The Sable Quean: A Tale from Redwall

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9780142420607: The Sable Quean: A Tale from Redwall

Another Redwall adventure you won't forget!

The devious ruler Vilaya the Sable Quean and her hordes of vermin have a plan to conquer Redwall. And when the Dibbuns go missing, the plan is revealed. Will the Redwallers risk their Abbey and all of Mossflower Wood to save their precious young ones? Perhaps Buckler, Blademaster of the Long Patrol, can save the day. He has a score of his own to settle. And fear not, the Dibbuns are not as innocent as they appear. After all, they're from Redwall!

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About the Author:

Dr. Brian Jacques was both a master storyteller and a jack-of-all-trades. He lived the life of a sailor, actor, stand-up comedian, radio host, bobby, even a bus driver. He was the recipient of an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of Liverpool and a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five books for younger readers, including the wildly popular Redwall series. Dr. Jacques was a lifelong resident of Liverpool, England.
From the Paperback edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Book One

Travel Is An Adventure!

1

Wreathing slowly through the foliage of a white willow, smoke spiralled into the warm summer noon. Below on the riverbank, two rats and a burly stoat squatted around the fire, roasting roots and wild turnips on sharpened sticks. Scraping away ashes and burnt soil, the stoat inspected his half-raw turnip. He spat sourly into the fire.

“Wot sorta vittles is this fer a warrior? Stinkin’ roots an’ turnips ’ard as rocks!”

one of the rats remarked hopefully, “If’n ye don’t fancy it, then ¬I’ll eat it for ye.”

Baring his snaggled teeth, the stoat whipped forth a ¬dagger. “Put a paw near my vittles an’ ¬I’ll gut yer!”

The other rat nibbled at a ramson root, wincing with disgust. He was in agreement with the stoat. “Aye mate, meat’s wot we need, a brace o’ plump woodpigeons, or even a fish. I like fishes.”

The stoat flung his turnip into the fire, scowling. “We ¬don’t have ter put up wid this muck. I thought we was Ravagers, not scavengers. Any’ow, wot are we supposed t’be doin’, that’s wot ¬I’d like t’know?”

The first rat retrieved the turnip from the hot ashes, wip¬ing it off on his tattered sleeve. “Zwilt the Shade sez Sable Quean wants woodlanders, young uns. So we’ve got t’stay hid in the area an’ capture any we sees. That’s our orders, mate.”

Testing the edge of his blade on a grimy paw, the stoat grinned wickedly. “Young uns would make good meat. Just let me git me paws on a fat dormouse or a chubby liddle squirrel. I’d let Zwilt ’ave the bones to give to the Sable Quean!”

The smaller of the two rats looked fearful. “You’d do that? I ¬wouldn’t like t’be you if Zwilt found out.”

The burly stoat tossed his dagger into the air, catching it skilfully. “So, wot if’n he did, eh? Lissen, I ain’t scared of Zwilt, or ’is Sable Quean. They ¬don’t bother me!”

The larger rat whispered nervously, “Be careful wot ye say. They don’t call ’im Zwilt the Shade for nothin’—some say ’e’s magic!”

The stoat scoffed. “Rubbish! Wot sort o’ magic, eh?”

The rat took swift glances up and down the bank. “Nobeast sees Zwilt, unless ’e wants ’em to. They say ’e can come an’ go secretly, just as ’e pleases.”

The big stoat shook his head pityingly. “Yer a right ole frogwife if’n ye believe that. Shade or no Shade, Zwilt’s just a beast like any other. Y’see this dagger o’ mine? Well, one good stab of ¬it’d make Zwilt vanish forever!”

The voice came out of nowhere. “How can you do that when ¬you’re already dead, fool?”

Brandishing his weapon, the stoat bounded upright. “Who said that—who’s there?”

From behind his back, a cloaked figure emerged through the smoky willow foliage. With lightning speed and savage strength, it wrenched the stoat’s paw backward, sending the dagger spinning. Dust rose as the stoat’s back slammed against the ground. He lay there, staring up into the face of Zwilt the Shade.

The sable was a sight to instil fear into most creatures. Behind the natural mask of dark fur, his eyes were totally black, dead and inscrutable. Zwilt was lean, wiry and very tall for one of his species. Beneath a flowing cloak of dull purple, he wore a snakeskin belt with a broadsword thrust through it. His teeth showed small, white and sharply pointed as he hissed at the hapless stoat.

“You should have believed the rats. They spoke truly.”

The burly stoat gulped. “Sire, I was only jestin’ . . .”

Zwilt held a paw to his lips. “Silence. You should not be speaking— I’ve already told you that you’re dead.”

In desperation, the stoat tried to rise. “No I ¬ain’t—”

The broadsword appeared suddenly in Zwilt’s paws; he swung it like lightning. As the severed head rolled into the river, Zwilt addressed it.

“Oh, yes you are. Perhaps you’ll believe me now?” With¬out raising his voice, Zwilt the Shade turned his unblink¬ing stare on the two rats. “You believe me, ¬don’t you?”

They both nodded wordlessly, in stunned silence.

The tall killer wiped his blade on the headless carcass. “Get this thing out of my sight. Throw it in the river.”

The rats scrambled to obey his order. When they turned back again, he had gone. There was only the fire, dying to embers in the bright summer afternoon. The remains of their former comrade drifted slowly away on the current.

None of the vermin band known as the Ravagers dared to disobey Zwilt the Shade. His orders came directly from Vilaya, the one they called the Sable Quean.

2

Waves broke endlessly on the sands of Mossflower’s west¬ern shore, with the lonely hissing sigh that is the music of the sea. Late noon sun was still warming the beach above the tideline, where the mountain of Salamandastron tow¬ered over all. Brang the Badger Lord and his trusty com¬panion, General Flackbuth, sat watching a young hare drilling a group of leverets in the use of the sword. Brang nodded in admiration of the Blademaster.

“I tell ye, Flack, that young Buckler kordyne is by far the best we’ve seen here since his grandsire, Feryn. What d’ye think, eh?”

The old officer brushed a paw over his drooping mili¬tary mustachio. “Hmmph, I don’t doubt y’word, sah, not bein’ old enough to remember Feryn, wot!”

Brang gave a deep rumbling chuckle. “no, of course not. I’m the only one on this mountain still alive to tell the tale. That’s the trouble with living several life spans more than most beasts. Hoho—see that, Flack. Well par¬ried, young un!”

Buckler had just returned the stroke of another hare’s lunge. With an expert flick, he sent his opponent’s sabre whirling in the air. The blade flashed in the sunlight, land¬ing point first in the damp sand.

Executing a swift half turn, the Blademaster disarmed an attacker who had been stealing up on him. He shook his head at the culprit.

“Never hesitate when you see an opening, Tormy. I felt you behind me before I saw you. Remember, a slowbeast is a deadbeast. ¬You’ll have to move faster.”

Tormy picked up his blade ruefully. “I say, Buck old thing, d’ye think ¬I’ll ever be as jolly good as you are, wot?”

Buckler shrugged. “That’s up to you, mate. keep prac¬tising. Also, if I were you, I’d choose a lighter blade. You lack the paw power to wield a sabre. Try a long rapier.”

The leveret cast a longing glance at Buckler’s blade. “Like that blinkin’ beauty of yours?”

The Blademaster cleaved air with his own special sword. It was a peculiar hybrid, longer than other rapiers, honed razor- sharp on both edges, with a cross- basketed hilt. The blade was thicker than that of a rapier but superbly tem¬pered, to give it flexibility. Buckler winked good-naturedly at his pupil.

“There’s not another sword anywhere like this un. I de¬signed it myself, but he made it. ¬Isn’t that right, Brang?”

A flicker of annoyance showed in the Badger Lord’s dark eyes. He beckoned Buckler to attend him.

Saluting the leverets with his blade, Buckler dismissed them. “That’s enough for today, thank you.”

They returned his salute with various weapons. A sabre, a cutlass, a claymore and a broadsword. Sloping his blade over one shoulder, Buckler wandered over to where the huge badger was seated.

“What’s the matter? Have I done something wrong?”

Brang took the sword. He held it, feeling the balance. Bending the supple blade in an arc, he let it twang back, straight as a die.

“I had my doubts about forging this, but you were right—it’s the perfect weapon for you. I’ll tell you what you’ve done wrong, young un. not showing your superi¬ors the proper respect, that’s what!”

Returning the sword, Brang turned his back on Buckler, staring fixedly out to sea. The young Blademaster sighed audibly as General Flackbuth continued where the badger had left off.

“It’s the custom, laddie buck, to give title to those who’ve jolly well earned it, wot! How dare ye refer to the ruler of Salamandastron as Brang. ’Tis your duty to address him as m’Lord, or sah, d’ye hear me?”

Buckler stared coolly at the general. “Aye, I hear ye.”

Flackbuth bellowed in his face, “I hear ye, General!”

Buckler shrugged, repeating slowly, “I hear ye . . . ¬General.”

Lord Brang turned back, his expression softening as he addressed the young hare. “Come up to the forge chamber with me, Buck. It’s high time you and I had a talk.”

Buckler gathered up his array of training swords. He piled them into the waiting paws of his trusty assistant, Subaltern Meliton Gubthorpe Digglethwaite, or Diggs, as he was more commonly known. He was the same age as Buckler, though marginally smaller and markedly tubby. They were lifelong friends, if poles apart in their views of mountain life and etiquette. Diggs nodded toward the retreating Badger Lord.

“What ho, Buck, are you in the stew again, wot? Has old Flackbuth slapped a blinkin’ fizzer on you?”

Buckler winked at his friend. “no, it’s just that the big fellow wants to give me another lecture. Put the blades away, Diggs. I’ll catch up with you in the mess at supper.”

The forge chamber was an airy room, carved from the liv¬ing rock. It had all the equipment required by a Forge¬beast. Weapons in various stages of construction hung everywhere. There was a low, wide window, facing the open sea, with a magnificent view of the western horizon. Lord Brang was proud of his elderflower and comfrey cor¬dial. He poured two tankards, passing one to Buckler and indicating a seat on the window ledge.

Shaking his striped head wearily, the huge badger spoke. “Buckler kordyne, what are we going to do with you, eh?”

A smile hovered about the young hare’s lips. “I don’t know. Tell me, what are you going to do with me?”

Danger flashed in the badger’s eyes for one perilous moment. Then he burst out laughing, landing Buckler a hefty pat on the back, which almost sent him flying out of the window. Brang steadied him.

“Just like your grandsire—the same rebellious attitude, same carefree manner. every time I look at you, I see him returned from beyond the silent valleys. Aye, you’re the very model of Feryn kordyne. You won’t wear Long Pa¬trol uniform, don’t obey orders, always in trouble. You ¬don’t even speak like a Salamandastron hare. Why is that? What’s the matter with you, eh?”

Buckler answered the enquiry with a question. “I never knew my grandpa, was he as good as me with a blade?”

Brang replied, as if loath to say the words, “Feryn was a great Blademaster, the best I ever set eyes upon . . . until you came along.”

Embarrassed by the sudden compliment, Buckler quickly changed the subject. “Tell me again, how did he save your life?”

The sun was starting to drop beyond the horizon. Brang stared out at the crimson aisle it laid upon the calm sea. He never tired of relating the story of his escape from death.

“I was young in those seasons—your grandsire, too. We were about the same age as you are now. There was a plague of vermin sweeping the land. They were called the Ravagers. Aye, and a motley horde they were, mur¬dering, burning, looting and torturing, right across Moss¬flower. Their leader was a silver sable, Armuk Rinn the Conqueror. Something had to be done to protect Redwall and all our woodland friends.

“I sent out Long Patrol Scouts to discover where he made his lair. They tracked Rinn and his Ravagers long and hard. They were located in an old quarry northeast of Redwall Abbey.”

Brang stopped to refill their tankards. He tossed Buck¬ler a rough- looking chunk of pastry, with nuts baked into it. The young hare felt quite privileged—hardly anybeast was allowed to share the Mountain Lord’s scones, which he made himself on his forge. Brang watched him eating with pleasure.

“nothing like Salamandastron Forge Scones. They’ll put some iron into your muscles, young un. now, let me see, where was I?”

Buckler reminded him. “The scouts had found the ver¬mins’ lair, you said.”

Lord Brang took a sip from his tankard. “Aye, so they had. I ordered the full Long Patrol into battle order and marched on the villains. I must tell you, though, I was young and reckless then, wilder than you’d ever imagine. I take it ¬you’ve heard of the thing they call Bloodwrath?”

Buckler nodded silently, allowing Brang to explain.

“ ’Tis a terrible affliction, a sickness that drives a beast berserk. I had that Bloodwrath, the mad urge to fight, slay and slaughter. nothing could stand in my way, one beast or a score. When my eyes went red with the rush of blood, I became unstoppable. I outpaced my own hares, charging into that quarry, straight into the foebeast. Fool that I was! The Ravagers had scouted our approach. They were wait¬ing for us and had us heavily outnumbered. But I was out of control, roaring Eulalias and laying waste to the ¬vermin.

“By the blade and the hilt, I fought that day. Everything around me was one red mist, but I battled on. Those Rav¬agers pressed me hard—I still carry the wounds and scars they gave me. I became cut off from my hares, surrounded, so that I could scarcely move to swing my blade. Then I tripped and fell, the sword slipped from my bloodstained paws.

“That was when I saw him—Armuk Rinn, the great sable. He was standing over me, swinging a battleaxe. I knew my fate was sealed, I was a deadbeast. But a miracle occurred. Your grandsire Feryn, my trusty right paw, came hurtling through the air, blade flashing, roaring his war cry. He struck like a thunderbolt, cleaving Armuk Rinn, helmet and head, right through his evil brain!”

Buckler’s eyes were shining, even though he had heard the tale before. “And that’s what settled the battle?”

Brang rose. Crossing to his forge, he leaned down heav¬ily upon the bellows. A plume of golden flame and scarlet sparks shot up, illuminating the badger’s powerful head, glinting in his fierce eyes. “Aye, young un, that was a bat¬tle to remember. Though it was my friend Feryn’s brave act which carried the day. Those Ravagers who were still alive fled when they saw what happened to the mighty Armuk Rinn. Up until then, the vermin didn’t believe he could be defeated.”

Buckler laughed. “But my grandpa proved different! That’s why you gave him the Coin.”

The Badger Lord scowled. “Let me tell you about that thing, young un. It actually was a coin, a golden one, from someplace far beyond the sunset, long ago. When I was very young—I recall it was wintertide—I was walking the shoreline south of this mountain when I came across the wreck of an old vessel. It was buried deep by the seasons. There wasn’t much to see, only a bit of old wood sticking out of the sand. Well, I started digging it up and choos¬ing pieces, planning on taking them to old Corporal Cook Magirry. He was a real good old sort, often keeping a little plum duff in the oven for me. Actually it was Magirry who taught me to make Forge Scones.”

Buckler sensed that Brang was going off into tales of his early seasons, so he interrupted. “But how did you come across the Coin?”

The badger came back to the point. “There was a hole in it, and a rusty iron spike fixing it to what looked like part of a mast.” He smiled, winking at the young hare. “Twas my secret treasure. I kept it, same as any young un would. That night I inspected the coin. It was a curious thing, worn smooth but quite heavy and bright. There were a few strange marks on one side— couldn’t make out what they were— er, hadn’t you better run along now, Buck? ¬They’ll be serving supper in the mess.”

Buckler, however, was ...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Another Redwall adventure you won t forget! The devious ruler Vilaya the Sable Quean and her hordes of vermin have a plan to conquer Redwall. And when the Dibbuns go missing, the plan is revealed. Will the Redwallers risk their Abbey and all of Mossflower Wood to save their precious young ones? Perhaps Buckler, Blademaster of the Long Patrol, can save the day. He has a score of his own to settle. And fear not, the Dibbuns are not as innocent as they appear. After all, they re from Redwall!. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780142420607

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