Chapter Sixteen: Thunderhorse

He had taken the little red table from the summer house—the one with the folding legs—and had set it up by the shore. The lake was calm, so he placed the table in the shallows, working the legs into the sand for support. Here they sat, the water lapping at their feet, lilac petals drifting by their heels like tiny, fragile boats.

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Chapter Thirteen: The Waif and Her Brother

She took his hand in hers and led him up the garden path.

“I had persuaded the Prince to give up the fight, if but for a day,” the Knight said to her, “but a Prince is a tenacious thing, and I knew his wish for a Princess-bride had not diminished.”

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Addendum – Escalation

Once, near the end of winter, Nin visited a populous, bustling, successful warren. He had heard many great tales of the warren’s wealth and splendour. And when he visited the burrow, he indeed saw these things – intricately carved tunnels, gilded floors, fresco walls.

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Addendum – Vivisector

Once there was a group of rabbits who lived and frolicked on the plains beneath a certain mountain. Theirs was a fertile land, and although the rabbits thrived – fat on the prairie-flowers and wild-berries that grew there – they were also under constant siege. Wolves, hawks and foxes too, made the plains their home.

To combat these threats the rabbits of the plains devised an ingenious solution – the vivisector – an artificial carapace, lined with brier thorns, that they mounted on their backs, much like a turtle does a shell.

Any predator that dared to attack a rabbit in search of a tasty morsel found instead a sharp surprise. Predators learned to avoid any rabbit with a carapace; all warren production shifted towards mass vivisector manufacture.

The first vivisectors were crude, makeshift things, soon perfected into sharp and deadly instruments.

Rabbits became emboldened, openly challenging the predators.

After a long and bloody campaign, the rabbits came to dominate the plains. The predators left the land entirely in search of easier game. Rabbit deaths plummeted, the warren rejoiced. They had accomplished the great dream of all rabbits: a country ruled by the meek.

But without any predators to cull the population, the warren soon became overcrowded, fit to burst.

Under normal circumstances, perhaps a group of rabbits would have split off from the main burrow and made their own warren in a distant land. But the plains were rich in resources, and the rabbits, who had secured their home with blood, were not keen to abandon their hard-earned paradise.

Instead, the rabbits of the plains turned their vivisectors on each other. They had the means now, to defend and take what was theirs. Every rabbit was equipped. The machines of war turned inwards. Murder incited murder, paranoia ran rampant. A great but quiet cull began. Soon the leading cause of death among the rabbits of the plains was not predator, but vivisector.

Rabbits ceased their frolicking. No one played, no one danced. The plains became killing grounds, became empty. Rabbits stayed safe in their homes beneath the earth. When they did emerge from their burrows to forage, they ate greedily, quickly, suspicious eyes darting between their neighbors. Those that could, stockpiled private stores. Others went hungry.

Vivisector spikes grew longer, sharper, with poison tips and quills.

Rabbits huddled in their homes, fiercely protective of their hoards.

And the burrows ceased to be a warren, but a mere collection of individuals.

And when Nin came to that land, he found a plain without predators, with enough and plenty to make every rabbit fat. He thought it a paradise until he dared to peek inside a burrow, and found naught but a collection of half-crazed, half-starved rabbits, hiding in their holes, adorned with thorns, murder in their eyes.