By Katie Sullivan (a.k.a. Snowfur)
The soldiers were snickering insolently behind
his back, but Ferhago the Assassin didnt care. Whatever Azalea wanted, Azalea
got, and any hordebeast who forgot it faced dire consequences. The weasel lounged
under a tree, holding one end of the daisy chain his wife was making. Azalea was
overly fond of flowers. A white blossom was tucked into her headfur. Her soft
brown eyes, reddish fur and sleek body combined for a beauty that nicely complimented
Ferhagos own handsome features.
Ignoring his followers scorn, the Assassins sparkling blue eyes gazed at his wife lovingly. Their young son, Klitch, was curled up in the leaves nearby, napping in the afternoon sunlight. His small tail twitched fitfully in his dreams.
Azalea stopping threading daisies and sighed delicately.
Is something wrong, my sweet? Ferhago asked.
She shrugged her slim shoulders despondently. Oh, I dont know. Im just restless today, I guess. I think Ill take a walk. She put aside her basket of daisies and got to her feet, dusting off her pale pink skirt.
Ferhago looked concerned. This is strange country. You should take someone with you. He motioned to a nearby rat who was trying not to look amused at his leaders infatuated state. Limpear!
The rat stepped forward and saluted. Yes, sir?
Accompany Azalea on her walk, he ordered.
Azalea smiled and bent to kiss her spouse. Ill be back in time for supper. Look
after Klitch for me.
No problem, Ferhago said, patting the ball of slumbering fur at his side.
Azalea shot an irritated look at the smirking soldiers and strolled off through the woods with Limpear in tow. Her pink skirt floated out behind her in the breeze.
What are you slobberchops staring at? Ferhago snarled at the nearby hordebeasts.
Nothing, Chief, said a skinny weasel.
Ferhago narrowed his eyes threateningly and let the matter drop. He pushed his wifes daisy basket aside and began carving a pattern in the tree bark with a dagger.
Evening shadows lengthened, but Azalea and
Limpear still had not returned. Ferhago paced restlessly through the camp.
Little Klitch stumbled along behind him, tugging at the back of his cloak.
Pikkamee up! he insisted for the hundredth time. Finally, the warlord
gave in and picked up his son.
Wheres Mama? Klitch asked.
Ferhago frowned. I dont know, he admitted in a low voice.
I miss Mama, the young weasel whined.
The Assassin decided it was time for action. Azalea had been gone too long. He had a bad feeling about the whole matter. He walked over to his familys tent and set his child down in the nest of blankets that served as his bed. Then he stepped outside the tent and called for Brownfur, a reliable fellow weasel.
Brownfur, Im going to look for Azalea. You stay here and watch Klitch.
Watch Klitch? Im a solider, not a nursemaid, Brownfur said, wrinkling his nose. Ferhago drew his skinning knife and held it to the other weasels throat. Aye, but youll be a dead soldier if you dont keep my son safe while Im gone. Understand?
Brownfur swallowed nervously, the knife blade scraping at his neck as he did so. Yessir.
Ferhago gave a toothy smile. Good. I knew youd see things my way. He strode off toward a cluster of soldiers. He announced his intentions to form a search party and selected some dependable beasts. He told them to spread out and search the surrounding woods. Taking a rat named Darkfur with him, he set out into the forest.
Dusk was waning into night, and still
Azalea had not been found. Still, Ferhago doggedly searched the forest.
Suddenly, Darkfur yelped from a short distance away, Over here, Chief!
In a trice, Ferhago was at his side. He froze in horror.
In a small clearing, his wife lay on her back, her eyes closed. Except for the patch of blood staining her pink gown, she appeared to be sleeping. Ferhago rushed to her side and felt her neck for a pulse. He felt nothing, and she was cold to the touch. He stared numbly at his beloveds limp form. Azalea, he whispered in disbelief.
Chief? croaked a nearby voice. Ferhago looked up and saw Limpear lying nearby, mortally wounded.
What happened? Ferhago growled angrily.
Ermine... Limpear whispered, his breath rattling. I tried to fight them, but there were three of em... Nothing I could do... Poor Azalea... The blood... Nothing I could do... Oooh...
Limpears eyes were clouding over anyway, but a dagger thrust from the weasel hastened his departure to the Dark Forest. Useless piece of scum! he bellowed, fiercely kicking the dead rat. You were supposed to protect her! Ferhago turned to his wifes body, sank to his knees in the dead leaves, and, for the only time in his adult life, wept.
He cried his wifes name between sobs and cradled her head in his lap. The only person he
had ever truly cared for was dead. His mind reeled in grief.
Suddenly, he remembered Darkfur, who was standing awkwardly at the clearings edge, averting his eyes from his leaders display of emotion. Ferhagos streaming eyes narrowed. Word of his breakdown could never reach the others. He drew a dagger from his belt and flung it viscously. Darkfur fell backwards without a sound, the dagger protruding from his chest.
Now alone, Ferhago fully surrendered to grief.
Story © 1997 Katie Sullivan
Redwall characters © Brian Jacques
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