Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, and Blackavar made the journey from Watership Down to Efrafa. Strawberry had been sent ahead to inform Campion of his desire to meet in Efrafa and talk about building an alliance between the two warrens. As they approached Efrafa they were halted by Captain Thornberry with his wide patrol that just returned from scouting the boundary of Efrafa near the Iron Road.
“Hazel-rah we have to report to Campion-rah but you and your friends are welcome to stay above ground and silflay. The Near Hind Mark won’t bother you. A messenger will be sent above ground to let you know when our chief is ready for you.”
“If I may can I talk to the rabbits here?” Hazel asked the red buck.
They watched Captain Thornberry go below ground with his patrol. “Blackavar quit shaking. You’re driving me nuts.” Bigwig said to the black buck he had rescued from Efrafa.”
“Sorry Captain Bigwig. I’m just scared to be back at my old warren. Too many bad memories.”
“Fiver do you see anything?”
“No Hazel,” the smaller brown rabbit said to his older brother.
The four Watership Down rabbits noticed that the sentries were still in place along the perimeter of the warren. “I thought Campion made changes to the warren?” Bigwig asked. “Doesn’t look like any changes were made. These rabbits are still prisoners here.”
“Be patient Bigwig. Let’s talk to the rabbits here and wait for our audience with Campion before jumping to conclusions. In the meantime we have to find Strawberry.”
A two year old gray doe named Mist hopped forward. “Blackavar is that you?”
“Mist! I’m glad to see that you’re okay.”
“Oh thank Frith! I had hoped that you would have survived the battle between our warren and Watership Down.”
“Efrafa may be my home warren but Watership Down is my home now Mist.”
“Of course.” Mist hopped up to Blackavar and nuzzled him with her nose.
“Hazel-rah, Captain Bigwig, Fiver this is Mist. She’s a friend of mine from my old mark.”
The rabbit smiled at Mist and Blackavar. “I think the doe’s more than just friends with the young chap,” Bigwig said to Fiver and Hazel. The other two rabbits nodded chuckling to themselves. It was obvious with the way Blackavar was behaving that this doe meant something more to him besides being friends.
“Would it be alright if you talk with us for a bit before Campion sees us?” Hazel asked.
Mist looked at an officer who was patrolling the mark. He nodded at her before proceeding on with his patrol. “Yes sir. What do you want to know?”
“Why are these rabbits still held in marks with sentries guarding them?” Bigwig asked.
“You’re the rabbit who took the does and Blackavar weren’t you?” She asked him. She remembered seeing him once when he had been led around the marks while he was a probationary Captain under General Woundwort.
“Yes I was.”
“Campion-rah has started implementing changes to Efrafa. Officers and Captains can’t breed with any doe this wish anymore so buck and does are allowed to breed with who they want. Campion-rah had the Council killed. The marking of hlessil and kittens has stopped under Campion-rah’s orders and we can now mingle freely with the other marks without getting permission from that Mark’s Captain or Officer but we prefer to stick to our own marks as it is what we know. All the rabbits are now equal under Campion-rah’s leadership and punishments are inflicted on Officers and Captains who bully the lesser rabbits of the warren.”
“But why do you still have sentries posted?”
“The sentries are for our protection. They watch for elil now. The Thousand heard that General Woundwort was dead and started attacking our warren. The Off Fore Mark lost Officer Wheatstock to a fox while on patrol. All the rabbits here made the agreement to continue coming up one mark at a time so we don’t attract the attention of man.”
A silver rabbit with white tipped ears poked its head out of a burrow and after speaking with Officer Swift came above ground and made its way over to Hazel and the others. “Campion-rah says he’ll see you now sir. Follow me.”
Hazel and his rabbits followed the silver rabbit with white tipped ears down various runs to the Council Room. Campion and Groundsel were sitting in the burrow waiting for Hazel to arrive. “Thank you Thistle. You can go now.”
“Yes sir.” Thistle turned and went back to his own burrow in the Off Fore Mark.
“Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, Blackavar nice to see you.”
“Pleasure to see you too Campion. Where is Strawberry?”
“Strawberry is with the Neck Mark at the moment. I’ll have someone go fetch him when you are ready to leave.”
“I’m sorry to hear that you lost an Officer on one of your wide patrols Campion.”
“Before the General fell we were a formidable warren as any rabbit here could attest to. Though we are all grateful for you bringing that dog and killing the General so we can begin to usher in a new dawn for Efrafa and hopefully establish peace between our two warrens it has made us easy prey for the Thousand. They seem to appear out of nowhere to hunt my people. That’s why we still have the sentries posted though now they aren’t keeping the rabbits prisoner.”
“Bigwig and Blackavar mentioned before that the marks are kept separate from each other. Is this still the case?”
“Yes. That is one rule I kept after I had the Council killed. With the mark burrows kept separate from each other it will stop the spread of disease in our warren.”
“Do the rabbits accept these changes?” Fiver asked.
Campion looked at the young rabbit. “Yes they do. I can’t rebuild our warren in a day. It will take time for us to get used to the General’s demise. Some of the rabbits still cower before the Officers and Captains. The Owslafa have been disbanded as well.”
“Well that’s something good anyway,” Bigwig muttered. Campion ignored Bigwig’s remark.
“Hazel I have a proposition for you. One of my Captains was sent out on wide patrol to scout for a place far from man to build an expansion to Efrafa since we’ve been having troubles with the does reabsorbing kittens due the overcrowding issue. He informed me that he found a good spot away from man that is halfway between our warrens. I’ve already asked Groundsel here to be chief of this new warren and thought that we could both send half our rabbits to this new warren and together our three warrens could form an alliance.”
“Have you been to this place yet?” Hazel asked Campion and Groundsel.
The two rabbits shook their heads. “No we were waiting to see what you think about the idea.”
“Can we talk about this for a bit and can you send us Strawberry?” Hazel asked.
“Certainly. Yew!” Campion called.
A tan colored rabbit came into the warren. “Yes Campion-rah?”
“Go to the Neck Mark and find the rabbit that came in a couple days ago and bring him here.”
“Yes Campion-rah.” Yew vanished down the run in the direction of the Neck Mark burrows.
Campion and Groundsel left Hazel and his friends to talk among themselves. Strawberry came in a few moments later. The rabbits from Watership Down inspected him and all breathed a sigh of relief. He was unmarked.
“I don’t see why you’re worried Hazel-rah. Campion is doing his best to lead his people.”
“I supposed. Still it’s hard to get over the fact that he was one of the rabbits who attempted to kill us.”
“He was only following Woundwort Hazel-rah. You can’t hold that against him. A Captain or Officer of Owsla follows their chief to the Shadow Land if they think it will protect their chief from harm.”
“Spoken like a true Owsla member,” Bigwig said nodding appreciatively.
“Well I am part of Watership Down’s Owsla,” Strawberry sniffed.
“What do you think about sending some Watership Down rabbits to this new warren that Groundsel will be chief of Hazel?” Bigwig asked his friend and leader.
“I think it might be a good idea. We are getting a bit overcrowded and that isn’t good for any rabbit.”
“Do you think Groundsel will make a good chief?”
“I think so. We could also send a couple of rabbits to live in Efrafa and advise Campion as well as sending a couple to be Groundsel’s advisers.”
“What rabbits do we send here and with Groundsel to his warren though?” Fiver asked.
“Hazel-rah I’d be happy to stay here and advise Campion.”
“Are you sure Strawberry?” Hazel asked the orange colored buck.
“Yeah. I’ve been getting to know some of the rabbits in the Neck Mark where I’ve been staying and enjoy talking to them.”
“Well alright Strawberry you can stay here. Now we just need to send another rabbit here.”
“We need to get Campion’s and Groundsel’s opinions first on this Hazel.”
“You’re right Bigwig. If Campion agrees to have you Strawberry than you may stay here. Though we’ll certainly miss you.”
“I’d like to take Mist with us if you don’t mind Hazel-rah,” Blackavar spoke up.
“If Campion will give us Mist then we’ll take her back to Watership with us.”
Campion and Groundsel had been sitting outside the Council Room talking to themselves quietly when Blackavar poked his head out and said that Hazel-rah was ready to talk to them. The two Efrafans hopped into the Council Room and looked patiently at Hazel and his rabbits.
“Campion we’ve talked it over and agreed to give half our rabbits to Groundsel at his new warren. We would also like to give you two of our rabbits to be your advisers in the reshaping of Efrafa as well as give two advisers to you Groundsel for the same purpose. Strawberry here as already asked to stay here and we have said that if you’ll have him then we agree. Blackavar here would also like to take Mist home to Watership Down with him.”
“If Mist wants to go then she is free to leave with you. Thank you Hazel. Does this mean that you agree to have an alliance with us?”
“Yes Campion it does. And as soon as Groundsel gets his warren dug we’ll expand our alliance to him as well. Three warrens connected will be good against enemies.”
“I agree with that,” Campion said. “Stay here for the time being. There should be some empty burrows in the Near Hind Mark that you can bed down in. Strawberry you’re welcome to return to the Neck Mark.”
“Thank you Campion-rah,” Strawberry said before going back to the burrow he was sharing with a pretty doe named Ghost.
“Blackavar I want to say that I’m sorry for how you were treated under General Woundwort,” Campion said to the black rabbit before him.
“Thank you sir but you were only following orders.”
“Still it was wrong of us to do to you. I’ll have Mist sent to your burrow. Where will you be staying in Efrafa?”
“I think in the burrow that we came down,” Hazel said.
“That would be the Fore Mark then. Right I’ll have Mist sent over then.”
“Thank you Campion.” Hazel and his rabbits left the Council Room and went to an empty burrow. A few moments later Mist came running into the burrow and crashed into Blackavar sending them both rolling along the floor before they picked themselves up. Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel laughed at the two rabbits in love and settled down for a nice sleep.