- Brian Jacques
It was hard to say who was more surprised, the four Redwallers or Burgune and his army.
Daniel stared wordlessly up into the dark brown eyes of a fearsome-looking corsair.
“Eh, wot’ve we got ‘ere?”
Daniel gulped. The rat staring down at him was a ghastly sight. He was clad in a dirty rust-colored outfit, its burlap fabric torn and foul-smelling. He wore at least a dozen hoop earings in his tattered ears, the gold glinting in the moonlight. A scar obviously from a past battle ran lenghtwise across his forehead. He smiled at Daniel, revealing a set of rotting teeth. “A lit’el mouse an’ ‘is friends.”
“I-I um… s-sorry, s-s-sir, uh, we were just… um, d-didn’t see… y-you- sorry, very sorry!” Daniel turned and tried to run back to the abbey. Burgune caught him by the cord of his habit and pulled him back.
“Not so farst, young ‘un!” Burgune drew his dagger, pointing it at the young mouse. “Now, you’d better stay quoiet, or you an’ yer friends ain’t gonna see the sun roise temorrow!”
Alfred squirmed in the grip of a searat guard. “Let me go! What do you want from us? Let me go!”
Gunthre and Gonjur kicked and struggled but they were too small compared to the guards.
“What do you want with us, sir, we haven’t done anything wrong,” pleaded Daniel.
The rat laughed. “O’ course you h’aint, mouse. An’ neither has me crew an’ oi. But we aim tew. Oi am Burgune the Feared One, an’ oi aim tew steal-”
A skinny stoat wispered hastily to Burgune, “But cap’n, you said it was gonna be a secret mission!”
“Ah, shurrup, Bateye, ye dim-witted fool. These green-garbed frogs came from the h’ebby; they woulda found owt sooner er later. Are ye blind er summat?”
“Aye, cap’n, I thinks thet’s why they call ‘im Bateye, sir!” a corsair called out. Laughter rang out from the ranks.
“Shut up! All o’ ye!” called out Burgune in as loud a voice as he dared. “Carn’t ye see the wall jus’ o’er yonder? Do ye want ‘undreds o’ mice swarming o’er us? Shut up, or ye’ll meet yer death here!”
“Hundreds o’ mice! But cap’n, ye said there was on’y a score or two of ‘em!”
Murmurs were heard amoung the ranks. “Oi ‘eard ye too, cap’n. Ye said three score, at most!”
Burgune turned to his crew, a look of innocence on his face. “Three score, mates? Oi said nothin’ o’ the sort! Why, look at the size o’ that buildin’! How could there be any less than ‘undreds o’ score in there! Look, mates!”
The crew gazed up at the wall towering above the tree tops, dimly glowing in the moonlight, backed by bright stars. Daniel saw the look of fear creep over a few faces. Being a clever mouse, he saw the oppertunity and took it. “Hundreds of mice? Ah, well maybe five hundred or so… But there’s other creatures in there too, you know.”
“What’re ye talkin’ aboot, mouse,” snapped Burgune. “No one tol’ ye ter speak!”
“Ah, cap’n, let ‘in talk, he knows wot’s in the abbey, maybe he can-”
“Shurrup, Bateye. Ye better say nary a word, mouse, or ye’ll regret it.”
Daniel shruged. “OK, I want to live, so I won’t say any more… I just hope you can make it past the great squirrel hoard.”
Bateye froze. “W-wot great squirrel hoard, mouse?”
“I can’t tell you, I’m not allowed to speak. Besides, you don’t want to know.”
Alfred saw what Daniel was doing. “Yeah, you don’t want to know, believe me!”
“Yeah I do, come on mouse, speak up,” said Bateye. “Please, cap’n, let ‘im talk! I don’t wanna go inna abbey with a great hoard of squirrel beasts!”
“Ah, yore such a coward, Bateye,” said Burgune. “Fine, seein’ as we’re robbin’ the abbey, ye better tell us exactly where the guards are, an’ oi mean exactly, or ye’ll all die here.”
Daniel gulped. “Well… what’ll I get for the information?”
“Ye drive a hard bargin, mouse. I could just kill ye now, and be done with it!”
“W-well, yes, but then you wouldn’t be prepared for the giant-toothed badger. Some say she’s part wolf.”
Gasps and shocked whispers were heard amoung the crew.
“Fine, I’ll let ye go if ye tell me everything I want to know.”
“And my friends.”
“No, just you. Now get talking!”
“Me AND my friends, or no deal. And that mole army isn’t very friendly, they all carry axes and chop-”
“Fine!” said Burgune. “Now get talking!”
Gonjur spoke up. “It’s why we left, sir… to escape the tyranical sparrow king. He liked to peck creatures eyes out-”
Gunthre joined in. “Eeeeeewwww, ah the horror! Help me! Someone! Oh help!” He covered his head with his paws.
“Poor Gabby,” said Daniel. “He just hasn’t been the same since the giant slimy lake monster dragged him into the pond and half-drowned him. Oh, it’s a horrible place, the abbey. We escaped, but we’re the only ones ever to come out alive. My own father was killed by the wolf-badger. Her claws are as big as a sword and just as sharp too!”
By this time, the whole of the crew was shaking in their boots. “You’re a liar, cap’n, you said they was peaceful little mice that ate scones and told stories!”
“Aye, you did’n say nothing about no sword-claw badger-wolf or squirrel beasts and water-monsters!”
“B-but Oi didn’t know, Oi’ve never been ‘ere before, ye have to believe me, mates!”
The crew began closing in on Burgune. “We ain’t gonna get killed by ax-murderer moles because of you, Burgune!”
“No, please, me crew, me friends, oi did’n know, no, wait, no!”
A guard turned to Alfred, Gonjur and Gunthre. “Yew get away from here, mouse, no use in gettin’ killed by the giant sparrow with the razor beak,” he said.
Daniel and his friends struggled not to laugh as the corsair Burgune was chased into the forest by his crew.
“Daniel, how did you think of that? You’re a genius!” said Gunthre.
Daniel held his sides, laughing. “I can’t believe they fell for it!”
“Come on guys, we have to find the sword!”
“Where do we look? Did you see which way the thief went, Daniel?”
Daniel sighed. “No, I just saw him run out of Great Hall. I don’t have any idea where he went. Or she went.”
“Great work, Daniel,” said Alfred. “He could have gone north, south, east or west, at any speed with any number of followers and we don’t know any of this.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault.”
“I say we go back to the abbey and wake the elders,” said Gunthre.
“Are you crazy?” said Gonjur. “If we do, then all they’ll do is blame us. They’ll say it’s another one of our pranks. They’ll sentence us to a lifetime of picking daisies!”
“What chance do we have of finding it anyway?”
“I don’t know, but what if we do find it?” said Daniel. “Think of the celebration they’ll have for us when we come marching back with Martin’s sword! We won’t ever have to wash greasy pots or sort herbs in the infirmary again. We’ll all be heroes!”
There was a moments silence. Daniel spoke again. “Come on, let’s have an adventure! We can be warriors like Martin! He took on scores of vermin at a time and never got a scratch on him.”
“Ah, those are just stories, Daniel.”
“And they’ll be writing stories like that about us when we come back. Come on, are you with me?”
The four friends clasped paws under the moonlight. “We’re with you, till the end!”
Trager laughed and settled down by the riverbank. He had their sword and he was home free. Too bad that he had been seen. It would have rattled the entire abbey if their sword had just vanished. No matter. He had the sword. That was all that mattered!