Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 29

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


Chapter 29 - Run Rabbit Run to the River...

Darkclaw-Rah came to a stop right in front of Halgrass, ignoring the dead form of Dewclaw who had that look of shock still on his face. "Where are they?!" Darkclaw-Rah shouted at Halgrass with a frown.

Halgrass replied back simply. "Where are who?" Halgrass turned his head to look about the group of rabbits there were making their way towards them, closing off any other escape as he turned to look at Darkclaw-Rah again. "I thought I was told that my friends would be watching this match?"

Captain Ebony cuffed Halgrass hard on the head as he growled. "Don't play games with us." He looked at Darkclaw-Rah who nodded his head as Captain Ebony stood up from his hind legs. "Stay where you are." Lowering back down again he listened to what Darkclaw-Rah had to say. "So they were but I suppose that they left." Darkclaw-Rah said. "Well, we don't have anymore use for you now. I am going to cancel your fight with Captain Shadow.

Halgrass blinked as he growled, lowering his body as he bared his teeth. "You liar, you absolutely hraka. Call yourself a chief, you're nothing, nothing at all!" He was about to jump at Darkclaw-Rah but Captain Ebony blocked his way. "Shall I give the order to kill him, sir?" Captain Ebony asked as he looked right at Halgrass.

Darkclaw-Rah nodded his head. "So ordered." Halgrass stared opened eyed as he turned and ran while Captain Ebony took flight. Unfortunately for Halgrass, he didn't get twelve bounds before he was brought down by several large rabbits as they tore into him, Captain Ebony came up to him and smiled. "Goodbye." Without saying a word, he gave Halgrass a fatal scratch on the neck as he nodded to the others to back off.

Halgrass lay there, breathing heavily as he felt his body starting to go lighter, he muttered something under his breath. "For my chief....." No one else heard those words as Halgrass slowly closed his eyes and with a few more breaths, his side rising and falling, it fell and didn't rise again.

Darkclaw-Rah smiled as he looked about and then blinked as he saw Captain Shadow running towards him. "What is he doing here?" Darkclaw-Rah growled as he saw Captain Shadow push past some of the other rabbits and looked at the dead form of Halgrass. "The fight's over?" Captain Shadow asked as he looked at Darkclaw-Rah. "So they didn't escape then?"

The look on Darkclaw-Rah went from anger to confusion and then worry as he looked down at the dead form of Halgrass and back up to where Captain Shadow was. "You mean, not one of your officer raised the alarm to you?"

Captain Shadow shook his head but didn't have time to answer as Darkclaw-Rah roared. "I want this whole warren checked. Make sure no one else has escaped! I want this whole copse searched all over, they have to be found! Do it now!" Everyone around Darkclaw-Rah left as he moved off to look for the three with the others. Captain Shadow looked down at where Halgrass lay and he lowered his head, sitting there as he spoke. "I misjudged you. You were more wiser than I had let on to believe. Taking your life for your friends." Placing a paw on top of Halgrass's head, Captain Shadow nodded slowly. "I won't underestimate your friends." Without saying another word, he headed off to search himself.

***

Bracken, Birch and Straw came to a stop in the cow field again, though it was clear for this time in the day. It had been a few hours since they had left the warren and Bracken came to a stop in the middle of the field and stood up looking about while the other two caught their breath. "It doesn't look like we're being followed." Bracken said quietly as he looked at Birch who turned his head away. Moving back down to all fours, Bracken moved to get in front of Birch and spoke gently. "Birch, Halgrass made his decision. We were going to die in there."

Birch snarled and cuffed Bracken hard on the head as he spoke loudly. "I don't care. He shouldn't have had to face that alone with all those...." He sighed and laid down on the grass as Bracken shook his head, placing a paw on Birch's head. "I know, but he was protecting us, it was his duty." Bracken closed his eyes as he continued to speak gently. "We have lost a lot of our friends and I miss them as well." Removing his paw, Bracken slowly lowered his head as his front paws joined together. Straw did the same as Birch seeing what was being done, slowly got to his hind legs and did the same. Bracken spoke softly. "My heart is sad, for my friend stopped running today..."

Birch opened his eyes as he spoke. "Bracken... I'm sorry..." He looked as he saw Bracken nod his head. "I know, I'm mad as well but we have to honour him by surviving and we won't get anywhere if we're found. We need to find a place to hide for the day, only travel at night if we can help it." He looked about and frowned. "Straw, should we travel by night or by day?"

Straw looked about as he munched on some of the grass. "I think any night that is clear or during the day. I don't want to be near another copse again during the night or any to be honest if we have to."

Bracken nodded his head as he looked at Birch. "I think we should travel in both, but if it's fog again like last time I am not going to move us on." He saw Birch nod his head as they looked about and eventually Bracken nodded his head. "We make for the river and cross it again, that should help to get rid of our scent." He saw Birch make a face but he nodded. "I know, but it won't be long before they send some out to search for us. We can fine a place to hide on the other side, we let the river take us down a bit before getting out. Come on, let's go."

Moving in the direction that they thought the river was, Bracken began to move about the field until they came to the hedge and slowly walked up to it. All three were being careful as they sniffed at it before slipping inside as Birch looked behind him, thinking that someone was following them but he couldn't see anyone. Bracken had noticed it and he looked at Birch. "Please don't tell me you have those feelings again?"

Birch shook his head. "No, not like last time, just that I am scared that we're being followed. Bracken looked back and shook his head. "I don't feel a thing so that's a good sign, let's get going."

Moving through the field, Bracken began to see things that he saw on the way through here and he smiled at Birch. "It looks like we're heading back the way we came. This is what we're going to do. We shall pretend to swim across the river, but we won't." Straw blinked as he ran alongside them in the field. "What do you mean?" He said, looking about as Birch suddenly smiled. "Oh that's clever." Birch turned his head around to look at Straw. "We entered the river but we keep hold to the bank and head back up against the current. After a while we pull ourselves out and keep to this side of the river."

Straw blinked. "And that would help us how?" He stared as Bracken grinned. "Well, if they think we are on the other side of the river, then they can meet those crazy humans with dogs and hombas. Should be a nice surprise for them I think."

***

Back in the copse, Inlo was still standing about looking out for when the other rabbits were supposed to leave like anyone else when he couldn't hear anything in the clearing anymore. Thinking that the fight was over, he waited like the others not willing to leave his post in case he got into trouble.

Twitching an ear, Inlo heard another rabbit come through the bush as Captain Shadow turned up. "Has anyone left this copse or passed through here?" He asked urgently. Inlo blinked as he replied back. "No, no one at all came through here. What's wrong?"

Growling quietly, Captain Shadow replied. "Bracken, Birch and Straw have disappeared, you sure you didn't see anyone leave through here?" Inlo thought back and he felt a shiver run up along his back but shook his head. "No, no one."

Pouncing, Captain Shadow growled as he landed on top of Inlo with his teeth bared, staring into Inlo's eyes. "Did you see anyone pass through here?" Inlo swallowed as he shivered underneath Captain Shadow and replied back. "I may have been distracted for a moment or two to not know if anyone did leave..."

Captain Shadow ended up growling more. "WHAT?!" This made Inlo stop shivering from shock as Captain Shadow lifted up a paw and brought it down. Closing his eyes, Inlo thought it would be the last thing he would see but he slowly opened them again to see the paw hovering over his face. Captain Shadow growled. "You're not getting away that easily." Looking about he called out. "I need some help!" Inlo winced as he saw two more rabbits arrive as Captain Shadow spoke. "He's under arrest, bring him with me, we shall let Darkclaw-Rah here this news from his own voice."

Inlo was worried as he made his way to the clearing as Captain Ebony was fuming within himself. Finding someone looking about around the edge of the clearing he called over to him. "Go find Darkclaw-Rah and Captain Shadow right now."

It wasn't long before the officer was coming back across the clearing with Darkclaw-Rah and Captain Shadow behind him as Inlo felt his whole body go cold. He wanted to get away but he could feel the two officers beside him, pressing their bodies against his so that he was stuck for the time being.

Captain Ebony ran up ahead and came to a stop as Darkclaw-Rah slowed down and stopped in front of him. "Well, what do you want?" Captain Ebony could tell that Darkclaw-Rah was in a bad mood. Nodding his head, he spoke. "Sir, it would appear that they may not be in here after all and did escape."

Seeing Darkclaw-Rah tense up, Captain Ebony carried on quickly. "It was Inlo sir, he didn't keep an eye out all the time, he was interested in the fight and took his eyes off his post sir."

"He did what?!" Darkclaw-Rah went past Captain Ebony and went straight for Inlo, the two guards got out of the way fast as the large rabbit knocked Inlo to the ground before placing his body on top of Inlo. "You did what?!"

Inlo squirmed underneath Darkclaw-Rah as he swallowed. "I...I... I took my mind off my duty sir. I'm sorry...." Gasping suddenly as he felt the paw press down on his throat, Captain Shadow came up to where Darkclaw-Rah was and spoke softly. "Sir, if I could make a suggestion."

"What is it?" Darkclaw-Rah said angrily, still not removing his paw from Inlo who was choking, his body squirming underneath the Chief's body. Captain Shadow smiled. "Inlo has clearly failed in his duties and I know that means that he should die but I have a better idea for him."

Darkclaw-Rah growled as he looked at Captain Shadow. "Will you just get on with it?" Captain Shadow nodded. "Why not put him with the others, make him work on the run that our prisoners were working on and let him be on the other side. Then he can fight, if he wins all he can get his position back but if he ends up dying then at least it be a slow death."

Inlo felt the pressure on his throat lessen as Darkclaw-Rah looked down at him before Inlo took a took deep breath of air as he nodded his head. Lowering his head down he spoke the words that made Inlo wish that he had been killed. "You're out of my owsla, Inlo, disgraced and shall never reap the rewards when our new leader arrives. From now on you're just like any other rabbit, forced to work to build our warren ready, fight when we want you to and eat when we say." Looking upwards again, Darkclaw-Rah nodded to the two officers. "Take him down to where the others where, he shall continue to make that run ready."

The two guards nodded their heads, as Darkclaw-Rah lifted his paw off and moved away, made their way to get Inlo up as Darkclaw-Rah looked at Inlo. "And you will work alone, live alone and if I ever hear that you have said that they have escaped. You never get back into the owsla again, got it?!"

"Please, I do anything else, just not that." Inlo said as he was dragged off, Darkclaw-Rah ignored him as he turned around. "Give him a few days and arrange an accident. I won't have him in my owsla again." Captain Ebony nodded his head as Darkclaw-Rah frowned. "So they did manage to escape. Shadow, get what you need and begin to track them down. We need to know where they came from. They will be heading home no doubt."

Captain Ebony spoke. "You don't believe their place was destroyed then?" Darkclaw-Rah shook his head. "It's been used before but we found the warren after one of them escaped." Darkclaw-Rah turned his head back to where Captain Shadow was. "If you think its best to kill them, do it." Darkclaw-Rah frowned. "Take some that they haven't seen before, get them to arrive in the warren and discredit their story, you know what to do."

Captain Shadow nodded and turned, heading off away from them as Darkclaw-Rah turned to look at Captain Ebony. "We best get this warren ready, the time for our saviour comes close, it has been foretold." They both turned around as Darkclaw-Rah spoke. "Make sure that the rest of the warren knows that Halgrass died as did his friends, but Dewclaw was killed when his friends interrupted the fight and cheated." Captain Ebony nodded his head. "I know what to do, it shall be done."

***

The three rabbits came up to a road as Bracken came to a stop and sniffed it, the smell of tarmac was filling his nose as he pulled his head up to get away from the un-natural smell. Lifting his paw up to rub at his nose, he looked up and down it. "Okay, I think the river is near here." Birch came up alongside him and nodded his head. "Perhaps but I don't think we came this far did we?" He looked about and frowned. "Just where are we anyways? I can't hear the water at all?"

Straw had placed a paw on the road as if testing it before lifting it up again and looking underneath his paw with a puzzled look. Slowly he placed his paw back on the road again as something slowly began to come back to him as he muttered. "Hrududu run on this, right?"

Bracken and Birch turned to face Straw who didn't notice them looking for the moment. "Hmm, always make sure that you don't stop with the smell... No, that's not. Don't get in between the lights, that's it." He stopped and turned to look at both Bracken and Birch. "Sorry, it's been a while, was I talking to myself?"

Birch nodded. "Er, yes you were. I didn't think you did that?" Bracken turned to look at what Birch had said but turned his head around to face Straw again. "It's okay, we should cross this then?"

Straw nodded his head. "Yes, while it's quiet." He slowly stepped out onto the road, his body stopping after he had all four paws on the tarmac and looked about again. "Hmm, looks like a river, though you can stand on it. Great!" He then ran across the road until halfway and stopped, turning around as he rose on his hind legs at Bracken and Birch. "Well, you two coming along?"

Bracken smiled as he started across the road, watching Straw turn around and ran over to the other side before disappearing through the hedge. Birch was right behing Bracken as all three came into the next field as Straw was smiling. "I love it, the open area, fresh air." He lowered his head down into the grass and bit a few glades, chewing it. "I missed this for so long." Straw had his ears up tall and proud as Bracken smiled. "Well, it looks like Halgrass will be happy."

Birch nodded his head. "Yeah but I still miss him.." He hopped forwards and came next to Straw. "Come on, we have a lot more to show you again." Bracken nodded his head as he looked about again and nodded. "Yes, like the river if we can find it." The buck stood there, sniffing the air and with a gentle breeze he smelt water. "I think it's this way. Come on."

***

Captain Shadow had found three more officers. Tallow, Dropwort and Snowberry who came up to meet Captain Shadow waiting for his return to the clearing. They saw him coming back up as he looked at the three of them. "Right, we need to find where these rabbits have gone." Not saying another word, he nodded his head and began to lead the three to the edge of the clearing as they entered the overgrowth.

Snowberry had taken the lead next to where Captain Shadow was and frowned. "And who's bright idea was it to let them get out without being spotted?" He ducked under a branch as Captain Shadow replied back with a growl. "That fool Inlo, he was too interested in that fight than keeping an eye out."

Dropwort replied back from behind them. "So, they have a head start on us, doesn't mean we won't catch them up." Tallow nodded his head. "Aye and then we can bring them down if necessary."

Captain Shadow frowned as he replied back, the group fastly approaching where Inlo was situated on the edge of the copse. "Maybe, but we have a lot of work to do now thanks to Inlo."

Eventually they came to where Inlo was situated as all of them looked out into the open countryside that lay out in front of them. Captain Shadow frowned but he saw no movement at all in the area, Halgrass was being taken out in another part in the country to await something to pick him up as Captain Shadow nodded for them to leave the copse.

Snowdrop moved ahead now as he sniffed the ground, moving about slowly, hopping in front of the group as they waited. Captain Shadow was doing the same as the other two were looking about for any elil or other passing rabbits. Coming to his hind legs, Captain Shadow looked to where Snowdrop is and muttered. "We have to hurry this up, we can't betray our warren's location just yet."

Nodding his head, Snowdrop didn't reply in words as he stopped and got up onto his hind legs and nodded. "I think I have found something." He felt the other three come up to where he was. "They went through here." Moving back down onto his fours again, he lowered his head and sniffed. "Yes, they headed out this way." Moving along, Captain Shadow smiled as he followed Snowdrop with the other two behind him.

***

Bracken had come to a stop again and frowned. "I can smell water but I can't hear it yet, we must be lost." He looked about on his hind legs with a frown. "We could've ended up coming out anywhere in that copse."

Birch nodded his head. "Well, we're in the same sort of fields that we came through on the way to that copse." He hopped about and sniffed the ground. "I can smell cows so we must be in the same place, right?" Looking up again to stare over the grass before turning his head back to where Bracken was still standing on his hind legs. "Does it matter where we are? As long as we don't get caught?"

Straw looked about and gave a shiver. "Please, I don't want to even think about that, can't we just find this river or something and try to lose our tracks at least?" Both Birch and Bracken nodded as they continued on their way again.

When they reached the end of one field and saw that on the other side of the hedge that they were out of grass, just soil was in front of them with smell rows of dug out earth that ran along the whole length of the field. Bracken wasn't happy as he looked about before sniffing the ground. "Okay, now we have gone the wrong way." Looking up ahead he could see that there was a small building up ahead and he shuddered. "We're pretty near to a farm."

Birch had backed away again into the hedge as he shivered. "Okay, farm is bad, brings bad things. We don't want to annoy man again." Straw looked at where Birch was backing away and turned his head to where Bracken was. "So your warren did get destroyed then?" Bracken nodded his head. "Yes, man was mad at us for stealing his food, we got a bit too bold with our raids." Bracken said softly. "So we're pretty much a hlessi now until we can find another warren that will accept us." Pausing he turned his head around to where Straw was. "Unless you know where your warren is, we can head that way?"

Straw hopped forwards and stopped a bit away from where Bracken was, Birch was still hiding within the hedge as he shook his head. "No, my warren is gone for me now, I won't risk it being found by Darkclaw-Rah." He looked about and nodded. "Okay, so if the farm isn't a good place to go to then we should head this way instead. Hopefully we are far away for our scents to get lost in the morning dew."

Birch hearing this came out of the hedge as he sniffed the air, the smell of soil in the air as he hopped to where the other two where. "You're really remembering what things are, aren't you?"

Straw nodded his head as they started to move in the new direction, heading along the hedge. "Well, you never really forget it I think." Straw said quietly. "It just takes seeing things again in a new way to remember what you thought you lost." Birch nodded his head. "I suppose that's true." They all carried on through the field, only disturbing a fieldmouse who squeaked at them before running off inside the hedge.