“In order to get to the Shadow Land I have to recharge my powers. I’ve been feeding Shingetsu some of my strength and power to keep him alive and it’s taking its toll on me as well. Tonight’s the full moon so I once I have refreshed myself we’ll go to the Shadow Land tonight.”
Moonblossom reached out towards Shingetsu’s mind. She didn’t sense her master’s presence at all. This was not good at all. Her eyes flew open and she shook. Fiver gently placed a paw on her in comfort. “What’s the matter?”
“Shingetsu isn’t responding. I couldn’t sense his presence at all when I just tried to contact him to inform him that you had heard his story.”
“Can we do anything to help?” Pumpkin asked.
“No. You have some powers of seers but not all of them. Your minds are locked until we can get to the Shadow Land. I’m weak but I think it is best we leave now if I can’t contact my master. Follow me.”
Shingetsu was pinned beneath Blizzard as Thanatos sent a fireball at the black rabbit before him. He let out a scream as the fireball burned his right back leg. The young buck was a fool to dare torture the Black Rabbit of Inle but that was what he had been doing for hours. This buck is going to in for some serious pain when it dies along with the rest of this pathetic rabble of rabbits.
“Thanatos isn’t it time for your lessons with the Owsla?” Blizzard asked.
“Yes parli,” Thanatos said. Smiling he shot a bolt of lightning at Shingetsu who screamed as he withered in pain underneath Blizzard and watched the young buck disappear into the warren. Blizzard got up and calmly looked at Shingetsu. “Shingetsu I fail to see why you resist me. You can become part of a great warren.”
“Because of you Blizzard I was sent here as punishment by that bastard Frith! I’m also never joining you. And let me promise you something. When I get out of here you and that changed kitten of yours will be sorry.”
“Would you really harm a kitten Black Rabbit?”
Shingetsu bared his fangs and his blood red eyes flashed. “There is no hope for that rabbit to be saved. He’s pure evil. Besides he’s no longer a kitten anymore.”
Shingetsu tried to get to his feet but was too weak to move. “Soon you’re powers will be completely drained. I don’t see Lord Frith coming to help you.”
“Did you not hear me when I said that Frith is the one who sent me here as punishment for your stupidity?” Shingetsu shot back at the rabbit before him. “Or are you as deaf as you are stupid?”
Blizzard’s smile fell from his face. “You are in no position to be threatening me Black Rabbit. Once you’re dead I’ll take over your warren. And your mate will be mine as well.”
Shingetsu lunged to his feet at the thought of Blizzard going anywhere near his Kosetsu or his Owsla. “My Owsla will never follow you. The Shadow Land is a place for the dead. It is not fit for the living and you are not dead,” not yet anyway. “If you ever lay paw on my mate or try to take over my warren you’ll be one sorry rabbit.”
“Frith has promised that I can have your snowfall once you’re dead as well as control of your entire warren. Your Owsla and your mate will obey me.”
This is going to hurt. Shingetsu summoned every bit of power and energy he still had and a ball of ice with a flame wheel in it hit the two rabbits holding him killing them instantly before spreading out and throwing Blizzard into the wall of the burrow. The stone burrow cracked and a clump of stone fell on Blizzard breaking his right back leg and slicing his back. Shingetsu swayed on his feet before the other two Owsla after helping their master to his feet slammed into Shingetsu with their combined weight and sent him flying into the wall behind him. He let out a scream and his legs crumpled as he fell with a loud thud.
“Master are you alright?” One of the Owsla asked Blizzard. The rabbit paid for its question as it was thrown into the wall as well by Blizzard. The second Owsla member backed away nervously, his belly scraping the stone floor. “Triple the guard around him. As soon as I heal I’ll drain him and then I’ll take his mate and his warren. Guards!”
Two Owsla rushed into the burrow. One of these rabbits was Blackstone. He stared at the carnage before him, his eyes flickering to the weak rabbit gasping heavily for air before bowing before his master. “Yes Blizzard-rah?”
“Help take me to my burrow. Then have fresh Owsla on duty here.”
Blackstone’s eyes flickered again to the weakened rabbit.
“Master what about the prisoner?” He instantly regretted his question when Blizzard turned his eyes on him. “Leave him to die. No food or water until he learns how to behave.”
“Are you questioning me Blackstone?”
“Good. What are you waiting for?” He snapped as Blackstone and the other Owsla member stood there. “Help me to my burrow like I ordered you!” Blackstone flinched and the two Owsla members quickly went to either side of Blizzard and helped him to his burrow.
“Do not fear me Blackstone. I mean you or your subjects no harm. It is true what you heard. I am the Black Rabbit of Inle. And do not fear the phantoms that appear. They are my Owsla.”
Blackstone jumped as the words appeared in his head. “Are you really the Black Rabbit of Inle?”
“Y… yes. Now don’t ask anything else of me.”
“Can I do anything for you Black Rabbit? Can my Owsla?”
“You would risk your lives and the lives of your people to help one who is hated and feared among mortal rabbits?” Shingetsu sounded amused at the offer.
“You have the makings of a chief Blackstone. No wonder your Owsla and the prisoners respect you and want you to be chief if Blizzard and Thanatos are defeated. There is something you can get me if you’re not busy.”
“What is it my Lord?”
Shingetsu laughed. “Please don’t call me that. I don’t want to be referred to as a lord.”
“You’re forgiven. Tonight is the full moon is it not?”
“I believe it is Black Rabbit.”
“Good. I will give my Owsla instructions to help you and not harm you. You will need to enter the Shadow Land. There you must find two flowers. The first is the Sakura no hana and the second is the Munfurawa. Sakura no hana is the ‘cherry blossom’ and Munfurawa is the ‘moon flower’ in the human language of Japanese. Pick those and bring me a stone bowl of water blessed by Lady Kuu and bring that back here to me. It will revive a little of my strength and powers. Oh and do no tell Blizzard or Thanatos that you have spoken to me.”
“Yes Black Rabbit.” The Black Rabbit’s voice faded.
Shingetsu looked up at his Officer Walnut. “Hello Walnut. Nice to see you again,” he said pleasantly. “My snowfall…”
“Your snowfall is still frozen master. We have been watching the ice pillar that she is in and there has been no change. But Lord Frith isn’t letting us see you. He says we have to submit to him and follow him and everyone has refused. They demand that he release you from your enslavement and free your mate but because of our resistance there have been… repercussions.”
“What type of repercussions?”
Walnut sighed. “He is trying to poison our food and water supply. Of course that can’t kill us since we’re already dead but it has made many of the warren sick. The warren had a meeting and decided that one of us would have to get out of the Shadow Land and into the mortal world to check on you and see how you are faring.”
“Blizzard is keeping me prisoner here. It’s why I have been unable to return.” Shingetsu cried out in pain and Walnut’s ears drooped knowing there was nothing he could for his master here.
“Master what do you wish of us to do?”
“There is a rabbit that has agreed to help me. The Owsla is under orders not to harm him and help on his journey. I’ve sent him to get the two flowers at Lunar Lake and speak to Lady Kuu. Make sure they get to the Shadow Land,” he said looking at the souls of the dead Owsla who were watching the interaction between Walnut and the Black Rabbit.
“Of course Shingestsu-rah. You two follow me.” The rabbits fell into step behind beside him but he paused before looking back at his master. “Stray strong master. We will never lose hope that you and Moonblossom will return.” Then he turned and the three rabbits vanished.
Blackstone came back with a carrot he had snatched from the winter storage burrow. Zen and Pecan appeared as well carrying lettuce. They set the food before Shingetsu and backed off at a respectable distance. “Black Rabbit Pecan and Zen have agreed to guard you so that they can be of any assistance you may need.”
Shingetsu looked at the two rabbits behind Blackstone and nodded slightly. “Timothy,” he called and instantly another rabbit appeared. “Shingetsu-rah?”
“Yes Timothy it’s me. Take Blackstone to the Shadow Land. Has Walnut informed you of my instructions?”
“Yes master. We will help in any way we can.”
Shingetsu nodded. “Good. Off you go Blackstone. You need not be afraid of my Owsla or warren. They won’t harm you.”
Blackstone shut his eyes as Timothy placed a paw on his and they vanished. Shingetsu cried out again in pain and his head fell to his paws. Pecan and Zen quickly ran over to see what they could do and were horrified at the infected wounds on the Black Rabbit. After Blackstone had informed the resistance that Blizzard and Thanatos were keeping the Black Rabbit prisoner they had willingly agreed to help in any way possible. Blackstone suggested that two of his friends convince Blizzard to let them be part of the Owsla guarding the Black Rabbit. Blizzard who was still in a rage at being harmed by Shingetsu nodded before the three rabbits had vanished before they could risk their master’s wrath.
Fiver, Pumpkin and Moneywort each placed a hand on the fellow’s paw and Fiver placed his hand on Moonblossom. “Best to close your eyes,” she said and they obeyed. With a flash of violet light they were gone. “Okay you can open them now,” she said when they landed.
The three seers looked around. They were standing at the bottom of a hill. “Follow me and stay close.”
Moonblossom led the seers of the alliance up the hill and along the twisting path through a forest and then through a meadow. They came to a high place where there was no grass and they scrambled upward, over splinters of slate, among gray rocks bigger than sheep. Mist and icy rain swirled around them and there was no sound but the trickling of water and sometimes, from far above, the cry of some great, evil bird on the wing. And these sounds echoed, for they were between black cliffs of stone, taller than the tallest trees. The snow lay in patches all about. The moss was slippery, and whenever they pushed out a pebble, it rattled down and down behind them in the gullies.
They went on until the mist grew so thick that they could see nothing. Moonblossom’s silver streak began to glow and the moonlight in her reached out in front of them and guided their steps. If they hadn’t stayed near Moonblossom or wandered a little to the left they would have fallen down into the gullies below. Then they crept close to the cliff and little by little, as they went, it overhung them until it made a dark roof above their backs. Where the cliff ended was the mouth of a tunnel, like a huge rabbit hole. Sitting in the hole were two rabbits.
“Officer Walnut. Captain Shadepaw. What news do you have of master’s warren?”
“Hello Moonblossom. Who are they?” Shadepaw asked.
“Seers of the alliance Shadepaw. Master instructed me to bring them here so we can find a way to save our master and the five warrens.”
“Then we won’t stop them. But they are to stay out of Shingetsu-rah’s burrow. There’s another living rabbit here as well. One of those changed rabbits that Blizzard created. Timothy just brought him in. Perhaps he should stay with the four of you,” Walnut said.
Moonblossom nodded. “Where is he?”
“In the burrow you were born in,” Walnut said. He and Shadepaw moved aside to let the four rabbits through and then took up their places again. The warren was silent and their paws echoed off the stone floor. Moonblossom led them to the burrow she had been born in and there they saw Blackstone.
“Who are you and why are you here?”
“My name is Blackstone. I’m from Brimstone. No I’m not evil or cruel. Counting your friends from Efrafa there are seventeen good rabbits that were changed as well as the prisoners.”
“Birch and Zen are still alive? We haven’t heard from them,” Moneywort said.
“Yes they are. They are both part of Blizzard’s Owsla and have been changed. But they were punished when they arrived at Brimstone.”
“For what?!” Moneywort shouted.
“Not bowing to Blizzard-rah and Thanatos.”
“He has a son?!”
“Yes. I was sent here on the Black Rabbit’s request. I offered to help him and he told me to come here to get the Sakura no hana and the Munfurawa, get a stone bowl and fill it with water from Lunar Lake, talk to Lady Kuu and bring it back to him.”
“The Moon Cure?” Moonblossom asked. “Yes I’ll help you.”
“Timothy what’s been going on?”
“Things have not been well since your and Shingetsu-rah’s departure to the mortal land Moonblossom. Lord Frith is constantly trying to get us to serve him and has even threatened to destroy Shingetsu’s snowfall. We have been on constant alert for any sign of him harming Kosetsu but nothing has changed regarding our master’s mate. Lord Frith has poisoned our food stores which has made many of the warren sick. We’re also forbidden from leaving Inle Warren. It was hard getting away to get Blackstone here and the same for when Walnut brought two Owsla that Blizzard killed home. But with two fresh rabbits here our master should feel a bit of relief.”
“What do you mean about Shingetsu and dead rabbits?” Pumpkin asked Timothy.
Timothy looked at Moonblossom who nodded. “Shingetsu-rah is the Black Rabbit as you all know. He is responsible for bringing in dead souls to the Shadow Land and his Owsla help as well as make sure no living rabbits enter our warren or the Shadow Land for it is a place for the dead and not for brave and warm hearts. When Shingetsu became Frith’s servant the curse put on our master was that his life would be tied to that of Inle Warren and the rabbits here. If there were no new rabbits being brought in then our master’s health would begin to deteriorate.”
“Meaning that if we don’t find a way to get our master out of Brimstone and get Frith to lift the curse off our chief then he and Kosetsu will die again.”
Blackstone, Fiver, Pumpkin, and Moneywort were horrified at Timothy’s revelation. “How is that possible?” Blackstone asked.
“We don’t know. But Frith’s the sun god after all. I suppose he finds it funny.”
“Is there any way…”
“Any way to what?” Moonblossom asked.
“Any way to kill Frith or make him release the curse on Shingetsu?”
Timothy and Moonblossom were shocked at Blackstone’s suggestion. “If there was we would have tried that already,” Moonblossom said. “No there’s no way to kill Frith.”
“Perhaps we could ask Lady Kuu. She might know of some way for us to free our master and his mate,” Moonblossom suggested. “You all are welcome to stay in this burrow. Don’t go wandering around anywhere in Inle unless I’m with you.”
Moonblossom and Timothy left to go to their own burrows. Fiver, Pumpkin and Moneywort looked at Blackstone who had lain down against the far wall. “Are you really a good rabbit?”
Blackstone sighed. “Yes I really am as are the prisoners and the other sixteen of us changed rabbits in Brimstone. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to get some sleep.”
Fiver, Moneywort and Pumpkin just shook their heads and they too went to sleep. There wasn’t much to do anyway since they were advised by Moonblossom to not wander Inle Warren without her and they had no idea where Lunar Lake or the frozen pool was. Three hours later Moonblossom returned.
“We’re leaving for Lunar Lake and the frozen pool,” Moonblossom said. Accompanying her were Walnut and Timothy. The seven rabbits went back down the run and outside. Timothy carried a stone bowl as per his chief’s instructions. Moonblossom led the rabbits away from Inle Warren. They walked for twenty yards before coming upon the ice pillar that held Kosetsu. “Is that master’s snowfall?” Pumpkin asked gazing upon the doe trapped in the ice.
“Yes,” Timothy said. “She is Kosetsu. Mother of the second seer that was blessed by Shingetsu and his mate.”
The doe’s eyes seemed to glisten with tears. She stared blankly at the rabbits. “She’s alive?!” Fiver shouted shocked noticing as the doe’s chest rose and fell slowly. They went towards the ice pillar and gazed upon the trapped doe.
“Yes. Another source of amusement by Frith to make our chief suffer,” Walnut scoffed.
“Can she communicate with any of us or Shingetsu?” Pumpkin asked.
“No,” Moonblossom said. “Shingetsu-rah has tried as have the rest of us. We aren’t sure if she can hear us.”
Moonblossom gazed upon Kosetsu and then led them away from the sad scene. They wandered for half the night until they came upon a lake with blue water. Along the bank were cherry blossom trees and moon flowers. Blackstone carefully picked a moon flower and set it on the ground before picking a cherry blossom off a low hanging branch and setting that down as well. Taking the bowl he filled it with the lake water and set the blossom and the flower in the bowl. A nice fragrance filled the air.
“Lady Kuu, the servants of Shingetsu-rah seek your blessing and advice,” Moonblossom said.
Lady Kuu shone down on them. The rabbits bowed before her reverently for she was the goddess of the night and the mother to the nocturnal elil. “What do you ask of me servants of Shingetsu?”
“Lady Kuu our master is being imprisoned by a rabbit named Blizzard. Lord Frith is holding Inle Warren hostage and is punishing Shingetsu-rah for the failure of rabbits dying even though it has nothing to do with our master. Worst of all he is holding Shingetsu’s doe in a frozen pillar of ice forever and our master is tortured seeing her and being unable to do anything for her. We want to know how Blizzard got his powers, how we can get Shingetsu free from his service to Lord Frith, how to free Kosetsu and how to destroy Blizzard.”
“Shingetsu-rah also said to ask you to bless the Moon Cure,” Blackstone added.
“First I will complete the Moon Cure for Shingetsu for he is a kind rabbit and deserves my help,” Lady Kuu said. “Please place the bowl carefully on the ground.” Blackstone did as asked and Lady Kuu let a moonbeam shine from her down to the bowl. The water turned silver and then turned a light pink. As to your question about how Blizzard got his powers. Lord Frith gave Blizzard his powers. When Blizzard was jumped by the badger he was severely wounded. He should have died by Lord Frith intervened and allowed him to live. Blizzard was already angry at the Sandleford Outcasts for leaving Watership Down and it being destroyed and Frith gave him the opportunity for revenge against Watership Down and any rabbits allied with that warren if Blizzard would agree to serve him. Blizzard never hesitated and accepted Frith’s offer and became his servant. In essence he became the servant Shingetsu refused to become.”
“Frith did that?” Moneywort asked.
“Yes. Defeat Blizzard and you release Shingetsu and Kosetsu from their prisons. Where are the three?”
Fiver, Moneywort and Pumpkin stepped forward. “Has Moonblossom told you of your master’s origins and how the seers were created?”
“Yes Lady Kuu.”
“Moonblossom does not know that I am the one who blessed Shingetsu and made him the first seer. Stand in a line and I will give you the silver streak that will hold the moonlight” Fiver, Pumpkin and Moneywort stood still as three beams of light touched them and three silver streaks appeared between each of their ears. “Go to the frozen pool and bathe in the water there. Don’t worry you won’t die. There your minds will become unlocked and you will become true seers as are Moonblossom and Shingetsu. As to how to defeat Blizzard. His warren is strong due to all the deaths and rebirths he has done. The four warrens must work together to defeat Brimstone. Blackstone you and your rabbits will have to stay out of this battle or else you will be killed as well for the four warrens won’t be able to tell that you are good.”
Blackstone nodded at Lady Kuu’s instructions. “Seers listen well. It will be up to you to defeat Blizzard but it will not be easy. There is no appealing with him so don’t even bother. Keep in mind that he is draining Shingetsu and will link Shingetsu’s power back to him so that if he dies then Shingetsu will die as well. You must sever that linking power to keep Shingetsu and Kosetsu from dying. I will be unable to help you so you must do it on your own. Moonblossom you know of the linking power I am talking about?”
“Yes Lady Kuu.”
“Good. Your master has taught you well.” A beam of light shone in Lunar Lake and a golden arrow rose above the water and floated towards them. “Plunge this into Blizzard’s heart and he will die along with all his Owsla and rabbits. But you must sever the linking connection prior to doing this. Fail to do that and Shingetsu and Kosetsu will die while Blizzard continues to live. Kill Blizzard and you free the new moon and the snowfall.”
The rabbits bowed to Kuu and picking up the bowl and the spear Moonblossom led them away to the frozen pool. The four seers walked down the bank and onto the ice where it broke before them sending them into the freezing cold water. There they cleaned themselves until their fur shone like diamonds in the moonlight and Fiver, Moneywort, and Pumpkin’s minds became unlocked and they felt a surge of energy as their powers became stronger. The frozen pool’s purpose was for seers to become true seers and not the rabbits they used to be. Their fur changed to become black with white spots and their eyes changed to yellow. They had become true seers. Moonblossom remained the same for she had been born in Inle Warren and had bathed in the water as a kitten under the watchful eyes of Shingetsu one full moon long ago so her powers had already reached maximum awareness.
After they had been cleaned they got out of the pool and the hole again froze over in a thick layer of ice. “Blackstone take this cure back to our master please. Timothy will you take him back?”
“Of course Moonblossom.” Timothy picked up the bowl and Blackstone laid a paw on Timothy’s chest side before they vanished. Timothy appeared a few moments later alone. “It’s time we return to our own warrens,” Moonblossom said. “I’ll take the spear. While your powers have been unlocked as well as your minds it will take time to know how to control them. It’s best I have the spear since I know how to control my powers.”
The three rabbits nodded. “What is the linking power?” Moneywort asked.
“The linking power is a thread of energy that connects Blizzard to Shingetsu. It is what is keeping our master hostage. That thread is used by master to keep in contact with his Owsla when he is here on earth doing his work of collecting dead rabbits. Since Blizzard has been sapping master’s strength he is now connected to Shingetsu and because of this taint on the linking power Shingetsu can’t contact his Owsla.”
“Then how could he contact Timothy?”
“It had to do with Blizzard killing the dead rabbits. They gave master enough strength to call me,” Timothy said. “Once Blizzard is defeated our master will regain full health and strength in body, mind and his seer abilities. The linking power is also connected to Lord Frith. Hopefully once Blizzard is destroyed it will also destroy the curse upon our master and his mate and save them both.”
“What happens if they die?”
“Then Inle Warren will cease to exist as well all of us dead rabbits. We will fade as if we were never born and when rabbits die they too will simply vanish,” Walnut said. “That is why it is important that you kill Blizzard and save our master and his mate.”
The rabbits nodded and Moonblossom sent the three back to their own warrens. “Take care of my master Blackstone,” she said before turning and going back to Sunstone in a flash of blue light.
“I will,” Blackstone said to the empty sky. He hurried back underground and to Shingetsu’s burrow. “Shingetsu-rah,” he called. Zen appeared at Blackstone’s voice. “Shingetsu is very weak. He barely ate the food we brought him earlier.”
Shingetsu lifted his head and turned towards Blackstone. His eyes brightened a bit as he saw the bowl. Blackstone set the bowl down on the stone floor. Pecan came out of his burrow that he shared with Zen and the three rabbits watched as the Black Rabbit of Inle drank the Moon Cure. He drank the last drops and they could see a few scars knit together and heal before vanishing completely. His fur still appeared ragged but he managed to push himself to his paws and hop slowly over to Blackstone. “How was your trip in the Shadow Land?”
“Very well Shingetsu-rah.”
“I’m not your chief yet Blackstone and won’t be for some time. Have the three’s minds been opened?”
“Yes Shingetsu. They are true seers now.”
Shingetsu smiled. “How is my Owsla and subjects?”
“They are thin due to Lord Frith.”
A growl rumbled in Shingetsu’s throat at what his rabbits were going through. “And my Kosetsu?” he asked in a whisper.
Shingetsu’s ears drooped and the spark of life dimmed from his eyes. “I see. No do not tell me of what happened there. The less Blizzard and Frith know the better. Do what you were told Blackstone. Now all of you let me be. I need to sleep.” Pecan, Birch and Blackstone bowed respectfully before leaving the Black Rabbit to sleep.