Threar could tell, even in the dark silence, that Nildroo was nervous. He was on her right, and Marthlay stood on her left with the same detached look as always, a vast difference from Nildroo. The doe was shaking. A doe wasn't supposed to do a buck's work. Would she be punished?
The Chief Rabbit sat in silence, kind eyes watching the three young rabbits before him. He didn't make a move to speak, only sat and chewed his food evenly. His eyes flicked from one rabbit to the other. Threar began to fidget. The suspense was uncomfortable, even to him. The Chief Rabbit shifted his weight, paused, and then began to speak.
"You three were the ones who brought me my flayrah yesterday, correct?" He started. His voice was smooth and he spoke slowly. The sweetness relaxed Nildroo – Threar could feel it.
"Yes sir, we were," Marthlay answered after a long silence in which Nildroo had been too frightened to talk. Threar could understand her fear. It was always overwhelming to visit the Chief Rabbit for the first time.
The Chief Rabbit gave a long sigh and gave his attention to Nildroo. "And you. I heard you played hero and saved Threar here from a dog."
The doe lifted her head the tiniest bit and allowed her wide, glittering eyes to stare up at the chief. "Yes sir. I did." Her nostrils flared, uncertain.
Again, a long, heavy pause hung over their heads. Nildroo started to shake again, backing up from the suffocating atmosphere. Marthlay brushed against her and, although she flinched, she relaxed once more. The Chief Rabbit took a moment and chewed his food again. When he finally swallowed he gave a warm look to Nildroo.
"I'm very happy with your bravery, little doe. It's not every day we get a rabbit as bold as you."
Nildroo perked up. Threar's heart picked up, pride growing in his chest. He looked over to Marthlay, and judging by his expression, he was proud too.
"But," The Chief Rabbit added. "I can't allow you, a doe, to take control of Owsla tasks."
Nildroo went to speak but was interrupted by The Chief Rabbit. "I'm not saying that what you did was wrong. We could use more valiant rabbits like you, but unfortunately does have no place in the Owsla. It's just how it is."
Nildroo bristled and both bucks were willing her to keep her mouth shut.
"I'm very sorry," The Chief Rabbit said, voice soft and Threar just knew he truly was sorry.
The doe stood straight, all fear gone and replaced by anger. "I'm sorry too," She spoke coldly and darted up the run to the surface. Threar winced. You weren't supposed to leave until you were excused. It was practically an unspoken rule. He turned to the chief. "I'm sorry about her," He apologised. She's just upset; I swear she's a good doe, was his unspoken comment. The Chief Rabbit nodded.
"It's alright; you both can go."
Marthlay was the first one to hurry up the run, closely followed by Threar. No words were spoken, but Threar knew Marthlay had the same idea as him: find Nildroo. If someone had told him that, one day, he would be chasing after the cocky, loud-mouthed doe after she left the chief's burrow in a huff because her heroic actions were not valid in the hierarchy of the warren, he wouldn't have believed them.
"She has a right to be upset," Marthlay mumbled so quietly that Threar wasn't sure if he was supposed to hear it or not. Threar frowned and decided to answer anyway. "What else did she expect to happen? She's not in the Owsla."
Marthlay let his pace slow to a gentle lope. "She did a buck's job better than they did, but she's getting chided because she isn't one of them. It's not fair."
Threar didn't answer but continued heading towards the field where Nildroo was bound to be. Marthlay didn't push any conversation.
The doe they had been looking for was sitting where they had guessed, sitting close to Pathun. However, quite a few others – does Threar had no knowledge of and does Marthlay had only met once or twice in the cold days where rabbits sat underground in uneasy silence – surrounded her. They were of varying sizes, some older and presumably wiser and some young and as air-headed as they come. Nildroo was speaking, and both bucks could guess what she was speaking about.
"I saved Threar and I was still swept aside as if I were nothing," Her voice was strained with contempt, angered and venomous. It could be comical if Threar wasn't aware of how dangerous her moods could be to the rabbits around her. A few does nodded, approving her words, holding onto her petty hatred like it was a lifeline. "Those bucks don't know what it's like to be a doe here," One of the older ones spoke up from the group, louder than the rest with their quiet hush. "I'm tired of them all. They're all so cocky. They think they know everything."
Threar entered the group and they quickly dispersed without a word. Only Nildroo and Pathun stayed. The smaller doe greeted both Threar and Marthlay in that sweet, chipper way she usually did. Nildroo glared at Threar and waited for him to speak first. He rolled his eyes.
"Nildroo, you can't just walk out when a conversation doesn't go your way," He chided. Nildroo then spoke up.
"You don't get it. I'm not mad at The Chief Rabbit, no matter what anyone thinks. I'm mad at the whole warren. They're the ones who think I'm exaggerating what I did back on that stupid farm. It doesn't matter what I do; I'm always going to be a joke. I'm so sick of getting treated like a possession to be mated with, something fragile and useless," She exploded, eyes blazing. There was no answer and she sighed. "I don't expect you to understand," She added, voice soft and barely audible.
Marthlay lifted his head and tilted it to the side the tiniest bit. "I think I understand," He answered, uncertain of her reaction. The doe simply stared.
"I don't," Threar interjected. "The Chief Rabbit was just telling the truth. It's best for the whole warren."
Pathun looked down. "I wish it wasn't the only outcome for us," She breathed, not quite intending her voice to be heard, but to them, it was as if she had yelled.
No one spoke for a long time. Threar found himself focusing on the grass waving in the breeze, bending and bouncing. His fur ruffled in the wind.
"You better not end up like that when you become chief," Nildroo settled her accusing glare on Threar. He knew she wasn't just talking about allowing does to go on patrol if they were up to the task, or making sure they got the right thanks for whatever job they performed. It was part of it, but he knew she was talking about all the injustices. For the does feeling threatened by the bigger bucks who had the right to pick whichever one they wanted. For the outskirters who were pushed around and bullied just because the Owsla were a little tougher than they were. For any rabbit seen lower and with less of a chance.
"So you all know of the Nildroo incident, correct?" Threar's voice was loud and commanding – the only way he knew to get the Owsla's attention. A few bucks idly mumbled some comment on their opinion which he respectfully chose to ignore. "And you all know I expect you to be as brave as she was, correct?" He was rather proud of himself by his comment. Playing on their masculinity was a good call. They all groaned some reply.
Tardrayn was sitting close to the front of the group, and Threar noted the pained expression the young rabbit held. His wounds had healed, but even Threar knew that no rabbit should be forced into a run-in with elil so close to the beginning of their Owsla service. He felt sorry for the poor buck. He was even getting shown up by a doe.
"So I need some of my heroic Owsla to give suggestions for the next raid. How far should we go?"
"There's a little house down the road with a lot of flayrah. Not too many hrududu's bother running across there," One rabbit suggested, to which Threar simply stared at him. "I need better ideas," He snapped. He was determined to let the traitors know he wasn't going to take help from them.
"What about the lake? The flayrah is scarce, but it should be enough and there's hardly danger."
He wished Nildroo could come. After she had saved him from the dog, the three had joked that Nildroo could join the Owsla and they'd show her the best flayrah spots. Of course, they all knew that it was a joke, but Threar still wanted the doe to be by his side. He was so used to her it was almost comforting.
Marthlay waited until the exasperated sighing died down before helping the group out. "I quite like cutting through the forest to the big garden facing the trees," He suggested. Threar nodded. "Good. We shall discuss that course later."
The other rabbits left in a huff, but Threar, Marthlay and Tardrayn stayed behind to silflay. Nildroo came up too – she must've been lurking and waiting for them to be gone – and said a quiet hello to each rabbit. Marthlay looked pleased by her greeting, and nibbled the grass beside her at ease. She had spent the whole day surrounded by rabbits, outskirter and doe alike, and Threar noted that even in the short timeframe, she had become softer. Not much, but a little.
A rabbit came close by. He was a guard for the Chief Rabbit and all four rabbits were startled by his appearance, especially by the fact that he approached the group in such a rush. He stopped, nose twitching, and settled his hardened look on Threar.
"The Chief Rabbit is dead."
terribly sorry on how late, boring and short this chapter is. i came to this chapter with a plot but i lost it? idk theres two more chapters left by the way