Redtooth and Fangburn were both unhappy and uncomfortable. For the last hour Sela had led them through stinging nettles, swarms of midges and marshy ground. They blundered along, hacking at the undergrowth with cutlass and spear.

"I think we must be somewhere near the mouse Abbey," Fangburn said.

"Stow the gab! Keep your eyes on the fox," Redtooth snarled.

"I wish I'd brought some lanterns along with us," Fangburn whined.

Redtooth's already dangerously-thin patience snapped. He grabbed hold of his sniveling crony and started shaking him. "Listen, thickhead! If you don't stop your moaning I'll chop your tongue out with my cutlass! D'you hear me?"

Fangburn struggled free. Angrily he jabbed at Redtooth with his spear. "You dare try anything with that blunt old breadknife, and I'll spear your gizzard before you can blink an eye!"

"Oh you will, will you?"

"Yes, I will, smarty rat!"

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"Then take that, big mouth!"

"Ouch! Punch me, would you? I'll soon show you!"

Together the rats crashed into a prickly bush, kicking, biting and pummeling each other. Claws, tails and teeth came into play. They went at it hammer and tongs for several minutes until Redtooth emerged the victor. His nose was bleeding and he had lost a tooth, but he was in better shape than his opponent.

Fangburn crawled miserably out of the wrecked bush. Both eyes were blacked, a chunk of his left ear was missing, and his whole body was covered in long raking claw marks and prickles. He bent painfully to retrieve his spear. Seizing the opportunity, Redtooth landed him a mighty kick on the bottom. His nose plowed up a furrow of soil.

Panting furiously, Redtooth berated Fangburn: "You halfwitted fool! Now see what you've done! While you were busy assaulting a superior officer, you let the fox escape."

Fangburn sat up. He winced through discolored eyes. "/ let the fox escape? Me? Oh no. You're the one in charge! You let her get away, not me. Wait'11 I report this to Cluny. I'll tell him that you?

"Will you shut up?" Redtooth yelled. "It's no use us standing here arguing. We'd better get searching for the fox. I'll go this way and you go that way. The first one to find her keeps shouting until the other arrives. Have you got that? Now get moving."

The two rats stumbled off through the woods in different directions.

Meanwhile, in another part of Mossflower Wood, Sela sneaked along looking from left to right. There was the three-topped oak, there was the Abbey wall. Ah, here it was, the old stump.

The moonlight illuminated the scene clearly. She was alone. Where was the mouse Abbot?

A heavy paw clamped itself around Sela's neck from behind. Her tongue shot out. Struggling uselessly, she gagged and choked.

Constance's gruff voice growled into her ear, "Be still, fox, or I'll snap your neck like a dead twig!"

Sela froze. There was nothing more dangerous than a folly-grown badger. Their strength and ferocity were renowned.

Constance's free paw snapped the herb pouch from the fox's belt. She shook the contents out on to the stump. Grabbing the copy of Cluny's invasion plans she studied it briefly, then stuffed it into her belt.

"Your Abbot was supposed to meet me with a reward," Sela whispered.

The badger's eyes blazed with contempt as she spun the vixen around. "Here's your reward, traitor!"

Wkump!

Constance dealt Sela a sharp blow between the ears. The fox fell in a senseless heap. Constance ducked behind a tree and called out in a high-pitched voice, "Over here! I've got die fox! Quick, over here!"

Redtooth was first to arrive. He came dashing through the bushes and halted at the sight of the unconscious fox among the ferns.

"Hell's teeth, fox. Where's Fangburn? What the devil do you mean slinking off like that? Get up on your feet and answer me."

Constance emerged from behind the tree. "I don't think she'll wake up for a while yet! Fancy meeting you here, rat."

Redtooth got over his surprise quickly. Seeing the badger unarmed, he swished his cutlass through the air and smiled -menacingly.

"Well, well. It's the friend of the mice! So, we meet again, badger!"

Constance stood tall, her huge paws folded. "Redtooth, isn't it?  your defeat at the wall. I told you then we had a score to settle."

Redtooth bared his teeth and snarled. "I'm going to enjoy this, badger. I'll make sure you die slowly."