Chapter 33 - Farmland near the Down
The journey through the day had mostly been uneventful since they had left the Iron Road, all three of them were on their guard since they had saw a tharn Efrafan rabbit before being whisked away on what they thought to be one of Frith's messengers. Bracken came to a stop and looked ahead again before he spoke. "You're sure about this, right Straw?"
Straw looked ahead and nodded. "Well, we need more information but I am sure that they were on about a warren on a hill and that's the biggest hill that I can see at the moment." The buck sniffed the air before moving one of his ears to flick off a fly that had landed, disturbing one of his hairs. Straw looked about again as he sniffed the air. "I can't see any other hill that would do it, besides think on it."
Birch came up alongside Straw and sniffed the air as well. "About what?" He said while looking to where Bracken was catching a quick bite to eat as Birch replied back. "Oh come on, that this is the only place that you could tell if anyone was coming from far away."
Straw looked about again with some thought as he nodded his head. "Well, yes I agree. It would give a warren a huge advantage if you could see danger coming from afar." He turned his head towards Birch again before Bracken swallowed what he was eating and spoke up. "Well, listen. They may have this advantage but so did we in a way, it was only bad luck that made our warren get destroyed." Bracken moved his head to the side as he gave his left ear a scratch to get rid of an insect that had decided that it was a good place to have lunch, sending it away again before he shook his head to make sure that it had gone away. "I think we got a bit greedy with the local farm, took too much. Man isn't one to be known to share."
Straw got up onto his hind legs and then cowered down as the other two followed suit as the sound of a kestrel was heard in the distance flying about. "Well, not to be a bore or anything." Straw said with some hint of worried in his voice. "But I'd rather we move on and find this warren than stay about in the open and advertise ourselves as nice easy snack for our enemies El-Ahrairah made when he annoyed our past friends etc."
Bracken flicked an ear as he heard the call again further away as he slowly got up and nodded. "Okay, let's get going. Straw, since you know or seem to know where we are heading, why not take the lead, I assume that we have to move towards that sound we heard before." He saw Straw nod his head before seeing him hop forwards.
"Yes, I believe Frith is leaving us a sign and that perhaps with what we have found out by that tharn rabbit." Straw lowered his head as though it was bad that they couldn't help one of their own before he lifted up his head again. Moving off, the other two rabbits followed him as he zigzagged about. Stopping here and there as they kept checking on what was in the air and the sounds all around them.
Bracken was looking about during one of the pauses that they were doing as his eyes scanned the area all around him, the tall grass swaying about in the wind as he could smell the rich thick scent of it swirling about in his head. His ears twitched as the sound of a bee elsewhere in the field was buzzing a short distance away as it was busy collecting pollen.
Sometimes as the three carried on their way, a few memories popped into their heads of times long ago, where each one had a moment that was close to their heart on their friend who had valiantly given his life so that at the moment each one of them had the chance to continue on with the fight for life and all the struggles that comes with it. Bracken felt the loss as though it should've been his place. No honour would've come about in ensuring the price of your life was the safety for the warren and of course the chief that you were under.
All three came to the end of the field that they were in, the grass getting longer before weeds started to appear just before the thick hedge that marked the edge. Slowing down, Straw sniffed the air, knowing full well that even though the long grass gave shelter, it also held another side, the dark side where elil could hide out and jump right at you. His whole body was taunt as he sniffed again, his nose opening and closing as he tried to filter away the thick smell of grass. Slowly he put a step forward and edged himself into the long grass as he looked about again.
Subconsciously, Straw could feel the presence of his two friends who were a few paces behind him as he looked about left and right. Slowly he managed to get rid of the feeling of his friends behind him and centred into himself as he remained still, the wind blowing through the tall grass, making it rustle as his ears strained for the slightly change in pitch to alert him of anything else in the area. Slowly he began to relax as he couldn't feel anything else, his instincts remaining calm as he spoke. "Its okay, come on." Hopping forwards he came to the edge of the hedge and sat down.
Bracken-Rah and Birch came up as they sat down again, if only for a brief rest as they felt safe for the time being. Birch looked about as he muttered. "I be happy once we find a good place to get underground, all this being up top really doesn't fit my style of having some time off to relax."
Bracken-Rah shrugged as his ears dropped down. "Birch, please. I ain't sure how much I can take of your complaining at the moment." Bracken turned his head towards Straw and then spoke again. "Sorry Birch but we're all feeling it at the moment but we have to do what we have to do. Just remember your training for the time being, that's all." Bracken looked at Straw before continuing on. "Come on, let's get going."
All three rabbits slipped out of the hedge as they saw another road but it was different to the other roads, this one looked like another farm road, just two dirt tracks with some grass growing in the middle. Bracken hopped forwards and sniffed one of the dirt tracks as he could smell something horrible. His mind couldn't bring words to what he was currently picking up, as his nose picked up oil, rubber and petrol. Wrinkling his nose, he looked up and down the road before muttering. "Man, always man. Do they own this world? Why has Frith allowed them to rule this world?" For a brief moment, Bracken could feel resentment towards Frith in general. He felt that all rabbits belonged to him in that instant and he hated it, the fact that all rabbits were punished for their own mistake and there was man allowed to continue on without any punishment at all.
"Sir..?" Straw looked at Bracken with a concerned look. "Are you okay?" Bracken blinked as he nodded his head before hopping over the grass in the middle, landing in the other dirt track. "I'm fine, let's get going, shall we?" He vanished through the other hedge without pausing to check it.
Birch turned his head to Straw who looked at the place where Bracken had vanished and nodded. "Come on, best to catch him up." He hopped away, jumping into the hedge and vanished from sight. Birch followed behind as they entered into a brown field where rows of cabbages were growing in neat rows. Up in the middle of the field, there was Bracken who was looking up to where an old scarecrow was swaying slightly in the wind and they could hear him shouting at it.
Straw and Birch ran up towards Bracken as he was looking up with a frown. "Why...?! Why aren't you punished for your actions? Is it just us rabbits that have to endure Frith's anger?" He looked down as he head butted the pole that the scarecrow was attached to and then rested his head against it, breathing hard as he heard two sets of paws coming up behind him as Birch called out. "Are you okay?"
Bracken shook his head as he slowly turned away from the scarecrow and then jumped at Birch before pinning him to the ground with a growl. "No, Birch I'm not okay. I'm far from okay at the moment. And you know.." Bracken felt a sharp pain on the side of his body as he found himself flying into the air and landing with a hard crash into one of the cabbages. Straw was standing over Birch, breathing heavily as he looked at Bracken with a frown. "What are you, tharn or something?"
Bracken breathed heavily as he felt the anguish lift from his body as he gave out a soft groan before slowly stretching his body. "Did you have to hit me so hard?" He asked as he gave a wince while moving up to a comfortable lying position. Straw continued to stand over Birch as he looked at Bracken with a frown. "Sir, it had to be done, but I like to know just what do you think you were doing?"
Birch tried to move as Straw looked down and nodded before stepping over him to make his way over to where Bracken was carefully in case he had to defend himself. Bracken noticed the body language that Straw was showing him as he muttered. "You don't have to be wary anymore, it's passed." Bracken looked to where Birch was and lowered his head. "I'm sorry Birch, things just got to me rather quickly all of a sudden, it had been on my mind since we left that place. Thinking about why we had to endure everything and how man gets away with things. I was blaming Frith for it, but maybe he has his reasons why he won't deal with them and only punishes us."
Straw sat down as he looked from one to the other while his frown slowly melted away. "Okay, look. I know that the last few incidents haven't been the best since we had to leave our warren but we have to stick together. We're the only ones left, you know? We shouldn't be fighting at all, it's not right. We still have each other and we're going to find this warren and see if we can get accepted there and we'll be able to live our lives in peace."
Bracken nodded as he got up now fully, standing there as he looked about. "Well, we best get on, we are I think within Efrafan territory or there about. But it's weird how we haven't met anyone from it. I'm sure we should be meeting some of those wide patrols we've heard passing hlessi tell us about when they stayed at our old warren?"
All three of them came to an agreement on that as they all headed off across the field, leaving behind the scarecrow which continued to stand there as nothing had happened. Moving through another hedge, they arrived into another field that had green plants growing out of it in rows as Bracken looked about. "Well, we're in some farm I know that but I don't know where the farm house is, so maybe we're on the edge of it." He began to hear sheep noises up ahead and then gave a shudder. "Oh don't tell me we're coming near to sheep."
To all three, it seem that their journey was now a challenge after another as they approached the end of the field where they looked through the hedge to see a green field with white sheep moving about, pulling the grass out to the roots as they made a racket. All three of them had dealings with sheep near their old warren and they all knew what pests they could be. It was Birch who spoke out first. "So want to go through them or take the long route and see if we can find a field without them in?"
Bracken looked ahead and saw something that made his heart miss a beat as he smiled. "Look over there, just over the end of the field. Can you see it?" The other two looked up and for the first time they could see a hill starting to show up above the far hedge line in the field and they all felt their spirits lie. "Well, maybe that's the place that rabbit was afraid, the warren which beat Efrafa."
Straw nodded his head. "Well, it doesn't answer Birch's question though, do we go through or find a way around?" He heard Bracken reply back immediately after asking the question. "We go through, now that we have something to aim for, I rather not waste time in finding a place where we don't have to go through them. They could be in more than one field and you never know, they could end up just ignoring us if we ignore them."
Birch nodded his head. "Right, it's not like we're competing against them this time around for food source when they escaped that time and ended up around our warren." He saw Straw gave a frown as the image of the memory entered his mind. "Don't remind me, they never shut up, even when it had gone dark. I couldn't get a wink of sleep for days as I recall. I was glad that I heard a dog which led them away and brought peace."
Bracken slowly went forwards as he spoke himself. "Well, yes. As well as interrupting the way of life for the warren. We lost two rabbits I think after some sheep decided to stampede. What I am wondering though, isn't there a male goat about?" Birch brought an even more important question that made Bracken quickly turn around and head back into the hedge. "What about a dog? Sheep usually have a dog?"
"Okay, that mistake I don't want telling to anyone." Bracken said as he panted, ashamed of thinking such a valuable bit of information. Straw smiled. "Don't worry, you were feeling a bit pressurised a few moments ago. You're still here so it is a lesson to be learnt I think." He saw Bracken nod his head as Birch looked out into the field.
"I don't think there is a dog, can't hear one and I can't smell one either but I think the best thing for us to do if it is a bit risky anyways." He looked around to the edge of the field. "Is that we run about the edge of the field, follow the hedge until we get to the other side and then leave. Hopefully we will be past them and won't have to worry about it. Besides..." Birch stopped as he was thinking, trying to bring something up from his teachings as he muttered. "Usually if there is a dog about, wouldn't the sheep be all gathered up together than be all over the place at the moment?"
Bracken came to a decision as he spoke. "We try and cut across the field. Going around the other way would bring too much danger and I rather we get through this as quickly as possible. If we do run into a dog, we can run under the sheep, the dog couldn't anyways so we have an advantage while it would waste time to get around them. Even if it meant us risking being trampled, by the sheep who would also want to get away from the dog as well." Bracken looked at the other two and saw them nod their heads. Giving one more look about to make sure that it was safe, all three of them sped off again into the field as they past sheep who continued to graze at the grass. Straw muttered under his breath. "It'll never grow back again, never pull it out completely." He saw the warning look from the other two and remained quiet as they reached the centre of the field and stopped to have a rest again.
Birch jumped when one sheep took a bit of the grass but also nearly bit into his tail as he hopped away to get around behind Straw. "Hey, watch we're your eating?" Birch heard the other two, laugh out loud as he frowned. "It's not funny..." He hopped away again and then heard Bracken give a shout as he had to get out of the way from a hoof. "Right, that's it. Come on, I want to get out of here." All three of them ran off again to get to the other end of the field which they were all glad when they were away from the sheep and in the safety of the hedge.
Straw panted as he looked back to where the sheep were and then spoke. "Well, that was frustrating. Why do you think they keep such annoying creatures, I mean what use do they do apart from eat all the grass until it doesn't grow back."
Bracken replied back. "No, it does. I've seen man go about once in a field that sheep had eaten everything with a few officers once and then after a while, new grass had grown back. He was throwing stuff down onto the ground and all. Besides, it's just another weird thing that man does that we may never really fully understand."
Birch moved about around the brambles within the hedge as he spoke. "I don't think I want to know, I may go tharn with all the tharn'ness that man does and end up doing what they do every day. You have to wonder if they like living the way they do."
"Who knows?" Bracken said with some annoyance. "Always seems to bring the conversation back to man though. Can we at least change the subject for a while?" He saw the other two nod their head as he continued. "I was thinking more about what to expect when we get to this new warren, if this is the right direction and all." He slowly began to walk out of the hedge as he checked about again before walking slowly out, content on just walking for the time being than staying still. The other two followed him as they came up alongside him as he continued to speak out. "I mean, they will have their own Chief rabbit and Captain of Owsla and we will be the ones that will have to show respect as lowly rabbits for the time being. I can't expect us to be with the top lot right from the start or if we ever will."
Straw nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that had crossed my mind. We could try and get back into their owsla if they would let us but at the moment I be happy to be accepted and get a burrow, even if I have to share it on the outskirts from the main warren. What about you Birch?"
Birch was looking ahead as he thought about his answer for a moment and then replied with a soft thoughtful voice. "I'll be happy with anything as long as I don't have to go back to that other place. But yeah, a nice warm burrow and also the chance to eat pellets again would be nice. Something you forget about when you always have to travel making it a bit impossible really."
All three of them had been neglected to follow certain rabbit rituals that they would've done while in a warren and the thought that they had forgotten about doing them had made them wish that they could get back into warren life as soon as possible. Even though a small part of them had enjoyed the excitement of being an hlessi, the experience taught them a few things about how things went about and that there was other places around that were just as dangerous as elil and man himself. Gone were the days when they had thought that the only place that rabbits feared was the tales of Efrafa but now they had experience a place that was much worse. None of them wanted the life of being an hlessi now, the call of it which had been there in the back of their minds while they did the routine warren life stuff had long since left them.
As the afternoon wore on, they could see the hill get taller and taller while they pass through field to field, road over road and eventually they came up to a road where they could see in the short distance from them, a tall metal thing sticking up out of the ground which Birch said it looked like a tree. "Hmm, a glowing tree." He stared at it for a while before he was poked in the side by Straw. "Come on. Let's get across this road first so that we can go have a closer look at it."
The road at the time was clear as all three rabbits ran over the road, the hard surface tiring them out faster than being on the soft ground. They came to a stop near the hedge and rested within it for a moment. Bracken sniffed about a bit and replied. "Definitely can smell rabbit, been through around here recently as well." He moved about and saw some droppings which he sniffed again and looked about. "Hmm, its fresh as well, still warm. I think we found the place, must've gone up to report it."
Straw nodded. "Well, they could've seen us approach from a while ago and sent someone down just to see if we are heading this way. I think we should expect some company soon." Birch got up and stretched. "Well, I'm going to take a look at that glowing tree anyways before they do. Not seen a tree like that before, doesn't even have leaves."
The electric pylon was near the edge of the field which was the furthest from the bottom of the hill that lay in another field away. As they moved towards the pylon, Birch came to a stop and sniffed it when he got near enough to do so. Giving his nose a rub with his front paws he tried again to give it a sniff and then blinked at the other two. "Well, it doesn't smell like a tree." He looked up at it and stood up to get a better angle. "Weird leaves as well, they go on and on."
Bracken flicked an ear. "Can you hear that? There's like a sound coming from it, like a bee buzzing about but it has the same sound coming from it." He looked up before adding. "Sounds like it's coming from the top?"
Birch nodded his head. "Yeah, it's a bit loud though, really. Wonder what grows on it and falls down?" He sniffed the tree again and once more rubbed his nose. "It's got that same smell as what Frith messenger runs on. I wonder if this thing grows those things it runs on or grows the food that the messenger eats."
While they were looking at the humming glowing tree, the sun reflecting on one side of it, they didn't notice that a few rabbits were coming down the hill in the distance, one of them with a thick tuft of hair in between his ears and looking like he meant business.