The Green Ember burns; the seed of the New World smolders. Healing is on the horizon, but a fire comes first…
The Green Ember burns; the seed of the New World smolders. Healing is on the horizon, but a fire comes first…
Selvan sat on cold stone, looking south towards the vast expanse that was Ayman Lake. Clouds covered most of the sky, but the glow of the sun still grew, burning fiery red and orange. The bright sphere had only recently crested a low mountain peak to Selvan’s left; the coming of day to bring light to his mournful solitude. When he had first slipped out of his house, the sky had been filled with brilliant, twinkling stars–now fading with the color and splendor of dawn. Selvan saw the change but didn’t pay it any heed. He remained buried beneath a deep sadness, and continued to hum a song. It wasn’t any song he knew; he was just making it up as he went along. The mournful tune seemed to quickly be lost in the wide world around him. Sometimes his song would speed up and become more joyful. But always, it would return to a low, melancholy chorus. He had been humming the tune for hours, sometimes opening his mouth to utter low tones that sounded almost more like wailing than like like a song. But the song always continued, and it seemed to offer no hope of any ending.
Selvan suddenly blinked and looked to the east, becoming dead silent as he saw the sunrise and the beautiful change in the world around him. The light! The glory! The feeling of limitless freedom and hope! The rising brought tears to his eyes. But then, he remembered what the sunrise meant. It was time to go to work; and that brought quite a different kind of tears.
He began to hum again…hoping the sounds would release the sorrow from his heart. But he never seemed to get rid of it all; and each day brought a new darkness to oppress him.
Selvan sniffed, watching the lake again.
A minute later, he grimaced, and then whispered. “Why is there always more sorrow?” he asked. “Why is there always more pain?”
He looked around, checking if there was anyone around to hear him, and then he raised his voice slightly. “Why do I need to keep fighting the darkness?” he cried, “Why is even the sunrise tainted by pain? What good is there left in the world?”
He became silent once again, humming for a few moments and then whispering, “Why can’t I be free?”
The lake offered no answer. The silvery-blue rabbit sat there, trying to discover an answer on his own.
Time continued on, but a fearful thought grew at the back of his mind, I need to be going. I need to be going or I’ll be late.
But I can’t go yet…not yet. Not when I feel like this.
The thought continued to prod, You need to go! You need to go!
He was ashamed for staying and not doing his duty. Another pain. Add it to the pile. Selvan tried to sing again, tried to sing some hopeful tune, but it died on his lips and left him empty. Cold. Alone.
He shook his head, looking up again, “Why can’t I–”
“Selvan!” a strong voice interrupted his thoughts. So startling was the voice, Selvan nearly leaped off the ground.
“I’m here, Father!” he replied. He stood and tried to dry the fur beneath his eyes.
Father appeared around the corner of a high hill and walked toward him. His face was…what? Angry? Disappointed? Weary? Worried? Selvan couldn’t really tell.
“Selvan,” Father said, strong voice awash in a gruff sadness, “You know where you should be right now.”
The shame returned at full force, along with some fear. Of course I know, he thought sadly, I know I should of gone already. He barely kept himself from crying. “Yes Father,” he said submissively.
“Then why are you up here again?” Father asked, “You should have already been heading to the muster; but I woke up and you were gone!”
Selvan was too ashamed to say anything.
“I woke up Kyron and sent him there, but when I couldn’t find you I figured you were somewhere out here again.”
Selvan nodded, feeling his face grow hot.
Father squinted at him, his voice softening. “You can’t keep doing this,” he said. “How will you ever become a Kingston soldier if you keep sitting here all the time?”
Selvan fidgeted, before finally sighing. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either,” Father said.
They both were silent for a long time, looking at each other and at the ground.
“I don’t want to be a soldier,” Selvan said, rubbing his ears.
“I know that,” Father said sympathetically, “I don’t want you to be a soldier either…But these are hard times; and we have to make hard choices. You need to be able to defend yourself, your brother, the citadel. All of rabbitkind.” Father waved his hands slowly around him to further his point.
“But why do I have to?” Selvan asked. He stopped abruptly and looked out to the lake. Looking back to Father, he said, “Day after day of training, working, helping Kyron; and always sitting under the shadow of…” he trailed off again.
Father stepped toward him and put a hand on his shoulder. Selvan was almost as tall as him now. “It’s difficult,” Father said. “It’s difficult to live a free life. Especially since…”
He didn’t need to finish. They had lived under the shadow of the Lords of Prey for as long as Selvan could remember. Whenever he looked north to the Low Bleaks he could almost feel the cold darkness coming from that place. Every rabbit he saw seemed to be only half whole. Some missed joy, happiness, peace…some missed the freedom they once had before the murder of the King. Some had more visible losses, like being stripped of their family. Their wife, or their mother. Selvan looked in Father’s eyes and saw the beginnings of tears in the strong face. He did not see the nobility that his family was supposed to possess; only saw pain. Always more pain.
Father looked at him a few more sad seconds, “So be a good buck and get to the muster.”
His son winced, looking down.
“Selvan, go!” Father said, anger returning.
Fear and sadness mingled in the buck’s heart, “Yes Father,” he answered, nodding.
Father opened his mouth as if to say something else, but instead withdrew a scabbard and handed it to Selvan, “I got your sword ready.”
Selvan took it and nodded absently.
“Remembering to clean it?” Father asked, jokingly.
“Of course,” Selvan answered. He wouldn’t stand his sword to be dirty and they both knew it. Father was trying to lighten the mood, but it didn’t work.
They both shared another sad look into each others’ eyes.
Father clapped him on the back, “You head to the muster now. You had better not be late.”
“Yes sir. I won’t.” Selvan turned and walked away. After a few steps, he looked back at Father. The mottled brown rabbit was looking away, out over the lake. His expression wasn’t visible from this angle, but Selvan knew that the face contained sorrow, pain, and tears.
We’re all so broken, Selvan thought. He sighed, and left.
Once he finished tying the scabbard about himself, Selvan made much better time heading for the muster. The sun’s light began to shine solidly now, and Selvan knew he would have to race to make it to the muster on time.
He thought about Father as he ran. He wished that Father was more understanding, more gentle…instead of the hard buck that he was. Selvan didn’t blame Father for his harshness, though. Any father would be emotionally wounded after what happened to Mother…
But still, Selvan wished that Father had more pride in him; that he would believe in him and trust him more. But maybe I’m not deserving of that trust. He wasn’t sure.
Father was hard, but he was also strong. Selvan wouldn’t be half the buck he was now if not for Father. Growing up, he learned to be honorable, to be truthful. He learned to be strong. Selvan wouldn’t want any father besides his own…but he wished that Father didn’t hurt so much. He wished that Mother were still here to help. But…
Selvan’s eyes turned upward to the Low Bleaks, standing imposing to the north of Kingston. They seemed unassailable, unstoppable, just like the beast who lived there.
Morbin Blackhawk, Lord of the Birds of Prey. The monster that killed the King, and tore so many families apart. Was he there now? Selvan wondered, Beyond in the High Bleaks? Plotting? Scheming? he shivered at the thought of being so close to such evil.
Selvan wanted to destroy that evil bird! To end the the creature that had destroyed so many lives!
But what could he do? Selvan wasn’t even sure if he could make it to the muster on time. He returned his eyes to the ground and ran on.
He displaced other rabbits that were moving through Kingston Citadel, and they let off subtle gasps of surprise or disappointment. Selvan tried to ignore them, but it still stung. They expected more from him. He was almost a full-grown buck, and he was running like a heedless youngling. I wish I was a youngling. Life was so much easier then. He kept moving.
His feet skidded along the ground as he stopped and made a sharp turn to the left. He was nearly to the muster. Other bucks were gathered into line. Selvan didn’t know many of them, but those he did were friends. He saw his cousin looking back and waving. Selvan tried to manage a smile and waved back at Cole as he made it to his place in the line beside Kyron. He tried to smile at his brother as well, but he was panting, almost doubled over from the run.
Just a few seconds later, the muster was called and Selvan stood at attention like all of the other bucks. The captain began checking they all were there, and he stopped when he saw Selvan’s heavy breathing.
“Selvan,” the captain said, pausing, “Nice of you to make it.”
Talking was impossible, so Selvan nodded and tried to show a confident grin. They soon finished counting off, and then they began to go into training exercises.
It was a desperate time they lived in, trying to survive under the shadow of Morbin. But, there were moments of friendship and brotherhood between these bucks. Not everything was darkness, hope and joy still had their place in this broken world. Selvan hoped that someday, this hope would triumph over the strength of the Lords of Prey, and bring peace to Natalia once again. Selvan Blackstar hoped that he could bring that new world about. One day…
“Wake up Kyron, you need to go to the muster.” Father says, standing beside me. I sit up, only to fall back down onto my bed.
“Five more minutes.” I say, slightly annoyed at Father for waking me up. I open my eyes to see him frowning. I sit up again. "Fine.
I head to the muster with my cleaned sword. Selvan wasn’t there yet. I turn around to see my brother running up. He stands in line next to me, panting. The captain stops in front of him.
“Selvan,” the captain says, pausing, “Nice of you to make it."
My brother nods, and then he grins. I facepalm. The captain moves off and I nudge Selvan. “Did you remember to clean your sword?”
Selvan elbowed his brother, grinning mischievously, “Of course I did,” he whispered back, “In fact, it’s so clean that if I were to take it out, the reflected sunlight would blind all of us. And then, we wouldn’t be able to train, or talk, or make any unfunny jokes.” Selvan smirked again at his brother.
“Uh huh… Wait, are you saying my jokes aren’t funny?”
“Oh no,” Selvan whispered back, “They’re veeerrrryyy funny. As funny as when you bump your head first thing in the morning.”
He noticed the captain staring down the line at them, squinting.
“That is not… okay, that is sort of funny.” I was about to say something else to my brother but we both saw the captain squinting at us. “Were we supposed to be listening to him?” I ask my brother.
Selvan frowned, “…I think so.”
The captain shook his head and continued on.
A short time later, all of the bucks were engaged in training exercises.
Selvan and Kyron were dueling. Selvan strung together three slow hits with his sword, and his brother parried and attacked low. Selvan blocked low, and then moved back a few steps, parrying more strikes.
“What, can’t take me?” I say as he moves backwards. I pursue him and slice with my weapon, which was easily parried. I back up when Selvan begins to attack again. I block a strike from him and then swing low. My brother jumps over the swipe, and then attacks again.
Selvan continued his assault, but Kyron dodged and sliced upward, just pulling back slightly so the blade missed.
Wow, he’s getting pretty good, Selvan thought.
Kyron smiled victoriously, but before he could say anything, the training sergeant broke in and stopped all of the training duels. He quickly began to organize the bucks into groups for Combat Rush. Selvan sheathed his sword and set it off to the side, and then began to gather with other bucks.
Eight bucks would line up in two teams of four, and the lead bucks of each team would fight. If they were knocked down, the next buck in line would take up the fight. The battles would continue until one team wins.
Selvan was teamed up with Kyron and two other bucks. He was in third position and his brother was in second. Their opposition was a tough group…and the fourth position was Davin Trimmer. Dav was a black and white speckled buck, and someone that Selvan didn’t like. His last name was historically based on the fact that his family tended hedges on Golden Coast, but his family often acted more trim. They dressed better, their fur was smoother, and they acted as if they were superior because of it. Dav was no different. He was conceited, selfish, and mean…at least from what Selvan saw. No one else seemed to notice though, or if they did, they thought his good qualities made up for it. Dav did always seem to be one of the most generous and kind rabbits. It’s all a show, Selvan thought, He changes his tune as soon as no one’s watching. Selvan had confronted Dav about it once.
“I don’t think that was a nice thing to say,” Selvan had said.
“Relax,” Dav replied, “It was just a joke.”
“No it wasn’t. Didn’t you see how she ran off?”
“She probably remembered and was late for something,” Dav replied, an edge in his voice telling Selvan to back off.
“Apologize to that doe,” Selvan said, gritting his teeth.
At that point, one of Dav’s friends had joined the conversation, “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Dav replied, “Young mister Blackstar here just wanted to ask how I keep my fur so soft. But he was just leaving.”
Selvan was too angry to say anything else then, but he confronted the Dav the next day when they were alone. All he got for his efforts was a black eye and a warning, “I don’t know if you think you’re more important or right than the rest of us common rabbits, Blackstar, but I’m not going to take it. I won’t have you making up lies about me. Don’t do it again!”
They had both been younger then, and Selvan was more rash, so he attacked Davin, kicking and scratching. Soldiers found them and brought them to the captain. Each buck tried to justify their actions, but since they only had their words to go on, the captain was forced to punish them both and he kept an ever-cautious eye on Selvan and Davin ever since.
Selvan hadn’t forgotten, and he watched Dav stoically. Dav hadn’t forgotten either, and he smiled at Selvan. He’s happy to have another excuse to fight me.
Truth be told, Selvan would enjoy this opportunity as well.
“Engage!” the sergeant shouted. The Combat Rush had begun. There were several different Rushes going at the same time. Selvan saw Coleden on his own, fighting four bucks without backup. He didn’t need it. Cole was the best trainee at Kingston by far. But Selvan’s eyes returned to his own Rush, and to Dav and his piercing gaze.
I will enjoy this, Selvan said, a smile breaking through his control and anger.
The first buck in each row charged. The buck from Dav’s team was quick and agile. He jumped and spin-kicked the first buck down.
Kyron was next in line, moving to fight the agile buck. The opponent threw a kick that Kyron dodged and countered with a quick punch that knocked the agile buck back. After staggering for a moment, he frowned and jumped to attack Selvan’s brother again. The agile rabbit struck down with a fist. Kyron again quickly sidestepped the move and rammed the agile buck with his shoulder, throwing a punch that sent the buck to the ground.
One down, Selvan thought anxiously, watching his brother.
The next opponent advanced, charging at Kyron and feinting a right punch before moving his left to attack. Kyron blocked with his arm, but the other buck attacked again. Kyron deflected the attack, staggering backwards. A third punch, and Selvan winced as it hit his brother in the chest. But Kyron recovered quickly, jumping and punching down angrily at his foe. The rabbit’s brown fist connected with the enemy’s jaw sending him to the ground.
Two down, Selvan thought, watching the medic move to check on the most recently fallen.
The third opponent moved in; a large, heavy buck. Kyron was obviously winded from his battle with the first two, but he charged anyway and winded back a heavy punch. He threw his fist at the large buck, who caught it and sent an uppercut into Kyron’s gut. Selvan’s brother flew backwards and landed hard on his side.
Selvan winced, and stepped forward to take Kyron’s place. The huge buck charged at him, sending a haymaker punch. Selvan deflected it to the side almost effortlessly, and sent his knee into the buck’s midsection. The larger rabbit staggered backwards, and Selvan wasted no time in jumping and kicking him to the ground.
Davin advanced, giving Selvan a haughty smile. Selvan charged and punched, but Dav ducked and threw an uppercut at Selvan’s middle. He barely kept his feet as Davin ran at him, kicking. Selvan caught the foot, but Davin leapt, kicking Selvan with his other foot and knocking him down.
Applause came from nearby rabbits at the surprising and effective move. The medic came to Selvan and worked on his cheek. Selvan watched the final two combatants fight. The fourth rabbit ran at Davin, who merely thrust the heel of his hand forward and knocked him to the ground.
Selvan shook his head sadly. They had lost.
The medic went to check someone else and Selvan stood. Kyron walked up to his brother, looking angry. “I wish we had won.”
Selvan nodded, patting his younger brother on the shoulder and watching Dav’s victorious smiling. I wish that Davin hadn’t.
I touch my side and wince.
I’m going to feel that in the morning.
“Maybe we can win next time, we just have to keep training, right?” I say to Selvan, trying to lighten the mood.
“Hm?” Selvan shook his head and looked at Kyron, “What? Oh.” He nodded in agreement, “Yeah.”
The bucks continued with more training exercises, and then watched the captain run through numerous sword techniques, which Selvan practiced along with everyone else. His mind was only half-focused on it though. He was still inwardly seething at Davin. He wanted so badly to make that cocky buck…make him…make him receive justice! Pay him back for all of the mean things he’s done. Another part of Selvan felt inadequate at not being able to win in the Combat Rush.
He knew he needed to concentrate, so he tried to focus on the exercise. He hid his emotions. He was good at that.
And then, something else came up that took all of his attention.
Selvan was performing a move that involved swinging his sword completely overhead and smashing forward. It was designed to deal with blocking opponents. Out of the corner of his eye, Selvan spied a dark brown rabbit watching from nearby. He didn’t think anything of it, but thought the rabbit looked familiar. Selvan glanced over, and made a double take. He spied the buck, a little younger than himself. But Selvan hadn’t forgotten the face, even after two years. The gray rabbit froze, sword pointed directly upward, while the rest of the bucks continued the down-strike. After a tense moment, Selvan looked back at the captain and tried to get back into the next maneuver, hoping no one had noticed his sudden stop.
While his body continued on as if nothing had happened, his mind was rolling over itself. A single thought came over and over.
It can’t be. It can’t be.
Bowden. He’s back.
I continued my training close to Selvan. I noticed that my brother’s mind was somewhere else, so I begin to talk to him. “So, you still haven’t gotten over losing to that buck?” No answer. I glance back in Selvan’s direction, only to see him pointing his sword directly at the sky. I do the same as him.
Did I miss a move? I don’t remember this one.
I then notice that Selvan was looking somewhere else. I also notice that the captain was looking at us.
I’m never going to hear the end of this.
I lower my sword and follow Selvan’s gaze. I see him looking at a dark brown buck.
I wasn’t sure what to say or do. I didn’t wan’t to leave my position because the captain would have something to say about that. Why was Bowden here?
With my archery trainer Holden, I walk up to the training ground where my brothers most likely would be.
Holden was one of the best archers around, though not many people liked him. he was a recluse and he liked being left alone. unless he was training someone, then he was judgy and liked to comment on my bad archery skills. But, i didn’t mind, all i wanted was to be a good archer. And he could get me there.
A few years ago, i went into training with him. I love archery. I have wanted to win the archery cup since i was a young buck. So, i trained and trained but, after a long time, i felt like i was still horrible. So, i found someone who would teach me, Holden. It has been two years and i feel ready to join in the archery tournament.
As i walk up to the training grounds i see my brothers training. Selvan was easy to notice because of his fur color and Kyron was standing next to him looking confused… I am happy to be back home.
Selvan continued with the rest of the training exercises, which lasted until well after the sun began to descend. As he went through the motions of training, he thought.
He thought hard.
His family hadn’t been very happy when Bowden left. Father was outraged, Kyron was angry as well. Selvan had dealt with the loss…at least he thought so. Never having a brother around is a lot like never having a mother around. He made peace with Bowden leaving.
He had to. He wouldn’t have been able to continue on without there being a solid final understanding of the situation.
Well, now the solid understanding had given way. The situation had changed. Bowden had returned, and Selvan would have to deal with it.
The way he saw it, there were three options of how he could proceed. One, he could act like nothing happened and walk away. The problem with that option was that something had happened, and he would need to deal with it.
So there were really only two options: wait for Bowden to reintroduce himself to the family in some way…or Selvan could do it.
The issue boiled down to whether or not he was happy about his brother’s unexpected return. I should be happy, he figured, but it doesn’t seem that I am. Father is right. Bowden left us. He left us to pursue his…his archery with that buck Holden.
Selvan thought he saw Holden as well, but he wasn’t sure.
The thing is, Bowden abandoned us. It hurt when he left; and there was already enough hurt in our family.
The muster had just been disbanded now, leaving the bucks to return to whatever they wanted to do. As rabbits dispersed, Selvan sheathed his sword, looking at Bowden out of the corner of his eye and thinking rapidly.
Does he deserve forgiveness for leaving us? Was what he did even wrong? If he did need forgiveness, would I be able to offer it? Should I at least give him a chance?
Selvan bit his lower lip and nodded a reluctant affirmative to his final question. He took a few long strides toward the dark brown rabbit. He stopped a few paces away. Bowden was watching him, looking as unsure of what to say as Selvan was.
The gray buck finally ventured a question to his brother. A single word.
The muster disbanded soon, and Selvan walked towards Bowden. I wasn’t sure what to think.
I am angry at Bowden for leaving, but he is back now, and I missed him. I shrug. Besides, Selvan and Father would probably both get angry at him, so he didn’t need me to be his enemy too.
I sheath my sword and walk in Bowden’s direction. I stop in front of him and hug him.
“Yes, its m-”
Kyron hugged me.
“Good to be back”
“what did i miss while i was gone?”
Selvan looked hard at his brother, “You missed a lot.”
He watched his brother’s face fall. Kyron stepped away from Bowden and looked at Selvan. The gray rabbit immediately felt guilty for being so harsh. He chewed his lip, and then added, “And we missed you too.”
He embraced his younger brother.
It’s going to be difficult, he thought, He has hurt us a lot. But we can’t give up on him…He’s my brother; I love him.
“You missed a lot.”
I begin to feel depressed. “what?”
Bowden’s gaze turned downward, “What?” he asked, “What did I miss?”
Selvan stepped back and put his hands on his brother’s shoulders, “Don’t worry: we’ll tell you all about it!”
Bowden tentatively began to smile.
The three brothers talked for a long time, returning to the familial friendship that they all thought they had lost. At last, Selvan remembered that he had another appointment and was forced to leave Kyron and Bowden to talk alone.
He was training in the practice of music. He had always liked music so he decided to try it out. After a few hours of practicing with the master, he went off with his borrowed lute into a garden, settled himself down in a place he liked behind some bushes, and began practicing.
He had never chosen music as a vocation–he doubted he even could since Kingston bucks were required to be soldiers–but Selvan didn’t want to be a soldier. He wanted to do something else with his life that was less dangerous and more helpful to rabbitkind. However, he couldn’t think of any one vocation that he liked.
So, in most of the off time he could spare in the past few years, Selvan had been trying out each and every vocation that he liked, trying to find out which one he would want.
He started with gardening, which was enjoyable because he loved things that grow. But ultimately, it was incredibly hard to garden, and Selvan didn’t enjoy working.
After gardening, Selvan spent some time in the apothecary. Mixing natural compounds to create salves and other helpful mixtures sounded exciting at first…but Selvan quickly realized that it wasn’t for him so he left that as well.
Next, Selvan worked on being a cook. He enjoyed making food, but it was tedious work and he had to interact with people a lot. He didn’t enjoy talking to people he didn’t know.
Then, onto the next vocation, and the next, and the next. In each one, Selvan found something he didn’t like and so he quit. Usually, the problem was always the same. In fact, he was having the same problem right now.
Selvan sighed angrily and put down the lute, after failing to create a sufficient-sounding melody on it. He wasn’t good enough yet…and he didn’t want to put in all that work to learn how to be better. He liked listening to music, and he liked making music by humming, but he didn’t like playing music. So, it seemed there was another vocation that was not for him.
“What am I going to do?” he whispered to himself, “Is my favorite vocation no vocation? If I’m so…” he paused, thinking of the word, “Well, if I’m honest with myself, lazy is the right word. If I’m so lazy…if I’m so hesitant to do any kind of work…how am I ever going to do anything? I’ll just be a soldier forever, and have to train forever…or get killed in some war,” he shook his head, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself,” he finished sadly.
As he looked down, he heard other rabbits walking through the garden. He was hardly ever alone in the gardens, although no one ever found his hiding place there behind the rhubarb plants. Selvan had the quiet sort of personality that made it easy for others to not notice him…and he definitely wasn’t in anyone’s line of sight either. The sense of invisibility was one reason that drew Selvan to this place; he liked to be invisible. Deep down, he liked hiding himself from other rabbits. It made him feel safer in some way.
Safe from what? Safe from judgmental rabbits? Safe from my duties? Safe from all of my responsibilities and fears?
Invisibility was a respite for Selvan, and he sometimes wished that he were actually invisible. Then nobody would be forcing him to do what he didn’t want to do. He could be free! He could go out and be alone, with no fears for the future, and do what he wanted to do without interference…to the end of his days.
That was Selvan’s dream. A place where there is nothing to be afraid of, where he wouldn’t have to do any work, and where he would be free.
Selvan’s ears drooped slightly. That’s just a dream, and not reality. In the real world, I have duties, and responsibilities, and they’re all just weighing me down, and enslaving me. I wish I didn’t have to work. But Father’s right. I need to. This isn’t a perfect world. And no matter how much I believe it’s torture, I still need to work. Oh, but I wish I didn’t have to. I wish– he cut himself off sternly, What I’m wishing for is an excuse to be lazy. What I’m wishing for is not reality.
He sat silently in the bushes, the beginnings of tears in his eyes again. Ever so softly, he whispered, “But I wish it was.”
After a few more minutes of sitting on the shaded soil, he looked around and realized it must be getting late. They’ll want this lute back, he thought, referring to the meager number of musical rabbits at this citadel, and Father will worry.
There was one person in the gardens yet, he could tell by the footsteps, and Selvan would rather keep this secret place of his private. But, he soon realized, that was another excuse to stay here.
He reached for the lute to leave when his ears picked up the sound of running feet. A newcomer had entered the garden. Selvan could tell that the heavy breathing came from a buck, but he couldn’t see anything else for all the leaves and shrubs around him.
“Lord Blackstar,” came a slightly winded voice, The newcomer, Selvan decided.
He hadn’t known that the rabbit walking in the gardens was Victor Blackstar, but that didn’t make much difference. Uncle Vic, as nobody called him, was Selvan’s uncle, so there was less expectation on Selvan to honor the lord’s presence at every moment. A small relief.
Victor acknowledged the buck and then asked, “What is it?”
“I have just returned from Cloud Mountain,” the buck replied, “with news from Lord Rake.”
Selvan suddenly felt afraid that he was eavesdropping. This was a private message for Victor from their sister citadel. It wasn’t his place to overhear. Part of him wanted to jump up and say that he was here, but that was too embarrassing. Selvan’s curiosity got the better of him though and he listened in.
Victor seemed to have paused for a moment, as if looking around, and then said in a lower voice, “What is it?”
Selvan could barely hear the answer, but he nearly jumped when he heard it.
“There are Longtreaders at Cloud Mountain.”
“Longtreaders?” Victor asked.
Longtreaders. The name was black among rabbits, ever since Garten Longtreader betrayed the last king…to his death.
Lord Blackstar inquired more and Selvan was able to make out that there were three Longtreaders at Cloud Mountain. Wilfred Longtreader, and two of the children of Whittle Longtreader. All were free. Selvan strained to hear the rest of the conversation and heard something about Lord Rake wanting to organize a meeting of the citadel lords at Cloud Mountain.
Victor thanked the messenger and dismissed him. He remained for a time before he himself left the garden, leaving Selvan alone.
The gray-furred rabbit poked his head out of the leaves, looking around in all directions. Finding that no one was looking, he shot out of his hiding place, lute in hand, and ran. He always told himself not to be so curious because it would get him into trouble. Now he had a problem. He knew a secret that he wasn’t supposed to know.
He realized that if he kept running, it would look suspicious…but then again, running would help him return the lute faster and get back to his family, so he decided to keep running.
Selvan tried to stop himself from thinking about what he had heard, he tried to erase it from his mind, but no use.
Longtreaders. Longtreaders at Cloud Mountain. Three of them.
Many rabbits here at Kingston hated the name Longtreader with a passion. Selvan was less quick to judge. After all, only Garten had been a traitor, not his brothers, Whittle and Wilfred.
But there were numerous counterarguments in his mind.
One, Garten was the only one who revealed he was a traitor. The others could have been in on it.
Two, everyone else hates them and I’m used to hating them, so why shouldn’t I?
Three, things usually run in the family, so all Longtreaders could be dangerous.
Four, Garten disgraced the family. So shouldn’t the family be disgraced and dishonored wherever it goes?
In retrospect, Selvan wasn’t certain if many of those arguments were solid.
Ultimately, his feelings about the Longtreaders boiled down to this: I don’t like them. That family has destroyed so many rabbits’ lives…but, does the entire family deserve dishonor?
If Selvan had been someone else, he would have indignantly called out for the Longtreaders’ arrest, or execution. For that reason, he held himself duty bound not to tell anyone about what he had heard, not to let on that he had ever known. Breaking his silence could lead to only bad things. Lord Blackstar would reveal the information if and when he thought it was right. Selvan trusted Victor enough to know he’d do just that.
But until then, Selvan would not tell a soul what he had heard. He dropped off his lute, and by the time he made it back to his brothers, he was able to act completely normal. No one would be able to guess from how he acted that something was amiss.
He would try to keep it that way. He owed it to Victor for eavesdropping on him.
Selvan saw his brothers wave at his approach, and he waved back, covering the remaining distance.