Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 35

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


Chapter 35 - Off to Efrafa

Frith hadn't risen from the ground as Bigwig was up and about with Hazel and Fiver. "Look, Fiver, we have to go do this." Bigwig said as he unintentionally rolled his eyes, the buck knew that this would eventually come but thought when he had woken up that he had gotten away from it. "I mean, what could possibly happen?"

"What could happen is that you don't know how dangerous it could be. There will be those still there that will still be under the influence of Woundwort and wouldn't take kindly in seeing your there for a start." Fiver replied back as he looked upwards at Bigwig to get some sort of eye contact with the bigger buck.

Hazel spoke. "Fiver, it's been decided, they will take care of themselves but we do appreciate your concern on this matter." He saw Bigwig nod his head as he spoke next. "Yeah, I do. Look, we will be careful, it's not like I want to be a prisoner in that place again, once is quite enough for me I can tell you."

"Once enough is what again?" Hawkbit said as he came up from one of the holes and looked about before hopping to where the three rabbits were. Bigwig repeated what he had just said to Fiver. "I was on about not being a prisoner in that warren again."

Hawkbit nodded. "Well, I don't want to be a prisoner in that place even once." Hawkbit replied back. "Whoa, we just agreed on something, okay I want everyone to forget that moment." All of them laughed out as the mood lightened up as Blueberry's head came into view as he sniffed the cold damp morning air. Blueberry came over as he looked at them just ending their laughing session and blinked. "What's the joke?"

Hawkbit coughed as he nudged Blueberry forwards towards the start of the slope downwards on the hill. "What? There's no joke, besides we have to get going, busy, busy, busy that's the thing with the owsla right." Hawkbit turned his head around. "Are you coming Bigwig. Bye Hazel-Rah, by Fiver. We'll be back as soon as possible." Turning his head around he continued to push the protesting Blueberry away from the others as he continued to deny that there was a joke.

Bigwig smiled. "Ah well, just think about how much I can tease Hawkbit on the way, he'll never want me to let his friend know he agreed with something I said." Hazel chuckled as he shook his head. "You know I could come with you, just to make sure you don't."

Fiver began to push Hazel away back towards the warren. "Oh no, you've much to do around here, warren to run and all. Take care Bigwig, make sure those two don't get into any trouble now." Bigwig blinked and decided to leave as he ran after Hawkbit and Blueberry as Fiver stopped and looked at Fiver with a worried look. "I hope they will be okay but I have that feeling. You're sure you want them to go?"

Hazel nodded his head as he replied back. "Well, we can't protect ourselves completely and we do need to know what is going on there. They're all clever enough to trick their way out or to keep out of trouble if there is any. Come on, let's go look for a good place to silflay before the rest of the warren wakes up."

Catching up with Hawkbit and Blueberry, Bigwig slowed down as they started down the slight slop, running was out of the question soon as the hill would drop to a steep slope and neither one of them wanted to fall down forwards and roll down the hill. Moving along in a zigzag pattern, they began to slowly head downwards as Bigwig spoke. "Okay, it shouldn't take that long to get to Efrafa, we be there by the end of the day, bar anything that would go wrong. Still have to go through the farm though."

Hawkbit muttered. "Great, farms, pfeffa, dogs, man. I'm sure you pick the toughest route, you know." Bigwig nodded his head. "Well, have to keep my officers on top condition now, keeps you on your paws." Hawkbit groaned as Blueberry chuckled. "Well, I'm all for whatever at the moment, been in that warren for a while is okay but I'm still willing to try out things."

Hawkbit frowned. "To be so young, so adventureous, you'll soon learn to slow down and appreciate life when you have more responsibilities and all." Blueberry turned his head to where Hawkbit. "Come on, lighten up, we're on another adventure again, at least it's not digging."

Bigwig nodded. "That's true, could very well tell you to go back and you can dig more new holes for the warren again, I'm sure the does would appreciate it." Hawkbit winced as he shook his head. "Oh no, I've done enough digging to last me a few seasons, no. I'm coming on this mission, besides I think that I may need to increase my skills. Wouldn't mind showing a pfeffa how stupid they are."

Turning more serious, Bigwig spoke now. "Okay, listen up you two. We know we're heading into Efrafa but we have to make sure that we know a few things. For one, Hawkbit, I don't think you want to end up joining the club of being marked; it's a bit permanent in that."

Hawkbit nodded his head as he listened to what Captain Bigwig had to say. "As for me, I don't think I will be able to come in with you or get as close as I want to so I'm going to wait at the river by the bridge. There I will wait for you Hawkbit if you have any information you need to send back to me as I think only Blueberry should go back into the warren as they still think he will be a straggler from the battle."

Blueberry frowned. "There could be a problem though, I ain't sure if Vervain trusts me at all, he's still got something against me and I haven't met him after the battle so I don't know what he has in his mind for me if I do return."

Bigwig nodded his head. "Will it be a problem that you can't deal with?" He looked at Blueberry who shook his head. "No, I don't think it will be a problem, Vervain can be a problem but it's not like I haven't been able to deal with him before or others in that warren. I'm more concerned on what may happen." Blueberry paused as he looked at Bigwig. "It's like you have to keep an eye on your back just in case you're taken out so that someone can take your place."

Hawkbit continued to move down the hill and reached the bottom as he heard Bigwig and Blueberry talk behind him as he looked about and sniffed the air. Hawkbit couldn't detect anything but damp morning dew as he turned his head back again. "Every time I have about Vervain I feel a cold shiver run down my spine. It sounds like he's trying to take on the same paw steps as Woundwort himself."

Both Bigwig and Blueberry snorted at the same time, but it was Bigwig that spoke with a reply after doing so. "You think Vervain to be the next Woundwort? Trust me Hawkbit, he's evil alright but he has a totally different way of doing things. He's sneaky, he lies as well no doubt to get where he wants to get. I wouldn't be surprised if he killed those who were injured to gain their promotion as well. With Woundwort now gone and Campion being in charge now, I think I fear for Campion's life as no doubt Vervain would want to be Chief himself."

Hawkbit replied back. "Great, I'm getting this really warm, fuzzy feeling about him already. I only have a question. Why didn't either of you kill him, could've done the world a favour." Blueberry looked away with a frown. "I wanted to, trust me. A few rabbits there annoyed me in such a way that I wanted to."

They came to the road and stopped, looking up and down it as Bigwig hopped out until he was in the middle of it and turned around. "Come on, man hasn't woken up yet, far too early for him to get up and drive about." He hopped over to the over side and then paused as he heard a faint sound of a crash ringing in the distance as though glass had broken followed by some dog barking loudly.

Moving again, Bigwig looked at the other two. "It's far away, nothing to do with us so let's get going, shall we?" Both Blueberry and Hawkbit ran over the road as they vanished through the hedge and into the field where there were a lot of cow pats on the ground. Running about they stopped in turn ahead of each other as they listened out for elil, since it was still that time of night where most were on the prowl or just coming back from a hunt. Moving along they reched the other side of the field in no time at all as they slipped past a field mouse that was lapping up the dew from a flower, the stem swaying side to side as Blueberry paused to look at it as it lifted up its small snout, some of the flower nectar dripping from its whiskers as it gave a soft squeak. Blueberry nodded his head and then slipped through the hedge to catch up with the other two.

Over in the distance a faint glow began to show as Frith was starting to show itself again as the clouds gave away the secret with bright light on their under bellies. Hawkbit looked at it briefly as he jumped over a small grey stone in the grass field and came up alongside Bigwig again. "So Bigwig is anything else that we should know?"

Bigwig replied back. "Just don't get caught, especially when you have a chance to find out what is going on or hear from Blueberry. I would suggest that you pick a good spot that isn't too far or too near to the warren. If things are fine then maybe we can start some proper discussion. Blueberry, you will have to see if Campion is interested in peace with our warren. Try and get the idea in his head that Hazel-Rah wants to meet with him to discuss it."

Blueberry came to a stop and stood up as he looked about before getting back down again, running after the other two as he caught up and replied back. "Understood, it just be like last time apart from that you don't have a seagull this time around and you're not there to do the risky stuff."

Hawkbit blinked as he looked up into the sky as though he was expecting to see that gull fly about overhead as he muttered. "I wonder if we ever see that bird again." Bigwig replied with a snort. "Well, don't know. He always wanted to get back to that big water of his so I think he's happy at home there while we're happy here. He never said if he was coming back again."

Blueberry chuckled. "He's probably found a female bird to start his own nest. Though I wish I had known him better from all the stories I have heard about him though. I can't believe you ran into him Bigwig."

Bigwig just coughed as he came to a stop just near to the hedge again and stood up, sniffing the air and listening out, the sound of un-natural sounds reached his ear as far away in the farmhouse the radio was on as he listened in to the sounds of whistling mixed in with it. "Man's up." He said quietly as he looked about. "We have to be more careful; don't know when they will come out to tend to the fields today." Hawkbit sniffed the air and wrinkled up his nose. "Oh yeah, they're up alright. There's that disgusting smell in the air again. Only time I smelled that was when we had those dead rabbits to bury."

Blueberry nodded. "I've seen it before; they eat some very weird things. I was on training once with Captain Sando once. It was a very weird first time that I saw man. I could smell both meat and flayrah as well that they were eating."

They all continued on their way again slowly as they passed through another field which was full of sleeping sheep, some have started to stir and wake up on the other side as they all hopped along past one large sheep that was snoring slightly.

On reaching the end of the field they saw the narrow road that led up towards the farmhouse and looked in that direction, life had started to pick up in that area as loud footsteps could be heard echoing on the ground as cows began to make a racket. A bright yellow light shone out from one of the barns as the rabbits looked at each other before Bigwig muttered. "We best get going, not safe here now."

All three ran across the road and into the next field as they slowly began to make their way away from the farm. By the time they had reached a few fields further away, Frith had already gained enough height to bring full daylight all around them as they came to a stop for a brief rest under a bush, all of them panting hard.

Blueberry coughed as he spoke. "Well, we should be away from man now." He turned back towards the way that they have come and started to hear the sound of a tractor starting up in the distance. "I don't think this field has been touched by man for a very long time."

Hawkbit looked out of the bush and nodded his head as he saw the overgrown grass swaying in the morning breeze, the light from Frith making the water droplets that dangled on bent blades of grass shimmer with a halo effect as a few flying insects flirted about from one part to another to get a drink.

After a brief rest, the group continued on their way as Frith continued to climb up into the sky. For Bigwig and Blueberry, the closer that they got to Efrafa, the more cautious they became to the point that it started to pass over to Hawkbit who was also checking for stuff a lot more than usual. Eventually they reached the fields where the cabbages were being grown on either side of the iron road. Bigwig came to a stop right next to the wooden fence from the far side and then stood up as he sniffed the air. "There's rabbit here but I think..." He stopped and hopped over to one of the wooden posts and sniffed at the ground before nodding his head. "Yeah, it seems to be the scent of your friends that past here recently."

Blueberry came up to where Bigwig was and bent his head down to give the ground a sniff himself as he lifted it back up with a reply. "Yeah, that's them. Look, you can see their tracks in the ground still." Blueberry hopped over to them as he gave them another sniff. "Don't think they knew the danger really of walking through here with leaving tracks like that." He looked up into the sky. "They'll go as soon as the next rainfall comes however."

Bigwig hopped forward and went passed Blueberry as Hawkbit came up alongside Blueberry. "Well, maybe they were too busy moving in case the other warren they escaped from was going to come back and send another load of rabbits after them. Did you hear anything more about them?"

Blueberry nodded. "I had a quick talk with Carbi before I left, it kind of put Efrafa as a nice safe warren. What got me though was the chilling tale of their Chief. It seems like they're all waiting for their true leader to return. But being made to fight each other to the death was the one that set me back. I'd take Efrafa any day than that." He began to follow Bigwig as he talked quietly to Hawkbit. "They even made their prisoners become proper target for their new training owsla to kill."

Bigwig had stopped as he turned around to face Blueberry with a frown. "They did what?!" He hopped back towards them with a frown. "They killed rabbits like that." Bigwig shook his head as he dug his claws into the dry earth. "It would seem that this world is full of warrens that are full of evil and have lost the way. Shining Wire, Efrafa and what was this warren they were in?"

Blueberry replied back. "They call it Darkclaw Warren, apparantely there are rabbits around there that are more scared of that place than Efrafa. Most haven't even heard of that place as it's so far away. It was bad luck that my friends ended up being swept down there by the river."

Bigwig gave a shudder. "We went downstream once in the rain to get away from Woundwort. I'm so glad that we never met anything like that at the time." He looked about again as he stared up at the sky and then back down again. "We best get moving, if they have managed to get their owsla back into order, then there should be a wide patrol soon in this area."

Moving onwards they reached the end of the field which was again surrounded by a wooden fence and slipped through it to get onto the dirt path. Looking about Bigwig was deciding on which way to go and then he motioned for them to head off to the left as they kept as close to the fence as possible running down the lane.

Hawkbit panted as he was just behind Bigwig with Blueberry taking up the rear as he looked up and saw some birds fly overhead high into the sky as they came to a part where Bigwig started to slow down. Bigwig gave them a look of not talking as they approached the tunnel that lay underneath the railway bridge as they hopped across the width of the lane and came to some overgrown long grass.

Moving slowly out, Bigwig looked into the dark tunnel as he walked slowly into it with Blueberry and Hawkbit taking up the rear. None of them breathed as they ventured into the darkness, seeing the light at the far end as even their own steps echoed around the walls. Looking up, Hawkbit saw that some water that had dropped onto his head and quickly moved out of the way before another cold droplet could land on him.

Bigwig gave Hawkbit a warning glance before heading off, leaving Hawkbit to scowl slightly that it wasn't his fault. The rest of the way went uneventful as they came to the other side and back into the daylight again. Sniffing the air, Bigwig came to a stop and turned around to where the other two were standing. "Okay, I'm going to head off to the river. Hawkbit, I'll be where we were last time when we found that boat."

Hawkbit nodded his head. "How could I forget that night, but I remember it yes." Bigwig nodded his head. "Okay, I want you to come with news for me every night at fu-inle. Come even if there is nothing to report. If you come at any other time I will know that something is up."

Bigwig turned to go but Hawkbit coughed. "Look, Bigwig, just be careful okay, I don't think they would be fooled by that river thing again. Perhaps you could find another place to hide out and show me it on my first report."

"Well, yeah I'll do that." Bigwig said and then he ran off into the distance, leaving Blueberry and Hawkbit alone at the edge of the tunnel. Blueberry sniffed the air and then spoke. "We best get going, sure you want to do this, if you get caught it won't be a pretty thing."

Hawkbit hopped a bit forward and then spoke. "Well, we can't stand here all day and I rather get it all done before I change my mind and decide that this is a really tharn idea." Hawkbit went to hop a bit more before he heard Blueberry call. "Er, Hawkbit, the warren is this way." Coughing, Hawkbit turned around and ran up to where Blueberry was and came into step with him. "So, you're pretty much away without leave with the Efrafan owsla then?"

Blueberry sighed and nodded his head. "You could say that but I suspect there are a lot of us that are either still about the countryside or just about getting back to the warren. I just hope that me and Bigwig didn't leave it too long. Too soon and it could be suspicious on why I have come back, especially if you're caught or if they find Bigwig in the area. Too late and yes, I could be charged with running away from the warren. I have no doubt Vervain would like to use either excuse really or he has something else thought up in his mind."

"Well, I'm sure you will be able to deal with him, sounds more like a bully to me, anyone that stands up to him and I'll bet that I won't eat another carrot in my life that he won't run away, that's if you get him on his own or he doesn't have any backup." Hawkbit replied back as they continued to run along the path, Frith was high in the air now as the shadows continued to shrink.

Blueberry came to a stop and looked about. Hawkbit stopped just behind Blueberry and he looked about as well before speaking. "What's the matter?" Blueberry took a few steps forward and then he turned around to look at Hawkbit. "Can you run?" Blueberry saw Hawkbit nod his head as he turned towards the hill that led up to the railway tracks. "Get up there and hide. A patrol is coming; you have to follow where they will take me without being caught. Go, now!"

Hawkbit didn't wait about as he ran off through the wooden fence and made his way up the hill as Blueberry ran off to get as far from Hawkbit as he could, making his way over to where the patrol was. Feeling the beat of his heart thud in his chest he could see them in the distance as they came into view. Not slowing down, he saw them increase in size before he gave a sigh of relief as he saw that Vervain wasn't with them.

Eventually Blueberry came to a stop and stood there waiting for the patrol to come up to him. Eventually he saw them arrive as they surrounded him before Captain Carpgrass spoke up. "Right, just stay where you are."

Blueberry didn't move as he replied back. "Do you see me moving?" He looked around as he saw the other rabbits move around to the side and behind him as one of them spoke up. "Sir, he has a mark."

Captain Carpgrass moved to look to where the mark is and then he looked back at Blueberry again. "Well, well. Looks like we have got an officer who had ran away. You're under arrest." Blueberry sighed as he looked at Captain Carpgrass. "For what, running away? You know how dangerous a dog is when it's tearing about killing everything?"

Buckwheat was about to give Blueberry a cuff on the head but Captain Carpgrass held up a paw to stop him. Looking at Blueberry he replied back. "It's Captain Vervain's orders; all that haven't returned back by now to Efrafa are to be treated as traitors. I can't go against those orders, you do understand?"

Blueberry gave a frown as he heard the name that he had been waiting for and he shook his head. "No, I don't suppose you could. Can you tell me if anyone else from my mark came back?" He saw Captain Carpgrass shake his head. "None of your mark came back, you're the first and only one. Now come on, we have to get you back to the warren."

The patrol slowly began to run away as Hawkbit poked his head up a bit to look at them running off. Muttering to himself as he slowly got up and ran along the top of the hill keeping the group of rabbits in view ahead. "I hope we know what we're doing here..."

The trip to Efrafa was silent as Blueberry was kept in the middle of the group, he knew that there was no escape but that was far from his mind as he looked about seeing the same old area again as they came to the point where the road known as the Crixia. Blueberry moved his head to the side as he saw a few rabbits lying about as he knew that he was well within the guard area now.

Hawkbit came up as close as he felt safe to and ducked into a bush and laid down onto the ground as flat as he could. Looking out to where he could see in the distance of Blueberry being led by the four other rabbits he could see other rabbits in the grass as he gave a frown, muttering. "Great, now what?"

***

Blueberry slowed down as the rest came to a stop as they looked about. There he could see a rabbits heading their way and he could see that it was Vervain. Blueberry slightly dug his claws into the ground when he saw Vervain but relaxed again in case anyone noticed it.

Captain Carpgrass spoke up. "Sir, we caught him near the iron road." Blueberry stood still as Captain Carpgrass moved aside as Captain Vervain came forward with a sneer. "My, I thought I would have a good day today and look who has come back to us. Where have you been Blueberry, hiding away like a coward instead of reporting back for duty?"

Blueberry felt a growl growing up within him but he forced it back down again with a swallow. "No, I have not sir. It has taken me this long to get back after being chased by a murderous dog on a rampage after getting blood lust from killing rabbits."

Blueberry felt Captain Vervain slap him with his paw hard across his face, in the distance Hawkbit saw it and gave a growl himself as he watched on. Blueberry spat onto the ground as he felt pain from the claws as he looked back at Vervain with a stern look. Before he could say anything back, another voice came over as he saw Campion come running over.

"What is going on here?" Campion said and Blueberry saw Captain Vervain grow smaller as he turned to look at the other rabbit with a reply. "Sir, a patrol has found one of the stragglers that never returned back home for duty." Vervain paused before he continued on. "You know the ruling on this, there will have to be a council hearing to decide his fate. He is under arrest and I thought I would question him."

Campion looked at Blueberry and then looked beyond him as he answered back to Vervain. "I see, well we do have to go with the rules, until the council decides that my position as Chief is a permanent one, that is." Campion gave Vervain a look. "However, Blueberry here is still an officer and I would like for him to be treated as such even though he has to face charges. So there will be no more of that." Campion turned around again to look at Blueberry's new wound. "Captain Carpgrass, take him down to one of the prison burrows and place a guard on him."

Captain Carpgrass nodded his head as he pushed Blueberry to the side. "Come on, let's get going shall we?" Blueberry gave Vervain another foul look before he went off with Captain Carpgrass and the other officers before slipping down into one of the holes in the distance.

"Campion, may I remind you that Efrafa is still a warren built from Woundwort's ideals and that you'll have to follow our rules on the matter. We have to rebuild and attack that warren again, not to mention that General Woundwort may very well still be alive."

Campion didn't look at Vervain as he replied back. "Why Vervain, it sounds like you're trying to say that Efrafa's Chief Rabbit doesn't know what he is doing? I could see the council looking at you in a bad way also Vervain." Campion moved off slightly before he stopped and looked at him. "As for rounding up our officers that ran off, I would like to point out that you did the exact same thing and didn't see you come to General Woundwort's help when he told us to stay and fight that dog either. I will fight you on this one." Campion moved off without saying another word, leaving Vervain to stare back with a frown before heading off himself.