A/N: Any characters and places not Brian Jacques' in this fic are mine, including Rainbow Cavern.
- The pearls are gone, Mad Eyes is dead; a snake can't live without its head.
- I thought that marten's legacy would go away and leave me be.
- My paws would never raise my bow to kill again. But it's not so.
- The armored mouse has led me here, joined by the one I hold most dear.
- My husband yearns to live in peace. And so did I. I craved release.
- Release from war, release from hate. I almost crossed Dark Forest's gate
- To join my kin the day they died. They said it's easy, but they lied.
- Vengeance is now all I crave, nobeast now my soul can save.
- Poem from the personal journal of Grath Longfletch
You can put the past behind you, but sometimes it comes back.
I can still hear the screams from my family of agony, of grief, of rage. I hear the sound of laughter, horrible vermin laughter as my loved ones are ripped to shreds. My mother and my sisters beg for mercy, mercy they'll never get. My father, Lutra, and my brothers try to fight and defend them, falling themselves under an onslaught of spears and blades. The cause of their death? Six rose-colored pearls in a scallop-shell case. The Tears of all Oceans. Aptly named, for all they brought to anybeast was despair and death. My family never knew that until it was too late. We never considered ourselves rich because of the Tears or the other physical 'treasure' we had; we were 'rich' because we had a family that loved each other. That's where the real treasure in our holt lay. Greed, particularly the greed of a pine marten and corsairs, changed my life forever. It took my family from me and set me on a path to becoming a merciless killer.
I jolted completely awake and looked around Holt Rudderwake, shivering violently. There was no danger that I could see; the cave was quiet except for the crackle of twigs on the fire and the snoring of sleeping otters. Now that I was awake, I knew where I was and that I was safe here, nevertheless, the memory refused to fade. Every night, it seemed, I relived the murders of my kin in my dreams. Drawing a quilt around my shoulders, I rose from my mat, picked up my weapons from where they lay beside me and moved to sit near the fire, holding my bow and quiver of arrows close to me like a frightened ottercub would hold a security blanket. I huddled around them in a near-fetal position, gazing into the flames as though watching the fire flicker and dance would banish the horror of my past. I still remembered the vow I made to myself inside my wrecked holt as I cried over my massacred family, covering each body with a blanket, touching each paw one last time and saying a final goodbye to each of them individually; a vow I'd reaffirmed to myself as I worked to seal the cavern entrance. Tears rose anew in my throat as I remembered that promise, word-for-word: I'll see you on the other side at the gates of Dark Forest when my time comes. I love you all. I'll make those wavescum pay for slaughtering you. I'll send them all to Hellgates. I may lose my life in the process, but you'll be avenged.
On the way back to Ruddaring and Holt Rudderwake to drop me and Inbar off, Abbot Durral and I had sat together in the main cabin on the Seaking and he'd given me advice:
"Anger or the desire for revenge can't bring back the creatures you've loved and lost, Grath. Hate is wasted energy that can be used for something more productive. What's the point in continuing to hate a creature after he's dead?"
"I don't know how to stop, Durral. It's all Mad Eyes' fault. . ."
"He's dead," the old mouse repeated, taking both of my paws in his and squeezing them gently. "I know it's his fault your family's dead, but he's dead now, too. You've killed vermin in revenge, but what good has it been, really?"
Fresh tears stung my eyes; my shoulders slumped and the quilt fell to the mat as I stood slowly and left the cave. Durral had been right: I'd killed vermin left and right; numerous corsairs had fallen to my arrows, but no matter how much blood I shed it couldn't open the gates of Dark Forest and bring my family back to life.
I knew where I was going.
When Martin II, Clecky, Plogg, Welko, Viola Bankvole and I arrived here, Winniegold had shown a special cave to us the morning before we left on our voyage to rescue Durral from the vermin. It wasn't far from the holt and filled with clear, natural quartz crystals that jut from the ceiling and the walls. The only place the crystals don't grow is the floor and a solitary, wide window cut into the cavern wall near the ceiling.
"Welcome to Rainbow Cavern, mates. I know you don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to show this to all of you before you left. I hope the sun's out . . ." Her words seemed to be the cue for what happened next: In almost the exact instant the maid finished speaking, the sun emerged from behind a cloud, shining down through the window and through the crystals, turning them into prisms. My companions and I stood in silent awe. Flashes of color danced on the walls, the floors, the ceiling . . . the entire cave was alive with rainbows!
Martin let out a whistle. "Wow!"
"This is bally amazin'!" Clecky breathed.
"Amazin' ain't the word for it because it's too minor," I finally managed to say. "How did this cave come into bein'?"
"Our ancestors cut this window into the cavern wall long seasons ago when they first came to Ruddaring," Winniegold explained. "Nature did the rest of the work."
"Winniegold, this is beautiful," Viola half-whispered. "I wish we had a place like this at Redwall Abbey."
"I wish we had a place like your Abbey here at Ruddaring. I'd love to be able to see and visit it myself someday."
"Anybeast who comes to Redwall Abbey in peace is welcome there."
That memory faded in the mists of time as I reached the cave. Running into the semi-darkness, I let my weapons fall to the ground and prostrated myself on the cavern floor, keening in agony.
After what seemed like an eternity I looked up. Watching the shifting patterns of the moonlight where it came through the crystals, reflecting faint rainbows on the walls, I felt myself hypnotized. The walls of the cavern expanded, receding further and further away. Minute details sprang into sharp focus. My eyes traced the outline of every paw print, every pebble, and each grain of dust; I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and noticed a large dragonfly clinging motionless to a stalactite, its wings spread and flashing with tiny rainbows of their own. With single-minded purpose I started slowly, cautiously toward it to get a closer look, not wanting to frighten the insect away.
A soft voice began whispering in my head. "Daughter of Lutra, fear not, I bring a message. Listen well and remember."
I looked up, up past the dragonfly to see the shimmering figure of a mouse in armor, carrying a magnificent sword. The same sword my friend Martin had used. . . he looked so much like him, especially in the eyes. Upon looking at him, I felt peace and simply nodded, not trusting myself to speak.
"Trust the Lady of the Mountain. Your future is written on the walls."
The Lady of the Mountain. . . . the Mountain. . . could he mean Salamandastron? The only one I knew of was probably Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, the newly-installed Badger Ruler. "Yes, sire," I whispered. I needed to go to Salamandastron and find out if I was right. What walls?
The dragonfly took flight long enough to rest gently in my paw. Its wings fluttered slightly, dancing with light, a forest-green light that spread to envelop the cavern.