Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale
Chapter 2 - The Farm Raid
Authors Note : This is a clean fanfiction story written in the Watership Down universe. There are some scenes of natural violence, ie. predators hunting prey. Watership Down is copyrighted to Richard Adams. All world, references etc is copyrighted to Richard Adams.
This story was written during Nanowrimo 2005 and comprises of twenty chapters, however for the time being I'm only uploading the first chapter to see whether or not there is any interest for a clean fanfiction story posted on here by readers and of course this will be quite different to my usual written works on here.
Blueberry tossed and turned in his sleep as he thought of all the things that could happen tonight, that he didn't wake up to Captain Bracken's poke on the side. "Blueberry, come on, wake up. Captain Sando is waiting for us up top. Blueberry, come one." Captain Bracken shook Blueberry harder.
With a start, Blueberry woke up and nearly shouted but he saw it was only Captain Bracken and calmed down again. "Wha-what is it?" He asked while trying to calm down his thumping heart.
Captain Bracken just sat and shook his head. "You're late for the farm raid. Although was to be expected. Had bad dreams then?" He asked as he watched Blueberry get up, stretching again.
"Yeah I did have bad dreams, but I don't want to get into any trouble, so can we go?" He looked at Captain Bracken but he didn't move. "Come on, Blueberry." Captain Bracken said softly. "We can wait a bit more, just relax, you wear yourself out before we even get out there, you know?"
Nodding his head, Blueberry took slow and deep breaths until he felt himself calm back down again, the shakes from his body disappearing, just as the fog from his head from sleep. Eventually, Captain Bracken nodded his head and turned to head out. "Come on, we have to catch the other two who should be waiting by the road. They went on ahead of us."
Following Captain Bracken out of his burrow, Blueberry followed behind as they passed several other burrows which had sleeping rabbits, breathing in and out slowly. Turning his head this way or that as he passed the openings, he could smell the scent of the occupants and it made him feel safe and happy. Gradually they passed a burrow that had two rabbits talking quietly to themselves of the days events, the sound of sniffing came before a low voice from inside the burrow called out. "Good luck, Blueberry."
After a few moments, both rabbits were up on top in the cold night air. The grass was damp from dew as it began to cling onto their fur. Sniffing the air, Blueberry could tell that it had rained while he was asleep. Captain Bracken paused and listened before turning to face Blueberry. "Come on, let's get going."
Nodding his head, Blueberry went and followed Captain Bracken as they continued to hop along the grass side by side. Captain Bracken was quiet for a bit but he began to talk to break the silence. "So, what were you dreaming?"
Blueberry thought for a moment and then frowned. "You know, I can't honestly remember now. Why do you ask?" He looked at Captain Bracken who replied back. "Well, you were moving about in your sleep like you were trying to get away from something. You're not worried are you about heading out to the farm?"
Blueberry sighed. "A bit, I mean, after hearing all those tales about how dangerous it can be and all those elil about. I be a fool not to be a bit worried or scared." He went quiet as he felt a cold shiver run right up his back and hopped a bit further as though he felt something was behind him.
Looking behind him, Captain Bracken checked to see that nothing was following them before looking ahead again as they approached a small bush. Steering clear of it, they headed to where the first line of hedge was and slowed down. "Alright." Captain Bracken whispered. "What do we do here?"
Blueberry thought for a moment and replied by whispering back. "We check to see that nothing is hiding within the hedge." He sniffed the air and cautiously moved forwards as he sniffed again. "Can only smell field mice smell, some hedgehog tracks and er." He lowered his head to the ground and sniffed. "Can't make that one out, bit like mouse but it's... Oh, I don't know."
Moving up alongside, Captain Bracken took a sniff and wrinkled his nose. "That's a Rat scent, that's another thing." He got up again and carefully headed into the hedge with Blueberry followed and felt the twigs brush through his fur. Coming out on the other side to be in another field, he saw Captain Bracken waiting for him as he came up to him and they both carried on their way.
"What about rats, sir?" Blueberry asked as they carried on their way through the field, passing several sleeping cows. Captain Bracken replied back. "Rats can be good but some can be as bad as elil themselves. It depends on if they've eaten, their mood but usually rats carry diseases so be wary of them all the time."
Nodding his head, they could see two small dark forms on the other side of the field. Before Blueberry could say anything, Captain Bracken smiled. "Ah, there they are. We haven't wasted too much time then." Looking up to the sky and smiling. "Still inle." He came to a stop and reported. "Captain sir." Captain Bracken said. "I got Blueberry, sorry for the delay, first time jitters, you know how it is, sir."
Taking a look at Blueberry, Captain Sando nodded his head. "Ah, I see. Well I am glad that you both made it then." Feeling relieved that he wasn't going to be told off, Blueberry sat there and listened to what Captain Sando had to say. "Now listen to me Blueberry. Me, Captain Bracken and Hawk have done this farm raid now several times and it's quite simple so I will tell you what to do as well as Bracken and Hawk. Don't worry we're all here to make sure that we get through this okay. But you have had your training so if you can help another in trouble, then do so if it won't put the rest of us in danger, got it?"
"Yes sir, I got it." Blueberry replied back as he looked about him. "What are those things? Cows right?" He looked at the large black and white creatures sleeping on the grass. Hawk nodded his head. "Aye, those are cows; they're harmless as long as you don't get in their way when they're moving about. They just do what we do mostly and eat grass all day and sometimes at night as well."
"well, shall we continue on the way then?" Captain Sando said as he saw all three rabbits nod their head as they formed up. Captain Bracken and Hawk lined up beside Blueberry with Captain Sando up in front. It was he who spoke again. "Now, we have to pass a road that hrududu runs on."
Blueberry shook when that name came out, he had heard his mother and other rabbits in the warren talk about such things and didn't like it one bit. Carefully they moved through the hedge again and came out on the other side. There in front of him was the road, Blueberry had seen this before on his training and he didn't like it at all. Moving his head side to side, he searched for any bright lights that would come to claim him if he put one paw on the hard surface and he swallowed.
Hawk moved up alongside Blueberry and looked at him for a moment. "You be okay, just move when Captain Bracken goes. I will be going first with Captain Sando. The hrududu normally ignore us to be honest, remember?"
Nodding his head, Blueberry did remember the lesson, he thought back to the time when he had nearly got run over by one of those huge machines, with it rushing over him. "I know." He said softly. "I have to be brave."
Captain Sando spoke. "Be brave but don't be a fool either. You were lucky that day, Frith must've been smiling on you." Turning his head to look down into the darkness he turned to face Hawk. "Alright, let's get moving. Bracken, we will head up ahead again and wait for you at the last field before the road that leads to the farm. Give Blueberry last tips on how to deal with the elil there amongst other things, will you?"
Captain Bracken nodded his head. "Aye sir, I will." He watched as both Captain Sando and Hawk ran off across the road and vanished through the hedge on the other side. Turning his head to Blueberry he smiled and settled down. "We be okay here for a moment. Now what do you remember about what is in the farm?"
"Well, I know that there are rats and mice that try to steal crops from the tall buildings man stores it in. And with that there would be a few cats." Blueberry paused for a moment and then carried on. "As for the dog, well I think this farm has chickens doesn't it?"
Captain Bracken nodded his head. "Aye the farm does. Don't go anywhere near them if you can help it, they're a bit on the jumpy side. Can't blame them really, they can't get away as quickly as us when homba's are on the hunt. Though they do make a lot of racket to wake up the dog, bring the cats along to see what is going on and then you have man?" He thought for a moment. "So what do you know about man?"
"Only what I have heard before and from stories of El-Ahrairah." Blueberry replied back. "I suppose man came along to really keep our numbers down but they don't like other elil either."
Captain Bracken nodded his head. "And that would make them, what?" He looked up and down the road again before returning his gaze back onto Blueberry. "Well, it makes them a very dangerous creature to go up against. They're magical; able to kill us without even being near us with their banging sticks."
Getting up, Captain Bracken nodded his head. "Aye, so they can. That's why you should be extra careful while you're in there." He looked up and down the road again and then turned to face the younger rabbit. "Right, time for us to get moving. We carry on talking as we head for the farm."
Pushing himself up from lying on the verge near to the edge of the road, Blueberry came up alongside Captain Bracken and looked up and down the road. "How did you manage to overcome your fear of this thing?" He asked.
Giving the go ahead to run across the road, Captain Bracken waited until he was safe across and through the hedge before replying. Staying to the edge of the hedge, he looked about and sniffed the air. This field was empty but it had the strong smell of sheep in the air. Cautiously stepping out again, he replied to Blueberry's question. "I never did get over it but when you're on duty and have a mission to do, you have to get over it. Besides, being scared keeps you alert. Use it, don't let it use you or you run blindly into something you don't want to."
Stepping out of the hedge, Blueberry sniffed the air again and looked about. "Well, I don't plan on making it easy for anything to take me out." Lowering his head down to the ground he sniffed and looked about before heading off again across the field with Captain Bracken by his side.
"So?" Captain Bracken said after a short while. "What would you do if you came across a cat?" Both rabbits came to a stop again as they huddled together amongst a small patch of tall grass.
Sniffing the air while moving his ears about to catch any sort of sound, he looked towards a the right of him where a small field mouse was moving through the grass in fits of starts and stops. Still looking in that direction as he listened to the sounds of the mouse squeaking he replied back. "Not to move until the cat does, no matter how much it provokes me?"
"Good answer, you have been paying attention, more than the others of your age. Anyways, what do you do about the dog?" Captain Bracken asked as he too took notice of the squeaks from the field mouse.
Blueberry shook his head. "Sorry, not got a clue on that one. Don't think I was well when that was discussed. Can't we like talk to it and trick it?" He saw Captain Bracken shake his head. "No, they don't talk anymore, lost the power of speech I think after becoming man's best friend." He stopped talking as he heard a familiar loud hoot from above and crouched down a bit more. "Great, just what we need? Owl hunting in the area, keep still."
Keeping his ears flat to his head, Blueberry held his breath as he looked up and saw the owl fly overhead as it swooped down in the direction of where the field mouse had passed a few minutes ago. Both rabbits kept still as a loud high pitch screech came as both rabbits felt their blood run cold through their veins as Captain Bracken got back up. "Right, let's get moving."
Blueberry was relieved that Captain Bracken said that they should move and he followed closely behind him as they moved through the field quickly. Again they slowed down to check that the hedgerow was clear before passing through to the other side. This field was mostly just soil which moved up and down as though it had been raked by huge claws.
Bending his head down, Blueberry sniffed the moist soil and lifted his head back up. "What creature did this?" He looked around fearing for the worse as he saw Captain Bracken hop forwards and turned around to face Blueberry. "Oh, you mean this? It's just another man thing. They made it with a hrududu that has claws. It leave you alone if you keep out of the way, it just ignores you." He paused for a moment and then spoke again. "As for the dog, listen. We can out run them no problem but they can run a lot further than us and we will end up tiring out before they do. So the best thing to do is to not run in a straight line. Move about, double back, etc. They can't turn as quick as we can. Understand?"
"Yes, I understand and I'll remember that one." Blueberry replied back as they headed off again across the field but then started to turn sideways as Captain Bracken explained. "The farm is this way and we should be coming up to the other two in a moment. Now, please remember what I have told you, Captain Sando doesn't mess around while we're in here. Come to think about it." He turned to face Blueberry as they continued to run. "Neither does anyone. We won't be talking much from now on."
Hawk was waiting for them with the hedge behind him. He nodded his head as they both came up to him and spoke softly. "Captain Sando is on the other side of the hedge keeping an eye on out on the road and the farmhouse. It looks like everything is quiet but he's not taking any chances."
Captain Bracken nodded as he moved past Hawk and slipped through the hedge. Hawk looked at Blueberry for a moment and smiled. "So you got the talk then?" Blueberry nodded as he spoke back quietly. "Yeah, I did. Nearly made me turn and run back to be honest."
Hawk shook his head. "Now come on, it's dangerous but would you prefer to spend your entire life just in a burrow and being ordered to do this or that. You know you be a fully fledged owsla officer soon enough and not in training." He paused and smiled a bit more. "Forget that, we're always in training but you know what I mean?"
Blueberry nodded his head. "Yeah, is tonight going to be a lot of questions then?" He saw Hawk nod and he sighed. "Alright, I suppose I am being tested. So when do we head in?"
Hawk replied back. "As soon as Captain Bracken comes back to say that everything is fine and we will be heading into the farm. We need to get to the farmhouse garden, that's where the best flayrah is kept but it has its dangers." Blueberry nodded his head and spoke back. "Yeah I know, cats, dogs and man."
"Don't worry too much about it, you do fine." Hawk looked about as he spoke quietly again. "Did you hear the owl hooting a while back?" Hawk moved his head up to see if anything was up there as Blueberry replied back again. "Yeah, it flew over me and Captain Bracken. I think it caught a field mouse that passed us a few moments before. We were well hidden in some small patch of long grass in the field."
Hawk nodded, though he was worried. "We were thinking on heading back to see if you two were okay. We did think that the owl had left the area but it seems that we were wrong." He hopped away from the hedge as it rustled and landed beside Blueberry as Captain Bracken's head popped out from the leaf cover. "Come on, Hawk. You think I don't know when to run and hide when an owl announces it's in the area?"
Hawk swallowed as he replied back. "Yes sir, sorry sir." He blinked twice as Captain Bracken hopped out and spoke again. "Right, we're ready to head in. Blueberry, Captain Sando wants you to be with him. So go head through. I have to have a word with Hawk, you be with me on this one."
Moving through the hedge, Blueberry came up and saw that Captain Sando was a few paces away from him. Moving slowly to him, he saw the Captain turn his head around to look at him for a moment and then back to facing down the road where a metal gate was closed separating the world from the farm yard. Speaking quietly he spoke to Blueberry. "Well, here we are. You can turn back you know if you're not ready?"
Blueberry looked down the road as he sniffed the air, smelling cat, dog and other strong scents from other animals as well as man and something else that came from hrududu. Swallowing slightly he shook his head. "Sir, I want to do this, I've worked so hard to get to where I am now to back away now."
Captain Sando nodded his head. "Then so be it, you are ready after all. Just follow my lead and you do fine. There is much more to learn tonight and you must learn it quickly." Turning his head around as Hawk and Captain Bracken pushed themselves out from the hedge he looked back to the gate. "Bracken, take Hawk and cross the road, head down by the ditch and be careful of the cats, they be out there somewhere. Blueberry and me will head down on this side. We will meet up at the gate there. Let's be cautious shall we?"
Both Hawk and Captain Bracken crossed over the stone road which had a line of grass right in the middle of it, several dips with puddles or muddy water reflected the light from the moon which came out from the clouds overhead from time to time. Slowly, Captain Sando nodded and moved forwards, his ears pointed forward as he stopped after a few hops and checked the air by sniffing.
Blueberry was following up from behind and he sniffed the air himself to keep his own fear in check by needing to know what was around him right now. Turning his head to the other side, he could see Captain Bracken and Hawk opposite as they were moving a bit forward and stopping. Seeing Hawk check behind him, made Blueberry turn around as he checked the rear.
Slowly and carefully the four rabbits made their way towards the gate and stopped just by the concrete posts. Blueberry was looking behind him, checking for smell of cats which was strong but it was a old scent. Captain Sando sniffed the post and wrinkled his nose, whispering quietly. "Cats, right we need to be on our guard here." Turning to face Captain Bracken on the other side, he nodded and both he and Bracken slipped through the gap in the gate.
Both Captains sniffed the air as they looked around the main farm yard which was covered in concrete. Hopping a bit further in, the looked about again and then towards the main farm house, twitching their ears about as they heard the sound of a bed spring moaning before the soft sounds of slow breathing and heartbeats. Turning back they headed to the gate and nodded, Sando whispering quietly. "Right, come on, lets go get this over with."
Blueberry carefully moved a paw over the first metal rung of the gate, lifting his body over it as he felt the cold metal press against his tummy and back legs as he climbed over it into the main farm yard. Looking about, he could hear his heart thumping in his ears and swallowed before looking to where Sando was and hopping over to where he was. Carefully all four rabbits moved about the farm yard slowly and carefully, stopping now and again as a strange noise came.
Blueberry nearly jumped when he heard a loud groan coming from within the house as he snapped his head towards it. Captain Sando nudged him gently and whispered. "I know, but unless you see a bright light, man is still asleep. Come on."
They didn't say another word for a bit as they ventured more into the yard. Blueberry kept close to Captain Sando while they stopped and checked again with their surroundings. Captain Sando whispered to Blueberry. "There is where we have to go." Pointing with a paw to a open gate next to the house. The hinges were attached and smelt of oil to the stone wall that separated the main farm yard to the farm owners garden. Hawk moved through the gate while the other three waited outside and kept a look inside the garden and around the farm yard itself. Blueberry turned to look inside the garden now and sniffed the air. A strange familiar smell came to his mind from a while back when he was little. Moving his nose closer to the hole in the wood of the gate, he sniffed again and felt warmth move through his body. He whispered quietly to himself. "I know that smell."
Captain Bracken came up to Blueberry while Captain Sando kept an eye out for any movement in the farm yard. "You should. You had flayrah before you know, when you were just a young leveret."
Blueberry thought back for a moment as he felt something that he should know and turned to face Captain Bracken. "What happened to my mother?" He saw Captain Bracken look away and nodded for him to follow him into the garden. "Your mother was a fine doe, she was heavy with a litter that included you, but your father was killed by man before you were born." He slowly hopped over to a small bush in the garden and stopped. "When you were born and was old enough to start eating solids, she wanted the best so she headed to the farm by herself. She didn't make it, she ws injured by a cat but she brought you some flayrah herself." He looked at Blueberry for a moment and looked down. "We found you inside the burrow with her lying there still." He paused again before finishing. "So we as in the owsla took you in and fed you the best food to make sure that you would survive."
Blueberry was silent for a moment and he nodded his head slowly. "Thank you for telling me." He sniffed the air again and thought to himself. "I vaguely remember that night." Swallowing he looked about and pushed the feeling to the back of his head, it wasn't the time to go thinking like this at the moment. "Okay, so what do I do now?"
Hawk came back to where Captain Bracken and Blueberry was, nodded to them. "Garden is clear but it does sure as smell of cat. I best go and take watch so that Captain Sando can join you so you can teach Blueberry here on what to do." Without another word, he was off towards the gate.
"You okay?" Captain Bracken asked as Captain Sando was coming towards them. Blueberry nodded his head. "Yeah, I am fine, just a bit unexpected response for a night like this." Captain Sando arrived and smiled. "Well, if that's all the unexpected things to happen tonight then I will be happy. Come on, let's go see if those carrots are ready."
All three moved through the well cut lawn of the garden as they looked at the house from time to time as different noises just kept coming from it. Blueberry twisted his ears to the sound of water dripping, wood groaning and hearing the whole house creak and groan. Turning his head back to the front again, he could smell the scents of vegetables in the air.