Chapter 21

by Clearspring Otter

Daniel’s party dashed forward, footpaws sending tiny clouds of dust into the air. The hedgehog, Dewblossom, stood with footpaws akimbo, clutching a long wooden staff.

The travelers stopped short in surprise; Dewblossom was surrounded by a small, motley group of vermin. A stoat advanced quickly with his dagger drawn, but Dewblossom’s staff was quickly thrust into his gut. Only seconds later the stoat was flung high into the air, landing with a muffled thud in the grass on the side of the road.

Erin drew his sword and rushed forward to help. Gonjur quickly followed, his battlecry sounding loud: “Eulaliaaaaaaaaa!” In a matter of moments, the vermin that weren’t lifeless in the path were fleeing as fast as their footpaws could take them.

Dewblossom was breathing heavily, but managed to glare at the males, especially Erin. “I could have handled it m’self.”

“Cheeky creature, wot?” mumbled Gonjur. He shut his mouth at a glance from the irate hedgehog.

“Didn’t look like it to me,” replied Erin, wiping his sword blade on the grass.

“Looks can be deceiving,” retorted Dewblossom.

“Hey now, let’s not argue,” said Daniel, stepping in between the two. Dewblossom planted her staff decidedly in the dust of the road. Daniel turned to her. “I don’t think you were telling us the truth before.”

She sniffed. “Perhaps I wasn’t.”

“Then what is the truth, matey?” asked Scamper, peering over Gunthre’s head.

“It is not for you to know,” she replied icily.

“At least tell us who died back there,” prodded Gunthre, infinitely curious. Scamper nodded in agreement.

“My friend Dawnrose,” she replied, a hint of sadness coloring her voice. “The wolf killed her.”

Daniel’s ear perked up immedietly. “Trager?”

“Shh!” Dewblossom clamped her paw tightly over his mouth.

“Wot’s the big flippin’ idea?” asked Gonjur indignantly. Another glare silenced him.

“We cannot speak so frankly in such an open area. If you must know, then come with me.” She released Daniel and left the road, heading into the woods. The travellers hastily gathered up their things and followed the hedgehog into the filtered sunlight of the forest.

They walked for a while, Daniel looking back often. He knew they needed to find Trager, but Dewblossom knew something. She knew something about Trager. Any information that could help the young mouse find the legendary weapon would help.

“Trager wants the secret of Mossflower,” she said, turning to them. Every pair of eyes widened. “He took my friend Tigerlily prisoner on his way to your Abbey. When you came upon me, I was burning Dawnrose. The only way I escaped the gates of the Dark Forest was feigning death myself.” She touched the tightly-bound wound on her head. “This certainly made it seem like I was dead. If it hadn’t been for Gubble, I would certainly have joined Dawnrose, and probably Tigerlily, too.”

“No,” said Alfred. “Tigerlily is alive – at least, when we saw her last.”

Dewblossom’s front came crashing down. “What? Tigerlily is alive?” Joyful light shone in her eyes. “Thank goodness,” she breathed.

“Why?” demanded Erin. “What do you know about the secret of Mossflower?”

The walls went back up. Dewblossom looked at him hard. “That┬áis something I will not tell. Even if it means my death, as it meant Dawnrose’s.” She froze suddenly. “Duck!”

An arrow whizzed out of the forest, right into Erin’s chest. The mouse fell backwards, landing wordlessly in the soft loam. Dewblossom clenched her stick tightly and scrambled off into the woods.

“Wait!” cried Scamper.

“He’s dead,” announced Alfred in disbelief. “Erin’s dead.”

The swordmaker had fallen victim to the arrow meant for Dewblossom. His companions simply stared in shocked silence.