Mardha's gaze dropped from Stripetail back to the bundle in her lap. He was asking something of her that she was not sure that she could do but there was a small part of her that felt that this was the right thing to do. "What do you think, old friend?" she whispered to the bundle.
"We never found them, probably never will." Mardha said as she began to untie the first layer fabric.
One by one she removed the bundle's wrappings. It was made of strips and pieces of fabric of several different colors. Mardha stopped once she reached the final layer which was an undyed roughspun fabric. This was the heart of the bundle. This was Cadoc. Pushing the outer wrappings to one side she got up and reverently carried it around to where Stripetail sat. Kneeling, she laid the bundle on the ground and began to untie it with shaking hands.
"Cadoc was all the family I ever knew. Found me he did, lost and alone. I was but a youngster then. He brought me in, cared for me." Mardha whispered.
Inside the bundle was a bloodied and rent tunic that was wrapped around bones. Mardha pulled the grisly garment aside to reveal a skull. Much of the skeleton was there with several of the bones showing battle injuries, some healed and others not.
"Cadoc." Mardha whispered as she gently touched the skull, fresh tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes.
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 29, 2015 1:56:01 GMT -5
Stripetail paused as Mardha unwrapped the tunic before him, then twitched slightly as the remains of Cadoc were revealed to him. He gently moved the remains closer to him so he could take a closer look at them. he began by looking at the skull.
" he was an Otter, judging from the shape of the skull and the size and alignment of teeth, injuries are consistent with a hard fought battle.. death likely came either from the cuts to the neck here.." he pointed to them, two large indentations in the neck, one on either side.. "or the cuts here at the back of the skull." he pointed to them " he was.. somewhere about 40 seasons of age' Stripetail said as he continued examining the skeleton.' give or take a few seasons either way, because you've carried him with you a long time, all the movement and jumbling has made it hard to pinpoint his exact age. You likely accidentally lost some of his bones awhile back, he's missing a few fingers and one of the bones in his left wrist, and his right leg. Now let me see.. where are those 'honor salts"?" he reached inside his robes and began pulling out a number of small pouches, setting them down one by one. "'Honor salts' are used to anoint the dead, as a mark of respect.' He explained to Mardha.' the Long Patrol usually sprinkle this salt on their comrades who fall in battle. They gave me a few pouches of it for use on my journeys.. Now where did I put them? AH!.. Here they are!' Stripetail pulled up a trio of small grey pouches, and opened them revealing a white-like salt. Stripetail grabbed a small pawful of the salt, and began sprinkling it on Cadoc.."you may start wrapping him up again. I will sprinkle salt into each layer, and one final dusting over the bundle.' He said to Mardha.
"45...Cadoc was 45 seasons when the attack happened." Mardha said quietly as she placed the skull back into the middle of the jumbled bones before covering it over with the battle worn tunic.
As though driven by some unseen force, she began to slowly tell the story of that night. There would still be parts of the story to be told but as she put the bundle back together Mardha spoke of that long ago night for the first time to another living soul.
"It was late. The fires had burned low but a few of us still sat by them sharing stories. Holt Graystone was not a very large holt...maybe 10 of us. Life in the north was always hard but it was a good life. Three of us sat around a dying fire in front of the great gray stone that marked the entrance. Cadoc, myself and Asen. There was no reason to suspect them, the patrol had seen nothing. From the dark them came, slashing and burning...murderers in the night. Cadoc sent Asen to warn the others while we kept them at bay. There were too many. They surrounded us...slashing and stabbing with wicked blades. Cadoc...Cadoc yelled for me to go as the first stroke fell...I couldn't leave...couldn't abandon him. The second stroke...he was on his knees. I tried to reach him but there were too many. The third stroke...Cadoc fell. They came for me...the screams had already begun. Pain...darkness...I fell." Mardha said as she wrapped the protective layers back around the bundle that held Cadoc's bones. She stopped when she reached a tattered and weathered piece, it was the tunic that she had been wearing that night. It had also been the outer layer for many seasons but she had added layers as she found them to keep the bundle together.
"I...I don't remember much for a long time after that. I remember waking to the horror of the dead...the dead were everywhere...so many dead." Mardha shuddered and closed her eyes for a moment. "I could barely move...could barely see. How did I survive...I shouldn't have survived. Long seasons have blurred those days. I buried those I could find...burned those strange to me. Cadoc...I couldn't leave Cadoc. Seasons I waited...collected what I could find and left. Long seasons we have traveled together."
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 29, 2015 13:47:21 GMT -5
As Mardha told her tale, Stripetail sprinkled honor salt on each layer as she wrapped them back around the bundle. he said nothing, listening to her tale quietly and respectfully. Stripetail could see that the events of that long ago attack had left deep imprints on her, and that she was having a hard time talking about it even now.. "So you were the sole survivor of the holt?' Stripetail finally said."Fate was kind to you that day. It may seem strange to say that, having lost one so dear to you as Cadoc that day, but it is true. If you had fallen along with the others there would be none left to tell the tale of what happened, your bones, like the others, would have been picked at by time and the elements, and your name and theirs would have been long forgotten. over the course of my travels, I have met many beasts. some became famous, a few even of legend, but many many more had names I alone now remember, all those seasons onward. Your efforts are keeping Cadoc and the others alive, through memory and telling their story.telling it , before your memory fades and events blur into each other. Did you ever return to the Holt afterwards?' Stripetail asked as he continued sprinkling honor salt.
Mardha tied the final layer of fabric tightly around the bundle, this was the piece that formed the carrying straps. She did not look up at Stripetail as she checked to make sure that Cadoc's remains were secure in their cloth tomb. Silently she got up and started to make her way back to the other side if the campfire which had started to burn low. Pausing for a moment she looked at it. The fire on that long ago night had been very similar.
"No." Mardha said after some time, a heaviness from the memories that she carried had started to creep into her voice. "Stayed for 2 seasons after I did, living among the dead. Only because I could not leave that place yet."
Gently she laid the fabric bundle down on the ground. Mardha started to sit back down on the oposite side of the fire from Stripetail but as she did a loud pop issued from her right hip causing her to almost fall. She had sustained a major injury to it during the attack and it had not healed well. Often it would pop and crack causing pain and it had left her with a perminent limp. That was one part of the story that she was not yet willing to tell.
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 29, 2015 16:20:07 GMT -5
Stripetail gathered up all his pouches, put then back into his robes, and returned to his seat by the fire. ashe watched mardha return to her spot, a loud 'pop' was heard and she nearly fell. ' You all Right?' he asked, concern on his face
Gently Mardha rubbed her right hip. "Too much up and down for one day." she said softly to herself. The long seasons had not been particularly kind to her. Her odd coat hid some of the signs of age but life's wear and tear was starting to show.
"Some old wounds just don't heal right. E'er now and then it acts up." Mardha said as she continued to try and massage the pain away.
Youth had been on her side when she took the axe to her right hip. It had healed without any major complications but now it was starting to cause issues almost 30 seasons on.
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 29, 2015 17:32:33 GMT -5
"let me take a look at it, I should have something to numb the pain a bit' Stripetail said. "I have a few herbs that can help with aches and pains.Ginseng, for instance. chop it up and mix it in water, and its quite soothing to the throat.'
Mardha shook her head, "I'll be fine. Just need a bit of rest."
The pain was already starting to subside into a dull ache. It had been a very long day at this point and she would be moving on in the morning as she always did. Always traveling to somewhere over the horizon. Stirring the dying fire she threw a couple more sticks on sending a plume of bright sparks dancing off into the night sky.
"The night is long and in the morning our travels will continue. I know not where you travels will take you." Mardha said as she leaned back. Her and Cadoc's journey knew no end at that point. There possibly was no end.
Last Edit: Jan 29, 2015 21:27:28 GMT -5 by Cerridwen
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 29, 2015 18:14:37 GMT -5
have you ever been to Redwall Abbey Mardha?' Stripetail said. "it is a fine place, where all who enter are welcome.You and Cadoc have journeyed for a long time. Dont you think the both of you have earned a respite, a short rest from your journeys? Travel with me Mardha, at least for a few days time. Come to Redwall. I believe that you will soon see why, despite my many travels, I return again and again to that abbey." He chuckled ' and no, its not just because of the food, no. It's the company of goodbeasts. of kind hearts, and simple stories and the laughter of young ones playing.I can set aside my burdens there for a time, before I am called elsewhere. What do you say?
Mardha's hand strayed to the bundle as she thought about Stripetail's offer. This was the first time in almost 30 seasons since she had kept company with others. She had heard of Redwall long ago from one of the holt members. Since the attack Mardha had tried to keep to the loneliest least traveled paths to avoid others. Was she ready to start interacting with others? How would they feel about Cadoc? Would they try to take him away from her? All these questions tumbled over in her mind.
"What do you think, old friend?" She asked looking down at the bundle. "Should we go with him, Cadoc?"
She looked back across the campfire at Stripetail and for a couple minutes she studied him. He had been kind to her and had even been willing to help her. Mardha also remembered the story that she had heard of the place called Redwall that the creatures there were also kind and helpful.
"No, I have not been to this place Redwall Abbey. We have traveled the lonely roads since we left the north but I remember stories from long ago of this place and they were similar." Mardha said after some time, still studying Stripetail "However we will travel with you for few days. To this Redwall Abbey will we go, time will tell."
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 29, 2015 23:46:36 GMT -5
well, if nothing else, you will leave Redwall with a full belly' Stripetail smiled ' their feasts are legendary. Every dish you could think of, and more.they make enough food for themselves to gorge on for days on end, and yet there is still enough after all that to last for weeks and months afterwards. in the morrow then, we journey to Redwall.' He smiled.
Mardha nodded, time would tell if they would go all the way to Redwall or not. Stirring the small campfire once more, she made herself comfortable and let sleeps welcomed repose envelope her. Some nights she was able to sleep well while others proved to be less than restful but her dreams were always tinged with the memories of the attack on Holt Graystone. Some nights she relived the attack in vivid detail while others her dreams of what could she have done differently. Tonight would be the former but it was different in a way. She was aware of far more than before.
The sun had long since set in the western sky and the warm midsummer night was still gentle, the rich smells of wood smoke and earthy night mantled forest hung in the air. The stories, songs and feasting had started in late afternoon and had carried on long into the night until weary revelers could carry on no longer. Just out side of the holt entrance, by the great gray stone which was it's namesake, the last few sat around a slowly dying campfire. Cadoc, Mardha and Asen sat sharing stories of seasons past. Cadoc was the eldest while Mardha was the youngest of the trio at 20 seasons. He had looked after her ever since he had found her orphaned and wandering alone in the woodlands. The trio laughed as Cadoc recounted stories of their early years together. None of them were aware of the vermin warband that was creeping up on them until it was too late.
Cadoc heard it first. The breaking of a stick under foot. Looking in the direction of the sound he caught a glimpse of several shadowed forms scurrying through the darkness. None of them were prepared for what came next. There was no reason to be prepared because the patrols had not seen any sign of vermin being in the area for some time. From out of the darkness a group of some 30 foxes, weasels, stoats, and ferrets rushed at them. Quickly the trio of surprised otters scrambled to their feet, reaching for anything to use as a weapon as none of them were properly armed.
"Warn the others!" Cadoc barked as he shoved Asen towards the holt entrance.
"Let's give 'em a wallopin' they'll remember." he said, winking at Mardha.
Shoulder to shoulder they stood, barring the warband's way. Cadoc was armed with a knife and a large billet of firewood while Mardha had managed to grab a stout length of oak that could be used as a stave. There were a couple snickers of laughter from the warband as they came at them. Despite being sorely ill-equipped for the task they now found themselves, Cadoc and Mardha held their ground. Mardha eventually was able to retrieve a spear from a fallen weasl but it was too little too late. Some of the warband members had managed to get around them and now they were encircled and separated. Mardha watched in horror as a fox landed a hard yet glancing blow to the back of Cadoc's head, knocking the warrior otter to his knees.
"Get out of here if you can, Mardha!" Cadoc yelled to her as he tried to fight on.
Mardha desperately tried to get to him, if there was a chance that they could both escape she was willing to take it. As she tried to carve her way through to him an axe blow caught her in the right hip sending her to the ground. Her final glimpse of Cadoc was of him disappearing under the crush of vermin after suffering a blow to the left side of his neck. Mardha tried to fight on from her prone position but it was little use. Her struggle was finally ended when one of the warband stomped hard on her head causing everything to go dark.
Mardha woke up with a slight gasp. It took her a couple moments to recall where she was because it had seemed so real. Looking to the sky she could see the very first hues of morning chasing night away.
Post by LordStripetail on Jan 30, 2015 19:52:03 GMT -5
Stripetail's sleep was far less stressful than Mardha's , and it was shorter as well. Stripetail rarely slept for long periods of time, and tonight was no exception. He stirred and began to cover the fires embers with dirt. he turned from his task as mardha Stirred ' You sleep well?' he asked, as he continued smothering the fire."If, not, well at least it is now morning..."
"Some nights not as well as others. Can't say I have since the attack." Mardha shrugged as she began to gather her belongings.
She tied the cloth bundle across her back and then retrieved a small satchel and a stout staff from where she had hidden them in the scrub. The small satchel held her provisions and the small lamp that she had used the night before.
"We may travel as soon as you are ready." Mardha said as she stood on the side of the path waiting on Stripetail.