The horde of Ferahgo had gained new confidence, even after the Assassin's death, while the goodbeasts had lost most of theirs. The battle on the crater top continued for only but a few minutes, then it was over. The rat who had first spoken, a tough, seasoned hordebeast, had appointed himself leader and rapped out orders. "A small bunch a you lot'll stay 'ere t' guard the prisoners. The rest o' us'll climb down the mountain ta check on the group inside." A stoat, who was one of the creatures chosen to remain on the mountain, stepped forward challengingly. " 'Oo are yew t' be givin' orders?" he said, lip curled scornfully. The rat, named Hawja, slew him with a thrust of his cutlass. "Any other beast wanna say summthin'?" The remnants of the small force grew silent. "Good. Now let's go!" As they were climbing, another rat asked cautiously, "Er, are we really gonna go an' git inter the battle inside?" Hawja replied so that all but the captive guards could hear. "Couse not. I don't 'ave any intention fightin' another battle when I've jus' finished one. Let the rest o' the 'orde fight their own fight, they oughta win. Us, we're gonna take some time off t' relax." "Herr herr herr! Yer a crafty beast an' no mistake, Hawja." The rat nodded and grinned. "That's why I'm the new leader o' you lot." They continued to descend. Pennybright hurried up from the forgeroom with a quiver of arrows. She passed them to Oxeye. "These are the last. There are no more!" Oxeye grinned as he fitted a shaft to his bow. "Good gel. Keep slingin', Penny. Look at young Ling there-he's tossin' rocks like a good un. Want some good new, m' dear? Listen to this." Oxeye shouted over the melee at the top of his voice. "Duck 'n' weave! Blood 'n' vinegar! Long Patrol's here!" The sound echoed down the rocky stair- well. A moment later there was an answering call. "Jab an' move! Give 'em a towsin'! Long Patrol's 'ere too!" "Good ol' Sapwood," Oxeye's grin spread from ear to ear. "Knew I never sent him on that cruise for nothin'." Lingfur looked fearfully ahead. "Sir, they're pressin' forward! I think they're about to charge!" Oxeye called out, "Sapwood! Could use a bit of assistance here old lad! Long Patrol, rally to me!" As Sergeant Sapwood came running up with his hares the vermin lead by klitch gained momentum. "Come on!" the young weasel shouted. "We've got them!" Sapwood turned to Oxeye. "I say, Ox, shall we charge?" Big Oxeye nodded. "Aye. Let's give the jolly old vermin what for! It's the Loooong Patrooool! Chaaarrrge!" The two forces clashed, steel struck upon steel, Corpsemakers and hares alike screamed and fell. The tide was beginning to turn in the Long Patrol's favor, though. Klitch was starting to worry; he could sense defeat. He was about to sneak out and run when a yell rang through the stairwell. "Chaaaarrrge!" A full band of Corpsemakers rushed in from the lower levels, taking the Long Patrol hares from behind and completely by surprise. But the greatest surprise was yet to come. Leading the attack was none other than the blue-eyed weasel, Ferahgo the Assassin! As he dispatched hares left and right with his daggers, the Assassin re- called his previous entanglement. Ferahgo's back felt as if it were about to snap. He desperately hacked at Urthstripe's paws, struggling wildly to get free. The badger Lord's strength was ebbing as his spirit entered Dark Forest Gates, and he released his grip some. That was all Ferahgo needed. Seconds before Urthstripe's body hit the ground, the weasel scrambled onto his back and leaped off, miraculously landing safely on the ground. He had found Hawja's group at the base of the mountain, lounging about and licking their wounds. Ferahgo soon had them up and running with a little motivation from his blades. The rat was greatly surprised the Assassin had let him live for deserting. All through the lower hallways the band grew, picking up hordebeasts hiding in little niches along the passageways or under the bodies of others. Now Ferahgo was sure to have victory. He caught sight of a young badgermaid struggling against rats who were trying to bear her down. He quickly slinked behind the badger and grabbed a fallen rat's club. The weasel crouched down and jumped, cracking the club over the maid's head and laying her senseless. "Nooo!" The Assassin turned to see an old female badger plowing through hordebeasts toward him, and he momentarily froze with fear. The badger tripped and fell, hordebeasts holding her down and binding her as she screamed, "Mara! No! RRRYAAAAAH! Ferahgooooo!" Then the female burst her bonds and Ferahgo turned and ran. Relentlessly the old badger persued him, froth forming at the corners of her mouth. The weasel stopped short at a dead end. The badger came pounding towards him and took a mighty swipe with her paw. Only Ferahgo's quickness saved him. Leaping clear of the swing of the old female's arm, he ran back the way he had come. "Quick!" he shouted to some Corpsemakers ahead. "Get some ropes and be ready when the badger comes by!" Loambudd quickened her pace at the sight of the Assassin slowing down, apparently out of breath. Her senses screamed danger to her, but all the beserk female saw was the blue-eyed weasel in front of her. Suddenly a net and messes of rope engulfed her, and she was immediately set upon by hordebeasts. They beat her with sword and knife handles, spear butts, anything that came to paw, then all went black. Ferahgo the Assassin questioned Crabeyes. "Is the young badger tied up too?" The former searat nodded, eyes roaming constantly. "Aye, Lord. Bound, muzzled an' gagged. Still out cold too." Ferahgo nodded. "Good. What of the other leaders?" "The young squirrel and the two shrew chieftans were slain, as were all the hares. The captives, mostly shrews, are also bound. I await your orders." "Slay any who are rebellious or may seem like the type to cause trouble," the Assassin said. "Iwant no further threats to our new fortress and power. And the badgers..." He let the silence linger for a few heartbeats. "Kill them." Crabeyes bowed his head. "It will be done, Lord." Loambudd was laid on her back outside the main entrance to Salamandastron with a swordblade pressed against her throat. Mara was bound to a spear driven into the ground. Both badgers were too weak from battle and beatings to struggle or do anything about their positions. Ferahgo stood over the old badger, a smug, triumphant expression on his face. "You will watch the maid die first, then I shall kill you and finally have my new slaves carry out the treasure of Salamandastron for me." Loambudd growled fiercely at him, then said, "You will never find the treasure, scum! It is hidden in the secret- est of places, a-" "Silence!" the weasel shouted. He narrowed his eyes at the badger. "You know where it is." Ferahgo walked in the wake of Loambudd, who was leashed and held by three strong ferrets. Mara was carried on a pole with a daggerpoint at her throat for extra insurance. The old female badger grunted and strained, trying to push back the rock slab and unblock the secret room. "Help her," Ferahgo ordered two hordebeasts. With the added force the slab finally moved out of its place. The Assassin looked the room over, pawing and probing the walls. Then he pushed his paw into one of the walls! "Hey, this isn't a wall!" he exclaimed, pushing a well-disguised curtain away. The weasel Assassin and the others walked into the chamber. Ferahgo almost cried out in shock. There, at the back of the room, sitting in full armor on a rock throne sat the skeleton of a male badger! Ferahgo tried to turn his attention to the wall and the strange carvings on it. "Er, what do these symbols mean?" he asked Loambudd. She walked forward and examined them for a minute. "It says that those are the remains of Old Lord Brocktree, the first Badger Lord of Salamandastron." "Oh, is that all? That's an awful lot of symbols for just those few words." The weasel's voice grew harsh. "I know there's more. Tell me!" Loambudd refused to look. Ferahgo whipped out a dagger and threw it, neatly slicing the skin of Mara's foot- paw. The young maid let out an anguished cry from around the gag and muzzle. The old female couldn't stand to see the poor thing suffer, and turned back to the wall. She did not bother nor think of looking to the part of the writtings telling of her grandsons' fates. "Most of this is only for badgers' eyes and ears, but this I can tell you: my grandson, Urthstripe, wishes to be laid to rest under emllor. Where or what that is, I do not know." "Hmmm, emllor." Ferahgo said. "Don't see how that can really help us." Then his face lit up. "But perhaps the badger Lords are buried with their treasure. All of you, get searching!" They searched the whold chamber, and Ferahgo stopped to sit on a particularly smooth slab of rock. "That's odd. All the rest a this rock is rough." he thought aloud, looking down at where he was resting. The Assassin's sharp eyes instantly picked up the badgerscript on the slab. "Hey, badger! Get over here an' read this!" Loambudd looked at the writing, then exclaimed, "Emllor! It says emllor!" "Yeah, bu-" "Hey, Chief," a stoat cut Ferahgo off. "Look at this." He pointed to the slab's reflection on another rock. Instead of emllor, it read rollme. The weasel clapped the stoat on the back. "Well done. Let's see here, rollme, eh? Roll...me? That's it! Now I know what we have to do. We won't need the old badger anymore. Some of my creatures can roll that slab away. She is worthless to me now, as is the young one. Kill them at once." Loambudd was struck dumb. "No! How could you do that to one so young as Mara?! And you will not vandalize my son's resting place! Urrrrgh! No! Noooo!" The badger's roar escelated to an ear-piercing shriek as she fought against the ropes that held her. Then, all at once, she broke down crying. Mara herself almost started crying out of pity for her. The poor old creature was traumatized. Ferahgo shook his head in distaste. "So weak, these woodlanders. Put her out of my misery." Loambudd gouged the stone floor with her claws. "EeeRG! Please, No! Just let the young one see her father again, and I my grandson. Please!" A slow, malicious smile stole across the Assassin's face. "Alright, I'll let you see your grandson before you die, and the maid, too." Ferahgo and the hordebeasts led Loambudd through the mountain and out the entrance. She had just gotten over her whimpering when she saw the terrible sight. Her grandson, Urthstripe, lay dead on the ground near the mountainside. Ferahgo signaled two other weasels on the mountaintop and they hauled something up, pushing it over the edge. The body of Urthwyte tumbled down the rocks and landed next to that of his brother. It was all too horrifying for Loambudd, and she gave one last heartrending cry and fell dead. Mara chewed through the ropes binding her to the pole and ran to the old badger's side. "Nooo! Oh, Loambudd! Ahoohoohoooo!" She rocked the dead badger and shook with sobs until three ferrets tried to pull her away. She hung on, still crying, but struggling feebley against the vermin. Then her wails of anguish became screams of rage. "You did this to her, you rot-nosed piece of slime!" Mara yelled, tears still cursing down her cheeks. "You murdered the only family I ever had!" Then she rushed toward Ferahgo, fangs bared, claws outstretch- ed. She, like the others of here adoptive family, was possessed by the Bloodwrath. The weasel was quite used to having mad badgers running towards him by now, and he too bared his fangs and drew his skinning knife, signaling to the ferrets as he did. Mara leapt at him, but the Assassin dodged away, slashing her shoulder. Regardless of the wound, the young badger kept doggedly persuing the weasel. Ferahgo had no trouble keeping well ahead of her, and all the while the ferrets were closing in, brandishing nets. Then the nets closed on Mara. She ended her thrashing soon, and the blue-eyed weasel walked up to the net. Quite unexpectedly, the young badgermaid lunged for Ferahgo, grabbing his legs and biting and scratching for all she was worth. The Assassin screamed in pain and the ferrets rushed over, gashing and beating Mara with blade and rod until the young beserk badger finally lay slain. They then made a stretcher for their Chief out of his own cloak and brought him back to the mountain. Ferahgo's legs weren't as mauled as he'd thought they were. he tried an experimental walk and found it was not all that bad. Even given his present state, he had to find the treasure soon. His son's treachery had been well in evidence in the fight for the mountain. Summoning all his Corpsemakers to the little hidden chamber, he had a team of seven creatures move aside the slab. What he saw was beyong even his wildest dreams. Gold and silve cups and chalices, fine armor, swords with handles encrusted with jewels, battle axes, maces, silver-bladed spears, with fine silks and precious stones. "My Corpsemakers," he shouted out, "today we are richbeasts! Let us celebrate with a great feast!" The cheers rang loud and long, and when they finally subsided, the slaves were brought in to carry the treasure in chests down to the cellars. That night the horde of Ferahgo ate like kings. never had they tasted such food as that which Salamandastron had to offer. There were some who would have liked a bird to go with it, but everybeast agreed the food was delicious. The next morning, the weasel Assassin had his horde line up in front of the mountain. "Where is the group with Hawja, who helped greatly in the defeat of the woodlanders?" The rat and his group stepped proudly forward. Ferahgo nodded. "I'm pleased with the way you fought, my Corpsemakers, yet I am very disappointed in you." The chests of the band of hordebeasts ceaced to swell. Ferahgo continued. "You deserted your fellow hordebeasts in the heat of battle, when it could've meant life or death, victory or defeat! You should've been helping Klitch and his force fight the hares, but oh no! You were slacking and just idling about like you had nothing else to do. I have no room for lazy creatures in my horde. You will run, fight, die when I tell you. Hawja! Step up!" The rat was quaking with fear. "M-mercy, Lord. Please, sp-spare me!" The weasel shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, Hawja, but you heard me. You chose not to run. You chose not to fight. Now I am teling you to die!" "No-Aaaaaarrrrrrgh!" Hawja fell back with a knife sticking out of his ribs. Ferahgo fell flat on the ground and hidden archers sprang up and fired their shafts into the hapless group of vermin. The Assassin got up, neatly pinning two surviving hordebeasts in the back. "Death to those who defy the command of Ferahgo!" The Corpsemakers raised up spears and swords, roaring in one voice: "Fer-ah-go! Fer-ah-go! Kill! Kiiiillll!" Chapter 40 The sounds and echoes of war had long since died away. Bodied of friend and foe had been cast into the sea as the tide was ebbing. Those who had cared enough had buried their comrades on unmarked grounds. Salamand- astron stood still and quiet in early autumn, for summer had gone by and once again the seasom had turned. The horde of Ferahgo had been doing an unorganized harvest from the few remaining crops that had miraculously sur- vived the fires. Picking off fruit or grain whenever they felt like it, the hordebeasts merely tossed them down into the cellars with little or no regard to bruises and spoilage. Ferahgo was still happy. He had his mountain, his treasure, his legs had healed and he was in full good health, and the stresses and tensions of war had totally worn off; the Assassin was back to his normal self. Most of his Corpsemakers, however, had grown restless, but of the many wanting more excitement in their daily lives, only twelve were brave enough to form a group and plan to take Ferahgo's life. Bailclaw the stoat was head of the party in favor of killing the blue-eyed weasel. They met in a room a little ways away from the area where some of the hordebeasts slept at night. Early afternoon sunlight shone through a back window. "I tell ya mates, we're gettin' soft livin' like this," the stoat said, pounding the floor with his paw. "At least in the Southwest Lands we 'as stuff t' do, creatures ta terrorize. There ain't any creatures 'round this place any more. An' 'ere we just 'ave ta go outside an' pluck our vittles offa trees. But there ain't no good game birds either, just' those stinkin' gulls. Nothin' t' do. No challenge whatsoever. We might as well be goodbeasts. An' wot's 'is 'Igh an' Mightiness doin'? Nothin'! I say we do somethin' for him." There were murmurs of agreement from all around the room. Then Badtooth the stoat captain stood up ner- vously. "Er, well, uh, does that mean we actually hafta kill Ferahgo? I think summa you've 'eard wot 'appened ta Forgrin an' Raptail." The few that had, mostly friend of the fox and rat, nodded grimly, while the rest kept their silence, having pretty good guesses. Badtooth continued, but wilted under Bailclaw's glare. "Well, uh, we maybe could just, er, send a...re...quest..." He looked down at his footpaws. "Yeeeaaaaaaargh!" Bailclaw walked over and savagely ripped out the dagger he had thrown into the stoat captain's right arm. "If you're not with us, you're agin us!" he said loudly. "If you was a reg'lar 'ordebeast, I'd kill ya, but Ferahgo'd notice. I'm lettin' yer go, but if one word o' this gits out or reaches the Assassin there won't be much of you left for Ferahgo ta miss when I'm through with yer. Now giddout! Afore I changes me mind an' introduces me blade 'ere ta yore stummick!" Badtooth was in such a hurry to leave that when he burst through the door he ran slap-bang into another crea- ture. Ferahgo! Well, Badtooth, my good captain, I was just looking for you. Where are you rushing from? Oh, you're injured! What happened?" Badtooth was shaking in fear. "Ah, I, I was just, er, ba, injured meself, y' see, an', I, uh, was goin' t' get, uh, medical supplies." Ferahgo smiled, which scared Badtooth even more, closed his eyes and shook his head. "No, that's not it. It's something else. Come on now, tell me." The stoat hid behind the weasel Assassin, looking fearfully at the closed door to the meeting room. "Oh Master," he whimpered, "save me! 'E said 'e'd kill me if'n I told!" "Oohh," Ferahgo said, his voice turning to concern. "Who did? Don't worry, nobeasts is going to kill you. You can tell me." Badtooth stepped beside him, speaking in a low voice. "Bailclaw an' eleven others." "Come with me and we'll talk about it," Ferahgo said, walking back down the corridor. As the weasel and stoat walked, Badtooth whispered everything he knew to Ferahgo, leaving out nothing. The Assassin just walked taking in everything his captain told him. "An' that's all I knows," the stoat finished. Ferahgo nodded. "Good. You will be well rewarded, but speak of this to nobeast, and don't worry; if Bailclaw or any of his group puts a paw against you, I'll take care of it." With a sigh of relief, Badtooth bowed and replied, "Thank you, Master." Then he jogged off. "Vessel comin' outta the northwest!" Ferahgo turned at a yell from Crabeyes, who was squating on a window ledge. "Looks t' be a searat galley if'n I'm not mistaken. Come an' see, Master." The Assassin climbed up and peered out towards the ship sailing towards them. "Looks like it's going to land just north of here. Tell the other captains to assemble my Corpsemakers on the shore outside the mountain." "Yessir," Crabeyes said, then jumped down and ran off. Captain Zagrut's vessel, the Deathtide, lay beached north of Salamandastron. His crew of searats met Ferahgo's Corpsemakers out on the sands in front of the main entrance. The horde of the blue-eyed weasel was formed up and warily eyed the disorganized searats bristling with all manner of weapons. Zagrut, a rat himself, walked out to meet Ferahgo. The Assassin was dressed in his normal tunic, complete with the kilt of furs and a very dark blue cape fastened about his neck with a gold chain. All his knives and daggers were in their place on his straps. The rat captain was in stained off-white pantaloons, a torn and tattered white shirt and a green vest, a curved sword thrust into his lavender waist sash. Ferahgo nodded to the other. "I am Ferahgo the Assassin, ruler of this mountain. May I ask who you are and why you and your crew have come here?" Zagrut winked at the weasel. "Haharr, since ye've already asked anyway I'll answer ye. Where's Urthstripe? I'm Cap'n Zagrut o' the ship Deathtide and 've come ta attack 'im." The Assassin shook his head. "Urthstripe is dead; I slew him myself. I alone rule here, but if it is a fight you want, I think you'll find we're a little harder to beat than a badger and a few hares." Captain Zagrut's eyes widened. "Y' mean you killed the badger? An' his 'ares? Ah, I'm beholdin' to ya. Urth- stripe was the scourge o' all the searats an' corsairs, 'e was!" Ferahgo smiled maliciously. "The key word is was. You're welcome to rest here for a few days, Captain. I see we have shared a common enemy." "I'm grateful for yer hosptality, Ferahgo. Yer a good cove, an' no mistake." "This way." Ferahgo smiled warmly, sweeping his paw toward the entrance to the mountain. What luck! The timing of Zagrut's landing couldn't have been more perfect. As they walked on, the weasel Assassin began mentally forming a plan. Bailclaw had arranged for a spokesbeast to meet with Ferahgo at noontide the next day. Another member of the conspiracy had prepared the meal, adding a deadly special touh to the Assassin's food. The spokesbeast, who was a ferret, was sitting next to Ferahgo, and Bailclaw, who didn't have any food, next to him. They were all in a hallway. "Well, y' see, Master, some o' the horde's gettin' a liddle restless an' all, this bein' a pretty soft life. So, we was, er, well, some o' us 's wonderin' if we could do somethin' a liddle more excitin'?" To Bailclaw's surprise, Ferahgo nodded in agreement. "Oh, I agree. My horde has become much too fat and idle over the season. Don't you worry. You'll have your excitement soon enough." The weasel smiled knowingly, which made both Bailclaw and the ferret a little uncomfortable. "But now to the business of eating. May I have one of your muffins? Mine look a little stale." Bailclaw cursed under his breath. The blueberry muffins, which had become Ferahgo's favorite, had gotten too much poison, and this, combined with the fact that the cook's cooking skills were not all that good and some stupid servant had given the ferret the better muffins, had made the Assassin's look bad. The ferret nodded dumbly and Ferahgo flicked out a knife, neatly sticking a muffin dead center on the top. He sniffed it and took a bite. "Mmm, delicious! And it's even buttered too. Oh, but of course I can't get something for nothing. Here, take a leg off my seabird, I'm sure it's better than one of those sickly looking muffins, go on, try it." Ferahgo smiled friendily as he handed the leg to the ferret, who looked dismayed. "Come on, there's a good ferret. There now, isn't that good?" The spokesbeast managed a nod before he screamed and doubled up in pain. The Assassin jumped up as the ferret writhed on the floor, screamed once more, then went ridgidly still. "Oh dear, what's happened?" he said, feigning surprise. Ferahgo saw a passing shrew slave and grabbed her. "You there, are you one good with illnesses?" The maid looked fearfully at the blue-eyed weasel. "Well, uh, I-" "What's wrong with him?" Ferahgo demanded rather than asked. The shrew maid looked sown at the limp form of the ferret. "I'm no expert on sickness, Master, but I think he's been poisoned." "You think?" Ferahgo lifted her off the ground and pulled her close, smiling sweetly. "Yes! she shrieked, glancing back quickly at the ferret. "I know it!" The weasel threw her down and looked scornfully at the dead creature, kicking it lightly. "Take this thing away and out of the mountain. Deadbeasts are of no use to me." The shrewmaid remained in the position she had fallen in. Ferahgo spoke in a dangerously calm, persuasive tone. "Come on now, or should I help you on your way out the window?" he said, half drawing his skinning knife. The little slave was up and running with the corpse in but a few seconds. Then Ferahgo, still smiling, nodded to Bailclaw and walked off to his chamber. As the days wore on, the Assassin continued to dispatch Bailclaw's followers; some disappeared mysteriously, while others died right before the stoat's eyes. Out of the original twelve, only six remained. Captain Zagrut sat with his four searat leaders in a large, spacious junction the crew had been using for sleeping quarters. It was late; torches in wall sconces provided light. Looking around, the captain voiced his thoughts. "What're you makin outta this, mates?" One rat spoke up. "That guy Ferahgo, 'e's a strange 'un. Little too friendly fer my likin'." Another said, "Aye, I agree. 'E comes out all dressed an' ready fer war, then goes an' invites us in. Why should 'e be so quick t' trust bilgeslime like us?" Before the other two could speak, Zagrut leaned forward. "Ferahgo act's like 'e's so safe an' secure 'cause 'e thinks we're stupid. That weasel's prob'ly arrangin' me death right now so's 'e kin take you lot into 'is 'orde. Ha- harr, but we're smarter 'n' that, aren't we? 'Ere's wot I say we'll do. The Assassin's got a pretty good cove 'ere, an' I've always wanted this mountain, but that acursed badger stood in me way an' I knew it woulda been suicide ta take 'im on. But now with Urthstripe outta the way an' Ferahgo 'ere, things'll be different. We can just waltz right out wi' a good compliment o' slaves an' booty, then march back in an' take this mountain! An' if'n the wea- sel's not obliged t' give us wot we want on the way out, we'll just send 'im an' 'is soft troops ta Hellgates right then 'n' there." A mass of "Aye"s and "Yeah"s went up, surprisingly loud for four creatures, and Captain Zagrut feared it might awaken the other searats, but none of the sleeping crew stirred. The cheers of the rats mingled with Zagrut's laughter. "Haharrharrharr!" A whispered conference was held between Ferahgo and Captain Zagrut the next morning. When it was over, the weasel had all his Corpsemakers assemble in the dining hall. Ferahgo stood on the center of the huge table. Along-side him was the searat captain. "My Corpsemakers," he shouted, "I have just learned from the good Captain Zagrut of an Abbey far west of here. It goes by the name of Redwall. Now many of you are growing restless leading this life, and some even think Ferahgo will do nothing about it." He winked at Baiclaw, who was in the back of the crowd, leaning against the door. "A few of you are deciding in taking action against Ferahgo. But have I not already proven that I see and know all? For you restless few, my backstabbers, and for the extension of our power, there will be an attack on Redwall." Klitch's face lit up, thinking that while Ferahgo was off proving himself and fighting Abbeybeasts he could seize control of the mountain. The Assassin smiled winningly at him and continued. "My son Klitch will lead the attack, and, with the captain's permission, of course, will take half the searat crew with him as well as half my Corpsemakers, for they must be more experienced than us." Seething inwardly, Captain Zagrut forced a smile and nodded his approval. He couldn't leave now if the weasel's brat had half his crew marching off to Redwall. "And with that done, my son," Ferahgo finished, "you will go back to the Southwest Lands and have total controlfor me." Immediately Klitch's face turned from anger to gratefulness andgreed. "Yes sir!" the young weasel said enthusiastically. A searat curled his lip and spoke loudly. "Wot right does that weasel 'ave for 'is brat ta command over us? We want our own captain!" Ferahgo turned and smiled at the rat. "If you woudn't like my son to command you, why didn't you say so earlier? I'll see to it that you'll never have to take orders from him or any other beast." The rat looked at the Assassin, greatly surprised. "Really?" He dropped his jaw and looked down in horror at the dagger handle that had seemingly grown from his chest, then fell backwards. The weasel's eyes shone happily, then looked apoligetically at Captain Zagrut. "I'm terribly sorry about that." The rat shook his head. "Naw, I woulda done it myself if'n you 'adn't," he lied. "Alright then. Klitch, you will leave tomorrow. Is that fine with you, my little backstabber?" The young weasel matched his father's smile. "You bet, y' oldmurderer." The hordebeasts were dismissed, as were Zagrut's searats, and Bailclaw called the remnants of his group to- gether, plus the four searat leaders. "'Ow'd you lot like ta rule this place while that snot-nosed liddle worm is gone?" All of them put on fiendish grins. "'Ere's wot we do...." Chapter 41 After Captain Zagrut had finished his supper, Ferahgo approached him. A disarming smile was upon the weasel's face, but over the days Zagrut had learned how dangerous that could be. "My friend," the Assassin said, putting a paw on the searat's back, "I have been so inconsiderate, having you sleep down here in this dirty, crowded hallway like a mangey hordebeast. As my honored guest, I invite you to sleep in my bed tonight, the very quarters Urthstripe used. I'll be able to manage down here. Please, I insist." The captain peered cautiously at Ferahgo. "Well, down here with the crew's fine with me..." The blue eyes were softly pleading, insistent. They looked watery and innocent as a newborn babes. "But as yer honored guest, I'd be glad ta rest meself in yer quarters. 'Ope I offend that badger by layin' me head on 'is pillow. Hahaharr! Lead me to it. I'm for an early night t'night." Bailclaw and his party watched as Ferahgo walked into his room. "There's our target, mates, but wait a while; I wanna make sure 'e's good an' snorin' 'fore we put 'im t' sleep ferever." The weasel Assassin chuckled to himself. Climbing out the window, he scaled down the mountain's side until he came upon a barrack window. Slipping quietly in, he drew a dagger and plunged it into the back of a sleeping hordebeast who'd been recruited to attack Redwall. The creatures eyes popped open wide and he let out a startled gasp, then was still, never having to fight in another battle again. Luckily, the room was on the level above the junction now occupied by some of the searats. Ferahgo waited until the creatures had fallen silent. Then, quiet as a feather on the night breeze, the blue-eyed weasel padded out of the room and down to the junction, where he waited in a dark recess, hidden by the shadows. Somewhere around what Ferahgo felt to be an hour, the sounds of pawsteps reached his ears. There were voices and whispers, but the Assassin couldn't make them out. It was Bailclaw and his group, just as the weasel had suspected, and the four rat leaders, which was an unexpected surprise, but just as well for Ferahgo. No doubt now that Zagrut had planned to attack or kill the weasel Assassin if his four searat leaders were in on Bailclaw's more immediate plan. A plan that would, as the stoat would find, turn out terribly wrong. When the group had walked past, Ferahgo tip-pawed out of his hiding place and rather roughly tweaked a sleping searat's nose with his claws, immediately rushing back into the shadows of the alcove. The rat let out a snort and then sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Seeing Bailclaw and the others disappearing around the corner, and, as Ferahgo had anticipated, being a curious, nosy sort of creature, the searat got up and followed quietly behind. He could soon hear them talking. "Ha! This'll be easy as takin' sweets from a baby." "Yeah, a baby wolf." "Don't you start," the distinctive voice of a searat said. "This oughta be simple." "I don't take orders from you, rat!" "Quit it, the two of youse, afore I gut ye both! We'll jus' slip in an' out real quiet-like an' 'e won't know wot hit 'im." "Aye, the other one'll be easy t' take care of too. Then we'll run the show." "Y' mean our leader," another searat said. "Ha! 'E won't be our leader fer much longer." The rest of the creatures laughed evily and continued up the flights of stairs to Ferahgo's chamber, the searat following suspiciously behind. And, unknown to the eavesdropping crewbeast, four others followed behind him. As they approached the Assassin's door, sweat began to bead Bailclaw's nose. A fox wielding an ax was prac- tically shaking. "I don't know if I can do it, mates." The stoat turned on him, dagger drawn. "Like I said, fox, if you ain't with us, yer agin us. No coppin' out on this one." He bared his teeth and the fox nodded, gripping the ax handle hard until his claws ached. A searat holding a large cudgel bared his fangs and growled. I'll tell ya one thing, I never trusted this 'un from the day I first saw 'im" Bailclaw nodded. "Aye, that's the spirit. Let's put 'im t' bed fer a long nap!" Gathering all his nerve, the stoat opened the door and stalked in. The rest of the party followed as Bailclaw creeped catlike across the room to the sleeping form wrapped in the bed covers. "Ye'll trouble us no more, weasel!" he whispered fiercely. The searat following the group stopped in the open doorway in time to see Bailclaw plunging his knife frenziedly into Captain Zagrut's body. He screamed just as Ferahgo, Crabeyes and two Corpsemakers arrived at the scene. The rat's cries woke Badtooth, who had made his bed in the back right corner for protection from Bailclaw. He awakened with a start, flailing his arms about. In the ensuing chaos, the fox gave a shout. "Kill him! Finish 'im off!" The startled hordebeasts and searats rushed to obey, caught up in the confusion of the whole affair. A spear, cutlass, club, javelin, dagger, short sword, loaded sling and arrow silenced the stoat captain. Bailclaw was still grinning wickedly in triumph and had turned around when Ferahgo put his claws on the stoat's shoulder, smiling. Bailclaw's eyes rolled up and he fainted out of shock. The next morning, all the searats and Corpsemakers gathered on the sands infront of Salamandastron. For any other execution, Ferahgo would have been smiling quite merrily, but the searats' shock and rage at the assassina- tion forced him to make himself put on a severe straight face. He stood on a boulder, looing over the creatures assembled. "My Corpsemakers, crewbeasts of the Deathtide, last night, as I'm sure all of you now know, the good Captain Zagrut was murdered. Some of you may be thinking it was my doing, being mostly my ceatures who were involv- ed. But how could it have been when four of the Deathtide's searat leaders were there too, and killed their own captain? I had plainly announced to all that Captain Zagrut was sleeping in my quarters as our guest of honor." All present nodded to each other and murmured in agreement, none taking in mind or knowing that Bailclaw and his group had stalked off after dinner the previous night, and the searat leaders had slipped out to check on the ship. Ferahgo continued. "Obviously the guilty party had planned to kill Zagrut first, then go for me. I have nothing else to say and no further reason to keep them alive. Will the prime witness and the others please come up here." As this was being said, Bailclaw, the others and the searats were slain. The slow, painful and multiple methods are not for anybeast to read about. Besides Ferahgo, the four other witnesses were Crabeyes, a stoat, a weasel and the searat. They made their way through the crowd and stepped up to the boulder the Assassin was perched upon. "Captain Crabeyes, will you please step forward and tell of last night's occurances." Ferahgo said. The ex-searat did as he was bade. "Well, I don't know much about all o' it, but these two back there came an' woke me up las' night." Crabeyes crooked a claw over his shoulder at the two hordebeasts. "Said they'd seen somebeasts goin' up t' Ferahgo's room, talkin' of slayin'. Bein' a cap'n an' all, I did me duties an' got the Chief up. Of course, 'e was sleepin' down wid the others. Well, we 'urried along the passage those two 'ad pointed out, an' pretty soon saw a searat sneakin' be'ind that lot o'er there." He indicated the warped carcasses of Bailclaw and the rest. "So's we sneak after the rat, t'was that creature there." Crabeyes pointed to the lone searat. "When we gits ta Ferahgo's room, we sees Bailclaw stickin' 'is blade inter Cap'n Zagrut, then out o' the blue they go an' kill ole Badtooth too, another cap'n in the Chief's 'orde. An' that's all I knows. Ain't that right, mates?" Crabeyes look- ed to the weasel and stoat. "Aye," they said in unison. Ferahgo nodded. "There you have it. And my hordebeasts killed one of my own captain's, too. But our other friend here knows more than anybeast. he heard the traitors talking. Go on now, step up and tell us what you heard. It's alright." The weasel made his voice reassuring. The rat stepped forward nervously. "Er, well, I was jus' layin' there asleep when, er, I felt somethin' tweak me nose. one of 'em musta stepped past me an' bumped 'is footpaw." At this, Ferahgo had to hide a sly smile. "So, well, er, I got up an' saw that lot goin' round the corner an' jus' outta curiousity, er, I follow 'em. Then I hears 'em talkin'. One of 'em goes, 'Ha! This'll be easy as takin' sweets from a baby.' 'Yeah, a baby wolf,' another says. Then I 'ears a searat sayin', 'Don't you start. This oughta be simple.' 'I don't take orders from you, rat!' t' other says. Then another says, 'Quit it, the two of youse, afore I gut ye both! We'll just slip in an' out real quiet-like an' 'e won't know wot hit 'im.' 'Aye,' I 'ears another say, 'The other one'll be easy t' take care of too.' 'Y' mean our leader,' another searat says. 'Ha! 'E won't be our leader fer much longer.' Then they all laughs an' continues an' it 'appens jus' as Cap'n Crabeyes says, 'cept I jus' arrive before 'em an' scream when that stoat starts slayin' Cap'n Zagrut." The rat sniffed. "Pore ole Cap'n." Ferahgo jumped down and patted the rat's back, saying sympathetically, "There, there. Those murderers payed dearly for what they did to your captain. They must've meant me when they said 'the other one', even though it was a searat you heard calling me his leader. For I, too, have taken searats among the creatures of my horde. But sadly, nobeast can change the past; what is done is done, and we have something yet to do. Klitch, my son." The young weasel pushed through the ranks of vermin crowding the shore. "Right here, father." "Is your army ready?" Klitch guestured with his paw. "Ready an' waitin' t' march!" Ferahgo grinned, then pointed a claw westward. "On to Redwall!" Chapter 42 "Abbess, marm, Missus Spinney, would you please get in the cart!" Thrugg stood with the harness about his shoulders, and the little green Abbey cart stood waiting on its four small wheels. Abbes Vale and Faith Spinney had been roused when is was barely dawn and hustled out of the gatehouse and Abbey dormitory by Tudd and Sister Nasturtium. They stood hastily dressed on the lawn. Thrugg looked over his shoulders at them. "Come on, ladies. Stir yore paws. Hop in the cart an' we'll go a nice ride sown the path, eh?" Faith Spinney fussed with her cloak fastener. "Mercy me, Mr. Thrugg, whatever for?" The otter snorted impatiently. "For some o' those violets an' saxifrage wot grows in the churchyard of old Saint Ninians, of course! I've told ye, Brother 'Ollyberry needs 'em fer a new batch o' physick. Now come on, marms. We can't be lettin' 'im down, can we?" Reluctantly the two friends climbed into the cart, plumping themselves on the cusions that had been placed on the seats specially for them. "But why must we go now-it's barely dawn?" Abbess Vale shook her head. Tudd Spinney opened the main gate and waved the cart out onto the path. "That's the best time for violets an' sixifrage, so I'm told. Off you go now, gels. 'Ave a nice time!" Faith waved a severe paw at her husband. "Tudd Spinney, you ol' fibber. What's got into you, sendin' us off like this? I'm sure there's lots of spry young uns who could pick plants better 'n us two old creatures." Thrugg jogged off south down the path through the mists of the rising dawn. "Aha, that's where yore wrong, marm. 'Ollyberry says them young uns don't know lupins from lilacs. He says that you an' the Abbess 'ave the beauty of experience." Mightily flattered, Abbess Vale arched her neck and fluttered her eyelids. "Hollyberry isn't given to untruths, Faith. He could be right!" Behind them, Tudd Spinney slammed the door and hobbled across the lawn, waving his stick. "Stir yore stumps now, good Redwallers. They've gone. Let's get busy!" The sun heralded the day; palely at first, but gradually bursting through into a heavy golden autumn radience. Faith Spinney looked up at the dark evergreens and golden brown leaves turning crisp on the boughs, the dappling patterns of light and shade through the foliage making her blink as they turned along. "Oh well, we've got a fair an' pretty day for whatever it is we're supposed to be a-doin' of, Vale." The Abbess folded her paws into the wide habit sleeves. "Violets and saxifrage, my paw! There's something going on back at Redwall, or I'm a frog. Isn't that right, Thrugg?" "Don't croak too loud, marm. Saint Ninians is a fair ol' way, yet. Why don't you two ladies 'ave a nap and catch up on yore sleep. I'll tip ye there word when we gets there." In the same hour of dawn that the cart left Redwall, Klitch and his force emerged from the woods onto the path. Though the going was easier, there were many who were weary from marching all night. "Why's that weasel's liddle twerp runnin' us ragged the day we reach this Redwall place?" a searat said to a hordebeast. "We ain't gonna be fit fer battle!" The hordebeast, a rat, nodded in agreement. "Yeah, an-" He stopped suddenly and looked up, jaw dropped open and limbs trembling. The rat tried to scream, but all her could utter was a frightened sqeak. The searat looked up too, and it was he who screamed. "Yeaaaaaaaah!" Klitch glared bach at the yelling rat. "Quit that shriekin'! You want to advertise our presence to ev'rybeast?" Then the young weasel turned his sights to the sky. "Everybeast back into the woodlands! Quick!" Upon saying this, he dived left off the path. The horde was quick to follow his example when they saw the giat golden eagle flying over their heads. The Wild King MacPhearsome had been sent out to look for Samkim, Arula and the returning victors. Unbe- knownst to the Redwallers, that, and sending Thrugg out with the Abbess and Mrs. Spinney, would prove to be their greatest mistake. Still hiding in the woodlands, the vermin under Klitch's command were badly shaken. "Didja see that, mate? You 'spect they gots other eagle birds at Redwall?" "Nonsense," Klitch spat. "We don't even know that'n came from Redwall. Why would peaceable Abbeybeasts associate with a great golden eagle? They're northern birds, warlike. Pay it no heed. But if it does come back, I want it slain. now that it's passed, lets move!" Glancing nervously up to the sky, the army reluctantly started down the path again. When they were slightly north of the Abbey, they dropped off west into the woods. Klitch gathered the vermin together, centered with Redwall's north wall. "I trust most of you searats have grapling hooks and such?" the young weasel inquired. A big, muscular rat spoke for them all. "Aye, that we do. Come in great useful fer boardin' ships, but wot use'll they 'ave 'ere? You want us t' climb that wall over yonder?" Klitch smiled. "You took the words right out of my mouth. Some of you hordebeasts have hooks also; I want you to go with the searats. Our friend here will lead the attack." He gestured to the big rat. "Those of you searats who don't have hooks, come with me and the others of my father's horde and we'll launch an attack on the east wall to distract the Abbeybeasts. Any questions?" A stoat held up his paw. "Er, wot if'n that h' eagle bird is from this 'ere Abbey an' 'e comes back?" "Ah," said Klitch, "good thinking. You and a score of others will remain by the west wall on sentry for the eagle and any other dangers to us; woodland creatures who might help the Redwallers and such. Right, ev'rybeast know where they're going? Then let's conquer this Abbey! Give no quarter, take no prisoners. Ataaaack!" Friar Bellows was walking along the east battlements, enjoying the cool breeze relieving him of the heat of the kit- chen ovens when a stone went flying past his nose. The mouse sqeaked in fright, diving down as a whole volley of arrows and slingstones whizzed overhead. "Down, everybeast!" he shouted. "Attack on the east wall! Hurry!" Thrugann came bounding up the steps and looked over the battlements at the vermin down below. "Fire!" She ducked as they sent up another salvo, then grabbed Friar Bellows and raced back down into the Abbey, yelling, "All archers an' slingbeasts, up on the east wall! Keep yer heads down! We're under attack!" Questions flooded aroung the otter. "What's the matter, Thrugann?" "Attacked!?" "What is it?" "Who's attackin' us?" Thrugann ran to get some javelins, trying to restore order. "It's some vermin, but please, there's no time fer questions! Ev'rybeast keep calm! All 'o can fight, up on the east battlements. Y' other marms an' young uns, stay in the Abbey. C'mon!" The delay of the Redwallers had been long enough for the searats to scale the wall. A few minutes after the creatures of the Abbey had begun retaliating they were his from behind. The overall confusion and ferocity of the attack proved too much for the Redwaller, and soon they had fallen. The watch party at the west wall was mulling about, bored and not exactly very watchful. A weasel sat on a rock, toying with his dagger. "'Os d' ya suppose our mates up on the roof 're doin'?" he asked a ferret. "I dunno. They'd better win 're they'll be inna pretty bad position up there. But I think they're gonna do it. From the noise up there, we surprised 'em sure enough." "Haharr, yeah." The weasel grinned. "Those 'o survived are prob'ly wonderin' what in the name o' Hellgates 'appened right now." A searat jogged up and grabbed the weasel's arm, pointing at the horizon. "Say, er, izzat that eagle bird o'er there?" The weasel wrenched away from the rat. "Getcher grimy claws off me! What're you babblin' on about?" He looked up and froze. Fear gripped him like an icy claw. The Wild King MacPhearsome's huge shape could be seen flying closer and closer to the Abbey. The weasel finally called out, "Eagle! It's the eagle, mates!" "Don't jus' stand there!" the ferret shouted. "Kill it!" MacPhearsome saw the top of the Abbey littered with the bodies of his friends the Redwallers and with vermin crawling all over it. An immense rage welled up within the golden eagle, and he dived screeching, right into a vol- ley of shafts and slingstones. Despite his injuries, MacPhearsome kept going strong into a big group of searats. The crowd seemed to explode as the Wild King hit them, scattering the rats left and right. As they bore the eagle down, hacking and stabbing with sword and spear, th Wild King MacPhearsome let out one last battle cry as he slashed and tore with beak and talon. "Kreeeeeyaaaaaaaaah!" Thrugg, Abbess Vale and Faith Spinney heard the golden eagle's screech and knew something was wrong. As they came onto the path, they saw the vermin army down by the south wall with the bodies of the four slain fal- cons nearby. At the sight of her Abbey, crawling with all manner of vermin, bodies of her friends draped over the battle- ments and down on the ground, the Abbess let a piercing cry and buried her head on Mrs. Spinney's shoulder. A rat turned at the sound and saw the cart, then quickly got some dry grass on an arrow tip, set flint to steel and lighted a small fire, then shot the shaft off where it lodged itself in the pillows Mrs. Spinney and the Abbess were seated on. They jumped up and shrieked as the pillows caught flame, as did the dry wood of the cart. Thrugg turned and was about to shout something when the burning cart ran off the path and crashed in the ditch. Chapter 43 Klitch called the army together down at the southeast wall corner. "You have all done your leader proud," he said. "Now, we will report back to Ferahgo, every one of us except the party who was on sentry at the west wall. I have decided that you will remain here and guard the Abbey while we are gone. Understood?" Every creature nodded. A rat hordebeast held his paw up. "Er, er, why don't we jus' send a runner or two ta the mountain instead o' the whole army marchin' off? 'Twould be easier. An' asides, er, wot if'n the Abbey gits attacked when we're gone?" Klitch put on a happy smile, causing the rat's legs to shake visibly. "If you'd rather run for us, then by all means, go! Get yourself lost or captured or killed in this wilderness which you're unfamiliar with, delay us several seasons if you like, but when and if you return, I don't think you'll find a warm welcome. My way is faster and safer, and as to your question about attack, well, I just said I'd conquer the Abbey for Ferahgo, I never said anything about holding it for him. All of you staying here, if it is a small force and attack, feel free to fight, but a large-scale assault I think calls for retreat. Now, is everybeast satisfied?" The young weasel shot a glance at the rat. He gulped and nodded. Klitch put a paw on his sword handle, half drawing it, then looked around the assortment of vermin before him. "Good. Because whether you like it or not, now and until we are inside Salamandastron I am in command and you will all follow and obey me. Does anybeast object to that?" Silence. Klitch nodded. "We march now!" A rat with a bow and arrows stopped as the army marched by the ditch. The cart lay upturned with Abbess Vale half under it laying face down, Faith Spinney's paw visible, and Thrugg still gripping the harness, bent back- wards at a crazy angle. All had been crushed by the cart in the crash, and their bodies burnt. The rat looded at his work for a moment, then walked away. "Hoi, boss! Look wot I found!" The stoat in charge of the vermin protecting Redwall went over to the door of the cellars. A ferret sneered evily at a group of old ones, babes, and young creatures. There were also the more passive Abbeybeasts who hadn't wished to fight. "Wotcha wanna do with 'em?" "Er, they'll make good slaves, I s'pose," said the stoat. "Git the crew in ta round 'em up. Er, slay any that resist." The ferret looked quizically at him. But wot use 'ave we got for slaves, 'cept maybe preparin' our meals? Shouldn't we keep 'em here 'til Klitch an' the rest return?" The stoat stammered, "Er, well, er, yeah. That's wot we'll do. Keep 'em here 'cept the cookin' ones until the others returns. Er, issue guards fer 'em t' nake sure none o' them escapes, er, an' work 'em in shifts." The ferret nodded and ran off. Klitch and the army marched across the sands to Salamandastron, bone weary and parched, but glad to be back at the mountain. It had not been an uneventful march home. The vermin had had run-ins with more than one group of woodlanders; most had been no trouble at all and were slain or taken as slaves, but two of them had claimed a few creatures from the young weasel's forces, some having heard of the defeat of Redwall and determined to enact vengence and make the vermin pay for the lives of the peaceful Abbeybeasts. More of the weaker crea- tures had also perished in the long trek across the wastelands to the shores of Salamandastron. Even now on the home stretch a sick and injured searat wailed piteously and dropped down on the sands, never to rise again. Not even looking back, Klitch sneered scornfully at the weakness of the rat, and kept marching. Despite all that had happened, he was overjoyed at the sight of his father's mountain. He broke into a run, and all the others soon followed, yelling and cheering wildly as they dashed for the main entrance. Klitch halted them as Ferahgo stepped out. Shaking his head at the disorderliness of the army, the Assassin turned a smile upon his son. "Klitch, you little backstabber, how'd the battle go? Got goo news for me?" The young weasel matched his father's smile. "Ha! You bet. Those Abbey dolts dropped like flies under our forces. Lost some on the way back here, though. Woodlanders an' that infernal desert." He gritted his teeth and glanced back at the barren sands the vermin had just crossed. "Who's that sorry lot you've got there?" asked Ferahgo, indicating the woodlanders, bound together by ropes around their footpaws and necks and guarded by rats holding spears at their backs. Klitch chuckled. "Survivors o' the bands who attacked us. Apparently they didn't fancy the idea of us takin' over Redwall. Some of 'em we just attacked an' took what captives we could. Rest are lyin' slain somewhere in the woodlands fer tanglin' with us." The weasel assassin clapped his son on the back. "You did me proud. But I see you have all the army here. You didn't leave the Abbey unprotected, did you?" "I just said I'd conquer Redwall for you, old one. You nor I ever agreed that I'd hold it for you, too." Klitch smiled at the lood on Ferahgo's face. "But I left a score of sentrybeasts there anyway." The Assassin put on another grin. "Come in, son, we've got a feast prepared for you." The other half of the horde and searats was ejected from the dining hall so the army could eat. Klitch sat next to his father at the head of the table. Before the young weasel was a large, fat roasted wood pigeon and a young cod. Ferahgo had a ring dove and a crab. He smiled at Klitch. "Always like to try something new," he said, shrugging. The other vermin had birds, fishes, mussels and crustaceans of all sorts on their plates, including thrush, martin, swallow, shad, grouper, cod, crabs and clams, as well as salads, fruits, pastries and other foods the slaves had cooked up. Klitch looked astounded. "Wha, where'd you get all this?" Ferahgo gestured outside with his paw. "Searats went to fish and some joined my hordebeasts on a hunt in the far woodlands just two days ago. We've only now prepared it all. For you, and the returning victors. Dive in!" Everybeast did the banquet full justice. Not a crumb was left. That afternoon, Ferahgo the Assassin stood in full dress, the whole horde of Corpsemakers behind him, backs to the mountain of Salamandastron. Klitch stood by his father, blue eyes shining joyously. Ferahgo nodded to him, then turned to face the horde. "You have done your leader proud, my Corpsemakers. But the real victory goes to the searats who scaled the wall of Redwall. Therefore, I give control of the Abbey to the full crew of the Deathtide, with the rat who lead the assault as your leader." Rousing cheers went up from the searats. The weasel assassin turned to Klitch. "And you, my son, shall rule over all the Southwest Lands for me with your own horde." Ferahgo leaned forward and smirked grimly, his voice a tone lower. "But don't think that just because your dad's giving you control of a third of his territory that he's getting old and soft and now you can attack and gain total power. I assure you, Klitch, you will be soundly beaten." Klitch nodded. "As you say, father. But I want those slaves I caught. They're mine by right, an' you ain't takin' 'em! You've got enough already." "Actually I don't," said Ferahgo. "But very well. In exchange for the slaves, I'll retain the creatures I was going to give to you." "What!? That's not fair!" "I just said you'd have control of the Southwest Lands for me with your own horde, young one," Klitch's father said in immitation of the young weasel's words. "You nor I ever agreed I'd give you any of my creatures to start with. But I'll tell you what, if and when that score of sentrybeasts comes back, I'll send them to you right away. Promise." Klitch stormed off south, too angry to shout anything back at Ferahgo. As the young weasel was stalking through the dunes and swamplands, ten creatures came running up to him. "Hey, wait for us!" a ferret shouted. "Who're you?" said Klitch, backing away warily. "Ferahgo sent us t' serve you," a stoat replied. Klitch recognized them then, and when he did, he silently cursed Ferahgo. Only two were good fighting beasts, the ferret Scrooj and a rat called Muggle. They weren't the sentrybeasts, either. Oh well, he thought. It was a start. Chapter 44 Colder than the winter wind howling its dirge through the Southwest Forest. Colder than the snow blanketing tree, rock and earth in its silent shroud near Redwall Abbey. Colder than the ice that lay on water and hung in shards from Salamandastron's ledges. Colder than these was the smile of Ferahgo the Assassin! Seasons had passed, and now klitch had a full horde of mercenaries, backstabbers and killers to terrorize the Southwest Lands with. He had almost become as crafty as his father. Almost. The searats at Redwall regularly went out and attacked small woodlander bands and settlements, further adding to Ferahgo's territory. The rats now had a few foxes, stoats, weasels and ferrets scattered among them, as well as the slaves found in the cellars. The score of Corpsemakers that had been left to guard the Abbey had never returned, but Ferahgo didn't care. He too had many more vermin, and some more searats and corsairs, to replace them. More slaves had come to him also. The blue- eyed weasel was not so young anymore, but his treachery, murderous games and smiling ways had not deserted him, nor had the young, innocent twinkle in his beautiful light blue eyes. Ferahgo had fufilled his dreams. All the land was his. From the Southwest Lands to the northeast forests, all creatures knew and feared his name. Ferahgo! The Assassin smiled happily and snuggled down in a soft, warm chair, eyes half-closed. Outside the snowflakes blew gustily over rock and sand, chased by the soughing wind. It was cold. But not as cold as the smile on the face of Ferahgo the Assassin.
Back to the Hall of Fame :