Elrond was a former prisoner of Brimstone. He had escaped Brimstone with the other prisoners and good changed rabbits when Prince Rainbow had opened up a tunnel in the prison run. Little did Elrond know that he was being tailed by the two rabbits who had watched Moonfell from behind the hedge. Elrond had been hard to capture by the Brimstone Owsla as he had been quite fast for a normal rabbit. However nobody was faster than then Brimstone rabbits.
The two rabbits followed Elrond on his way to Nightdusk. They slid easily into the forest and slunk through the shadows being careful so Elrond wouldn’t see them. Their golden collars hung loosely on their necks. They had been captured a moon ago and been enslaved to their master Thanatos.
“You know Thanatos will be looking for us,” the first rabbit said.
“I’d rather die than go back to that rabbit and his warren. There were some others like us at that one warren we spotted. They called it ‘Moonfell’. Do you think they’d take us in?”
“I don’t know Shadowfax. Even though we want to escape how can we? The collars will kill us if we disobey Thanatos-rah.”
“We got this far didn’t we without them picking up on our having gone missing. There has to be some type of weakness in Thanatos or at least in these collars.” The collar tightened and the bracelets became visible as they began slowly tightening on Shadowfax. He let out a squeal of terror as the collar and bracelets slowly worked their way into his body as the cuts began appearing. The other rabbit stood beside him unable to help.
“Shadowfax!” The second rabbit shouted watching as the cuts began getting more numerous and deeper on the poor rabbit.
Elrond stopped upon hearing a rabbit’s squeal of pain and quickly bolted for the forest. He cowered in a log as he listened to the rabbit’s squeals of pain. “Poor rabbit,” he said softly to himself. The squealing stopped then and as Elrond was about to leave the safety of the log he stopped seeing a flash of red with a white tipped tail. “Fox!” Elrond squealed in terror shrinking back.
The fox must have picked up the sound of the rabbit’s squealing as well for it. Against his better judgment Elrond followed the fox, being sure to keep downwind. “Ah long ears,” the fox said licking its jaws. “Funny shiny things on your necks but no matter. I can snap your backs in one pounce and you’ll be dead before you know it.”
“Get away from here fox!”
Elrond stopped at the rabbit’s voice. What foolish rabbit stands up to a fox instead of bolting away? Elrond couldn’t see anything since he was still downwind of the fox and trying to keep from being spotted. “I said GET AWAY!” Elrond cowered as a cold breeze hit him and he the fox suddenly burst into flames. He heard a thump as something fell to the forest ground and Elrond cautiously made his way forward.
Two rabbits were lying on the ground panting as their sides heaved. One rabbit was covered in wounds and the other seemed to be exhausted. Elrond watched in amazement and pity as four gold bracelets disappeared from view and the gold collar loosened allowing the rabbit to cough up blood and lay there on the forest floor, its sides heaving as it gasped desperately for air.
The rabbit who had shouted at the fox raised its head and looked at Elrond with fear in its red eyes. It got wearily to its paws and stood over the other rabbit that was still panting and gasping for air. “Please do not send us back to Thanatos. Please don’t kill us.”
Elrond jerked at the name. “Thanatos?! Who are you and what are you doing here? How do you know Thanatos?”
“You know of Thanatos as well?”
Elrond nodded. “I was a prisoner of Thanatos and Blizzard in Brimstone before the battle. You mean to say that Thanatos is alive?”
The rabbit nodded its head. “I do not know of this Blizzard you speak of but Thanatos is our master. Please do not send us back there! We only want to be free and escaped when we had the chance.”
“What of the collars on your necks and the bracelets I saw on the other rabbit?”
“Tools of our chief. Thanatos-rah has every rabbit wear them. If we disobey our master then the bracelets become visible and the collar and bracelets tighten and slash our body as you see with my friend Shadowfax,” the rabbit said looking at his friend who still hadn’t gotten up.
“That’s horrible! It seems my former master has gotten more evil since the defeat of Brimstone,” Elrond said.
“Really? My name is Joyner. We come from Zorn. That’s the warren run by Thanatos. You won’t send us back there will you? You won’t kill us or tell anyone we’re here?”
“If you come go to my warren…”
“NO!” Shadowfax said sitting up. Joyner leaned into his friend. “Our master is determined to find those that escaped Brimstone and punish them for leaving. If we come near Moonfell or this Nightdusk that you’re going to then our master will be able to find these warrens.”
“How do you know of Moonfell and how do you know I am going to Nightdusk?”
Joyner and Shadowfax looked at each other and then turned back to Elrond with sheepish looks on their faces. “We spied on your warren and followed you this far to Nightdusk. If that fox hadn’t appeared then you wouldn’t have known we were following you.”
“You lit the fox on fire?”
Joyner nodded. “That’s why I’m weak and why we were unable to run away from the fox in the first place. I couldn’t leave Shadowfax behind to get killed.”
“Though death would be better than being slaves to Thanatos,” Shadowfax muttered.
“Then what if Thanatos finds my warren?!”
“He won’t. We stayed in the hedges and watched. As long as we don’t go into the boundaries of the warren then Moonfell and this Nightdusk are safe. Will you help us? We promise to stay away from your warren and this Nightdusk.”
“How can I help you?”
“Don’t tell anyone at Moonfell or Nightdusk that we’re here,” Joyner said. “Please. If you do then it will be our heads and yours as well.”
“As it is master is too busy trying to build up Zorn so he can kill those rabbits that killed his parli,” Shadowfax added. “But he’ll come for you as well when he gets around to it.”
“I think there’s a small cave nearby. You should be able to hide there and I’ll come see you when I can and get you flayrah.”
“Thank you Elrond,” Shadowfax and Joyner said.
“How do you know my name?”
“We heard you say your name to your chief. We followed you after you left.”
Elrond, Shadowfax and Joyner got up and continued on their journey. There was a cave with a rock covering the entrance but there was a small enough gap for the three rabbits to squeeze through. “I have to continue on to Nightdusk,” Elrond said.
“I think it best to stay here,” Shadowfax said. “Night’s falling soon and it’s not safe to be out when the night elil are awake and hunting.”
Elrond nodded and the three rabbits settled down for the night. “How did you escape?”
“Thanatos had a bunch of his Owsla out looking for more victims to bring back to Zorn so they could get the collars and bracelets. That’s how Thanatos controls us. If we disobey our master we’ll die,” Joyner said sadly.
“We don’t really know how we escaped. We were scouting a little away from the main group and then a couple of foxes came. We bolted for cover and cowered under a bush. We…”
“We forgot about our powers,” Joyner said. “Shadowfax can control ice and I can control fire. We should have been able to take on the foxes but we were terrified. Then we heard a voice in our heads telling us to get away and saw... well I don’t know what it was we saw exactly. A thick mist suddenly appeared and we saw a rabbit dark as tar come towards us.”
“Probably the Black Rabbit but is that possible? Why would the Black Rabbit of Inle help us?” Shadowfax asked. “We didn’t stop to think about it. We just ran and found ourselves close to Moonfell.”
“We’re grateful to whoever helped us escape our master but we have to be careful that we aren’t spotted. We heard voices and followed them and we saw rabbits. We saw your warren and when we heard that you were leaving for another warren we… we decided to follow you.”
“Why follow me? Why not wait for Blackstone-rah or one of the sentries to help?”
“We felt we could trust you. Plus we were scared the others would kill us.”
“Especially if they thought we were here to take you back to Thanatos-rah.”
The rabbits fell asleep then. The next morning after silflay Elrond continued the half day to Nightdusk. Elrond hopped under the stone archway and looked at the rabbits. A couple of rabbits came up to him. “Greetings stranger. What brings you to Nightdusk?”
“I wish to join your warren,” Elrond said.
“What’s your name stranger?”
“What does it mean?”
“Vault of Stars. Who are you if I may ask?”
“My name is Ruby and this is my mate Sprigbree. Come and follow us to our chief.”
“How long have you been on your own Elrond?” Sprigbree asked.
“Two moons. I escaped a former evil master.”
“That’s terrible. You need not fear the rabbits of Nightdusk. Our chief may order you to be seen by our seer but as long as you wish us no harm then you can live here as long as you wish,” Ruby said.
Elrond stopped. These rabbits had a seer? Ruby and Sprigbree stopped as well and came back to Elrond? “Is something wrong?”
“You said you have a seer?”
“Yes our seer is Shizun. Shizun can see into rabbits hearts and determine if they are telling the truth as well as their intentions. Shizun is also a telepathic. He can read rabbits minds and communicate with them telepathically.”
Elrond’s breath seemed to leave his body and he collapsed to the ground. Blackstone-rah and Moonfell hadn’t guessed that this new warren would have a seer among them. “Come on Elrond. I don’t know what you’re afraid of but you have nothing to worry about. Kaolin-rah should be in his burrow right now.”
Elrond got shakily to his feet and followed Ruby and Springbree into the caves and down various runs to a large burrow. “Kaolin-rah there’s a rabbit who wishes to join Nightdusk,” Sprigbree called into the darkness.
A blue rabbit hopped out of the burrow and looked at Elrond. “Sprigbree fetch Shizun.” After Sprigbree had left the rabbit looked at Elrond. Elrond was shocked to see a long scar on the rabbit’s chest. “I am Kaolin, chief of Nightdusk. Why are you here?”
“Kaolin-rah I have come to ask if I can join your warren. I escaped from an evil master and have been traveling for two moons looking for a warren.”
“Is this master dangerous?”
“He’s dead Kaolin-rah. But his son is alive and would gladly place me under his control.”
“Then you’re welcome to live here and we’ll protect you. So you say your former master and his son are evil rabbits?”
“Yes Kaolin-rah. I was taken from my old warren and my entire warren was destroyed by my former master.”
“How did you master die?”
“He was killed along with other evil rabbits of my former warren.”
“What is this warren called?”
Kaolin jerked in surprise and Ruby took a step forward bearing her fangs at Elrond who cowered before the chief. “Ruby be at peace,” Kaolin said. He turned back to Elrond. “We heard tales of a warren where rabbits were killed and brought back from the dead. Is this the warren you speak of?”
Kaolin nodded to himself. “You don’t seem like a dead rabbit.”
“No Kaolin-rah. Blizzard’s rabbits, when brought back to life, became jet black with patterns on their bodies. Patterns that spoke of their powers.”
“I see. Ah Shizun how nice you to come. Please look into this rabbit and see if he is telling the truth.”
Shizun placed a paw over Elrond’s heart. Well Elrond it appears you are here to spy on my chief and on Nightdusk. Apparently you were telling the truth about being taken prisoner by Blizzard and taken to Brimstone where you were tortured by both Blizzard and Thanatos. That’s horrible. The rabbits of Nightdusk were also under the control of a bad rabbit and his brother though in your case it is different. You were not mind controlled and neither was your warren. Yes I can see that you are here on bequest of your chief and that you’re now of a warren called Moonfell. Don’t worry about your secret getting out however I will need to speak to Redwood about telling you where we are. You see we are also trying to stay away from being enslaved again. He shouldn’t have gone to your warren without informing Kaolin-rah.
Hmm I also see that you found two rabbits who escaped your master’s kidnapped son Thanatos who is formerly Thorn and that your people are in danger of an alliance. Dear me you don’t have much luck staying away from trouble do you? I can sense you mean us no harm but it would be wise to come out soon and tell our chief of your real intentions here. For now I will leave your mind but will communicate with you in the future while you are here.
“It is as he said Kaolin-rah. He means Nightdusk no harm.”
“Thank you Shizun. Ruby take him to a burrow underground.”
Ruby took Elrond down a run that led beneath the caves. “Begging your pardon Ruby but why does Kaolin-rah live in the caves?”
“The caves are part of our warren. They would be considered the upper part of our warren. This way it allows us to remain hidden in case man or elil were to come snooping around. They would have no way to dig us out.”
“I find that it makes sense.”
“Indeed. Well here we are,” she said as they came to a small burrow. “This is your home from now on. Welcome to Nightdusk Elrond. We’re glad to have you with us.”
“Thank you Ruby.”
Elrond looked around his small burrow. “So this is Nightdusk. Well Shizun seems pleasant enough and so do Ruby and Sprigbree. Hopefully I can make some friends here and Kaolin won’t be too mad about me spying on his warren. But after what happened to us at Brimstone and then with the alliance’s chiefs saying they would kill us all and now Thanatos being alive? Moonfell will need to form its own alliance and perhaps Nightdusk can help with that. I just hope that I won’t be punished by Kaolin for not telling him the true reason I’m here.”