Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Twenty-fourth Day

In which Seamus and Cassidy deal with the loss of the journal.

Not a huge writing night tonight, but I'm in pretty good shape for taking the next day or two off. Happy Thanksgiving!

Chapter 34

Cassidy regained her feet first, since Seamus had ended the struggle partly caught under Nathan. She looked around quickly, then grabbed the pair of fire tongs that lay a few feet from the fireplace. She reached in with the tongs and grabbed the journal, though its dry pages had already caught fire. She pulled it out onto the hearthstones and Seamus, who had also picked himself up by now, began stomping on it to put it out. After a bit of smothering, the flames were out but the journal was still in pretty bad shape.

Behind them Nathan had gotten up and, realizing what he had done, was beginning to slink quietly out of the room, trying to make himself inconspicuous. Seamus was still focused on the journal, but Cassidy heard Nathan move. Spinning around, she dealt him a swift, sharp punch in the stomach. Nathan collapsed, breathless.

"You idiot!" she yelled. "You complete and utter creep! You don't even know how important that book was!" She caught herself and quieted down, turning back to Seamus. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that," she said apologetically.

"It's okay," said Seamus, poking gently at the cooling remains of the journal.

"I mean, he's your housemate and everything."

"Don't worry about it."

"But I should have let you…"

Seamus gave a small laugh in spite of himself. He glanced over at Nathan, whimpering quietly in a corner, and figured that Cassidy was probably more the type to deal out retribution than he was. She had done a decent job of it anyway. He made a mental note to avoid pissing her off.

"Forget about him," he said. "Let's see if we can salvage anything here."

They got a baking tray from the kitchen and gingerly lifted the journal onto it, still hot and dropping ashes. Then they took it back upstairs to Seamus' room, leaving Nathan to nurse his wounds and repent, though they realized the latter was unlikely.

Cassidy cleared a space on Seamus' desk and he put the tray down. With the eraser end of a pencil, he gently opened the cover. The cover itself was still more or less intact, being leather and not quick to catch fire. The pages were in much worse shape unfortunately, blackened and crumbling. However, there were a few in the middle that had survived partially intact, mostly just singed around their margins. Seamus turned to one of these and carefully pressed the book down so the pages would lay flat and open.

After giving the journal a few more minutes to cool, he took his pen and as softly as he could, wrote.

Hello… book? Are you there?

They watched the pages. Then, ever so slowly, faint ink marks began to show beneath Seamus' words.

i… de…… j… —

The writing was smudged and incoherent, coming across as though with great effort. Seamus wrote again.

Book! Come back! Don't die! We need you!

But this time there were only a few scratches, even fainter than before and trailing off across the page.

Please! Can you at least tell us how we can rescue Gabriela?

There was nothing this time. Seamus tossed his pen on the desk and sat back with a sigh of despair.

"That's it then," he said. "It's gone. Gabriela's been kidnapped by an evil fictional force that tried to use us to destroy the world and now the only way to go after her has been burnt to a crisp."

Cassidy sat down on the bed and they were both quiet for a minute. What could they do? The Book had been destroyed and now both of their journals were gone as well. Big Jake was dead. And there was hardly anyone else they could go to for help.

Then Cassidy's eye landed on the copy of Redwall that Seamus had dropped on the bed when they came in earlier. She gazed at its cover that had told them what happened to Gabriela. Then an idea seemed to come to her and she broke the silence.

"Seamus… I was just thinking… are we certain you actually need the journal?" she asked. Seamus looked at her in mild confusion.

"Well of course we do? Don't we? I mean… that's how we always got into the books, and we had to get in there to confront the big Book. How else would we do it?"

"I'm not sure. But however it is, I don't think we would do it. I think you would."

"What do you mean?"

"The Book was looking for you, remember? It said I had 'some talent' but I think I was really just brought into this whole thing to help it find you. You are the one it said was the Key. You have the power that it needed – that it still needs, probably. The journal helped to train you, to show you what you can do. But the ability is yours."

"So… what? Are you saying Dumbo here doesn't need his feather?" Seamus' voice was tired and frustrated.

"I'm saying maybe he can fly on his own."

Seamus leaned forward, putting his elbows on his desk and resting his forehead on his hands.

"Okay. So maybe I can do this. But how? And where are we going to try to go?"

Cassidy held out the copy of Redwall, nudging him with it. He turned around and took it.

"How much do you remember of this book?" she asked. "I've never read it."

"I'm not sure. I loved the whole series when I was a kid, but it's been a really long time. Lots of talking mice and hedgehogs and moles, and evil rats. That sort of thing."

"Why don't you read a few chapters? Maybe it will jog your memory."

"Read?!" he shouted. "How the hell am I supposed to sit down calmly and read with Gabriela off being abducted by some evil literary force that only we know about?"

"You don't have to yell at me," Cassidy said quietly, though Seamus could see a warning look in her eye. "I'm just trying to help. Can you think of anything else we can do?"

Seamus looked down, embarrassed. "No," he said.

"Okay, then. Just a few chapters. It'll probably go pretty quickly, anyway."


Seamus sat down resignedly and opened the book. He read out loud to Cassidy to help him focus on it, and so she could get an idea of at least some of the story even though she hadn't read the book before.

It was the start of the Summer of the Late Rose. Mossflower country shimmered gently in a peaceful haze, bathing delicately at each dew-laden dawn, blossoming through high sunny noontides, languishing in each crimson-tinted twilight that heralded the soft darkness of June nights….

And gradually it all began to come back to him: the peaceful life at Redwall Abbey; the arrival of Cluny the Scourge, the evil rat with his whip-like tail and band of vermin; young Matthias mouse longing to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Martin the Warrior. The chapters were short, and in less than an hour they had reached chapter 7, where they found Gabriela's bookmark, black and white, with red letters spelling out "D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs!" Seamus closed the book, leaving the bookmark in place.

"I think I'm ready now," he said, placing the book in his lap and reaching for Cassidy's hand. They sat close together as he put his free hand on the cover of the book and closed his eyes, concentrating to visualize the two of them in Mossflower.

"Redwall Abbey," he said, softly. "Mossflower. Both of us. Now."

He felt the shimmer in the air around them, and then a breeze on his face. Opening his eyes, he found that they were now standing hand in hand on a long, dusty road. Before them loomed the immense red stone walls of the abbey.