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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.

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