Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 32

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


Chapter 32 - The Return to Darkclaw Warren

Captain Shadow and his two officers had made it back to the road that was the only thing that separated them from getting home to their warren. Waiting until the right time to cross, all three of them ran across the road and entered the field.

"Well, we're back." Tallow said as he looked about the familiar field before walking forwards at a casual place. Captain Shadow nodded his head as he made his way towards the copse in the distance as he turned his head around to Snowberry. "Well, that was over quick, want to watch a fight tonight?"

Snowberry nodded his head. "If we get the time off, not sure how Darkclaw-Rah is going to take the news on this." Tallow shook his head. "Well, it wasn't like it was our fault was it, it was that stupid otters fault but then you can't tell what elil are going to do." He looked at the copse and smiled. "Well, apart from the ones that visit this place from time to time."

Captain Shadow entered the copse as he nodded to a rabbit hiding behind a bush while he replied back to Tallow. "Well, as long as we keep on giving a rabbit from time to time they leave us be, which is good since they won't touch our kind at all."

Snowberry looked about, feeling more at home within the copse as they slowly emerged into the clearing which looked empty. Captain Shadow looked at Tallow and grinned. "Well, let's go see our leader shall we?"

Moving into the warren itself, it wasn't long before they had come into the burrow where they saw Darkclaw-Rah sitting there on the boulder, munching on some flayrah. When he saw them, he nodded his head for them to approach while nibbling on a piece of lettuce.

"Darkclaw-Rah, sir." Captain Shadow said as he bowed his head. "We followed the scent of those that escaped from the warren. Over roads, fields and near man himself. We eventually came to a river where we met this otter."

Lifting an eye a bit wider than the other, Darkclaw-Rah stopped munching and as he spoke, some of it fell from his mouth. "An otter you say, what happened?" Snowberry spoke next. "He was happy that more longears had shown up, sir. Said that he had already killed three rabbits already and that he didn't want to kill us as he had enough already for his family."

Darkclaw-Rah blinked as he stopped eating now. "The otter told you this?" He saw Captain Shadow nod his head as he replied again. "Yes sir, he was warning us to get away from his river, said that the three had tried to swim across it and he killed them there. I feel though they have drowned Chief. Their scent only came to the edge of the bank and there was no other signs at all that they were alive. We thought it be best to come home and report it."

"I see.." Darkclaw-Rah said after a brief silence. "Yes, yes. You did well. Since they have died under the cruel fate of elil then they are gone. However I feel a tad bit upset that I wasn't able to exact my revenge myself but you can't really control elil."

Captain Shadow shook his head. "No sir, it annoyed me greatly that I was unable to bring them back to you or find their warren. Do you want us to resume our duties?" He looked up to where Darkclaw-Rah was, who had started to eat again slowly.

"Yes, but if you need a rest you can do so. Please go and report to Ebony that you are back. I am sure you want to go see Inlo, he's still alive working away." Darkclaw-Rah said with a grin. "No doubt you would like to say hello to him?"

Bowing his head again, Captain Shadow backed away with the other two. "Thank you sir." Eventually they got out of the burrow and started down the run as Captain Shadow looked at Tallow and Snowberry. "You two get some rest, I see about getting you to see the next fight. I try and get Inlo to fight tonight, depends on if he's been in one yet." He looked back. "Darkclaw-Rah didn't say but we see what happens." Coming to a part of the run where it changed into different directions, he left the two bucks and began to make his way towards where the new runs were being dug.

Captain Shadow found Captain Ebony in the run that Inlo was situated as he came up to him. Captain Ebony smiled as he looked at Inlo with a frown, making the buck work before turning his head back to Captain Shadow. "So you're back then? Did you find where they were going or catch them?"

Inlo who was listening in on the conversation as he worked at a new burrow he was digging out, heard Captain Shadow reply back again. "They got killed by an otter, tried to cross a river and well, you know how some elil are like. See one or three rabbits and they still kill them all."

It was the first time since he lost his position in the owsla that Inlo had smiled, felt new hope run through his body as he heard those words. He began to dig into the soil wall as he imagined he was that elil that was tearing into those three rabbits as he continued to listen in on the conversation.

Captain Ebony shook his head. "That's a shame, we could've done one more practise of destroying a warren. The others are getting a bit restless in waiting for this new leader, we just don't know when he will show up."

"That's if he does show up, not sure where Darkclaw-Rah is getting those ideas from but we must trust him on the issue." Captain Shadow spoke quietly and then turned his attention to Inlo who was still working. "And now onto you. How are you doing Inlo, hope that you haven't forgotten me?"

Inlo frowned as he muttered. "Don't worry, I didn't forget you sir, just wondered when you get back that's all like the rest of us." He paused in his working and looked at Captain Shadow with a frown, but then turned back to his work.

Captain Ebony smiled. "He's been working hard since you left, I didn't let him take any rest at all." He turned his head to look at Inlo. "Did I, Inlo?" Inlo muttered something again but the raise paw of Captain Ebony made him speak again loodly. "No sir, you did not."

Captain Ebony nodded. "Good, get on with it." He turned to one of the officers. "Keep an eye on him, I have to go for a bit." Seeing the two guards nod their head, Captain Ebony led Captain Shadow down the run. "So..." Captain Shadow said. "Has there been anymore fights since I left?"

Shaking his head, Captain Ebony sighed. "No, Darkclaw-Rah hasn't been in the mood to do another fight until you came back. Not surprised since the escape and all, that and he didn't want to see Inlo again for a while."

Coming to a section where another run crossed over, they walked past as two other bucks were waiting to push some more dirt along again as Captain Shadow frowned. "He doesn't blame me on that mishap does he?"

"No, but he isn't happy with Inlo at all, I don't think he wants him to get his position back at all. I wanted to wait until you came back since you're the one that's good with accidents and all." Captain Ebony said with a smile. "I leave it up to you since you were the one that was made a fool of, after trusting him with such a important task."

Captain Shadow smiled as he thought about that. "Hmm, well I don't want anything quick to happen. I think it's time for a few non-fatal fights, don't you? Let's get Inlo into the owsla practise sessions with our young ones. This can be done during the day. He can work at night."

"I make the arrangements with Darkclaw-Rah." Captain Ebony said back quietly. "You go and get rest and I see you about tomorrow." Turning around, he left Captain Shadow as he made his way back the way he came. Captain Shadow watched before heading off down another run as he made his way to where his own burrow was.

***

The next morning, Inlo had been woken up by Tallow who did it roughly. "Come on you, get up. You're needed up on top." Inlo shuddered as he woke up, muttering. "What? Fight to the death already?" He got up onto his paws but was smacked hard on the head by Tallow. "No, you're going to offer your services in a non-fatal owsla practise session. How fun it will be for you... Now MOVE!"

Frowning, Inlo moved out of the burrow with Tallow following him as he continued to talk. "Just think, letting all those fine young bucks practise in hurting you and you can't hurt them back as it only bring about painful punishment or slow death. My, I really want to be in your paws at the moment."

Inlo growled. "Tallow, you know you can be a right pain at times." Inlo found himself barged into the wall as Tallow growled deeply. "Listen hraka scum. I have been over the country searching for those that escaped due to your stupid mistake and you don't have the right to even use my name anymore, you got it? You call me sir. Say it!"

Swallowing, Inlo nodded his head. "Yes sir." He kept quiet as Tallow led him through the burrows as even some of the working slaves in the warren wouldn't even look at Inlo at all, most if not all of them didn't trust Inlo as they all thought he was some spy trying to get in to their private conversations, their hopes, dreams.

Moving up to the top, Inlo had to close his eyes to get used to the sunlight while Tallow just pushed him out with his head. "Come on you, get out there. They're waiting for you." Inlo slowly walked out into the open area with his eyes closed and slowly he started to open them as his eyes adjusted.

Raising a paw up to shield one of his eyes, he could see that Captain Ebony was up and about as well as Captain Shadow but also Darkclaw-Rah was sitting on his tree overlooking things.

"Inlo, come over here please." Captain Ebony said as he looked at where Inlo was. Tallow pushed him forwards with a growl. "Well, come on, we haven't got all day." Inlo walked forwards and came right up to where Captain Ebony was standing.

"Good, now this is what you're going to do." Captain Ebony said softly. "Captain Shadow has officers all around this area on the edge who I might add are much better at doing it than you." Inlo felt his blood boil but kept quiet as Captain Ebony continued on with his speech. "You will run around this area while these young officers will chase you. If and I should say, when they do catch you, they will beat you up, bringing you down in what manner they see fit."

Turning his head towards the young bucks that Inlo had once knew he swallowed as he turned his head back to where Captain Ebony was and slowly he nodded his head. "Yes sir, I do what you want." He said quietly as Tallow behind him smiled as he moved into position himself with the others. Inlo blinked and went to ask a question but stopped.

Captain Ebony smiled. "Okay, get running, the others will follow suit as soon as I reach Darkclaw-Rah." Leaning forward, he whispered. "Have fun.." Turning around he ran across the field towards where Darkclaw-Rah was and Inlo bolted on the spot.

Tallow and the other rabbits waited as they were watching where Inlo was and also where Captain Ebony was. As soon as Captain Ebony had reached where Darkclaw-Rah was sitting the group of rabbits took after Inlo.

Panting, Captain Ebony climbed up onto the log where Darkclaw-Rah was watching the events unfold in front of him and he spoke in a happy mood. "So, this was Captain Shadow's idea then?"

Captain Ebony nodded his head as he settled down to watch the fun as Inlo was changing direction quickly, keeping the other rabbits off him for the time being. "Yes, he wants to make him suffer for making him look a fool. He still feels bad and all over this. He still thinks that you blame him for their escape you know."

"I shall have a word with him in private about it. Could you send him to my private burrow at the end of the day." Darkclaw-Rah said as he chuckled, one of the bucks nearly caught Inlo as he shook his head. "Well, at least he's providing a good service at the moment in letting these new officers practise."

Captain Ebony nodded his head. "Inlo's doing quite well at the moment, though he does have more experience in these matters." He watched as he turned his head and chuckled. "Or maybe not. Sir, look over there. It looks like the group have split off. One half is waiting doing nothing while the other half is chasing him. It looks like they're waiting until Inlo tires out."

"Yes, it works in this scenario." Darkclaw-Rah said as he looked at the group that had sat down and waited. "But it wouldn't work in the open." Captain Ebony nodded. "They know that sir, but I thought it be best that Inlo got caught by fresh officers in case he thought he could disobey orders and tried to fight back."

While Darkclaw-Rah and Captain Ebony were talking amongst themselves, Inlo was in a race hoping to tire these officers out before he did so that he could avoid being hurt. However as he turned around and harrowingly avoided being caught again, his heart sank as he saw Tallow sitting with a few others who hadn't run yet.

Slowing down, Inlo raced away as he saw the others come to a stop and then with a frightened look in his eyes, he saw Tallow and the others tearing into him. Pushing off again, he ran away as fast as he could manage.

Tallow though was catching up with Inlo as he saw him turn around and made the correction quickly. Inlo felt every muscle in his body crying out for him to stop as his chest burnt within him. Panting heavily, he could hear them behind him as he turned again in desperation.

As Captain Ebony and Darkclaw-Rah watched from afar, the tired Inlo tripped and fell onto the ground as Tallow caught up with him, jumping into the air as Inlo scrambled back onto his feet again and with his claws clamping down onto the other bucks back, Inlo fell down again as he felt pain at his sides. "Well, looks like they caught him." Captain Ebony said quietly as Darkclaw-Rah smiled with the results. "Yes, but the fun isn't over yet."

Inlo winced in pain as he felt Tallow being to dig his claws in deeper into the other buck as he whispered into Inlo's ear. "Since I caught you, I can practise my fighting on you and you can't fight back." The other bucks came to a stop as they watched, Tallow keep his body on top of Inlo, his hind legs now climbing on top of the buck before his larger rear claws dug into the rear legs of Inlo, cutting them.

Inlo cried out as he squirmed underneath Tallow but the buck kept on top of Inlo, whispering into his ear. "Come on, Inlo... I want to hear you apologise to me, beg for me to stop." Tallow's claws dug deeper into Inlo's back legs as he felt the rabbit underneath him, shake from the pain.

"I'm sorry..." Inlo begged as he felt Tallow bite down onto his ear as he cried out before he felt the pain lessen again as Tallow got up from where Inlo was lying down on the ground and turned to the others. "Right, let him get his breath back and we see one rabbit chase him." He looked at where Inlo was breathing heavily and smiled. "Remember to use your claws and teeth to bring down someone. You have to get into a position where he can't fight back. The best way is to get on their back and using your hind legs, destroy their hind leg muscles."

The other officers nodded their head as Tallow gave a fierce look to where Inlo was lying and spoke. "Get up." Watching as Inlo slowly got up, wobbling a bit as he tried to use his back legs but he could only move slowly. Shaking his head, Tallow muttered. "Well, looks like he can't run now." Looking to where Captain Ebony was, he called out. "He can't run sir?"

Captain Ebony blinked as he turned his head to where Darkclaw-Rah was. "Sir, do you think Inlo has had enough for today?" He waited for an answer as Darkclaw-Rah kept on staring at Inlo slowly moving about while his face was in pain. Eventually he replied back. "Well, the other officers have to get their practise in so let them take turns in doing what Tallow just did."

Captain Ebony nodded and hopped off the log as he ran over to where Tallow was. "Darkclaw-Rah wishes for you to continue, he thinks it's unfair for you to get all the fun and our youngsters unable to get in on the fun themselves."

Tallow smiled as he looked to Captain Ebony. "Our chief speaks wisely, thank you sir." Turning his head around to look at the other officers he left Captain Ebony to run back to where Darkclaw-Rah was and stopped at one particular buck who was keeping very still. "Okay, why don't you be nex then, Aconite."

Aconite nodded his head as he stepped forwards, giving Tallow a look before turning his head to where Inlo had retreated, moving about in the clearing slowly, his ears down against his head as the buck had resigned to his fate. Moving to the side, Tallow watched as Aconite moved slowly forwards as he took off after Inlo who wasn't running away anymore. Inlo could hear the other buck approaching him and tensing up, prepared for what he expected.

Aconite pounced into the air as he head butted Inlo to the ground, as the other buck fell over, Aconite jumped up and smashed his back legs onto the side of Inlo's head, knocking out the buck as he turned around to where Tallow was watching with a slight grin on his face.

Darkclaw-Rah looked to the side of him as he spoke. "Well, that's that then." Hopping off the log, he turned to face Captain Ebony. "Make sure he's sent back to his burrow and get him up later to work, once he's recovered."

Captain Ebony nodded. "I make sure he's ready again for tomorrow." Seeing Darkclaw-Rah head off again he began to move in the direction of where Tallow and the others were. "Good job." Captain Ebony said as he looked at the unconscious form of Inlo. "Right, test strength." He turned to where Tallow and Aconite was. "Since you two made him unable to move on himself, it's your job to get him down below to his burrow."

Smiling at the response shown on both bucks, Captain Ebony dismissed the others as he headed off himself, leaving Tallow with Aconite were standing near to Inlo. Tallow waited until Captain Ebony was out of earshot and turned his head to where Aconite was standing. "You just had to knock him out, didn't you?"

Aconite frowned. "So what? He's a disgrace anyways, letting those newcomers escape. He deserves all he gets as far as I am concerned." Bending down, the buck sniffed Inlo and frowned. "He's beginning to smell just like them as well, un-nourished and everything."

Moving around in the grass, Tallow looked up and saw Captain Shadow moving through the undergrowth briefly as he turned his head back to see Aconite rake his claws on Inlo's side with a low growl. "Come on, wake up. You think I am dragging you down below..."

"Forget it." Tallow said softly as he moved up alongside as he nudged Aconite out of the way, looking at the new wound that the other buck had made with his paw. "You knocked him clean out, he won't get up again for a while at least." Giving a slight grin to that one, Tallow moved his head to the side, staring at Aconite. "Which means I best keep an eye on you. Looks like you're going to get into the owsla no problem."

Aconite began to tug on one of Inlo's ears as he didn't reply, both of them slowly dragged Inlo towards the warren entrance and rested for a while they looked at the lone form. Aconite smiled. "Thanks, I suppose I could do with some competition anyways."

Tallow sighed as he began to move around to the rear of where Inlo was lying on the ground. "Well, right now we have to work together. Unless you want to leave him out here for elil to catch him?"

Aconite looked at Inlo with some thought. "It is tempting but I think we get into trouble with that choice." Tallow nodded as he began to push, watching Aconite move around to take hold of Inlo's ears and tugged. Tallow replied back with a grunt. "Tell me about it, I don't know if he's either a pain for being in the owsla or not at the moment." Slowly they slipped down one of the holes.