Birth of the Outcast

By Katie Sullivan (a.k.a. Snowfur)

    Swartt slouched moodily against a cushion.  He, Swartt Sixclaw the Warlord, had been driven from his own tent.  No one had dared ask him to leave, but he knew when he wasn’t wanted.  Now he found himself huddled one of the Captain’s tents, waiting.  His wife’s agonized screams reached him through the bitterly cold night air.  Nightshade was attending to the laboring ferret in Swartt’s tent.
     Swartt pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulder and nursed his crippled sixclaw.  The cold air penetrated his gauntlet and sent daggers of pain shooting through his ruined paw.
     A particularly loud shriek from Bluefen pierced the air.  Swartt frowned.  I’m in pain, too, he thought, but I don’t carry on like that!
     Suddenly, a new, entirely different cry reached Swartt’s ears.  It was the cry of a healthy ferretbabe!
     Swartt set his jaw.  Good.  Maybe now she’ll be quiet.  He yawned and blinked heavily.  It had been a long night.  He nodded off against the cushion.  Before long, however, his slumber was interrupted by Nightshade’s voice.  “My lord?”
     Swartt blinked open his eyes and looked up at the fox by the tent flap.  “What?” he snapped.
    “Would you like to see your son?” Nightshade asked, holding out a tangle of woolen blankets.
     He looked disinterested, but she approached anyway.  “Look, my lord.” She reached into the blankets and produced a minute paw.  “He carries your mark.”
     Swartt stared.  Indeed, the babe had a sixclaw just like his own.  Well, almost...
     The Warlord felt a pang of irrational jealousy.
     “He needs a name,” Nightshade implored.
     Swartt sniffed disdainfully.  “I don’t care what you call him, vixen.  Caring for young ones is a female’s job.”
     “Sir, about that...you should know, Bluefen’s very weak.  It was a very hard labor.  She...may not survive.”
     But he had turned his back to the seer and the newborn and settled down to sleep.  “Dismissed, vixen,” he said in an unconcerned tone.  Nightshade silently slipped out of the tent, taking her leader’s tiny son with her.
 
 

Story 1997 Katie Sullivan
Redwall characters Brian Jacques

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