The cover I’m showing you is the one that I have for my copy. ^_^ This is one of my favorite books from the Redwall series (one of the others being Rakkety Tam), and has most of my favorite characters. Sunflash the Mace, Skarlath, Ruddle and Folrig, Togget, Bella of Brockhall… unfortunately, in this one there is no Abbey warrior, but the Abbess discovers through Bella that Martin the Warrior’s spirit watches over them all (I’ll explain that in another review probably, if you’ve read Redwall before now, you’ll already know about him). But I’m skipping ahead. “The best place to start is the beginning”, so that’s where we’ll go. Swartt Sixclaw (a particularly horrible example of a ferret, no offense to ferret lovers) is with his band of robbers in the woods when Skarlath, a kestrel who recklessly flew North when he left the nest, can be heard making pained noises after finding himself frozen, spread-eagled to a tree.
Swartt rides a young badger who’s muzzled and hobbled to the tree, hitting the badger with the flat of his sword and calling him “Scumtripe”. When Swartt and his minions go back to the fire, leaving the badger tied up near the kestrel, all is quiet until the camp falls asleep. Then the badger throws himself upon the kestrel, apparently smothering him. But in reality, he was melting the ice that encased Skarlath. Skarlath then got rid of the muzzle and Sunflash ate the rawhide hobbles (he was hungry! What else do you expect?) Then he reached up and pulled a limb off a tree (hornbeam I think) and bashed it. He took the bigger half from the split thing and then used it like a club as he charged into the camp calling that wonderful badger warcry: “EULALIAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”
In the battle, Skarlath got the badger away and Swartt got his six-clawed paw deadened by a blow from the hornbeam. Then the two ran away into the night. Skarlath named the badger Sunflash the Mace, and thus started the slow, but steady approach of the end of Swartt Sixclaw’s life. Yes I know he was already going to die at some point, I just said it for dramatic effect (if that’s what it conveyed). Anyway, that was also when Sunflash’s education started. Skarlath, despite being young, is also quite wise. 😛 I wish I was the same. But then again, it might make me so wise that I cannot read fantasy and get absorbed into it. o.o That would be bad. But back to the story!
The plan that Skarlath and Sunflash had was quite simple (and it was devised by Skarlath): they would use hit and run tactics. Picking off the vermin band one by one until Swartt either ran, or until Sunflash could confront him with victory being easy to obtain. This would have worked if Swartt hadn’t realized what they were doing and gone to Bowfleg the Warlord. Or as Swartt called him “Bowfleg the fat, Bowfleg the glutton”. Meanwhile, Skarlath and Sunflash made a couple of new friends. This came about when Sunflash and his friend observed a family of foxes standing sentry around a dwelling. The families trapped by the foxes were hedgehogs and moles. I forget all their names, but here are some: Tirry, Lully, Bruff, Uncle Blunn, Auntie Ummer. When the foxes were crouched, trembling, against the ground, Sunflash asked what had happened there.
Tirry explained the whole situation and then asked Sunflash if he wanted to slay them. This went on for awhile (at one point, one of the hedgehogs walked on the backs of the fox’s necks, driving their faces into the mud. Serves the vermin right!) The final conclusion was that if the foxes weren’t leaving then and there, Sunflash was going to kill them. Before he announced this though (with a good old roar), he split a leaf to make a whistle and had Tirry Lingl do it too. This was to be a call for help in case the foxes came back. Sunflash warned the foxes that if he wasn’t near enough, Skarlath would hear it. And if Skarlath wasn’t near enough, other birds would and they’d tell him, and so the information would get back to Sunflash eventually. He told them in no uncertain terms that if they terrorized the moles and hedgehogs again, they would be slain by him.
Sunflash is naturally the friend of all youngsters, so the six children (two molemaids, two hogmaids, and two little male hoglets) found that he didn’t mind them climbing all over him, smiling into his face, or stroking his yellow stripe, which earned him the name Sunflash. They all became friends and Sunflash spent a long time with them. This happy time ended though when Sunflash saved two of the children from some adders, and got bitten twice. He killed them both though, and when he recovered (thanks to the help of a squirrel named Elmjak), the little ones singing the riddle song brought his mother into his dream and he realized where he had to go. Salamandastron. And before we continue, here’s the riddle song:
‘Arm not alas sand, ‘way south in the west,
So star land a mat, that’s where I love best,
Sand not as alarm, lone seabirds do wing,
And alas most ran, list’ to me whilst I sing.
The first parts “‘Arm not alas sand”, “So star land a mat”, “Sand not as alarm”, and “And alas most ran” are all jumbled forms of the word “Salamandastron” as Sunflash came to realize. The next day he set out at dawn. Sunflash soon ran into trouble though, and was almost killed in a swamp. Luckily, Skarlath arrived and saved him, and then two otters (Folrig and Ruddle) appeared dragging a lizard named Smerk, who had lured Sunflash into the swamp. Funnily enough, they handed the lizard to Sunflash immediately after introducing themselves so that they could wrestle and insult each other, a normal pastime for them.
They’re quite funny actually, it’s always “I’m more handsome than you”, or “your dad tried to trade you for a frogbabe when you were a pup” and things like that. Sunflash soon learned that it was quite alright to insult them. They called him things like “butterbonce”. After awhile, Sunflash clears a boulder from the back of their hideout (which is behind a waterfall), and heard four badgers (his mother, his father, his grandfather, and his great grandfather) chant something. Here’s the chant:
Through wintercold and summerheat,
The Badger Lord knows not defeat!
Point of spear or blade of sword,
Nought can stop the Badger Lord!
It’s a pretty cool chant in my opinion. Shortly after getting rid of the boulder, he decided to leave in search of Salamandastron. Folrig and Ruddle told him they were going with him, no matter what he said. This was because we wore the talisman of Firjak Greenstone. If you want to learn his story, you’ve got to read the book. But the talisman means that squirrels and otters will assist him whenever he needs it. On the way to the shore he helps the Guosim (Guerilla Union Of Shrews In Mossflower) retrieve their kidnapped young ones from a corsair captain, killing all the pirates in the ship while in the clutches of the Bloodwrath. Skarlath had arrived and warned everyone to stay off the ship if they wanted to keep their lives, so only enemies were killed.
Later, Sunflash sent Folrig and Ruddle back with Log a Log and the Guosim so he could continue his journey to Salamandastron alone. He made it, with Skarlath watching over him, and met two ancient hares who had served his grandsire, Boar the Fighter (each letter in his name stands for a tree, birch, oak, ash, and rowan. At least, I think it was rowan…) Skarlath goes to spend the winter with the moles and hedgehogs. When spring came Swartt, who had a wife (not that he’d wanted one) and then got a son. Bluefen (I think that was her name) died giving birth to the baby six-clawed ferret, and no one bothered to name him.
On Swartt’s way to Salamandastron to find Sunflash, they almost came across Redwall Abbey. Luckily, Skarlath had seen the horde and warned the Abbess, so some squirrels and otters (and one hare called Jodd for short, because you don’t want to say his full name, and probably wouldn’t be able to remember it all) drove them away and only the vermin got killed. The baby ferret however, got left behind. He was taken to the abbey and given to Bryony, a young mousemaid, to take care of. Bella named him Veil (play with the letters and see what you get). The story progresses to a point where Veil tries to poison Friar Bunfold, gets caught, and exiled from the Abbey. Bryony goes after him, and her friend Togget the mole follows her, being the loyal fellow he is. The story now has two different groups of individuals going along their paths, headed towards the intersection where they will meet.
That’s all I’ll say, because if I say more, I’ll spill the beans on everything. 😛 As I said, it’s one of my favorites, and is a really good book, holding most of my favorite characters.