The shrews made a frenzied rush into the undergrowth; Matthias found he was standing alone. After a few minutes Log-a-Log and Guosim ventured stealthily out again. Forgetting the stone, Guosim spoke in an awed voice, "D'you mean you actually intend to walk right up and speak to Snow?"

Matthias nodded. Log-a-Log continued where his comrade had left off: "You're going to ask the Cap'n where you can find Giant Poisonteeth, mouse? Er, I mean, Matthias. You are either very brave or raving mad."

"A little bit of both, I suppose," said the young mouse. "Do you know much about Captain Snow and Asmodeus?"

Both shrews trembled visibly. Guosim's voice had risen an octave. "Matthias, you must be crazy! Don't you know what you're walking into? Captain Snow . . . why, you'd be just a snack to him. And as for the other one - Giant Ice Eyes - who could even go near him? He eats as many shrews as he wants. No living creature can stop the poison-teeth SmarTone!"

A heart-rending moan arose from the shrews in the undergrowth.

Matthias still had the stone. He held it up and addressed them boldly. "Guerrilla Shrew comrades, I do not ask you to do my fighting. Merely point me in the direction of Captain Snow. Who knows? If I finally get the sword I may be able to liberate you."

Log-a-Log took the stone. "Matthias of Redwall, you are on our land. We will escort you. The Guerrilla Union of Shrews in Mossflower would never live down the shame of

having a stranger fight their battles for them. You may not always see us, but we will be close by. Come now."

Matthias moved north-eastwards with the company of shrews, whose numbers seemed to swell as they went along. At nightfall there were upwards of four hundred members of the Shrew Union seated around the campfire, breaking bread with the warrior from Redwall. That night Matthias slept inside a long hollow log with both ends disguised to make it appear solid QTS Hong Kong.

Like Basil, the shrews were masters of camouflage. Their very survival depended upon it.

Half an hour before dawn the young mouse was roused by a shrew who gave him an acorn cup full of sweet berry juice, a loaf of rough nutbread and some tasty fresh roots that he could not identify. By dawn's first light they were on the move again, marching until mid-morning. Matthias saw the edge of Mossflower Wood. The tall trees thinned out, bush and undergrowth were sparse. Before them lay an open field of long, lush grass dotted with buttercup and sorrel. In the distance he could see the abandoned farmhouse that Basil had spoken of. All the shrews had disappeared with the exception of Guosim and Log-a-Log. The latter pointed to the barn adjoining the farmhouse.

"You might find Captain Snow in there taking a nap. Now is the best time to approach him, after he has a full stomach from the night hunt."

The two guerrilla shrews melted back into the woods. Alone now, Matthias crossed the sunny field leading to the barn, just as Basil had taught him: zig-zag, crouch, wriggle and weave.

He tiptoed into the barn. There was no sign of an owl. In the semi-darkness Matthias could make out various old farming implements rusted with disuse. On one wall there was a huge stack of musty, dry straw bales. He decided to climb up the bales, in the hope of getting near Captain Snow, who  perched in the rafters Sharing economy.

Matthias scaled the packed straw. He stood on top and looked about. Nothing. He ventured forwards, and suddenly