- Brian Jacques
From out behind large boulders scores of vermin came running. And in the front most ranks came Trager.
“I noticed you were gone when I sent one of my soldiers to see if the adders had killed you yet.” Said Trager “He came back saying that he had seen you and a larger mouse exiting the cavern.
“We tracked you here.”
“What are we going to do now?” Daniel asked.
“Wait,” Erin said.
“What do you mean, wait?” Gonjur and Gunthre said in unison.
“Just do what I say and we will be all right,” Erin replied.
“Anything you do will be futile,” Trager’s voice boomed through the ranks of vermin.
Then all of a sudden a dozen arrows came shooting from the nearby fringe of the forest. A moment later the same amount of smooth pebbles came shooting from the same direction. The ranks of vermin dropped back to hide behind the boulders.
One stray pebble dropped about a pawlength in front of Alfred.
A voice rang towards the group of dibbuns, “Sorry, matey!”
“That’s what we were waiting for, now run!” Erin pushed the dibbuns towards the fringe of the forest. “We’ll come back for the sword later. You can count on that Trager.”
Back at the abbey the search party assembled on the grassy grounds near the pond.
“Now, I want all of you to split into 7 groups of equal size and strength.”
Alison’s commanding voice always got everyone in the mood to do what ever she was trying to get them to do. The assembly split quickly and Alison again began to speak.
“Group 1 head north. It’s not likely they headed that way but it is possible. Groups 2 and 3 head west. Group 4 head east. And finally groups 5, 6, and 7 head south, the most likely direction they headed. The rest of you stay here in case they return.”
All the groups headed towards their designated direction and began their search.
Erin stopped the group in front of a large, birch tree. No one said anything for the first few moments because they were all tired from the run.
Alfred was the first to speak, “What are we doing here?”
“There is a tunnel that leads to another part of the woods and the entrance is near here,” Erin replied.
“Why donÕt we enter it?” asked Scamper.
Erin answered, “For one thing I donÕt know where exactly it is, and second we are waiting for our liberator.”
Everyone looked at each other in question. But before anyone could ask Erin what he was talking about, a young otter, a little older than Daniel, walked out of the shadows.
” ‘ello mateys. ‘ow did you like the way I scared those silly vermin into hiding?” he excitedly announced.
“Ah, you finally arrived. What took you so long?” asked Erin.
“Sorry, a couple of vermin spies caught on to me, I had to take care of them.” Replied the otter.
Daniel spoke up quickly, “Who are you and how do we know we can trust you?”
The otter turned towards Daniel and in a mellow voice said, “I’m Forte the Otterion and you donÕt have any choice but to trust me.”
“I met Forte 2 full moons ago. He also was on the trail of Trager.” Chimed in Erin, “When we tracked him here and saw him take you guys into the quarry we knew we had to get you out of there. I decided to go in. We also knew that it was going to take reinforcements to escape…..”
Forte cut in, “So we rigged a little trap. We fixed it so that we a slice of a rope a dozen arrows would fire and a dozen stones would fly from a catapult. We think it worked pretty well.” Forte looked around and asked, “Are there any more questions or can we move on?”
Gunthre raised a hand, “I have one. What is an Otterion?”
“I can answer that one in the tunnel. Because once Trager realizes we fooled him he will be after us.”
As if on cue a fox captain, named Terras, two stoats, one weasel, three corsairs, and two searats jumped out of the bushes armed to the teeth. Everyone instinctively jumped back.
“They’ll be no escape for you this time,” one of the stoats named Needlenose announced.
At that the group of vermin attacked the dibbuns, Erin, and Forte. The dibbuns fought hard, but were no match for the well trained horde. Scamper felled the two searats and the weasel before he was knocked out cold by the blunt of TerrasÕs sword.
“You will pay for that one Terras.” Forte yelled as he pulled out a finely crafted double-edged sabre.
It was at that point that the battle reached Forte. Through years of training Forte had learned not to jump headlong into battle. Needlenose the stoat was the first to reach him and the first to fall by Forte’s sabre. Needlenose dropped to the ground hole in his chest was the cause.
The second stoat took advantage of the distraction and sneaked up on Forte. Searing pain shot through Forte’s left shoulder as a dagger pierced his skin. He turned around just in time to see the second stoat utter a scream as Erin used his careful aim to send a small poisoned barb into the stoats right cheek. The poison was strong enough that it killed him almost instantaneously.
“Help if you like, but the fox is mine,” Forte yelled through the heat of the battle.
“Whatever you want,” replied Erin.
They were evenly matched. But that was not to last, because within a few moments two of the corsairs were dead and the third was out cold, only the fox was left. Erin respected Forte’s wishes and left the fox to him; he then went over to see how Scamper was.
“Are you prepared to go to the dark forest gates, little one?” Terras taunted as he thrust his sword at Forte.
“I should be asking you that question. You see, they don’t call me Forte for nothing, matey.” Forte successfully parried the thrust and then used a counter thrust, catching Terras in the leg.
“I have waited along time for this moment. Ever since you killed my brother and father.” Forte yelled.
Terras tried with all his might to ward off his opponent’s parries and counter-attacks, but it was of no avail. The little otter was succeeding. Finally Terras knew the end was coming. And not long afterward Terras was not able to parry a counter-thrust and his last thoughts were: I’ve failed.
By that time everyone had recovered enough to move on.
“We have just one more detail to take care of,” Erin walked over to the one stoat alive who was now wide awake. “Take this message to Trager: We are after you. You can run and you can hide but we will find you.” And with that the stoat ran off in the direction of the quarry.
“We will have to hurry” Alfred said after a moment, “it wonÕt belong before he is after us.”
“Follow me,” Forte motioned for them to follow.
Forte walked over to an area with lots of shrubs and pulled on one of them. A stone rolled away revealing a tunnel. They all entered. The passageway was well lit by torches along the wall.
“Now back to the question asked earlier: What is an Otterion?” Forte began, “Well, let’s start at the beginning. Many generations ago an alliance of otters vowed to live a ceremonious, dignified, purposeful life dedicated to protecting the weak and always doing right. We have a secret village in southern Mossflower. At a young age male otters of the alliance begin a rigorous and ceremonious training that in the end make us a very dangerous, but very gentle. Well, five of every new generation train to leave the alliance and go out into the world and protect the weak, like we vowed. I was one of those five. Before I left though my father and brother were killed by a wandering horde. I saw my father and brother killed by the late Terras. I took a vow to avenge my family. So now here I am.”
“And here we are,” Erin announced.
With awe in his eyes Gunthre said, “That was amazing.”
Everyone entered into a large cavern.
“We will be staying here. There is a connecting cavern that has dried fruit and herbs that will tide us over. We can sleep in this chamber. We must be ready at all times in case Trager decides to leave,” Erin said.
“It has been a hard day. Let’s get some rest so we will be refreshed for another grueling day.”
They set down their things and were all soon fast asleep. Little did they know that a spy for Trager had watched them enter the tunnel. And was at that very moment reporting what he had seen.