The warmest day of Spring rolled over. Frith's blessing was high upon the Down, rabbits nibbling at the tips of the sweet grass with noses twitching vigorously, sun warming them to the bone. No words had been spoken – silence gave the old rabbit time to think.
Greying whiskers shuddered alongside the movements of his head. Slow and patient, scenting the dew soaked grass near the run.
Shining ears coaxed the chief from the warren. Two paces forward, head outstretched.
He felt nothing for a mere moment. Then his muscles ached with the yearning need to run, jump, stretch, anything. A heartbroken wail echoed. It seemed too far away, but he looked back anyway. It was too blurry and faint to make out much, but he knew what it was. There was a great sadness in his chest – guilt at his relief his time had come. He looked to his companion, the one with the shining ears, but he was far away, bounding with long, elegant leaps into the distance.
An understanding between the two was reached, so the old rabbit followed his companion. The gap was bridged quickly.
He marvelled at the land below him (he wondered when they had moved up so high). Watership Down, his warren, was scarcely larger than his paw, rabbits non-existent from his point of view.
They crossed the river.
Rabbits huddled together, shivering under the splattering rain. Pale scars painted nightmarish memories on their drenched, gaunt bodies. A big buck sat still and patient as another licked the wounds on his shoulders. A smaller buck fidgeted, eyes darting around nervously. A gull flew ahead and cried instructions against the wind. A doe with a scar sitting on her hind leg comforted the others with soft words of encouragement.
The river bubbled, currents dragging debris down its course. The water lapped at the bank. The disturbed dirt swirled in the river.
A row of trees separated the field in two, a warren bustling with rabbits was visible on the other side.
Eyes wide, they listened to the doe with the hind mark talk about the horrors of her old warren. A little rabbit shook in fear. The doe's eyes warmed with concern, changing the subject to her current home. Her eyes sparkled with affection as she spoke.
His companion began to slow. His paws matched the other's.
The hum of the wind echoed in his ears. A familiar field was littered with large splinters of wood, hrududu's sleeping peacefully, undisturbed. A board faced the dark road. Remnants of tree trunks looked lonely.
Leaving. Running. Where to go? Farther, farther. Home.
Lost, cold, lonely. Suffocating. Bodies. Violent. Thrown. Dead. All dead.
He watched, a twinge of melancholy holding him back for a moment, and allowed his companion to urge him forward. The clouds obscured his vision of the man-place. He continued forward.
Shining ears, a guiding light in the soft amber afternoon, paused as they neared a large field glowing with a heavenly light. A nod, and then the shining ears were gone. He hesitated to move forward, paws stuttering, wishing not to move. He took a deep breath. Small steps followed each other to the edge of the field.
A small, scrawny buck hurried to meet him.
He paused, tipping his head. His heart felt like it was swelling, bursting through his chest.
They met in the middle, clambering over each other in a rushed need for affection. Nothing was sweeter than this moment.