The rabbits slowly picked themselves up from the ground. Lightstone lay unmoving where he had fallen. It was Blackavar, squealing in pain, who hopped over on three legs to examine Silver. He shook his head sadly. “Silver’s dead.”
The Watership rabbits stared in shock. They had gone through a lot of trouble to get to Watership Down and the battle of Efrafa without having lost a single rabbit and now a rabbit many of them had never met who Holly had confirmed was from Sandleford had just killed a dear friend and one of the Watership Owsla in addition to kidnapping the son of another Owsla member.
“My heart has joined the Thousand for my friend stopped running today,” the rabbits said as they lowered their ears and bowed their heads to their fallen friend. Sunstone gathered around their chief protectively as the other rabbits turned on them.
“It’s Woundwort’s fault! That stupid dog couldn’t even kill him and save us all this trouble!” Acorn shouted.
“Kehaar!” Hazel called up to the bird who had been at the farm snatching fish from the cat’s bowl .
“Yah? What ye need Hazel?” Kehaar called as he landed on the ground. He turned his head to look at Silver. “Yark! Silver dead? How dis happen?”
“Woundwort Kehaar! That’s what happened,” Hawkbit said.
“Woundwort? But that stinking bunny he dead no?” Kehaar turned and spotted Lighstone and flew up into the air screaming, “Yark! Yark! Yark! Evil bunny alive? Best kill him or he cause plenty trouble for you.”
“No it wasn’t Woundwort,” Fiver said speaking up. The rabbits turned to look at him. “It was another rabbit from our old warren that did this. I had a vision just before the rabbit came about him. He killed several rabbits. He was going to kill Holly but for some reason Woundwort pushed Holly out of the way and took the hit for him.”
“That not possible. Woundwort not care for anyone but himself,” Kehaar said shaking his head.
“Parli!” A tiny voice cried. Dusk cowered in the hole looking for Blackavar and the rabbit who had taken her brother away. Spotting her parli she ran over to Blackavar sobbing.
“Mist!” Blackavar cried suddenly remembering his injured doe. He picked up his daughter by her neck and bolted down the tunnel with Hazel, Bigwig and Fiver following behind as he ran to his burrow.
“Lightstone by taking the hit for Holly you have proven to me and Lord Frith that you have indeed changed for the better. Your dream of being with Harmony and having a family will come true.”
“Thank you Prince Rainbow! This means everything to me!”
Prince Rainbow smiled at Lightstone. “Your Owsla is worried about you. Soon it will be time to wake up but I will remove the remaining scars from your body and the last lingering traces of evil and hate from your heart and soul.”
“Thank you so much!” Lightstone realized he was crying in happiness and joy. “But you said I would lose this battle. Did you foresee that Blizzard would come here?”
“Yes. It worked out for the best because without you trying to attack Watership Down and then the arrival of Blizzard you would have still been the same rabbit you were before meeting Harmony and founding Sunstone. There’s also the fact that you would have lost anyway due to three warrens have been united and will fight to protect each other. However I must warn you about Silverweed. You need to return to your warren and kill him. If not then he will poison your rabbits against you and will be sought after by Blizzard.”
“But what about a seer for Sunstone?”
“That rabbit will appear. I can’t give you too much information on your new seer but the rabbit will have emerald green eyes and forest green vine patters on its body. Oh and take Mist to Sunstone. It’s the only way she’ll survive.”
“But what if the Watership Down rabbits don’t allow it?”
“Blackavar will. Anyway I will speak to everyone to tell them to avoid harming you.”
“Mist!” Blackavar shouted after having dropped Dusk on the floor of their burrow and staring helplessly at his doe.
Hazel, Fiver and Bigwig came in and stopped in horror. Mist’s ears had been torn to shreds and she was gasping for breath where the evil rabbit had bitten deep into her throat. Wounds covered her entire body. Blackavar looked around frantically for the rest of his kittens and relieved to see they were all okay aside from being scared.
“Oh Mist!” Blackavar cried. Prince Rainbow suddenly appeared before them and turned towards Mist. Placing his front paws on her chest he let his power flow into her stopping the bleeding and her racing heart. Then he turned towards Blackavar.
“Mist will need to go to Woundwort’s warren to be healed.”
“No!” Bigwig shouted. “Sorry Prince Rainbow but Woundwort is a killer and a slave driver.”
“Woundwort has changed. You all should have been able to realize that when he took the hit for Captain Holly. A mad rabbit wouldn’t have done that.”
“Prince Rainbow speaks the truth Bigwig. I sensed no darkness in his heart before the rabbits that came with him protectively surrounded him. They are the ones from Shining Wire Warren right?” Fiver asked looking at Prince Rainbow.
“Yes Fiver. However they are now part of a warren called Sunstone. It is this warren that Mist must go to if she is to survive.”
Blackavar gazed at his doe and friend and nodded. “Alright she’ll go. But I want her back here as soon as she is healed.”
“Blackavar I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“This rabbit is Prince Rainbow Bigwig. Frith’s messenger. I trust him. Fiver obviously trusts him as well,” glancing at the seer. “Mist is my mate and I will decide what happens concerning her. If you don’t like that then my family will all go and leave Watership Down forever.”
Prince Rainbow helped Mist stand to her feet and looked at Blackavar’s kittens that were staring in shock and wonder at the rainbow colored rabbit. “Don’t worry young ones. Your mother will be fine and back here soon.”
Lightstone opened his eyes. He saw his Owsla surrounding him. He shook his head as he heard voices.
“Kill him! Down with Woundwort!” The rabbits cried. His Owsla bared their teeth and growled, tightening the circle around their chief. A Vleflain rabbit lunged at Lightstone but two Owsla broke from the circle and tackled the Vleflain clawing at the rabbit. Another Vleflain tried to rush into the gap that was now exposed. One of two Sunstone Owsla who had broken the circle turned and slammed into the rabbit before he could close to Lightstone. The white rabbit pinned the Vleflain beneath him with his teeth in the rabbit’s shoulder.
Lightstone groaned and four warrens looked at the rabbit. As they watched his fur changed to a pale gold with white tipped ears and white feet and the last remaining scars on his body vanished. Two of his Owsla lowered themselves and gently helped their chief to stand. When he was on his feet they leaned into their chief helping him stay on his feet.
Lightstone looked the rabbit who was being attacked. “Frost. Odin. Let the rabbits up.”
The two Owsla members sat back on their hind legs, allowing the Vleflains to scurry back to the safety to retreat to their friends. Prince Rainbow came up with Mist, Blackavar, Hazel, Fiver and Bigwig behind him. He shook his head at the fighting and spoke.
“Vlefain, Watership and Efrafa pay attention because this will only be said once. This rabbit that two of your own have attacked for no reason,” he raised a paw as the rabbits began to speak, “is no longer the rabbit you knew him as. See how his Owsla has protected him when you would band together to destroy him? Do you not see the concern on each face of his Owsla? They would not do this for someone who they hated. If they hated their chief they wouldn’t have surrounded him and ran to him after Blizzard struck him. This rabbit has freed the Shining Wire Warren from Cowslip and a life of relying on man. He has learned what it means to love and have friends. The change of his fur wouldn’t have occurred if he was still evil and full of darkness.”
The rabbits glared at Woundwort and his Owsla. Prince Rainbow led Mist over to the Sunstone Owsla. “This doe needs to be taken to Sunstone to be healed. Only your warren can heal her. Once she is healed I will bring her back home to Watership Down.”
Lightstone nodded his agreement and after having two of his Owsla stay close to Mist in case she needed help walking they picked their way down the slope and set off for home. A few Efrafans, Watershipers and Vleflains who were still angry at Woundwort began charging after the Sunstone Owsla but Prince Rainbow erected a force field around the top of Watership Down. The charging rabbits ran headlong into the wall and were flung back towards the safety of Watership Down.
“Any rabbit that attacks the rabbits of Sunstone, including their chief, will die on the spot. The Black Rabbit and I have a friendship and he’d gladly take any of you before your time. Hazel I suggest that you inform Campion and Groundsel of this threat and spread the word about Blizzard and his servants.” Prince Rainbow looked around at all the rabbits and vanished.
Blackberry stared as the strange wall that Prince Rainbow had erected disappeared. Hopping to the edge of the hill he noticed the rabbits of Sunstone, including Mist, had vanished from view. “I think we should do as Prince Rainbow says Hazel-rah. Campion and Groundsel need to be warned of Blizzard.”
“You’re right Blackberry and I think our visitors have overstayed their welcome,” Hazel said sternly glaring at the Efrafan and Vleflain rabbits. Hazel then turned to his own rabbits as the Efrafans and Vleflains took the hint and left and stared at them all.
“I’m ashamed of every one of you. Poor Silver is dead and Thorn has been kidnapped by some evil rabbit who once resided in Sandleford who is set on destroying not just Watership Down but all four warrens-three of whom had nothing to do with Sandleford or the events that happened there-and all you can think of is attacking and killing innocent rabbits when there has been enough bloodshed today?” Hazel’s voice trailed off and he sighed. He suddenly appeared very old.
“If we are going to combat this danger then we must work together. Yes that includes working with Woundwort and Sunstone,” he added as his rabbits uttered groans of protest. “Now come and help me fix our warren.”
In a flash of light the rabbits of Sunstone were back at their old warren. Prince Rainbow had transported them from Watership Down as he had been busy scolding Watership Down, Vleflain and Efrafa. The six Owsla members who had been left to watch over things looked up as Lightstone and all the Owsla passed through the magical barrier and their wounds were healed.
“Lightstone-rah is that you?” Amber asked as she ran up to Sky and touched noses in greeting.
Lightstone laughed. “Yes Amber. We lost like Prince Rainbow said and there was an attack by a rabbit named Blizzard. He killed a Watership Down Owsla officer and killed some other rabbits as well.” The rabbits gasped in horror. “He said he was going to destroy every rabbit for the events at Hazel’s old warren and then tried to kill Holly but I tackled Holly out of the way and took the hit instead. Prince Rainbow changed my fur and healed me.”
Harmony ran to Lightstone and licked his face. “Hello Harmony,” Lightstone said smiling at his doe. “Prince Rainbow said that we will have kittens and be a family,” he whispered in her ear. Her eyes shone with joy as she smiled.
“This is Mist. One of her kittens was kidnapped by one of Blizzard’s rabbits,” the rabbits again cried out in horror and growled in anger, “and Prince Rainbow told me to bring her here to Sunstone so she could fully heal. As such please be kind to her while she is with us.” The rabbits nodded. “Now I’m sure you are wondering why I appear different. Prince Rainbow changed my fur and healed me from all the scars I have suffered both physically and mentally. He took the last threads of evil and darkness from me. This,” looking at his front paws, “is the result.”
“Lighstone-rah! Lightstone-rah!” The rabbits cheered. Mist cried out in pain as she fell to the ground. Her wounds had opened up again. “Someone take her to the healer’s burrow and find Snowberry. She needs to be tended to at once.”
Carefully two Owsla members set her on a third’s back and the rabbit set off at brisk run for Snowberry’s burrow. Snowberry was Sunstone’s healer. Once the Owsla member and Mist had gone underground Lightstone turned to look for Silverweed. “Where’s Silverweed?”
“In his burrow Lightstone-rah,” Patch said coming over. “Is something wrong?”
“It appears I was wrong to let Silverweed come with us. Prince Rainbow told me that Silverweed will try to poison Sunstone against me and he will join Blizzard unless he is killed. I need volunteers to come with me to make sure he is killed and can’t risk harming us.”
All the rabbits quickly volunteered. They had noticed that as soon as Lighstone-rah had left that Silverweed had been trying to take over. None of the rabbits would have it and had beaten Silverweed. They weren’t sure what Silverweed had said to let Lightstone-rah bring him to Sunstone from Shining Wire Warren but they knew that Silverweed was clever with words. He had probably said something to Lightstone-rah. The six remaining Owsla members along with the regular warren had taken turns keeping Silverweed locked in his burrow until their chief would come back. However they had been too late to save an elderly rabbit named Leafstone. Silverweed had killed Leafstone and a couple of kittens belonging to Officer Limestone.
“Lighstone-rah Silverweed killed two of Officer Limestone’s kittens and Leafstone.”
“What?! When did this happen?”
“A day after you left for Watership Down Lightstone-rah. He’s been locked in his burrow ever since with everyone taking shifts.”
“Has he escaped at all?”
“No Lighstone-rah. Thanks to your experience and training he hasn’t been able to even try. We have had to watch Limestone though. He nearly tore Silverweed to pieces before we pulled him off.”
“Thank you Breeze.”
Lightstone was furious at himself for letting Silverweed live instead of killing him or leaving him behind at Shining Wire Warren. Two of the regular rabbits were on duty. They stared at Lightstone with suspicion until he informed them that he had been changed by Prince Rainbow. Nodding they stepped to either side so the rabbits could enter Silverweed’s burrow.
Silverweed cocked his head as he saw the rabbits entering. They could see the scars on his body for Snowberry had refused to heal him at all after the attack on Limestone’s kittens.
“Why did you agree so readily to come with me and leave your old warren?” Lightstone asked the seer.
“I had my own plans General. I hoped you would be killed at Watership Down so I could take over and shape this warren to my own design. These rabbits were supposed to stay under the influence of my mind. Instead with the killing of Cowslip you freed them from his grip. Cowslip and I were connected through blood.”
“What do you mean?”
“I happen to be Cowslip’s brother from a second litter. Because I was a seer he protected me. It’s a shame you didn’t die.”
Lightstone shook his head. What a fool I have been. Turning they heard an enraged yell. Limestone barreled through the other rabbits and dove on Silverweed. He savagely tore open the wounds that had scarred over making Silverweed cry in pain as the large rabbit pinned him to the burrow floor. Then with a sickening rip Limestone tore out Silverweed’s throat. Silverweed may have been a seer but he was still just a regular rabbit. He didn’t stand a chance against the grieving Officer.
“Limestone!” Lightstone shouted at his officer. Limestone didn’t let go of Silverweed’s dead body. He snarled and his eyes flashed angrily. A couple of Owsla members tackled Limestone and held him down as Lightstone looked at the mangled dead rabbit before him. He hopped over to the dead rabbit and brought down all his weight on Silverweed’s chest causing the bones over his heart to cave in and crush his heart. He tore out the muscles in Silverweed’s back legs and then sat back blood smeared on his mouth and dripping on the ground before him.
Prince Rainbow appeared then and looked calmly at the dead Silverweed. He picked up Silverweed. “This rabbit will be tortured by the Black Rabbit and his Owsla for his crimes against the rabbits of Sunstone and Shining Wire Warren. He won’t be troubling you anymore.
“As for you,” turning to Limestone. “Your kittens are safe with the Black Rabbit. His Owsla protect them. So let go your anger as you have avenged their deaths.”
The rabbits were surrounded by a yellow light and the blood that been on the floor of the burrow vanished along with Prince Rainbow and the dead Silverweed. Limestone groaned under the two rabbits pinning him. At a nod from Lightstone they let him up. “This will be the only time you are allowed to kill somebody within Sunstone. I’m sorry about your kittens.”
Limestone nodded, the anger vanishing from his eyes. Then all the rabbits retired to their burrows for a well-deserved sleep.