Safely across the river, Slagar awaits Stonefleck's Army of rats. Below the cliffs, Matthias meets Sir Harry the owl who reveals a way to ascend them. Matthias and company ascend but come under attack in the Dark Forest, almost losing Cheek before making good their escape. Across the river Mattimeo leads an escape of his own but is immediately recaptured by Stonefleck's rats. Back at Redwall, Ambrose Spike and others set traps for the invading birds and engage in what is to be a long battle of wits and courage. The birds take Cornflower, Rollo and Mrs. Churchmouse hostage and threaten to kill them unless Redwall surrenders - a stand off temporarily resolved by the Abbott, but leaving the captives in great danger. Matthias and the pursuers launch a raft to rescue Mattimeo but come under massed fire and take to the water - only to find it is alive with nibbling fish. They sweep down the river, all choices exhausted. Across the river, allied with a huge army, Slagar can't lose.