The alliance made their way back to Sunstone. That was the quickest place to get healed of their injuries. The dead had been left at Brimstone. The Efrafan, Vleflain and Watershipers stayed there for a couple of weeks before making their way back to their warrens. The Efrafans had the longest journey so they left in the first half of the second week as Campion was worried about his warren in his absence. Everyone was tired from the battle and had to deal with the shock of losing Hazel.
“I can’t believe Hazel-rah’s dead,” Buckthorn said sadly.
“Captain Holly and Bigwig as well,” Speedwell added.
The Watership rabbits had just gotten back to Watership Down and were in the Honeycomb with the rest of the warren who had just received news of Hazel’s death. The entire warren was saddened by the loss of Hazel. They’d also lost Holly, and Bigwig. Fiver had been banished from Watership Down as well as the other three seers.
“Where are Hawkbit and Dandelion?” Acorn asked.
The rabbits shrugged. “Is it possible they died during the battle at Brimstone?” Sunset asked.
“My heart has joined the thousand for my friend stopped running today,” the rabbits chanted. Silence then filled the Honeycomb.
“Well we have to elect a new chief and a new Captain of Owsla.”
“Bigwig would have been a good chief but he’s dead and Fiver’s exiled.”
They looked up as they heard a scream of pain that was cut off. It echoed eerily down the warren. “Who was that?”
“Hyzenthlay. She was a seer too. And Hazel’s orders were that all seers must die.”
“Well who do we pick as Captain of Owsla?”
“What about Blackavar? He’s really good with tracking.”
“An Owsla Captain has to be good at a lot of things besides tracking.”
“Blackavar’s the only one for the job.”
“What about Pipkin?”
“Pipkin’s too small to be captain of anything,” a rabbit named Greengrass scoffed in disgust.
“Come off it Greengrass. It isn’t Pipkin’s fault he was born the runt of the litter.”
“Pipkin is the size of the kittens! He’s also immature and a whiner. A Captain of Owsla needs to be strong and not complain when the going gets hard. He needs to be brave and a leader.”
“I think Pipkin does a good job with his junior Owsla,” Sunset said but Greengrass just rolled his eyes.
“A rabbit of that size is no use to the warren. He should have been left to get eaten by that dog when they escaped Sandleford.”
Sunset fell as something ran into him and continued up the run and outside. “Pipkin!” Sunset shouted after the rabbit. Sunset glared at Greengrass and ran after the small buck.
“All in favor of Blackavar being Captain of Owsla say ‘aye’,” Buckthorn said.
With the exception of Greengrass and Willowbark all the rabbits in the honeycomb voted yes. “Well Captain Blackavar I guess you’re the leader of the Watership Owsla,” Buckthorn said giving a smile to the rabbit.
Blackavar said nothing. He turned and vanished down the run to his burrow. The rabbits debated over who should be chief before deciding on a rabbit named Oakleaf. Oakleaf-rah looked at the rabbits in shock that they would pick him but seemed pleased all the same. “Thanks for choosing me as your chief. I’ll try to be as good as Hazel was and do my best to lead the warren.” Oakleaf then turned and departed to the chief burrow
“Pipkin wait up!” Sunset called as he ran after the buck.
“Just leave me alone!”
“Pipkin don’t worry about what Greengrass said.”
“No he’s right! I’m too small to be of any use to Watership Down. It’d be best if I left here. Bigwig’s dead, Fiver’s gone, Hazel’s dead. Hawkbit, Dandelion and Silver are also dead as well as Captain Holly. The original rabbits of Watership Down are dying one by one.”
“Fiver’s not dead Pipkin. Hazel just banished him though why he did that I don’t know.”
“I’m not staying here if nobody wants me,” Pipkin said. “I’m leaving and you can’t stop me.”
“If you want to leave okay but I’m coming with you. You can’t go off alone and you’ll need a friend. Friends are good to have,” Sunset said looking at Pipkin. “But where are we going to go?”
“Not anywhere in the alliance. Far away from any of these warrens. I won’t stay in some place where Fiver isn’t allowed.”
“Fiver’s your friend isn’t he?”
“Yeah he is. Hazel was mad to turn on Fiver.”
“Well if we’re going we can get away now. Everyone’s down in the Honeycomb or going back to their burrows.”
A couple more rabbits hopped out of the warren and looked at Pipkin and Sunset. “We’re leaving too,” Burdock said. “Not staying here if Pipkin’s cast out and really liked Fiver.”
Zeus nodded his agreement. Zeus was a quiet rabbit. “This is your home. You both were born here and you want to leave?” Sunset asked them.
“Yes. After we saw what Frith did to the Black Rabbit and finding out he made Blizzard evil we don’t want to stay with a bunch of mangy idiots,” Burdock said.
Sunset shook his head and sighed. He turned to stare at the setting sun and nodded. “Then let’s go if we’re going and may Kuu protect us.” The four bucks turned and began making their way down the hill away from Watership Down.
“Welcome Greystorm. We have long been expecting you,” the laughing voice said.
The phantom rabbit stirred nervously at the voice. Fiver didn’t trust himself to speak. The light disappeared revealing two rabbits but they were unlike any rabbits Fiver had ever seen before in his life. He could tell the rabbits were a buck and a doe but their fur was blue and yellow and light green. The buck’s eyes were pale gray and the doe’s eyes were amber. It had been the doe who had spoken.
“Who… are… you?” Fiver asked.
“I am Inazuma and my mate here is Taiyo,” the doe said. “We are the first rabbits and from us all other rabbits were made.”
“You thought that Frith made rabbits?” Taiyo asked. His voice was like water lapping at the shore. “You’re wrong but also right in a way. Frith made us but it is from us that all rabbits were born.”
“Frith changed our children into their different varieties. In a way he did us a favor after changing the shape and coloring of our children. By changing our children they have managed to hide better from elil and run faster than what they did before the change.”
“Where are we? And who is Greystorm?”
“We’re in Ether. There are three planes. The mortal plane where all animals live, the Shadow Land where all rabbits go to die and Ether that is connected to the Shadow Land by the forest path you came through.”
“Ether is our home. Here there are no elil to bother us and neither Frith nor Kuu can enter. Do you feel the warmth around you Greystorm? Here we are not assaulted by the freezing cold of the Shadow Land or barraged by the seasons like on the mortal world.”
“Ether is unknown to rabbits because they only believe and see in two worlds. They don’t believe that third could exist. It is beyond their scope of reasoning or intelligence,” Taiyo said. “Did you notice the words on the wall?”
“Those words don’t just appear to any rabbit. Only rabbits that can see in three can see those words and enter Ether.”
“Such as Shingetsu and Prince Rainbow,” Inazuma said.
“I don’t understand what that writing meant.”
“In time you will Greystorm.”
“My name’s Fiver. Not Greystorm.”
“Your true name is Greystorm. It has always been Greystorm. Fiver is just the name you use in the mortal world and Shadow Land,” Inazuma said.
“You’re the only one of your seer friends who can see in three. It’s why you’re more powerful than the other three seers combined.”
“I don’t want to be like Blizzard or Thanatos.”
“You won’t be. Only the pure of heart can see in three.”
“Only a few are what the writing says.”
“Come here Greystorm. You too,” Inazuma said to the phantom rabbit.
“Place your paw upon the disc,” Taiyo said and Fiver looked to see a small disc with a star on it. He did as he was told, sensing it would be impolite to not do so and felt a sharp prick of pain as a small spear erupted and pierced his paw. “Now place the paw on the phantom’s neck.”
The phantom rabbit made no sound but it flinched at his touch. Chains suddenly appeared and held the phantom down while its eyes shone with tears. A deep cut appeared across the poor rabbit’s throat and Fiver gasped in shock as the wound began to pulse and glow red. Fiver tried to pull his paw away but a chain shot up and wrapped around the rabbit’s neck and Fiver’s paw holding his paw there. After ten minutes the chain holding Fiver to the phantom rabbit vanished and Fiver saw the wound on the rabbit’s neck heal to normal as well as the wound on his paw. The chains holding the rabbit vanished as well into the ground.
“Now connected and cannot ever be broken.”
“Connected to the master.”
“His life no longer his own.”
Fiver shook his head. These two rabbits didn’t make any sense at all. “Who is that?”
The phantom rabbit lay on the ground and Fiver, or Greystorm if that was his true name, could see the rabbit shaking in fear.
“Your servant to command.”
“He cannot disobey you.”
“He cannot betray you.”
“Now go and return to your burrow Greystorm. But do not speak of us to anyone.”
“Do not tell anyone your true name.”
Fiver shut his eyes as a wave of water swirled around him and the phantom rabbit and they were pushed back into the Shadow Land where Fiver opened his eyes to find himself and his servant in a small burrow back in the Shadow Land. The phantom rabbit was no longer ethereal. It was now solid with dark brown fur and white tipped ears. Its eyes were orchid. The rabbit quickly got out of Greystorm’s way and cried out as it cut a paw on a jagged piece of stone. Ignoring its pain the rabbit picked up the stone in its teeth and tossed it out of the burrow entrance that led out to the mountain.
“Let me see your paw,” Greystorm said to his servant. It still made him uncomfortable knowing this rabbit was his servant. He gasped in shock as a gold collar appeared around the rabbit’s neck with an oak leaf etched in the collar. Shaking the rabbit turned its paw over so Fiver could peer at the flesh. There was a deep gash on the rabbit’s paw. Fiver pressed a paw to it and it glowed with a white light. As Fiver removed his paw he saw the wound had healed completely.
The rabbit relaxed when Fiver removed his paw and nodded its thanks. The rabbit crept out of the burrow and sat there shivering as the freezing wind blew around it. Fiver felt pity for the rabbit and realized he didn’t know its name. He also knew nothing of its past but noticed that it seemed to fear him and cringe if he touched it. A swell of anger made Fiver’s heart beat faster. This poor rabbit was now his servant for life? Did that also go into death as well?
“What’s your name servant?” He called.
The rabbit jerked at being spoken to and quickly lowered its head in a meek gesture. “O… Ochiba master.”
Fiver winced at being called master. He didn’t want to be any rabbit’s master but he realized with shock that he now owned this rabbit that been a phantom a few minutes ago. Ochiba backed farther away from the burrow and lay down against the mountain side. Fiver felt horrible for Ochiba. To be blood bonded, something he had never heard of, to a strange rabbit he’d never met before. Wanting more information but figuring he should let Ochiba rest Fiver decided to lay his questions aside for the next day before he lay down and went to sleep.