Vermin? You sure?


Chapter One

Tagg sighed and decided to face the facts; he was lost. For the first time in his life, he had no idea where he was. Just as well that Nimbalo was there with him, though the harvest mouse would no doubt make fun of him later.

The two friends had been hiding about Redwall, picking off Eefera and Vallug's so-called sentries. Tagg snorted to himself. None of them would be able to hear an insane badger, let alone two woodlanders.

So far, the two friends had disposed of both Rawback and Dagrab. In killing the latter, Nimbalo had "repossessed", as he put it, his father's battleaxe, and was carrying it with pride.

The friendly woods of Mossflower seemed to have all but disappeared. . . there were many more pines than Tagg remembered, and the trees had lost their friendly feel.

The otter sighed again and turned to his friend. "Face it, mate. . . we're lost." Nimbalo looked up at the otter.

"You don't say? I realized we was lost 'alf an 'our ago!" the harvest mouse bragged.

"Well then, oh handsome golden one." Tagg still enjoyed calling his friend this. Nimbalo's face when he heard it was priceless. "Do you know where we are?" the otter said pointedly.

The harvest mouse sagged exaggeratedly. "Not really," he admitted.

"All right then, mate, I'll go leftish, you go to the right. Stay within shouting distance, though. We're bound to find something familiar 'round here." The friends nodded resolutely and set out in different directions.

The otter hadn't been walking for more than a few minutes when Nimbalo's scream pierced the air. The otter ran quickly and silently through the trees towards where the sound had come from; a small clearing.

From the space between two trees, Tagg observed the scene. Nimbalo lay on the ground with three darts in his chest. The otter could see his friend breathing however, so he was relieved at that. The harvest mouse's battleaxe lay on the ground, a few paces away from where Tagg now stood.

To the otter's horror, four weasels were walking towards his friend, in a loose half-circle, daggers in paw. They had no tattoos, not Juska, although one did have a curious white mark across his muzzle.

Taking a quick course of action, the otter drew Sawney Rath's blade from his belt and threw it so it embedded itself handle-deep in front of the marked weasel's paws; between it and Nimbalo.

Moments after, the otter grabbed Nimbalo's battleaxe from where it lay and flipped into the air, landing with his friend at his back, the four weasels facing him.

"Not one pawstep closer, mates," Tagg said in a menacingly low voice, brandishing the battleaxe.

"Oi!" one weasel with a patchy coat said. "That's our meal, we's caught 't fair 'n' square!"

Tagg snarled, his tattoos rippling, making his face look quite barbaric. "And he's also my friend. Back off!"

"You can't be friends with a beast of burden. . . can you?" One weasel spoke, hesitantly.

"Beast of burden?" cried the otter. "He's an intelligent being! He's no slave!"

"Been too long alone, I'd say, chief," whispered the scruffy-looking weasel into the marked one's ear.

"I heard that remark, vermin," snarled Tagg.

"I apologize," the marked weasel said calmly. "We did not know that the mouse belonged to you." The otter's eyes widened.

"He's owned by nobeast, save himself, perhaps. I'm no slaver."

The scruffy-looking weasel glanced at him, as if to say he thought that Tagg was insane. The otter in question carefully gathered up Nimbalo in his forelimbs and picked up the blade from the earth, never taking his eyes off the weasels, and began to back away.

Before he left the clearing, the tattooed otter growled a warning. "Don't follow us, vermin."

Although all the weasels had excellent senses, the otter seemed to literally disappear; fade into the woodlands as he left.


Chapter 2

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