Some Laughs And Games About Redwall
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Slagar the Cruel:
Coast to Coast
(And his trusty hare, Edwin)
Chapter Five: "H'altercation of the Mountain Kings"
The reflected sun shone brilliantly from the endless blue canvas of the sea, the choir of the gulls blurted their disjointed song from above, and another beautiful Summer day dawned amidst the bleary-eyed dwellers of the Salamandastron beaches.
One such inhabitant, a diminutive brown-speckled crab, crawled tentatively from the comfort of the surf onto the rough sand in order to greet the new day in his own mute fashion. As he danced along the hot beach, he noticed something terribly amis out of the corner of his stalk-supported eye: something huge in the distance, kicking up hills of sand as it charged, was bursting forward with the greatest haste.
If the crab had an organ capable of providing it with auditory perception, rather than a system of microscopic hairs that detected changes in water pressure to provide a sort of underwater hearing, he would have heard Superstripe the Unrealistic’s booming cry of “ALBATROOOOSS!” as he rushed towards his home. As it was, he only felt being kicked helplessly through the air in the badger’s wake.
“It’s ‘Eulalia’, sah,” Edwin corrected patiently. Edwin, who had been appointed as Superstripe’s trusty hare long ago (and who had been hanging on to the badgerlord’s shoulder for dear life over the past few days) was more than used to amending his master’s blunders.
“Oh, well, of course it is,” answered the mighty Superstripe. “What did I say?”
“You said ‘Albatross’, sah,” answered Edwin, a bit wearily.
Supestripe ran silently for a moment, then laughed. “Oh Edwin, you comical hare, you!” he boomed with glee. “You’re, ah, how would you put it, you’re ‘pulling my leg’. No, I didn’t say ‘Albatross’. Believe me, I’d know if I said ‘Albatross’. And I’m pretty sure that I didn’t say ‘Albatross’. Maybe amateurs like you say ‘Albatross’; it’s not my place to say, because I’m not an amateur. But we badgerlords will stick to real war cries like ‘Eulalia’, thank you very much. Well, it doesn’t much matter, because we’ve arrived!”
The towering super-powered badger screeched to a halt as he passed from the beach into the narrow cave between the rocks that led inside Salamandastron. At last, Edwin was able to slip from Superstripe’s shoulders and slump to the ground, as the badgerlord cupped his hands to his mouth and began to speak.
“AL… LALIAAA!” hollered Superstripe, corrected himself in mid-war cry. “Your beloved almighty badger lord has finally returned! Lower the ladder!”
After a moment’s hesitation, the ladder was lowered, and the duo ascended into the mountain stronghold to meet with the hare on ladder duty. Edwin instantly recognized the frantic and worried-looking hare as Mandlegorf Flixwich, who could often be found filling such inconsequential roles as these.
“Oh goodness, I can’t tell y’ how glad I am to see y’, m’lud!” Flixwich rattled off at an alarming pace. “Not to say I’m not always glad to see y’, m’lud. I mean, we rely on you, m’lud, I mean be fair, you’re only the greatest badgerlord wot ever chewed the leg off a rat, jus’ like that plaque y’ have in your chambers says, m’lud, but this… this is a very bad situation we’re in, an’ no mistakin’, m’lud!”
Superstripe glanced nonchalantly at the ladder operator. “Let me guess, o hare in my employ. There’s… trouble at Salamandastron???” The baderlord wiggled his fingers in a way indicative of how mysterious it was that he possessed this knowledge. “Prophetic ancestral vision, don’t you know! Now, where are the vermin who are causing all of this… trouble?”
”Er, well, s’not vermin wot’s causin’ us trouble, m’lud!” Flixwich stuttered.
Superstripe raised an eyebrow. “Beg your pardon?” he asked. As Flixwich continued, the badger became more and more visibly unnerved.
“Vermin don’t enter into this bit of worry, m’lud! Not in the least, actually! The problem, as ill fortune would have it, m’lud, ties directly to the precise fate of your job! S’truth, m’lud! In fact, the source of this fiasco sounds to be approachin’ right this moment…!”
Thunderous footsteps sounded from further inside the mountain, accompanied with an equally loud voice. “I believe somebeast just mentioned the ranking of badgerlords in the field of chewing off the legs of rats! You will all be pleased to know that I just set a new record for that last Tuesday! Which means that the top one in that field is me!”
Superstripe froze with horror, and Edwin’s mouth hung open in disbelief.
Another badgerlord, wearing armor gilded with gold and adorned with legendary gems of ancient importance and holding a sword slightly larger than himself, rounded the corner. Briefly looking the pair over, he remarked, “You must be weary travelers from afar! Do not be afraid, for non-vermin types who are faced with exhaustion will always find aid here, in the halls of Salamandastron. Allow me to introduce myself: I am the mighty badgerlord Brockwarrior Greatblade. I welcome you both to this, my kingdom!”
Superstripe’s subsequent cry of rage resulted in the temporary deafness of nearly half the mountain’s occupants.
That night in the mountain’s infirmary – after hours of being crammed in the same room with scores of deafened hares soliciting examination - Edwin finally found himself regaining the use of his ears.
“I guess that makes you the last one to recover,” remarked Sona, an infirmary attendant who had known Edwin since his arrival at Salamandastron. A sensible creature, she served as a sort of confidant for her hapless friend. “Not surprisin’, of course, when you take proximity into account,” she added, removing bandages from Edwin’s inner ear.
“Well, yeah,” Edwin replied. “I was standing right next to him. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my ears had been blown clear off my head. So Sona, as you might have guessed, I haven’t heard the story behind this Brockwarrior fellow yet…”
She shrugged. “Not really much to tell. Superstripe was off saving Redwall and such, and we were carrying out the inane directions he left behind for us as usual, when all of a sudden this fellow shows up fully equipped for the job, makes a great deal of fuss over how he’s ‘found it at last’, and then announces that the dormancy of Salamandastron’s throne was at an end. Of course, we tried to tell him that we already had a badgerlord, but…” she sighed and shook her head. “Much like our last commander, Brockwarrior seems to have very selective comprehension, wot?”
Edwin slumped in his chair, disappointed. “He’s no better than Superstripe, then?” he asked.
“Lord Brockwarrior has a bit less flair for, well, the unrealistic,” answered Sona, nodding to another infirmary attendant passing by the doorway. “But, yeah, those two are more or less six an’ a half-dozen, wot?” She did a double-take towards the doorway, and exclaimed, “huh! There goes Superstripe now!”
Edwin quickly climbed up from his chair. “I’d better have a word with him,” he said as he hurried towards the door. “I have a better shot at sorting all this out with Superstripe than most. Well… I probably don’t, but it’s worth a try.”
Superstripe’s sidekick caught up with him as he lumbered down one of the mountain’s stairwells, his shoulders hunched in agitated determination. “Where’re y’ off to now, sire?” Edwin called to his master, quickly adopting the typical (somewhat silly) manner of speaking commonly expected from hares.
“Noises,” Superstripe growled in a low voice. “Downstairs. Near the Great Hall. This… this interloper,” he spat scathingly, “is doing something to my furnace.”
Edwin gulped, joining the badger by his side. Superstripe was taking all of this about as well as he had expected.
“Ah, you’ve recovered from your fleeting madness just in time, my predecessor!” Brockwarrior warmly exclaimed as the pair entered the room. “In commemoration of your visit, I decided to replace the entire Long Patrol’s armory with these greatly superior models of weapons and armor, which I have crafted myself! Hopefully this will prove to you that I am, in fact, fit for the role of badgerlord.” He chortled with glee. “That was a joke, you see,” he explained, “as that fact was already painfully obvious to everybeast, I’m sure.”
“Greatly superior…?” Superstripe repeated, aghast. “But I made those supplies myself when I first came to the mountain, and I made sure that they were the finest equipment an army has ever used in all of this land’s history!”
“Uh… well, the ones I made are still better,” Brockwarrior replied.
Superstripe roared with frustration. “Look, this charade has gone on long enough! I’m still the effective ruler of this mountain, and you know it!”
“My friend, you must recognize that this is not some kind of theft of your throne!” Brockwarrior replied in what seemed to be surprise. “The passing of the torch is just a part of our mighty role. I followed the whims of my inner-being – in short, a hunch – and it led me to the halls of my ancestors, where I was clearly meant to fill the position you had left behind.”
“Yeah, but see, I didn’t actually LEAVE that position,” Superstripe barked. “It was a temporary absence! I was off saving Redwall, for Stonepaw’s sake! Everybeast knew that I was planning to come back!”
Brockwarrior chose to ignore this line of reasoning. “It’s more than that, Superstripe. Can you tell me exactly when you first came to Salamandastron?”
For a moment, Superstripe was lost in his own self-admiration. “Oh, my coronation to the position of badgerlord took place far more seasons ago than you could possibly… er, I mean, that’s none of your business!” he snapped.
“Ah, so you admit that you’re… how should I put this… ‘old news’, Superstripe?” said Brockwarrior, raising a paw. “You’ve had a good run here, then. Now I have been called here to rule, and you’ve just got to make way and accept it. Perhaps you could peacefully abdicate to Brockhall, or something?”
“I think YOU’RE the one who should be abdicating to Brockhall, not me!” Superstripe shouted, losing all self-control. “Because you’re the one who… whose name starts with ‘Brock’, so that means… you’re a… you… THIS ISN’T OVER YET!” he finished, storming moodily away from the room.
Brockwarrior simply turned his attention back to his metalwork. Edwin, who was unsure of whether Brockwarrior had actually noticed his presence, tugged on the badger’s arm.
“Excuse me, sah,” the hare started, “the name’s Edwin, an’ I happen to be Lord Superstripe’s personal companion. D’you think you could entertain some sort of joint rulership with my master, at least until y’ get all this confusion sorted out? Don’t think he’d much care for any other solution, wot?”
The badger smiled, and replied, “if you think it the best way to satisfy your friend’s addled mind until he can understand this situation sensibly, fair Edwin, then I will act as you advise. In fact, dear lass, I order you to tell him of this temporary joint rulership immediately!”
“Thank you, sah,” Edwin called back as he ran after Superstripe, struggling to ignore the fact that he had just been called a “dear lass”.
It was early the next morning that the two badgerlords found themselves once again in the same room. The circumstance was the regular report of the Long Patrol, which under Superstripe had been assigned in unreasonably high numbers to patrol the beaches daily for any sign of vermin.
“For the forty-sixth week in a row, we have found naught in the way of conclusive vermin traces,” the decorated Long Patrol sergeant droned, clearly as uninterested in the proceedings as everyone else. “One item of interest, however, was discovered Tuesday afternoon.” He raised a starfish. “As you can see by its more strictly pentagonal shape, this specimen is a Cushion Starfish. It is not entirely out of place in our seas, but usually we only spot the Common Starfish, which has more elongated tendrils, washed up along our shores. Whether this is indicative of full-scale assault from the South we are not sure, but it’s the best lead we’ve gotten this month. Any questions, m’lords?”
Brockwarrior shook his head in disgust, and turned to Superstripe. “You had five divisions out there a day combing the beaches, when all they’re able to turn up is bits of rubbish along the ground? As any beast fit to command can clearly see, you’d need eight or nine divisions out there each day to uncover some real evidence of vermin!” he whispered loudly.
“Yeah, well, I would have done that,” Superstripe quickly replied, “but I was wise enough to realize that… uh… well, I’ll let Edwin, who is so knowledgeable in the ways of hares and hare-occupied patrols, explain my decision. Go ahead, Edwin!”
Edwin, who had accompanied his master just in case such opportunities for negotiation happened to pop up, spoke his piece on the matter. “Well, you’ve got to remember that we already have a fully-trained bunch o’ hares filling lookout positions at all times, sah. They’d be able to spot any credible vermin threat miles off, wot? So one could really make the argument that regular organized patrols of our beaches are, in themselves, flippin’ overkill.”
“See?” Superstripe exclaimed proudly. “That, my usurping friend, is why five patrols is exactly the right number to assign to this task.”
“What are you talking about?” Brockwarrior replied in outrage. “The young haremaid was taking my side! Edwin said that assigning five patrols was overkill. Which means that assigning eight or nine patrols would be perfectly fine!”
“Uh, I’m not a ‘young haremaid’,” Edwin noted shakily.
“It was but a term of endearment, my friend,” Brockwarrior calmly answered. “Don’t worry, I recognize and respect that you have fully blossomed into an adult haremaid.”
Edwin stared in horrified disbelief at the badgerlord’s comment, but did not have time to respond as Superstripe dragged him away in a huff.
Brockwarrior turned to the Long Patrol lieutenant, who was rather confused at this point, and in his strongest tone commanded, “double your efforts on the beaches! Or rather, multiply them by about 1.6.”
An hour or two later, the two badgers found themselves face to face once more in the mountain’s Mess Hall, just before the commencement of breakfast. It was here, before hundreds of hungry waiting hares, that Brockwarrior announced the latest revision of Salamandastron’s rules that would be made under his command.
“The latest revision of Salamandastron’s rules that will be made under my command,” Brockwarrior began, climbing from his chair, “is stricter regulations upon the rations that you hares receive. The tremendous amount of food which your last – oh, sorry, your other current badgerlord – had you devouring on a daily basis was simply not conducive to the creation of a lean, efficient fighting force. So from now on you’re all on half-rations!” The mass of hares groaned in disappointment at the news.
Superstripe erupted from his seat, knocking his flagon of tea into the face of a nearby officer. “You can’t be serious!” he shouted. “These are hares we’re talking about! Have you seen them eat? They can put it away like nobody’s business! Their natural voraciousness eludes the understanding of even my Unrealistic intellect. In fact, I think I’ll double their rations just in case. No, triple them!” The hares murmured excitedly in agreement.
Brockwarrior chuckled to himself. “Yes, well, I suppose such a decision would be in line with an… old-fashioned perspective of gastronomy,” he slyly replied.
“Yeah, well… YOU have gastronomy… perspective… that… YOUR TIME WILL COME!” Superstripe weakly retorted, before storming off yet again.
Moments later, a voice came from somewhere amidst the crowd of hares. “While we’re throwin’ out these dietary suggestions,” the hare reasoned, “could we p’haps have a little less fish on the menu? I know we’re situated next to the blinkin’ ocean an’ all, but it feels like we’ve had fish at supper for ages!”
“Sure,” said Brockwarrior as he sat back down. “I can assure you that you’ll be getting exactly half the amount of fish that you used to from now on.” Raising his hands, he then began to laugh maniacally, before catching himself and segueing into a cough.
Needless to say, the incidents of rivalry did not end at breakfast. The two badgerlords continued to be at odds when making even the simplest decisions. If by chance one did happen to find himself in agreement with the other, he would make some slight alteration to his stance in order to further their dispute. The two kings of Salamandastron argued about literally hundreds of issues, from the recruitment age of Long Patrol soldiers, to the color of the drapes in the Great Hall, to whether Brigadier comes before or after Colonel.
Finally, about five hours after the breakfast debacle, the altercation between the two mountain lords reached a terrible culmination, as Superstripe emerged from a dark passageway with crimson eyes. He thrusted a claw at Brockwarrior.
“You didn’t empty it,” he whispered through bared teeth.
Brockwarrior looked aghast. “Why, Superstripe!” he cried. “What makes you think it was me who didn’t empty it after using it?”
“There are only two badgers here, and only one badger-sized chamberpot in this entire mountain,” said Superstripe, his voice quivering with rage. “You do the math!”
“You know what, don’t even bother,” Superstripe yelled as Brockwarrior opened his mouth to defend himself. “I’m sick of this joint rulership and I’m sick of you! You want Salamandastron, Greatblade?! You can have it! I’m bailing out while I still can!” And in a flash (literally), the older badgerlord was gone.
Brockwarrior chuckled inwardly, and walked away to spread the good news.
As the position of “Superstripe’s trusty hare” had become void, and since the entire medical staff of the mountain had been laid off as a result of one of Brockwarrior’s attempts to undermine Superstripe’s judgment, Edwin and Sona were able to meet up again with relative ease. It was on the night just after Superstripe’s departure, as the two unemployed hares enjoyed a late spot of tea, that Edwin raised a rather peculiar question.
“Hey, uh, Sona,” Edwin started uneasily, “do I strike you as… uh, what I mean to say is… I’m clearly masculine, right?”
“Oh, of course you are, Edwin,” Sona answered, although Edwin felt less than reassured by the lack of enthusiasm in her tone. “Honestly, I’m surprised that you can think of these kinds o’ things at a time like this. I’d have thought your mind would be occupied with how the whole joint-rulership fiasco turned out. I thought you’d been bankin’ upon Superstripe’s continued lordship?”
“Not really,” Edwin replied as he poured himself another glass of tea. “The whole situation resolved itself, and in the end it worked out fairly well for me. It’s like you said, Sona, they’re six and a half-dozen – neither is better or worse than the other. At least this one won’t drag me around every time he goes somewhere. With Superstripe out of the picture, I just might be able to leave the service of Salamandastron and get back to –“
Edwin was interrupted, as Brockwarrior burst in on the pair. “I’ve found you at last, sweet Edwin!” he boldly proclaimed. “Here, I picked these for you, miss!” Brockwarrior handed Edwin a boquet of flowers, who could only stare in disbelief, while Sona struggled between feeling greatly amused and unimaginably terrified.
Embarrassed beyond reason, Edwin threw the boquet to the floor and loudly berated the badgerlord. “Listen, Brockwarrior, I’m only going to explain this one more time! Edwin is not short for Edwina! I am a male! I’m not a ‘lass’, I’m not a ‘lady’, I’m not a ‘maid’, and I’m definitely not a ‘miss’! I am not a female! Got it?!”
Brockwarrior laughed. “Whatever you say, ma’am!” he replied as he walked away.
“As I was saying,” Edwin continued as he turned back to Sona, flustered, “Brockwarrior is no better or worse than Superstripe. He’s a little more dense than our last lord, perhaps, but at least he doesn’t do and say as many infuriatingly outlandish things.”
“Don’t know about that,” Sona replied, shaking off her mix of mirth and horror as she took a sip of tea. “He doesn’t go around shootin’ balls of light from his hands, or whatever you’re always telling me Superstripe does. But not long after he elected himself badgerlord, he claimed that his empathy for hare-kind originates from having a great-great-grandsire who was a hare. Pretty outlandish, wot?”
“Oh, totally,” said Edwin. “Anybeast who thinks that it’s even possible for badgers and hares to procreate must be completely out of their WAIT A MINUTE!” He stopped in mid-sentence, glanced at the boquet of flowers on the floor, and a terrible revelation dawned on him at last. “Oh fates,” he groaned, “I need to get Superstripe back here as soon as possible!”
So it was that Edwin departed on the following morning, equipped with his bedroll, canteen, map, and other essentials, to start upon the trail of his master. Edwin knew the haste Superstripe was capable of more than anybeast, and was prepared to undertake a lengthy quest in order to discover Superstripe’s whereabouts. Fortunately for the hare, his journey was to be a short one – he was able to see where Superstripe had set up camp almost immediately after he stepped outside of the mountain.
Not far from the mountain was a colossal mound of rocks, somehow fastened together to form a ramshackle likeness of the bottom half of Salamandastron. There was no doubt in Edwin’s mind that this was Superstripe handiwork.
Sure enough, as Edwin approached the incomplete artificial mountain, he was greeted warmly by Superstripe, who carried a gigantic boulder over his head. “Ah, Edwin!” he cried, placing the rock by his feet. “You’ve come to join the ranks of my mountain patrol already? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until I’m finished with the construction, but don’t worry, Supersalamandastron should be open sometime this afternoon.”
“Supersalamandastron, sah…?” Edwin replied, scratching his head.
“Yes,” said Superstripe. “It is named this not only because I, Superstripe the Unrealistic, will be its founder and leader, but because it will be taller, and better-furnished, and better-fortified, and just all-around better than that eyesore, Salamandastron!” He shook his fist at the mountain of the fire lizards.
“Look, sah,” Edwin replied, “even you have to admit that this project is a bit over the top.”
“I know,” Superstripe answered, all his positive demeanor deserting him. “But I can’t think of anything else to do! You don’t understand how difficult this is for me, Edwin! This is the first time I’ve ever been at a complete loss for solutions!” He fell to his knees and pounded the ground in frustration.
Edwin actually felt a pang of pity for his master upon seeing him in such a state. That was cut short by his rush to get out of the way as boulders from Supersalamandastron began to roll to the ground from the strength Superstripe had exerted upon the ground. Ultimately, though, Edwin recognized this as an opportunity to develop Superstripe’s character in a positive direction.
“Perhaps the reason why you’re at such a bally loss,” Edwin proposed, “is because you’re so used to solving your problems with random violence. Another badger stealin’ your job doesn’t quite lend itself to such easy solutions, wot?”
“Edwin, that’s it!” Superstripe cried. He raised a paw, and in a flash (literally again), the two were back in Salamandastron.
As luck would have it, Brockwarrior was just walking by the spot where the duo teleported inside. Extending another paw, Superstripe fired a beam of energy at the badger, instantly vaporizing him without leaving a single trace behind.
“Thanks for the advice, Edwin!” said Superstripe as he beamed with joy. “I never would have thought to use random violence to solve this problem if you hadn’t suggested it first.”
Edwin stared horrorstruck at Superstripe. “You… you can’t just kill him! By the sword of Brocktree, he’s a flipping goodbeast!”
Superstripe sighed. “You’re right, of course. Oh well, I guess I’ll go back on your plan.” Pouting, he waved a paw, causing Brockwarrior to reappear in the spot where he had been killed. The badger didn’t take any notice of what had just occurred, and simply continued to walk away.
”Look, what I meant is that you can’t use random violence in this instance, so you’ll have to resort to the use of wisdom and guile to outdo your rival,” said a rather frustrated Edwin. “Now, a here’s plan that I think will get him out of your fur for good…”
“This wasn’t a part of my plan at all!” Edwin cried, gesturing to the giant sign, painted white and written upon in thick black strokes, which Superstripe had constructed just outside of Salamandastron’s entrance. It read:
“Well, I suppose it wasn’t,” Superstripe remarked. “Still, I feel it will be a lot more straightforward than what you suggested.” The badger then ran to hide behind a conspicuous pile of boulders which he had laid there after dismantling Supersalamandastron. “Okay, call him down!” he cried to Edwin.
Edwin shook his head and complied. “Lord Brockwarrior Greatblade! I have a message for you, sah!” he shouted up into the mountain.
Almost immediately, Brockwarrior rushed out onto the beaches. “What did you want to tell me, my dear… oh, what’s this?” the badger said quizzically, squinting at the enormous sign.
The tension was immense as Brockwarrior read the faux vermin insult scrawled upon the sign. Furthermore, it lasted for quite a bit, as the badger proved to be a slow reader. Fortunately, after a few minutes, a rousing “Eulalia!” rose up from Brockwarrior’s throat, and he hurried to the mountain’s docks to begin his voyage to the other side of the planet.
“I… can’t believe that actually worked,” said Edwin to Superstripe, who only now emerged from behind his barricade.
“I knew it would all along!” said Superstripe, once more the only lord of Salamandastron. “Because you see, Edwin, I know how that type of badgerlord thinks. Me and him have more in common than you would probably guess!”
”Er, right,” answered Edwin. He wondered how long it would take Superstripe to forget why there was a huge sign planted just outside of the mountain… “On an unrelated note, we should probably start taking that sign down. Wot wot.”
“Yes, the message I wrote is a bit garish now that it’s lived out its use, isn’t it?” Superstripe answered. “But perhaps with a quick repainting, it could be made to serve a new purpose…”
So if you ever find yourself lost, afraid, or endangered, do not be afraid to seek refuge in Salamandastron, the mighty kingdom ruled by badgerlords since the world was young. Its gates shall always be open to the true of heart, who come in peace.
…But please, heed the “Position Filled” sign on your way in.
Redwall, Slagar, and all related properties (C) Brian Jacques and the Redwall Abbey Company. All rights reserved.