Chapter 34 - The Reunion.
Four rabbits were carefully making their way down the hill, Hazel, Hawkbit, Bigwig and Blueberry. Blackberry had seen them earlier in the day and had reported to them that there were three rabbits heading their way. Blackberry had gone to where he could find Bigwig earlier on in the day.
"Bigwig, there's three rabbits heading our way in the distance? Don't think they look Efrafan but you never know, could be some stragglers about after their defeat." Blackberry said while trying to catch his breath. Blackberry listened to what Bigwig said and nodded his head before running off back down the hill to wait to see if they would come any nearer.
In the meantime, Bigwig headed off to where he knew Hazel was up and about and came up to him. "I just had Blackberry mention we have a few rabbits out on the down heading this way. They should reach the bottom of the hill by early evening." He flicked an ear to an insect as he looked around for a moment. "Do you want to come with us when they arrive or wait until we know if they're safe or not?"
Hazel didn't reply at first as he contemplated things before replying. "I'll come down with you. Besides, you can't protect me all the time." He saw Bigwig was about to contest that and chuckled. "Hey, I am not going to end up like our old Chief at our old warren. I like to keep active as well, you know." Hazel nodded his head at Bigwig and added. "But I know you have my back." That seemed to have done the trick as Bigwig nodded back before they continued on with the rest of the day.
As the four rabbits from above were heading down the hill, the three were still looking about at the power pylon and hadn't noticed that anything was coming their way. Birch sat down and gave a sneeze as he rubbed his nose with his paw and shrugged. "Well, I'm fed up of this. Doubt we know what that thing is really, knowing something it's probably man made and it's not a tree afterall."
Bracken shook his head as he replied back. "I think you're right, but then again maybe not." He paused as he looked at Straw who was in thought and looked the other way as he replied. "I still think it has something to do with the Frith Runner, but we don't know much about that stuff. I suppose he will tell us when he wants to." He looked towards where the sun was slowly starting to head downwards and then blinked as something caught his attention from the corner of his eye and he spoke quietly. "I think we're about to be met by the local warren."
Bracken and Birch turned around and then hopped so that they were next to Straw. Bracken found himself in the middle with Birch and Straw on each side of him. He looked as he saw the rabbits moving down the hill as they vanished out of sight when they went into the field in front of them. "Well, should we go ahead and meet them or wait for them to get here?" Bracken asked.
Straw replied back. "Well, let's wait here as this seems a good enough spot and we can see anything coming around us anyways. Let them make the first move, just in case we make a wrong one by moving around their own territory."
Birch nodded. "Well, if they so much as look like they're the same as that other place I'm going to just run away if it's all the same to you two." He didn't get a reply as they saw a rabbit head pop out from the hedge in the distance, sniffing the air before emerging fully out with another three rabbits behind him.
Bracken blinked as he stared out, two rabbits were looking nearly the same with the same tuft of hair on top of their heads but as the group came closer and closer, even Birch and Straw suddenly began to realise that something was familiar about one of them.
Blueberry was had noticed who they were suddenly gain a bit more speed and took over from where Bigwig was in front as he heard Bigwig call out. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" Blueberry though ignored him and came running right at the three rabbits and slid to a stop, some grass had been ripped by his paws.
"Straw, Birch... Bracken!" Blueberry blurted out. "How..? I mean, hi but how on Frith...? Where have you been?" He swallowed as he felt the other three arrive behind him and swallowed before turning his head towards Hazel, Bigwig and Hawkbit. "It's okay, I know them, they're from my old warren."
Bracken chuckled as he looked at Blueberry but then he turned his head to Hazel and lowered it. "My name is Bracken and I would like to request that we could join you." He paused for a moment and then added. "Sir."
Hazel looked at Bracken for a moment and then spoke. "How did you know I was the one in charge?" He kept looking within the eyes of Bracken and then nodded his head as he spoke. "I see, you're the leader of your warren I take it?"
Bracken nodded his head as he sat down and replied back. "Sometimes you know, after working with someone who was Chief, you just know the look that they have, the way that they show themselves. I wasn't Chief at my old warren though, a good friend was, but he went tharn at the time man came and destroyed it. I was under Captain Sando but he didn't make it either." Bracken turned his head to where Blueberry was standing. "We ended up getting split up at that river when man came along chasing after a homba. Tell me, did any others survive?"
Blueberry nodded. "Well, Hawk died but Carbi is still alive and is up on top." Blueberry lowered his head as he spoke. "Hawk did it so that he could save Carbi while we were in Efrafa."
Straw lowered his head as he replied back. "We lost Halgrass as well, but that's a long story for later." Bracken nodded his as he looked at Blueberry again. "Well, I can see that you have grown up since we last met." Bracken saw Blueberry nod his head as he turned to face Hazel again and coughed. "Sorry, you were saying?"
There was no malice or frustration on Hazel's face as he replied back. "It's okay, I'm sure that you have a lot of stories to share and no doubt that we would be happy to listen in if that would be okay. It's not every day that a warren has new stories to tell and share." He paused before adding. "Please, come. Friends of Blueberry's is a friend of ours." Without anymore being said for the moment, all of them started on their journey back up to where the warren lay on top of the hill.
Bracken came up alongside Blueberry as he looked at him. "So I noticed you have a mark?" He saw Blueberry nod his head as he replied back to Bracken. "Yes, I came across Efrafa first, had no choice at the time in joining them, they didn't take kindly to having hlessi running about the place, that and warrens."
Bigwig who had caught the new conversation from his ears, slowed down, as he came up alongside them as he listened. Bracken nodded his head. "Well, it seems to have made you grow up a bit. Then again I think our situation has made all of us grow up in a way."
Bigwig nodded. "I think when you are faced with such danger of losing a warren and having to move into uncertainty that you do grow and learn." Bigwig looked ahead at where Hazel was up in front as he spoke. "There was a time when even in our group there was tensions on who should be in charge, we didn't lose our warren, we had warnings from a veheer, Fiver who saw it all but leaving a warren like that was hard. Needless to say that I came to a conclusion that after all, Hazel was the right one and I was happy to step aside."
Bracken replied back. "I don't think we had the time to think of things like that. After all, we ended up being in so much trouble after being washed down the stream. Listen, I think we've shaken them off as we've not had anyone follow us for days now, not since crossing the first of two rivers. But there's another warren, Darkclaw warren with some tharn Chief there. Well, we never had the time to think about who should take over, bit busy with surviving really."
The group reached the bottom of the hill as they started to climb it. Straw hopped forwards to get in line with where Hazel was and spoke. "I didn't think I could've believed such a place existed, not until we met some rabbit back a few days ago that got ran over by a messenger of Frith."
Hazel blinked. "You met an Efrafan? What did he have to say for himself?" Hazel turned his head to the side a bit to listen to the reply from Straw as they bounded up the hill much faster than Hazel and his group had come down previously. Straw replied back. "He went on about you and your warren, how you controlled elil and suddenly just ran into that messenger and died. It was the first time we met one, we heard stories told of them from passing hlessi who had heard about them and knew to keep away from the warren or had to be very careful in passing it."
Hazel spoke back. "Well, we've not heard anything from them at the moment although I ain't sure if that will last. We have to wait and see what will happen now with that, but it is something I have put off for a while, perhaps I should do something about that." He remained quiet and Straw didn't push it since he was new and all.
The group finally reached the top of the hill as Bracken, Birch and Straw turned around to look out over the top as they saw the world below them. Blueberry hopped over to where the others where and smiled. "Well, you have to admit that we have a view that makes anyone who comes here take a look out, don't you think Hawkbit?"
Hawkbit gave a scratch of his ear as he nodded his head. "Well, Hazel you can't dispute that one, seems that we have something to show off." He looked up and gave a loud shout. "Come here and see the world." He paused as he shook his head. "Hmm, well I suppose we could charge flayrah for the privilege?"
Bigwig snorted. "Don't talk daft, you're starting to sound like one of those Shining Wire lot with ideas such of those." Bigwig gave a slight shudder as the memory of it came back to him and he swallowed a few times before feeling a bit better again.
Bracken turned around and hopped back. "Well, I definitely know that you saw us coming from a fair way away. You can see the farm and river from here." Hazel nodded his head. "One of our rabbits spotted you appear earlier on this morning, but you were too far away to really send anyone. We had some work to do on fixing the warren still."
Nodding his head, Bracken replied back. "Well, we didn't meet anyone at all apart from that one rabbit." Blueberry looked at Bigwig and spoke. "You know, perhaps we should go check it out again, see what is actually happening there and all."
"That's not up for us to decide that but..." Bigwig turned his head towards Hazel with a questionable look. "So, what do you think?" Bigwig continued to look at Hazel as he closed his eyes in thought before replying. "Okay, we have to check on the situation and I have been thinking about it myself. Perhaps with Woundwort gone they won't have the need to continue in those ways of theirs anymore and may need help."
Hawkbit blinked. "So a show of good faith then, is it? Well if you two are going then I'm coming as well." Hawkbit looked at Blueberry and Bigwig. "Even though it scares me, I'm interested in seeing this place and besides, someone has to keep a look out on you." Hawkbit looked at Blueberry before hopping back to get away from an attempted cuff by the other buck.
Hazel shook his head. "Okay, Bigwig. You may leave as soon as you like but come back as soon as you can determine what is going on there. If you can see if it is okay, then I would like to arrange a meeting with whoever is in charge there now and try to secure a new peace. I think you best let Blueberry go in there though, they'll probably think he's still one of their own." Hazel looked at Blueberry. "But that isn't certain, but I think it may be asking too much if Bigwig goes in what with killing one of their officers while escaping and bringing their downfall. As for you Hawkbit, well they won't know you but all of you keep on your guard."
Bigwig nodded. "Right, we leave first thing in the morning, before Fiver gets wind of this and tries to talk me out of it or get you to change your mind. You know how your brother is like Hazel. He does worry far too much sometimes."
"So that's why you left without saying a word the last time?" Hazel said to Bigwig with a chuckle. "Well, at least this time I know what you are up to so I won't worry too much." Hazel turned to the others. "Well, we leave you be and let Blueberry find you a place to stay. You all probably have a lot to talk about before he has to go tomorrow. And I need to go anyways before Hyzenthlay comes looking for me." Bowing his head slightly, Hazel ran off and vanished down one of the holes in the ground.
Bigwig gave a yawn and nodded to the rest as well. "I'm heading down as well. Blueberry, Hawkbit, I don't want you to stay up too late tonight. If I see that you're not in perfect position tomorrow you won't be coming, I will pick another rabbit or two if I need to." Bigwig turned to go and then paused before looking at Bracken, Birch and Straw. "It's been nice to meet you as well. Get some rest before I get back as well." Bigwig gave a wink and then bolted down one of the holes and vanished from sight.
Bracken blinked as he looked towards the hole was where Bigwig had vanished into. Hawkbit spoke up as he hopped over to where the three newcomers are and turned back to look at Blueberry. "Should we tell them?"
Blueberry moved his head to the side before he gave a thoughtful sound and then answered. "Oh I don't know. I mean, they only just arrived, not sure they want that horror thrusted on them." Blueberry blinked as he saw the three of his friends stare at him before coughing and spoke. "I think you're about to be drafted into Bigwig's owsla, as officers."
Bracken, Birch and Straw just stood there and then shook their heads. "Oh I don't know." Bracken said. "I suppose we could manage it, I mean we have been owsla before you know?" Blueberry gave a funny grin before replying back. "You sure, seems to me that you've forgotten about what warren life is all about."
Blueberry bolted as Bracken lunged at him. "Why you cheeky thing, come back here!" Hawkbit just sat there and then laughed as he saw Bracken chase Blueberry around the top of the hill as Birch shook his head as he looked at Straw. "Looks like we're going to be alright, doesn't it?" Straw nodded his head as he saw Blueberry get knocked onto the ground before being cuffed playfully by Bracken. "Yep, I think you're right there, we're home."
A short while later, deep within the warren, Carbi was saying his goodbye's for the night with Fiver before he left his burrow; both of them had been talking for most of the day and had become good friends. He was about to settle down to sleep when he heard Fiver talk at the far end of the run and gave a soft yawn. Then he paused with his mouth open as he heard other voices and then closed it again before moving about in the burrow to get ready to get a few hours of sleep.
Blueberry poked his head around the entrance of the burrow and spoke. "You still awake?" He listened and then repeated the question. "Come on, I know you're awake, Fiver only left a moment or two ago."
Carbi yawned as he turned around and looked at where the sound of Blueberry's voice was coming from and replied back. "Yeah, I'm awake, what do you want?" He blinked as he saw Blueberry walk past and then poke his head in again on the other side of the entrance to the burrow. "Oh I thought you would like to have some guests, they do want to talk to you and all."
Blinking, Carbi replied back. "Blueberry, I'm tired. I've been awake all day talking, not to mention helping Fiver out this morning in keeping the new kits we have from the does of the Efrafan's entertained. You have to tell them to come back tomorrow."
"Well, that's nice, after all we've been through to get here, you think he be willing to see us." Bracken said as he popped his head into the burrow himself. "Hello again Carbi, now how are you?" He slipped into the burrow and then came Birch and Straw who followed in as Carbi stared out in disbelief, which was quickly followed by surprise and happiness.
"No, no. Please come in." Carbi said as he looked to where Blueberry was and blinked. "You staying as well, we have lots to catch up on." Carbi saw Blueberry shake his head and looked to where Hawkbit was, though Carbi couldn't see him and spoke. "I be a short while, you best go. I see you in the morning." Blueberry turned his head back again and looked at Carbi before he spoke to him again. "I'm heading off first thing in the morning. Owsla duty and all, we've been ordered to go see what is happening back at Efrafa."
"Why?!" Carbi spoke out loudly, making Bracken, Birch and Straw to look in between Carbi and Blueberry as Blueberry sat down and replied back. "It's something me and Bigwig have been discussing lately."
Carbi shook his head as he blurted out. "But after what happened there, I don't know why you would want to go back." Carbi looked out at Blueberry with a frown as he shook his head. "I'll never go back there."
"I know." Blueberry said as he spoke softly. "Carbi, it was Woundwort that made them the way they are, if there is a chance that they can change without his influence then no one else should ever have to go through it. They may need our help and if we have the same hatred then we would be just the same as they are."
Straw looked at Carbi and gave him a friendly nuzzle, sniffing his friend again to get back that scent. "Carbi, he does speak truthfully, you know our warren would never think evil of any other rabbit and I know that this warren doesn't."
Carbi sighed but he nodded his head. "Just promise me this, Blueberry. Be careful when you're there. We've lost enough of our own than to lose anyone else from our warren." Blueberry nodded his head and then turned to go. "I will take care." He stopped and turned his head back again. "It's really great to see you all again."
Bracken nodded and got up as he headed out of the burrow leaving the other two with Carbi as he walked slightly down the run with Blueberry and stopped. "I don't know what has happened but I'm sure I will by the time morning comes about. I'm not going to say you shouldn't go or if you should as I can see in your eyes now that you know what you are doing and know your limitations." He looked back to where Carbi's burrow was and turned his head back again. "But be careful anyways and always have some tricks ready just in case, okay?"
Blueberry nodded. "Yes sir, I know." Bracken shook his head and spoke. "Nope, not your commanding officer anymore, you're in the owsla and at the moment I am not. So really I should be calling you sir. I'll see you around." He saw Blueberry nod and then Bracken turned and headed back into the burrow with the others.
Standing there in the run for a moment alone, Blueberry could hear voices coming from within the burrow now and he felt a warm glow in his chest. He didn't know if anyone else survived or if it was just them but in some form or another, the old warren that he knew would live on and so would the stories that each rabbit held within them. Blueberry turned around and headed off to get the rest he needed for the task that lay ahead the next day.