Ragnar stared at the mound and noted the many burrow holes on its surface. Burrow holes meant a warren, and a warren meant there may be more than one, rabbit-with-a-hat. He strode to the top of the mound and waited – this was not near as much fun as a real fight but it was better than watching Allen shout at trees.
Rue snapped from being miserable when she saw Ragnar drawing his axe, ‘What is it Ragnar? Is it a monster? Is it a good or bad monster?’
‘It was a rabbit with a hat. And a clock,’ said Ragnar.
‘Awww cute! What did it want?’
A fair question thought Ragnar, ‘It said it was late, and asked for the time.’
‘Awww poor late rabbit, I wonder what it is late for.’ Rue thought about it, and then squealed, ‘Oh! Maybe it was late for a rabbit tea-party. Lots of rabbits. In hats and maybe little waistcoats.’
Ragnar thought about this and his day just got better; it would be little effort to remove a waistcoat along with the fur before the hat-rabbits went in the pot.
Erwin felt the last spell settle into his mind. Another day waiting for bird-men and Jay, and another day away from a real lab. And now Rue was squeaking and Rangnar had his axe out. So far: so predictable. Through the complex neurons of his cat-mind the words, ‘Rabbit in a hat,’ penetrated. He tried to amble over casually, but curiosity nudged him to speed.
‘Awww you did that cute funny-cat walk thing,’ said Rue.
Erwin ignored her.
‘Just in time Erwin!’ said Ragnar.
‘Never fret I am here. My considerable magical skills, and considerable mind at your disposal,’ said Erwin.
Ragnar smiled encouragingly at Erwin, ‘Yes that is what I mean! You’re the perfect size to go down that hole.’
‘Pardon? Oh I see. You see a small hole and you think, let’s put the most powerful party member down it?’
‘No. That’s not what I thought.’
Erwin looked at the hole. Actually what Erwin did was try to regard the hole. But to everyone else he was just looking at it. A rabbit in a hat? He walked towards the hole.
Shen drifted along. She had ascertained that what she was feeling was what humans felt when it was cold and rainy: a day best spent by the fire, or in Ragnar’s opinion, in bed conducting unnecessary mating. Just a day in bed. But winter was coming and the sun was weak. Her leaves were shedding, and she felt so tired. So sleepy. Not so much lulled to sleep by conspiring Autumn, but driven to somnolence by Winter’s cold drafts and watery light. She saw her companions were doing something. Something metabolically fast. Did it matter? Probably not? She settled into herself, and drew what comfort she could from the sun, and wished the breeze did not upset the monkey so badly. Baby also grumbled about the weather, which he felt even deep inside her.
Erwin poked his head in the hole. He saw a miniature door, with a hatstand outside it. On the stand were three hats: two toppers and one soft cap. Erwin thought the toppers looked grand, and one could even fit him.
‘Are there rabbits to kill?’ said Ragnar.
‘Kill! Kill?’ said Rue.
‘Lots,’ said Erwin.
Rue began to argue, from the point of cuteness, with Ragnar, and Erwin slipped deeper in. A supply of hats? Excellent.
‘What is going on here?’ demanded Gregor. ‘Erwin what are you doing in a rabbit hole? Ragnar, why do you have an axe out? And Rue what are you upset about?’
Erwin shot out as fast as a caught-cat should, but far faster than his dignity would have preferred. ‘Nothing, Gregor. Just looking. I like rabbit holes? Always have?’ said Erwin.
Ragnar sheathed his axe, and Rue clung to Gregor.
‘I go for five minutes to check on Allen, and this is what happens,’ said Gregor.
Gregor shed Rue, and then gathered himself and his misery by the fire. Erwin began to slink away from the hole. Erwin had never wanted the hat anyway. Ragnar sensed the fun was over, and also retired to the fire and drew warmth from it and some strong whisky. Rue returned to moping.
In the distance, shots could be heard. The party by the fire ignored them.
In the hole, the rabbits drank tea, looked out though a tiny window, and wondered why any creature would be so foolish to not be in its, or a friend’s burrow, on such a miserable day.