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Slagar the Cruel:
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The Adventures of Superstripe the Unrealistic
(And his trusty hare, Edwin)

Chapter Seven: "Edwin's Uncharacteristically Trenchant Misadventure"

Biting gales washed relentlessly through the Southwestern woods of Mossflower, upsetting clouds of dying leaves in their wake. The trees were nearly bare now, only sporting the meanest patches of fiery color amidst their jagged canopy, and stood like dark obelisks pointing towards the bleak autumn sky.

Ensconced within this swirling chaos was a single pale blue flower, gripping tenuously to its life in the portentous face of the season’s blight. It remained a lost relic of the softness of Spring and Summer, a sole survivor of a saner time in the clutches of withering vitiation.

Edwin, who was in no mood for poetic imagery, made a point of stepping on this flower as he sulked moodily through the forest in the familiar shadow of the brawny behemoth of a badgerlord known only as Superstripe the Unrealistic.

The hare scowled, kicking some leaves from his path that might have been found to cryptically symbolize the significance of fatherhood had they been given the chance to be described. He had never enjoyed filling the role of a comical sidekick, as everyone who knew him was well aware. Excepting Superstripe, of course, in whose presence Edwin typically put on an air of carefree up-beat cheeriness befitting of his job, largely to avoid becoming suspected of some kind of vermin-related treachery.

Edwin had managed to maintain this façade for seasons, through ill-advised crusades against hordes of vermin, abortive attempts to follow what Superstripe believed to be visions of his ancestors… he even managed to crack a smile after accompanying Superstripe halfway to Fort Marshank before the badger remembered that Fort Marshank was destroyed hundreds of seasons prior. The only thing that had been holding Edwin together throughout it all was the hope that his journeys had a tangible end in sight, that Superstripe had some insane quota of random half-baked justice dispensing to meet, and that afterwards he’d shift gears and become a benign monarch as most badgerlords do.

Yet Superstripe showed no sign of slowing down, even after he had eliminated all the credible threats to peace he could think of. In fact, the overpowered buffoon was now leading Edwin on a mission to rescue Redwall Abbey, even though he had no idea of whether or not it was actually in danger… for the second time in, like, half a year. Edwin was beginning to doubt that he would ever be able to return home from this nightmarishly inane servitude. Naturally, this totally grinded the hare’s gears, and he was farther from being interested in amusing his idiot master than he had ever been.

The massive armor-clad badger suddenly stopped as he reached a dip in the contour of the woods, and turned to his sullen companion. “Now Edwin, don’t think I haven’t realized why you’ve been so grumpy lately,” he softly boomed (a feat which only a cosmic anomaly such as Superstripe could perform).

Edwin rolled his eyes. “I appreciate the concern, sah, but no, I’m not knee-deep in vermin-related treachery,” he spat. He paused, then quickly added “wot, wot” as something of an afterthought.

Superstripe burst into peals of laughter. “Ah, ha, ha! Oh, Edwin, they don’t call you ‘the laughable lagomorph’ for nothing! Well, I don’t call you that for nothing, I mean. And by that I mean I plan to start calling you that from now on,” he answered, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “No, if I really thought you were a vermin traitor, you would already be dead. What I mean is, you’d like some more concrete proof that Redwall is endangered to back up my almighty badger intuition before we march across Mossflower, wouldn’t you?”

The hare’s mind reeled with confusion. He had come to expect the unbelievable from the badger, but… exhibiting logic? Insight? Understanding? Character development? “Er, yes sah, that has been bugging me a flippin’ lot,” he blurted enthusiastically.

“That’s good, because even if you hadn’t we’d be coming here anyways,” Superstripe coolly replied. “I hear there’s a place around here that gives out free candied chestnuts.”

Edwin’s mind reeled with confusion again, albeit not as much this time. He shrugged. At least he was secure in the knowledge that Superstripe was, in fact, being as blockheaded as usual. “Where exactly is ‘here’ anyways, sah?” the hare inquired, scratching his head.

Superstripe beckoned his companion, leading him to the edge of the precipice… which sloped steeply downwards, into a vast hidden valley, teeming with distant specks of creatures, and filled with a multitude of pink and red structures.

He spread his arms widely, and his mouth broke into an immensely toothy grin. “We are currently standing upon the doorstep of the greatest, most impressive gathering of those knowledgeable in the matters of Redwall in the known world,” he answered proudly. “Welcome, my dear Edwin… to the Redwall Overseeing Center.”

Edwin squinted. It seemed that the majority of the buildings in the valley appeared to be in an advanced state of dilapidation. “Doesn’t look all that impressive to me,” he coldly remarked.

“Oh, shut up,” Superstripe replied. “Come! We march now to truth, to glory, and to free food!”

As the diametric duo made their way into the village, they met with a crowd gathered around a bonfire, discussing trivialities. The townsbeasts warmly welcomed Superstripe and Edwin in unison, then resumed their conversation as though they weren’t present.

“Er, excuse me,” Edwin called to the group, “could you by any chance tell us whether or not Redwall Abbey is in mortal peril?” He inwardly noted that this sort of casual inquiry sounded infinitely more absurd when spoken aloud.

One member of the group, a hedgehog, chuckled derisively. “Redwall?” he snorted. “Sorry, lad, but I haven’t kept up with the haps over at that place in seasons. I imagine it’s as stagnant and unengaging as ever.”

“Yeah, for sure,” an otter added. “I mean, I used to think the place was fascinating and all, but after a while it just kind of crumbled apart.”

“Redwall is crumbling apart?!” Superstripe cried with alarm. “What did I tell you, Edwin? Quickly, let us make haste, fast-like, and maybe there will still be time to use my psychic Abbey-rebuilding powers to-“

“He was speaking figuratively,” the hedgehog interrupted, rolling his eyes. “After a while, for some reason, the place just stopped seeming… new to all of us. Like, throughout its history, it’s just… the same place. Nothing ever happens there.”

Edwin mind was reeling so much that it actually somehow negated his confusion. “B-but incredibly massive army launched a failed attack on Redwall less than two seasons ago! I was there!” he spluttered.

“Oh, that sort of thing always happens,” the otter sniffed. “Getting attacked, launching quests, fighting in wars… it’s always just the same old tired, mundane events.”

“Worst of all,” a mouse sitting nearby added, “every time the place gets attacked, it ends up staying safe and morally decent. I mean, really! Who wants to keep watch over a place too boring to challenge your world view on a regular basis?”

“Hey, what’s this Redwall you guys are talking about?” said a rabbit in the back of the group. “Is it a roleplaying site or something?”

Edwin shook his head in disgust. “What is wrong with you people?! Are you not aware that you inhabit the REDWALL OVERSEEING CENTER?!” he shouted.

For a moment, only the crackling of the fire could be heard as the entire crowd silently glared at Edwin with expressions of extreme offense - except for the rabbit, who answered, “Oh, so that’s what the R stands for!”

“We only live here,” the hedgehog coolly replied, “because it’s a place we can use to talk to each other, capiche? Now kindly get lost, and take your simplistic, narrow-minded view of what does and does not constitute Redwall-overseeing with you.”

Edwin considered reminding the chatting villagers that they could just as easily hold conversations somewhere else but, upon spotting the raised pitchforks in their paws, decided instead to walk away without saying anything or looking anybeast in the eye.

“Smooth, Edwin,” Superstripe said as he ran after Edwin, “real smooth. We haven’t been here for like a minute, and you’ve already come close to inciting a riot against us. That I would have incinerated. Because they would probably turn out to be vermin in disguise.” He paused for a moment, lost in some pale imitation of thought. “Hey, you know what I bet got them all worked up?” he suddenly exclaimed. “The fact that you’re not speaking with an accent befitting of a comical hare sidekick.”

“Oh, be quiet… sah,” Edwin growled.

While glancing around in search of a less insane group of “overseers”, the hare’s gaze fell upon a massive, ornate newsstand. Unlike the other buildings in the center, the newsstand showed no sign of dirt, decay, or shoddy craftsmanship. A sign above the stand read “Tower’s Edge Post: the #1 News Source for Redwall Overseers” in bold, flowing script.

Edwin dashed towards the stand. “If anybeast here’s got the bally scoop on Redwall,” he yelled back to Superstripe, “it’ll be these chaps!”

He grabbed the latest copy of the magazine from one of the hundreds of shelves that outlined the stand. “Nice establishment you’re running here,” he chimed brightly to a shrew behind the counter. “It must be hard keeping a newsstand so professional.”

“Yeah, well, the hard part was inventing the printing press,” the shrew replied. “It’s been pretty easy sailing from there.”

Edwin opened the magazine, and began searching for an article pertaining to Redwall’s current safety. A story about the latest events at the Center kicked things off… then he found a feature about writing… and then another feature about writing… and another… and another. Frowning, Edwin began to thumb frantically through the magazine.

“’How to Write a Birthday Scene’… ’Picking the Right Eye Color for Your Character’…? ’How to Write a Cocker-Spaniel’?!” Edwin repeated incredulously. “What the hellgates kind of ‘Redwall magazine’ is this?”

“Oh, you’re looking for actual information about the Abbey?” laughed the clerk. “Well, we got bored with writing about that place a long time ago. But since a lot of the folks around here are interested in writing, we decided to just write articles about how to write and print those in their place.”

“The only writing article you people need is ‘How to Write a Magazine that Remotely Acknowledges Its Subject Matter’,” the hare said bitterly, tossing the magazine to the clerk.

“Hey, so what if we’ve deviated a bit? We still pay homage to our roots in Redwall-observation! See?” the shrew shouted back, pointing to a tiny line of print on the magazine’s back cover which read, “REDWALL IS STILL BORING AND STUPID AND NOBODY CARES WHAT HAPPENS THERE”.

“Let me guess,” Superstripe groaned, finally trudging over to Edwin’s side, “your crazy drive to subject my assumptions to rational investigation has been fruitless again. Why don’t you give it a rest already? We’ve been here for like an hour already and I still haven’t gotten a hold of that free food. I’m starving over here!”

“I thought you said you didn’t need to eat,” snapped Edwin. “That your allotted food intake was five sandwiches per decade or something.”

Superstripe shifted his eyes nervously, blurted something about a cry for help, and flew off shouting “up, up, and away!”

“Every time he’s losing an argument, without fail…” Edwin muttered, before turning again to the clerk. “So basically, nobeast in the Redwall Overseeing Center can tell me anything about what’s going on at Redwall?” he asked.

The shrew shifted about nervously in his seat, then leaned over the counter towards Edwin. “I shouldn’t even be telling you this,” he whispered, “but there’s this place on the far east side of town run by strange folks who still oversee what transpires at Redwall. I hear that they know what goes on at the Abbey before anyone else. If you really have some interest in the Abbey, I’d advise heading there.”

“Uh, thanks,” Edwin replied. “And sorry about insulting Tower’s Edge, and all.”

“Don’t worry about it,” the shrew replied, inwardly savoring the sweet taste of revenge.

As Edwin made his way through the alleyways of the Overseeing Center to the far end of the town, he noticed significant changes in his surroundings. The roads grew increasingly cracked and unstable, each house that lined the street seemed older and more deteriorated than the last, and the few inhabitants he did see were not engaged in reserved conversation so much as they were gamboling wildly, shouting like children.

Upon noticing a banner hanging over one house in celebration of Abbot Mortimer’s coronation, Edwin began to understand that he had been sent by the shrew at Tower’s Edge to something of a ghost town. Cursing under his breath, the hare began to turn around, but something caused him to stop in his tracks.

He heard someone discussing Redwall.

With a burst of speed, the hare ran to the source of the conversation: a mouse and a dormouse, running in circles around an ancient, ruined hovel.

“Who’s your favorite squirrel from the historical records of Redwall?” the dormouse cried. “I like Felldoh, he is tough!”

“No, my pick is definitely Basil, because he is so funny! Ha, ha!” the mouse shouted back.

“Excuse me, lads,” Edwin said excitedly, “but have you heard anything about the –“

“Hey, it’s a hare! Welcome to the Center, hare! Hope you have fun!” the dormouse said.

“Yeah, I also generically welcome you, hare! Ha, ha, we’re so crazy here!” the mouse laughed, still dancing aimlessly around the ruins.

”Thanks and all, but I’m really just here for some information,” Edwin replied. “Can you tell me whether or not Redwall Abbey has been in danger just recently?”

They both shook their heads. “I’m still reading the historical records, so I haven’t gotten up to the current ones yet,” the mouse replied, and the dormouse concurred.

“Look, this is very important,” Edwin said sternly, anger beginning to rise up within him again. “I’ve been browsing through the Overseeing Center for a while now, and I still haven’t found anyone who can actually tell me anything about Redwall that I don’t already know. Can you please, for the love of the fates, direct me towards someone who can?”

“Hmm… know who I bet could tell you that?” the dormouse replied. “Russano the Wise. He was so wise! He was my favorite badgerlord. What is your favorite badgerlord?”

“Mine is Matthias because he won every time,” the mouse gleefully chimed.

Edwin rolled his eyes. “Look, I really don’t give a damn about who your favorite –“ he began, before being interrupted by twin gasps of terror.

“You… you broke a rule!” the mouse whispered. “You’re a… a rule-breaker! Rule-breaker! Rule-breaker!” Soon the dormouse was chanting “rule-breaker” as well, and before long it was echoing through the streets as creatures crawled from the ruins to surround Edwin.

The hare began to explain that he had intended no offense, but the only sounds he was able to produce were muffled grunts, as he has already been gagged and bound by the increasingly massive swarm of previously amicable creatures. They began to drag him off, prompting the hare to struggle against the ropes holding him down.

“See how he tries to defend himself?” the dormouse cried vindictively. “He’s a no-good rule-breaker through and through. Take him out! He’ll be dealt with properly when –“ but Edwin heard no more as his head met with a blow from a particularly heavy satchel of candied chestnuts.

Edwin awoke with a start to the sound of a huge and ancient bell being struck, and a command that all must rise. Rising from the seat he had been slumped in reflexively, he realized that he had been shackled to a chair in the center of a dimly lit stone hall, before a tall, wooden platform. Behind the platform three shadowed figures stood in silence, behind a plaque reading IS EST VERUS QUOANIAM INQUAM IS EST VERUS.

He glanced around the room, finding each of the creatures that had assaulted him earlier standing over rows of seats, smirking at Edwin’s misfortune. Between the two sets of rows marched an aged gray hare wearing a purple cape, his expression one of weariness and disgust.

The hare took a seat behind the wooden platform, his huge, metal chair perpendicular to Edwin’s. The other creatures in the room followed suit, including the very dazed Edwin after a time.

“I, Waltim the Processor, do hereby call the trial of this anonymous hare into order,” the gray hare called out, banging a mighty steel gavel. “As you know, our mission here is to review and subsequently utterly destroy the reputation of this-“

“E-excuse me, sir… uh, your majesty… er, your honor… Waltim,” Edwin stuttered, “I’m not really anonymous. My name is Edwin.”

The audience gasped. Waltim’s red, swollen eyes bulged with rage. “Your trial hasn’t even begun, and already you’re insinuating that I’m ignorant. But then, that’s just like you, isn’t it? Always pointing fingers at somebody else, aren’t you?” he growled, pointing a shaking finger in Edwin’s direction.

Edwin blinked, his confusion mounting. “Uh, what… what are you talking about? I was just telling you my name. How do you expect to pass a judgment on me or whatever if I don’t get a chance to tell you anything about my case?” he asked.

“Listen, Edwin,” Waltim said, rolling his eyes impatiently, “if you think I need you to tell me anything about you before I can pass judgment on you, you’re sadly mistaken. Your misbehavior has already spoken volumes about what kind of uncooperative rule-breaker you really are.” The shadowy figures standing behind Waltim nodded dumbly.

“I’ve only been here a day!” Edwin cried. “Give me a break, I didn’t know there even were any rules in place!”

“Don’t insult our intelligence. You’ve already exhausted your allotted number of breaks,” the older hare spat, “which is one. If you couldn’t have been bothered to scour our corner of town for the list of rules before opening your mouth, then it’s not my problem. Your indiscretion was an extremely serious one, Edwin, and-”

“Excuse me,” a mouse in the crowd timidly started, “I, uh, I’m kind of new here too, and I missed the explanation for why this guy is on trial… could you repeat it, please?” Those adjacent to the mouse began to beat him about the head, and Waltim rolled his hateful, puffy eyes back into his head once more.

“The knowledge of why Waltim the Processor and his League of Legality impounds anybeast is classified!” the gray hare cried. “To be privy to that information you’d have to be a part of the Overseers for years, join my private inner-sanctum, try to become a part of the secret inner-inner-sanctum, prove yourself as worthy of membership in the extra-special inner-inner-inner-sanctum, become my close, personal friend, and then ask me about it on an off-moment when I’m not thinking too hard about how it’s not important that anyone but me understands my decisions!”

The figures behind Waltim nodded furiously. “Waltim knows best, for it has been so for as long as any can remember, and will always continue to be!” one proclaimed.

“I think I’m here because I used the word ‘damn’,” Edwin told the mouse dryly, prompting consternation from the crowd.

Waltim banged his gavel again, now sporting a rotted grin. “See? What did I tell you?” he laughed. “This immature, trouble-making rule-breaker has no control of himself! Everybeast knows that you are not to use language in this neck of the Redwall Overseeing Center that would not be typically used in the historical records of Redwall!” The figures laughed soullessly along with him, pointing at Edwin.

“Uh, about that, sir…” an otter in the crowd piped up, “the word ‘damn’ actually did appear in the historical records of Redwall at least once. I’ve got a record open to the right page right now, see, there’s a fox healer named Sela who says – hey, stop it! Where are you taking me? Help!” The door of the courtroom slammed shut as one of the shadowy figures finished dragging the otter outside. A scream of pain and terror sounded, then the figure returned, minus the otter but plus stains of blood along her cloak.

Waltim cleared his throat. “Perhaps that example of outrageous behavior will teach you all,” he said, “the importance of not questioning whether what I say is or isn’t true. Now, let’s get back to deciding which brutal punishment is best suited for this rule-breaker…”

“Look, Waltim, it’s not like I’m even a part of your community,” Edwin snapped, anger supplanting the confusion inside him for like the fiftieth time that day. “Couldn’t we just agree for me to leave and never come back, and call it squaresies from there?”

“What, so you can continue overstepping the boundaries of the Redwall Overseeing Center? So you can continue dancing dangerously close the edge of the knife of impropriety? So that you can resume your passive-aggressive sniping from afar?” Waltim replied, his eyes crawled into his decrepit skull yet again. This quickly stilled Edwin’s tongue, as he had no earthly idea of what to make of the other hare’s vague insinuations.

One of the other shadowy figures, who apparently had been writing on an incredibly long strip of parchment the entire time, handed it over to Waltim, who proceeded to toss is towards Edwin. “Now, I’m a compassionate and fair ruler,” the old hare said thoughtfully, leaning back into his chair, “so I’ll give you a chance to speak on your behalf. But you must do it on our terms! In your paws you hold quotes of everything you’ve said since you’ve been in this courtroom, along with our notes on how each phrase has incriminated you and your side of this argument. Respond to each of these before we declare the subject to be ‘retired’, and you might just have the time and willpower to answer our responses to your responses as well!”

“You know what, I’m sick of this,” Edwin said, tearing the parchment into pieces. “This entire trial is absolutely ridiculous. Waltim, you keep acting like you’re some kind of divinely appointed authority, but honestly, what power do you even command? Okay, you rule over the discussions of a bunch of people who keep up with Redwall, that’s great. But it seems like you’ve been monitoring this place for so long that you’ve lost any sense of circumstance and reason that you might have had. You’ve forgotten that it’s more important to provide an environment conducive to learning about and debating what happens at Redwall Abbey than to metrically police everything that happens within your corner of the Overseeing Center.”

He began to say something else, then stopped. “Wait, no, not metrically, I meant meticulously. Sorry, my mistake entirely, I’m not really used to impromptu speech-writing, and… hellgates, now I’ve forgotten my place completely. Oh well, I guess I’m done.”

“Um… very inspiring,” Waltim replied, raising an eyebrow. “But by tearing up that piece of parchment, you’ve just sealed your own death warrant. Too bad, if you had behaved you could have gotten a ‘quick and painless’, but I’m afraid it’s ‘slow and excruciating’ for you.”

Waltim gestured to the guards, who unchained Edwin and began leading him towards the door, when the hare yelled at the top of his lungs, “help! There’s a vermin disguised as a hare standing on a wooden platform who’s brainwashing these townsfolk into capturing and later killing me!”

“Tactful as ever, Edwin,” the much older hare replied sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “Figures you’d find a way to fit one last insult in there before being executed. Or was that supposed to be a half-hearted attempt at turning my people against me? Honestly, to mistake me for a vermin in a suit you would have to be the stupidest, most moronic, unintelligent, beast-headed, brainless, rule-breaking –“

Waltim’s sentence was abruptly cut off, along with his head, as a flashing energy disk whirled through the ceiling and into the hare’s neck.

With a bang, Superstripe the Unrealistic crashed through the roof of the building and in front of Edwin, prompting more screams of horror from the already terrified crowd. Wrapping his mighty paws around the heads of the two guards approaching Edwin, he smashed their skulls together effortlessly, robbing them of their mental faculties for the rest of their lives.

“Thanks for the assist, sah,” said Edwin, his voice smacking of both weariness and gratitude. “It really came in handy, wot? So how’d the blinkin’ chestnut hunt turn out for you, m’lord?”

Superstripe grimaced, forgetting the chaos he had just created entirely. “Terribly, Edwin! They wanted me to join some crazy club before they would hand over the free candied chestnuts. Which isn’t free at all, right? But they wanted me to do some kind of juvenile activities, relating to bedtimes, or bathtimes, or whatever. So I punched out the club’s leader, who I’m sure was in on this vermin plot I just foiled, stole some candied chestnuts, and flew off,” he answered. “So, are you ready to go yet?”

“Well, I never learned anything about Redwall from this place that I couldn’t have figured out myself,” Edwin replied. “’Tis a silly place. But I do have one last thing I’d like to tell the chaps over there before I leave…”

Edwin turned to the scrambling crowd, which was now joined by three much-less shadowy figures attempting frantically to blend in and avoid the badgerlord’s sight. “Let this serve as a lesson to all of you!” he said, spreading his arms. “It is always an option to just leave and start somewhere else. No one being is all-powerful just because they claim to be! You don’t have to be dependent on anyone! Authority draws its power from the creatures it rules, and if an authority figure does not work towards the people’s benefit and refuses to explain why, you can simply throw off –“

“Wrap it up, Edwin,” Superstripe boomed, “I, the all-powerful Superstripe, feel like leaving this mixed-up town, and therefore we must. Because I say so and because your existence is dependent on my decision of whether or not to kill you for vermin treachery. That I might infer.”

“…yes, m’lord,” Edwin grudgingly replied after a few moments. He then shuffled towards his master, who, placing an enormous paw upon the hare’s shoulder, teleported them both to someplace hopefully less embarrassing.

DISCLAIMER: Redwall, Slagar, and all related properties (C) Brian Jacques and the Redwall Abbey Company. All rights reserved.