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of a mast." He smiled, winking at the young hare. "'Twas my secret treasure. I kept it, same as any young un would. That night I inspected the coin. It was a curious thing, worn smooth but quite heavy and bright. There were a few strange marks on one side--couldn't make out what they were-- Er, hadn't you better run along now, Buck? They'll be serving supper in the mess."

Buckler, however, was intrigued by the tale. "Diggs'll save some for me. Tell me more about the Coin, please."

Lord Brang frowned, shaking his head. "Twas never meant to be called the Coin. I wanted it to be a special medal for your grandsire. After the battle at the quarry, I polished all the marks from it and made some of my own. A picture of a paw holding aloft a sword, with the word Blademaster engraved beneath it. I wove a silken cord of scarlet and black, threaded it through the spikehole and there I had it, the Blademaster's Medal!"

Buckler shook his head. "I never heard it called that before. Everybeast calls it the Coin."

Brang gave the bellows a few more heaves. Bright flames shining upward on his huge, striped features gave him a fearsome appearance.

"Aye, well, that's your grandsire for you. Huh, the Coin, indeed! Just like you he was, a real young rip. Wouldn't accept proper regimental honours from me. Said he'd accept it as a gift, a keepsake, if y'please. The Coin, eh? Rebellious, disobedient rascal!"

Buckler grinned. "Just like me, I s'pose."

Lord Brang paused, then his attitude softened. "Aye, just like you."

The young hare stared out at the darkened seas. There was resentment in his tone. "Then why does my brother Clerun wear the Coin? He's no warrior, just a big, clumsy creature."

Brang shrugged. "Because he's the eldest Kordyne son. Your grandsire Feryn passed the Coin, and his broadsword, down to his firstborn son, your father, Adarin. Now it is


the tradition to pass it on to the firstborn--that's Clerun. There's nought I can do about it."

Buckler protested. "But my father wasn't a warrior either. It's not fair!"

Brang watched the swift path of a comet crossing the night skies. "I sympathise with you, Buck, but your family traditions must be honoured. I know your father wasn't a warrior, nor skilled with a sword. But he was a very wise counsellor and served me well all of his life. Maybe if it had been up to me, I would have granted you both the Coin and the broadsword."

Buckler snorted derisively. "Huh, who needs a broadsword--great, hulking, clumsy things. But the Coin, that would've given me something to remember Grandpa Feryn by."

Draining his tankard, Brang slammed it down. "What's done is done, and neither you nor I can change it. We just have to accept things as they are."

The injustice of this stung Buckler. "But my brother Clerun doesn't even live at Salamandastron anymore. He got himself wed to Clarinna, Major Doughty's eldest daughter. They've both gone off to be farmers together. Hah, I'll wager she's wearing the Coin as an ornament now. Aye, and Clerun will be using the broadsword to chop firewood and cut weeds!"

Even though he did not show it, Brang felt sympathy for his young friend. "Well, everybeast to what they choose, I suppose. Clerun to farming, and you here at my mountain as Blademaster. It's not such a bad position."

Taking the sword from Buckler, Brang made a few swift passes. He was surprisingly light on his paws for such a big beast. Twirling the sword into the air, he caught it deftly. "A fine blade. I wouldn't mind making one for myself. Though I don't think I could repeat a weapon of this quality a second time."

He passed it back to Buckler, who bowed respectfully. "Nobeast but you could forge a sword like this, Lord."


Brang's dark eyes twinkled with pleasure. "I'm glad you respected my title, Buck. I think you'd get on much better with everybeast at Salamandastron if you tried to conform to our ways a bit more. If you know what I mean."

The young hare whipped his swordblade through the forge flames, as if trying to cut them up. He raised his voice bitterly. "Conform? You mean strut about in uniform, saluting and wot-wotting old chap! Playing at being warriors, and for what, eh? The days of battling vermin Ravagers are long gone. Now it's all parades, exercises, regimental balls and banquets. I'm a Blademaster, what's that supposed to be? A fool who passes his days teaching other fools how to play with swords!"

He was silenced by the heavy paw of Lord Brang landing on his shoulder. "Then what do you want--tell me, Buckler?"

The young hare was suddenly stuck for an answer. "I want... I want..."

He flung the sword. It flew across the forge chamber and stood quivering in the door as he shouted, "I don't blinkin' know what I bloomin' well want!"

The badger's eyes twinkled momentarily. "Let me suggest something. How about a bit of travel and adventure? Would that suit you?"

The young hare's ears twitched suspiciously. "Travel, adventure--what sort of adventure?"

Brang made a sweeping gesture at the outside world. "Travel is an adventure! When you go travelling, adventures happen along the way. So where would you like to travel to, eh?"

Buckler was totally unprepared for the question. "Travel, er, I don't know anyplace I could travel to."

Brang was ready with a suggestion. "It might be a nice idea to visit Clerun and Clarinna."

Buckler was uncertain. "But why?"

The Badger Lord explained patiently. "Well, 'tis quite a few seasons since they went. I think they'd be pleased to


see you. Who knows, they've probably got a family now. There'll be young uns wanting to meet their uncle Buckler the Blademaster. I wager you'll enjoy being an uncle--has a good ring to it, Uncle Buck!"

Buckler scratched between his ears in bewilderment. "Whoa, slow down there, sir, me ... an uncle?"

Brang retrieved the sword from the door, then tossed it to the young hare. "Don't stand there with your mouth open, laddie buck. There may be flies about."

Buckler did not know whether to smile or frown. "Forgive me. I'm just trying to get used to the idea. D'you really think I've become an uncle?"

Lord Brang closed the damper on his forge fire. "I don't see why not. A farmer and a farmer's wife are bound to raise a family. They'll need help about the place as they get older. Where exactly did they go to settle down, d'you know?"

Buckler nodded. "A small valley southeast of Redwall. Clerun said he spotted it when he was with the Long Patrol. I think he liked it at first sight."

The big badger brightened visibly. "Southeast of the Abbey, you say. Splendid! You can do an errand for me. Wait there."

Hurrying over to an elaborate oak chest, Brang opened it. Rummaging about, he produced two coils of rope. "Take these to Abbess Marjoram--she's a great friend of mine. Last time I was at Redwall, let me see, eight seasons back, Marjoram showed me around the place. I saw Matthias and Methuselah, the two Abbey bells, beautiful things, with wondrous tones. She allowed me to have a go at ringing them. Not such a good idea, as it turned out, me being so large and heavy-pawed. I pulled so hard that I snapped one of the bellropes. I felt so foolish, but the Abbess assured me that they were old ropes, long past their best. Brother Tollum, the Abbey Bellringer, repaired the broken rope. Before I left Redwall, I promised the Abbess that I would present her with two stout new bellropes. It took


me all last winter, but I spliced these ropes myself. So, you will deliver these to Marjoram with my best wishes. I think they'll please her."

The young hare inspected Lord Brang's gifts. They were superbly made. Green and gold fibres had been plaited in an intricate weave. Each carried at their ends two pieces of weathered elmwood, cleverly carved and pierced to form tolling handles. Buckler ran his paw admiringly over them.

"Wonderfully made, sir. These should last a few hundred seasons, eh!"

Brang smiled broadly. "I take it you have decided to go travelling, then. Planning on going soon?"