Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 25

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5 of Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2


Chapter 25 - The Doe Rose

Birch, Bracken and Straw were busy working as they heard movement coming down the run again which turned out to be Halgrass arriving back with his guards who were carrying a mouthful of grass which they dropped to the floor. Looking a the other three they nodded their heads and walked off.

Inlo smiled as he looked at them. "Hmmm, looks like you have something to eat, well hurry up and eat your fill, then get back to work." The three moved past Halgrass as they didn't have to be told twice, each one moving to a slightly damp patch of grass and began to munch away on it quickly. The small meal didn't last long as it vanished with Inlo smiling. "Best make it last, you won't get anymore until tomorrow. Now get back to work."

Bracken looked at Straw, who nodded and followed Birch into the burrow while he made his way towards Halgrass, coming up alongside him. "So, what did our leader want then?" Halgrass didn't reply at first as he muttered under his breath. "He just wanted to talk." Halgrass started to dig at the soil wall again as he looked at it for a few moments and then stopped working. "Come on, what?"

Bracken pulled down some more soil as he replied back. "Well, you were gone a long time and yet you're being quiet about what he wanted. You think that he asked you to do something you didn't want to do or something?"

Halgrass growled slightly as he responded to that one and nodded. "He did, he wants me to do stuff for him, win fights so that you and Birch are safe." He stood up and looked back but saw that the guards were busy talking to themselves at the end of the run before returning his gaze back to where Bracken was. "I am also being separated as well from you, I am sleeping in Bluebottle's old burrow. No doubt I be sharing with someone I don't know but I don't know about that one."

"Great, so that's what he's up to." Bracken said as he began to work again. "Halgrass, be careful with him. I know exactly what he is up to now. He's going to try and get you to work against us, or split us up."

Halgrass nodded his head. "I know, we're new, strong and therefore a risk to their security." The buck stopped working and looked at Bracken. "Which means we have to try and escape, even if it's one of us, find someplace that could help us. Surely there would be another warren that wouldn't want to know about their plans on taking over the place. I thought Efrafa was bad in tales but this place..."

Bracken nodded his head. "So what exactly are their plans?" He continued to work as Halgrass replied back. "I don't know yet, not sure if I can fully gain their trust, we have to see what happens. That's if I can win the next fight that is." Bracken muttered something but spoke up after clearing his throat. "Well, one thing you're still fresh and you're not going to underestimate your next opponent are you?"

Halgrass nodded his head. "No I won't. However, I've been told that this time around I have to be more ruthless in defeating my next opponent or Birch will be thrown to that stoat or other elil."

Bracken stopped digging and stared at Halgrass with a frown. "And when were you going to tell me that. Of all the hrak.." He was stopped when he heard Inlo call down the run. "Okay, enough of the chat and get back to working. Bracken was fuming as he returned back to work as Halgrass whispered. "Trust me, I'm not happy about it either. I think we should get Birch out of here."

"I think you're right." Bracken whispered back. "Something that Straw said about showing weakness which would make another owsla buck here take advantage of the situation." Halgrass blinked, his ear twitching slightly as he felt soil fall on top of his head before shaking it clear, whispering back. "Such as?"

Bracken didn't reply at first as the buck ran things in his head but slowly he whispered back, his paws aching from working on digging all through this time. "Something Straw tried to tell me but couldn't. I think some of the officers like bucks like him." He stared at Halgrass's wide eyes and nodded. "I know, which is why I want to get him out as well. But I think it be best if we kept it between us three for the time being."

Halgrass winced as his paw hit a root and shook his head. "Oh great..." He blinked and looked about as he saw Inlo coming up towards him. "What is it?" Halgrass moved to the side and looked at Inlo. "We seem to started to hit roots. This is going to take longer than expected."

Inlo frowned slightly. "Okay, I have to get a doe down here." The buck sounded like he didn't like the idea at all. "Do as much as you can and then she can inform you on how to deal with it. Why you bucks never learn to dig is beyond me." Turning around, Inlo went down the run, unable to see Halgrass muttering a few unchosen words in his wake.

Inside the burrow, Birch was talking to Straw as they were putting the finishing touches to the burrow, they had heard what Inlo had said and Straw was looking worried. "They're bringing a doe down here now?" He began to work that bit faster as Birch looked at him. "Is that bad?"

Straw looked at Birch, nodding his head. "It depends on which doe is being brought down. We be okay I think if it isn't one of the fussy ones. But you really don't want to have Darkclaw-Rah's mate down here. She's really tharn, in a bad way. Anything that isn't perfect will annoy her and that will annoy her mate."

Birch blinked. "So this place is okay, right?" The buck sounded worried as Straw looked at Birch with a frown. "Right, stop that right now. You can't show weakness in this place. The others will use that against you, even your friends eventually." Straw continued to flatten out the floor, checking it carefully as he bent down his head to take a close look. "Birch, this place changes you, who you came in with as friends can turn against you given time. You have to start showing some sterner stuff." Looking back up again he looked at Birch. "I've already heard the talk moving through the warren about you and the stoat incident. No one blames you for the way that you acted and all but you need to learn from it, grow stronger or very bad things are going to happen to you."

Birch moved his paw over the soil floor and sighed. "I know and it's been bothering me since it happened. You know, I was trained to be able to think on my paws, not end up terrified out of myself. Always be prepared to save those that you're protecting was the owsla motto in our warren." Birch looked about the dark burrow and frowned. "I ain't sure if I am going to get a chance in this place though."

Straw came up to where Birch was and placed a paw on his back. "Listen, it was your first time seeing something like that." He saw Birch blinked and chuckled. "Oh come on, I can tell as I've been through it before once while I was with Bluebottle. He was a year older than me but he trained me to be an officer and I remember my time when I saw something like that. You want to know what he told me which helped?"

Taking a deep breath, Birch nodded his head as he flicked a ear while Straw pressed his nose into it before whispering. "Just do your best..." Pulling away, Straw lifted up his paw and then moved to another part of the burrow before speaking loudly again. "So, lets see if we can't make this place acceptable. You've done a good job before I turned up. So how did you do that?"

Birch just stood there and shook his head slightly to bring himself back to where he was. "Oh, I imagined what the burrow was like back at my old place before it was destroyed. Trying to work on memory, even though it was made long before I was born by some doe I really don't know the name of." Birch said with a thoughtful look and moved over to the wall to inspect it, scratching off any sharp pointed bits as soil fell to the floor. "You know, I never thought about that before. Who made a burrow that you call your home before."

Straw chuckled. "Well, it seems to have worked anyways." He perched his ears a bit higher and hopped towards the exit of the burrow and sniffed. "Hello.... We seem to have a doe in our run.." Birch blinked and hopped over to the other side of the burrow opening and listened to what was going on outside.

Outside in the main run, Inlo was looking worried as he saw a doe heading towards him and sighed slightly. "Ah, hello." He said, bowing his head to her as she approached. "I am sorry Rose, we were doing fine until we hit some roots and needed an expert advice on them and..."

Rose snorted as she looked at Inlo with a frown. "Bucks, always saying they're the best things in the whole world but come to digging out a warren and you haven't a clue. Just typical." She looked at Inlo who had backed away slightly before she blinked at him. "Well, come on. I haven't got all day you know. Let's go and take a look at what work has been done here, shall we?"

Inlo nodded his head as he backed out of Rose's way as she headed down the run while he went with here. They went past the burrow that Birch and Straw was inside, just the tip of their noses betraying their position as Inlo spotted it and gave them a frown. Immediately both Straw and Birch vanished out of sight.

Sitting there, watching them approach was Halgrass and Bracken who were looking at Rose intently wondering what she was going to say on the matter. Rose came to a stop in front of them and spoke. "So I heard you were having a bit of trouble?" The tone in her voice had a hint of annoyance as Halgrass stared at her. "Yes, we have and we didn't want to do anything without knowing if it was okay to do it."

This made Rose blink as she looked at Halgrass with a smile. "Oh I've heard of you. You must be Halgrass our new Chief's favourite..." The tone in her voice had softened as she then asked. "Well, what would you have done then?"

Rose mood went to the worse as she heard Bracken reply back to her question, she frowned at him but Bracken just ignored it. "We would've just gone right through it or went around it in owsla style of digging but the roof hasn't been that stable."

"Oh..." Rose said as she rose up onto her hind legs and looked at the roof, sniffing it before touching it slightly as some dirt fell from the ground. "Hmmm, I see what you mean. Move aside so I can take a look at those roots."

Inlo watched them carefully as Rose went past the two bucks to inspect the end of the run where she quickly found the roots and sniffed it gently. She didn't speak for a moment or two but eventually she turned her head back to where Inlo was and spoke. "I think we can remove them but I have to stay and keep an eye on the situation."

Inlo blurted out. "You can't, what matters if this place falls down and buries them." Rose snorted back at him as she shook her head. "Nothing, but we need this run and burrows, quickly as well. We should be getting our first batch of new litter anytime now. Besides, do you want to tell Captain Ebony why this part of the warren has been delayed in expansion?"

"But, if anything happened to you. I be blamed!" Inlo replied back as he looked at Rose who stood her ground and walked towards him. "Oh yes, you would be blamed but that's what happens when you are part of the owsla here. If anything does happen then it's your fault. It's all very well for using us to breed more rabbits but when it comes down to the really hard work, you lot just stand about and do nothing."

Inlo leant his head closer to her and growled. "Mind not putting me down in front of the prisoners..." He bared his teeth at her before stopping and closing his mouth. After a moment he spoke. "And we don't just stand about, we do our training as well, for you know."

Rose moved her head so that it pressed against Inlo's nose. "Now listen here. I was called for, Captain Ebony knows that I am here and knows that you're in charge of these prisoners and this run here. So if anything happened to me it's on your head. Now go away and keep guard and let me get to work. Besides, I like working from time to time, keeps me from going bored."

Inlo made to say something else, but he thought better of it and looked at the other two. "If anything happens to her, you're dead." Turning around, he headed back out of the run where Rose sighed. "Sorry about that, shall we get to it." Turning around to face the wall. "Okay, I want you to secure this roof first, may as well make it a owsla style run but keep the floor soft, some of the does would complain if it's too hard. I will go and check on the burrow."

Bracken watched as Rose headed back down the run and entered the burrow. Turning his head to Halgrass, he smiled. "Hmmm, that was weird." Halgrass nodded. "And interesting, we best get to this though, think about what happened later." He chuckled. "Don't want to get on her bad side now do we?"

Meanwhile Rose entered the burrow and looked about for a moment, she ignored both Birch and Straw while checking out the floor carefully and then the walls while she hum'ed softly to herself. Eventually she spoke. "Okay, which one of you have done this?"

Straw spoke. "I only came in today but it was Birch here that has been digging this burrow out." Birch swallowed and gave a slight frown at Straw but then he noticed the look that Rose was giving him. "Wow, I wouldn't have believed a buck would be able to dig out the perfect burrow for a doe and her litter."

Birch couldn't help himself as he blushed slightly, looking away. "Oh it was nothing." Rose replied back sharply. "Oh it was more than nothing, looks like we have a decent worker for once." She turned her head back to where Straw was and shook her head. "Well, at least your honest. Let's keep it that way shall we?" Straw blinked at her but said nothing as she continued on. "Sorry about Bluebottle losing." Turning around again to look about the burrow. "This one is okay, you can go start digging out the next one. Make sure you leave enough room so you don't dig through into this one, okay?"

Birch nodded his head. "I know." He started to leave and paused for a moment to look at Straw but he didn't move. Ignoring both, Birch left the burrow and looked to where Bracken and Halgrass were busy working. Hopping down a bit he was much closer to them now as he turned to the side and began to scrape at the wall.

Bracken turned his head around slightly and blinked at Birch. "So everything's okay then?" Birch nodded his head as his paws began to pull dirt from the wall. "Yeah, she's happy with my work. Glad she didn't call me a doe though. Then again she did say it was a perfect burrow." Halgrass chuckled on the words as he paused chewing away at the root, spitting out some of the wood from his mouth. "Well, you do have a good memory on things. Future Chief I think, don't you agree Bracken?"

Birch blushed again for the second time that day and he flicked his tail in annoyance. "Oh come on, like I do that here?" He tore at the wall and watched as some of it came tumbling down, covering Birch halfway up his body. Halgrass just laughed as he hopped over to where Birch was and started to pull away the dirt from him. "Yes, you will." He leant forwards and whispered. "Don't say anything to Straw though but we're going to get you out if we can. Mission for you lad. We need you to find help. Are you interested?"

Birch started to move as he felt the soil fall against his front and then nodded his head. "Just tell me when and how." There was some uncertainty in his voice but he nodded his head again. "Yes, I'll do it." Halgrass smiled as he saw Birch move away and shook himself free from as much dirt as he could manage before turning back around and heading to where Bracken was working on the root now. "Birch said that he was in, we just need to work out how, now."

Bracken licked his own nose after he pulled away from the root. "Well, if we can all get out I be more happy about it but it be best if one gets out if it means we can't." Halgrass went to say something but Bracken shook his head, still talking quietly. "No, I won't let anyone face this place alone." Halgrass decided not to press the issue.

Inside the burrow, Rose was talking to Straw as he backed away to the wall. "Look I told you I'm not spying on them. What's it to you anyways, you could be spying on me for all I know."

Rose snorted as she pressed her nose against Straw's. "Now, why would I want to do that with you. I mean, you were our last champion's best friend and that holds some power still even for your miserable life down here. Funny how you ended up working with the new champion." Rose lifted up her paw and ran it over the side of Straw's head. "So tell me what you do know about them?"

Straw looked into the doe's eyes and closed his own as he spoke. "From what I know, they came from a warren that isn't there anymore. You were speaking to Birch in here and outside with Halgrass is Bracken. I think Bracken is the leader of the group though."

Rose rubbed her nose against Straw before backing away. "See, that wasn't too hard. So why did you get placed with them?" She frowned as Straw didn't say anything at first. "Come on, I know there's more." Straw sighed. "They want me to keep an eye on them, see if they're up to anything. Captain Shadow doesn't trust them, even though he tricked Halgrass easily that night. You know how it goes with a newcomer, they get someone in to spy on them, make sure they're not a problem."

Straw saw Rose nod her head. "I knew that, just want to hear you say it. So what you going to do about it? I mean, you did get one of your friends killed last time didn't you? Shame Bluebottle didn't learn about it, wonder what he would've done to you if he did."

Straw looked at Rose and shook his head. "I don't know what to do, I'm fed up with this whole cloak and lying stuff. I suppose you're going to inform them that I don't want to do it now, aren't you?"

Rose replied back softly. "No, no I don't think I will." Speaking quietly she looked at Straw for a moment who looked as though he was shocked. "Look, you think I like seeing some of my does being killed because we have enough of them each time I give birth to a buck I have no choice on the matter. It's not nice and I don't like it." Pressing her face up to Straw's again. "But spy on them, but be careful on what you say. I don't want any of them getting into trouble okay?" She saw Straw nod and she gave him a gentle nuzzle. "Good, do this and you will repay your previous errors. Now come on, you should get back to work." Rose called out loudly. "That's fine, thanks for fixing that problem. This burrow is ready."

Leaving the burrow first, Rose gave a look to where Inlo was staring down the run and nodded at him before moving down to where the other three were working. She turned her head. "We be needing other bucks to help clear out the dirt in this run Inlo." She saw the buck nod his head and start to talk to another next to him before that rabbit headed off out of view.

Passing Birch who was slowly starting to make a dent in the wall, she made her way over to where Bracken and Halgrass were, several small bits of root were now lying on the floor as she looked at it. "Okay, er." She paused and looked at the largest of the two. "Bracken, come help me get this roof secure while Halgrass continues to work on those roots."

Moving along with Bracken, Rose whispered. "So how are you doing?" She stood up to look at a part of the run ceiling that she didn't like and started to work with it, touching it with a paw. Bracken stood up at the same time and using his paws, tried to press the soil harder together but decided that the best way was to use the top of his head. "Oh you know, captured, force to work as a slave and what's it to you anyways?"

Rose spoke quietly. "Everything, you think I like being here. All I am doing is being born to breed. We hardly go outside ourselves, as soon as we give birth then we're being prepared again to carry more litter." The doe shuddered. "I had to promise to carry Captain Ebony's next litter to get anywhere near you. They were going to send someone else." She paused for a moment. "I know you don't trust me but seriously, I am really fed up of this whole place. It's just making more rabbits to go to war, but no one knows when, not even Darkclaw-Rah."

Bracken nodded as he moved to fix another part of the run ceiling. "What can you tell me about this so called rabbit that's supposed to lead this warren to war?" He pushed up with his back legs to press his head against the soil, compacting it against his skull before moving back down to a normal standing position on all four legs.

Rose spoke quietly. "We had a small buck once that didn't make it into the owsla, but he had a vision before he died, still only very young. Said that one day that someone would come to this warren and bring it to greatness. We should prepare for his arrival by building him an army. A rabbit that had come through the darkness to exact revenge against all that was against him."

Bracken shook his head over this. "So what's with the fights?" He looked back to where Halgrass was and returned his gaze on Rose who replied. "Its to learn about our enemies, we know other rabbits are out there but we need to know how a captive fights, some warrens fight differently. Even on their own, a rabbit will show how one warren has taught their owsla. Unfortunately they caught you lot since your warren has fallen. But we sometimes, I mean the bucks go out and catch a rabbit from another warren now and again. That's how they got Bluebottle, Straw and their comrades, they were on a farm raid I think."

The conversation ended as Bracken thought to himself as he worked, he wondered what Rose was up to and whether he could trust her or Straw, though slowly his worries moved to the next fight that Halgrass had to do later on. Slowly as he worked along the run with Rose next to him, Bracken wondered who this rabbit was that this warren was patiently waiting for, even it's Chief who must knew that he was going to be replaced.