The moon shone bright in the sky, surrounded by thousands of pinpricks of light. Diantha gazed at them from her position by a camp fire, a soft smile adorning her face. The world around her lay forgotten for the moment, as she took in the beauty of the stars, only half listening to Malion's third attempt at explaining what they were doing near Mossflower country, this time using significantly less words that his previous two efforts.
"Look, it's really not so difficult to understand. The infamous Redwall Abby is made of those red sandstone blocks, right? And it's walls have never been beaten; the only ones who have ever gotten past them had to trick their way in, like Slagar the Cruel and Clunney the Scourge. So this red sandstone must be an exceptionally good material for building fortresses out of. That's why we're traveling to this Mossflower place; to get that sandstone to build our own castle out of it. That way, that castle will be just as impenetrable as the famed Redwall.
"But if this Abby place is already made out of the stuff, why don't we just conquer it instead of hauling a bunch of heavy stones back home and building a fort from scratch?"
Diantha lightly smacked her brother on the back of his head, her attention snapping back to the moment. "Weren't you paying attention, dimwit? He just said their walls were impenetrable; that means they can't be penetrated. How can you conquer a place that you can't get into?"
"You break down the door instead...unless that's made of stone too, of course."
Malion shook his head. "No, that wouldn't work. The Abby is also famous for it's fierce woodlander warriors. They'd attack you from the walltops and repell your forces before you could break down the gate."
"Well, they're only woodlanders; how fierce could they possibly be?"
Malion took a brief moment to register the irony of the fact that Diantha, the squirrel, had been the one to ask that and not her brother.
"While we could beat them in a straight confrontation, as long as they have their walls to hide behind, that abby remains out of reach of any vermin, even your mother. That's why she's not even bothering to try. The plan is to arrive, round up some woodlanders to mine the stone for us, and stay as far away from the abby as possible."
The looks on the siblings' faces slowly faded into frowns as brother and sister tried to process what they had just heard. Swifpaw's paw unconciously drifted to the hilt of his sword.
"It almost sounds like your implying mother is scared of this place."
Malion glanced cautiously around at the verious vermin at their fires not far away, before leaning forward and whispering his reply.
"To be honest, my prince, I think that she is."
Swiftpaw jumped to his feet, his broadsword flying out of his scabbard and finding it's way to within a few inches of Malion's throat. The weasle remained perfectly still, not even blinking an eye as the ferret prince stood their threatening him.
"Our mother is the greatest warrior alive! She fears nothing!"
"You are out of line, Sir Malion. An appology is due." Diantha added from where she sat, her voice harsh and condemning.
"My prince, please, keep your voice down and stop making a scene; the last thing we need right now is for word to spread and the army to begin doubting her majesty."
Swiftpaw hesitated for a moment, until Diantha nudged his side and motioned to their left. The ferret prince looked and saw a group of rats trying and failing to subtly evesdrop on their conversation. Reluctantly, he sheathed his sword and sat back down, lowering his voice.
"You'd best make haste with your explanation, Malion; I may still kill you yet."
The weasle schollar breathed a quiet sigh of relief, before speaking again.
"I did not explain myself well. It may have sounded as though I was implying her majesty was afraid of the woodlanders themselves or the strength of their fortress. That is not true: Trizah the Vermin Queen fears no mortal force, and could easily conquer the abby if that was all there was to it."
Diantha's eyes widened slightly. The squirrel scooted slightly closer to the fire as a sudden chill went down her spine. "You're suggesting there are spirits at play then?"
Swiftpaw scoffed; the ferret prince had never been one for superstitions. How any beast could believe the spirits of the dead could affect the living was beyond him. The others pointedly ignored him as Malion continued.
"They say the place is haunted; that the spirit of a legendary warrior of unfathomable skill stalks its halls. He curses every warlord that attacks the abby and can possess any beast that picks up his blade, giving them his skills and strength. No beast has ever bested him in combat, not even Death itself...or at least, that's how the stories go."
"So that's it then? You think my mother is afraid of some silly ghost stories?"
The Weasle poked at the fire with a stick, stiring it a bit and sending up a few sparks. "Her majesty has always been rather superstitious. It may seem silly to you, young prince, but to your mother and sister, such things are very real."
Swiftpaw wanted to protest against such an assessment, but knew that what Malion said was true; Trizah would often consult with supposed seers and witches, seeking the advice of spirits. If anything could deter her from an easy conquest, it was such nonsense as this.
"Well, it doesn't matter one way or the other; be it ghosts or warriors, we're still steering clear of that abby either way." Diantha said, before letting out a tired yawn. "I think I'm going to turn in for the night. I'll see you tomorrow, brother."
"Sleep well, sister."
"Good night, Princess." Malion added.
A blush erupted across Diantha's face as she stood up. The squirrel quickly rushed off, hoping and praying the weasle hadn't noticed. Once she'd left, Swiftpaw turned his attention back to Malion.
"So, since you know so much about this abby, I'm willing to bet you've figured out at least some weakness of theirs we can exploit."
Malion faked a look of surprise. "My prince, are you implying that I would ignore your mother's orders to leave the abby alone? That I would go behind her back and start planning an attack anyways? Why, only a cunning, manipulative, down right diabolical creature would do such a thing."
"You're easily the single most cunning and manipulative creature in my mother's army, Malion. I know you wouldn't have tried convincing me the abby was unassailable unless you had a plan for defeating it. Tell me or I really will kill you."
The weasle smiled, and the ferret did too; an understanding had been reached between them, and a plan was formed.