He kept expecting to round a corner and meet up with Daryle or Duncan on their way back to The Village. But no, with every passing moment the sun was creeping towards the canopy horizon and there was no sign of Bunny life. Everyone had stopped their daily chores in order to make it back to The Village for The Sacrifice.
His mind kept flitting back to The Pyre in the sky that he’d seen earlier. He wasn’t sure whether it was his fear of missing the start of The Sacrifice or his desire to tell the other Bunnies about what he’d seen that was driving him on. Well, actually, he was pretty sure it was his fear of missing the start of The Sacrifice, but even so, telling The Village elders about the fire in the sky came a close second. The flying Pyre was a sign. Surely now they would believe in the legend of the Return of Dragon Dragonson.
Ever since he was a kitten, Derek had been told the story of the Return of Dragon. His father and his father’s father and, well, it was something of a Derekson family tradition to tell the story of how Dragon The Explorer would Return to Nob and lead the Bunnies to salvation.
Legend had it that Dragon Dragonson would use The Sacrifice as a beacon to guide him back to Nob. For years, The Village elders had reluctantly permitted the Dereksons to propagate the word of Dragonson since it also helped promote the importance of The Sacrifice. However, they held that The Sacrifice had nothing to do with the Return of Dragon the Explorer, the ritual was held daily, they said, in order to appease the spirits of The Forest. Nothing more, nothing less.
More recently though, when Dave Daveson came to power, The Village elders argued that all talk of using The Sacrifice as a beacon for some mythical explorer would only ever displease the sprits. The Forest was all, everything and everywhere at once. It was this fundamental disagreement over Bunny Law that ultimately saw The Village elders proclaim exploring illegal, and banish its practice evermore.
And in defence of the elders’ decision, things had definitely started to improve in The Village. The Forest sprits had started leaving gifts for The Bunnies to show their pleasure at some of the new legislation passed. Nuts and berries were more plentiful than ever, there was more cheese for the Bea, the quality of grooming products had also risen significantly, and The Village Elders had been presented with magical talking boxes through which The Forest spirits were able to communicate their ecclesiastical messages.
Discovery through exploration was akin to blasphemy, said the spirits. And there was only one punishment meted out to blasphemers: The Sacrifice. This thought stopped Derek in his tracks. He was rushing back as quickly as possible to avoid The Sacrifice and yet the moment he opened his mouth to tell The Village elders of his discovery, he would be thrown on The Sacrifice. It was Catch 22.
As he debated the despair of never returning home, Derek heard a large clang off to his left. He heard some rustling in the undergrowth and looked over to see the smiling face of his friend and fellow forager, Duncan Duncanson. “Derek!” said Duncan, “what the bloody hell are you doing here? Come on mate, we’d best get a wriggle on or we’ll be late for The Sacrifice.”
Derek considered his options, “..well, I can tell Duncan, maybe,” he thought, “but not the others.”