|The Siege of White Deer Park|
Cover of the 1986 publication
|Publication date||29 August 1985|
|Preceded by||The Fox Cub Bold|
|Succeeded by||In the Path of the Storm|
The Siege of White Deer Park is the fifth book of The Animals of Farthing Wood book series by Colin Dann. The book was illustrated by Terry Riley and first published on 29 August 1985. It was also released as part of The Animals of Farthing Wood Second Omnibus in 1995.
The Farthing Wood animals' third winter in White Deer Park has come to an end, and many of them have become very old or have passed away. As spring arrives the animals notice many of the park's inhabitants acting very strangely, becoming flustered and uneasy, and many new animals are seen taking refuge within the park's boundaries. The animals suspect that something outside the park is driving these animals to take shelter in the park, so Tawny Owl and Whistler search outside the park for clues. They find nothing, but word starts to spread of a fierce beast making raids in the park during the night and the edible frogs make a mass exodus from the pond.
During a conversation with the Farthing Wood elders about the threat from the mysterious creature, Badger states that the stealthy nature of this animal reminds him of The Warden's cat and he suggests that The Beast may be a sort of cat. Tawny Owl scoffs at this suggestion, but Fox and Weasel accept Badger's word, though they remain unsure if his suggestion is correct.
One night after searching the reserve and finding no sightings of The Beast, Tawny Owl takes refuge in a tree in a small area of woodland within the park to rest. Before dawn, he is awakened by the thought he is being watched. Looking down, he sees the head of a large creature with bright eyes looking at him in a menacing way. Knowing this is the creature he is looking for, Owl flies further up the tree out of reach, but when he looks back the strange creature has vanished. He then flies off to warn Fox and the others of his sighting just as the sun rises.
Adder hears of these developments and shows Toad some large footprints he has found near the now deserted pond. A meeting is called and Toad informs the animals of the footprints seen by himself and Adder. Not long afterwards, The Beast kills one of the white deer herd and Friendly discovers the carcass, then talks to some of his younger relatives about his plan to track the creature down.
The Beast kills a white deer fawn and leaves few remains as evidence, so Friendly and the other foxes do not notice what has happened. The Warden does notice the losses and regularly patrols the area with a gun, but the Beast is not discovered. One morning while fishing Whistler spots the Beast near the stream, and sees that it is a very large cat. He tells Adder, who notices that the footprints are the same ones that he had seen before, and he decides to pursue the cat with the idea of poisoning it. However, the Beast traps Adder with its paw and toys with him, eventually knocking him into the stream which allows him to escape.
Whistler tells Fox and Vixen of the creature he has seen and Weasel heads off to tell Badger the news. He arrives at Badger's set and discovers Badger talking to a young mole named Mossy, who is trying to tell Badger that Mole is his father, but Badger pays no attention and mistakes him for Mole himself. Weasel asks Mossy to pretend to be Mole for Badger's sake, and most of the other animals agree to go along with this idea, with the exception of Tawny Owl.
Friendly gathers together a group of foxes - made up of Pace, Husky, Rusty, Ranger and Trip - to join him on an expedition to search out the Beast. They head to the stream where the creature was seen by Whistler and follow its trail into an area of woodland. Friendly notices something stir in the undergrowth and heads off after it, but he is unable to stay on its trail. Friendly lets the young foxes look for food, and they come across another young deer which was killed by the Beast. They feed off the remains of the carcass and head back, but the Beast watches them from a tree as they do so.
Meanwhile, Adder comes across a female snake and tries to impress her with the story of his encounter with the Beast, but she shows no interest in him and Adder slides away from her. The next day, Whistler discovers that the Warden is setting up a pen by the perimeter of the reserve, and when Tawny Owl tells the animals that the deer are being rounded up they realize that the humans have decided to watch over them to keep them safe.
That evening Friendly and his group of foxes go in search of the Beast again, and its trail leads them beyond Farthing Wood territory to a small copse. They enter cautiously, but the Beast leaps down from a tree and grabs Husky in its jaws, before leaping back up, carrying the young fox to a great height. The other foxes realize they are no match for such a powerful creature and leave to fetch help, at which point the Beast drops Husky back to the ground. Friendly and the young foxes look for Fox and Vixen, but they find Badger instead and tell him what has happened. Fox and Vixen soon return and Badger decides to offer himself to the Beast in exchange for Husky. He heads off, but the foxes leave soon afterwards and reach the copse before him, only to discover that Husky is dead, and the Beast is long gone.
Fox comes up with a plan and instructs the other animals to to spread the word across the park that every inhabitant of the reserve must keep a lookout for clues and report anything they see immediately. Meanwhile, the Warden realizes that his attempt to lure the Beast out has been unsuccessful and releases the deer back into the reserve. One day Adder comes across the female snake again, and she tells him that she has seen the Beast use a large hole in the bank by the stream. Adder finds Whistler and tells him this information, and the heron immediately flies away to inform Fox, who decides to gather the park's inhabitants together and try to trap the Beast in its lair.
That evening, all the foxes, badgers, weasels, stoats, hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, mice, voles, and birds have gathered together to form a huge group and they head towards the stream. They find the hole and Toad volunteers to search it for the Beast. He goes inside and discovers the creature sleeping inside, and Fox looks on the other side for another exit. However, the Beast wakes up and leaves its lair, causing the group of animals to pull back in terror and watch as the cat washes itself, showing no interest at all in its audience. Eventually, the cat takes a few laps from the stream and bounds away out of sight, as the animals can only watch, powerless to stop it.
Most of the animals disperse, but Tawny Owl pursues the Beast through the air, and after briefly losing sight of it, he finds the huge cat hiding in a ditch near the perimeter of the reserve. Annoyed at being discovered, The Beast asks why Tawny Owl is showing interest in him, and Owl informs it of how terrified all the park's inhabitants are of it. The Beast tells Owl that the humans are unaware of the existence of the cat's species, shocking him. He then asks the cat whether it would consider hunting somewhere else instead, but it refuses. However, the cat makes a pledge that no animal will ever see it again although it will still be around, and promises to leave the park if any creature should set eyes on it and tell it so.
Before Tawny Owl has told any other animals of this pledge, the Beast kills two more deer and stores them until the park's inhabitants have let their guard down. The Warden lays traps for the Beast, but it does not go near them and he eventually decides to remove them. The Beast then goes on a rampage in Farthing Wood territory, killing several of the smaller creatures and nearly killing Leveret, but he escapes and his mate is killed instead.
Adder meets the female snake again and she tells him that she would like to be known as Sinuous. They sunbathe together and Sinuous suggests that the Beast may be hiding underground. Adder immediately tells Badger and Fox about this theory, and all the foxes, badgers, weasels and rabbits in the park are asked whether they know of a large underground lair, but none do. Badger tells Mossy about the theory and Mossy informs him of a large underground chamber that Mirthful had come across before she died. Badger asks Mossy to find the chamber and inform him if the Beast is living there so that Badger can spot the cat and force it to leave.
Mossy starts his search, but he gets distracted by worms and loses focus. However, he eventually falls into a large chamber and discovers that the Beast is sleeping inside. He tries to leave quickly, but the Beast wakes up and pursues him. Mossy digs underground, but the Beast digs after him until Tawny Owl shouts out that he has seen the cat and asks him to yield. The cat roars loudly and Badger arrives, asking the Beast to take him instead of Mossy. The Beast tells the animals he could slay them all easily, but just then they all hear the loud cry of another cat in the distance. The two cats call to each other and the Beast rushes out of the park to join the female that was calling to him. The animals realize what has happened and celebrate that the Beast has finally left the park.