When the digging is nearly done, Groundsel approaches Woundwort and tells him that they are about to break through into a burrow. Groundsel expresses fear about the “animal” which might lie beneath the ground. Woundwort, though, is ready for a challenge. He tells Vervain, Groundsel, and a select few others to follow him down into the burrow, where they will set to work opening a run, at which point more Efrafans can descend and join the fight. Woundwort jumps into the hole without hesitation and claws his way through, then tumbles into the burrow with his officers.
Though fear threatens to derail the Efrafans’ attack, Woundwort himself heads to the front lines to show his officers that fear doesn’t matter—all that matters is the push towards power and domination by any means necessary.
One of the Owsla spots a dead rabbit on the ground. Woundwort sniffs the small corpse and determines that he hasn’t been dead long—he is cold, but not stiff. Woundwort wonders how the rabbit died, as rabbits don’t usually die underground. Not wanting to waste time, Woundwort decides to leave the dead rabbit and move on. The burrow is still, but one of the officers detects movement on the other side of a recently-constructed wall, and the Efrafans begin digging at it.
The Efrafans’ presence in the Honeycomb feels like a violation. As they stand in the giant common room—the symbol of the Watership Down rabbits’ desire for community, openness, freedom, and democracy—they can’t possibly understand how strong the rabbits’ commitment to their ideals and their home truly are, as all they have ever known is violence and fear.
On the other side of the wall, Bigwig and Holly, sensing the Efrafans’ approach, devise a plan. Bigwig tells Holly to bury him in earth—he is going to dig his way into the floor while the other rabbits push further into the tunnels. Bigwig will jump out and surprise him. Pipkin asks what is to become of Fiver, who has been left in the Honeycomb, unconscious but alive—Bigwig laments that they will have to leave him.
Things are looking bad for the rabbits—the Efrafans are approaching, and they believe that they have lost one of their most beloved comrades. Still, they must soldier on and brave whatever is to come.
Woundwort pushes his way into the run which his officers have dug open and can sense some other rabbits in the tunnel ahead of him. As he makes his way forward, the ground below him shifts—out of nowhere, a rabbit leaps up from the ground and bites him in the leg, hard. Woundwort flails and lashes, but the enemy throws him on his back. Realizing that his assailant is Bigwig, Woundwort reminds the rabbit of his promise to kill him.
The Watership Down rabbits will not stop defending their home even in the face of the most violent, terrible rabbit they have ever known. Their commitment to one another, and to the free, happy lives they have built is intense and not easily shaken.
Bigwig attacks Woundwort’s other leg, but Woundwort throws his weight forward, and Bigwig is crushed. Woundwort collapses, though, as his bad leg gives way, and Bigwig scratches and scrapes at him as the first light of dawn slowly begins filtering through the broken roof of the Honeycomb and into the tunnel.
Even in the darkest moment of the fight between Woundwort and Bigwig, a small spill of light in the Honeycomb signals that there is still hope.