Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 27

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


Chapter 27 -The price of spying...

Later on in the day, Halgrass was woken up from his sleep as the officer came into his burrow. "Okay, you're needed up above. Darkclaw-Rah would like you to join him again." Halgrass yawned as he slowly got up and felt a slight stiffness to his side which the guard prodded him there with a paw, sending a sharp pain to his head. Growling, he muttered. "Okay, I'm coming...."

Halgrass noticed that he didn't have that many rabbits with him now, he only had the one guard with him as he followed through the runs as he saw other rabbits sleeping, some of the does were talking to their young ones as he was led further into the most respectful part of the warren. Noting everything down he came to another run that led to the outside as the guard stopped at the bottom. "I leave you, don't keep him waiting, will you?"

Looking up the run where he could feel the cool air blowing down, he started to walk up the run slowly, Halgrass was looking behind him but he saw the officer disappear from view as he turned his head to the faint point of light at the top of the run and continued towards it.

Slowly he came to a stop just outside of the run and poked his head out cautiously, sniffing out the air and then slowly coming outside as he felt the hanging grass on the upper part of the hole brush over his back. Carefully as he looked about, he took a few hops away from the run and then stood up on his hind legs, looking about.

"Glad that you have woken up." Darkclaw-Rah said from behind Halgrass as he stood a few paces from behind the hole that Halgrass had appeared only a moment before. Halgrass turned around to face Darkclaw-Rah with a frown. "You wanted to see me again?" He said as he turned around to walk about the clearing, not seeing any sign of the rabbit he had beaten last night.

Darkclaw-Rah nodded as he watched Halgrass move about. "Well, if escaping is on your mind then you can try but you won't get far, my officers are about the rim, checking on things and you at the moment."

Halgrass nodded his head as he turned to face Darkclaw-Rah. "And what's to stop me from attacking you right now, they never get here in time." He stared wide at Darkclaw-Rah who moved about before taking a bite of some grass. "Well, be my guest but your friends will die. I thought about it and you know, having a run collapse will be quite good. They can suffocate."

"Why you..." Halgrass said as he approached threateningly but stopped and sat down. "What do you want?" He looked about the clearing as he listened to what Darkclaw-Rah had to say.

Darkclaw-Rah spoke as he sat down. "Well, I ain't sure how it happened but your friends think that you are dead at the moment. They think that you have lost your fight but that can easily be fixed if you want to see your friends again."

Halgrass blinked. "What do you mean, they think I am dead?" His voice was rising up into a shout. "What are you up to?" Halgrass just couldn't believe what was going on here. "Okay, that's it I am fed up of playing your games, why don't you just get to the point so that I can know where the hraka I am at."

"Very well." Darkclaw-Rah said. "I want to know exactly who in your group is planning to escape on the night that you fight Shadow, you will tell me exactly who just before the fight. Before the fight, you can watch your friend being killed by yourself."

Halgrass blinked. "You're insane, you're not making sense, you keep on threatening me and then saying something else. Just who do you think you are?" He stood up with hair on the back of his neck standing up. Darkclaw-Rah smiled as he stood up himself and growled. "Your Chief, that's who and I don't have to explain my actions to you, hraka scum. Your friends are being allowed up here to silflay, you will use this time to find out what they are up to and you will tell me everything. Otherwise I will put your two friends in a fight with hrair officers fighting them."

Halgrass sighed as he lowered his head down. "Fine, I do what you want, I fight who you want, just leave them alone." As he lifted it back up again he saw that Darkclaw-Rah had vanished and ended up scratching his head in confusion. 'What is he up to?' Halgrass thought to himself as right now he was really confused by this lack of direction his enemies were showing him at the moment.

Halgrass was left to be up on top for most of the day as he used the time to get ready for the fight that forthcoming night, though in the back of his mind he still felt that something wasn't right with the current chief in the warren. He would bring this up when he would see his friends.

Bracken was the first one to get out from the run with a few guards following him as more rabbits came out in a row. Halgrass was happy to see Bracken who looked shocked at the sight of Halgrass as did Straw and Birch who nearly fell back down into the run but was pushed out by another officer.

After the initial shock of seeing Halgrass alive, they were left alone in the middle of the clearing with Bracken sniffing the grass. "Oh, Frith, it's been so long since I've been up on top." Moving his head to look at Halgrass he smiled. "It's good to see you as well, some officer thought they would have fun by saying that you died." Lowering his voice. "Rose told me otherwise but I thought to keep it quiet from the others."

Halgrass nodded his head. "I know, there's something funny going on with Darkclaw-Rah, he seems to be going tharn or something. He's either threatening to kill you, then he isn't and then he's after something else entirely." Halgrass ended up finishing by scratching an ear. "Bracken..." He said after he finished doing that as he looked to his friend. "He wants me to betray one of you? I ain't sure if it's a joke or not. I just can't read him properly."

Bracken frowned as he turned to face Birch and then gave Straw a longer look as he turned to explain what had been said the night before which led Halgrass to frown at Straw but he had a much softer look at the end of the story. Halgrass looked at Straw. "You've had dealings with Darkclaw before, what is he up to?"

Straw pondered for a moment. "I don't know but it could be that tharn idea he's got in his head like everyone else that he's going to be replaced soon by another rabbit that will arrive." Straw looked at Halgrass. "Maybe he thinks that it's you and has to follow certain rules. I mean, if you defeat Shadow then you have to fight Darkclaw-Rah next."

"And you lot, he's been threatening to kill you all the time." Halgrass pondered as he looked about the area. "He's also said that we're being watched at the moment." Halgrass had ignored the other rabbits in view that were guarding his friends but he knew that there were others out of sight. "Look, he wants you all to watch the fight tonight. Bracken, we have to come up with an idea to escape as I don't know if you will survive if I lose either to this officer or Shadow the next fight after."

Birch shuddered as he bent down to nibble on some grass to stop his teeth from clattering. Bracken nodded his head as he lowered his head down to nibble on some grass, watching the others follow suit as he spoke. "Yes, it's getting too dangerous now to stay. We should keep Rose out of it though, I don't know if I trust her yet."

Straw sighed. "Like you didn't trust me at first, who knows. Maybe she speaks the truth?" He looked at where Bracken and Halgrass were staring at him but they shook their heads. "I ain't so sure, it's much harder for someone to want something different if they've only been living in this place all of their lives. You don't miss anything if you haven't experienced it before and I know they kill all does that are outsiders."

Straw nodded his head. "That is true..." Halgrass nodded. "Well, we best come up with something so that we know what to do and when. We need to test Rose for a start. Listen, this is how we're going to play things out...."

***

Later on, all three had been made to go back down underground to continue work in the run where Rose had been working while they were up on top. She turned to look at them with a cross face. "And where have you lot been? I've been working here all on my own."

Inlo muttered at her. "You don't have to be here, you volunteered to work, they were ordered to go see Halgrass by Darkclaw-Rah." Inlo turned to look at Rose. "You don't like it, you go take it up with him.."

Rose ignored Inlo as she turned to face Bracken and followed him down the run. "So I was right that he was alive then?" Bracken nodded his head. "So?" Rose asked. "What did he have to say?"

Bracken moved to where the roots had been removed and started to dig. "Oh you know, he was annoyed that he was suddenly dead, he still doesn't trust Straw though. But we think Darkclaw-Rah has gone tharn or Halgrass does anyways."

Rose nodded her head. "Oh? Not heard of that one, so are you lot going to do something about it if it's true?" She saw Bracken nod his head. "Well, what?" Rose said impatiently as she just sat there and looked at what Bracken was doing before he stopped working and turned to face her. "Win the Chief spot and set us free. He's planning on attacking him tonight."

"Hmm, risky isn't it?" Rose said thoughtfully. "I mean, if the plan fails and all, you be put to death?" She looked at the smug face the Bracken was showing as he replied back. "Oh don't worry, Halgrass is quiet good enough to get the job done. He's been holding back on the fights. Best to you know, not sure what you're capable of in the first place."

Rose just nodded as she went back to work again, working on the run until she was sure it was enough time and looked about. "Hmmm, well you seemed to have sorted out the root issue and we've been digging for a while and there hasn't been another. I think you be fine on your own now." Rose turned her head and called to Inlo. "Could you inform your captain that this run is now safe enough for them to work on their own, without my supervision please."

Bracken smiled as Rose left the run and as he saw Birch move his head out of the run, he nodded at him before seeing the head go back into the burrow. Birch nodded at Straw who nodded back and they carried on with their work again.

***

"Sir?" Captain Ebony said as he entered the burrow. "I have a doe, named Rose for you. She said that she has information for you." Moving to the side as Rose slowly moved into the burrow as she lowered her head at Darkclaw-Rah.

"Well, what is it?" Darkclaw-Rah said as he looked down at where Rose was and watched as she crawled on the floor until she was near to him. "Sir, I have news about the newcomers. They have been confused by different news, they don't know what you are up to but Halgrass is planning on attacking you directly tonight. He wants to challenge you right away after the fight."

"Hmm..." Darkclaw-Rah said as he got up from the boulder and hopped down to where Rose was and looked down at her lying form. "Anything else? Why would he try and attack me?" Rose gave a shudder before speaking. "Sir, Halgrass wants to get your place and then order to be released from the warren."

Darkclaw-Rah nodded as he turned to Captain Ebony. "They must have planned something else. I want his friends up on top for the fight, they can be guarded so that they can see Halgrass be ripped apart. I want the best fighting officer to go up against him." Captain Ebony nodded his head as he watched Darkclaw-Rah place a paw on top of Rose's head. "Thank you Rose, you've done your warren proud."

Rose got up after she felt the paw on her head lift and bowed to Darkclaw-Rah. "Thank you sir." She backed away bowing until she had moved out of the burrow where Captain Ebony looked outside and nodded his head as he turned his head back. "She's gone. Sir, what are you going to do about this?"

Darkclaw-Rah smiled. "Everything is going to plan, Halgrass will try to get me no doubt and I am sure that there is more to this than what we know. This is what I want you to do. When something happens, make sure that there is a tracking patrol ready. We shall find their warren, we shall end up with so many more workers that we never have to risk being seen until our new leader arrives."

Captain Ebony nodded. "And as for these rumours that you're going tharn?" He stared at Darkclaw-Rah who chuckled. "Best to keep your prisoners wondering what you are going to do than know what you really can do." He turned around and moved to the boulder again, hopping on it. "Oh and Ebony, please deal with Rose. She's been a bit too friendly with them, they can't find out that she's told me anything."

Captain Ebony nodded. "Sir? What about Straw?" Darkclaw-Rah shook his head. "He isn't that important to worry about, Shadow overheard the conversation last night, they know that he's been working for me, his past but he wasn't really the spy. Rose was but she's finished with her task." Darkclaw-Rah turned his head around. "Kill her." Captain Ebony replied as he nodded his head. "It shall be done." He backed out of the burrow and headed off to find where Rose had gone.

"Do you still fear what has been foretold." A voice came from the dark as Darkclaw-Rah frowned, lying down on the boulder as he snapped back. "What, the foretelling of my death. Isn't there a way out of it?"

The voice came from within the shadows. "I don't know, I only can tell you what I have seen and that is soon a new leader will arrive that will challenge you for your place. Whether you die or not is something I can't see. But you know it's your duty to prepare this warren for him."

Darkclaw-Rah sighed. "Whisp, if you're wrong about this..." He watched as a small rabbit came out from the shadows as he spoke back. "Things have to be played out as they are for now. This is all that I have seen, though things could change. We just have to hope that things play out."

"Well, that's a lot of help that is." Darkclaw-Rah snapped back at Whisp who was swaying about side to side. "And could you stop doing that, it makes me dizzy watching you." He saw Whisp move back into the shadows as he sat there on the boulder. "Few more questions. Am I the one?"

The voice of Whisp came back softly. "I don't know, you could be, you may not be." This made Darkclaw-Rah lay down softly on the rock. "Is Halgrass the one?" Whisp didn't reply back right away as he came back. "Again the vision is too cloudy for me to see, it's not as clear yet on who it is."

"Only one more question." Darkclaw-Rah said softly. "Is there anything else you can tell me at this time?" He flicked his ear in annoyance as the answer he was waiting for actually came back to him from Whisp. "Not at this time, no."

***

Rose was heading back to her own part of the warren when she heard another rabbit come up from behind her. Turning her head around, she smiled. "Oh, Captain Ebony, did I do a good job?"

Captain Ebony nodded his head as he came up to where Rose was and nuzzled the side of her head affectionately. "You did fine, how did you cope with being with them?" He said, giving her a gentle lick on the cheek before walking with her along the run.

Rose snorted. "Horrible, why do we have to bring in such outsiders to our warren. I mean, some of them were thinking about having me as a mate." The doe smiled. "I can tell what bucks are thinking, even you have that thought right about now."

Captain Ebony chuckled. "My, you're like one of those veheers you hear about in stories. So want to go up on top and talk about things without being heard?" The buck giving Rose another nuzzle again as she nodded her head. "Thought you wouldn't ask, been putting off a lot of lower rank bucks, you see."

Leaning against Rose, Captain Ebony chuckled. "Well, you were always the one to try and get to the top, so what about the other does? I mean, they won't like the fact that you're being with me for instance. Can't get higher than me, well if you're interested in the Chief that is?"

Rose snorted again as she replied. "Oh him, he's only there until our true leader shows up. Besides he scares me and I don't trust him." Captain Ebony smiled. "And you trust me then?" He saw that she nodded and smiled to himself as he turned leading her to go upwards to the outside.

Rose sniffed the air as she looked about. "Oh we're not going to do it in the clearing are we?" Wrinkling up her nose. "Not where those horrible rabbits fight and die." She felt Captain Ebony brush past her side as he nodded at her to follow.

Following, they started to head away from the clearing and into the copse itself with all the tree's, bushes and flowers which Rose smiled and looked about, stopping now and again to sniff gently. "Are you sure that no one comes around here? What about the hidden guards?"

Captain Ebony replied back. "Oh don't worry, no one will see what we are up to." He said as he stopped and slowly began to rub his head against hers as she sighed softly. Rose felt warm and happy as she sniffed Captain Ebony's scent, lifting her neck upwards as another sigh came from her open mouth.

Instead of getting another rub, Rose cried out as she felt pain in her neck, Captain Ebony had bitten down as he held her there in her mouth, pulling as he felt her try to pull away and after a few moments he let go, watching her fall over backwards. Gasping for breath Rose tried to move but felt Captain Ebony land heavily on her as he knocked out the air from her lungs.

Moving back from her, Captain Ebony sat down as he watched her slowly get her breath back though her neck was bleeding badly. Eventually, Rose was able to speak again. "Why....?"

Getting up again, Captain Ebony placed a paw on her side and looked down at her. "Why, because it was ordered so. You've been talking to those rabbits. You really think that we didn't know, that Darkclaw-Rah wouldn't find out about what you were up to. Especially in talking to Inlo in such a way." He pressed his paw harder on Rose's side. "Who do you think you are in speaking to a officer like that, you're nothing but a doe."

"Please... Let me go..." Rose pleaded as she tried to squirm her way out of the way, anything to get away from her attacker, but Captain Ebony wouldn't move, his paw pressing harder on her side as he growled. "And why would I want to let you go?"

Rose carried on squirming as she spoke, her voice showing that she was in pain from the bite on her neck, blood leaking life out of her. "Please, I can help you get more information, you could end up being in charge of this place."

Captain Ebony shook his head. "You think I want to be in charge of this warren, when we are waiting for our great leader to turn up?" His claws dug into her side as Rose cried out again. "No, I ain't that stupid to do that. I leave that up to Darkclaw to stay in that position, he wanted that chief for so long I didn't. Always kept below him I did, same as Shadow. This is as high as I want to go so you don't have anything you can help me with I am afraid."

Rose close her eyes as she felt Captain Ebony claws raked through her side as his voice came out from nowhere. "Alright, let's get her ready." She stopped squirming as she heard other rabbits moving about around her.

Captain Ebony lifted his paw from Rose's side as the other officers moved about her, he backed away as he watched her scream when two of them tore up her back leg muscles and nodded his head as slowly Rose was lifted up from the ground as two other bucks moved underneath her.

Slowly they walked through the copse as Captain Ebony walked behind them slowly, Rose could see herself being carried slowly as she felt pain running through her body as she closed her eyes, her body feeling twigs and leaves brushing past her fur.

Slowly they left the copse as Captain Ebony stopped at the edge and watched as Rose was led out into the field, he slowly sat down, feeling something come up alongside him as he saw Captain Shadow sitting down. "So, he gave the order to kill her then?" Captain Shadow said slowly, watching the rabbits slowly place Rose onto the grass.

Nodding his head, Captain Ebony replied back. "Yeah, she did her job but he didn't trust her. Not that I blame him, you know she tried to get me to use her so that I would take over as Chief in this warren."

Captain Shadow looked at Captain Ebony. "And your reaction?"

"Well, I refused of course otherwise she wouldn't be out there right now." Captain Ebony replied back as he saw the officers running back into the copse and disappeared out of view. Neither captain moved as they waited for confirmation on Darkclaw-Rah's orders.

Captain Shadow nodded his head. "Good, we play things right and we be working for whoever is next in line." He sniffed the air and smiled. "Well, it looks like something has picked up the scent of your work." Looking about as he spotted something. "Ah, homba this time around."

Looking around, Captain Ebony spotted the small red fox moving about in the field, pausing the sniff about slightly as it moved on again slowly. "Ah yes, there it is. Well, you have that fight don't you, tomorrow? Have you thought on who we're picking for tonight?"

"That depends." Captain Shadow replied back as he carried on looking to where Rose was lying on the ground, crawling as best that she could with her forepaws as the fox was getting closer. "On who this time has become a threat to us or has annoyed us. Who turn is it by the way?"

Captain Ebony didn't reply as he kept looking out watching as he saw the fox catch the smell of Rose and began heading in her direction, Captain Shadow didn't press the issue for the time being as he continued to look out as well.

Rose kept on crawling, her whole body was tense from the pain that her back legs dragging on the ground as she felt weaker with each passing moment. Pulling herself up, she pulled again and then collapsed onto the ground, panting hard, each breathing becoming much harder to pull in air.

Hearing something behind her, Rose turned around and then stared widely at the approaching fox, padding slowly towards her, teeth bared as she tried to pull herself away again, but failed as her weak forepaws gave way to her weight. Feeling a paw press down onto her back, her eyes closed over as she felt the sharp teeth slip into her neck before it broke, ending her life.

Captain Ebony watched on as he calmly replied back to Captain Shadow. "What do you think we or either Dewclaw or Captain Sharptooth?" The two rabbits watched as the fox lifted Rose up from the ground and turned around carrying her away. Captain Shadow thought for a moment and replied. "Dewclaw, I think he deserves a chance of being promoted or at least show us what he's made of."

"Very well, I go and let Darkclaw-Rah know that we've chosen Dewclaw for tonight's fight. You be there to watch your possible future opponent, right?" He said, half turning around to head off. Captain Shadow nodded his head with a smile. "I wouldn't miss it for the world." He kept on sitting there, looking out into the wild world outside of the copse where a few moments ago, Rose had died.

***

Deep within the warren, Captain Ebony had once again found himself standing in front of Darkclaw-Rah as he bowed his head. "Sir, your orders have been carried out, Rose was killed by a homba and taken away."

Darkclaw-Rah smiled as he listened to the news. "Very well. She was a potential mate for you, wasn't she?" He asked looking down at the other buck. Captain Ebony nodded his head. "She was, one of the potential mates I could've picked but there are other does in the warren that can suit my needs sir."

"That pleases me." Darkclaw-Rah said softly, crossing one of his forepaws over the other. "And did you speak with Captain Shadow about who would be fighting tonight?"

Captain Ebony nodded his head back as he looked back up again at Darkclaw-Rah. "Indeed we have, it shall be Dewclaw who will face Halgrass, sir. He has shown great potential in training and is an excellent fighter." Captain Ebony paused before continuing on. "He is one of the best fighters that we have, he should give us a good fight. If you think he won't be able to fight Halgrass, then I can go pick another." "Hmm..." Darkclaw-Rah thought for a moment and spoke again. "Why didn't you pick one of our captains, they're usually better fighters?" He lowered his head, staring at Captain Ebony who replied back. "Sir, that is true but Dewclaw is a fine young officer, he wants to move up in the warren and will do anything to get there. I thought we needed someone who really wanted to impress you so would do anything to kill Halgrass."

"And if he beats Dewclaw?" Darkclaw-Rah spoke quietly as though the thought of it didn't really matter to him. Captain Ebony once again spoke back. "Sir, if he fails then he has no place in our owsla, but Halgrass will have been softened up enough for Captain Shadow to finish the job off, especially if you put Halgrass back to work again the next day. News will get around the warren that hope of escaping is foolish to even think of."

Darkclaw-Rah smiled. "Ah, Captain Shadow has proven loyal to me on such an occasion, so have you as well Captain." He saw Captain Ebony bow his head slightly. "So I shall let Captain Shadow have his fun with Halgrass and if by chance Dewclaw does kill Halgrass then we have a potential new higher officer in our warren so we win either way."

"I am glad that you approve, sir." Captain Ebony said back as he rose back up again. "Is there any other orders that you want to give me sir?" Captain Ebony asked. Darkclaw-Rah thought for a moment and shook his head. "No, there's nothing else you can do for me at the moment. You may go and sort out who is on duty and who shall watch the fight tonight."

Turning around, Captain Ebony replied back. "Thank you sir." Without saying another word he headed out of the burrow, nodded to the two sentries and walked down the run. As he came to the end of the burrow he caught an officer walking down another run towards him and stopped him. "Crass, please go find Dewclaw for me and ask him to come to my burrow. Do it now, I need to have a word with him immediately." Crass nodded his head. "Aye sir." Before running off down a run, leaving Captain Ebony alone with a smile, before he continued on his way.

***

Captain Ebony didn't have long before he saw Dewclaw lurking about outside of his burrow and he called out. "Come in, make yourself comfortable Dewclaw." Watching carefully as the strong buck came into the burrow. "Thank you sir, you wanted to see me sir?" Dewclaw said as he laid down on the floor, looking back at the burrow's owner.

"That I do." Captain Ebony replied back. "I've been watching you a lot lately, what with your practise sessions and also in your combat. I think you're ready to show us just what you are made for?" He saw Dewclaw nod his head and continued on. "What would you say if I offered you the chance to fight this newcomer, Halgrass?"

Not getting an answer right away, Dewclaw seemed to be thinking about matters before he nodded his head. "I would love to sir, when will it be held?" He listened as Captain Ebony replied back to him. "It would be tonight, is that enough time? Or would you like more time to get ready?" The second question was spoken as if the captain didn't think that Dewclaw was up to it.

Dewclaw shook his head back to Captain Ebony. "No sir, I don't need anymore time, I had practise today before Frith came up. I am ready for the fight." Captain Ebony nodded as he spoke. "Then that's all I wanted to talk to you about, please arrive on time."

Getting up, Dewclaw nodded his head. "Yes sir." Backing out of the burrow the buck vanished from sight, leaving Captain Ebony alone as he thought quietly to himself.