By the Moonlit River
Hazel began to lead the group through the vast forest after they had waited for Hawkbit to retrieve his brother. Pipkin was sitting on top of Bigwig's shoulders and was half asleep even with Bigwig ducked to avoid any low hanging branches. As they walked through the rocky soil, complaints could easily be heard from the back of the group, namely from Bluebell.
"I'm tellin' ya! It's not fair Bigwig gets to 'ave them fancy shoes just 'cause 'e was in the Owsla while we're cuttin' our feet on these Fri-"
"Hey come on Bluebell, they might hear ya."
Hawkbit could be heard trying to calm his brother down as the rest of the group was trying their best not to listen.
"All I'm sayin' is that he should walk the same as the rest o' us, even if 'e's carryin' that kid o' Blackberry's." With that final sentence a nerve was struck in an already irritated doe and she turned around and glared at Bluebell.
"You need to quit your whining and suck it up already. If you have something to say, say it. Right now in front of all of us, if not then you can just shut it!" They were once again facing each other in a furious haze as their argument began heating up. Bluebell's eyes were ablaze with fury.
"Just keep on walkin' doe, my business wasn't with you."
"I think as long as you're talking about Pipkin it is."
"You know that was always your problem! You never knew when to shut up when no one was talking to you!"
"Alright you two that's enough!" Their argument was cut short as Hazel came between them and yelled to get their attention. The rest of the group was shocked at the quickly escalating scene in front of them and froze. Hazel stood in front of Blackberry defensively and spoke calmly, "You have done nothing but complain from the minute we left Sandleford. Now you know I'm not looking for a fight, but if you have a problem speak now." Hazel met Bluebell's angry stare with his own level-headed one. Bluebell did not speak. Hazel turned his back to Bluebell and faced Blackberry, who gave him an apologetic look.
"Hazel I was just-"
"I think it would be best if neither of you spoke to each other, at least until we find the place Fiver's talking about."
The two swiftly apologized and walked to opposite ends of the group. Bluebell hung back with his brother and an unhappy Dandelion while Blackberry went ahead with Bigwig, Pipkin, and Fiver.
Exhausted from their journey so far, the group decided to rest near a small stream. The water barely reaching up to their shins, they washed their faces and drank what they could before settling down to sleep.
Bluebell slumped against a tree with his brother lying on his back beside him. He was just about to fall asleep till his eyes drifted towards a certain doe.
"Look at her, by the way she talks to 'im you'd think she's 'is mum."
Bluebell sat glaring at Blackberry as she tended to Pipkin's ankle a little ways off from the tree him and his brother now lay next to. Hawkbit let out an exasperated sigh and sat up to talk his brother out of his volatile mood. This was always how it went: Bluebell gets angry, and Hawkbit is there to talk him out doing something stupid. The cycle never stopped, never ended. It had always been his way. Even as kids Hawkbit never failed to talk his brother down from the dangerous ledge he walked along every day, because if he ever dropped over the other side, blind rage was all that followed.
There had been several times at Sandleford where Hawkbit's jokes just weren't enough to calm his brother down. There had been times where Bluebell lost control and, always, people got hurt. That's why he was never recruited into the Owsla, he was strong, he could fight, but if someone pushed him too far there was no telling what could happen.
Then Blackberry came along and for a while things were alright, but then…
No , he wouldn't think about that day. He couldn't.
"Oy, come on Bluebell, leave her be."
"Oh yeah, why should I? I'm so sick of hearin' her go on and on about her precious little Pipkin. All she does is whine and cry 'bout 'ow 'is foots hurt an' 'ow he needs rest, bah! I don't see 'ow she expects 'im to grow to be a strong buck if she keeps baby talkin' 'im."
Bluebell made a move to stand but Hawkbit pulled on his arm to keep him seated, he knew what would happen if he didn't.
"Yeah but Hazel said it was best if you didn't talk to her. Besides she's asleep already."
With a few more grumbles, Bluebell finally leaned against the tree and sat staring at the moon, however Hawkbit wasn't convinced that his anger was so easily dispelled.
"Blue, listen, I know you're angry-"
"Oh I'm more than angry little brother." Hawkbit was afraid of that.
"Yeah, but I think tomorrow you should try to be a bit less- well a bit less vocal about your thoughts."
"What do you mean vocal?" Hawkbit heard the rising anger in his voice but continued on, he needed his brother to hear him.
"I just think that others might not be as ready to…um…they might not handle your…um."
"If there's something you want to say, say it! Dear Frith you're blabbering is worse than Blackberry's."
Here he was talking about her again.
"Bluebell, not everyone here knows you like I do. They might not take it so easy if you keep telling Blackberry what to do. I know you might be missing her but-"
"Miss her?" He scoffed," You've got to be kidding me."
"Well you've gotta admit things were a bit better with her around."
"No they weren't. Things was just covered up is all, you know that."
"Anyway, just please try to rein it in a bit and-"
"I'm just speaking my mind."
"Right and that's fine, but just don't be so loud about it. We can stay with them till we find our own place to live. Then you can cluck about like a chicken all you want."
The two sat in silence as one brother nervously picked at the grass and the other continued to gaze at the night sky
"You're always lookin' out for me ain't ya? Alright, I'll try to be a bit nicer tomorrow. Don't know what good it'll do, but if it'll keep you from whinin' then I'll keep my trap shut. Oh and by the way, I do not cluck like a chicken."
"Like Inle you don't."
After exchanging a few punches the two slumped against their tree and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Bigwig too sat against a tree, but didn't sleep. He kept an eye out for elil and watched for any danger. Dandelion was asleep on his back a few yards away near Blackberry. She curled around Pipkin in her sleep, like a mother protecting her child. Bigwig smiled and felt a newfound sense of pride at the boy. Though his foot was injured he didn't complain at all, he even tried to climb off his shoulders at one point. The way he strived to prove his strength to the rest was obvious. Even his admiration for Hazel was clear for all to see, his eyes shone with delight when Hazel offered a word of praise or tousled his hair. Bigwig sighed and continued to watch for elil.
On the bank of the stream, Hazel sat with Fiver by his side watching the water trickle across the white stones in its bed. Hazel let their companionable silence go on for a bit longer before he began to speak.
"Fiver, where are we going?" His brother flinched at the question.
"You think I'm mad."
"I never said that-"
"You didn't have to. Well I'm not mad Hazel. There's a place out there where we belong, a place Frith saved just for us, where we can be free and live happily."
"I believe you Fiver, I always have. But some of the others don't and if we're going to stay together we need them to believe we have a definite place to go to." Hazel looked at his brother pleadingly but only saw a blank stare as Fiver fixed his gaze across the stream and into the wood beyond. "I'm only trying to he-"
At that second Fiver began to shiver and convulse, muttering to himself as he almost fell face first into the stream. Hazel caught his brother and tried to make sense of what he was saying.
"Fiver can you hear me? Fiver!"
"High and lonely hills, where the winds carry every sound.
The grass is dry as straw in a barn.
There our new home is found."
Shocked, Hazel gently shook Fiver awake and looked at him quizzically.
"What did you see Fiver?"
"It was our new home Hazel…and it was the most beautiful place I've ever seen." Fiver stared off into the distance with a glazed look in his eyes.
After a silent moment with Hazel thinking over the vision and Fiver looking fixedly into the woods, he shook himself out of his stupor and looked to his older brother.
"Hazel, you believe me don't you? Tell me you believe me, please!"
Hazel turned his head, he couldn't stand to see his brother look so pleadingly at him. He looked to the moon, the shining moon that always seemed to comfort him. The river bank was silent as he thought over their predicament.
No one knew better than Hazel the danger that came with ignoring his brother visions. No matter how absurd or unimportant they seemed, he always made sure to listen. So why should this be any different? Was it the fact that now he not only had his brother to keep safe, but also six others who he'd just taken away from their only home? He couldn't afford to be wrong anymore, one mistake and he'd lose all of them. He wouldn't let that happen. But by pushing the visions to the side, he might be doing the very thing to get them all killed.
Fiver was unsettled by his brother's silence and got up to leave. Hazel's arm reached up to his brother's shoulder and pulled him back down.
"Fiver, I've always listened to your visions and they've always been right. This gift of yours, its-its never lead us to any harm." Hazel let go of his brother and turned to face him. He stared into the fog-colored eyes of his brother, his only family, the only person close enough to his heart to hurt him. Whatever he said next , he knew it could change their relationship for better or worse. "I believe you Fiver, there's not a doubt in my mind that says I shouldn't listen to you."
Fiver heaved a sigh of relief and curled into a ball with his arms on his knees and his head tucked underneath. Hazel put a hand on his brother's back as small sobs could be heard from beneath his trembling form. All was quiet as he cried and Hazel made no move to leave his side. With a sniff, Fiver picked his head back up and rubbed his eyes embarrassedly.
"We should get some sleep Hrair-roo," his brother laughed a little at his childhood nickname, "the place you spoke of sounds far. It'll take quite a bit convincing to coax the others along."
With that, the brothers walked back up the slope and found a spot under a large tree to sleep. Fiver fell asleep quickly, but Hazel's worries about the next day's travel would give him no rest. He sat up straighter on the tree's trunk and kept watch for any elil he knew might be hunting at night. As the night grew brighter under the starry night sky, he began to nod off and drift into dreams of a new home for his brother and now extended family.