjo? Wake up, Skipperjo!”
Skipperjo shifted. Opening one eye, he began to grumble. “What is it marm? I was just in the middle of a rather comfy snooze?”
Usually, Abbess Meriam was a calming and serene presence for everybeast, but now her face was a picture of panic and fear. Noting this change in the Abbess’s demeanor, Skipperjo sat bolt upright. “Wot is it, marm? Wot’s wrong?”
“Somebeast’s been hurt! Down by the gatehouse!”
Hurriedly, the Abbess dashed out of Cavern Hole, followed closely by Skipperjo, Bruglow, and Bella.
The rain had begun about an hour ago and was steadily picking up in intensity when word was given that the slave chain was to make camp. Krazgore had pushed both slaves and slavers alike, trying to make up for the time they had lost while he dealt with me. The sea was still far away, and they couldn’t afford to miss the rendezvous. Night had crept up on them, as did the storm, turning the forest into a world of shadows.
Coming to a natural clearing in the woods, the slavers busied themselves pitching tents. Small fires, covered by ramshackle canopies, were hastily constructed. It was too dark to go searching for food, so the slavers were forced to cook what they had been carrying.
Krazgore lay asleep his in tent. Outside, the soft patter of rain and the occasional clap of thunder did nothing to avert him from slumber. As he slept, a frightening vision penetrated his mind. He could clearly see me, tied between the two trees that held me while I was whipped. My lips were twisted into a foul grin that caused the rat to shudder in his sleep. As I stood there, grinning, the flesh on my face began to melt. While my features ran like the wax of a burning candle, my sinister grin spread wider. Pieces of my face were dripping off now, hitting the ground with wet, sick splats that echoed from every direction. Desperately, Krazgore covered his ears and cried aloud, trying to drown out the echoing. I just stood there, grinning like a madbeast. By now, most of the flesh had fallen from my face, revealing a bleached white skull that still carried the hideous grin. Trying to block the horrifying image, Krazgore clasped his paws over his eyes. Nevertheless, in his mind he could still see me, standing there grinning. Curling into a tight ball on the ground, Krazgore began to sob and shiver like a babe . . .
The weasel Tulk stuck his head into the tent.
“Krazgore? What’s happening in here? I heard yellin’ an wailin’. What’s goin’ on?”
Krazgore was lying on the ground, his head buried in his paws. A flicker of distant lightning followed by the clap of thunder snapped him from his nightmare. Sitting up, he began to look around the tent, eyes darting about wildly, searching for any sign of me.
“Ummmm. . . Krazgore? Are you alright?”
Krazgore paid Tulk no attention. He instead continued to search his tent for anything that could suggest that his dream had been real. Tulk withdrew from the tent and began to walk back to his own, completely convinced that the slaver captain was losing his mind.
Abbess Meriam dashed out into the rain, heading in the direction of the gatehouse. Skipperjo followed her out. As the Abbess dashed across the wet abbey lawn, her mind raced with a million questions. Who was this stranger Bruglow was talking about? Where did he come from? How badly was he hurt? These thoughts were interrupted as the Abbess hit a slippery spot on the lawn. Falling face first onto the wet, muddy grass, Meriam slid several feet before coming to rest.
Getting up off the ground, she looked down at herself. Mud was plastered all up and down her front. “Oh dear!” she wailed, her thoughts momentarily diverted from the injured stranger.
Skipperjo came bounding up, rain dripping from his nose. Taking one look at the Abbess, he burst laughing.
“HAHAHAWHAWH…M-my word m-marm. You look just like a-a-a- muddy frog…BWHAHAHAHAAHAHA”
Ignoring the otter, the Abbess ran off. As Meriam neared the gatehouse, she could see Redwall’s squirrel gatekeeper, Jala. She was crouching over some creature that was lying on the dirt path, just outside the main gate. Meriam ran up and stood next to Jala. The stranger was indeed an otter, not very old; maybe seven or eight seasons.
“What happened?” asked the abbess.
Jala had covered the otter with a cloak. Now she took a corner of the cloak and lifted it to show the Abbess. Meriam peered underneath and recoiled in horror at the bloody, fleshy mess that made up the otter’s back. Jala lay the side of the cloak back down and spoke.
“I don’t know, Mother Abbess. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Skipperjo had recovered from his laughing fit. He bounded up next to Jala and the Abbess.
“Well, is he dead?”
Jala shot a disgusted look in Skipperjo’s direction. “No, he’s not dead.” She replied. “At least he’s not dead yet. Actually, I’m surprised he’s still alive.”
Meriam broke in, cutting off the rest of the conversation. “We had better get him inside.”
“Right-o marm!” replied Skipperjo. Kneeling down, he slid his paws underneath the stranger’s body. Then, grunting with exertion, Skipperjo lifted him up and slung him neatly over his shoulder.
“Let’s get him to the infirmary,” said the Abbess.
Sister Withe rubbed sleep from her eyes as she hurried to the infirmary. The information she had was sketchy at best. Bella shaking her shoulder and saying something about a stranger found at Redwall’s front gate had wakened her. The stranger was an otter and he was injured. What kind of injuries, or how severe they were, Bella didn’t know. She could only say that both Skipperjo and the Abbess had seemed very concerned when bringing him in. Rounding the flight of steps that would lead her to the infirmary, Withe’s bare footpaw touched something warm and sticky. She stopped and looked down. In the moonlight that poured through one of the windows, she could see set against the sandstone of the floor, small darkish-red spots. They formed a trail that led in the direction she herself was heading. Curiosity got the better of the good mouse. Bending down, she dabbed lightly on one of the spots. Bringing it up close to her face, she squinted hard at the liquid that dripped from her paw.
All at once it dawned on her what the dark red splatter was. Withe took off up the stairs, the realization of just how serious the situation was finally dawning upon her.
Skipperjo had set me on one of the beds and was trying to keep me still when Sister Withe burst into the infirmary. Abbess Meriam was standing to one side wringing her paws and watching the two of us struggle. Seeing the abbey’s infirmary keeper come in, Meriam dashed over.
“Withe, thank the seasons that you’re here. He just started struggling all of a sudden.”
Sister Withe immediately took charge of the situation.
“Skipperjo, can you keep him still a bit longer?”
“I’ve kept the rascal down for this long, Sister. I’m sure I can do it for a bit longer. As hurt as he is though, the blighter sure is feisty. Ouch! Gerroff me ear!”
I had grabbed Skipperjo’s left ear and was pulling as if my life depended on it.
“Hold on.” Withe replied as she hurried across the room. Making her way over to a cupboard in the corner, she flung the doors open and began to pick her way through masses of unlabeled flasks, each containing a different colored liquid.
“Aha! There you are.” she exclaimed upon finding the right one.
It was a very small bottle filled with a pale, yellow solution. Removing the cork, she took a quick sniff, just to be certain of its contents.
“Ow! Ow! Withe! Hurry up with what ever it is you’re plannin’! This scoundrel won’t let go of my bloomin’ ear!”
Sister Withe dashed back over to Skipperjo’s side and started giving orders as though she were a Long Patrol drill sergeant.
“Skipperjo, try and hold his head back.”
“Owch! Right marm. Easy for you to say! You’re not missin’ an ear.”
“Just do as I say, please!”
“Alright matey, time for you to drink up.”
Skipperjo tipped my head back, all the while trying to avoid my flailing limbs. Then, grabbing both sides of my cheeks, he successfully pried my mouth open. Withe leaned forward and began to pour the yellowish liquid into my open mouth. Most spilled away from its intended target, splashing onto the floor or the sheets. When some finally did make its way into my mouth, Skipperjo forced it closed, giving me no choice but to swallow the foul-smelling concoction. Almost immediately, the drink began to take effect. My struggling became less and less, until I finally passed into unconsciousness.
Releasing his grip, Skipperjo exhaled a sigh of relief.
“Phew! That sure is some powerful stuff ya’ gave him. What exactly have ya’ got in that liddle bottle?”
Sister Withe set the empty flask down on a stand next to the bed. “It’s a special recipe I developed for difficult patients. That should be enough to keep him down for a while.”
Skipperjo rubbed his sore ear. “Sure hope so. I certainly don’t wanna have to do that again.”
Meriam moved away from the door and stood next to the two.
“Well, now that he’s sedated, we can see to his wounds. Well done, Sister.”
“Thank you, Mother Abbess. Here now, let’s have a look and see what we’ve got on our paws. Skipperjo, help me turn him over.”
Seeing the extent of my injuries clearly for the first time, Sister Withe’s complexion blanched considerably.
“It’s pretty bad, isn’t it?” Skipperjo said quietly.
Withe swallowed hard before responding.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. It looks like he’s been whipped. See the lash marks? Here’s where it bit into him.” She pointed to the long, bloody lines that cut a criss-cross pattern about my back.
“But then, it’s almost as if the flesh was pulled straight out. Oh, this must’ve been horribly painful.”
The Abbess shuddered to think of what kind of weapon could inflict such damage…or what kind of horrible creature would use such a thing.
Withe began moving about the room, gathering the materials she would need. Returning to the bedside with her paws full, she set it all down and quickly went through each item.
“Gauze, bandages, sewing needle, thread, clean towels and…Oh, Skipperjo, would you please hurry and fetch a pan of water? I’ll have to clean the mud from his back before I can stitch it up. We’ll worry about the rest later.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Skipperjo took off for the kitchens. He returned in record time, the pan of water in his paws.
Withe took the pan and put it within easy reach, careful not to spill any.
“Anythin’ else we can do to help?” Skipperjo asked.
Withe shook her head. “No. I think it would be best if you left me to my work.”
“Of course we will.” Meriam agreed. Together, they moved quietly from the infirmary, leaving Sister Withe to the daunting task of putting the injured otter back together.
As he closed the door behind him, Skipperjo sighed heavily.
“I just wish there was sumthin’ more I could do in there.” His voice carried a tone of helplessness.
Meriam placed a reassuring paw on her friend’s shoulder. “We’ve done all we can. If we stayed to help Sister Withe, we would probably just get in her way. Don’t worry. She is a good mouse. I’m quite sure that our visitor will be just fine in her care.”
Skipperjo stifled a yawn. “Should we call an assembly to let everybeast know what’s happened?"
“No,” Meriam said plainly. “It’s late, so we shall wait until morning. I will make an announcement during breakfast. That way, everybeast will be there. Come now, let’s get some rest.”
Consciousness tugged at me, urging me to return. But consciousness meant pain. I tried to rise, but every muscle and bone in my body rebelled at the movement. I let out a groan, and a moment later a mouse in a lime-green habit was at my side. "You need to rest. We found you outside and stitched your injuries. I'm worried that if you do a lot of moving right now, you might pull the stitches."
"Understood," I rasped hoarsely. "Thank you."
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"Tickler." A paw reached a small glass of water around, supporting my head so I could drink it. "Thank you."
"Who's. . ."
"No. Tickler's not a who, it's a what. Slaver's whip."