Chapter 39 - The start of change
Blueberry, Dewdrop and Quicksilver arrived at the edge of the riverbank as they watched Vervain being swept down the river with a spluttering laugh. "You'll never catch me, never!" Blueberry ran down the edge of the bank but found that the gap was increasing with each passing second before he couldn't run anymore and stopped looking out into the river as Vervain vanished around the corner.
Blueberry walked back slowly to where the other two was as he looked at them for a moment in silence. Neither of the other two spoke a word as Blueberry looked back to where the river was and then spoke quietly. "Come on, let's go, there's nothing for us to do here anymore." Slowly he, Dewdrop and Quicksilver walked away.
"Well, I hope that's the last time we see him." Dewdrop said as he walked alongside Blueberry. "I can't see how he can survive something like that." Quicksilver said with a thoughtful tone in his voice. Blueberry didn't reply back at first as he continued to walk and Dewdrop turned his head to look at him. "Sir?"
Blueberry came out of his thoughts as he replied back. "I don't know, someone like that could always come back or there would be someone else to take over from the space that he has left behind." Blueberry paused for a moment as he swallowed and cleared his throat. "What I want to know now is what to do about the future." He stopped and looked at Dewdrop and Quicksilver. "I mean, with our mark, do we continue on with the old ways or do we work to change things? We have to try and get council approval and all but as I've seen with Vervain, some will not be willing to allow change to happen."
"Sir, if it be alright, I'm all for it." Dewdrop spoke back as he looked to Quicksilver who nodded his head. "We don't know how to though, we've been here in this warren longer than you but we know you're not proper Efrafan and all." Blueberry looked away as Dewdrop continued to speak. "However, we can share ideas with each other, we know how some things work out better and you know how some other things work better than we have done. So overall it would help Efrafa to get better and that's fine by me, a stronger warren would come of it."
Blueberry smiled as he continued to walk on again. "Dewdrop, continue to talk like that and I'll begin to think you're looking for a promotion." Quicksilver snorted with a laugh. "Oh I have no doubt that he is looking for one, best watch your back."
Dewdrop shook his head. "No thanks, I rather gain it from working hard on it and earning it properly. Best way really, stops you taking on too much and then having to pretend you know what you're doing when you get too high up."
They reached the iron road again but decided to go under it this time around by the tunnel. Blueberry didn't say a word as he looked about the dark tunnel and heard bats moving about above, before flying out as they all kept their bodies close to the ground. Getting back up again they finally carried on without anymore incident and arrived at the field where they saw Campion waiting for them at the end of the field that the attack first happened.
Blueberry came up to him as he shook his head. "He got away, jumped into the river. I didn't want to risk anymore lives on him, if he wanted to commit suicide then that was his choice. I can't see how he can survive but then again weird things have happened. He'll be well out of reach from a patrol now though."
Campion-rah nodded his head. "Well, perhaps it's for the best after all. He has left us and now that we can get on with changing this warren for the better. You best head back down and get some rest." Blueberry nodded as he looked at Campion-rah. "So where did the bodies go?" Campion replied back. "We dragged them to a place where we know elil to pass by. No doubt that by tomorrow morning there won't be a sign of either Gerva or Pisum when Frith comes up.
Blueberry nodded his head as he turned to head off, but Campion-rah called him back as Blueberry looked at Quicksilver and Dewdrop before speaking. "I'll see you tomorrow, thanks for tonight." Seeing them nod and leave he turned and headed back to where Campion was. "I saw your friends tonight, do you think it will be in the warren's best interests to be allies with those that we had fought for?"
Blueberry blinked as he looked at Campion-rah. "Having second thoughts?" Campion-rah shook his head. "No, but after what happened tonight I think we may have a hard time of making it happen here." Blueberry nodded as he looked out to the stars shimmering in the night sky. "Well, I always liked a challenge, think that came about after going across half the country from being forced from home with man. We should be fighting them than with each other. I think in the long run we will benefit from it all. Anyways, sir I should head off. I'll make sure that my mark will keep an eye out for Vervain in case he tries to sneak back again." Without saying another word, Blueberry left as Campion continued to look up into the sky.
The next morning, Blueberry was woken up by the sound of officer Dewdrop who was standing outside of the burrow. "Good morning sir, looks like it's going to rain today." Blueberry yawned as he got up and stretched, feeling his back pop slightly as he nodded his head. "Well, can't expect the good weather to last forever, at least it will help in making more grass grow around here." Dewdrop nodded his head. "That's something that we need to discuss, we may have to ration a bit more on what is left out there." Blueberry got up and walked out of the burrow as he looked at Dewdrop. "I didn't know that things had got that bad." Dewdrop nodded his head. "We're in a mess, even without someone forcing things on others. You want to go see your officers, they will be waiting up top."
Dewdrop led Blueberry up to the top as he looked about with the following rabbits that were catching a quick bite to eat but they all stopped as Dewdrop came into view followed by Blueberry. Dewdrop spoke up. "You all heard about the orders that Campion-rah has given out and that Captain Blueberry is now in charge of this mark." Blueberry saw all of the rabbits nod their head as he spoke up. "I don't know you at this moment in time but I'm sure that in the next day or two I will get to know you by name. I also know that some may still be thinking about the rumours about my last time being here. If anyone has anything to say I rather you come and tell me than keep it from me, we're all here to work together. For the time being I would like you to stick to your usual schedule of duties today and I will come about and talk to each of you in turn." Blueberry paused as he looked about. "So let's get ready for the mark to come up for silflay, shall we? Oh one more thing. We're not having sentries to keep people in anymore, you're new task is to keep an eye out for any dangers."
Dewdrop spoke up. "You heard him, we're on a schedule here, so let's get ready." Blueberry saw them all move about, some heading back underground while the others started to go about to get into good positions as Blueberry looked about and then hopped up onto a tree stump and sat down. "Dewdrop, go by the hole where they will be coming up and tell them if they want to come talk to me, then they may." Dewdrop nodded and hopped off to where the hole was as he sat down.
Slowly the rabbits began to come out as Dewdrop spoke to each in turn as Blueberry saw some look towards him as he nodded back before going back to looking about himself, his head moving up to scan the early morning sky as he flicked an ear about. Eventually Dewdrop came back over and sat down again. Blueberry blinked and looked down at him. "I thought you had duties to perform?"
Dewdrop nodded his head. "I do, I'm your bodyguard, every captain in the owsla get them here. This warren is still too dangerous, there are a lot of angry rabbits that resent us still." Blueberry nodded as he spoke back. "So that means you be sticking by me all the time?" He saw Dewdrop nod his head and he smiled before looking out again to the mark who was busying silflaying.
Balsum came over to where Blueberry was and looked up, shaking a bit. "S-sir, may I ask something?" Blueberry looked down and nodded his head and replied gently. "I said that you could, what do you want?"
Balsum replied back as he looked up. "Sir, I just wanted to say hello. I saw you last time when you were here and you were a decent officer. I'm glad that you are back again." Blueberry blinked as Balsum ran off again to a small group of rabbits and he looked at Dewdrop. "Well, seems I did make some impact when I was last here."
"It would appear so." Dewdrop replied back as he looked about before adding. "I wouldn't make it go to your head though." Blueberry gave a snort as he replied back. "I wouldn't even think of doing so." He looked about before he asked something to Dewdrop. "Are there any within our mark currently out on wide patrol?"
Dewdrop shook his head. "No, our forces have been depleted a fair bit after Watership Down. It's going to take about a season I think before we can get things back together again. It was our mark that went off to deal with the problem. After all, we did fail to notice what Bigwig was up to and all."
Blueberry nodded slowly. "Well, sometimes things can happen, you can't foresee everything, have to be a veheer to do that and sometimes that does creep me out a bit but I don't resent them." Dewdrop blinked and turned his head up to where Blueberry was. "Oh, do you know anyone at all?"
"Well, there was someone back in my old warren but he was old and died about a season before our warren was destroyed. I'm not sure if he would've been able to foresee something like that happening." Blueberry replied back as he looked upwards to the sky as a bird flew overhead but it was only a crow. Dewdrop looked up at the same time but had already returned his gaze back to the rabbits up and about. "What actually happened?" Blueberry closed his eyes as he replied back. "Usual thing really, man came one day with their dogs and other elil, I think they were ferrets. They brought fire to smoke us out. And to top it all off, they had their fire sticks that make loud noises and kill from afar."
"Frith! That must've been horrible." Dewdrop replied back as he gave a shudder. "I suppose in a way, Woundwort was trying to keep that from happening here, I don't think man likes a warren that has got too big. We had to be careful in doing farm raids for instance. No leaving anything behind to show that there was rabbits there and we had to be careful in picking stuff up that wouldn't be noticed."
Blueberry didn't respond right away as he gave a thoughtful look. After a while he spoke again with a low voice. "I suppose you're right." Dewdrop nodded his head as he looked about. "He had protected this warren but his methods did go overboard." Dewdrop stopped and then coughed. "So, change of subject, want to go meet some of your officers?" Blueberry nodded his head. "Yeah, let's." Blueberry hopped down and followed Dewdrop.
Down below, Campion was again inside the council's burrow as he looked at Avens before speaking. "I hope that the council didn't know about Pisum's intentions on helping Vervain last night?"
Avens gave a frown. "No, we did not know of any such plot and we resent that you think so, Campion-rah." Campion nodded. "I apologise but I had to ask the question." Avens sat down as he responded back. "Apology accepted. We have decided that for the best interest of the warren that you should be made chief rabbit permanently."
Campion lowered his head as he spoke. "I will give everything I have to ensure the warren survives." Avens hopped down from where he was and placed a paw on top of Campion's head. "Campion-rah, successor to General Woundwort, the council acknowledges you as chief rabbit with all privileges that come with it." Avens moved his paw off Campion's head and hopped back to where he was. Campion lifted his head as he spoke softly. "We should get down to business. I have some changes I wish to implement within the warren." Avens sat down as he nodded his head for Campion to continue. "I wish for Efrafa to accept a proposal from Watership Down for peace."
Moss spoke. "Have they made an offer? What are their terms?" Campion replied quickly. "They offer no terms, they wish to be friends and offer help. This will be in return for our own help. I believe that we must accept if only to get help in sorting out our overcrowding problems. Our old system cannot cope with it anymore, we will end up being spotted if we do not sort it out quickly."
Teasel spoke next. "And what do you suggest Campion-rah?" Campion walked up and down the burrow as he looked at the council rabbits. "I suggest we look into their plan of starting a new warren, one that is halfway in between here and their own warren. There both warrens would send rabbits there that will live in peace with each other."
Avens closed his eyes for a short while and then reopened them again. "And who is to be in charge of this warren. Is it one of ours or one of theirs that will become Chief there?" Campion stopped walking and looked at Avens. "They were quiet happy with my suggestion of offering it to Captain Groundsel."
"Please wait while we consider this." Avens replied as he turned to the others. "Please, follow me while we decide." Campion nodded as he watched the council leave the burrow before he sat down patiently. It was a short while before he saw them again as Avens came back out again with a nod. "The council agrees with this plan, how do you wish to proceed with it?"
Campion looked towards Avens. "I plan on going to their warren with a patrol, there we will discuss matters of peace where we had recently been there to kill. I do not foresee any dangers of said mission. And we could invite them to come over here for the second meeting." "We trust your decision with this." Avens said as he looked down at Campion. "You have always shown to be a good officer when you were captain of owsla and we know you have a good level head. Do you have any orders for us in keeping this warren running?"
Campion replied back. "Only what I told you yesterday, this warren has to change from the ways of the General if we are to survive and grow stronger. Efrafa needs to find itself again, from the early days. Do I have support for this?"
Moss replied. "You do, though the council would like to take things slowly with such matters. The attack on you was just a warning that if we take things too quickly there could be others that may wish to fight to keep things the same. You will have to show them that things can work differently." Avens nodded. "We will obey your orders and give advice, the final decision is really yours but we appreciate you asking us for permission and for our support on these matters. But we will suggest that you will have to find a new captain of owsla."
Campion nodded his head. "You have always helped to guide our chief rabbits in the past in the right direction, I do not see any reason to change this system. I am grateful for the council's wisdom. As for the captain of owsla, I am still considering my options with that but shall come to a decision with haste." Campion bowed his head and turned around before leaving the burrow.
Making his way upwards to the top, Campion paused as he checked that things were okay before carefully leaving the safety of being underground and stepped out into the bright daylight. He paused for a moment. Campion pulled a officer over as he spoke. "I like to see Blueberry by the log, please send for Dewdrop, Carpgress, Groundsel and Buckwheat." Campion saw the rabbit nod as he ran off. Campion made his way over to the tree stump and hopped up onto it, waiting for the others to come to him.
Elsewhere, Vervain laid out on the bank, half of his body still lay within the cold water as he continued to show that he was lifeless. Several rabbits came towards him as they stopped a bit further up on the bank. Captain Ebony looked down at the still form as he sniffed the air. "I don't detect any elil."
Inlo replied back. "No, perhaps he just fell into the river and got swept down here." Inlo gave a wicked smile as he hopped a few paces down. "Ah well, bad luck for him, want me to see if he's alive?"
"No, I do that myself." Captain Ebony replied back as he walked down past Inlo and stood over the still form of Vervain before lowering his head, placing his ear on the side of the buck's body before lifting it back up again. "He's alive." Captain Ebony turned his head back again towards the others. "My, it would seem that his luck isn't improving, though it's going to get even worse in a moment." Captain Ebony turned back around as he shouted into Vervain's ear. "Get up!"
Vervain woke up with a start before spitting out some water that was still within his mouth as he looked up to see a large buck standing over him. "What do you want?" Captain Ebony smiled as he looked down at Vervain. "Oh, just here to tell you some bad news that's all. What's your name?"
Vervain blinked as he tried to get up but felt a paw being placed on the back of his head as he replied back. "Vervain and you are?" Captain Ebony grinned. "Captain Ebony of Darkclaw warren and the bad news is that we found you so you have to come back to our warren. If you refuse, we will just kill you right here and now." Captain Ebony dug his claws into the back of Vervain's neck. "I would decide quickly before I get bored and just kill you."
Vervain swallowed as he replied back. "I will come with you, just don't hurt me."