2 The Pursuit of the White Bunny*
The children all spread out, looking for the white fur of the bunny that had disappeared amongst the foliage. Diggory was far ahead of the others, but after a minute, James called out further to the east, "Over there!"
Everyone turned their attention to where he pointed, and then jumped forward to follow the flash of white fur. The children giggled and laughed as they crashed through the brush, pursuing their target with none of the grace and finesse of true hunters. Instead they seemed to anyone who watched to be wild and crazed.
Diggory, determined to be the winner, charged forward past the others. He's spent far too much of the last few years holding second place to Rassa for attention. He was a knight's son, and yet the son of a mere farmhand garnered more attention. It became more and more frustrating as he watched Falla, perhaps the only girl he'd ever felt close with, seek out his friend more and more often. It was only on occasions such as this, where Diggory was physically superior, that he could prove he was better than Rassa. Noticing he was further ahead, Diggory took a chance to look back at the others.
James and a few of the other older boys were right behind him, but Jane was well on her way to being in their mix. Diggory didn't like Jane, in fact it was rare any of the boys did, mostly because she was so good at things that boys should have been better at, like wrestling, and lifting heavy weights. Jane was without a doubt the odd one out amongst the village girls, but she never seemed to mind. Diggory could only ascertain it was because of how close she was with Rassa.
The younger children and Falla brought up the rear of the main pack, and for a moment, Diggory couldn't spot where Rassa had gone. Then, he spotted Rassa jogging at the back with some of the younger children. Diggory frowned in annoyance, he wasn't even trying! It wouldn't be seen as a competition if Rassa wasn't even participating! How could Diggory win then?
Taking his chances, Diggory called out over his shoulder.
"Come on Rassa! You're never going to get anywhere going that slow!"
The boys jeered with him.
"He's as slow as a snail!"
"We'll have skinned, cooked and eaten that bunny before Rassa even makes it to the half-way mark!"
Jane and Falla frowned, annoyed that the boy they both admired was being taunted so much.
"You can't talk Diggory! You're a big cheat!"
While Jane threw insults back, Falla turned back to Rassa.
"Come on, Rassa! You'll be left behind!"
That was exactly why Rassa was staying behind. Well, not because he would, but because the younger children would. Their little legs couldn't possibly keep up, so they spent most of their time at the back of the pack. There had been more than one occasion in the past where one or two of the children had gotten lost. As a result, the adults had had a stern talking to all the children, and Rassa was in no hurry to hear it again.
"I'm coming!" Rassa called forward to reassure the others. He looked down at the younger children, "Come on, we've got a rabbit to catch!"
"But we can't run that fast, Rassa!" one of the children complained.
Rassa smiled, "I'll tell you guys a secret".
He motioned them closer and they eagerly stepped forward.
"What is it!"
"Yeah, tell us!"
"Well," Rassa began, "A rabbit can clearly run faster than any of us...so how then do we catch it?"
The children all looked confused, "But isn't that the idea? To run after it to catch it?"
"If it runs faster how can we catch it?"
"It's pretty simple...you just have to think smarter than the rabbit. Can you kids tell me what rabbits like most?" asked Rassa.
"They love food, so you're both right!" Rassa grinned, "And I just happen to know place where rabbits go to eat".
"Does that mean we can catch the rabbit there?"
"If we're patient, come on!" Rassa jumped up and led the kids after the other group. He noticed that Falla and Jane kept on looking back at him jogging with the kids. He frowned in concern as he watched Falla stumble on the edge of her skirt.
"Stop looking back, you'll fall!" Rassa called.
"No I'll be-"
Jane, ahead of her, had done just that.
the boys all chuckled and laughed and Rassa sped up, running to her side as she sat up, "Jane, are you okay?"
Jane attempted to look tough, but Rassa could see her grazed hands and the blood on her skirt. His father had told him it wasn't appropriate to lift a girl's skirt, so Rassa knelt beside her instead.
"Are you okay?"
Jane sniffed as she lifted herself to stand, "I'm fine".
Rassa could see that she wasn't. Falla looked over, "We've got to go, they're getting further ahead".
"Let them," Rassa replied, "They'll get tired running eventually".
Then he grabbed Jane's arm and put it around his shoulders holding her waste as he turned to the north, "Come on, there's a better way".
"Hey! why are you-"
"Stop complaining, you're hurt," Rassa scolded Jane, "And I know you'll be angry if I take you back to the village now. So I'll take you to where I was going, and while the kids help me, Falla can help you check your legs for injuries".
Jane paused, clearly annoyed at being scolded. But Rassa rarely spoke in such a strong tone, so all Jane could do in response was agree.
Falla hesitated, but joined them anyway, helping Rassa escort the younger children.
It took them ten minutes of walking north before they happened upon a meadow filled with little flowers and wild plants. Rassa shushed the group, and lowered himself down, then after a few minutes of the silence, the children's eyes widened as the meadow began to fill with rabbits.
"How did you know?" Falla whispered.
"Please, I've played this game plenty of times, I know that chasing the rabbit only works half the time, the other half we either get too tired or lose the rabbit, sometimes both. So, I had to think of another solution. So, if this is one of the times when we lose the rabbit, which considering how fast it is, is pretty likely, then guess where the rabbit is going to show up next?" asked Rassa.
"Where every other rabbit seems to be," Jane concluded.
Rassa nodded with a smile, "You check your injuries, come this way kids, we've gotta get a plan ready!"
The kids followed as quietly as they could so they didn't disturb the rabbits, and Falla stood beside Jane, both girls still surprised.
"I don't think he's been successful in getting the rabbit so far, do you?" asked Falla.
Jane shook her head, "Even with the knowledge he's got, it's still hard to catch a rabbit on your own".
Jane looked around, then lifted her skirt up to her knees, both of which had been grazed.
"Ow," she mumbled sadly.
Falla looked down in pity. Then she opened the pocket in her skirt and withdrew two long ribbons. They were supposed to be for her hair, but Rassa had said he liked the one she'd originally chosen anyway.
"Here, we can tie these around it until we get back to the village," Falla stated.
"Are you sure?" asked Jane. They were such pretty ribbons.
Falla nodded, "I can always get more ribbons".
So, Jane and Falla proceeded to tie the ribbons around Jane's injuries. They didn't exactly stop the bleeding immediately, but what else can children be expected to do?