|“||My place beside you, my blood for yours, till the Green Ember rises or the end of the world.||”|
— The Green Ember
"Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.
Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?"
Picket and Heather were two young rabbits living in the peaceful village of Nick Hollow in the far north of Natalia, with their father, mother, and baby brother, Jacks. In the fields between the East Wood and West Wood, just outside their elm-tree home they loved playing the game of Starseek with each other.
One day, as Heather threw the "star", the centerpiece of the game, the wind picked up, causing it to be caught in the low branches of an old, dead maple tree near the edges of the East Wood, but still too high for either of them to reach. Their father had warned both of them not to venture near East Wood, and they had no desire to, for it looked to be a frightening place, dark, as though it held some secrets that would terrify them if brought to light. But since the ribbon that Heather had made the star out of was costly, they felt as though they had to do it if they wished to play their game ever again.
So Heather, who was older, gave the reluctant Picket a boost so that he could reach the star. Picket, who was afraid of heights, managed to reach it, but at that moment, lightning struck the tree, terrifying Picket and causing him to fall and faint from fright.
The lightning proved to be the herald of an oncoming storm, for the wind grew suddenly strong and rain started to fall to the ground. It had struck one of the maple's branches, and it now came crashing down upon the two of them. Heather managed to grab Picket and roll down the slope upon which the maple tree had grown. He awoke, and they ran across the field back to their home in the elm. They were frightened at the storm, the great wind, and the dark and deathly overhanging eaves of the East Wood, all of which seemed much scarier than they had been but a half-hour before.
When they finally made it to their elm-tree, their family met them there, and their mother gave them towels with which to dry themselves off.
As they settled into the comfort of their home, their anxiety quickly wore away, and they asked their father to tell them a story.
Their father, meanwhile, who seemed somewhat different than he usually was, looked into the fire and started to tell them the tale of "The Rise and Fall of King Jupiter", which they had never heard before despite their father's love for telling stories. He was grim and sad as he told it, as though it was not a mere story that he was telling them but a piece of history that he knew very well. His strange behavior made Heather to think of what their parents may have experienced in their early days; for they lived in Nick Hollow, far away from family of any sort, and both their parents were always reluctant to speak of their past to them, as if they were dark memories not worth recalling.
But their father's story of King Jupiter sounded rather fairy-tale, with kings, battles, villains and betrayal. Could it be true?
Their father did not finish his tale that night, although they earnestly desired for him to continue. It was late, he said, and he would continue it by the morrow. So they went to bed with full heads, and Heather thought that she'd never be able to go to sleep.
When they awoke, it was morning. They spoke with each other about their father's tale, which had sounded more strange and yet more real than the other stories he often told them. They were not left to speak on the subject for a long while, however, for they were soon called down to breakfast by their mother.
A strange female rabbit, who introduced herself as "Lady Glen", was speaking with their parents; they had never seen her before. They were apparently speaking on a subject that they didn't want either of them to hear, for right after they finished breakfast, their parents sent them out to collect blackberries.
So, they trudged out of their elm-tree home at a reluctant gait, along with their baskets into Gladeberry in West Wood, where the blackberry bushes were. Past Evergreen Row and the Seven Mounds they raced, and they didn't stop until they suddenly heard a scream coming from where their neighbor Mr. Elric lived. Not knowing what to think, they started running back towards their home to get help.
They rounded a corner in the path at the edge of the forest and stopped suddenly, gaping in horror at what they saw: there was their elm-tree home, wreathed in flames and smoke, surrounded by a contingent of wolves in uniform. Their father, mother, and baby brother Jacks were nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, Picket sobbed loudly, and the wolves saw them. Five of them came running toward them.
Picket and Heather fled into a thicket, followed by the five wolves. Heather, who felt responsible for her younger brother, decided to buy him some time to get away. So she stopped running, so that the wolves could catch up to her. She did not have to wait for long, for they soon surrounded her and their leader started to speak to her about things she didn't understand, for he hinted in an alluring way that her family had done something terribly wrong, and were now paying the consequences. Could what the wolf was saying be true?
Heather shook the thought away, and came back to her senses. She was surrounded by wolves with no way out. But she came up with an idea: she pretended to be lame by limping about so as to throw off their guard. It proved to be successful, for even as the wolf-leader was speaking to her, she was able to suddenly spring to her feet and dive into the thicket. The surprised and angered wolves lit the thicket with fire and she barely escaped with her life.
Once out of the burning thicket, Heather rested for a little while on the ground, and realized that the fire the wolves started had proved to be detrimental to their attempts to find her, as the fire now blanketed the whole area in an obscuring fog of smoke. The wolves were crashing through the thicket and shouting at each other in the confusion. She couldn't see any of them, for the smoke and the thicket obscured them from view. However, she caught a glimpse of the wolf-leader through a hole in the thicket. He did not see her at first, but then he turned and looked straight at her.
Heather got up from her resting place, and moved by instinct and memory through the smoke toward Evergreen Row. When she reached the Row, however, she found that the wolves had gotten there first, and were waiting for her. Just as the wolves came at her and she thought that there was no way of escape, she suddenly came up with an idea: she jumped into one of the evergreens of the Row, so high up that her pursuers could not reach her.
The wolves, who were angered at her audacious attempt to escape them, started to fire arrows into her direction, and she was soon forced to jump abandon her tree for another. She was planning on making for the Seven Mounds, which she knew was where Picket had found refuge, and she knew that if she kept on jumping from tree to tree, she would soon reach the end of the row, beyond which were the Mounds.
She continued much like this for some time, with the wolves below shouting and shooting all sorts of missiles at her. As frightened as she was, she did not give into fear, and kept going; very soon, she had reached the second-to-last tree, but as she jumped, an arrow from one of the wolves' bows caught her ear. That was the only injury she was to receive from their arrows, however, and she made it safely to the next tree.
As Heather jumped down from the last tree and started running towards the Mounds, she realized that the wolf leader was in her way, and she was running too fast to stop. He leered at her, readying his weapon as she approached. Heather was filled with dismay, but then gathered all her courage and quickened her stride, landing squarely on his head. Stunned, he toppled over, as she continued her sprint to the Mounds.
She was nearly there, and she knew exactly where Picket was hiding: in the Seventh Mound, there was a little hole which led to a small cave. She knew that Picket could fit through the hole, but she had never tried and thus did not know whether she could. But there was nothing else to be done, for there were wolves on her tail and she was in desperate need of refuge. So she pressed on, and in one final action, she threw herself feet-first at the entrance of the cave.
But she didn't fit. She couldn't squeeze any more into the hole or out, and the wolves were nearing her. It seemed that her death was certain.
As the first wolf reached her, he was suddenly struck down by a large, gray rabbit who had emerged from the obscuring brush to her right. Out of the thicket came another rabbit, who ran at her and, placing his feet firmly on her shoulders, pushed her into the hole and safety.
The jarring impact made her faint, and Picket came quickly to her side. Outside the cave he could hear the sounds of the battling rabbits and wolves as they fought. Gradually, however, the noises faded into the distance, and Picket was suddenly surprised when a rabbit entered the cave. He could not make out much of him in the dim light, but he could tell that he was just about his size although he seemed unusually strong. He had a sword at his side.
The strange rabbit picked up Heather, and because there was no other way, they decided to go through the hole in the back of the cave and plunge into the darkness.
They found with relief, however, that it wasn't totally dark. For a little light seemed to be coming through small holes in the roof and walls of the passage, which revealed dark, old things lying about as if abandoned. Picket led the way through the passage, trying to determine which way would lead out. There were many sub-passages that presented themselves to their right and to their left, but they kept to the main passage. After going through the dark, monotonous passage for quite a while, the strange rabbit finally collapsed and let Heather down from his back to rest upon the floor of the unfamiliar passage.
The strange rabbit breathed hard, and Picket sensed that he was tiring. There, as they rested upon the floor of that passage, the rabbit introduced himself to Picket as "Smalls". He proceeded to ask Picket if he had any idea how they could get out of there. Picket, meanwhile, who had nearly given up on ever getting out of the passage, sat in the dark quietly, and suddenly started to determine their way out by considering how the Seven Mounds looked like from outside. Seeing a small stream flowing nearby them, Picket came to the conclusion that if they followed that stream through the passage, that they would finally make it to the end of the First Mound, where the water flowed out; a place which he remembered seeing from the outside. He explained his plan to Smalls, who agreed to it, as he had no better. Smalls picked up the unconscious Heather once more, and they made their way through the dark hall once more.
As they hurried along their way, they started to hear strange noises coming from the many passages that opened to each side of them. The noises were becoming louder and coming closer, and driven by fear, they pressed on with more determination than before.
Finally, they came to a place where the passage split into three tunnels that steeply sloped downwards into the darkness. Because neither of them knew which one they should take, Smalls decided to guess. He pushed Picket into the middle hole and then jumped in himself.
They did not have to slide down the tunnel for very long before the tunnel bottom soon gave way to a narrow drop, and they found themselves falling into dark, cold water.
When Picket surfaced, he looked around to find that he was in a subterranean pool within the First Mound. He then looked around for Heather and the rabbit Smalls.
Picket spotted Heather who had awoken from her deep stupor. She was pulling at Smalls, who had fallen unconscious from exhaustion and surprise. Together, they pulled him to the pebbly shore.
Heather asked Picket what had happened ever since she had fainted, and he told her everything. Now that Heather's curiosity was satisfied, both of them agreed that they needed to find a way out of the Mound. Heather spotted an old row boat hanging by a rusty chain on the far wall of the Mound, and she swam over to it to take it down. Picket followed her, and spotting a crack in the wall just above him, he climbed up towards it. Looking through the crack, he caught a quick glimpse of the gray rabbit who had aided them when the wolves went for Heather. Picket called to him, and he came to him. In desperation, they rammed at the wall in order to break it down, but to no avail.
Picket then had an idea. He grabbed Smalls' sword from the far beach and with it managed to break the chain that hung the boat against the wall (the chain served to connect the boat to its anchor) so that the boat fell into the water. The gray rabbit saw what he had done, and asked for him to thread the chain through the crack in the wall.
Heather and Picket then climbed into the boat, paddled to shore, and then lugged Smalls into the boat. The gray rabbit on the other side of the wall was meanwhile pulling at the chain so that the anchor caught on the wall. He seemed to be pulling at it with all his might, but the wall was not breaking.
Picket then realized that the noises that he and Smalls had heard while in the passage were growing terrifyingly nearer. Filled with fear, he took up Smalls' sword to defend himself and his sister.
- The Green Ember was the first book S. D. Smith had ever written.