The First Rabjinn
Part Three of Three
By: Gabriella Balcom

Four weeks later

"He's really learned to use the magic, hasn't he?" Governor Prentice asked, gazing down at Mortimer's lamp from the top of a nearby rise. Beside him, the councilmembers nodded.

"Not everything involves magic," Zaatad replied. "A lot of that took time and effort."

Below them, a garden flourished, several rabbits busily examining the plants or yanking out weeds with their teeth. Others sat quietly in line, waiting to be seen, hope reflected on their faces. In the midst of all of it, the golden lamp glowed, shining in perfection with no trace of tarnish. It looked brand new, draped with vines and a variety of bright flowers growing over it.

Buttercup's voice drifted up toward them from the garden, where she looked over one kit's work there. "Don't pull that one up, dear. This green grows wild, and we want to leave it. Now this one—" She pointed a paw at another plant. "These awful thorns will poke anything they touch, and I can tell you they really hurt. We take this plant out by the very bottom. Watch."

Mortimer turned from where he sat beside a bush, dropped a few berries in front of an older doe, and gently laid his nose on her forehead. She immediately burst into tears and announced he'd healed her. Excited voices rang out all around them.

"That was magic," Zaatad told the Council.

Hopping to the next rabbits in line, Mortimer smiled at them. The father stuttered, "We—I-I mean—could you—." From the rise, the Council watched the earth tremble as a new burrow formed itself. Bursting into happy tears, the family scrambled over each other and around Mortimer in their haste to rub noses with him in gratitude.

He moved toward the garden, no doubt intent on getting them some food. Behind him, tiny sprouts burst from the ground in his tracks. Soon dozens of flowers blossomed on fully-grown stems.

Two councilmembers gasped.

"Yes, that's magic," Zaatar said quietly. "The rest is, too. Just of a different kind. Mortimer's love for those around him and his desire to help them has always been his own personal form of magic. He's had that his entire life."

"He still believes we unfairly singled him out to strip him of his rights," Governor Prentice said. "He doesn't know the truth."

"That's all right," Zaatar replied. "Someday, I'll tell Mortimer how long we'd watched him. We wanted the best rabbit and only he would do."


Five days later

Deep Thicket's inhabitants woke to a heavy dampness in the air, which smelled like rain, and static in their fur. The weather was changing. Something bad could be coming.

"It is important you stay inside your homes," Governor Prentice announced. He and the elders had been urging everyone who'd ventured into the open to do the same. "It's for your own protection. If you need to forage, do it now, quickly, and return home." The Council selected reliable rabbits to help them go home-to-home, ensuring every villager heard the warning.

By that afternoon, enormous, dark clouds had formed, churning in the sky. A light drizzle fell. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and small bursts of lightening lit up the darkness. The wind picked up, knocking leaves and small branches off trees. But when the worst of the storm arrived, it seemed to happen all at once. The drizzle swelled into a torrent of pelting rain. The air crackled when a bolt of lightning struck a tall oak tree outside the village, splitting it down the middle and sending the thing crashing to the ground. Strong, endless gusts of wind blew through Deep Thicket, bending the trees. But the storm's intensity only grew. Unable to withstand the gale forces any longer, one tree after another fell, pulled from its roots, or snapped in half, and the ground shook with their landing.

Cries for help rang out, and many rabbits poured from their homes. They weren't the only ones affected by the storm. Several birds' nests had been jarred from branches and lay in ruins on the ground. One of them had been filled with eggs—now cracked and spilled across the ground. Terrified shrieks rose from one felled tree. The investigating rabbits found three baby squirrels trapped inside their hollow, the entrance of which was now blocked by the ground. The young squirrels cried out, trying to explain that their parents had been gone since before the storm. Their tree had also fallen onto two rabbit warrens, and the trapped rabbits' pleas for help blended with the squirrels' agitated squeaking.

***

Mortimer woke from a sound sleep, his eyes popping open. He'd had the worst nightmare of his life, but he automatically knew something awful had happened.

"What's wrong?" a buck asked as he hopped toward Mortimer. "We heard you cry out."

The mother whose kits and father he'd healed had taken up temporary quarters on the far side of Mortimer's lamp, which seemed to have grown larger to accommodate their need for a bit of privacy. But they weren't the only newcomers sharing his home. Mortimer had moved in two other families until he could address their need for homes by finding suitable locations. He could have conjured some, but he'd thought it better to look in person. His new responsibilities had been keeping him busy, and he'd enjoyed the company, so he hadn't been in any hurry to get the other rabbits out on their own.

Hopping outside, followed closely by most of his visitors, Mortimer ignored the downpour and sniffed the air. "I smell something acrid," he announced. "Fire maybe."

"Or lightening," added the elderly buck who had once been dead.

Without a word, Mortimer vanished, only to return seconds later. "The other part of Deep Thicket took the worst of the storm, I think. If you're willing, your help is needed." All the rabbits then vanished except for the old buck, who'd agreed to stay in the lamp with the kits.

The group of rabbits reappeared in the middle of the village. "Oh, thank the Great Rabbit in the Sky that you've come," a few councilmembers proclaimed, surrounding Mortimer and all talking at the same time.

"Three young squirrels can't get out of that tree," Governor Prentice explained. "Two rabbit families are trapped inside their homes beneath it." His raspy voice cracked. "My daughter and her family are there. We've been trying to dig them out, but there's so much water everywhere. If their warrens are flooded... We haven't heard them call out for some time." Tears filled his eyes. "Many other families are caught under fallen trees. Can you do anything, Mortimer? We just can't get to everyone in time."

Mortimer glanced up, and the pouring rain ceased. Rabbits blinked in shock, then looked around. Without the downpour, the destruction in Deep Thicket was clear. Trees lay everywhere on the ground, some broken or splintered into pieces. Bushes had been ripped up—roots and all—and water pooled in several places, some of them three or four feet deep. Two dead rabbits and a few birds floated motionlessly in one larger body of water.

Eyes blazing, Mortimer's body rose into the air, a smoky mass beneath his body. He looked as much a djinn as Zaatad, who watched in silence nearby. Gasps and awed murmurs swept across the village as fallen trees slowly lifted into the air, moved from where they'd landed, and gently lowered again in safer places. Water rose in streams, arcing over the village to be redeposited well out of the way.

Weeping and wailing filled the air as rabbits discovered relatives or friends who'd been crushed or drowned. Even so, their grief was short-lived. The dead came back to life, and the earth opened to release those the storm had buried beneath it.

Mortimer settled back onto the ground and waved off all the praise and unwanted worship. "Stop that!" he hissed at two prostrating councilmembers. "You know what the most important thing is now."

With that, the inhabitants of Deep Thicket began to clean up and rebuild. The mother whose babies and father Mortimer had saved was the first to volunteer to care for the now-parentless squirrels. Others he'd helped opened up their homes to a needy raccoon family and a number of other squirrels whose homes had also been destroyed.

That evening, voices called out in excitement when a group of unexpected visitors approached the village. Badgers, possums, bears, and birds brought either food to help the rabbits or offered to dig and construct new homes. A very humbled Council murmured repeated words of gratitude, but everyone knew the other animals had come for one reason alone—Mortimer. And those who helped left knowing they were always welcome to return, now considered honorary Deep-Thicketites.

Hope filled every heart working together.

However, that changed when another group came upon them. Shrieks of terror rose seconds before the clutter of bobcats charged full-speed into the village. But in no time at all, the intruders found themselves immobilized, their bodies lifting into the air against their will. Throughout Deep Thicket, hundreds of djinns appeared, each holding a flaming sword. Dozens of rabbit djinns joined them, breathing fire from their nostrils.

Governor Prentice's eyes were huge. "Are you doing this?" he whispered to Zaatad. "Th-thank you."

"Mortimer made the dijinn appear," Zaatad replied. "I only brought the rabjinns. They're Mortimer's descendants who haven't been born yet to this world."

"Do something!" a doe yelled. "They've already taken one of us."

When the other rabbits noticed the body in one bobcat's mouth, many of them cried out for justice.

But a feline spoke, his deep voice rumbling from the air. "I assure you that's no rabbit my mate carries. It is our son. The storm brought our den down on top of us, and he... died. We've heard of the rabjinn's miracles and came to beg for help."

Slowly, Mortimer lowered the bobcats back to the ground. Governor Prentice whispered, "Are you sure that's wise? Bobcats are tricky predators, and this could be a trick."

"It's not," Zaatad said. "A djinn can sense the truth of anyone's words. That bobcat is their Chief, and nothing he said was false."

Hopping toward the bobcat kitten, who'd been carefully lowered to the ground by his weeping mother, Mortimer touched the still, fluffy body with his nose. He smiled when the little one opened his eyes.

The kitten stared at him dumbly, then sprang to his feet and exclaimed, "You're glowing. Are you the Immortal Tom? I thought he'd be a bobcat like me. Is this the Starry Beyond?" The youngster uttered question after question without stopping.

"He looks fine to me," a councilmember murmured.

"Are you certain?" the bobcat chief demanded. His eyes still reflected worry, and he examined his son from every angle. "How can you tell?"

"Because he hasn't stopped chattering," the councilmember replied, grinning.

Soon after that, the bobcats left with promises of a lifetime truce with the rabbits of Deep Thicket, making it clear that they could be called upon for aid if a need ever arose.

One councilmember stared in the direction the felines had taken long after they'd gone. "I never dreamed we'd have bobcat allies."


Two weeks later

"You, there," Primrose said, nodding at a young kit gathering clover from the garden. "Bring me the best pieces."

The youth shook his head. "No," he replied. "I was told to get this for my family."

"Insolent little runt," she snarled, darting toward the kit to deliver a hard kick to his side. The young rabbit was knocked against the rough bark of a tree and whimpered.

"What is wrong with you?" Buttercup snapped as she hurried to examine the kit, who now had a bloody nose and no clover. "How could you do such a thing?" she demanded, whirling toward Primrose with a scowl.

"Oh, what do you know?" Sneering, Primrose studied the gleaming lamp and several rabbits scurrying around outside, working on their various tasks.

***

Mortimer heard the raised voices and went out the front door of his lamp. A number of rabbits had already reported what they'd seen to him. "Primrose, that was beneath you," he quietly said, watching Buttercup tend to the whimpering kit's injury.

Primrose tossed her head and announced, "I've decided to give you a chance after all, Mortimer. You have a suitable home now and can take care of me in the manner I deserve."

Buttercup turned to stare wide-eyed at the preening doe. Then she glanced at Mortimer. Her nose trembled but she said nothing.

Studying Primrose closely, Mortimer wondered why he'd never noticed the hardness in her eyes before. They were so cold. The rest of her had to be, too, if she'd treat a kitling that way without a second thought.

"Well, aren't you going to welcome me into my new home?" Primrose demanded. Eyeing the busy rabbits again who were still hard at work, she added, "It's about time you got a few servants."

"They're not servants," Mortimer replied. "These rabbits are helping to grow and tend to our food. It's intended for anyone who needs it."

Primrose scoffed. "Why share anything at all? It should be for us. We deserve the best of everything. At least, I do."

A ray of sunlight pierced through the treetops and landed on Buttercup. Several young kits had gathered around her, their eyes alight with wonder as she began to tell them a story.

Mortimer couldn't believe he'd never realized how very beautiful Buttercup was. She had such a soothing voice, too—melodious. Her eyes were warm and caring. They'd been friends for—well, forever—and she'd never let him down. But more importantly, he just couldn't imagine life without her.

She looked up and smiled at him.

"Buttercup, you're...you're beautiful," he finally managed.

Without a moment's hesitation, she left the kits to hop toward him. When she touched his nose with her own, the rightness of it stunned him. Warmth flooded Mortimer's body.

Behind them, Primrose spat, "Are you blind? Don't you see how filthy she is? That doe has dirt everywhere, and some of her fur is clumped together. She's not beautiful like me."

"I've waited for you forever, Mortimer," Buttercup confessed, ignoring the insults.

"And when I dreamed of the perfect mate and the kits and the happy life we'd have, I didn't realize you'd been here all along," he told her. Happiness filled him, and he felt like he could almost float. Only then did he realize he hadn't responded to Primrose's hateful words, and he couldn't let them go unaddressed. "Buttercup is the most wonderful, loving rabbit I've ever known," he said. "And she's the most beautiful doe I've ever seen."

As Primrose huffed away, Mortimer turned around and whispered, "I love you, Buttercup." They rubbed noses again and shared a sweet kiss.

The end.

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