The Legend of LUKE
By Brian Jacques
FIREBIRD Copyright © 1999 The Redwall Abbey Company, Ltd.
All right reserved. ISBN: 0-14-250109-3
Summer's first morn was like no other!
Trimp the roving hedgehog wandered through the woodlands like one in a dream, drinking in the beauty of Mossflower Country, so different from the cold northland coast whence she had traveled. Dew was still upon each leaf, delicate mist tendrils wreathed into greengold sun shafts 'twixt mighty oak, slender rowan and stately elm. Birds trilled sweetly, butterflies fluttered silently, bees hummed busily over flowers, ferns and lichen-clad rocks. Trimp's heart felt as light as the haversack on her back. She ignored hunger, feasting her senses on the glory of her surroundings and the delight of the new season. Swinging her ash stave jauntily, she skipped a little jig and broke out into song.
"You lark on high, O minstrel of the sky, Sing out! Sing out! Now sing you joyously, To Mother Nature and her earth, This is the golden summer's birth, A wondrous sight to see! Hail, fine tall trees, Your leaves dance on the breeze, Rejoice! Rejoice! And sway so gracefully, You'll feel your blossom soon give way, To ripened fruit some sunny day, Oh please save some for me! Sing out! Rejoice! Let all who have a voice, Call out so sweet and happily, O'er woodland vale and grassy lea, Good day my friend to thee!"
As Trimp ended her song, a voice hailed her.
"An' good day to thee, too, pretty one!"
She halted at the edge of a ditch. Two sturdy old hedgehogs stood on a path at the other edge, grinning cheerfully. They were alike as peas in a pod. One of them called to her, "We'll 'elp you across yon ditch, missie. Stay there!"
Taking a few paces back, Trimp winked cheekily at the pair. "Nay, you stay there. I'll help myself!"
With a short run and a hop, she dug the long ash stave in the bank and pole-vaulted neatly across. Both hedgehogs wriggled furiously until their backspikes rattled, an ancient hog form of applause. Trimp immediately took a liking to the jolly pair. She stood directly in front of them and lowered her head formally, and they did likewise until all three creatures' headspikes touched in the traditional greeting of their species. Introductions were made.
"Good sirs, I'm called Trimp the Rover."
"Marm, I'm called Ferdy an' that fat 'un's my brother Coggs, both of Redwall Abbey."
Coggs snorted, pointing to Ferdy's ample stomach. "I ain't as fat as ole Ferdy, am I, miz Trimp?"
She giggled. "You're as tubby as one another."
Ferdy and Coggs exchanged wry glances.
"She's pretty all right, pretty impudent!"
"Aye, truthful an' pitiless, jus' like all the pretty "uns!"
"She's thin, though. D'ye think she could 'elp pull a log?"
"Miz Trimp ain't thin, she's slender-but strong, I'll wager, the way she leaped yon ditch. She can pull logs."
Trimp pursed her lips shrewdly. "Of course I can pull logs. I could tow a log with both of you sitting atop of it, if I'd a mind to. But I'm feeling very slender today, owing to the fact that I've an empty haversack on my back. So, towing logs means payment in food."
Ferdy and Coggs exchanged more wry glances.
"Miz Trimp knows wot she wants, don't she!"
"Ho, she certainly does, mate. That 'og ain't soft as moss nor green as the grass. We'll 'ave to feed 'er."
"Only when we gets back to Redwall, though. Then she can tuck into vittles 'til she's like two of us'n's put t'gether. So, is it a bargain, marm?"
Trimp banged her stave butt down on the path decisively. "Done! Lead me to your log, friends."
It was not a very big log, more like a heavy sycamore limb. They attached ropes and pulled, and the wood slid easily along the dewy grass of the pathside. Trimp was full of questions for Ferdy and Coggs.
"What is this Redwall place and how far off is it?"
"Hah, missie, you won't say that someday. Anybeast'll be able to see it from a good league off. Right, Coggs?"
"Right, Ferdy. When we gets round this bend in the path, beyond that big grove of oaks, then you'll see it, Trimp. 'Tis gore to be a great Abbey, but it ain't properly built yet. Martin reckons three more seasons should see the main Abbey buildin' showin' its spire top."
Trimp suddenly stopped pulling and smote her forehead with an open paw, as if she had just remembered something. "Of course! I've heard other travelers mention the great redstone building in Mossflower. You say there's a Martin there. Is he a mouse, son of Luke the Warrior?"
Ferdy shrugged and beckoned her to keep pulling. "Oh, he's a warrior sure enough, missie. As to his father, I think somebeast mentioned his name was Luke-eh, Coggs?"
Coggs switched the rope to his other shoulder. "Could be, mate. Nobeast knows much about our Martin-he keeps his past fairly quiet. Mark my words, though, Trimp, the noblest fighter that ever wielded a sword is Martin the Warrior-he fears nothin' an' battles like tenbeasts. Hoho, lookee there, marm, that's Redwall Abbey. See!"
Trimp's eyes grew wide with wonder. Never had she seen anything built on such a grand scale, even though it was still incomplete. The Abbey reared out of the forest on the path's east side, fashioned from mighty blocks of red sandstone. There was a high perimeter wall with battlements and a broad walkway behind them, and visible above this outer wall the main building stood two-thirds finished. Buttresses, arches and columns could be seen between the wooden scaffolding. Mice, moles, squirrels, otters, hedgehogs and voles labored busily, hauling, laying, chipping, carving and carrying, all over the structure. Ferdy and Coggs chuckled at Trimp's astonishment.
"Hohoho. Shows wot honest 'ardworkin' woodlanders can do when they puts their paws t'work, eh, miss?"
"Aye, buildin' Redwall Abbey, a place o' safety an' cheer for goodbeasts to live in, with walls that'd stand the worst any vermin foes could think of!"
Trimp enjoyed the pride in her friends' faces as they spoke of their home. She cocked her head as a hollow booming sound echoed out.
"What's that noise? Are they doing something special?"
Coggs winked at her and patted his stomach. "That's the call for lunch. We're just in time!"
The three hedgehogs pulled their log through the impressively solid wallgates, which were opened for them by a mole. He tugged his snout, saying in quaint molespeech, "Hurr, gudd day to ee. Boi okey, mates, ee likkle 'ogmaid be purtier'n both of you 'uns. 'Ow be you'm called, miz?"
Trimp shook the formidable digging claw of the twinkle-eyed mole heartily. "I'm Trimp, sir, ten times hungrier than I'm pretty."
A deep smile crinkled the mole's velvety face. "Gurtly pleasured to meet ee, miz Trimp. Oi'm ee Foremole yurrabouts. If'n ee be 'ungered then fear not, us'n's can vittle ee up to yore spoikeytips. Hurrhurrhurr!"
Leaving the log by the gatehouse wall, the three hedgehogs followed the Foremole across broad lawns to the pond, where scores of Redwallers were washing their paws before lunch. Trimp joined them, while Ferdy pointed out various individuals.
"That 'un swimmin' about is Skipper of Otters, a chieftain. Pretty mousewife by the reeds is Columbine, jolly-lookin' beast with 'er is Gonff, Prince of Mousethieves, an' the liddle 'un is their son Baby Gonflet. Dinny Foremole you already know."
The hollow booming sounded out again, and this time Trimp saw that it was made by a squirrel beating on a hollowed section of tree trunk with two wooden batons. Ferdy nudged her. "That's Lady Amber, our Squirrel-queen. Come on, young 'un, off to the Council afore you sit down to eat."
Trimp followed Ferdy and Coggs to the orchard, where tables and benches were laid in an open square. Ferdy bade her stand back until all were seated. The traveling hogmaid could not wrench her eyes from the food-it was like being at the center of a delicious dream. Cauldrons of fresh vegetable soup steamed savory aromas around new oven-baked bread shaped into biscuits, batches and loaves. Cheeses, ranging from deep yellow to pale cream and studded with nuts, celery and herbs, were placed between heaped trays of woodland salads. Small tarts showed the rich hues of damson, apple, blackberry and greengage through their pastry-latticed tops. Jugs and pitchers of ale, fruit cordial and cold mint tea were being brought to the tables by servers. Trimp held her kerchief politely to her mouth, lest anybeast see it watering. Ferdy tugged her tunic hem and whispered, "Come on, missie, don't be afeared. Nobody will eat ye!" He led her round to the table nearest to the Abbey.
A huge, ancient badger, bent with the weight of many seasons, gazed at her with kind brown eyes and nodded. "Welcome to Redwall Abbey, little one. I am Bella of Brockhall. You look as if you have traveled far."
Trimp curtsied deeply. She liked Bella on first sight.
"Marm, I am Trimp the Rover, so traveling is my business. Since late winter, I have been walking from the northlands."
"Fourth clans? Did she say fourth clans?"
Next to Bella, the tiniest, oldest, frailest mouse Trimp had ever seen was sitting in a small cushioned chair, wrapped in a thick warm shawl. The mouse sitting on the old one's other side leaned close to her and spoke loudly.
"Northlands, Abbess Germaine. Our guest has walked all the way here from the northlands!"
He turned, smiling, to Trimp. The hogmaid warmed immediately to the sturdy beast, his strong features and friendly tone.
"'Tis fitting to have one so pretty to grace our table as guest on summer's first day. I'm called Martin."
The mouse named Gonff, seated close by with his wife and babe, winked at Trimp and called out, "Aye, matey, an' he's never called late to table!"
Martin smiled at his friend and closest ally. "Hah! Look who's talking. The greatest grubsnatcher ever to lift a ladle!"
Gonff pointed at himself innocently. "Who me? I hardly ever touch food, matey. A crust an' a beaker o' water's good enough for me!"
His wife Columbine adopted an expression of mock surprise. "Lackaday, it must be the birds eating all those pies an' pasties I'm forever baking. What d'you think, Gonflet?"
Baby Gonflet chuckled uproariously. "It's me'n'daddy, we pincha pies'n'pattees offa windersill when they be's gudd'n'ot, us eatem all up, yumyum!"
Gonff covered his baby son's mouth amid general laughter. "It was his idea, Columbine. He's been leadin' me astray!"
Trimp took her seat amid the happy Redwallers. Old Abbess Germaine waited until Bella brought order to the assembly by tapping a spoon on the tabletop. Heads bowed while the ancient mouse recited grace in a quavery voice.
"May good fortune never cease, Where we build and till the soil, Mother Nature grant us peace, And reward us for our toil.
Summer's come, now life is sweet, Food is here for one and all, In good friendship let us eat, As one family at Redwall."
Bella served Trimp with soup, Martin passed the bread and cheese, Columbine piled a platter with salad for her and the charming squirrel called Lady Amber topped up her beaker with fruit cordial. Trimp went at it with the best. Dinny the Foremole shielded his mouth with a paw, whispering to the Skipper of Otters.
"Hurr hurr, dearie me, oi never afore see'd nobeast tuck into ee vittles loik miz Trimp. Zurr Gonff be eatin' loik ee buttyfly alongsoid o' that young 'un!"
Gonff the Mousethief wrinkled his nose at the mole. "I heard that, matey. Shove that cheese this way an' I'll show ye what a dainty eater I am. Hoi, Gonflet, get yore spoon out o' my soup, you liddle bandit!"
Columbine smiled sweetly at Trimp. "Like father, like son, I always say."
After lunch Trimp volunteered to help Martin and his friends hoist a roofbeam. Skipper and his crew were atop the half-timbered dormitory with mallets and pegs, awaiting the heavy oaken beam. The jovial otter jiggled the rope in its pulley block and called down, "Ahoy, mates, if'n we wait 'round much longer up 'ere we'll sprout wings'n'feathers an' fly off!"
Gonff secured the rope to the beam, and spat on his paws. "Right, mateys, let's send 'er up with a will. Anybeast got a good haulin' river song t'help out?"
Bella held up a paw in response. "I'll do 'Grumbledum Tugg' if you like!"
A groan arose from the hauling party. Baby Gonflet clapped both paws over his tiny ears.
"Not dat one agin, miz Bell, you allus singin' 'Grungledun Tuggs.' Ferdy say miz Trimpy be a good singer."
Bella sighed, bowing slightly to the hedgehog maid. "Trimp, nobeast is forcing you to sing, but it'd be nice if you'd oblige. D'you know any good hauling shanty songs?"
Trimp did, and she immediately sang out in a fine clear voice.
"Away O! Away O! Haul hard an' take her out, I'll tell ye of the Greenhawk, An' her cap'n, ole Chopsnout. Away O! Away O! Now bend yore backs an' heave ho!
Ole Reynard Chopsnout was a fox, A bad corsair to boot, Who ran his vessel on some rocks, While searchin' 'round for loot. Away O! Away O! Now bend yore backs an' heave ho!
So to the northlands he did steer, The Greenhawk to repair, A warrior who knew no fear, Named Luke was livin' there. Away O! Away O! Now bend yore backs an' heave ho!
That corsair came with all his horde, I'll tell ye mates 'tis true, Brave Luke took up his battlesword, An' that bad fox he slew. Away O! Away O! Now bend yore backs an' heave ho! Then Luke called up his gallant crew, And Greenhawk did repair, He changed her name to Sayna, too, Which sounded good and fair. Away O! Away O! Now bend yore backs an' heave ho!
So Luke the Warrior sailed away, He left the northland shore, He swore an oath that one fine day, He'd come back home once more. Away O! Away O! Now bend yore backs an' heave ho!"
The beam was halfway up when Trimp stopped singing. Martin had his footpaws dug in firmly, holding the swaying oaken balk steady with the rest of his friends. He stared at the roving hedgehog, gritting from between clenched jaws: "What've you stopped singing for, missie? Keep on!"
Trimp returned his stare, shaking her head. "But that's all I know. I never learned the rest!"
Gonff slid forward a fraction as the beam began losing height. Urgently, he muttered, "Then start from the beginnin' an' sing it again, matey, afore we're all wearin' an oakbeam for a hat!"
Trimp sang the hauling shanty, as far as she knew the verses, twice before the beam was safe in the otters' strong paws on the dormitory top.
When the others went off to new chores, Martin called Trimp to him. Walking on either side of her, he and Gonff escorted her across to the gatehouse and showed her in. The Mousethief took flagon and beakers from a cupboard where he had hidden them, and poured drinks for all three.
"Ninian's cider, I calls this. Comes from the ole place down south on the path, where I live from time to time."
They sipped the cold sweet cider appreciatively, in silence. It was cool and shady in the gatehouse after the bright noon sun outside. Martin leaned forward. "Trimp, where did you hear that song?"
"My grandmum Welff Tiptip used to sing it. She told me that she once knew a little mouse named Martin, too. Was that you?"
Gazing into his beaker, he slowly swirled the cider. "That was me. I am Martin of Redwall, son of Luke the Warrior. My mother's name was Sayna. Strange, I had almost forgotten it, until you sang your shanty. Sayna was the name my father gave to his ship as well. Being little more than a babe at the time, I don't remember much. But it comes back to me a little now. Tell me, miss, what else did your grandmum say? Anything at all?"
Holding her beaker with both paws, Trimp sipped and pondered. "There were names ... Coll, Denno, Cordle, and others I can't recall. Is that any help to you, Martin?"
"I'm afraid not. But carry on, please."
"Hmm, now let me see. She used to talk of old Twoola, er, Drunn Tun
Excerpted from The Legend of LUKE by Brian Jacques Copyright © 1999 by The Redwall Abbey Company, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
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