AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have been working on this story since November 2016, before finally finishing it in April 2018. It is based on the WD TV series, with characters from other adaptations of WD (including both books, the 1978 film, the 2016 radio drama, and the BBC/Netflix miniseries) also appearing. I will try to post at least one chapter every Sunday.
This is essentially an alternate third season of the TV series. Everything that happened after episode 25 (Bigwig's Way) did not happen here. If you have read the book but haven't seen the series, you may have trouble understanding this, but don't worry. The series is available in its entirety on Youtube, and the first chapter of this fanfic includes a brief introduction of most major characters.
COPYRIGHT: most characters belong to Decode/Nepenthe/YTV/Alltime/whoever owns the WD TV series. The other characters belong to various other people, and I will say who as they are introduced. Do anything you want with this fic except claim it as your own. The cover was made by me using GIMP and Pinta.
Chapter 1: Meet the Rabbits.
"The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities."
The sun was slowly rising over the horizon. At first, an observer wouldn't have seen anything more than faint light, as the sun was obscured by a large shape. As it rose further, one could see the high lonely hill of Watership Down, with the shadow of the lone beach tree at the top.
At the top of the Down, several rabbits were lying in the grass, contemplating the sunrise during an early silflay. It was a peaceful day, no sign of danger anywhere. The rabbits relaxed, without a care in the world.
Suddenly, one of the rabbits noticed something unusual. At the bottom of the Down, there was an unusually pale spot in the grass, and it was moving. The rabbit motioned to another nearby, who went to see him.
-"What is it, Hazel?" the other rabbit asked.
-"There is something at the bottom, Fiver," Hazel replied. "Do you have any idea what it is?"
Fiver looked in the distance at the strange shape that was approaching, before answering Hazel:
-"It's a creature of some sort. I know that much. But that's all I know. I don't know if it's a rabbit or something else, or whether its intentions are friendly or hostile."
-"Fiver, go see Bigwig immediately. Tell him to make sure the owsla is ready to attack if necessary."
Fiver nodded, and did as he had been told. Hazel did not move, instead choosing to remain there and face the creature, whatever it was, when it reached the top.
Further away, two rabbits were lying on their side in the grass, sound asleep, when suddenly...
-"Oi! You two! Wake up!"
-"Oooh Bigwig," one of the two rabbits mumbled as he woke up, "why do you always have to be so loud? I was just dreaming that I was in a field full of giant lettuces..."
-"You can get back to your giant lettuces later, Hawkbit," Bigwig said sternly, "but right now there is owsla duty to be done."
-"Bigwig, you should learn to relax sometimes," the other rabbit said. "This is too good a day to waste doing owsla training."
-"This isn't regular training, Dandelion," Bigwig corrected. "Fiver told me there is a strange creature coming up the Down, and we have to be ready to fight it if necessary."
-"Fight it yourself! Can't you see I'm tired?" Hawkbit said, causing Bigwig to growl menacingly. "All right, all right," Hawkbit continued nervously, "no need to get excited. I'll be ready."
With that, Bigwig left Hawkbit and Dandelion alone, and went to see Hazel. Along the way, he was stopped by another, younger, smaller buck.
-"Captain Pipkin of the junior owsla reporting for duty, sir!" he said.
-"It's good to see someone takes owsla duties seriously," Bigwig replied. "Round up the junior owsla, and if the enemy overpowers us, be prepared to lead everyone through the emergency escape tunnel."
As Pipkin went away to do as he had been ordered, Bigwig went to see Hazel, still sitting on the edge of the Down, tensely awaiting the arrival of the strange creature. Fiver was also nearby.
-"So how is it going, Hazel-rah?" Bigwig asked. "Any idea what it is?"
-"It's a rabbit," Hazel replied, "I can see that now. But he looks unusual..."
-"Doesn't smell like it."
-"Well, that's good news. I'll go tell Pipkin and the others. I told him to prepare for an evacuation if necessary."
With that, Bigwig went away, leaving Hazel and Fiver alone. They stayed together, looking at the other rabbit slowly climbing up the Down. As he got closer, they decided to go and meet him.
This rabbit, based on its smell, appeared to be a buck. He had unnaturally white fur, with the exception of his ears, which were brown, and a few other brown markings around his eyes and across his back. He seemed to be limping, and his right eye was half closed; it was plain that he could hardly see with it. His left eye, however, was wide open and shining brightly.
Hazel and Fiver waited for the stranger to introduce himself, but he remained silent. Finally, Hazel spoke:
-"Do you come from far away?"
The stranger took his time. He scratched his right ear with his hind leg, and nearly lost his balance in the process. After he had stabilized himself, he replied:
-"Each rabbit has his or her own definition of "far away". Some could say that, yes, I do come from far away, but the place I come from is not really that far, if you know where to look."
Hazel and Fiver looked at each other. Neither could really understand what the stranger's reply meant. Their thoughts were interrupted as he started talking again:
-"Do you know of any warrens nearby?"
-"Y- y- ye- yes, uh, yes, our warren is right at the top," Hazel stammered. "Shall I show you the way? Um...I'm Hazel, I'm the Chief Rabbit. This is my brother Fiver."
-"It's good to meet you, Hazel, Fiver. Would you mind if I spent the day at your warren? I'm feeling tired, and I could use some rest."
-"We always welcome any rabbit in need at Watership Down."
The stranger smiled, and resumed his ascent. Progress was slow, and it took a long time before he finally reached the top. Meanwhile, Hazel was talking to Fiver:
-"I really don't know what to make of this rabbit. How can he survive with fur like this? You saw how he stands out against the grass. It's a wonder he hasn't been devoured by elil by now."
-"His fur is very pale, true, but so is Primrose's," Fiver said.
-"Her fur is really beautiful."
Fiver shook his head.
-"I know his fur is unnatural, but it's something else that worries me."
-"What is it?"
-"I feel something unusual about him. Something strange."
-"Is it dangerous?" Hazel asked worriedly.
-"Oh no, nothing like that," Fiver clarified. "It's just that, he seems vaguely familiar, somehow. But I can't remember where we saw him. He's certainly not from Cowslip's warren, he doesn't smell like that. He's not from Sandleford either. I really don't understand..."
By that point, the three rabbits had reached the warren. Further away, they could hear another rabbit's angry shouts:
-"You mean you woke us up for nothing? What's the matter with you, Bigwig?"
-"Hey, I didn't know it was just a wandering rabbit," another rabbit said. "The price of safety is constant vigilance."
-"What's going on here?" the stranger asked.
-"That's just the owsla arguing with the captain," Hazel answered. "Bigwig! Hawkbit! Dandelion! Meet...what did you say your name was?"
-"I didn't say. But anyway, it's nice to meet you three," the stranger said, hopping over to the three rabbits. "Small owsla, isn't it?"
-"Oh, that's not the entire owsla," Bigwig said. "There is also Strawberry and...wait a moment. Where IS Strawberry? Why is he always missing during training..."
Bigwig went back underground with an angry look on his face. The wanderer looked at Hazel and Fiver, puzzled.
-"Strawberry is another buck in the owsla," Fiver explained. "For some reason he doesn't participate in owsla training as often as Hawkbit and Dandelion. Our owsla also includes Captain Holly and Captain Broom, but they don't participate very often either."
-"Oh, then the owsla isn't that small after all," the stranger said. "Do you think we could go underground now?"
Hazel nodded, and soon went underground, followed by Fiver and the stranger. The run was long and wide, and the three rabbits soon came across a blue-grey doe, carrying several leaves in her mouth.
-"Hello Hazel," she said. "I was stocking up on healing herbs, our supply was getting low. I see there is a new rabbit behind you."
-"Oh, right," Hazel said. He turned to the stranger. "You should really tell us your name. It would make things much easier for all of us."
-"I don't see why my name matters," the stranger replied. "I am what I am, and my name doesn't really change what I look like, or how I behave."
-"All right," Hazel said, slightly annoyed at the stranger's uncooperativeness. "So, this is Blackberry, our digging and healing expert."
-"It's nice to m-" Blackberry started to say, but suddenly became silent. She kept staring at the stranger, with a worried look on her face. Hazel and Fiver also looked at him, and saw what had attracted her attention: his hind leg on the left side was missing. The fur had grown back around the wound, hiding it from casual observers. Only a rabbit like Blackberry, who paid close attention to details, could have noticed it so easily.
-"I lost it to a hrududu, many seasons ago," the stranger said, having noticed the other rabbits' reactions. "It's rather hard sometimes, especially when my ear itches, but I can manage, most of the time."
-"Do you want me to inspect the wound?" Blackberry asked.
-"No, that wouldn't help. By now, it has healed as much as it ever will. Thanks for the offer, anyway."
With that, he moved further down the run, leaving Hazel, Fiver and Blackberry alone.
-"Hrududil are nasty creatures, aren't they?" Blackberry said. "It's a good thing we don't have those near the warren."
She picked her leaves back up, and went toward her burrow, where the warren's supply of healing herbs was kept. Hazel looked at Fiver worriedly.
-"Why does he refuse to tell us his name?" he said. "It sounds like he's hiding something."
-"I don't know why he refuses, but that's not what worries me," Fiver said. "It's this feeling I have we already met him somewhere. The more he talks, the more familiar he sounds, but I have no idea where we met."
-"Neither do I. I hope you will be able to find out."
With that, they continued their way and found the stranger again further down the run.
-"I just realized something," he said. "I've met several rabbits living here so far, and you mentioned a few more, but so far, Blackberry is the only doe. You don't have many, do you?"
-"We have a few, but not nearly as many as we have bucks," Fiver said. "Apart from Blackberry, whom you just met, there is also Clover, whom we helped escape from a hutch last summer, and..."
-"She was a hutch rabbit? That's very interesting. And she's still alive, after almost a year?"
-"Why, of course she is!" Hazel said, surprised. "Why wouldn't she be?"
-"It's just that I've heard a few stories about those hutch rabbits. Most of the time, they are killed by elil mere days after being released in nature, as they are unaware of the danger."
-"Well, it's a good thing there are hardly any elil in the area," Fiver said, "or she might have stopped running. Anyway, other than Clover and Blackberry, we have one other doe..."
Fiver was interrupted by a loud sound coming from the Honeycomb, the largest burrow in the warren. He and Hazel rushed there to see what was happening, with the stranger doing his best to follow them.
As they arrived at one of the Honeycomb's many entrances, they chuckled as they saw what was going on: three kittens were running crazily around the burrow, with a yellow-furred doe trying (and not really succeeding) to catch them.
The kittens tried to dart through one of the runs leading outside, but Fiver was faster and was soon standing in front of the run, blocking the passage. By the time they turned around to try another exit, they were completely surrounded. The doe stopped to catch her breath.
-"They're getting more energetic every day, Hazel dear," she said. "It's nearly impossible to get them back to the burrow for their nap."
-"What's going on?" the stranger, who had just entered the Honeycomb, asked. "There seems to be a lot of excitement around here."
-"There is always some excitement when the kittens are around," Fiver said. "Anyway, this is Primrose, the doe I was telling you about. She's also my brother's mate."
-"It's always nice to have a new rabbit join us, here on Watership Down," Primrose said. "And as for you," she continued, turning to the kittens, "it's time for your nap, now. If you follow me to the burrow, I will tell you a story of El-ahrairah to help you fall asleep."
Large smiles appeared on the three kittens' faces, and they followed Primrose out of the Honeycomb quietly, excited at the prospect of a story.
-"Nice kittens," the stranger commented once Primrose and the kittens were gone. "What are their names?"
-"Snowdrop, Mallow and Gilia. And they are all mine," Hazel said proudly. "They are also part of the junior owsla, and doing a good job of it. Sometimes, a better job than the regular owsla, actually."
-"Are they the only kittens in the warren?" the stranger asked.
-"Actually...no," Hazel said. "I have a fourth one, Periwinkle is her name. She doesn't hang around very often with the other three, though."
-"Let's go back outside, shall we?" the stranger suggested. "It's been a while since I last went to silflay, and I'm starting to feel a bit hungry."
The three rabbits went out another run, and made their way outside. The stranger started to nibble the grass.
-"The view from up here is amazing," he said. "I hadn't really had a chance to contemplate it when I first arrived here, but I can't believe how far you can see."
-"It's really useful," Fiver said. "You can see any enemies coming from a long way off, before they can see us. If we need to fight them, we have the advantage."
-"But I thought you said that there were hardly any elil around here?"
-"We have enemies, they are just not elil, but other rabbits," Hazel said. "There is a hostile warren nearby, called Efrafa."
-"With a name like that, it doesn't sound friendly."
-"That's true. Living there is a real nightmare. Primrose lived there for several seasons, until we got her out. Ever since then, they've been sending out wide patrols to find the location of our warren, so they can attack and destroy us. Thankfully, they haven't been successful so far."
-"Thank you for the warning. I'll try to stay away from them in my wanderings. And good for you, helping Primrose escape. Did anyone else escape with her?"
-"I think there was another one...a buck, I think...but I can't remember his name at the moment..."
-"Blackavar," Fiver said.
-"That's right, Blackavar, I always forget his name, thanks Fiver," Hazel continued. "We helped him and Primrose escape."
-"Was there anyone else?" the stranger asked.
-"No, they were the only two."
The stranger remained silent for a while, nibbling the grass in front of him. After a while, he said:
-"This is a good warren, Hazel-rah, a positive contribution to rabbitry. But there are a few unusual things about it, that leave several open possibilities."
-"What sort of possibilities?" Hazel asked.
But the stranger did not reply. Instead, he closed his eyes and remained motionless for what felt to Hazel like forever. Finally, he opened his eyes again, and looked at the two brothers.
-"It's been a good day. I really enjoyed spending it at your warren, but now, I must leave."
-"Leave? But where to?" Hazel asked.
-"I am a wanderer at heart. It is not in me to stay for extended periods in one place."
-"It's sad to see you leave, but if that's what you want we can't stop you," Fiver said. "But if you ever feel like returning, remember that you will always be welcome here at Watership Down."
-"Thank you kindly for your offer. I will keep it in mind."
With that, he slowly started to make his way to the bottom of the Down. It took him a while to reach the bottom, as he always had to walk carefully to avoid tumbling down the rest of the way.
-"You know, Fiver," Hazel said, "I've been thinking there was something wrong with him ever since I first saw him this morning. But now that he's gone, I can't help but feel that we'll miss him."
-"He'll never truly leave, Hazel," Fiver said.
-"But how is that possible?"
-"I've remembered where I met him. It was in a dream, a long time ago, when we still lived at Sandleford warren. I was..."
-"Hazel, I've got to talk to you," came another voice from behind the two brothers. Hazel turned; it was Bigwig.
-"What's the matter, Bigwig?"
-"I couldn't find Strawberry anywhere in the warren, so I went to search for him in the caverns leading to Efrafa. I hear someone in there, and it's doesn't sound like Strawberry. I think you should take a look..."