Part 1: Trouble Starts
It was dawn, and the seagulls swooped overhead, looking for prey. Chief Shoangore the ferret walked into the golden light, and sighed. Another day. Hisk had ordered that 20 slaves must be brought to him, in two days, or else!
After breaking his fast, Shoangore, Koaba, another ferret, and the rest of the crew from Pearl Queen, walked into the forest. At noon, they had not found anything. Midfaeng the sea otter looked around. "Looks too quiet for me likin’s ." As to prove her point, deadly shafts poured down, slaying Mordung, and Kasola.
"Duck!" cried Koaba. Everyone did so. Archers and slingers were brought up. When Koaba nodded, Shoangore and the crew fired arrows. Then, the slingers fired. Squirrels fell, pierced with arrows, fell, screaming. The squirrels retreated, leaving ten dead, and nine wounded. We had lost five. It was already night, surprisingly, so they took the nine wounded ones back to lord Hisk.
"Good," He said when we came in. " You brought in more slaves than expected."Walking to one of the squirrels, he asked, "Are you from RAIM?"
The squirrel shook his head." We are reinforcements, from Corim, RIAD, and Goldentail’s Fort. Kill us, for we will never serve you and your scum. We have over tenscore beasts, from our reinforcements. The Corim has twice that number, and RIAD has eight hundred. We will kill you, so you beware."
Maddened, Hisk punched the squirrel. The squirrel screamed, and hit a wall, on the other side of the room, and lay still.
Swifteye, a robust squirrel, watched Marshank grimly. His mate, Fleetpaw, sat on a hollow log, ready at his command. When he nodded, she stuck her head into the log, and took a deep breath.
Shoangore, Midfaeng, and a few others talked quietly with each other. "Did you see Hisk like that?" asked one, and they all nodded. " He launched that squirrel over twenty feet! Maybe the floor’s polished."
Midfaeng looked around. "I don’t like this one bit. The squirrel said that there were many fightin’ beasts around. I bet that we’ll have mmmmmmmppppphhhhhhhhh!!!!!"
Shoangore let go of Midfaeng. "Did you hear that? The scream?"
They all listened, and then one laughed. "Sure, try and aaaaauuuuuughhhhhhhhh!"
They listened. "AAAAAUUUuuggghhhhhhhhhhh! Come to meeeeeeee! I wwwwilllll killlllllllllll yooooouuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
They covered themselves, and the meeting was over.
The next morning was a hubbub. Beasts were talking about the scream. When Hisk came to pick beasts to look for the sound, almost everybeast shuddered. " Jango, Shoangore, Koaba, Midfaeng, Shortear, Darklan, Jenner, Mouse Death, Three Claws, and Bloodbane, take twoscore each, and head out." There was some mumbling, but Hisk had the last word, or else…. Death!
Jango was having problems. He didn’t know where to go, so he went around, willy nilly, like the others. Occasionally, the searchers bumped into each other, when Shoangore remembered the squirrels, and how they could use hollow trees, and scare vermin away.
" Come on, look for hollow trees!" Shoangore roared.
It was around noon when they found the tree they were looking for. Shortear the stoat ordered everyone to spread around, and wait. Food was passed around, and eaten. Then, beasts took turns napping, while some watched. As it grew darker, the beasts quivered in fear. What if the sound was really a monster?
"Huh, I bet that the squirrels knew we would come to investigate. I’m surprised that they didn’t leave a trap for us." Mumbled Three Claws.
A stoat ran to the captain’s side. "Sir, we’re missing twoscore beasts!"
Jenner looked at the stoat quizzically. "I noticed that Jango and Mouse Death were gone……. Oh no! They’ve been captured!"
The camp was in a frenzy. The remaining beasts lit lanterns, and torches. Soon, the area was as bright as day.
"Well, don’t just stand there, look for them!" barked Midfaeng. She headed out, and disappeared into the foliage.
Shoangore, Jennet, and Three Claws ran out, trying to find out where Midfaeng ran out. When they came to a clearing, they saw what had happened.
Fourty bodies lay strewn on the beach. Jango and Mouse Death sat, wounded. Midfaeng tending to their wounds.
"What the heck happened here?" Shoangore asked. It was day time, and the dead were giving off a horrid smell.
Jango replied, " A horde of beasts were heading for Marshank, and we tried to stop them, but we couldn’t. They killed all our beasts."
Midfaeng and Jenner looked at each other." They must’ve been a good army, not one dead good beast. "
"Come on," Mousedeath cried. " They could have Marshank down, we must help them!"
Close to four hundred beasts swarmed towards Marshank, feverishly hoping that they weren’t too late to help Marshank.
At Marshank, the horde of beasts had made a decoy, and was setting up a catapult. Swifteye, the squirrel leader watched the progress. "Good. Soon, Marshank shall be done for, and Mossflower shall have a victory!"
A squirrel runner came panting up. " Swifteye, quick! A horde of almost four hundred beasts are heading this way!"
Swifteye looked. Sure enough, a horde was advancing, with arrows. It was clear that they were enemies. "Take two hundred good archers, and wipe them out. The catapult is almost done, so we shall be able to take down Marshank and the beasts out on the beach, if we need them.
Hisk stood still, an arrow on his string. A ferret with a torch scurried over. "Lord Hisk, the beasts have a catapult! I think that they mean to destroy us!"
"I know that " snapped Hisk. Where were the others he had sent out? Hisk leaped up, and let the arrow go. A squirrel fell, dead.
Shoangore had seen the mice hide, and he was ready. "Midfaeng, take your beasts, and go around the hedges. Jenner, go the opposite way, and I’ll take the rest and go straight. Okay guys, time to go." The movement did the trick. As soon as the mice charged, Midfaeng and Jenner smashed into either side. Soon, the confused mice were slain.
Swifteye watched his beasts dying. Anger boiled up, and he yelled, "Attack!!"
Hisk heard the cry. "Defenders, get fire arrows, and see if you can take the catapult down! The one who does will be in second command! Defenders, hail to me!!"
Jenner, Midfaeng, Shoangore, Jango, Mouse Death, Bloodbane, Darklan, Koaba, and Three Claws heard the cry too. "Charge!" They all cried. The ground trembled with the pounding feet of the beasts.
The small army of beasts crashed into the back ranks of Swifteye’s horde. "Fight for Marshank! Fight for Marshank!" Jenner fell, a pike in his leg. Shoangore’s shoulder tore to a sword. Still, the beasts pressed on.
"Let the beasts in!" Shouted Hisk. The bridge swung open, and Midfaeng’s group ran inside. Before anyone else could get in, the bridge closed. The remaining beasts had surrendered, and Jenner, Shoangore, Jango, Mouse Death, Bloodbane, Darklan, Koaba, and Three Claws were tightly bound, being considered as a threat.
Hisk looked out from the window. "What do those beasts want?" He turned back to a weasel." Make sure that the slaves are guarded tightly, and that my beasts are safe. He turned his back, and looked at the smoldering wreckage of the catapult. It had fired once, before Death From Above shot an arrow right in the center of the ropes and pulleys.
"Swifteye will see you now." The guard pointed at the tied up group. "Come on." The group was lead to Swifteye’s tent, where they sat, dismally.
"Well, how do you like to be kept like slaves?" A voice mocked them. " I used to be one here, remember? I escaped, torn-up, and you tried killing me, just for fun. I was found by a scout from RIAD. We, my army are all from RIAD, Corim, and RAIM. Too bad, you don’t know who RIAD is." Swifteye moved in closer. " We will keep you hostages. Guards! Take these beasts back. " The guard nodded, and walked off, dragging the sad looking prisoners.
That night, Shoangore planned to escape. When they were walking back, the guard had fallen, and dropped his dagger. Shoangore pretended that he lost his balance, too, and grabbed the dagger. When he was sure that he was alone, he unlocked his chains, and freed the others. The guard was sleeping, but Jango would take no chances. Taking the dagger, he slew the guard. They took the guard’s weapons, surprised that the guard held many, more than enough for all of them. Shoangore looked around.
A figure, not far from him squirmed away. They had been spotted! "Quick, get to Marshank!" Shoangore yelled. Hisk, who was watching the proceedings, opened the gates, and half the army came in, and the gate was closed. Shoangore’s group was the only group that was left out. All the others were safe.
The horde of goodbeasts overwhelmed Shoangore. He took a squirrel, slashed a mole, and was confronted by Swifteye. Without a word, they circled. Shoangore was wounded in his side, and an arrow stuck out of his back. They fenced around, and Shoangore noticed that they were in a circle. Realizing that his beasts were dead, he slashed at Swifteye, cutting his arm. Fleetpaw ran in to help Swifteye, but Shoangore hewed her lifelessly to the ground.
Shouting like a wounded animal, Swifteye threw himself at Shoangore. Stabbing, slashing, he had Shoangore cornered. Shoangore received a cut on his head, and then, Swifteye plunged his sword into Shoangore’s chest. Shoangore felt the pain, and fell. Swifteye grabbed a pike, and brought it down, but Shoangore clumsily knocked the pike away, and fainted.
Hisk watched, silently. When he saw Shoangore fall, he turned around, angrily. "Look at what they did to my beasts." Hisk looked at a stoat. Ascord, how much food do we have?"
Ascord replied without hesitation. "We have enough food to last a half season, and with the vegetable patch, we can grow another half season."
"Good. Set up archers, and keep the squirrels off the walls, and be sure to watch for ground activities. Those moles are good diggers." Hisk looked at the list of soldiers that he had. The total said a score past nine hundred beasts. With the slaves, they had one thousand three hundred beasts. And, with their friends, the golden hawks, they had 102083. The squirrels’ attackers had about 100500 beasts, but Hisk had better beasts. Then, he remembered that he had lost over two hundred. And the slaves wouldn’t fight.
Shoangore walked to the gates of the Dark Forest. On the other side, he saw an extraordinary sight. Vermin and goodbeasts were laughing, and playing with each other. Then, they would go to a cook, who gave them food. Shoangore noticed two immediately. " Slashcut, Snicth!" His parents looked over to him, and walked to the gates.
"Son, it’s not the right time for you to come in. You must live, and fight with all your heart."
Shoangore felt tears in his eyes. "I want to stay with you." A single tear rolled down his cheek.
Snicth, Shoangore’s father, looked sadly at his son, who wanted to die. "Here, take this." He handed Shoangore a long sword. The sword was gold coated, and had a silver tip. On each side, a ruby glistened. The handle had wires, for a good grip. The sword was light, and deadly. "Use it wisely, for it will soon disappear once your task is done. Do not hurt the squirrel, or ferret."
Shoangore felt a pain in his chest, and opened his eyes. He was in a forest, and a squirrel was pulling the sword out of his chest. Dazed he saw a ferret. "I hopes you don’t mind if we take this here sword out of your body." Said the ferret. She was the size of Shoangore, and had a single earring on her ear. She wore a plain shirt, and pants. The squirrel pulling out the sword wasn’t a slave, her robe, and a belt stuffed with weapons told her off.
"Huh, this is a long sword you got in you." The squirrel looked at the long bloody blade. "Hello, what’s this?" The squirrel took out Snicth’s sword from Shoangore. "Where did you get here blade?"
He must’ve really been to the dark forest! " I got it from my father, at the gates of the Dark Forest." The squirrel gasped.
"I knew only one beast who got a blade from the dead, and it’s Goldenpaw!" The squirrel pointed at the ferret, standing by.
Swifteye looked at his wife’s grave in disbelief. Why, in all the beasts, did it have to be her? He was thankful that they dropped the ferret’s body in the forest. The sight of the bloody beasts was too sickening.
A mole walked by. "Oi hopes e feeling oki, hurr."
Swifteye looked up. "Oh, I’m alright, Snoutclaw. I’m just thinking of what Fleetfast is doing in the Dark Forest right now. I wish I never came here. I lost many friends."
"Sove Oi, maister. Oi loist moiny froinds long igo." The mole suddenly fell, twisting with pain, an arrow in his leg,
"Attack! We’re being attacked!"
Hisk watched his beasts fire arrow after arrow into the surprised enemy ranks. "Ha, that got ‘em. Slickpaw, how many arrows do we have?" Slickpaw looked at her list.
"We started with 9,836,498,365,973, and we lose about 600 every hour, and we make 300 every hour, so we have 9,723,345,234,123. And, the stones, we have enough to fill the ocean."
"Good. If the slaves know how to make arrows, start them working, now. And, double the firing rate, so we do everything two times faster."
Slickpaw ran into the slave pen, and ordered the slaves to start making arrows.
Swifteye looked up at the figure of Hisk. Notching an arrow, he aimed it. Unfortunately, there was some thick glass in the way, so the arrow flew away. Hisk aimed through the small hole in the glass, and slew a mouse.
So the battle continued, each side firing random arrows, and hitting targets.
Goldenpaw nodded. "Yup, I got this liddle sabre with me."
Shoangore inspected the blade. It was gold, with a blue diamond point. A crossed blue diamond dotted with gold made the handle. The blade, he could tell was sharp, an dwould cut many things. "Wow, who gave you this?"
"My parents, of course. I was fighting this squirrel, Swifteye, or something." Goldenpaw smiled.
Shoangore looked up. "I fought him, too! I slew his wife, and then he was a crazed badger."
"He’s a hard one to beat." The squirrel washing the blade, tucked it into her sash.
Hisk glanced at the retreating horde. "I don’t like this." He turned around, and glanced at the slaves. "They’ll try to free the slaves."
Slickpaw ran over. " Sire, some beasts felt the ground moving, and I think that it’s moles."
Hisk nodded. "Take some archers, and pin their heads." Slickpaw nodded, walked off, and herded some archers to the slave compound.
Shoangore was better, thanks to Treeflyer’s herbs. Treeflyer, the squirrel, was Goldenpaw’s best friend. They played together, even if their parents were fighting each other. They ran off, once their parents actually attacked to kill. They never knew who won.
"Where are we going?" Shoangore asked.
"Well, I’mm taking you to our hideout.
"Oh. I see."
They walked on. They were on a hidden well used trail. It was impossible to see it, unless you were walking on it, but it would be no use, because you would know where it was.
Swifteye watched as his beasts took up arrows, at the oncoming beasts. There were many hares, and one large male badger. " Halt! Who are you, and are you vermin, or goodbeasts!?"
"I am Roberto the Mighty Slayer!" called out the badger. "And I don’t think I’m a vermin, do you, Skibo?"
Skibo giggled. " I think so, sire, you do look, er,…" Skibo found himself looking at Roberto’s spear. "You’re magnificant, great, powerful, wealthy, umm… wot?"
"Shut up, you little scamp." Roberto looked up again. "I was looking for some beasts, Treeflyer, and Goldenpaw. They are a squirrel, and ferret. Best of friends, surprisingly. I wish that all beasts were like them, just one problem. I don’t want to tell you. Anyway, my right paw is Travis, and my left paw is Skibo." "Nice to meetcha, wot. You wouldn’t have a pot o food ready to eat, would you?" Travis rubbed his stomach.
Swifteye whispered to Roberto, "They do seem to like food a lot, don’t they."
"Heehee.. you should have seen them pull a trick. They put some rocks in the meadow cream, and Windthistle ate it…. Ha!"
Windthistle sniffed. "I hopes they two evil beasts learn a lesson soon."
"Wanna try a meadow cream ball?" Travis and Skibo held up a bowl.
"Okay." Swifteye bit hard onto the meadow cream. "AUUUUGGGGGG!!!!! There are rocks in these!"
"Yup, all rock hard, wot wot?"
"Git over here and I’ll tan your hides till they’re black!" Swifteye and some others dashed after the pair.
"Here we are." Goldenpaw beckoned him over to a rock. "My mateys are in here."
A rock opened, and revealed a path, leading into a part of the forest. Soon, they came to a spot, with a fire, surrounded by vermin, and goodbeasts. "This is Shoangore."
"Hi, I’m Serrina, and this is Slashcut, Lady Amber, and Eory."
"Nice to meet you." Shoangore noticed that the vermin and goodbeasts didn’t mind sitting next to each other, it seemed like they were friends. "So, what do you do here?"
"We fight enemies, hunt, and a few days ago, we saw a really big horde." Eory shuddered. "They were goin’ to Marshank."
Shoangore jumped up. "Damn! I forgot all about Marshank!"
"Don’t worry. We’re thinkin’ of some plans to take them out, they’re enemies, and besides, they’re looking for us."
"Hisk, a badger a bunch of hares just came to help Swifteye’s horde! What will we do?" Slickpaw looked at Hisk, pleadingly.
"Send Gigan the Poisoner to the golden eagles."
A moment later, Gigan was out of Marshank, and climbing the rocks, up to Schoan’s nest. A wingbeat, in the distance, grew nearer. Gigan looked up.
"I’m Gigan, and who are you?"
"I am Schoan, the leader of the Golden Eagle tribe. Welcome, friend." A giant golden eagle swooped out of the sky. Schoan, an old friend of Hisk, flew down to meet Gigan. " Why are you here?"
"Marshank is being attcked by Swifteye and his beasts." Gigan looked hopefully at the hovering eagle.
"I’ll see what I can do." With a powerful wingbeat, he picked up Gigan, and flew off, to his tribe’s nests. Gigan rose higher, and higher. Oh, how he wished to be a bird! Then, Schoan was joined by two other eagles.
"Why do you have a friend in your talons?" One asked.
"Marshank is being attacked, and we need to help."
"So what do we do?" asked one of the eagles.
"We’re holding a counsil of war." The three golden eagles flew off.
"Swifteye, look!" Roberto pointed up at the sky. "Three eagle are holding a stoat! What do you think they’re doing?"
Swifteye viewed the scene. "Looks like they got hungry. Good thing they didn’t want us. Say, is that leek and mushroom pastie I smell?" The two friends walked off.
"Gigan has completed part one on his mission. He shall soon reach his destiny." Hisk motioned to two beasts. "Nightshade, Lady Silkclaw. I must go soon, on a journey, and I may never come back. While I’m gone, you two will rule Marshank. I trust you."
The two beasts nodded, happily. "We’ll do our hardest to make Marshank defeat these beasts, sir."
"Good. I am leaving now, so rule well!" With a rare smile of happiness, Hisk walked towards a tunnel, leading far out.
"I hope he comes back. Marshank will be disappointed," Nightshade sighed.
"All we can do is wait." Silkclaw watched as Hisk’s figure vanished into the tunnel.
Nightshade was right. The next day, after telling the news, Evil Otter, a beast who looked up to Hisk, like a mouse to a warrior father, was found dead, a note on his sword, that was plunged into his chest.
I cannot go on, for Hisk is gone.
More iscidents happened that night. A score of beasts ran off, and five surrendered to the army. "We must do something!" cried Silkclaw. "Marshank is falling apart!"
The birds chirrped merrily, as the sun dried the puffy white clouds away. Dew covered the grass. Swifteye’s horde surrounded the five that had surrendered to them. "Why did you come here?" Swifteye demanded.
"We came, because Hisk left us!" The five beasts shuddered.
Nightshade watched the beasts blab. "We must stop them! Get archers here, right now!" A score of nervous archers marched up, and saluted her. "Kill those five, don’t kill the goodbeasts, or I’ll slay you!"
"… and so Hisk…" continued a rat, "de.ERRkkksk!" A dozen arrows fell into the fray. The vermin were dead.
"Why didn’t they shoot at us?" Asked a young mouse, named Mariel. "We are in tange, you know. I calculated the distance from here to there, and It is 35 meter, 2 feet, and 1 inch, and 1 centimeter away. A small bow can go 15 feet, and regular, 20 meters, and a longbow 40 meters. I’ve been trying to tell you to go someplace else, like by a decent fire, but now my dress is all soiled!" The mouse intelligence walked back to camp, leaving the rest of the beasts looking at the slain.
"You have to admit, we should listen to her, even if she is annoying…"
"Yeah, and stoats fly," retorted Travis.
"Well, they did…" The group sat, silently. "We’d better go soon. They might try to get us."
"Righto! Wanna get some of that pastie in the ‘kitchen’?" Travis dashed off, towards the table.
Schoan dropped Gigan onto a soft pad of cotton. "Come with me. My scouts have gathered the warriors in the Nest. They should be there, by now." Gigan ran after the golden eagle, panting. By the time he arrived, the beasts were impatient.
"What are we here for? I’m bored," Cawed a young robust hawk.
Gigan cleared hs throat. "Hrrmmph, yes, wel you see, Marshank is being attacked, by a fellah called Swifteye. He’s a squirrel, and has a strange goal. Most goodbeasts wouldn’t attck a fort, unless they’re crazy. I think he is. A guy named Shoangore killed his wife; and he’s not too alive now, I think. We need all the help we can get.
"We should we help them?" asked a newly recruited eagle. "WE could get killed."
"Marshank has saved us many times," replied Schoan. "They slew an adder, that was going to eat an eggchick. They lost fiv, but still, they were loyal. I vote that we help them." They took a vote. 453,355,789,185 said yes. 453,453 said they would go for whoever won. 34 said no. The vote was done, the eagles would help Marshank.
"Gigan, you must stay for the night. You’re probably all tired, from that fly. Come with me." A golden eagle waddled over, and ushered Gigan out of the Nest.