“I think we need to send a spy to Brimstone who can keep track of what’s happening at that warren and relay us information so we can be prepared for when Blizzard attacks.”
“Who Hazel?” Campion asked. The four chiefs were sitting in the Honeycomb talking about what to do about Blizzard and his warren.
“Someone that Blizzard hasn’t seen,” Hazel said.
“We need someone who is smart and will be able to play the part of a spy very well. What about Bigwig? He fooled us all at Efrafa,” Campion said looking at Groundsel and Lightstone who just smiled at the memory.
“No I don’t think so. I’m not playing spy again and besides Blizzard saw me when we came above ground after Fiver’s vision,” Bigwig said coming into the Honeycomb and joining the four chiefs. “It can’t be Holly or Blackavar either.”
“Who else besides Bigwig would be good for the job?” Groundsel asked.
“Campion-rah I can do it,” Birch spoke up.
“Are you sure Birch?” Campion asked.
“Yes Campion-rah I’m sure. I want to be of help. If that’s alright with Hazel, Lightstone and Groundsel?”
“Campion what can you tell us about Birch?” Hazel asked the Efrafan chief.
“He’s an officer in my Owsla. Very loyal to me as well as Efrafa, strong and smart.”
“Alright Birch you will act as spy for the alliance. Try to find out everything you can about Blizzard and the rabbits at Brimstone.”
“Alright Hazel-rah.” Birch turned and left the burrow.
Prince Rainbow was eating some clover as Birch came above ground. “You have volunteered to play spy Officer Birch?”
“Yes Prince Rainbow.”
“Do you realize that Blizzard will change you if he finds you to be useful to his warren and that it will be difficult to fight the darkness that he’ll want to put on you so he can control you?”
“Yes sir. I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect my chief.”
“Very well Birch. While you are there seek out the rabbits Winterberry, Pecan, Blackstone, and Fuser. These four rabbits are the main leaders who are trying to resist Blizzard. The prisoners in the prison run can be counted as allies as well for they were forcefully taken from their warrens or turned over by their dead chiefs. Fifteen rabbits have fought the darkness that Blizzard placed upon them. Fifteen against one hundred eighty-five rabbits if you don’t count the prisoners. If you slip up then they cannot be saved and neither can the alliance.”
“Thank you Prince Rainbow.”
Another rabbit ran up to Birch and Prince Rainbow. “I’m coming too.”
“What do you mean by you’re coming with me Zen?”
“You’ll need someone from your own warren to talk to in Brimstone.”
“Did Campion-rah and the others approve of this?”
“They did after Hazel suggested it would be easier for you not to slip up if you had a rabbit to help you with your mission.”
“I think it would help if you had a friend with you.” Prince Rainbow placed a paw on Zen’s heart and peered into his mind. After a few minutes of picking through Zen’s mind he withdrew his own mind and removed his paw. “Zen can be trusted. He’s a good rabbit and won’t betray the mission.”
Birch nodded and after receiving directions from Prince Rainbow the two spies set off for Brimstone. Two weeks later they arrived on the borders of Brimstone. They hesitated at the edge of the meadow as they saw black rabbits with different patterns on their bodies at silflay and on guard duty. One of the black rabbits moved from its post and came up to the two vagrants. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“”We don’t answer to you,” Zen said with disgust in his voice.
“Oh you don’t do you?” The rabbit said, raising a paw to cuff Birch.
“Irondale! Leave those rabbits alone,” Pecan said coming up to stand beside Irondale and gazing at the two rabbits. “You look to be strong bucks. I’ll take you to my master. If you’re lucky he won’t kill you.”
“Stay out of Irondale and Vosper’s way,” Pecan said to the two rabbits. “And whatever you don’t piss off my master or his son or we’ll all pay.” Pecan led the strangers to Blizzard and Thanatos’s burrow. “For the life of me I can’t understand why you would want to join Brimstone. Wait here and don’t move.”
Pecan hopped into the burrow and bowed before Thanatos. “Thanatos is your parli here?”
“What do you want Pecan?” Blizzard said looking up from where he had a doe pinned beneath him. Pecan tried to ignore the fact that Blizzard had forced the nine month old doe to be his mate before bowing. “Master two vagrants have arrived at Brimstone and say they wish to join the warren.”
“Where do they come from?”
“They refused to answer master. But they appear strong and smell healthy.”
Blizzard looked towards the entrance of his burrow with interest. “Send them in.” He ignored the doe that was whimpering in pain and rubbed his nose with his paws as Pecan called the strangers inside.
The two rabbits stepped inside the burrow and looked at the three rabbits before them. There was a young buck that had vivid burgundy fur with silver streaks along his body, a cream colored doe and a black rabbit the color of midnight with fire and lightning patterns on his body. The rabbit had blood red eyes and there seemed to be a cold darkness coming off of him. They shivered as they gazed at the rabbit.
Blizzard stared at the rabbits waiting. “Do you not know any respect?” Blizzard asked as the vivid burgundy rabbit hopped over to sit beside Blizzard. “It appears I’ll have to teach you respect myself then.”
Pecan reacted quickly by tackling both of the rabbits and called for help. Winterberry came in and seeing the situation quickly pinned Zen to the ground while Pecan held down Birch. “Master spare them! They have no idea about the laws and rules of Brimstone!”
Zen tried struggling to get out from under Winterberry who fastened his teeth into Zen’s ear making Zen squeal in pain. “Be quiet,” Winterberry hissed in Zen’s ear.
“Why are you defending rabbits you’ve never met before Pecan? Do you remember the last time you were punished for letting Monza escape?”
Pecan flinched and dug his claws into Birch while he flattened his ears against his head. Winterberry looked at his friend in fear and then back to Blizzard and Thanatos. “Master I just think that these rabbits may do good in the Owsla. It would be bad for them if they were harmed before they were changed.” Underneath him he felt Birch stiffen in fear.
“Be that as it may they need to be punished for showing me disrespect. Now both of you step aside unless you want to share their fate.”
Their ears pressed back against their heads, Winterberry and Pecan withdrew and backed off as Blizzard turned his gaze on the two rabbits before him. “The next time you come before me or Thanatos here,” looking at Thanatos before turning his gaze back on the two rabbits cowering before him, “I expect you to bow before us like the rest of the rabbits in this warren.” Thanatos smiled and paid attention as his parli contemplated the two rabbits. “However Pecan is right. If I decide to let you in my Owsla and it appears you would do well we can’t have you damaged too much. So…”
Pecan and Winterberry jerked as the two rabbits were thrown into wall by the force of their master’s power. The second rabbit squealed in pain as a burn appeared on its back. “Now let’s try this again. Who are you and why are you here?”
“My name… is Birch. That’s Zen,” Birch said between gritted teeth. His eyes were shut in pain as he struggled for breath. The force of being thrown into the wall had cracked his ribs.
“Birch and Zen. Where do you come from and why are you here? Think carefully because if you lie or don’t answer you’ll see what my son can do.”
“We were driven out of our warren,” Zen said between whimpers of pain. “Birch and I were Officers in our old warren but after our chief’s son died on a flayrah raid we were found at fault and exiled.”
Blizzard looked at the rabbits that despite their injuries remained on the ground. “I see. How did you hear of Brimstone then? And where is your warren?”
“Our warren is three months journey north east from here. We heard about Brimstone from hares we encountered on our journey. We thought it sounded like a good place to join if you’ll have us,” Birch said. He prayed that Blizzard and Thanatos would believe their story.
“You appear to be quite healthy for being on your own for three months. However did you survive all this time?” Thanatos asked.
“We’ve been living in a warren called Morndale that’s twenty miles from here to the north east. Sadly we were kicked out when we refused to worship the Black Rabbit.”
“Really? That’s an interesting tale and I’m not sure I believe you.” Blizzard was growing impatient now. “Thanatos…”
Birch and Zen screamed as the vivid burgundy rabbit shot lightning at them. Winterberry and Pecan watched in horror and sadness as the two rabbits were tortured by Thanatos for an entire hour. Finally Thanatos stopped and looked at the bleeding rabbits in pleasure as their eyes rolled in the backs of their heads and their breathing slowed.
“Now tell me the truth or do you want to see what my son and I can do together?”
“No stop! Okay we’re from a warren called Watership Down.”
Blizzard ran over to Zen and ordered Pecan and Winterberry to pick him up. He hung limply between their arms. “Watership Down did you say?”
“Yes. We ran away because Hazel was becoming a tyrant. He said he would be able to destroy a rabbit named Blizzard easily and that only fools would willingly join a warren like that. We decided to see if we could find you and join you. It’s better to be part of a strong warren then live in a warren run by fools,” Zen said.
“Is this true?” Blizzard asking looking at Birch who was struggling to breathe.
“Y… yes… i… it’s true.”
“Now that wasn’t so hard was it? If you had said that from the beginning you wouldn’t have had to be punished. Until I decide what to do with the two of you you’ll remain as you are. Take them to one of the burrows in the main part of the warren and send Lummis in to tend to their wounds. I want a guard posted on them at all times. They are not to leave the warren in case they change their mind and go back to Watership Down.”
“Yes master,” Winterberry said letting go of Zen and fastening his teeth on Birch’s neck before dragging the rabbit away with Pecan dragging Zen behind him. Birch and Zen were dragged along various runs before they were thrown into a burrow. Winterberry sent for Lummis and called two passing Owsla to guard the burrow where Birch and Zen were. Nodding the two rabbits positioned themselves at the entrance and Winterberry and Pecan went above ground where they found Blackstone and Fuser.
“Who are Blizzard and Thanatos torturing now?” Fuser asked.
“Two rabbits who say they’re from Watership Down. Blizzard was very interested in that but punished them because they didn’t bow to him and Thanatos and then they lied to him about where they came from,” Winterberry said.
“The poor fools. Coming to Brimstone and then lying about where they came from. What does Blizzard plan on doing with them?” Blackstone asked.
“I suggested they be put in the Owsla but Blizzard wants to see how well they do first.”
“The Owsla would be the best place for them. How bad are they hurt?” Fuser asked.
“Zen has a burn on his back and Birch can’t breathe due to cracked ribs from Blizzard throwing them into the wall of his burrow. They’re in the main part of the warren being guarded. Lummis should be there right now tending to them.”
“What do you think they’re doing here?”
“I don’t know. But I have to admit their either fools or else brave for daring to come here and offering to join Blizzard and Brimstone,” Winterberry said.
“Or perhaps they’re just both,” Blackstone said with a slight chuckle which the other rabbits nervously took up before they fell into silence as the sun finally set before the horizon.