Down at the bottom of the hill, Woundwort is stationed with his soldiers. He has lost some authority since Kehaar’s attack and the rabbits’ escape on the boat and has had to fight against his warren’s demoralization in the face of their defeat. The day after Bigwig and the others made their escape, Woundwort called a Council meeting and demanded a strong patrol of several officers and Owsla set out to track them, and though there was some resistance to the plan, Woundwort was determined to see his will done. He had not forgotten his promise to Bigwig—that he would kill the tuft-headed rabbit himself.
Adams reveals what has been going on at Efrafa in the days since the Watership Down rabbits made their successful escape. Woundwort’s reputation has suffered a blow, and his renewed offensive against the rogue rabbits is, Adams suggests, Woundwort’s attempt at restoring the awe, respect, and fear his rabbits showed him before the confrontation at the river.
After an unsuccessful few days, the rabbits at last spotted Bigwig and his group at the copse where he’d unknowingly set a fox on a Wide Patrol many days ago and followed them to their warren. This success “put an end to all opposition,” and Efrafan faith in Woundwort’s ability to lead was restored. Woundwort, back at Efrafa, chose a large, intimidating group of nearly thirty rabbits to make the journey to Watership Down and take back the does. Though their journey was beset by elil and other obstacles, Woundwort forced his troops onward, and they soon arrived at the foot of the hill.
Woundwort, determined to regain his warren’s trust and respect, pushed his officers through danger, death, and calamity to arrive at Watership Down. He has no love or care for the individual members of his warren—he only wants to prove his own strength.
Now, having been spotted by Blackavar and Holly, Woundwort and his troops wait to see whether the Watership Down rabbits will run away or prepare to fight. As Woundwort and Campion travel to a nearby juniper tree to try and get a better look, they are approached by a small, limping rabbit—Hazel. Woundwort warns Hazel that he and the Efrafans are going to “destroy” him and his warren, but Hazel insists they try to come to terms—if Woundwort attacks, he will lose many of his own rabbits as well. Hazel suggests their warrens live in peace, and even start a new warren at the midway point between them where Efrafans and Watership Down rabbits can come together to build something new.
Surprisingly, Woundwort does not kill Hazel on the spot—in a show of good faith, he allows the rabbit to make his case. Hazel’s proposal is wise, democratic, and most of all places trust in the ability of their two warrens to get along—Woundwort, of course, will have none of that, desperate as he is for total control by any means.
Woundwort rejects Hazel’s proposal and denies him the chance to bargain any further. He allows Hazel to return to his warren to deliver a message—if the does aren’t waiting outside the warren along with Bigwig and Blackavar by the time Woundwort gets up there, he will “tear the throat out of every buck in the place by ni-Frith tomorrow.”