Blackstone was above ground at dawn silflay watching the rising of Frith in the sky. Blackstone scowled absently after knowing what Frith had done to Shingetsu. Prince Rainbow was patiently waiting for Blackstone to finish his breakfast so he could show Blackstone and any others of Moonfell the story of the rabbits of sadness.
The sentries who had been on duty last night came back and reported that they had detected no unusual activity during the night. Blackstone nodded and sent them to their burrows to get some rest. The day sentries would be going on duty soon.
“Well Blackstone are you ready to see the story of the rabbits of sadness?” Prince Rainbow asked when Blackstone came over to him.
“Yes Prince Rainbow. Birch and Blueberry would like to see it as well.”
Blackstone, Blueberry, Birch and Prince Rainbow joined paws. “You will be able to see but not be heard or seen by the rabbits of sadness,” Prince Rainbow explained. “In short you will be phantoms in their warren.”
Blackstone, Birch and Blueberry nodded and felt a slight pull on their bodies before landing in a small field. They saw twenty rabbits cautiously creeping out of the forest. It looked like they had been in a fight. Blackstone, Birch and Blueberry froze upon seeing the rabbits but they stared past them as if they didn’t see them. Blackstone cautiously took a step forward. “Hello? We’re sorry to intrude on you. Do you need help?”
A huge lean light brown buck hopped into the meadow and sat up sniffing the wind. A smaller silver buck hopped up next to him and set to munching some grass. “Silverweed can you sense anything dangerous about this place?”
Silver wires surround the warren. Death lines the ceiling and sadness abounds as the phantoms of the dead patrol the runs. Rabbits shall lose their cunning and skill to become the food for man.
Silverweed looked around. “The hedges hold death Cowslip. But we can use this to our advantage. I think I can tap into their minds and control them and you can lead. If I can enslave their minds then they won’t be able to flee when the deaths begin.”
“Then enter their minds and control them. Tell them I’m of… Shining Wire Warren.”
“You’re not going to do that,” a voice spoke up. A huge dark brown rabbit appeared. “You’re not in charge here Cowslip. Nor are you Silverweed.”
“Glenwood-rah I’m the one in charge now and Silverweed is my lackey.”
“You both should have been killed when you were born. Especially Silverweed. That rabbit has caused nothing but trouble.”
“Silverweed if you’d be so kind.”
Silverweed smiled and entered the minds of the rabbits. They were too weak from the battle they had been in and didn’t have any mental defenses against him. Cowslip is the leader of our warren. Kill Glenwood for he seeks to kill your leader.
The rabbits’ eyes glazed over as Silverweed took control and they robotically obeyed the strange voice in their heads. They advanced on their chief and began attacking him. Cowslip just sat back and smiled watching the rest of the rabbits do his dirty work.
“What are you doing?” Glenwood asked as the rabbits began clawing and biting him. He threw a rabbit off him that had been trying to rip out his throat. The rabbit let out a squeal of pain but was on its feet in an instant and back on the attack with the sixteen other rabbits. Glenwood raised his eyes and saw Silverweed with his eyes glassy. “YOU! You’re doing this!”
Glenwood advanced on the poet but Silverweed raised a paw and swung it at his chief knocking him to the ground. Kill the enemy. Kill Glenwood. Kill him and do your duty rabbits of the Shining Wire Warren. Glenwood screamed as the rabbits used their combined weight to bring him down. Bring him to Cowslip. Hold him while your leader finishes off the enemy.
Robotically the seventeen rabbits obeyed the voice in their heads and dragged Glenwood in front of Cowslip. “You bastard!” Glenwood shouted at Cowslip who just looked down at the helpless chief and smiled before he tore out his chief’s throat.
“Silverweed tell them to start digging the warren.”
Dig the warren. Dig your death bed. None will escape the shining wire. None will escape the death trap.
Silverweed twisted the rabbits’ minds. He attacked any memories they had of their former chief and warren as well as the fight they had recently been in. They methodically began digging the warren where Silverweed and Cowslip said to. Digging was an instinct that Silverweed kept intact. Digging deeper Silverweed destroyed all cunning and tricks and myths of El-ahrairah from the rabbits minds. When he finished several hours later the rabbits were nothing but mindless beasts.
“Is it done brother?” Cowslip said looking at his little brother.
“It is. They now see you as their leader and have forgotten the old ways. They’ll blindly follow you into the Black Rabbit’s warren as well,” Silverweed said smirking as he lowered his head to begin munching on some grass.
“That is horrible. So this rabbit named Silverweed manipulated those poor rabbits into killing their chief so his brother could take over?” Blueberry asked in horror.
“It’s disgusting how a rabbit would enter the minds of others and manipulate them like that,” Birch said shaking his head in sadness.
“Manipulating a rabbit is wrong yes,” Blackstone said. “But I don’t see the harm in peeking into another rabbit’s mind as long as you don’t delve too deeply to make that rabbit insane or lose who they are. Perhaps it can be useful if you’re trying to figure out an enemy who is dangerous to you.”
It was winter now at Shining Wire Warren and there were now double the rabbits in the warren. Yet there was a sadness about the warren. It had been three seasons since the first rabbits had come to Shining Wire Warren and dug out a home. Throughout the hedges were shining wires that would catch an unwary rabbit and strangle them to death. Then man would come, remove the dead rabbit, and reset the snares for the next victim. Any elil that came to the warren were shot by man and taken away. The rabbits were fed flayrah from man during the winter and the rabbits had all they could eat during the harsh season when other animals suffered and went without. The rabbits of Shining Wire Warren welcome new rabbits into their warren but did not answer any of their questions and with Silverweed’s mind manipulation they too gradually fell into the trap. If a rabbit was taken by the Black Rabbit their name was never spoken of again in the warren. The rabbits of Shining Wire Warren had become domesticated pets of man, being born and dying to feed their worst enemy. But it was a small price to pay for they were protected and the only thing they had to fear were the shining wires that gave the warren its name. Rabbits who escaped the warren referred to it under different names: “Cowslip’s Warren”, “Shining Wire Warren”, “Rabbits of Sadness”, “Warren of Snares”, or “Bones of Death.”
Seasons changed and then one rainy night a group of rabbits appeared. They dug scrapes next to a tree and were weary and tired from their long journey. Cowslip went to them and offered them a place to stay. A small buck refused to go into the warren and had to be pushed down the run by a rabbit with a tuft of fur on its head. Silverweed said a poem and the rabbits stood there and listened.
The wind is blowing, blowing over the grass.
It shakes the willow catkins; the leaves shine silver.
Where are you going, wind? Far, far away
Over the hills, over the edge of the world.
Take me with you, wind, high over the sky.
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-wind,
Into the sky, the feathery sky, sky and the rabbit.
The stream is running, running over the gravel,
Through the brooklime, the kingcups, the blue and gold of spring.
Where are you going, stream? Far, far away
Beyond the heather, sliding away all night.
Take me with you, stream, away in the starlight.
I will go with, I will be rabbit-of-the-stream,
Down through the water, the green water and the rabbit.
In autumn the leaves come blowing, yellow and brown.
They rustle in the ditches, they tug and hang on the hedge.
Where are you going, leaves? Far, far away
Into the earth we go, with the rain and the berries.
Take me, leaves, O take me on your dark journey.
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-leaves.
In the deep places of the earth, the earth and the rabbit.
Frith lies in the evening sky. The clouds are red about him.
I am here, Lord Frith, I am running through the long grass.
O take me with you, dropping behind the woods,
Far away, to the heart of light, the silence.
For I am ready to give you my breath, my life,
The shining circle of the sun, the sun and the rabbit.
The young rabbit shivered as it listened to the song and Blackstone, Blueberry and Birch shivered as well. There was something eerie about the poem and the strange rabbits in the warren. They were lined up in rows on either side and a rock lay in the center of the warren that Silverweed sat on. A hole in the roof allowed light to shine down giving the silver rabbit an eerie glow.
“Fiver come back!” A rabbit called and tore after the young buck as it vanished up the run and above ground. But the rabbits who had been invited in applauded the poet and continued eating the flayrah that man had lain out far near the warren. “Tomorrow you’ll help us gather flayrah,” Cowslip said to the strangers. He turned and the rabbits vanished to their burrows.
Another season passed and the rabbits of Sandleford had gone. Cowslip was angry that they had escaped his warren. Then three more rabbits came who said they were looking for a couple of rabbits named Bigwig and Hazel. A rabbit named Pimpernel was caught in a snare while two rabbits named Holly and Bluebell left to look for the rabbits. They came back and a strawberry colored rabbit, appropriately named Strawberry, left with Hazel and his rabbits.
Rabbits died and the warren emptied but there were always births occurring to keep man fed. The only entertainment the rabbits of the death trap had was Silverweed and his poetry. Through Silverweed Cowslip controlled the warren. Blackstone, Blueberry and Birch found themselves in another memory. Silverweed hopped up onto the rock and closed his eyes as he began another poem.
Moonlight falls on the meadow of night
The stream rushes over the stones
Running towards the ocean, far, far away
Take me with your stream on your long journey
I will be rabbit-of-the-stream, the stream and the rabbit.
The waves crash against the shore
A never ending expanse of water
Take me with you ocean, take me into your dark depths
I will be rabbit-of-the-ocean, the ocean and the rabbit.
Trees sway beneath the wind
Under the gentle wind the branches creak
Leaves fall to the ground in the autumn
Take me through the forests trees, far, far away
I will be rabbit-of-the-trees, the trees and the rabbit.
The clouds form a barrier in the sky
Bringing forth rain
Take me with you clouds as you sail the sky
I will be rabbit-of-the-clouds, the clouds and the rabbit.
The dark follows the day
Bringing sleep to the day and night hunters awake
Take me with you night sky on your circle
I will be rabbit-of-the-dark, the dark and the rabbit.
The rabbits hummed and swayed with their eyes closed in unison as Silverweed’s last word fell from his lips. The memory changed and they found themselves after the death of Cowslip. The glazed look in their eyes faded. Blackstone and his two rabbits could see the rabbits were confused. Their leader was dead. A month passed and the rabbits seemed to be recovering their wits. They had a new leader named Kaolin, one of the few rabbits who had been unaffected by Silverweed and Cowslip. Prince Rainbow came and told them that Silverweed was dead. With that the spell over the rabbits was broken and Kaolin led them away from the death trap, telling his rabbits to stay away from the hedges.
The rabbits of Shining Wire Warren had a long journey. They were being hunted by elil but slowly they relearned the ways of El-ahrairah. News reached them of a threat that killed rabbits and brought them back to life. The rabbit was named Blizzard and he ruled a warren of dead rabbits and prisoners named Brimstone. Kaolin and his rabbits skirted that warren and swung south making sure they kept far away from that evil place. They crossed through what would be Moonfell and kept journeying for two days until they set up a warren. There was a stone archway and a small set of caves just beyond the stream.
Blackstone, Blueberry and Birch found themselves back at Moonfell. “I could feel their sadness and despair in that place,” Blueberry said shaking.
“Prince Rainbow is this Kaolin fellow like Cowslip and Silverweed?” Blackstone asked.
“No. Kaolin did his best for the rabbits Nightdusk when they were still trapped under Cowslip’s and Silverweed’s control. I suppose you’re interested in how he was able to keep sane when the others lost their minds?”
The three rabbits nodded. “Kaolin was born with the ability to read the darkness and the light. Silverweed and Cowslip emitted darkness and Kaolin was born outside of Shining Wire Warren in a small thorn thicket one autumn’s day. He can resist mind control and sense other rabbits emotions and read their hearts. Silverweed was unable to penetrate Kaolin’s mind and for that was kept a prisoner. The ability to read darkness and light is extremely rare and the only reason he has it is because his parents stole that those powers from both Frith and Kuu. From Frith Kaolin can read light and from Kuu Kaolin can read darkness and wield both those elements. He was given that gift to help the rabbits and lead them to a better future far from that death trip. He will make a good ally to Moonfell.”
Blackstone nodded his thanks and Prince Rainbow left. “An ally will be good against the alliance Blackstone-rah,” Birch said. Blackstone nodded as his mind drifted back to what the four chiefs had said to him and Birch as well as their seers. They would be killed if they set foot anywhere in the alliance. “Find me a volunteer to go to Nightdusk and spy on their warren. See if they can in fact be trusted.”
Birch nodded and ran off to do his chief’s bidding. Blueberry excused herself and went to her burrow. Blackstone prayed he would do the right thing for Moonfell by allying with Nightdusk but first he had to see if those rabbits meant his warren harm. If they did then it wouldn’t be a problem since the changed rabbits could easily kill their enemies thanks to Blizzard’s foolishness. But Blackstone prayed they wouldn’t be drawn into another war. He just wanted his warren to have peace.
A bluish silver buck appeared before Blackstone. “Blackstone-rah I would like to volunteer for the spying mission on Nightdusk.”
“What’s your name rabbit?”
“Very well Elrond if you feel up to the task you’re free to leave any time. Try to make friends among the warren and see what it is like.”
“Yes Blackstone-rah,” Elrond said before turning and vanishing south to Nightdusk. However none of the rabbits noticed a couple of rabbits who were watching Moonfell from the bushes. Their eyes shone red and they vanished into the shadows.