A/N: 'Watership Down' is a novel that is very near and dear to me - this book had a profound impact on me as a child and I am now rereading this amazing story with the eyes of an adult, and it's even better than I remember. This series is an attempt to capture a little bit of magic surrounding the amazing characters of 'Watership Down' and all chapters are based within the book-verse. And if you haven't read this amazing book yet, please go do so - I promise you will not be disappointed.^^
Blessed is that brother who would love his brother as much when he is ill and not able to assist him as he loves him when he is well and able to assist him. Blessed is the brother who would love and fear his brother as much when he is far from him as he would when with him, and who would not say anything about him behind his back that he could not with charity say in his presence. - Saint Francis of Assisi
Although not quite yet a yearling, Hazel had already earned a reputation among some of the more senior, respectable rabbits of Sandleford as being a calm, composed young buck with a good head on his shoulders. Hazel was well-liked by both many a buck and doe, and although he held no aristocratic parentage there were already murmurs of him joining the Owsla one day.
Which is why none of his fellows rabbits could comprehend why Hazel, who surely would be a boon to any Owsla, was determined to not be parted from his younger, weaker brother. It was a harsh truth of their lives - many runts did not make it to their first year, and Fiver - with his strange talk and odd way of staring into the distance - made him even more of an outsider than he already was due to his small size.
Despite his size and apparent weakness, several of the younger bucks who had grown up with Hazel, Fiver and their four sisters remarked that Fiver was known for his patience and calmness when he wasn't possessed by one of his strange fits. In truth both Hazel and Fiver were well-liked by their age-mates.
Unfortunately that did not hold true for all members of their warren. Those members of the Owsla - usually the younger, more arrogant bucks - quickly learned that if he chose to pick a fight with Fiver, then he would surely have to deal with his brother Hazel.
Yarrow, one of the newest members of the Sandleford Owsla, learned this lesson the hard way one clear spring morning in April. He had been bullying a young doe, upset that she was not interested in his attentions, when a scrawny slip of a buck had calmly requested that Yarrow please stop frightening the doe.
"You stay out of this, runt. Do you know who you're speaking to?"
When the younger rabbit merely gazed steadily back at him Yarrow cuffed him hard across the face, sending Fiver tumbling backwards. The buck staggered to his paws but didn't run despite the bleeding scrapes across his face.
"Owsla are supposed to protect the members of their warren, not terrify them," said the buck quietly.
Yarrow rose up on his hind legs to teach the pathetic runt a lesson in manners, but before he could raise a paw he found himself tumbling to the side.
Yarrow growled and climbed to his paws, glaring at the young buck who was standing protectively over the runt. This rabbit, although he appeared to be the same age as the runt, held an air of quiet confidence about him that made Yarrow pause.
"If you have a quarrel with my brother, you have a quarrel with me," said the buck calmly.
"And who are you?" Yarrow demanded.
"Hazel, and this is my brother Fiver," said the buck.
"Hazel, don't," said Fiver but his brother, Hazel, merely planted his paws more firmly in front of Fiver. His posture made it clear that Yarrow would have to go through him to get to Fiver.
"What's the trouble here?" said another rabbit who suddenly came through the bushes. Yarrow cringed inwardly. He might have been a match for the buck Hazel but no one was fool enough to challenge Thayli except Holly and perhaps Silver.
"Your officer attacked my brother without cause," said Hazel before Yarrow could respond.
"The runt was interfering with my rights to claim any doe of my choosing," Yarrow retorted hotly.
"And a doe's right is to refuse, which you rightly know," said Fiver.
The rabbit, who sported an unusual thatch of fur atop his head, looked from Fiver to Yarrow, to Hazel and then back to Fiver again. He then turned to doe, who had watched the whole exchange with silent, frightened eyes.
"You may go," he said and the doe sprang away with a word.
The big rabbit then turned to Yarrow. "And as for you, I've had enough complaints about you to report you to Captain Holly. Get back to your burrow and remember what your duties are, or I'll remind you myself. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir." Yarrow gave the brothers one last glare before disappearing into the copse.
After he had gone Hazel cautiously approached the Owsla officer.
"My thanks, sir..?" Hazel trailed off, politely waiting for the higher rabbit to introduce himself.
"Thayli," said the buck, "but everyone calls me 'Bigwig', so you might as well. This is your brother, then?"
"Yes, this is Hrairoo, but everyone calls him Fiver. And I'm Hazel."
"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you both, I'm sure," said Bigwig. "But do me a favor and stay out of the Owsla's way, eh?"
Hazel nodded and then Bigwig turned to look inquisitively at Fiver.
"Did you really tell Yarrow to leave that doe alone?"
"Yes," said Fiver quietly.
Bigwig snorted and then laughed. "Well! You have spirit, I'll give you that. If some of these idiots had half the courage you and your brother had, then we'd do very well. Good evening," said Bigwig as he returned to his post outside the Chief Rabbit's burrow.
"You shouldn't have done that, Hazel," said Fiver quietly, turning his large eyes up to his brother. "You have a future here with the warren. I don't." Fiver said this last part without pity, as though he had already accepted his fate to ever be an outcast.
Hazel frowned. "You are my brother, my only brother," he said firmly. "I shalln't leave you alone. Now," he continued in a lighter tone, "see if you can catch me yet - you nearly managed last time. Come on!" Hazel gave Fiver a playful push with his nose before leaping away.
Fiver blinked in surprise and then bounded after his brother. He quickly caught up to Hazel and tackled his brother into a bush of clover. Hazel growled playfully and aimed a gentle swipe at Fiver's ear, which the younger buck easily dodged. They spent the evening playing and leaping after one another, safe in the knowledge that they would always take care of each other.