Categories > Books > Redwall > Pride of Kavazara

Chapter 10: ETAD

by Forge 0 reviews

An deadly, ancient enemy comes from the Far Northlands, seeking to satisfy a cold, base hunger. The castle of New Kavazara, Bladestone, opposes them... but it may not be enough.

Category: Redwall - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Fantasy - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2006-03-07 - Updated: 2006-03-07 - 2837 words

Gregory P. Wong

Chapter Ten: ETAD

Slydant knew it was almost time to depart. He reached toward the bracelet on his left wrist, tapped the crystal to get it to "cyan" frequency, and spoke.
"All Templars, be prepared to move out. We leave in ten. High Templars, get ready to sally."
This was a nice force he managed to scrounge up. All had good officers, and most beasts had some fighting experience in engaging the odd bandit force or rabble. True, true, the companies were all from different battalions and even regiments, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem.
The Echo Company of the 125th Line Battalion was under Captain Elvop, a male pine marten. Line units withstood the brunt of the enemy, and thus had to be pretty damned disciplined and cohesive. Echo, 125th was very good at swift line shifts and formation changes. The captain was young, but the pine marten did show promise.
The 124th's Alpha Company had a middle-aged rat captain, Suranto Hammerpaw, as CO. The 124th was also a line battalion, and Hammerpaw was very resilient and crafty, as seen when his old unit retook a small settlement from some brigands while being outnumbered two-to-one.
And Hammerpaw's exploits were completely without support, though he was sure the rat didn't have a problem with proper archers. Captain Caerev, a petite weasel fem, handled the 242nd Archery Battalion's Bravo Company. The one hundred-twenty archers used hollowed-steel longbows nearly six feet tall that fired arrows a yard long. Those longbows could reach targets up to 200 yards away, and experienced longbowbeasts could hit beast-sized targets while firing at rates of one arrow every five seconds. Because of the extra weight of the missile weapons, archery units only carried short swords as melee weapons, not the shields and assegai of the line units.
A mixed company of medical, logistical, and engineering also tagged along. That contingent's leader was a large-eyed female fox, Captain Trepikka. That unit would come in handy in those odd, bastardized situations that always occurred on the battlefield.
And of course, his old unit! Cohort Kappa, now under Diis. Each High Templar carried an eight-foot three-bladed corseca and a 55-inch paw-and-a-half sword, not to mention at least a half dozen throwing knives. All those weapons were excellent for birdback or ground fighting.
Speaking of birds... the dustrunners were major parts of High Templar "equipment," too. Cavalry would be impossible without them, no?
Generally speaking, a dustrunner was about eight feet long from beak to tailtip, and stood about six feet at the neck. Though the birds could fly, they preferred running. And, spiderspit, could they run! Those heavily muscled leg could move a mounted warrior two hundred yards in just under twenty seconds. In addition, the razor-sharp beak of a good dustrunner could gut somebeast in a flash. Dustrunners were said to be a variant of, a bird called a... what? "Roadrunner"? Yes, that was it.
Not only were the soldiers heavily armed, but they were heavily armored as well. Yes, that didn't count the Pathfinders, but that was a special case.
Templars hefted strong alwite--meaning the armor wasn't covered by another material--plate armor and chain mail that, while well-articulated, emphasized strength over agility. The chain mail went on under the plate, and mostly protected joints. The helmets were open-faced, and had full cheek guards.
High Templar armor, on the other paw, focused more on mobility than the Templar armor. Crimson Guards had the same basic steel leather-faced armor as the Wraiths--not to be confused with the pure-leather scout armor--but was more ornate. Fine chain mail was put first, followed by the perfectly made lamed armor. The helmets were similar in design to the Templars', but no surprise, was more decorated and had two protruding crests near the ears.
As the commanding officer, his armor was slightly different. Instead of a pauldron, his left arm was covered by a heavily worked and decorated rerebrace. That distinct shap
"Praetor, everybeast's ready, sir," he heard the voice of Major Kleea Silverstorm, his XO.
Yes, a Wraith executive officer. How simply unorthodox.
But, yes, the whole unit was unorthodox.
Silverstorm was a small, willowy ferret. And the fem had some odd weaponry, too. Silverstorm carried two "Stormcallers", which were essentially three-bladed wrist claws. Silverstorm was relatively young for a Wraith--forty-one. War Marshal Razorfang had vouched for the ferret, and he trusted the Templar/Wraith commander. Besides, Silverstorm looked competent.
"Thank you, Major. I'll need to make sure the supply 'runners are ready."
"Oh, about that, sir. I took the liberty of prepping the supply-carriers. They're ready to move, as well."
Hmm... on second thought, this ferret fem was definitely competent.
"Thank you, Major."
"No problem, sir."
Well, it looked like it was time to go. He straightened his cloak and mounted his 'runner, Snappy. The bad-tempered, bloodthirsty idiot was trying to bite again.
"You stupid thing, I'm /not dinner/!" he growled and slapped the feathery idiot's beak. He watched Snappy promptly lose interest in procuring an arm for a meal. Good.
Now, time to raise his wraithcomm to his mouth. "Companies, let's go!"

"Swift journey to you all," Serai whispered to the receding relief forces. The battlements gave an excellent view.
"They will need that help, my wife," she heard Tritan say from behind her. "We, on the other paw..."
Damnation, it was so true.
Sometime during the night when Slydant was preparing his troops, the fog shrouding the Dervaga horde had lifted. Both forward scouts with binoculars and some of Pinionmaster Steelwing's had confirmed something so horrifying it was silly.
The horde marching on Bladestone wasn't a piddling fifty thousand, but rather one hundred-twenty-five thousand!
They were all, simply, going to die. Well trained as the Kavazarans were, ten-to-one odds were too overwhelming.
But, no sense in regretting it. There was no turning back. The only thing to do was to break the Dervaga badly enough so that Slydant's force would have a chance of safeguarding Redwall.
"We're nowhere near enough, Tritan," she breathed.
"I know that, Serai, and it somehow doesn't bother me as much as it should."
True, yet Tritan still felt an element of apprehension. But that was normal, no? It would be hopeless in the end, but she, Tritan, and each and every Bladestone Templar had a duty to perform.
"Tritan! Serai!" she heard a familiar accented voice call out. Ah, Rid.
"Hello, Rid," she heard her husband reply.
Of course, Rid did the kneeling paw-kissing stint. She smiled.
"Ah wan' tae hear it from yew, Tritan: is this true?"
Her husband sighed loudly. "Yes, my friend, I'm afraid it is."
"Ach, bluddy Hellgates."
"Oh, I ardently agree," she huffed.
"Aye. In tha' case, moight I soogest something?"
"I'm all ears," Her husband said.
"Weel, there's something we 'ad dewn south. It's called eated.
"What? You have a grammatically incorrect verb for the past form of 'to eat'?" she poked.
"Ach, not 'eated', lass. E-T-A-D. More o' less, it means 'eat this an' die.'"
Hmm... that sounded interesting. A quick scan at Rid's head could give some information.
Well... wow...
ETAD was a sort of defiant gesture of some poor force that didn't have much longer to live. Like a heavily outnumbered force laughing and charging down the enemy's throat or a garrison lighting a fire in the town when the enemy came on.
But... this Eat-This-And-Die for Bladestone looked far more interesting.
"Rid, I think you have a good plan..."

"It was really unfortunate that we couldn't send a recall out to Praetor Slydant," Tritan said to his wife and they waited for a particular Wraith in the council chamber
"Yes. Of course, we'd thought we'd at least have a decent /chance/ against the Dervaga force, and could thus possibly win. These odds are, quite bluntly, hideous," Serai pointed out.
"And I wish it weren't true." He let himself pause for a moment. He let out a chuckle. "My, my. Now that I think about it, I've never sent out so many summons in so short a time. Sunear must be tossing her grave, to see her former Arbiter playing secretary."
His wife just snorted.
But now, really, where was Blindsight? He'd sent out that corporal to find the stoat ages ago. Where--
"Grand Marshal Longspear? Arbiter Galecut? I am here," he heard a low, somewhat eerie voice wisp from behind him.
Well, it was somewhat amusing to see Serai whirl around, paws clenched on Mist and Rain. Wife and bodyguard, through and through.
Only one beast could do that, enter the chamber without him knowing. And only one beast insisted on referring to him at all times by his military rank.
Yes, that would be Captain Blindsight. He saw Serai relax.
"Oh, Captain, is it that difficult to actually use the door like everybeast else does?" he said. Oh, it was impossible to keep the grin from his face, wasn't it? No matter.
"Under most circumstances, Grand Marshal, I would. However, you wished to see me as soon as possible, and thus I decided to bypass your security. As the saying goes, 'it seemed a good idea at the time.'"
Hah. Sometimes, that stoat was such a character. He turned around.
The Wraith bowed.
Blindsight was a small, jet-black stoat, no more than five and a quarter feet. Youngish too, probably no more than thirty-four. The other Wraith was wiry and dressed in the--usual--non-regulation dark red form-fitting clothing he seemed to prefer. That outfit covered Blindsight from ankles to wrists to neck. A wonder the stoat never wore something else in hot weather.
But, maybe that was because Blindsight was a foreigner. The captain had said he'd come from the far eastern islands, and had traveled inward. Blindsight's nearly undetectable accent said so, in any case.
Plus, what weapons those easterners made! Blindsight's main weapon, the eastern-designed straight saber Fade, was, of course, on Blighsight's back, nearly centered. It was off to the left a bit, but that was because Blindsight was probably right-pawed. Fade was an odd weapon, as well. The blade was only just above two feet in length, but the hilt that came on it was something that should have been slapped onto a two-handed weapon! The hilt was nearly a foot in length. However, he'd seen Blindsight use it one- or two-pawed, depending on the situation.
The weapon itself was a work of art, though, from when he'd seen it. The single-edged blade had the watery-silver-gray patterns of damascene steel, and it was heavily decorated with brass and gold. No wraithstones to add strength to the blade, unless Blindsight had seen a blacksmith, but it was a very well made, resilient weapon.
Even the scabbard was odd. The top of the metal-plated wood sheath jutted out like an odd lip, about two-inches out. It was an odd design, but very useful. Though he'd never seen it, it was supposedly to snag somebeast's sword between the saber's guard and the sheath.
Even Blindsight's other weapons were unorthodox, save the Wraith knife, and even that was put in an odd place. The captain had the knife, hilt-down, strapped to his left bicep. Goodness, what Blindsight had. Grappling hooks and lines, throwing darts, and even some types of blinding dust.
Of course, that was because Blindsight wasn't, technically, a Wraith.
He grunted a chuckle. "Well, no matter, Captain. I just don't want my wife's soldiers to feel trivialized."
He watched the stoat give a little nod. "Ah, that escaped my mind, Grand Marshal. Once I am finished, I shall apologize to the Praetorians stationed outside."
He heard his wife snort. "Only if you want to, Captain. It's no order."
"Yes, of course, Arbiter."
He cleared his throat. "Captain, we have a special assignment for you."
He saw the captain nod. "I guessed as much, sir."
"As you probably already know, Bladestone will be engaging a /very /superior Dervaga force in a very short time.
"What we need you to do is take two centuries of Praetorians and reinforce Redwall, after gathering intelligence here."
Blindsight didn't move. And, goodness, it was hard to see into the stoat's mind. Well, that was obvious, since the stoat wasn't really a Wraith, but an Unseen.
Blindsight had explained it once. In the eastern places, the psionic powers of the beasts there were a tad different. Beasts specially trained to tap their powers were known as Unseen, stealth assassins.
Unseen had an expanded lifespan, like Wraiths... but that was it! Unseen could not read minds or emotions, couldn't enter wraith forms, or channel energy into their weapons.
But it was a decent tradeoff. The easterners could "stick" to walls like furry flies, become literally invisible, and even do something Blindsight called "limited teleportation." That last was probably how the Unseen had gotten in. Goodness, he'd lose plenty of sleep if Blindsight wanted to take him out. Unseen were, if Blindsight was typical, very, very effective assassins. They would probably--no, definitely--make Pathfinders look like stumbling drunks. Despite this, Blindsight had insisted on being referred to as a Wraith. Made sense, since, for all intents and purposes, Blindsight was a Kavazaran Wraith.
And another thing, possibly unique to Blindsight: he didn't need eyes to see.
Well, "Blindsight" had to have had an origin, of course.
A dark crimson scarf was tied over the stoat's eyes, so that the two ends dramatically dangled behind the Wraith's neck. The stoat had shown those eyes, once, and he was certain the stoat was blind. Though they looked healthy, the pupils were this odd faded gray, and the eyeballs never moved an inch. Definitely blind. Blindsight never said what had happened, but he'd wager it had something to do with some psionics. Generally, losing sight without any physical damage to the eyes was a sure sign of that, no?
Whatever the circumstances, Blindsight functioned like any other soldier with eyeballs intact. Though the captain did have this odd habit of sometimes sweeping the room with an open palm.
"I shall do my duty, Grand Marshal, though I must confess I am disturbed by the fact I am not to engage in any battle Bladestone finds itself in."
That was understandable. "I know, Captain. If anything, the Praetorians I have set for this are even more perturbed."
"Centurian Crossback was particularly vehement," his wife added.
He saw a tiny smile ghost the stoat's features. Well, he would have done the same.
Centurion Veetyr Crossback, in addition to being the stoat commanding officer for Tau Century, was also Blindsight's wife.
Oh, that was another thing Blindsight had brought to New Kavazara! The "Kawasakin" ritual. It was becoming damned popular with Wraiths.
Kawasakin, in a nutshell, "shared" the lifespan of two beasts. Thus, if a Wraith had a nominal lifespan of 250 seasons, and a normal had 90, both beasts would end up sharing 170. The normals also seemed to have a slight boost in physical abilities, too. This way, Wraiths could actually marry other beasts and not worry about the spouse becoming old-looking enough to be the Wraith's grandparent.
Oh, what interesting things Blindsight had brought to New Kavazara. Heh. He'd love to see the Unseen's homeland.
"Ah, my wife is very keen on your safety, sir."
"As all Praetorians should be," he heard Serai say.
"Indeed, ma'am."
He smiled. "Well, that would be all for right now, Captain. I will give you a more intensive briefing when we get a better look at the Dervaga horde. You are dismissed, Captain."
He watched Blindsight bow. And then, with a reddish blur, Blindsight was gone.
Hellgates, that teleportation trick could be very useful!

In another room midway up in a tower, preparation for Rid Razorfang's ETAD were underway. First, engineers sealed up a room, covering windows with thick sheets of waxed paper. The room was quite big, eighty feet square and thirty tall. It would be an excellent room.
Next, for the second part of Razorfang's plan, came the barrels of fire-gas. Almost forty sixty-gallon barrels were going to be loaded into the room. And they were kept very, very sealed.
Fire-gas, as it was called, was discovered by some scouts looking up north, near the ice fields. The two civilians had found this pool of strange-smelling, nearly clear liquid. One rat bottled some and went back to his town to have some of the engineers and chemists look at it.
The rat, now in a temperate zone, unwittingly opened the bottle close to a fire.
The beast had his ears scorched off, but at least nobeast died.
Later, the strange properties of fire-gas were discovered. First, at low temperatures, fire-gas manifested itself as pools of thin, clear liquid that most likely bubbled up from the earth. Said liquid became an oily-smelling gas at normal room temperature.
However, the most valuable property for the ETAD plan was that fire-gas had a penchant, when exposed to flames or sparks, for exploding.
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