Chapter seven


by Nettle-rah


"What? Nonsense! It's just another of your little daydreams, Hrairoo." Bigwig said, trying in spite of his agitation to sound supportive and kind.


"It isn't an embleer 'daydream', you fool!" Fiver shouted at him.


"Don't curse at me! I'm not the fool, Fiver! You're the one talking all of this hraka! Why, if I could only give you..."


A cough from the hlessi caused Bigwig to turn around. He hopped over to the scarred rabbit.


"I'm alright, my friend. 'Tis only a chill I caught during my wanderings. Is there somewhere where I can just rest and warm up for a moment?"


"Of course!" said Bigwig, becoming uncharacteristically warm. "I'll take you down to Hazel-rah, our chief. I can convince him to let you stay here. Come on, I'll let you lean on my shoulder. That's right, old chap! Come along, Hrairoo."


"I tell you, Thlayli, " Fiver whispered as he came up behind Bigwig, "This is a mistake! This rabbit is dangerous..."


"And I tell you to be quiet! There's no danger, so shut up about it!" Bigwig replied sharply, glaring at Fiver. Nothing more was said until they had reached Hazel's burrow.




Hazel had been eating a cowslip when they arrived. He rose to greet them, but his face became somber when he saw the hlessi. Bigwig felt dismayed by this rare show of inhospitality from Hazel, but he decided to speak for the stranger anyway.


"Hazel-rah, this hlessi came to us during silflay. He's been hurt, and he needs help. Please let him stay at the warren."


Hazel walked quietly over to the hlessi. His manner was one of any chief - calm, dignified, indestructable. He spoke to the stranger.


"Hello, wanderer. My name is Hazel-rah, and I'm the chief of Watership Down."


So far, the hlessi appeared won over by Hazel's gentle approach, and he relaxed a little bit.


"The rabbit who found you is called Thlayli, and the other one is my brother Hrairoo. I don't turn away from hlessil, as Thlayli may have informed you. I would, however, like to know a few things about you. Firstly, what is your name?"


"Chestnut, sir!" the stranger answered quickly, a fearful look in his eyes.


"How old are you, Chestnut?" Hazel continued.


"I am a third-year rabbit, sir!"


"Are you alone?"


"Now, sir. Now I am, sir."


"Where are you from, Chestnut?"


At this, the hlessi gave a gasp and tore away from Bigwig's shoulder. He buried his head in his paws and tried to cover it with his two tattered ears. He muttered over and over again the word "Inle" and trembled violently.


Hazel hopped over to him and stroked him gently. He asked the question again, slowly and softly.


"Where are you from, my friend?" he said.


Chestnut, apparently encouraged by being called a friend, raised his head from his paws, and spoke in a frightened and utterly miserable voice, as though he had seen the Black Rabbit of Inle dance before him.


Where does Chestnut say he's from?

1. He says he has escaped from his home... Efrafa.

2. He says he has escaped from a horrific laboratory that tortures animals in "the name of science".


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