Hazel settled for reports on Efrafa and Vleflain from Kehaar. If Campion or Groundsel needed anything Watership Down was happy to help. So far things had gone well for both Efrafa and Vleflain. Since Stonecrop had joined Vleflain Groundsel reported that Vleflain’s elil troubles had pretty much disappeared though Campion was having trouble. Campion’s Owsla was training harder than ever to fight the elil and drive them off out of their warren and out of the boundaries of Efrafa altogether.
One bright and sunny day that summer Hazel, Bigwig and Fiver were sitting in the grass under the beech tree nibbling at the grass. Hyzenthlay had given birth to three kittens named Hawthorn, Marigold, and Dogwood. Blackavar was happy to report that Mist was pregnant with his kittens and was looking forward to being a father. Fiver’s doe had given birth to four kittens a week ago. Everything was peaceful at all three warrens.
“Ohhhh,” Fiver moaned and fell to his side shivering.
“What’s wrong with you now Fiver?” Bigwig asked.
“Fiver? Fiver! Answer me!” Hazel begged his little brother.
An enemy comes out of the darkness with a sadness met long ago. A friend thought dead will surface though whether he is friend or foe is yet to be known. Darkness falls and chokes the out the light. Darkness falls and blood shall run.
Fiver shuddered once more and lay still with his eyes closed.
“What was that about Hazel?” Bigwig asked staring at Fiver.
“I don’t know Bigwig. An enemy comes out of the darkness. Well the only enemy we have is Woundwort but he’s dead.”
“Nobody saw his body Hazel-rah. For all we know he could still be out there and madder than ever before. But what is this talk of a friend thought dead will surface?”
“I don’t know Bigwig. I just don’t know. I think we need to warn Groundsel and Campion to be careful and on the alert.”
“Agreed Hazel. I can send out a couple of Owsla members to each warren to let them know to be careful until we have more information.”
“Do that Bigwig. As Captain of Owsla I leave that up to you. The sooner Campion and Groundsel get the message the better prepared we’ll be.”
Bigwig turned and went down into the warren to call on some Owsla members to go to Efrafa and Vleflain right away. Hazel stayed by his brother’s side until he stopped shivering and opened his eyes. Fiver sat up and shook his head before looking at Hazel.
“What did I say?”
“‘An enemy comes out of the darkness with a sadness met long ago. A friend thought dead will surface though whether he is friend or foe is yet to be known. Darkness falls and chokes the out the light. Darkness falls and blood shall run.’”
“What does it mean Hazel?”
“I think it means that war will return to the down and Watership, Efrafa, and Vleflain will be in danger Fiver.”
The two brothers saw four Owsla members disappear down the hill. Bigwig came up to sit next to them. “Just when we thought we were finally free of war now we face it again. It seems we never get any peace at all.”
The Owsla members-Silver, Hawkbit, Captain Holly, and Walnut-ran as fast as they could to Vleflain. Captain Holly and Walnut stayed only a day at Vleflain before running on to Efrafa. A wide patrol stopped them but seeing that they were Watership rabbits took them down to Campion-rah’s burrow.
“Campion-rah!” An officer said.
“What is it Birch?”
“Sir two rabbits from Watership Down have come and say its urgent that they speak with you.”
“Very well send them in.”
Campion sat and listened closely to what Captain Holly and Walnut said to them. He had seen Fiver only twice before-once when they had been captured by a wide patrol and the second time when Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver and Blackavar had come to check up on him and Efrafa after Woundwort’s downfall.
“So Fiver is a seer?” Campion asked looking from one rabbit to another. He had heard of seers but had never met one before. Woundwort had thought them to be nothing but trouble makers and any rabbit who claimed to be a seer had been left beyond the borders of Efrafa for the elil.
“Yes Campion-rah,” Captain Holly said to the Efrafan chief and former Efrafan Captain of Owsla. “Fiver’s visions have never been wrong.”
Campion thought about this for a while before nodding. “Right. I’ll have the security on the warren tightened. Avens!”
“Tell the sentries to tighten up on the marks. Make sure no rabbit leaves the boundaries of Efrafa. Double the patrols and make sure they watch each other’s backs. It appears we may be in for another war.”
“Yes sir.” Avens turned and began passing the message along to the Mark Captains and Owsla.
At Vleflain Silver and Hawkbit gave Groundsel the same report. Groundsel and a few other rabbits sat listening to them saying that Fiver was a seer and that his visions had never been wrong. As proof of their claim they told Groundsel of the flood that Fiver had predicted at their old warren, his feeling that there was darkness hanging over the Warren of the Shining Wire, and the destruction of Sandleford by man that had caused them to flee their old warren and seek a new home on Watership Down. Groundsel wasn’t sure what to make of their tale but he trusted Hazel and Bigwig and agreed to do as they asked.
“Thank Hazel and Bigwig for me will you? Stay the night as my guests and go home tomorrow.”
Silver and Hawkbit nodded and went to go visit their old friends Stonecrop, Sunflower and Nightshade and see how they were faring at Vleflain. All three rabbits reported that they had settled in nicely and Groundsel-rah was more than happy for their advice. They introduced them to Groundsel-rah’s two Efrafan advisers-Apple and Pineneedles that Campion had sent over. After Stonecrop had single handily saved Vleflain from the stoats he had gained some friends among the Vleflain rabbits and was no longer feared by the warren.
“Run! Run for your lives!” cried Campion, stamping.
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 stopped confused for a moment before dog and rabbit leaped at each other…
The rabbit opened his eye and jumped to his feet snarling. He shook his head to rid himself of the dream he had been having for the past moon. No it wasn’t a dream. It was a memory. A horrible memory.
He cried out in agony and pain as he felt a sharp pain in his left hind leg. For a moment he was scared. Scared that he would die out here alone. He had already two close calls with elil. Another whimper of pain burst from his mouth. He hated weakness. Weakness was for fools and the old and sick. A rabbit showing weakness was just asking for elil to kill him or a younger rabbit to overthrow them and take over their warren. No he must not show any weakness if he was to get revenge on everyone who had wronged him.
The rabbit crawled for days until he saw rabbit tracks leading off to the east. He pushed himself to his paws and limped along the trail, flinching and crying out as pain shot through his leg and up into his body. As he appeared out of the forest he saw some rabbits eating grass and flayrah. He noticed with annoyance that none of the rabbits appeared to be on watch for elil. What type of fools are these that care nothing for discipline and order?
A lean brown rabbit noticed him and came over. “Hello friend. Stay and rest until you are better. You’re safe here from man and elil. And you’ll have all the flayrah you can eat in the winter.”
“What type of rabbits are you?”
“Such a fine day isn’t it? But it looks like it is going to rain. I hate the rain. You’re more than welcome to come underground and seek shelter.”
The wounded rabbit stared. He sniffed the brown rabbit before him. It appeared well fed and healthy but there was something wrong with this rabbit and the other rabbits before him. He tried again.
“Why are there no guards posted watching for elil or man?”
“We are safe here. In time you will see. My name is Cowslip. What is your name?”
The rabbit paused for a moment while he tried to understand why this rabbit wasn’t answering his questions. There will be time for that later. First I need to recover and get better. Then I can see what these rabbits are made of. Though they don’t look as if they even know how to fight which may be a problem. “My name… my name is Woundwort.”