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As the sun drifted lazily to a radiant zenith in the clear, cloudless blue sky, the trilling calls of meadowlark, and bluebird announced noontide had come to Mossflower Country.
Saltmarsh was done with hiding.
The demonic serpent had surely left off his trail by now, and he was glad of it; despite the sweat and dried mud clinging to his matted fur and the myriad cuts and scrapes across his lean body. The weasel caught hold of a low root in the Ditch wall and, with no small amount of physical effort, hauled his panting body out of the Ditchbed and onto the dusty solace of the Path above. Across the Path, and to the North, lay Redwall Abbey.
He had to make it. Abbot Mortimer...
"Hellsteeth, please..." he caught himself slipping back into the familiar swearing of the common vermin from whom he had once so carefully tried to distance himself. Saltmarsh was better than them; the life of common rogues was no life for Feltie and any children they would have.
He bit his lip, trying to hold back new tears as the thought of Feltie, the Farm, and young ones running about came into mind. His dream.
Gone- to an agony far worse than death itself.
The weasel felt a lump growing in his throat; unable to stop himself under the newfound emotional strain, the weasel bent double, racked with ragged sobs. His vision blurred. He couldn't see. It was so hot- yet so cold.
Asmodeus.
Saltmarsh didn't know how long he lay at the dark oaken gates, but at about the time he would've been home, having a fine dinner with Feltie...he felt the thick, furry paws of a badger scooping him up and carrying his limp form into the warmth of Redwall Abbey. As he closed his eyes, he faintly heard the words, "Get Father Abbot. Tell him there's someone in the Infirmary he must see."
Abbot Mortimer stood upon the wallop of the red-stoned fortress, haven of peace and plenty in Mossflower Country, the soft Summer breeze running playfully through his green robes and gray-tinged fur.

The old mouse breathed in deeply, a smile upon his wrinkled features as he inhaled the scent of the afternoon. What a beautiful Summer's day. A little cup of dandelion tea sat untouched near his footpaw, forgotten in the Abbot's musings since early morning.

A bee alighted upon one sturdy forepaw, and rather than brush it away as many were wont to do, it too, received the tender mouse's kindness. It sat there, buzzing gently, wings flicking, as the mouse looked it over, like a father would a son, and chuckled as it then swept off, little black legs and clear wings glistening once in the sunlight before disappearing. Gone.
A fellow mouse awoke Mortimer from his peaceful, unhurried state, touching the sage beast gently upon his shoulder.
"Father Abbot... Constance told me to go get you. She's found some poor fellow outside the Main Gates. Better hurry."
TO BE CONTINUED.



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