He turned to exit the king's great hall holding his ears high. But the trip back down the red carpet felt twice as long as the first time he traveled it. He acted brave until he exited King Bunbun's chamber and the door closed behind him.
As soon as he was out of the king's sight, Buddy's head hung low, ears fell to his back. He felt as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. For a moment, he debated returning home to his human family where he was safe, warm and well fed. They loved him and provided for every need.
"What am I doing?" he thought as he hopped out of the castle and into the streets of the kingdom.
Buddy was so single minded of purpose when he was on the way into the castle, that he didn’t notice much about the kingdom. But as he exited the castle, he was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a bustling city.
He looked around and saw many different types of animals. All small and furry. There were not just other rabbits, but beavers, possums, ground hogs and every type of furry animal that he could imagine.
The streets were filled with food carts where small animals busied themselves eating and talking. Buddy stood on his back legs to take in the view. There were so many animals moving along the street, that small puffs of dust rose from their feet and hung in the air.
Buddy debated trying to clean himself to get some of the dust off when he felt something bump into his side.
“Hello,” Buddy said to a small chipmunk that now lay at his side.
“So busy; must hurry,” replied the chipmunk.
“Slow down little guy. What’s the big rush?” Buddy extended his paw to help the chipmunk up.
The chipmunk looked at Buddy’s paw; massive in comparison to his own, but reluctantly took it. The chipmunk, back on his feet introduced himself, “Chatter’s the name. I must get to my home to hide. About this time each day the hawk appears. You should hide too.”
“I’ve made note that the hawk appears early in the morning. He grabs some poor creature from the kingdom. I shudder to think what happens next.” Chatter continued. “No one else has noticed the pattern, but I have. I notice things. We must hide.”
Sure enough, just as Chatter finished, the horrible, piercing cry of the hawk sounded in the distance. The animals on the street began to run for cover.
“Come!” Chatter commanded. Buddy followed to a small alcove. It was almost a box, tiny and covered with ivy, just big enough for the two to squeeze in.
From a small slit in the side, Buddy could see the shadow of a large bird circling above. Soon, the shadow grew larger as the hawk swooped down, moving at incredible speeds to grab an unlucky field mouse off the street. The massive, scaly talons completely encircled the unfortunate mouse and with a flash, he and the hawk were gone.
“The horror! The horror!” cried Chatter, trembling in fear.
Buddy had never seen anything like it. But after seeing the hawk, he knew that he would somehow have to find a way to protect the kingdom.