I'm back! I admit that this chapter is lacking, but I just wanted to give my old readers a treat for christmas! It's late because my wifi is broken and now flashing on and off :( so sorry about that! expect a part 2 soon

Christmas 2012

The Feast of Frithmas for Old Hearts

The bare branches of the Beech tree were blanketed by gentle layers of snow with strong winds blowing the weaker twigs askew. Beneath, in a deep rabbit warren, the weather held no concern in the animal's hearts as joy and love dominated.

It was Frithmas, a special time that only came around once a year. The main burrow and meeting place, The Honeycomb, was overflowing with life, young and old alike, as even the old hearts found the fruits of excitement from youth.

Hazel, the chestnut leader of the warren, was running hither and thither around the massive chamber, which had been enlarged further a short time ago. His temples were slightly lightened with middle age and past stresses, but he was still energetic and busy with his duties.

"Bigwig!" he shouted over the chatter. He wanted to find at least one of his Captains of Owsla before his Frithmas speech.

Bigwig was not in his burrow, and as a fallback, Hazel had already searched for his mate, Spartina, and his youngsters, Grit and Lily, without any luck.

"He's out with his family in the snow. It's Lily and Grit's first snowfall, remember?" Primrose soothed, used by far to Hazel's ever constant worries and frets when he was burdened with his chief's responsibilities.

"You can't be part of your own surprise birthday, Hazel," Blackberry chided, having followed Primrose around. "You weren't even supposed to know."

"How could I not find out? I'm chief," Hazel returned, absent minded, still looking.

"Where's Campion and Fiver?" Primrose sighed to Blackberry. "Maybe we'll manage to surprise someone."

"Still out in the snow," Blackberry said. "Clover's ready to take the kittens in the Honeycomb where Pipkin and Dandelion are going to keep them amused with stories until we're back in time for Frithmas."

"I'm up to go whenever you are," Primrose stated.

"I'm ready too." Blackberry nodded. "It's just Hazel." The two does shared an expression of exasperation. Hazel was still picking his brains to find a way to get out of this, any way.

"Something's up with the does," Bigwig remarked to Campion, narrowing his eyes when he spoke, not out of suspicion, but of an inward dread.

"Blackberry is hiding something," Campion agreed, "always off to meet up with Primrose and going off on long treks across the country. She just claims she's visiting friends before we get snowed in for Frithmas and I don't want to question her too much, I have to trust her."

"Oh, the worries that come with middle age," Bigwig said mockingly.

Campion rolled his eyes and continued to keep watch over his daughter. "We'll probably find out sooner or later. She's a terrible liar," he chuckled.

Spartina came sprinting into view, skidding to a halt and spraying the two bucks with feather light snow. Disgruntled, they shook their coats dry.

"Oh, so sorry to disrupt your conversation, boys," Spartina said coyly. "We're going down to the farm now, and Hazel requested you come with us to lend a hand if we get into any bother."

"What for?" Campion asked, surprised. "We have all the flay-rah we need for the feast."

"Never can have too much, what with Moss coming over with his mate," Spartina said slowly, directing her eyes to the side. Then she hopped away purposefully.

"Two rabbits aren't going to make a big difference," Campion stated to Bigwig.

"My thoughts exactly, I say we go and see if we can pick up any clues on what in Frith's name this is about."

With that, the two rabbits gathered the three kittens and went underground.

Fiver blissfully closed his ears to the repetitive moaning of excitement from Wish. "It's Frithmas in a short time. Isn't it, parli? Isn't it?"

"Son, you've asked him that more times than I can count," Ivy laughed, scooping him up. "Fiver, you're to meet Hazel outside."

Fiver raised his head in surprise. "That's the first I've heard of it."

"Go on." Ivy smiled, and lowered her voice, "It'll give you a chance to get away from this lot for a while." She indicated to Wish and his cousins.

"Okay," Fiver complied gratefully. "Will you be along soon?"

"Yeah."

"Campion, Bigwig!" Fiver spotted them getting bombarded by all of the new generation. "Do you have to meet Hazel, too?"

"I'm not sure about that, but Spartina told us that Hazel wanted us to come along to the farm," Bigwig informed.

"I've not heard anything about that." Fiver leant his head to the side.

Campion made an unsure face, and his tail started to flick again in old habit of thinking. "Looks like someone is having a game with us."

…..

"So this is for Moss and his family?" Campion spoke neutrally. He, Blackberry, Fiver, Ivy, Bigwig, Hazel and Primrose crept carefully down the hills below the Down, guided by the twinkling lights of Nuthanger.

Hazel, up front, had the opportunity to pretend the wind had carried Campion's voice away from his ears. Primrose had a rather sudden occurrence with black ice, leaving Blackberry without a way out.

"Yes," she found it hard to lie to her mate, causing her to move away from him as their journey lengthened.

Campion rested his ears on his back and cast another of many looks at his younger brother. They agreed in silence. Something was going on.

They reached Nuthanger after another half hour and two of the rabbits were very bemused when they veered off the path.

"Where-" Fiver began, stopping in his tracks.

"Keep on, Fiver. We're just going a safer short cut to a private store," Ivy said confidently, and with an edge of anticipation.

The seven rabbits halted outside one of the men's sheds. Blackberry and Ivy scuffed away some snow with their paws, a curious Fiver and Campion looking on. A small tunnel became visible under their paws, and the two does turned.

"You three first," Primrose ordered, nudging her mate forward with her nose. Hazel gave a heavy sigh as if he was entering torture.

The shed was quite large in the interior, and spacious, but the most curious thing by far was the lights, men's lights. Blue, silver, red, gold and all the other colours of the rainbow shone. They were hanging in long strings and each little circle dazzled their eyes.

The three bucks were so mesmerised by the lights that it took them a second to notice the other rabbits, not many, about ten.

"Surprise!" they chorused. Fiver crouched down in panic, Campion shot backwards and Hazel took a timid step forward.

"Happy Birthday!"

"You…." Fiver mumbled, lost for words and honestly looking a little intimidated.

"Did you forget?" Blackberry teased, nuzzling Campion's neck.

"Hmm," he trailed off, and when Blackberry hopped off to welcome the guests, continued, "yes, I had forgotten."

"Well, I hadn't," Fiver mused.

"I know it's not quite your birthday yet, Fiver," Ivy said lightly, "but I thought you would want to have the celebration with your brothers."

"Thank you, Ivy," Fiver said warmly. "It's great."

"Why do I have a feeling you knew about this, Hazel?" Campion quizzed.

"Because I did," Hazel admitted grievously.

"Hey Campion!"

"Moss!" Campion cried happily. "How are you and Heather?"

"Just fine." He smiled widely. "We have five kittens now."

Fiver left them to it and went to find Hazel, who had sneaked off. "Who are all these rabbits?" Fiver whispered to Hazel.

"Most of them are from Shadowsky," Hazel explained, "it was Blackberry's idea for them and Campion to offer one another a truce before Frithmas. She thinks it's been eating him up inside. Then there is a couple from Hickory and Marigold's warren who have come with them to chat with Hazel, and catch up."

"Bark will be along later to wish you a Happy Birthday." Primrose smiled. Fiver put on a brave face.

"What is all this?" Fiver touched the sparkling lights.

"Men had them up," Blackberry clarified, "why not take advantage? They do have a rather Frithmas feel to them, don't they?" She pulled her head up and followed the patterns with her eyes, smiling.

"Do you want to have your Birthday feast now?" Primrose offered out of the side of her mouth, which clasped the corner of an old sheet. It was bulging.

"Sure," Hazel said.

Under the cloth came many a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach. Other than flesh flayrah, which there was alot of, there were tinsel and bobbles, stars and crackers, bells and ribbons. The rabbits only dared skim all these across their noses.

"We weren't absolutely certain what these were." Blackberry gingerly took one of the bobble strings in her mouth, "But we thought they fitted the celebration."

"How long have you been planning this?" Fiver asked in awe.

"Not long," Ivy reassured him. "That's what Blackberry and Primrose were doing most of these long days. They've done the biggest share of the work, it was their idea."

"What on earth is this?" Campion had recoiled after sniffing a roasted carrot.

"We stole a pile from the man's house." Blackberry looked bemused. "There's a small entrance over behind that sack." She pointed. "He had all sorts of new food stuffs that we thought would be worth a try."

"It's definitely a carrot," Hazel confirmed, after testing, "and it's delicious." The savoury flayrah was passed around, and the different warrens shared stories of long summers and adventurous autumns.

The does rested after much preparation, lounging beside their mates. Campion finally made peace with the other Captains of Efrafa, Hazel had a happy buzz from finding Hickory and Marigold in charge of a prosperous warren, and Fiver had his old friend, Bark.

"So when are we going home?" Campion quietly asked into Blackberry's ear.

"Before dawn," she replied sleepily.

"Thank you." He nuzzled the top of her head. "It was very thoughtful."

"You're welcome!"

"Hey, Ivy. Thank you," Fiver spoke gently, nudging her lovingly.

"It turned out great." Hazel rubbed his nose against Primrose's.

Just then there was a sound like something heavy had dropped, and everyone froze. A cough broke the night, and then a grunt as a man pushed something heavy.

Campion and Bigwig were the first to move, crawling over to the hole in which they had entered. A frustrated gasp echoed throughout the room, and a furious scrabbling.

"No!" Bigwig huffed. They both pushed their weight onto the joining between the wall and floor, testing to see if they were trapped.

"We can't shift it," Campion said furiously, and gave up.

"We're trapped!" Primrose squeaked.

"Did the man see us do you think?" Blackberry asked calmly, examining the hole.

"He might have," Hazel replied, "I don't see any other reason why he would block us in, now."

"We're going to become the man's Frithmas dinner," Fiver moaned.

"Don't be silly, Fiver, we're not turkeys!" Bigwig snapped.

Hickory stifled laughter after he got a lot of weird looks. "We're trapped in here like pigs in a pen." Ivy chewed the inside of her muzzle.

"We've only one choice then, don't we?" Campion offered hesitantly.

"What?" Hazel ventured cautiously.

"No," Blackberry realised slowly. "It's too dangerous."

"I don't think we have many other options," he disagreed gravely.

"Is Campion offering what I am thinking?" Hazel gradually put the pieces together.

"I say we go for it," Bigwig said confidently, following their gaze eagerly.

"What have we to lose?" Hazel settled.

…..

Only the Watership Down rabbits went along with the plan, the rest under the watchful eye of Marigold and Moss in the shed, left crouching behind the old boxes and sacks.

"Ivy, Fiver," Hazel said, "you stay at this corner and warn us if men are coming while we try and find an exit."

"Is this….an animal?" Blackberry trailed off in horror. She was poised in front of an armchair that had fox fur draped over the headrest.

"Come away from there, Blackberry," Campion warned worriedly, as Hazel was stumped on what to reply.

"Be careful," Fiver advised, shying away from yet again another looming wall.

"Why?" Bigwig questioned, in the middle of investigating a footrest with animal legs.

"It's just the fact that we are in a man's house."

"Sounds crazy, I know." Hazel was gazing in wonder at a huge fir tree.

"Reminds you of that year we ended up at the mansion, doesn't it?" Fiver asked, concentrating on the star on top.

"Hmm….Well, can anyone scent fresh air?" Hazel rubbed glitter off his face.

"Alot beside." Campion gave an ironic laugh. "Is that…..turkey?"

"I've only scented that once, but I believe you're right!" Bigwig was surprised.

"I smell smoke." Blackberry rumpled her nose.

"There's a fire in the grate and a man beyond the slates, the bunker, an open window. Jump rabbit, jump, for the open fields of home are calling us back!"

"Fiver?"

"Quick, hide! There's another man coming!"