Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 36

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


Chapter 36 - Prisoner of Efrafa

Later that night, Hawkbit was about to leave so that he could get back to report to Bigwig before he gave another look again, noting when the officers had changed their rotas. Backing up slowly from within the bush, he turned around and nearly cried out in shock as he saw Campion standing there by himself as he muttered. "Shhh, not so loud, we're not that deaf you know. Follow me."

Hawkbit blinked but he slowly followed Campion out and away from the warren as he kept looking about for signs of an attack. When they finally came to a stop, Campion turned around and gave a growl. "I suppose this was Bigwig's idea and that Blueberry is now working for your lot now?"

Hawkbit bit his tongue as he looked at Campion and replied back. "What's happened to him?" Campion looked about before he spoke again. "He was arrested by Captain Vervain, he still has some power within the warren but that's falling now, there isn't that much support since our loss to your warren. You know, you should really learn to hide a bit better, I saw you today while I was talking to Vervain in the open."

Hawkbit sat down as he spoke. "We didn't want to fight you, we were just living on our own, minding our business and we tried to help you by taking a few rabbits to offset the overcrowding that you had." Hawkbit frowned at Campion. "You're the lot that decided to come and attack our warren."

Campion sighed as he looked at Hawkbit. "Okay, this will be very important if Blueberry is a friend of yours." Campion saw Hawkbit nod his head as he spoke. "Answer truthfully, what are you up to and what do you want?"

Hawkbit looked back at Campion as he replied back to him. "Well, that depends if you're going to attack us again?" Hawkbit looked at Campion as the silence filled the night air for a short while as Campion shook his head. "No, we're not going to attack you again." Campion turned around as he looked up into the starry sky. "I think your chief was right, rabbits shouldn't be fighting with each other. We do have enough problems with elil and man to contend with without fighting amongst ourselves." Hawkbit remained silent as Campion continued on. "I respected the General, but I know now that he went overboard on a few things, but he had our good interests at heart, even if he lost how to do it without being blind on hurting some at the end."

"Hazel wants to talk to you." Hawkbit said as he hopped so that he was beside Campion. "We want peace with our warrens, no more fearing about attacks or another war, we should be helping each other to make things right. Can you help Blueberry at all? Is there any way of breaking this cycle of attacking another warren or making rabbits into prisoners?"

Campion nodded. "I'll see what I can do, you should leave here. I take it that Bigwig is at the same place by the river?" Hawkbit didn't answer as Campion spoke again. "Don't worry, I won't send anyone there to get him. You have my word as a Chief Rabbit, not as a General." Hawkbit nodded his head as he replied. "Yes, but if we see anyone else but you come then we will leave." Campion nodded. "I do not know when the council will see Blueberry but it will be soon, so you best make sure that you let anyone know what is happening. I will meet up with you with someone else that I trust later on, you should go wait with Bigwig, it's far too dangerous to do so here."

Hawkbit frowned. "Okay, but before I do I'll need to ask another question. If Blueberry is found guilty what will happen to him?" Campion simply replied. "He'll be killed, but I will try and make sure that does not happen." Campion frowned. "I think Vervain will try and use this as a way to gain control of the warren and may get rid of me as well."

Hawkbit blinked. "You know, I'm curious as to why you're telling me all of this? How do you know you can trust us?" Campion turned around to leave but he turned his head back again with a reply. "The only way to start peace is to start being truthful with each other, if there is no lies between us then it will make it much easier to do with the task. Let us hope that we both do not mistreat that trust. Farewell...?"

Hawkbit replied. "Hawkbit is my name." Campion nodded. "Campion-Rah is mine. It's been nice to actually talk to one of you Watership Down rabbits for once, let us hope that we can do more in due time." Without saying another word, Campion had vanished through the bush, leaving Hawkbit to turn around and leave, heading away from the warren.

Campion headed back down below where another rabbit was waiting for him. "Sir, the council would like to see you." Campion nodded his head and went through the runs towards where the council were. Entering the large burrow he bowed his head as he entered and spoke. "You wished to see me?"

Avens nodded. "That we did. We understand that Captain Vervain has arrested one of our own that has come back to us. What do you think about it?" Campion sat down and replied back. "It was a difficult situation, I do not think that he did anything wrong under the circumstances. I would like to see the situation resolved but he should not be punished for escaping with his life, he did after all return to us."

Moss spoke up. "You ask for us to find him innocent of the charges. Where do you think you want to lead our warren, Campion-Rah?" Campion looked over at Moss as he replied back. "Efrafa has taken a huge loss over the last couple of seasons, we have faced over-crowding, famine and of course the disastrous attack on another warren." Campion got up and walked up and down the burrow. "I know where Vervain would like to take our warren but I think that would be a mistake."

Pisum spoke next as he flicked an ear. "You're suggesting that General Woundwort ideals were wrong?" Campion stopped walking and sat down again. "No I'm not, he had some good ideas and he made sure that no elil would get into the warren. However, you cannot deny that it brought new problems that we were eventually blind to. Surely we can achieve both, Efrafa has to change."

Avens spoke. "I agree and I do carry the weight of the council decision in this as well as the Chief Rabbit which is you for now. I just hope that you can ensure this warren does not fall; we have all worked so hard to make sure that it will not happen. However, speaking of such, Captain Vervain does hold some political power of his own and he has a good argument himself so we will have to see on who will bring their views in the trial. We will have to remain partial throughout this though but we have taken both sides wishes on hand in this matter."

Avens hopped down from where he was sitting and he walked over to where Campion was before he stopped very close to him and he spoke quietly into his ear. "But be careful, I feel that maybe a few on the council and Vervain himself may have other plans, the removal of General Woundwort has brought a new problem and a few officers may take this opportunity to attack if you show weakness. Times will be difficult for the one who is in charge now."

Avens turned around and hopped back to where he was before he turned and faced Campion again and spoke aloud. "If you want to stand up for Blueberry it is your right but you will lose your vote on the council. Do you agree on this?"

Campion nodded his head. "I agree to those terms. When will this trial begin?" Campion looked at each of the council members as they all turned to face each other and began to whisper before they gave a answer. "The first session will start tomorrow evening where it will be Captain Vervain to bring the case to us, you will cross examine the following day where we will come to a decision on this matter the day after that."

"I understand." Campion said and turned to leave but he stopped as he heard Avens speak again. "We will not be able to see you again in private. The same has been said to Captain Vervain as well. Not on this matter but we will require you on other warren matters however. I will warn you not to try and bring this situation up during those times. It will go against you in the overall rulings."

Campion nodded and left the burrow where he left the council rabbits to get back to what they did which was rest at this time. Campion came to a junction in the warren run and looked to the left and to the right. Heading to the right, Campion went to where the prison burrows were placed as he came to another junction where two big rabbits were blocking the way.

"Let me pass." Campion said as he looked at them both, but saw them both shake their heads. "I'm sorry sir, but Captain Vervain said that the prisoner wasn't to get any visitors from anyone, including you." Both rabbits backed away as Campion frowned at them. "So you think you should take orders from Captain Vervain and deny access to a chief rabbit then?"

"No. No of course not sir." The large buck on the right said and he moved to the side followed by the other one. Campion moved forwards as he turned his head to face them both. "You will not tell Vervain about this, as far as he is concerned. No one has seen the prisoner, is that understood?" Campion saw them both nod as he walked past them with a frown.

Coming to the burrow in question, he turned into it and sat down looking at the sleeping buck on the ground and he coughed. Seeing Blueberry wake up, Campion looked about the burrow before he spoke. "Well, you have gotten yourself into a right mess, haven't you?"

Blueberry shook his head as he tried to get the cobwebs from his head as he replied back. "What do you want?" Campion slid down as he lay on the ground with a reply. "To help, though I do want some honest answers to a few questions first. The first one is why did you betray General Woundwort?"

"I'll think I'll leave that until I'm in the council session if you don't mind." Blueberry spoke back. Campion shook his head. "I'm asking now, are you always this disrespectful to a chief rabbit?"

Blueberry snorted. "It depends on the chief, if there is a good chief that has the mindset of looking after the warren rightly then he would get all the support and loyalty that he would deserve. But Woundwort, he was bad, I didn't like that, could see the suffering in this warren and no one else could see it." Blueberry looked Campion in the eyes as he spoke again. "Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see something wrong that someone from the inside has grown accustomed to."

Campion spoke again. "So that's why you had to betray this warren?" Campion saw Blueberry nod his head with a reply. "Yes, sometimes it's necessary to do something wrong and risk your own life and respect if it helps a warren. That's why we did it, I won't say I won't do it again if it is called for."

"Good." Campion said back which made Blueberry blink back. "You are right about it, we did get used to how things were going here. A lot of our own kind suffered under the harsh regime. At first even I didn't see it when Hazel and all came and they had so much devotion on peace and living how a warren once did before the General came." Campion looked about as he lowered his head to the ground and sniffed it for a moment before lifting it back up again. "I changed after that, knew that the way that we were doing things was wrong. Do you know that a lot even started to begin to forget about El-Ahrairah and thought that Woundwort was even better than him?"

Blueberry replied back. "No I didn't, wasn't around that long." Campion nodded. "I didn't either but after being able to think about things and also knowing how hard being a chief can be, what with all the politics it brings with it. I've come to understand maybe how Woundwort changed the way that he did. He wasn't this bad in the beginning but I suppose with all the problems this warren had and the demands that this position brought. Some rabbits got into his head to make him go down the path that eventually led to his destruction." Campion looked at Blueberry before asking. "I need you, I need people that I can trust and you have the same mindset as those at Watership warren do. I know you may not wish to live here or be part of this warren but I am asking, giving you a choice. I will help you at the trial even if you wish to go back to Watership."

Blueberry didn't reply back at first as closed his eyes in thought. "May I have some time to think about my decision?" He heard Campion get up as he nodded his head. "That will be fine, I will speak to you more tomorrow morning. Get some rest; you will need it when Captain Vervain will question you in front of the council tomorrow."

Blueberry spoke out. "Be careful of him, I don't like him at all." Campion nodded. "I am keeping an eye on him, I already know what he wants." Blueberry blinked and looked questionably before Campion spoke again. "He wants to be Efrafa's chief rabbit, if he manages to do that then I fear that we will make the same mistakes all over again under the General." He paused as he looked at Blueberry before speaking. "He was one of the rabbits that put things into Woundwort's head, changed him into what he was. Vervain wouldn't fight, never would on his own, you see. He would always use others to do it for him. But I think he underestimated Woundwort in the end, he couldn't control what he made in the end. The student became the teacher. No, I think Vervain would prefer to be in charge and have a few that he can control. I think he already killed the others who helped him in the beginning but there's no proof of that. They all died while on patrols." Campion turned and then left the burrow leaving Blueberry to think hard as sleep had left him.

***

Hawkbit was panting hard as he ran as fast as he could until he reached the point where Bigwig would be waiting. Slowing down, he looked about and frowned before he heard something from behind him and jumped to see what it was.

Bigwig was there as he looked at Hawkbit and just spoke a word. "Report." Hawkbit nodded his head as he spoke. "Sir, Blueberry was arrested by a patrol under the orders of Captain Vervain. I witnessed that myself while I was hiding close by." Hawkbit saw Bigwig frown from that bit of news and continued on with his report. "But it didn't look like they were happy with their orders though. It seemed that they didn't want to go about arresting their own kind but anyways, they led him back to the warren. I followed as best as I could but I was too far away to hear anything else that was said."

Bigwig began to pace up and down with a frown on his face. "We suspected something like this would happen. Me and Blueberry knew that Vervain would be up to something already but it would seem that he has gone a bit too far ahead of himself. Is there anything else to report?"

Hawkbit nodded. "I saw Campion." Hawkbit saw Bigwig turn around as he nearly shouted. "What? You were seen by them?" He was about to go into another spate of shouting when Hawkbit spoke back quickly. "Yes, he saw me but he's changed Bigwig. I told him what we wanted to do and he wanted to meet with Hazel himself. He also said that he would try and get Blueberry off the charge as well. It would seem that he wants Efrafa to change but Vervain looked to want to continue on with the General's way of life and attack Watership."

Bigwig sat down with a thoughtful look on his face. "When is he facing the council?" Hawkbit shrugged. "I don't know but Campion... Er, Campion-rah thinks that it will be soon, perhaps when Frith next goes down or the one next after that."

"I see." Bigwig got up and he looked at Hawkbit. "Are you okay to stay here while I go back to the warren and talk to Hazel about this?" Bigwig saw Hawkbit nod his head as Bigwig began to run off. "I'll be back as soon as I can." Hawkbit went by a bush and slid under it as he turned his head but Bigwig had already disappeared.

***

The next morning, Blueberry had found himself being woken up by Vervain who had that sinister look on his face. "Come on, get up. You know the drill be now, we have to show you off to the other rabbits and get them to think twice of doing something wrong in your mark."

Getting up, Blueberry walked out of the burrow as he moved down the run, Vervain was up in front but Blueberry could see another rabbit in front of him so he decided to soak it in for now. He found himself going upwards until he was pushed into the small alcove again where Vervain sat and looked at him. "I see that you have no one willing to fight for you, well not that I'm surprised, usually those that do end up sharing the same fate and I'm sure I can persuade Campion and the council that you should be punished."

Blueberry gave a sneer. "You mean Campion-rah right?" He winced as he felt the paw of Vervain rake through the front of his face again as Vervain spat. "Do not think to correct me scum. I've never liked you and I don't trust you either." He looked at the officer next to Blueberry. "Make sure he doesn't escape, his mark should be coming up soon."

Seeing Vervain leave didn't help to relieve the anger that had been welling up within Blueberry as he looked at the run wall opposite him, some of the soil had started to play shapes as daylight began to shine part of the way down into it. Blueberry thought that they must still be using the rotation system for silflay and he wondered why that hadn't stopped. Then he thought that perhaps Vervain and his lot had probably made that a lot harder for Campion to bring in those changes.

After a short time, Blueberry saw some owsla officers come past him, some of whom looked at him with a sorry look or a frown before the main mark came up. Blueberry was shocked to see that most of them didn't give him that sort of scared frightened or angry look that they had when he was there for the first time as they went past. Blueberry thought he heard one of them trip but muttered under his breath of good luck but he couldn't be sure.

The time during was boring for Blueberry but he did pass the time in thinking on what he had to tell the council and if there was any way for him to get one over on Vervain during that time. Remembering that he had to see Campion again brought his spirits back up as the time went by and he saw the rabbits come back past him again as htey went back underground. Blueberry was led back again to his burrow but without Vervain this time around. Settling down, he waited until Campion could come back again.

***

Bigwig had arrived at the bottom of the down and decided to rest for a while under the iron tree, using the thick long grass as cover while he caught back his breath. He felt all of his body ache form all that running he had done the night before and it had placed him in a foul mood before he got up again and started his journey up the hill.

Arriving at the top, he was pleased to see that Hazel was up and about on top as he ran over to him and came to a stop. "Hazel, we have a problem." Bigwig said as he explained the situation. "Blueberry has been arrested by Captain Vervain but Campion wants to start negotiations with us for peace. However it would seem that Vervain wants to get the warren back to attack us again and is trying to become chief by getting rid of Campion."

Hazel blinked as he looked about. "It would seem that our success in defeating Woundwort has brought about another big problem and it would seem that they have a power struggle going on there." Bigwig nodded his head as he replied back. "Yes, and it would seem that Vervain is going to use Blueberry for something. What do you want to do Hazel-rah?"

Hazel went quiet as he looked to where the hill went down as though he was looking in the direction of where Efrafa was and then turned his head back again. "Right, we need to go down there in case we need to help out, at least we can wait and see if Campion shows up so we can talk at least." Hazel paused as he looked at Bigwig. "Where's Hawkbit?"

Bigwig replied back. "He's waiting where we were when we got that boat last time we were in that area. Just in case Campion came about it was best to leave someone there than both come back." Hazel nodded. "Well, we best get ourselves sorted out and get back there. We should take a few others with us just in case."

Soon, Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver and Blackberry ran back down the hill again as they made their way to get back to where Hawkbit was waiting, hopefully with some new information as Hazel frowned, hoping that they could stop the madness from happening again, he didn't want to face another battle, they had lost so many from that already.

***

Campion arrived in the early afternoon as he entered the burrow again to talk more to Blueberry who was staring at the blank wall, watching an ant walk about as he turned his head to where Campion was and spoke. "I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show up?"

"I was delayed, some business I had to take care of within the council." Campion replied back. "Even though Bigwig took some rabbits with him, we're still pretty much crowded and it's starting to get serious. We can't keep going like this in keeping them here." He saw Blueberry's face and added. "I know but I can't do anything about it until I get some more support or at least make those supporting Vervain to come over to my side."

Blueberry sighed as he shook his head. "I don't think I would like to be in your place then, how could a warren get to be like this, so full of corruption?" Campion looked down to the ground and didn't reply before Blueberry added. "I'm sorry, I wasn't passing judgement, I was just wondering."

Campion nodded as he spoke. "Well, that can be for another time but I need to tell you on what is about to happen. I don't think you have been through something like this so you may not know the rules. I think Vervain is trying to keep everyone from seeing you so that you can act insulting to the council which would work in his favour."

Blueberry nodded. "I see, so what do I need to do then?" Campion began to explain the situation. "You cannot speak unless the council asks you a question by name. Any question that would seem to be directed to you without using your name is actually directed to me or Vervain. I'm your defender in this case. Vervain will try to prove whatever defence or yours if you get the chance to be wrong. You have to keep your head down at all times when you enter and then stay in a strict sitting position; you're an officer so you have to be as though you're being inspected by a captain. It could be a while, I take it you can stay like that for the duration?"

"Okay, do I call them by name or just sir?" Blueberry asked as Campion replied back. "If and when you are allowed to answer then speak as though you're talking to someone higher up than you. If you show off the right attitude, don't get angry, don't snap back and keep your cool. Vervain will try anything to make sure you don't. If you can do all that then we have won half the battle." Blueberry nodded as he saw Campion get back up again. "Good, well I have to get going, I can't stay long this time as well, Vervain is keeping an eye on me more. I ain't sure if I can keep it secret that I'm to be the one defending you, he still thinks you have no one."

Blueberry grinned. "So you're trying to throw him off hoping he be out of step when the thing starts?" Campion nodded. "Yeah, something like that, just hope that we have more tricks of our own than he has." Campion turned around and left the burrow.