Verdauga Arrives at Kotir

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


     Verdauga’s army was on the move, travelling south.  Always south.  The wildcat and his family were riding in a cart pulled by four sturdy ferrets.
     “Can’t you keep those two quiet back there?” Verdauga snapped, baring his fangs in irritation at his wife and young children.
     “Sorry, Father,” Gingervere said politely.  “OW!” he yelped as Tsarmina dug her sharp claws into his arm.
     “Tsarmina!” Verdauga scolded.
     The young wildcat pouted, sat back and crossed her arms on her chest.  Their mother, Rowena, shrugged at Verdauga.  The warlord shook his head in disgust and returned his gaze to the road ahead.  It was a stroke of luck to find such a well-established path.  And where there was a path, there were bound to be creatures to plunder and enslave.
     Swiftpaw, a lanky female weasel who had been scouting ahead, came running up the path toward them.  Verdauga signaled the ferrets pulling the cart, and the army ground to a halt.
     “Sire,” Swiftpaw said breathlessly, still winded from the run.  “I’ve found a great sandstone fortress, and it’s abandoned!”
     “Abandoned, you say?” Verdauga asked, his green eyes lighting up as plans took form in his agile brain.
     “Yes, Sire,” Swiftpaw said happily.  “There’s nobeast in sight!  You’ll be able to see it yourself in a quarter league or so.  It’s right by the path."
    Verdauga gave a toothy smile.  “Well, well.  Our luck gets better and better.”  He turned to the troops filed behind him: a motley collection of armored vermin.  “Did I not tell you that I would lead you to riches?  A fortress ripe for the taking in the middle of this sunny, fertile land?”
     “Great is Verdauga, Master of a Thousand Eyes!  Slayer of Enemies!” chanted the troops in unison, raising their shining weapons into the air.
     “Mother!  Tell Tsarmina to stop tickling me with her tail!” Gingervere whined.
     “Tsarmina, don’t pick on your brother,” Rowena chided.
     The little female wildcat scowled and slouched in her seat.
     “Don’t slouch, dear.  It’s not ladylike,” Rowena corrected.
     Tsarmina straightened her posture but frowned even more deeply.
     Verdauga’s army continued on its relentless way, drawing ever southward.  Soon the parapets of a reddish structure poked above the treetops. Tsarmina stopped pinching her brother and watched in fascination as more of the building became visible.  Soon they stood at the gates of the fortress.  Verdauga and his family got out of the cart, glad for a chance to stretch their legs.  The children scampered ahead as Verdauga, Rowena and their captains entered the overgrown parade ground.
     “Looks like no one’s been here for years,” Rowena said.
     “It’s abandoned, all right.  It’s like it was just sitting here, waiting for us!”
    Verdauga said gleefully, prowling toward the fortress’ entrance.
     The inside of the fortress was damp and chilly.
     “Charming,” Rowena said sarcastically, scraping mold off a wall with one razor-sharp claw.
     “It’ll need some repair, I admit, but it’s perfect!” Verdauga said.
     “Mother, it’s wet in here,” Tsarmina said, cringing against her mother’s skirts.
     “It just needs to be aired out,” Verdauga said, venturing further down the dank corridor.  Gingervere timidly tagged along behind him.
     Meanwhile, high in a nearby tree, a young squirrel named Amber crouched, watching the new arrivals.  She had a very bad feeling about this.
    From that day forward, Mossflower country would never be the same.

Story and the character Rowena 1997 Katie Sullivan
Redwall characters Brian Jacques

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