Hazel is proud. He's proud of what Watership Down has become, and he's proud of everything it will be.
His rabbits are mingling in the low, dusky sun. Does are chatting, bucks are laughing, and kittens are bouncing in the warm summer heat. Beside him, Hyzenthlay momentarily pauses from exiting the burrow to brush against her mate. She smells fragrant, almost like wildflowers. Hazel almost asks if she has just come from the field to the north of the down, but his sweet, sweet Hyzenthlay has already left.
The Efrafan's are settling in well, which is a relief to Hazel. He had been worried that the does would find the freedom overwhelming – which is admittedly something he himself had stressed over when his band of rabbits had escaped the horrors of Sandleford. But they were fine. He was fine. Everybody was fine.
Hazel puffs out his chest and smiles. Sandleford was never very good to him, but he makes himself a promise that Watership Down will be a home everyone can feel safe in.
Family is important to Fiver. It's almost a joke, you see. His family back in Sandleford never showed much appreciation. His parents had perished one rough winter and his siblings didn't care too much for him.
But Hazel is all that matters now, he reasons wordlessly.
He enjoys the company of Vilthuril – one of those few, rare rabbits who sympathised with the burden of his visions but didn't overcrowd him. Yes. He thinks he loves this strange doe.
Fiver looks towards his brother, standing tall and dignified on a bump in the earth, as the only family he currently has. Then he looks towards Vilthuril, who smiles and glances away shyly, as the family he hopes to have one day.
The sun is shining and he's happy.
Bigwig fights for comfort. It's an unspoken rule between Owsla members, but strength is the deciding factor in the hierarchy.
Fighting is second nature. It's real, it's raw. Weak don't survive and that's a fact.
But Bigwig finds Hazel to be interesting. Hazel tries his hardest to fight with words rather that with brute strength. And Bigwig can't understand how he does it so readily.
Bigwig cuffs Holly over the head. Sparring is fun, and although the threat of Woundwort has long since disappeared, his nerves are still tingling with fear and apprehension. His chest feels like it's burning, but in those brief moments where Holly strikes back, he forgets his fears and he feels peaceful once more.
Fights, words and fear. What a strange trio.
His head is full of butterflies, and they never stop.
Blackberry can remember his mother fondly boasting about her "smart young boy", but now he's not so sure. Nobody knows what he's talking about, though. No one except for Fiver. Sometimes in quiet moments he wishes that the new does didn't think he was crazy. He doesn't know where his ideas come from either.
But Watership Down is safe for the moment, so he can live with the butterflies.
The imagination is the key to the soul, Dandelion. And don't you forget that.
Dandelion isn't anything special. He's sneaks around on tiptoes and lays low. He stays in the background and he's fine with it.
He's proud to have his father's great storytelling skills. The words paint colours in the sky. Dandelion stands from a distance and watches the illuminated reds, yellows and oranges.
The rabbits around him lean forward, gaping, watching, hearing, seeing, and Dandelion is honoured to see their faces light up in delight at his stories.
Pipkin, like Fiver, is runty.
Pipkin, unlike Fiver, doesn't stand a chance in the world.
Pipkin, like Hazel, knows what it's like to be pushed around.
Pipkin, unlike Hazel, doesn't know what bravery feels like.
Pipkin, like Bigwig, is loyal.
Pipkin, unlike Bigwig, hides behind others.
Pipkin likes his position, though.
Silver's home will always be Sandleford, despite his ease at leaving.
They made fun of his fur, they questioned his strength. He knew better than to speak out against them.
Actually, that's all he's good at. He's level-headed and a thinker – not that Blackberry or Hazel. After all, they're outskirters. They don't know the difference between danger and safety. Silver is realistic with his expectations.
The realisation that Sandleford was destroyed shocked the young buck, but he took it like he would if he were still in the Owsla;
with an unflinching gaze and a soft answer of "okay."
Holly is all that poor Bluebell has left. He's all he has to remember about his past life. He thinks it's for the best.
But Bluebell is scared. He's scared of what will happen if he remembers too much.
So he jokes and teases and busies himself so he can't get hurt.
Holly believes himself to be a pitiful creature. He abandoned his warren from fear and that is not what any respectable Owsla captain would do. He looks up to the moon and prays to Frith and Inle that The Threarah forgives him.
Hazel once told him that he doesn't have to be upset at leaving anymore, but that's not it. Holly needs this blame to feel alive. He almost killed Hazel by dragging them back to Sandleford, and then where would he have gone?
It's a scary thought to think about.
Clover understands his distress, and she nibbles gently at the edge of his ears and murmurs delicate nothings to console him. Maybe with this new family he can let go of the insecurities that are burying themselves into his soul.
Strawberry hasn't taken another mate, and he doesn't plan to.
Nildro-hain was his everything and the wires had taken it all with a simple fluid motion. The image of her laying dead and twisted in the long grass, eyes stretched and staring at some invisible horror, will forever be etched in his mind as a cold reminder of the savagery of the world.
Oh, Nildro-hain. Beautiful Nildro-hain…
Her eyes always smiled warmth and adoration on her loving mate. It was the only comforting thing in the mess of Cowslip's warren. Those deep eyes of syrupy brown were a constant against the rabbits that were in the runs one day and disappeared the next. But those brown eyes he loved so much were glassy and drained of life.
His heart ached for his lost love, and he knew that not even Frith himself could heal such a shattered heart.
Cowslip is ashamed to be where he is. He says rabbits need dignity to survive, but lately he's been doubting that.
The number of rabbits huddling in front of the Shape are steadily declining and no one wants to leave. They'd much rather starve than die such a humiliating death.
Cowslip is starting to understand what they mean.
Nothing is as wonderful as regaining her freedom.
Hyzenthlay thanks Hazel and Thlayli as much as she can, and they just take it with a patient nod. She's no longer the skinny rebel she once was in Efrafa; she's a fine doe with an affinity for authority. No wonder she sits with the Sandleford rabbits when they talk.
For the first time in a long time, she's grateful to be alive.
Blackavar is scarred, but content.
Efrafa was a shameful time for everyone – Blackavar especially – but these new rabbits, his new home, are all appreciative for him. He regrets how pitiful he was sitting by the hraka tunnel and treating the Owslafa like some higher order. He hates knowing that there were nicer warrens nearby, and he almost died for his pride. His pride is something that is patching itself up, little by little, with every kind act given to him.
Everybody has their secrets, but nobody misses theirs as much as Vilthuril does.
It's strange; the tunnel brought along bad news and terrible gossip, but somehow, knowing that you knew something that no one else did was almost a source of pride.
Vilthuril wonders about the warren she heard about. She daydreams of a warren where a doe is in the highest rank above everyone else. It seemed too good to be true back in Efrafa, but now it's more of a pleasant, passing thought at Watership Down.
She looks over to Hazel, the elegant leader. To Fiver, the charming young seer. To Thlayli, the saviour with a bird made of thunder. To Hyzenthlay, the doe who had the strength to carry everyone through the turbulent times in the days leading up to their escape. She's proud of where she is.
Woundwort's rabbits – no, they're Campion's now – are huddled underneath him, awaiting a command with their fearful eyes staring into his.
He tells them softly that Woundwort is dead. He notices a few does perk up, but many of the Owslafa growl and protest, as if their hatred could summon Woundwort from the dead.
A doe quietly asks, what do we do now, General Campion?
Campion isn't quite sure what to do. He's not much of a leader, and he certainly doesn't like the title 'General', so he waits until all is quiet before correcting the doe.
It's Campion-rah, not General Campion.
A confused hush has spread about. Campion takes this as a chance to turn things around. He speaks in great length about what happened with Thlayli's rabbits. Then, in a softer tone, he says that anybody who feels like stretching their legs should go silflay. They're puzzled, but obey.
It's not until a few weeks later that it sinks in that wow, Campion-rah is a pretty good chief.
Clover was never meant to be outside like she is. But she loves it.
The wild rabbits still look at her strangely, but she's a hardy doe and she takes it in her stride. But at least her kittens are treated the same.
Her kittens don't at all look like the wild kittens (Hazel says it'll grow out of them eventually), but children don't discriminate. As long as you know how to play tag, you're welcomed. Clover thinks that all rabbits should learn by the example of the blissful children.
Who knows, maybe they'd all still be playing tag.
Laurel wonders where Haystack and the others got to. Did they make it to the warren? Did the man shoot them? Were they picked up by another man and get taken to another hutch?
He chews his pellets and thinks. It's been such a long time. He doesn't even remember what his doe looked like. His eyes glance at the walls surrounding him. Lucy doesn't take him out too much. He hopes he'll see the sun soon.
Laurel doesn't mind too much. It gets cold of an evening and he likes sitting in his hutch in the warm shed. He is fed every day without fail, and he has no enemies. But he is lonely. And the wild wouldn't be short of companions, would it?