It was night in all of Mossflower country and the moon, heavily hanging near the rim of the world, was glowing a strange orange color and appeared larger than usual. It was perfectly round and a day or two early for the full moon. The entire woods reacted with awe and there were no sounds from beneath the leafy canopy. Even the owls who hunted at night remained hidden into their hollows, frightened of the peculiar moon. The mice, squirrels, moles, and other creatures that lived at Redwall Abby stayed inside close to the fire, speaking in whispered tones. Something strange and frightening was on the air that night, and no one knew just what it was.
The only woodland creatures that did not seem concerned that night with the tension or the foul colored moon were the otters. They preformed their evening tasks as they did every night: hauling their boats up, securing the large crafts with ropes, and enjoying a dinner outside around an open fire. One elder otter whose coat was almost completely silver with age and whose eyes were clouded over, cleared his throat. The din of the otters fell silent and even the little dibbuns, who should have been asleep, crept closer to hear what the elder would say.
“"The sky this night foretells the future, ai," the elder said in a deep, monotone voice. "Somethin' evil is crawlin' in Mossflower or will soon. We, otters, must be on our guard, ai. It is we who patrol the rivers and streams and it is we who keep Mossflower warned."
"We shall keep both eyes open durin' the day, mate," called a younger otter with a decisive nod of his head. "And one eye open at night! T'is the otter way!"
"That we will," another, older, otter with a slight limp from some terrible battle long ago, agreed. "Who shall take watch this night?"
"I will, Rivercrest," the ottermaid Waterlily volunteered immediately. She gripped her staff tightly in her paw, the fire dancing on her white and brown speckled coat.
The young otter that had spoken before stood up. "And I shall with her."
"Very well, Waterlily and Currant,"Rivercrest answered. "You shall keep watch. The rest of us shall sleep this night for the morrow shall be busy, ai."
"Ai!" chorused the rest of the otters and ottermaids. The dibbuns scurried back to their beds as the adults stood and began to head for their own. Soon only Waterlily and Currant were left by the fire, and the otter quietly put that out while Waterlily moved into the shadows near the boats.
And the strange, overlarge orange moon reflected off the darkened waters of the river.
It was a quiet and lonely watch, but the otters were used to such. Waterlily patrolled the mini harbor, eyes scanning the water and the shadows caused by the boats for anything unusual. The night hours slipped by slowly, and when it was a little after the mid of night, Currant approached on stealthy paws. He carried a sharp javelin in one paw and did not stray too far from a pile of spares.
"I will take harbor watch now," he told Waterlily in a low voice. "You do land watch."
Waterlily said nothing but moved away from the water and boats to the dark, and dense Mossflower Woods. Time passed uneventfully until the ottermaid was forcing herself to stay awake. Her eyelids drooped once and there came a startled shout from Currant. Waterlily leaped to her paws, spun, and raced towards the harbor. The sounds of a fight echoed through the early morning grayness, splashing and thudding as someone hit a boat. Waterlily raced in the direction of two shadowy figures, wielding her staff before her.
Currant was struggling paw to paw with some creature, his javelin lying half in the water where it had been dropped. The otter proved to be the stronger of the two, forcing his opponent face first into the water and keeping it down with a paw. Waterlily touched his shoulder.
"Let him up, Currant," Waterlily ordered lowly. "No need to drown him."
Currant grunted and pulled his attacker up from the water, spitting and gasping for air. The otter pushed the creature from the water and picked up his javelin all in one fluid motion. Waterlily halted the creature with her staff and turned it towards her.
"Who be you?" Waterlily demanded.
"I'be'' the creature wheezed, coughing up some more water ''Scuttle"
"What manner of name is Scuttle?" Currant demanded fiercely. "And what manner of creature are you?"
"I be water rat," Scuttle replied. Currant paw tightened on his javelin, preparing to kill the vermin. The rat fell on his knees, crying and pleading. "No, mast'r and mistr's! Do not skew me! I beg! I no meant hurt, mast'r! I just want boat to carry me down river! Please, sir!"
Waterlily shared a look with Currant over the pleading water rat's head. The first rays of sunlight were streaming into the woods, and now the otters could study their captive more clearly. Scuttle was indeed a water rat, his brown fur sleek and still wet. His nose was more pointed than a mouse's, and his torn ears larger. Waterlily could see that he had been terribly wounded in some sort of battle before his fight with Currant, for he had numerous cuts and slashes that were bleeding.
"Why should we spare your miserable life?" Currant demanded in a growl of anger. "To steal an otter boat is punishable by death!"
"I gots information, mast'r!" the rat whined. He gripped at Currant's legs but the otter stepped back, pointing his javelin in the vermin's face. He gave a pathetic squeal and turned to look at Waterlily. "Oh, mistr's! Pretty maid! Spare me! I gots information! There be a swarm comin' to Mossflow'r! 'is be true! Spare me!"
"Currant, if this vermin has information, then we cannot kill him now," Waterlily told her companion. "We should take him before the council."
"Yes," Currant agreed. He leaned forward and grabbed the water rat by the throat, lifting him from his paws. "But if you even attempt to escape, I will be on your miserable trail. I will kill you, vermin. Now go" He tossed the rat, and Scuttle scurried to his paws. He squeaked terrified at the angry otter and the calm ottermaid, and received a vicious poke in the hind from Currant's javelin. The two goaded the water rat towards the main living quarters of the otter clan. The others were now awaking and the trio was quickly surrounded with curious otters. Scuttle cowered between Currant and Waterlily, muttering unintelligibly to himself.