“My master’s true name is Shingetsu. I will tell you the story of him and Lord Frith. Normally you would never know of this story but you must know about my master’s origins before we can begin our journey to the Shadow Land.
“Shingetsu was a strange rabbit. He was born in a warren called Morning Sorrow on the new moon and that’s how he got his name for Shingetsu means ‘new moon’ in Japanese. He had jet black fur and was the first seer of all rabbits. Shingetsu first realized he was different at five months old when he had a vision of the white blindness attacking his warren and killing many in his warren. His chief, a doe named Rainstorm, didn’t believe my master when he told the warren that the white blindness would come. But it did come and many of the warren died including Rainstorm’s mate and kittens. Shingetsu was blamed for bringing the white blindness to the warren and for that was exiled at five months old. His own marli and parli turned on him and wanted nothing to do with him after that. So my master wandered alone throughout the wilderness.
“Shingetsu wandered from warren to warren but he was never allowed to stay long for they didn’t trust a rabbit who said he had visions of things to come. It was in a harsh winter that Shingetsu met a lone doe. Eyes the color of emeralds and brown fur she called Shingetsu. Her name was Kosetsu. Kosetsu and Shingetsu became mates for life and though their lives were hard they were happy. Until one day when Kosetsu was killed by a huge brown buck while Shingetsu was scouting for a new burrow for them that better protected them from the elements for Kosetsu was with kittens.
“Shingetsu came back to find his doe dead and the buck standing over her smiling as her blood was on his fangs and claws. Shingetsu screamed and lunged at the rabbit who swatted him away like a fly and before his eyes the buck spoke with Frith’s voice.
“‘Oh Frith how could you kill her? Why would you do this to me?’
“‘I killed her because you will work for me. I can easily destroy you rabbit but your ability as a seer has its uses. The only way I could get you in my service was to kill her and the kittens inside her.’
“‘You had no right! My Kosetsu did nothing wrong. She did nothing to deserve death!’
“‘All rabbits die you impudent buck. Kittens too weak to suckle, does dying to save their kits, bucks in the prime of their life, rabbits caught in the jaws of a fox or a badger, shot by man’s firestick, kittens born before they are ready, the rabbit who falls off a cliff, rabbits who are mortally injured; all will eventually die. This is my law and none can change that.’
“‘You’re mad if you think I will work for you Frith. Not after taking my family from me.’
“‘I can bring her back to life. Agree to work for me and I’ll return her to life but your kittens will never be born. They will be reabsorbed into her body and all memory of you will vanish from her mind. She will find another and become that one’s mate. But you will be able to watch her from the Shadow Land which will be your domain.’
“Shingetsu’s eyes flashed with hope at the thought of his mate returning to life if he agreed to work for Frith. The hope quickly faded as anger boiled in him at the thought that he would be erased from his mate’s memory and she would never remember him. His kittens would be lost as well. Yet if Frith promised to spare his doe he would give his soul to the sun.
“‘I accept your offer.’
“So Lord Frith erased Kosetsu’s memory and breathed life into her. The scars on her faded and the kittens were reabsorbed into her body. Shingetsu gazed upon his doe sadly as she looked right through him for Lord Frith had made him into a phantom for his work on earth.
“‘You are now the Black Rabbit and your warren will be Inle. That is the name all rabbits will know you as from now on.’
“Shingetsu gazed upon his mate one last time before vanishing into the darkness and crossing into the Shadow Land. There he dug a warren within a mountain and waited for the time when a rabbit would die. But Shingetsu had a plan. He returned to Kosetsu and saw she was pregnant with kittens. In one of the kittens he passed on his seer ability as well as the other powers of seers such as their supreme healing ability, their ability to harness moonlight and let it shine forth in the dark, to be swift and silent of foot, and of course the power of visions that would help their warrens. All seers are directly descended from Shingetsu and are his servants. Shingetsu waited for when his mate would die and her memory would be restored of him and the lost kittens they could have had if not for Lord Frith. But when she died Lord Frith did not allow Shingetsu to take her to the Shadow Land. Lord Frith froze Kosetsu in ice and there she lies for all time unable to join her true mate in the Shadow Land.”
The three seers had tears in their eyes as Moonblossom continued her story. “So Kosetsu is frozen forever?” Pumpkin asked.
“Yes. Sadly there’s no way for my master to free her that we know of.”
“What does that mean that all seers are Shingetsu’s servants?” Moneywort asked Moonblossom.
“Shingetsu was the first seer. The kitten he blessed became the second and thus has continued through the ages among hrair rabbits. Because of the blessing of Shingetsu upon the kitten in his mate all rabbits that descended from that rabbit are Shingetsu’s servants along with his phantom Owsla. The seers’ minds are blocked of knowledge of the Shadow Land and of master’s true name and origins until he deems it time for them to know their history usually when they are four years old. But they inherit all the abilities except for the moonlight from birth. The moonlight they inherit when their memories are unblocked and Shingetsu appears to them to inform them of his true name. They serve him in this life by helping their warrens or trying to as in your case Fiver, and in death they are free to do as the please in his warren in the Shadow Land.”
“Then how come you have the moonlight between your ears?” Fiver asked.
“Because I have lived in the Shadow Land with my master for the past few years. I am the only rabbit to be born in Shingetsu’s warren. My master took pity on a doe that was nearing the end of her life and had wandered into the Shadow Land. She was picked up by my master’s Owsla and brought before my master. She begged him to spare my life in return for hers and he agreed. He gave her enough life span for me to be born sensing that I was a seer before she died.”
“How did Shingetsu get captured by Blizzard?” Pumpkin asked.
“Shingetsu was ordered to check on the warren by Frith. Shingetsu hasn’t been getting any dead rabbits lately due to Blizzard so Frith thinks master isn’t doing his job. Shingetsu’s Owsla and warren are being held hostage by Frith as punishment for Blizzard’s work. But Blizzard is draining Shingetsu’s powers. That’s why he hasn’t been able to return to the Shadow Land or his warren. I went with Shingetsu to Brimstone and waited at a dead warren for him to come back but he didn’t. He ordered me to come to Sunstone and serve Lightstone-rah in any way I could but to keep trying to contact the three of you until you came to me. Together the four of us should be able to free my master and save the five warrens.”
Fiver, Moneywort and Pumpkin were silent. “Maybe that’s who we’ve been getting the flashes from?”
“What flashes?” Moonblossom asked.
“Flashes of Brimstone and Blizzard,” Moneywort said. “It’s been happening for a while. Nobody else knows but the three of us and now you.”
“Those flashes are from my master. He must have been trying to connect to you. Normally communicating with Shingetsu is easy but since he’s been held captive and tortured by Blizzard his powers are getting weaker. I don’t know how much longer my master will last.”
“We have to meet Shingetsu for ourselves to determine if he’s as kind as you say he is,” Moneywort said deciding for the three after a quick look.
“There’s no way you’re going to Brimstone. But if you want to see my master then hold paws and I can show you my master in his mortal life and now.”
Glancing at each other Fiver laid a paw on Moonblossom, Pumpkin on Fiver’s paw and Moneywort’s paw on Pumpkin’s paw. Their eyes fluttered closed as the memories flashed before their eyes.
A jet black kitten with brown eyes was chased from the only home it knew by a few surviving members of the warren. The kitten cried pitifully as it stumbled and the rabbits who it had once considered friends beat and clawed the poor mewling kitten before turning and heading home. The kitten got shakily to his feet and continued on knowing even then that if it went back it would be killed.
The rabbit was now a year old and residing in a warren. “I tell you that a flood will come and destroy the warren. We must leave immediately.” An old buck looked at the rabbit with distrust. “I don’t believe you. This is the last time you spread discourse among my rabbits. Get out and never return!” Owsla advanced on the rabbit that turned and ran for his life.
Shingetsu was out feeding a few yards from the old badger burrow he had taken up residence in when he spotted a doe wandering towards him. He sat up on his back legs and the rabbit collapsed. Shingetsu ran towards the doe and saw she had claw marks on her body. He carefully set her on his back and then went back to his burrow where he laid her down and healed her with his healing ability. The doe awoke several hours later and looked into Shingetsu’s eyes. “Where am I?”
“I brought you to my burrow as you were hurt. I healed you as well. You’ve been out for quite a while.” Shingetsu was fascinated by the yellow doe with the emerald eyes. A vision flashed before his eyes of the doe and him in a burrow with three kittens snuggled up next to the doe. His heart thumped loudly in his chest at the vision but then shook his head sadly. Once the doe found out about his being ‘different’ she would surely find someone who wasn’t so strange.
“Thank you. What’s your name?”
“You’re welcome. I’m Shingetsu. May… may I ask you your name?”
“It means snowfall does it not?”
“Yes. I was born in the dead of winter on Frifth’s Eve.”
“A pretty name for a pretty doe.”
Kosetsu passed the night and the next day in his burrow. Shingetsu barely slept for he was keeping watch over the doe that was curled up in the center of the burrow. He didn’t know her and she didn’t know him but his vision of them together gave him hope. His scars had healed from the time he had been driven out of his warren at five months old but he wasn’t sure if she would want to be with him. She probably wanted a strong buck that was of an Owsla or even a chief of a warren. Not some strange outcast who had been banished from his home warren and was driven out of every other warren he came to.
The next memory was of Kosetsu saying yes which made him very happy after he got over the initial shock of her acceptance of him. She didn’t care about the scars on his body-nor of the fact that he was a seer. It was strange but she had also been exiled from her old warren after refusing to become the chief’s mate. Shingetsu vowed to care and protect his mate forever.
Kosetsu and Shingetsu huddling for warmth in a small scrape as the winter progressed. Times were lean and many rabbits were hunkered down in their warm burrows but for the two exiled rabbits times were tough. Memories flashed of them being chased by Owsla of different warrens for daring to trespass on their respective borders.
Worried for his mate at having to be an outcast because of him he spoke to her one night.
“Kosetsu if you want to go to a warren and become the mate of a chief or of an Owsla member I understand. It can’t be easy for you being without a warren of your own. If you want to go I won’t stop you. I only want your happiness.”
“Shingetsu don’t speak of driving me away again. I don’t care about your past or the fact that you’re a seer. I’ll stay with you forever and go with you to the Shadow Land where we can finally be at peace.” Then she nuzzled his nose with her own.
Memories flashed by of the two rabbits wandering the various fields and forests. They were happy despite having no kittens of their own. Shingetsu had just found out that Kosetsu was having his kittens. He left her in the small burrow to go look for a bigger burrow for his growing family. Maybe they would start a warren of their own. He would run it fairly and would never support driving a rabbit out unless that rabbit killed another. Finding an abandoned burrow behind a bush near a nice meadow he went back to his mate only to find her dead and a buck standing over her with blood on his fangs and claws.
“Kosetsu!” Shingetsu cried knowing there was nothing he could do for her. “Kosetsu! What did you do to her?!” He growled at the rabbit before him.
“She’s dead you idiot. I would think even a strange rabbit like yourself could see that,” the rabbit scoffed.
“Who are you?!” The anguish, anger and sadness was evident in his voice.
“I’m Lord Frith. In a form that is pleasing to rabbits.”
“Frith! You monster! You killed my mate! You killed the only one who ever loved me! We were going to have kittens!”
“How sad for you,” Frith said not sounding sorry at all. “You are going to work for me. I find your ability as a seer to be rather interesting.”
A thought struck Shingetsu as he stood there mourning the loss of his doe and the family he would never have now thanks to Frith. “Did you tell my warren to drive me out?”
Frith smiled and his eyes glinted dangerously. “Yes I did. You had to be driven out in order to work for me. It was quite funny seeing you be driven from every warren you went to. Face it Shingetsu do you think that doe could ever have loved you? You are not meant to be loved or experience happiness. Kosetsu loving you was a dent in my plans. I intended for you to grow so full of anger that you would gladly have come to me seeking revenge on all rabbits who wronged you. But you remained kind and good despite your life of hardship. Kosetsu had to be killed.”
Shingetsu lunged at Frith with a loud bellow but he swatted a paw at Shingetsu’s face and the poor rabbit was sent rolling across the grass. Shingetsu picked himself up and lunged again for Frith intending to tear his throat out. He knew he couldn’t kill the sun god but maybe he could kill the rabbit form Frith had taken. Shingetsu was picked up by Frith and slammed mercilessly into the ground. He lay in a crumpled heap in front of Frith, screaming in pain and blinking his eyes to get the blood out of them that was running from the wound on his head.
“If you agree become my servant I will heal your wound and bring Kosetsu back to life. But her kittens will be reabsorbed into her body, all memory of you will be erased from her mind and she will go to become the mate of another rabbit. You will be able to see her of course as you serve me.”
Shingetsu raised his head and screamed as another burst of pain hit him. Frith just looked on coldly waiting for his answer. Kosetsu would have life breathed into her again? It was more than he could he hope for. If it was a choice between his Kosetsu and serving Frith for eternity then he didn’t need to think twice. Anything for his mate. “I accept.”
Frith smiled. He healed Shingetsu and changed his eyes from brown to red. The wound on his head was gone. His scars were also removed. “You will be a phantom in this world. From here on out you are known as the Black Rabbit of Inle and Inle will be your warren in the Shadow Land. Your name will be forgotten by all rabbits and you will be a subject of fear and hate. You will be the one who brings the souls of dead rabbits to the Shadow Land and to Inle Warren.”
Then Frith erased Kosetsu’s memory of Shingetsu and erased the kittens from her womb. He bent over and breathed life into her. The scratches on her body had vanished as if they had never been there. Kosetsu blinked her eyes, shook herself and hopped off to find a warren.
Shingetsu, or the Black Rabbit of Inle as he was now known to rabbits, went into the Shadow Land and dug out a warren from the mountain side with various pits, burrows, and chambers. His Owsla consisted of dead chiefs and all his subjects were dead rabbits from kittens born before their time to bucks in the prime of their life to the injured rabbit who had died of a broken leg. From afar he watched his Kosetsu as she continued her life. She found a new warren and became the mate of an Owsla Officer. Seeing his mate with another buck hurt his heart but he forgave her as it hadn’t been her intention to hurt him. Not when all memory of him had been wiped from her mind.
Shingetsu was a kind chief as he had dreamed of. His Owsla respected him and they often helped him guide the dead rabbits to the Shadow Land. They were responsible for making sure no living rabbit entered the Shadow Land for it was a place for the dead. His subjects often feared him when they came to his warren but after they saw how he really was their fear disappeared.
Shingetsu noticed that Kosetsu was having kittens with her mate. She appeared happy and healthy and though it broke his heart to see her he was glad that she had found some happiness. He went to her and gave the gift of the seer to an unborn buck along all his powers and then returned to the Shadow Land. Shingetsu watched the little seer grow and came to him to teach the kitten its powers and watched as the seers appeared throughout the generations. Yet he always longed for his Kosetsu.
Kosetsu was near death. She was old and wouldn’t last much longer. Shingetsu was happy that he and his doe would finally be reunited and went to get her only to find she wasn’t there. This had never happened before and he was scared. He searched all over for his Kosetsu before returning to the Shadow Land in sadness and there he saw a blue ice pillar and within that ice pillar was Kosetsu. Shingetsu cried out in horror and tried to free his mate but then Lord Frith appeared laughing at him.
“You! How could you freeze my Kosetsu?”
“Do you think I would risk losing my servant because of some doe? I gave her life back when you agreed to become my servant. Her coming to the Shadow Land would have made you happy and like I said before long ago Black Rabbit you don’t deserve happiness. You can keep trying to get her out but there’s nothing you can do. So let the anger build up in your and become evil like I had planned from your birth.”
Shingetsu screamed in rage summoning his Owsla who stared at the frozen doe as they looked at their master. Then they saw Lord Frith laughing at their master’s pain and this angered his Owsla who set immediately to the ice to try to free their chief’s doe. But there was nothing they could do either. It was like the ice was invulnerable to harm. Shingetsu was angry at Lord Frith’s actions but swept the anger away. He would not turn out like Lord Frith wanted. He wouldn’t go evil just to save Kosetsu. So every day when he wasn’t collecting souls of dead rabbits or tending to matters in his warren Shingetsu would sit by his frozen love and place his paw on the ice and stare into his doe’s eyes as the memories of their time passed in front of him. Always at least two Owsla members would sit with him, at a respectable distance, in silence and watch their chief and his frozen snowfall.
Moonblossom removed her paw and the memories faded. Pumpkin was crying at the fate of Kosetsu. Moneywort was pissed at how his master had been treated all his life by Lord Frith. Fiver was disturbed that the sun god could be so evil and cruel to take away his master’s only happiness in life and then further harm his master in death by not letting Kosetsu be with her mate. They nodded to each other and turned to Moonblossom. “What do we have to do to free our master?” Fiver asked.