“Run!” cried Campion, stamping. “Run for your lives!”
He tore through them and was gone over the down. Not knowing what he meant or where to run, they turned one way and another. Five bolted down the opened run and a few more into the wood. But almost before they had begun to scatter, into their midst bounded a great black dog, snapping, biting and chasing hither and thither like a fox in a chicken run.
Woundwort alone stood his ground. As the rest fled in all directions he remained where he was, bristling and snarling, bloody-fanged and bloody-clawed. The dog, coming suddenly upon him face to face among the rough tussocks, recoiled a moment, startled and confused. Then it sprang forward; and even as they ran, his Owsla could hear the General’s raging cry, “Come back you fools! Dogs aren’t dangerous! Come back and fight!”
Campion, Vervian and five other rabbits crouched under a clump of nettles as the dog tore up and down the down looking for more victims. After digging up the rabbit that had gotten cut with glass the dog took its prize and vanished back the way it had come. Campion and Vervain agreed that they needed to leave this horrible place at once and head for home. They gathered ten rabbits with them plus the five that had been cowering under the nettles with them and preceded the long journey home.
They wandered slowly and wearily down the belt. Their spirits and hearts were broken. Their leader was dead and they had lost a battle against an enemy warren. They had failed to bring their does back to Efrafa. Never before had Efrafa lost a battle. They were convinced that the outsiders had set the dog upon them.
“Captain Campion what is going to happen to us? What’s going to happen to Efrafa?”
Campion looked at the promising young buck. He was in the Neck Mark. A white rabbit with black spots named Flax. “Everything will be alright Flax. We Efrafans are strong. We’ll survive when other warrens would normally fall.”
Campion and Vervain were the only Owsla Captains with the group of survivors. They had no idea where Groundsel had gone or if he was even still alive. That night they dug scrapes in an open field but were too disheartened to set up a watch. Up and down the belt the word spread that the Efrafan Owsla and General Woundwort had been defeated. The Thousand began to creep in on the rabbits. A cat from a neighboring farm snatched young Mallow before he had a chance to turn and run. Three rabbits strayed too far and were lost, probably killed by any of the Thousand that Lord Frith had blessed to hunt the children of El-ahrairah. The rest bolted into the woods and found cover under bushes.
They didn’t sleep much that night for they were scared. It was hard to believe that any Owsla member of Efrafa would be scared but they were. Campion and Vervain led the rabbits home but they were repeatedly attacked by elil. Vervain was carried off by a hawk and none of the rabbits there thought it much of loss and spared no tears for the most hated officer in Efrafa.
Three days after the battle with Watership Down Campion and a group of six rabbits passed through the sentries as the Off Fore Mark was above ground for afternoon silflay. The Mark raised their heads and looked at Campion and the surviving rabbits in curiosity before beginning to whisper among themselves. Campion went down to the Council Room with his survivors and reported the news to the Council.
By evening silflay news had spread throughout the warren that General Woundwort was dead and they had lost the battle at Watership Down. The entire warren was relieved at the news that their mad leader along with Captain Vervain was dead. But now the question was who would become the new chief and would anything change for the lower rabbits in Efrafa?
The surviving rabbits were relieved of all duties until they had recovered fully including Captain Campion. Two weeks after the Efrafa/Watership Down battle the Council summoned Campion to the Council Room.
“Campion you were General Woundwort’s best captain of Owsla. You’re also an excellent tracker and loyally served General Woundwort. We would like you to be the new chief of Efrafa.”
Campion puffed out his chest in pride. “Thank you.”
“Raindrop!” He called to the young doe who had informed him that he had been wanted in the Council Room.
“Please go each of the Mark Captains and have them spread the word that I am the new chief of Efrafa. Then tell the Owsla and Mark Captains to come up above ground and wait for me.”
“Yes sir Campion-rah.” Raindrop scuttled back down the tunnel.
Campion went above ground and ordered the Right Flank Mark below ground. The rabbits quickly obeyed the Captain as they didn’t want to be punished. “Falun stay above ground please.”
Falun watched his mark go down to their burrows and then nibbled at the grass while waiting for the rest of the Owsla and Mark Captains to come up. He had heard that Campion was now the chief of Efrafa and hoped that it would mean good things for the warren and the rabbits lives there. Woundwort’s system had been flawed. They were already facing overcrowding issues because there were too many does in the warren compared to bucks. With the overcrowding the does had been reabsorbing kittens into their bodies. It was a complete mess.
The rest of the Owsla and remaining Mark Captains came above ground and sat at attention before Campion-rah. The sentries remained at their posts making sure no rabbits escaped and elil didn’t come into the warren.
“I’m sure by now you have all heard that I was elected by the Council to become the new chief of Efrafa.”
The rabbits nodded and stamped in applause. Campion waited for the applause to stop before continuing.
“I remember what Efrafa was like before General Woundwort came and killed off our chief. We were a small warren. The marks, Owslafa and Council hadn’t come into being until after the General’s arrival. For three years he ruled our warren under an iron paw. The result is what we see before us today.
“Woundwort was a tyrant. I’m ashamed to say that I loyally followed his orders and obeyed him. I would have followed him to the Black Rabbit of Inle and I know I speak for all of the Owsla and Mark Captains in that regard. I believe that changes are in order and I would like everyone’s cooperation concerning building a new future for Efrafa.”
The rabbits nodded their agreement.
“For starters the marking will stop. The warren will also expand so we are not as overcrowded. A wide patrol needs to be sent out to look for a suitable place far from man. Tunnels will connect the expansion back to the main part of Efrafa.
“All rabbits in Efrafa are free to go throughout the burrows as they wish. They no longer need permission to do so. As for the Council I want them driven out. If they don’t leave then kill them. It’s mainly their fault that General Woundwort succeeded in the destruction of our warren. Last I want a messenger sent to Hazel and his warren to inform them that I am now chief and see if he will seek an alliance with me.”
“Campion-rah when do you want the messenger and wide patrol sent out?” Chervil asked.
“Three days from now. “
Campion dismissed the Owsla and his Mark Captains before going back down to his burrow and lying down. He hoped that Hazel would accept him as chief and help establish an alliance with Efrafa. Perhaps if he gave some of his rabbits to Hazel in return for some of Hazel’s rabbits then everything would be at peace.