A/N: Any characters and places not Brian Jacques' in this fic are mine, including Rainbow Cavern. The opening poem's mine. This story takes place between Pearls of Lutra and Long Patrol.
The pearls are gone, Mad Eyes is dead; a snake can't live without its head.
I thought that marten's legacy would go away and leave me be.
My paws would never raise my bow to kill again. But it's not so.
The armored mouse has led me here, joined by the one I hold most dear.
My husband yearns to live in peace. And so did I. I craved release.
Release from war, release from hate. I almost crossed Dark Forest's gate
To join my kin the day they died. They said it's easy, but they lied.
Vengeance is now all I crave, nobeast now my soul can save.
RUDDARING You can put the past behind you, but sometimes it comes back.
Always, my paws are at the bowstring of my yew bow, and a quiver of deadly, green-flighted ashwood shafts, each ready to fly straight and true, sits at my waist. I am not a vermin or an evil creature, as some may think. I am Grath Longfletch of the Holt of Lutra, last of my family.
I despise searats with every fiber of my existence-it courses through my veins like wildfire, plagues my mind day and night. The seascum do not deserve to live; they deserve to be wiped off the face of the planet. It is only fair. It is, as they all call it, justice.
My heart burns as I remember the day the searats killed my holt. The screams, the destruction are still engraved freshly into my mind. The image of my home, the only home I had ever known, being consumed by roaring flames will never leave me, nor will the memory of the pain and fear I felt then. . . . .
I hear the sound of laughter, horrible vermin laughter as my loved ones are ripped to shreds. My mother and my sisters beg for mercy, mercy they'll never get. My father,and my brothers try to fight and defend them, falling themselves under an onslaught of spears and blades.
"HOLT LUTRAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" My father's battlecry rings through the air, bringing all of us running out of the holt, grabbing weapons. We charge out of the holt, bows, slings and javelins bristling around us, ready to aid, but the vermin are on us before we can strike back. I watch helplessly as my dear mother is felled before my eyes. Seeing her fall sends my father and the rest of us into a berzerker rage.
I jolt to full awareness and look around Holt Rudderwake through tears, shaking violently.
The cause of my kin's death? Six rose-colored pearls in a scallop-shell case. The Tears of all Oceans. Aptly named, for all they brought to anybeast was despair and death. My family never knew that until it was too late.
The Tears of All Oceans were most admired in our holt, but my father always looked at them with a grim, stern expression. Once, when I asked him why, he pulled me on his knee, looking at me gravely.
"Those pearls are most treacherous," he rumbled softly in his dignified voice.
I was young and naïve. "Treacherous? How? Aren't they our treasures?
Lutra looked at me, then laughed. My father always had a nice laugh, a booming sound that made you want to laugh along with him. Then he said, "The Tears are not our treasures."
"Then what are?" I asked. "Aren't we poor then?"
"No, little one, we are not poor at all."
"But why are the pearls so bad?"
He looked at me for a long moment. "I will tell you later, little one; you will soon realize that the Tears are aptly named, and that their beauty hides much, especially why they are pink."
But he fell under the blades of vermin before he could tell me. Greed, the greed of a pine marten and corsairs, changed my life forever. It took my family from me and set me on a path to becoming a merciless killer.
I know why the pearls are pink now. They are white pearls stained with the blood of the beasts who died because of them.
Now that I was awake, I knew where I was and that I was safe here, nevertheless, the memory refused to fade. Every night, it seemed, I relived the murders of my kin in my dreams.
Drawing a quilt around my shoulders, I rise from my mat, pick up my weapons from where they lay beside me and move to sit near the fire, holding my bow and quiver of green-fletched shafts close to me like a frightened otter kit would hold a security blanket. Even after all these seasons, I'm uncomfortable without having my weapons in grabbing distance when I go to sleep. I huddle around them in a near-fetal position, gazing into the flames as though watching the fire flicker and dance would banish the horror of my past.
I still remembered the vow I made to myself inside my wrecked holt as I cried over my massacred family, covering each body with a blanket, touching each paw.. . .
Afterward, I had knelt between the covered bodies of my mother and youngest sister, holding my father's broadsword in my shaking paws, aiming the blade at my own heart. My life, my family, lay dead around me. Why was I even continuing to live? It would be so easy, Grath. One move, one thrust. . . and you'll all be reunited on the other side of the Gates. Sobbing brokenly, I closed my eyes, my mind made up. I drew the sword back to strike. . .
It seemed as though somebeast physically shook me, causing me to drop the weapon. I opened my eyes and froze. Lutra, my father, stood before me as he had in life. "Grath. . . . you're my daughter. I never thought you a coward."
Rage flooded my mind. "HOW DARE YOU!"
It felt as though he was hugging me. "We love you, we always will. Live and avenge us, Grath. Avenge us all."
His words burned into my mind. I would. I had said a final goodbye to each of them individually; a vow I'd reaffirmed to myself as I worked long and hard on my weapons. Tears rose in my throat to choke me as I remembered that promise, word-for-word:
I'll see you on the other side at the gates of Dark Forest when my time comes. I love you all. I'll make those wavescum pay for slaughtering you; I'll send them all to Hellgates. I may lose my life in the process, but you'll be avenged. 'I'll use this bow to do it. I was the best archer in the holt, you said. . . .
My mind snapped back to reality when I heard the snoring of the other otters around me. I shouldn't wake Inbar and the others for this, I need to be out of here and somewhere where I can grieve alone, NOW. I forcibly choke back the sobs threatening to break free and flee the holt. As soon as I leave , I whirl and start running east as hard as I can, using my grief to drive me.
I knew where I was going. There's another cave not far from Holt Rudderwake, slightly smaller than our holt itself, filled with clear, natural quartz crystals that jut from the ceiling and the walls. The only place the crystals don't grow is the floor and a solitary, wide window cut into the cavern wall near the ceiling. It's one of the loveliest places I've ever seen in my life, one of the most comforting for me. I go there frequently when I'm upset
When Martin II, Clecky, Plogg, Welko, Viola Bankvole and I arrived here, we'd been curious about the cave. Winniegold had shown it to us the morning before we left on our voyage to rescue Durral from the vermin. . .
"Welcome to Rainbow Cavern, mates. I know you don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to show this to all of you before you left. I hope the sun's out . . ." Her words seemed to be the cue for what happened next: In almost the exact instant the ottermaid finished speaking, the sun emerged from behind a cloud, shining down through the window and through the crystals, turning them into prisms. My companions and I stood in silent awe. Flashes of color danced on the walls, the floors, the ceiling . . . the entire cave was alive with rainbows!
Martin let out a whistle. "Wow!"
"This is bally amazin'!" Clecky breathed.
"Amazin' ain't the word for it because it's too minor," I finally managed to say. "How did this cave come into bein'?"
"Our ancestors cut this window into the cavern wall long seasons ago when they first came to Ruddaring," Winniegold explained. "Nature did the rest of the work."
"Winniegold, this is beautiful," Viola half-whispered. "I wish we had a place like this at Redwall Abbey."
"I wish we had a place like your Abbey here at Ruddaring. I'd love to be able to see and visit it myself someday."
"Anybeast who comes to Redwall Abbey in peace is welcome there."
Reaching Rainbow Cavern, I enter, let my weapons fall to the ground and prostrate myself on the cavern floor, keening in agony.
When I finally look up, I gasp in shock. A mouse stands in front of me, not really standing, but seeming to hover in the air. He looks so much like my friend Martin from the Abbey. . . . but how can he be here? The warrior's dressed in armor, he holds the same magnificent sword my friend does, a sword with a black-bound hilt and a long, ice-keen blade, a blade sharp as the winds in mid-winter.
"Daughter of Lutra, I'm not here to harm you, I and another have a message for you."
"Martin?" I half-sob the name. Am I going insane?'
"Yes. I'm Martin, but not the Martin you know. Grath Longfletch, your life has a purpose." The shadowy figure of my father appears beside him. I reach out to him with a shaking paw, yearning to be able to clasp his. The elder otter looks at me with grief etched on his face. "Grath. . . we had the pearls, but they weren't treasure to me. " He tries to hug me. "My treasure. . . was my family. Martin and I are here to tell you. . . . you and your heart must go to Redwall Abbey."
"My heart. . ." My husband Inbar's face flashed into my mind. "I will. I'll let Inbar know."
Martin walked over and stood under a magnificent tapestry some otter had hung representing the rising sun, a piece of reflective glass was set in the sun's place. "Daughter of Lutra, the compass points and the sunstar can help you. Remember this, never forget."
I shook myself as Martin vanished, remembering every detal, every word. I looked puzzled. Sunstar? What did Martin mean?
At the same instant I thought this, the sun broke through the clouds again, reflecting off the glass and casting a beam to shine on the opposite wall. . . my eyes widened in shock. Was that WRITING the beam was showing me? I raced to the wall just as I heard pawsteps behind me.
I whirled. . . My father-in-law, Wallyum Ruddawake, stood behind me with a look of surprise on his face.
"Wallyum, would you please copy this writing down for me? You wouldn't believe what just happened to me. . . "
I related the incident as I pointed to the wall and winced, feeling stupid. Grath, what's going on? Are you insane?
"You're not insane."
I winced again. Had I thought aloud?
Wallyum nodded. "You were and are thinking aloud, Grath. You were visited by Martin the Warrior."
"How? He's at. . . ."
"Martin, I found out, was also the name for the founder of Redwall Abbey. He visited me too." The chieftain of the Ruddawake Holt held up a piece of parchment and a charcoal stick. "I'm going to do a rubbing and get the message."
"Martin told me word for word, Inbar and I have to go to the Abbey, the compass points and the sunstar. . . " I pointed to the reflective glass. "Could help. Please, Wallyum, can you get the rubbing while I tell Inbar and pack. . . "
Inbar came racing in. "Grath, I got a message from Martin the Warrior. . . "
Inbar's jaw hit the floor of the cave. Had I received one as well? "Father. . ."
"There's no time to explain now, I'll explain on the way there. I'm going to get our weapons and pack." I took one final look around the cavern before hugging Wallyum.
"You two take care of yourselves, my son. My daughter." Wallyum returned it. "Grath, I love you like you're my own daughter. I know you suffer from the bloodwrath when it comes to wave vermin."
"I stood rigid for a minute, shaking. Finally, I spoke. "I used to. I'm not that otter anymore."
Used to? Wallyum thought. The second he mentioned "wave vermin", he'd seen blood rise in my eyes. He faced me down, calmly. Slowly, the red haze faded and I saw my father in law and husband again.
"I'm learning to control it. Self mastery. I go to a special place and try to control it."
"Rainbow Cavern?" Wallyum and I spoke as one.
"It's. . . . it's not easy. I need to go to Salamandastron before we go to the Abbey. The Badger Lady can help."
"Lady Cregga Rose Eyes? She has it too."
"We'll find out how to control it."