Watership Down - Blueberry's Tale, Book 2, Chapter 37

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


Chapter 37 - Blueberry vs Vervain.

Later on in the afternoon where Frith was slowly declining in the sky to signal the time that evening was again over the world. Blueberry was woken up down below in the dark underground burrow which had started to smell like himself as he got up and sniffed to see that there were two rabbits outside. One of them spoke. "Come on, you're wanted by the council. It is time to see if you will still be alive by the time Frith comes up tomorrow or not." The other rabbit gave a soft snigger as Blueberry nodded his head and followed them out.

Blueberry walked through the warren as he saw a few rabbits that they pass lower their heads to the owslafa officers as he made his way from the prison part of the warren and into the large council burrow. There he could see that the council was on a higher shelf of the burrow where he was led to a point and told to stay right there. Keeping his head low, Blueberry waited as he heard Campion and Vervain enter the burrow from opposite ends.

Campion came next to Blueberry as Vervain paused slightly and gave a frown before he looked up to where the council was and saw them nod their approval which made Vervain frown even more but then he realised what he was doing and he looked down and waited. Avens cleared his throat as he spoke. "Captain Vervain, would you please state what charge this officer is under?"

Vervain lifted up his head as he spoke up. "This officer is charged with running away from a battle, a battle that Efrafa lost due to the cowardice which led to the downfall and defeat of Efrafa and also the loss of our leader, General Woundwort. I put it to the council that this officer should be made an example of so that any other officers that decide to try and come back will know that we do deal with deserters."

Avens nodded. "So noted, Captain Vervain." He turned his head towards Campion and spoke. "Campion-rah, do you have anything to say in this officers defence?" Campion nodded as he lifted up his head. "I would've done the same against such odds as would any other rabbit. Is it not true that survival is deep within us that to run into danger would go against our very instincts? We do not know this officers full story yet so how could we punish by guessing on what happened?"

Teasel nodded his head. "That will happen in due time, Campion-rah." He bowed his head and allowed Avens to speak again. "It is so noted. Would the officer in question please show the respect by coming to attention?"

Blueberry lifted up his head as he came to a full sitting up position and looked out in front of him, matching the same stance as Campion. Avens nodded his head as he turned to Vervain. "You may continue."

Vervain walked about as he passed Blueberry and Campion before walking back again and stopped before facing Blueberry with his back to the council. With a sneer he looked directly into Blueberry's eyes, daring the buck to hit out at him as he spoke. "Are you a coward, officer?" Blueberry didn't answer until Avens spoke. "You may answer the question."

Blueberry replied back to Vervain. "No, sir I am not a coward." Vervain smiled as he padded about again. "So if you're not a coward, you must have had a motive for running away when the General called out for you to stop and help fight that dog, correct?"

"I had no such plan, sir. I was just trying to survive like everyone else." Blueberry replied back before Campion added. "As what myself and Vervain did, council." Vervain gave a frown as he walked up and down before he turned on Blueberry again. "

Pisum spoke. "But Campion-rah, you do agree that a chief should expect absolute loyalty from his officers, correct?" Campion nodded his head. "Yes, that is expected." Pisum continued. "So why would you think that this officer here decided to not show that respect and ran away like many others had, included you."

Campion lifted his head up a bit higher as he replied back. "The owsla was tired, they had been searching for long for this warren and when they had found it we had problems with elil who knew that such a large number of rabbits out and about. After getting up there and digging out the holes we were shocked to see a dog on the down, a lot of confusion can sometimes make anyone take flight away from danger."

Avens nodded. "That is understandable, I have seen some who have fled when duty could've been done but it is in our nature." Avens turned to face Vervain. "Captain, I have not heard much yet to decide that this officer has done anything wrong, considering you had ran away as well. Why are we here?"

Vervain was taken aback as he looked at the council members before speaking. "Sirs, we cannot allow this to happen, if we..." Avens cut in again as he looked at Vervain. "Then we should place you and Campion on trial as well. That's if you want justice done for the death and loss of our General? Is that not so, Captain?"

Vervain looked down as he shook his head. "No sir, I do not think I should stand trial for the loss of our General." Avens nodded. "Then if you do not have anything else to discuss on the matter then I see no other way but to release this officer so that he can resume his duties within his mark."

"I just have one more question to ask." Campion said as he looked towards Blueberry. "Why not tell us why it took you so long to get back to this warren." Blueberry replied back. "I had ran off in the other direction, it took a while for me to make my way back without being caught by other elil and to not to go directly through Watership Down. Elil have been more around this area since that battle. It wasn't easy to get back but I am back now."

Avens looked to the others as he saw them nod their heads, before he turned his head back again and spoke. "Then I lift the charges from you and you can go free." Avens turned his head to Vervain. "May I request that you make a better case with facts next time you arrest an officer."

Vervain nodded his head as he fumed inside. Avens added. "Oh and that you should concertrate on finding anymore stragglers out there that are ours in case they need help in finding their home again here. This trial is over." Avens nodded to all as the council left, leaving just Blueberry, Campion and Vervain in the burrow.

Campion spoke. "Vervain, I think you owe Blueberry an apology, don't you?" Vervain didn't speak as he turned to leave. "Vervain!" Campion shouted that made the other buck stop dead i his tracks. "I said, don't you think you owe Blueberry an apology." Vervain muttered. "I'm sorry." Then Vervain ran out of the burrow, leaving the other two inside.

Campion looked at Blueberry before he spoke. "Well, you are off the hook, they couldn't charge you without charging me and Vervain and anyone else that got back here alive." Campion paused before he spoke again. "Remember what I said before, that I needed someone to trust. Well, I like you to take over the hind mark as the new captain, what do you say?"

"I don't know." Blueberry replied back. "I ain't sure if I can call this place my home." Blueberry moved about. "Hawkbit would say I'm mad and as for Carbi, he would go insane that I chose to stay here."

Campion came over to where Blueberry was. "Look, I won't lie but I need you, you have the same sort of vision that the rabbits have that stood against Efrafa. I know it's a very hard thing to do but the mark does need some help again and you could make sure that changes could be made within it, if done slowly. You be helping those within that mark."

After a short while, Blueberry nodded his head. "Fine, I'll do it but you best keep Vervain away from me or I will end up back here on a charge of killing him." Campion nodded. "Don't worry I think soon Vervain will make his move. Shall we go and I'll introduce you to your officers, then I have to go do something." Blueberry nodded his head. "May as well, jump into the deep end I suppose."

Following Campion, Blueberry looked about as he slowly went up to the top as he sniffed the night air. Hopping out he came up to where Campion was and stood up on his hind legs. "Okay, I admit it. It is good to be on top again." He looked about as he heard something in the distance but then turned his head back to where Campion was. "Tell me, why is it that we're still in the mark system?"

Campion sighed. "Blueberry, I tried to tell you, it's hard to change things when there are rabbits like Vervain enforcing the old ways." Blueberry frowned. "But you're the chief rabbit, he doesn't control you." He looked away before muttering. "It's like you want him to control you like Woundwort did."

Blueberry hit the ground hard as Campion pressed down onto his side with a growl. "No I don't!" He paused and then released his paws from Blueberry's side and then nodded. "You're right; I have put it off long enough. But I have other things to do first. Come on and I'll show you to your new burrow where you can take a look about your mark."

Both moved to another hole as Blueberry spoke again. "Campion-rah, I'm sorry if I had offended you, I didn't mean." Blueberry paused. "I'm just frustrated that things haven't changed even with a new chief in place."

Campion nodded. "Don't worry about it, you're still young and all, you will learn that some things will take time, but anyways we should not discuss it now." Campion changed the subject. "I will get another mark captain to meet you for a few days, just so that you know what the schedule is and how you should go about things. You do have other captains and officers under you which you will have control of if they have your mark."

Blueberry looked as he past several burrows with some rabbits inside each one that remained quiet as he passed. "I understand, what is this marks current silflay times?" Campion replied. "At the moment it's morning and evening, the normal for rabbits so you shouldn't have too many complaints until it changes again to ni-frith and fu-inle."

Campion slowed down as he stopped at an empty burrow. "This is your burrow; make it as home as you want and Blueberry, thank you for doing this for me." Campion came closer to Blueberry and whispered. "Anything you want to pass on to anyone?"

Blueberry nodded and spoke quietly. "Try and explain why I stayed here. Tell them that it's something I have to do and that I don't resent them. I hope that things will work out so that we can see each other again." Blueberry paused. "If things don't work out then I'll have to request going on a wide patrol or leave, I don't think I could stay here if Efrafa remained the same, you understand." Campion nodded before he turned and headed out. "Get some rest; you're not on duty until silflay. I'll let others know they have a new captain in charge here, no doubt they will come and see you for orders." With that, Campion left Blueberry alone.

***

Hawkbit had welcomed Hazel, Bigwig, Blackberry and Fiver back as he looked out to the dark running water of the river and turned his head back again to them again. "Well, no one has come yet, wonder what has happened. I hope blueberry is okay."

Fiver hopped about as he looked into the river himself and gave a shudder. "Something bad is going to happen but I don't know what it is." Hazel came up to where Fiver was and placed a paw on his back gently. "What is it?"

"I don't know, it's like something is searching for something, wants revenge." Fiver shuddered slightly as he looked away from the river and stared up at Hazel. "Evil is coming, but I don't know from where. All I know is that it is searching."

Bigwig muttered. "Oh that's great that is. Wonder what else we have to put up with." Hazel gave Bigwig a frown as he spoke to Fiver. "Do not worry about it for now, I'm sure we will find out and overcome what is to come."

A short while later, there came a noise from a bush as Bigwig moved to stand in front of Hazel as the head of Campion came into view. Campion looked at Bigwig and spoke. "Well, hello Bigwig." Bigwig frowned at Campion as he spoke back. "You came alone?"

Campion nodded as he hopped forwards a bit and then sat down in front of them. "I've not come here to fight or to take you away, just to talk like Hawkbit said to me before. What do you want?"

Bigwig was about to say something but Hazel came into view from behind and spoke. "We want peace, assurances that there will not be any more trouble between us." Campion nodded his head. "I would like that, yes." He paused before looking at them all. "I suppose you're going to ask for our surrender?"

Bigwig spoke. "Well, it would be a start." But Hazel added quickly. "But it isn't necessary, we should be allies, help one another if we are in trouble. Rabbits should help to survive, we do have enough enemies out here to cope with than fight with each other."

"I'm in full agreement with you." Campion said quietly. "I have lost many good friends during this whole affair, some who have gone way before their time." Campion paused and spoke again. "How are the rabbits that left our warren coping at yours?"

Hawkbit spoke. "They're doing fine, though it's taking a while to get used to not taking orders all the time." Campion nodded as Fiver hopped forward and looked at him. "Hazel." Fiver said. "I believe Campion is speaking the truth."

Hazel nodded. "Well, that is all that I needed. So what has happened to Blueberry?" Campion explained the situation. "Blueberry had faced the council because of Vervain. However, his attempt to bring him to justice failed when he had a pretty much weak argument to start with."

Hawkbit butted in. "So he's fine then?" Campion nodded. "I'd asked him if he minded joining the warren, it was his own choice. Blueberry decided that he would like to join the warren and I have placed him as a mark captain from the mark that he and you Bigwig were in."

Bigwig growled. "Are you sure it was his choice?" Campion nodded. "Bigwig, listen I would care if you didn't growl at me, I am here peacefully as the chief rabbit of my warren. I need help to change things from within; there are still some rabbits there that are loyal to Woundwort. I am in a way but I also know that he was wrong on some things. I cannot change things if I don't have someone that I can trust. Hopefully in time we can exchange rabbits from warren to warren though I have to say that we still face some overcrowding issues."

Hazel nodded his head in thought. "We can't take many more now ourselves, our warren is growing with the new rabbits that we have from yours. Some are now expecting." Blackberry who had been listening quietly to the conversation spoke up for the first time. "What about if we make a new warren, we can send any excess to there and it should help issues of overcrowding with both warrens. That and perhaps we could help to tie friendships if we have both set of rabbits move in."

Campion and Hazel turned to look at Blackberry, followed by Fiver, Bigwig and Hawkbit before Hazel spoke brightly. "Blackberry what a clever idea that is." Hazel turned his head to where Campion is. "Does that sound fine to you?"

"Yes, yes it does sound fine to me." Campion replied back. "We should meet up again to discuss this more. I think I have a rabbit in mind who can take charge of it. An old friend of mine, Groundsel is his name, unless you have another choice for a chief rabbit for it?"

Hazel smiled. "Well, it will be something to think about. We should head back to our warren but we will welcome you if you come back. Maybe one day you can offer us the same friendship and hospitality in coming to your own warren."

"We have a lot to work on." Campion said as he looked at Bigwig. "I don't blame you now for what you did. I hope that we can be friends for real this time around than pretend?" Bigwig looked down as he replied back. "Our friendship wasn't fake, Campion. I knew that you would eventually see sense on what was going around you. I just hope that my actions didn't impair it too much?"

Campion replied back. "No you didn't Bigwig. I would be happy to talk procedures with you some more." Bigwig relaxed a little and nodded his head as Campion turned to go. "I should go, leaving the warren for so long without anyone noticing can make some edgy if you don't know where your chief has gone to, until next time, goodbye." Without saying another word, Campion ran off and vanished into the night.

Hazel nodded as he motioned for them to head in the other way back to Watership Down. Hawkbit looked to where Campion had gone and he spoke quietly. "I hope you know what you're doing Blueberry." Bigwig came up to where Hawkbit was and spoke softly. "Of course he knows, it's something he has to do. You'll see him again, don't you worry." Hawkbit felt Bigwig slip past him and after a short moment he turned to follow, paused and looked back before he ran off to catch up with the others.