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Day 430/Year 130/Era 12

Hello Master, I hope this letter finds you well!

I am your most loyal servant, Worker Ashley Vera Vestiture, Second Daughter of Worker Sella Fimir Coravet and Worker Bell Gierma Swordmaster, Born of the Vejtarta Spawn Pits on Crown World Y'varda.

In this letter, I shall impress upon you the grand tale of how I became a fully-fledged adult in my tribe.

In order to reach adulthood, all I had to do was head into the eastern forest of Vejtarta and hunt a Daff-Rabbit. A simple task, for someone like you, but for us mortals it’s no joke! A small body, powerful legs, and a cunning intellect, Daff-Rabbits are one of the most dangerous foes a Slavani could encounter on Y’varda. If I can’t catch one, then I can’t be considered an adult and I can’t get my adult job to properly serve you! For too many years I’ve been a drain on tribe Vejtarta, it’s time I become an adult and get a job that bests serves you.

I know a few sisters who have been on the hunt for over a decade. I can’t imagine what that’s like, being trapped as a child, unable to serve you with all I have... I wouldn’t let that happen to me, Master! I’d capture a Daff-Rabbit and return home in victory!

My journey started on Day 120/Year 130/Era 12. With nothing but a tent, a sleeping bag, a knife, a lantern, an emergency cellphone, an emergency flare, tape, a shovel, a pickaxe, a fishing net, a deck of cards, a hoe, and 3 days’ worth of emergency food, I left my village and traveled east. Over hills and across rivers, I didn’t stop walking until I reached the forest, the sun had already begun to set when I arrived. Between the grassy plains and a thick wall of giant trees, I set up my tent, snuggled up in my sleeping bag, and promptly ate all three days worth of food.

You see, this is what my idiot sisters don’t understand, and why so many of them require a month or more to catch a Daff-Rabbit. They think the ‘proper’ way is to ration out your meals over the course of three days, but that’s stupid. If you eat all three days worth of meals as soon as you arrive, you won’t have to eat again for three days, which means you have this beautiful three day window where you can focus on nothing but hunting! It’s a perfect strategy I came up with myself.

So I slept until about noon the next day, sprawled out on the inside of my tent as the heat of the summer sun, the tent, and my fur combined to create something of a beautiful sauna.

Suddenly, there was a vicious pounding against my tent that shook me awake. At first, I assumed it was an earthquake, or maybe another Slavani was shaking my tent for a prank, but finally, after about an hour of this annoying vibration, I unzipped the door and poked my head out.

“Don’t you know what time it is!?!” I screamed as I looked for the perpetrator.

I shot my head this way and that, but there was nobody there. I looked down, and there sat a small creature.

On this adventure I wore cargo pants and a light blue t-shirt with two pockets. From the breast pocket I pulled out a photo of a Daff-Rabbit and held it up. I looked at the photo, then the creature, then the photo, then back to the creature. Both were small fluffballs with powerful hind legs, soft paws on their front legs, large antlers, and razor-sharp teeth. However, the tail was different. In the picture, its long, fluffy white tail had a spiral pattern made of brown fur, but the creature before me had a tail that was pure white.

“Eugh.” I said, crawling out of the tent and stretching my limbs. “Dumb creature, you got my hopes up.” I started my morning exercises, stretching out my legs and back, but the creature wouldn’t leave. He just... stared at me.

“Listen... ‘guy’, I’m on the hunt for a Daff-Rabbit and those things can smell idiots. If a weak little animal like you is dumb enough to stand by a proud Slavani hunter like me, the Daff-Rabbit will no doubt smell you and keep his distance!”

He didn’t move.

I frowned, then crouched down, bridging the gap between our faces. “Leave, little guy. It’s for your own safety! You could get hurt.”

He twitched his nose and cocked his head.

“You have no idea what I’m saying, do you?” I flicked his antler and walked off into the forest. “Whatever, man, do what you want. Not my fault you can’t understand the language my Master perfected.”

I rummaged my way through the forest and planned my attack. A common trap is to put a pile of berries in a snare, so I went ahead and picked berries, humming as I stuffed them in my pouch. As I went from bush to bush, my little ‘friend’ followed me. On the first bush, he sniffed the berries then nibbled on the wood.

“Oh, hungry?” I flashed a smug smile. “Heheh, poor thing, looks like your God didn’t bless you with opposable thumbs like mine did. Here.” I tossed him a few berries from my pouch and went on to the next bush.

Once he finished eating, he hopped over to me, sniffed the bush, then thumped my ankle.

“Ah!” His little legs hurt more than you’d expect! “What? I just gave you food. You want more? Fine, just don’t do that again.” I pulled a handful of berries off and tossed them over, but the ungrateful little jerk bounced away! “What’s wrong? They’re just berries.” I ate a few from the bush he so rudely scorned and chewed with my mouth open just to show him they’re okay. “See? Sure, it tastes a little acidic, but it’s fine! It’s good for you! Berries are healthy!”

The rude little guy wouldn’t come closer, so I rolled my eyes and continued on. At every bush, seemingly at random, he either nibbled the wood or kicked my leg, though his kicks never hurt as much as the first one, it was more annoying than anything else. I always gave him a few (and snacked on a couple berries myself) but, again, at random, he ate some and avoided others. Even all this time later, I have no idea what that was about.

When my pouch was finally full, I walked around until I found a clearing. No trees, no bushes, just healthy-looking soil and tall grass. With an eager smile, I piled the berries high in the center, then set up the snare around it.

I waited in a nearby bush, keeping an eye on the trap in case the Daff-Rabbit decided to show up. The other creature was there too, looking at the trap with me.

“Heh.” I affectionately patted its head. “Those could have been your berries if you weren’t so stingy.”

We waited for maybe... three hours, I’d say. Motionless. Breathless. Eyes on the prize, hand scratching behind his lop ears. My stomach started growling and that really confused me. I ate three days’ worth of food the previous night, and I snacked on berries all day, why was I so hungry? Even now, I still don’t know.

I could have waited a lot longer, you created us with excellent night vision after all. I could have sat there all night, but my little ‘buddy’ yawned.

“Getting tired, eh?” I said. “Makes sense. We’ve been out here a while… Wait,” I looked down at him, “why are you out here anyway? I need to stay here to catch a Daff-Rabbit, but there’s no reason for you to waste your time, so what gives?” He didn’t answer, I felt warm in my chest. “Aww..! You’re staying here cause you want to see me succeed, aren’t you?” I smiled ear to ear and pulled him closer. “Thanks little guy, that means a lot! Truth be told I was a little worried about how I’d catch one of those vile, bloodthirsty creatures, but with you at my side I have no doubt I can overcome whatever disgusting measures it’ll try and use to stop me!”

He looked up at me but didn’t say a word.

“Oh!” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “Right, good call. I’ve been talking all this time and our prey could have heard me…” I also crouched closer to the ground, just to make it harder for the Daff-Rabbit to see me. “Actually, that reminds me. I need a name for you, don’t I? Hmm… Well you’ll need a cute name… and you have nice white fur… Snowball! You like that name, Snowball?”

He hoped out into the clearing.

“Snowball..?! What are you doing..!?” I quietly shouted, trying to get his attention but not be loud enough to alert any nearby Daff-Rabbits. “It could be anywhere..! Get back here to safety!”

He bounced over to the trap, then looked straight at me.

“Ah! Crap!” I grabbed my horns in panic as my eyes went wide. “Get away from there! I’ll get you more berries, just don’t set off my trap!”

What happened next... he...

He swiped his tail across the dirt. Back and forth, like a broom, and then? Then he showed me the swirl pattern of brown he created on his fur.

I felt my heart sink. I felt cold. I pulled out the photo and studied it, glanced back and forth between the two. The photo, him, the photo, back to him. The swirl-pattern was unmistakable.

He was a Daff-Rabbit.

Anger. Betrayal. Sadness. I lack to the words to properly convey the depths of my sorrow and confusion in that moment.

He tricked me. He tricked me so thoroughly, so unquestionably, that... I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming. It seems so obvious in hindsight. He woke me up in the middle of my slumber to disorient me, he cleaned his tail so I wouldn’t notice, he kicked me repeatedly, he ate my berries! He even followed me all day to lure me into a false sense of security! To make me think we’re friends, just to show his true colors and twist the knife! I said these Daff-Rabbits are smart, Master, I told you!

Somehow, I managed to hold back the tears. “Y-you..?” My voice broke. “You’re..?” I averted my eyes and grit my teeth. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I had a job to do. I rose from my bush, took a deep breath, then charged forward!

That’s where his true genius revealed itself. He hopped out of the way and I stepped on all those berries, coating my paw in berry mush and activating the snare. The rope tightened around my ankle and I was yanked up into the air, dangling from a tree branch.

I managed to orient myself towards him, I could see the rustle of bushes as he fled.

The tears started streaming up my forehead at that point, it was all I could do to scream.

“I, I won’t forget this, you hear me!? I’ll hunt you to the ends of the galaxy if I have to!! You won’t escape from me Snowbaaaaaaall!!”

I was so distraught, and crying so much, that I couldn’t untie myself until the next morning.

 

 

At the crack of noon, I woke to my whole body being jostled around. I slowly opened my eyes to find the culprit. I assumed it was the Daff-Rabbit shaking the tree I hung from, but no. Funny enough, it was an earthquake this time. Everything in the forest shook.

See, the Daff-Rabbit was too busy sitting on the top of the branch I connected the snare to, gnawing through the rope with his sharp teeth.

“Hey, wait a minute... if you eat through that aren’t I gonna-?”

The rope snapped and I fell, though the large pile of smashed berries broke my fall. Now drenched with sticky berry juice, I sighed. I looked up and he stared back at me. The smugness on his stupid little face was unmistakable. “Jerk.” I got up and tried to brush off the berry sap, but it clumped onto the fur on my hands and I had to walk to a nearby river.

Walking was... difficult. My stomach ached and I really don’t know why. It was still only the second day, I shouldn’t have been hungry until the end of the third. My best guess is I was still heartbroken from the betrayal. I swayed this way and that, stumbling over myself, bracing myself against trees and rocks. My head hurt too, to say nothing of the lingering pain in my heart.

I finally made it to an ankle-high stream and fell in. The cool water felt good against my fur, and the stream smelled fresh and clean. The berry juice washed away, and a number of fish swam over to gobble it up. I thought for a moment, then took off my shirt so I could use it as a makeshift net and catch a bunch of them. For some reason, a couple of them dropped dead. I figured they had a rare fish disease or something, so I tossed them out of my net.

I walked out of the river with a wide smile. A plan started to form in my mind. A brilliant plan. A three step plan.

Step 1: Collect a bunch of vines, grass and sticks to weave into a net.

Step 2. Hang that net high above the ground.

Step 3. Cook my fish in a fire under that net, and when the Daff-Rabbit comes to steal my fish and make a fool of me once more, I drop the net on top of us both! Daff-Rabbit’s can’t look up because of their antlers, so he won’t see my trap, and the grass net will burn once it touches the fire, roasting him instantly!

Now, Master, you’re probably seeing the problem with my plan already. I’ll be honest, I’m not proud of such an obvious, glaring flaw.

I sat in a clearing in front of the fire. My left hand held a long vine hanging down from the treetops. When I let go, the net would fall. My right hand held a stick, which I used to poke and prod the fire. Around the fire was a dozen savory, sizzling, succulent river fish skewered and leaning into the fire. I’m a good cook, so they were the embodiment of perfection, the heavenly scent overpowered the normal forest smells of trees and sap and dew.

My stomach roared, my belly ached, and I had to wipe my chin of drool more than once, but I couldn’t eat my bait.

A rustling sound off to my right made my heart soar! I turned to a nearby bush and out popped a large to mid-sized bear.

“Hmph.” I pursed my lips. “You’re not who I’m waiting for.” I grabbed three fish and tossed them over. “Here! Just take them and don’t mess up my plan Mrs. Bear!”

Happily, the bear grabbed the three sticks in her mouth, gave me a wave, then walked off back into the brush.

I steadied my heart and acted casual. If I looked too eager, the Daff-Rabbit would know something’s up.

More rustling to my left. I turned and it was a malnourished looking wolf, growling at me.

I rolled my eyes, then tossed a fish over. The wolf cocked his head and looked to me. I paid him no mind, of course, and continued waiting for my prey. The wolf scarfed it down, then walked over to start licking my face.

‘Maybe if I do nothing... it’ll go away. I can’t give it any more fish! My supply is running low!’

Once he was finished showing his affection, Mr. Wolf sat down beside me, his wagging tail slapping my back repeatedly.

Next came a large bird. After it ate the fish I gave it, it used my right horn like a perch.

A baby bear waddled over. I gave him a fish, and he laid down on my lap as he ate. Once finished, he chewed on the warm stick.

Then a group of squirrels got curious and came over. As they couldn’t eat fish, I taught them how to roast their acorns on the fire.

A creature I never saw before but I later learned was a ‘tortoise’ walked through the clearing. He didn’t want food or anything, he just passed through. My animal friends and I gave him a polite nod, and he slowly returned it.

Mrs. Bear came back at this point and came to collect her son. I don’t speak bear, but I suspect the growls and roars I heard as they left was Mrs. Bear lecturing her son about wandering off.

A group of smaller birds came around and started feuding with the squirrels, small squeaks and chittering filled the clearing. Before I could put a stop to their nonsense, Mr. Wolf barked and the large bird squawked, cowing the two sides into submission.

At this point, I was starting to think the Daff-Rabbit would never show.

But then, it happened! It finally happened! Right before my eyes, the Daff-Rabbit hopped into the clearing!

I could hardly contain my excitement. “Oh! Uh, I mean, oh. Hey there, buddy. Want a nice, safe, and delicious meal for your travels? Eat up!”

The Daff-Rabbit looked up. It looked straight at the net, then looked back to me.

I... I really thought Daff-Rabbits couldn’t look up. I guess it’s just one of those legends, like how Myertets don’t actually drop rocks on their eggs to see which are strongest.

Now, despite me being wrong, the Daff-Rabbit hopped over anyway!

“Ha!” I startled the animals. “I guess ‘seeing’ a trap and being able to avoid it are two separate things! Nobody can resist the expert cooking of Ashley Vera Vestiture!”

The Daff-Rabbit bit the stick and pulled the fish out of the fire, but it didn’t eat.

This was my second mistake. Despite the sharpness of a Daff-Rabbit’s teeth, they are purely vegetarian. He wasn’t attracted by the smell of my cooking, he just came over to make a fool of me.

A wide smile crept across my face, and I whispered, “Say goodnight, prey..!”

I was about to release the net. Just a single release of the fingers and I could return to my village in victory!

…But… I looked around, all my new animal friends were there. If I released the net, they’d all die in a fiery inferno as well...

There was no choice. I didn’t want to become an adult by slaughtering friends.

I had to sit there and watch as the Daff-Rabbit pulled my fish out of the fire, fed my animal friends, and fed any animal that happened to walk by. My tummy ached with each fish he gave away, like a gut punch each and every time. Not only that, he called his friends. A dozen Daff-Rabbits sat on the other side of the fire, enjoying it’s warmth, while more and more animals came over and sat by me.

I sat there, seething, for four hours. Once the fire died and the animals dispersed, often cuddling against me as a goodbye, my arm was too sore to try anything. I fell back, the net fell on top of me, and I fell asleep right there in the clearing.

 

 

It was the last day I could go without eating. Despite still having time left, I wanted to die. There was a burning pit in my gut that wouldn’t go away. Personally, I think it was a mixture of anger and anxiety. If I couldn’t catch the Daff-Rabbit by the end of the day, my perfect 3-day energy supply would be wasted, and I’d have to take a break from hunting in order to find food.

With this urgency in mind, I woke up around 11am or so and got started with my newest plan.

The first thing I noticed was the smell of ash and singed fur. Looking around, I realized that the embers from the fire set my net ablaze and it burned through the night. Luckily, the batch of Slavani I came from were designed to have a resistance to heat. Unluckily, my net was unsalvageable and it would take time to weave another.

With only a few hours left until I had to eat again, I hurried back to my tent on the outskirt of the forest. It was ransacked and torn apart, probably by that gang of Daff-Rabbits from the previous night, but they didn’t steal my shovel and pickaxe, which would soon prove to be their undoing.

Back into the forest, I found a new clearing and started digging.

Aah, manual labor~!

I set aside my plot and dug up all the grass and bushes that were in my area. My dig plot was 8ft in diameter and set directly between two trees, the goal was to chase the Daff-Rabbit between the trees and have it fall. On one side of the hole I set up my deposit area, where all the soil and rocks would be placed until I can spread it around the area to make it look more natural. Obviously, the pile area was significantly larger than the hole area, as dirt tends to settle as a pyramid.

With my area cleared and my tools ready, I got to work.

The birds chirped, the wind made the grass dance, and I don’t know when I started humming.

It really sucks how so few mining jobs are available in the Slavani territory. I would love to spend my days in the deep, dark, damp recesses of a massive cave, digging up ore or clearing space for an underground fortress. The fact I didn’t have anxiety pains in my gut during the whole process proves how calming it is.

I just couldn’t help it, Master. As I dug deeper and deeper into Y’varda, I kept getting these grand ideas. Dig a bit over here and carve out a bedroom, dig some there and make a dining room, if I dig deeper I could make a pool, branching off that way would make a nice lounge for guests, and don’t even get me started on my ideas for a multi-media room! Despite how time consuming it would have been, I secretly hoped I ran into a boulder so I could carve it into a nice fridge.

But alas, none of these ideas would come to be. I only had a day to work and a building this far away from Vejtarta wouldn’t be of use to anyone.

That being said, I took pride in my hole! Despite the shifting soil and the many roots shooting into my dig space, I kept the walls nice and smooth, packed in and firm. Later, I justified this extra effort by thinking it would prevent the Daff-Rabbit from climbing out.

After hours of work, I took a deep breath, slung my pickaxe over my shoulder, and wiped my forehead like they do in those foreign movies.

“Aaah!” I said, looking up to appreciate all my efforts. The hole was easily 10 times my height, and spacious enough for me to comfortably lay down. “Heehee! What a nice job I did. Now I just gotta... hm…” I looked down at my paws and grabbed my chin. “I gotta spread around the dirt, make a covering to fit over the hole, find the Daff-Rabbit, then chase him over. Oh, and makes some spears to put him out of his misery, falling this far will probably break his legs.”

A few small pieces of dirt fell and plinked off my head. “Hm?”

I looked up... and he was there. Watching me. His little nose twitched as my face coiled in shock and horror.

I put my hand on my hips and tapped my paw against the dirt. “Really?” I asked. “You couldn’t wait another 5 minutes?” I looked down and gripped the bridge of my nose, shaking my head. “Welp... nothing to do about it now... well, except-!” I jumped as high as I could and fluttered my wings with all my might! I built this hole wide enough for my wings on purpose! “-to capture you!”

It... as it turned out... I was a little overzealous with my digging. I only made it about halfway up the hole before falling back down and landing on my butt.

“Oh... wait...”

See, Master, I’ve seen some Slavani with wings powerful enough to fly through the sky, and some with wings good enough to glide along strong winds. That’s not my batch. Most batches use their wings to assist their running and jumping and all that... but not my batch.

My batch of Slavani was spawned with near useless wings that’ll only help us jump about 20 feet in the air. As a tradeoff we’re resistant to fire and far more intelligent than most Worker strains, so I guess it evens out.

“Hmm.” I said, looking up. “That’s not good. Don’t go anywhere, you hear me? I’ll be right up!”

He wiggled his nose at me.

I slid my hands along the walls, looking for any divots or creases I could hold onto, but I was too thorough. The dirt wall was seamless and even the roots were cut flush. I tried to dig my fingers into the wall to make grabbable spots, but I didn’t want the Daff-Rabbit doing that exact thing, so I had packed the walls in tight and hard.

With a sigh, I picked up my shovel. “Man, this sucks. I don’t wanna destroy such great work…” I threw my head back and was about to curse in your name, but then a large clump of dirt landed on my face and threw me onto my back. I popped up and wiped the dirt from my face and fur. “Pfft! Pfft! Ack!” I spat out dirt particles and looked up, only to get another heavy clump of dirt to the face. “Pfft! A-ghk! Ptht!” I shook the loose clumps of dirt out of my fur, then looked up, where I got smacked in the face by ten pounds of dirt! “Eugh! Pfth!” My mouth was open and by the time I got all the dirt out, I felt my neck crushed under the force of a massive pile of dirt falling down from the top of the hole.

My vocabulary isn’t that big so I can’t make each instance unique, but this happened 7 more times before I was able to dodge out of the way of the falling dirt.

“Ha!” I pointed skyward. The sounds of shifting soil from the surface stopped… and the Daff-Rabbit poked his head out.

Now, Master, for someone as omnipotent as you it probably isn’t a surprise that the incomparable evil of the Daff-Rabbit was the one to purposefully try to give me a concussion by dropping a steady stream of dirt on my head. For your humble servant however, I was quite shocked. I figured either the wind picked up, or maybe I piled the dirt too close to the hole. With this revelation, however, my eyes went wide, I was disgusted with the sheer display of cruelty and barbarity of our age-old enemy.

What kind of monstrous creature would try to kill me while I’m trapped, helpless in the bottom of a hole?

But four other Daff-Rabbits poked their heads out.

“Uhh… wait a minute…”

The five Daff-Rabbits left, and I gulped. A moment later, they used their powerful hind legs to kick wave after wave of dirt back into the hole.

“Y-you’re trying to bury me alive?!” I screamed as I used my superior Slavani agility to dodge and weave between the steadily falling stream of soil. The more dirt they kicked in the higher the floor grew, but the soil was soft and uneven, it quickly became more difficult to dodge.

‘Heh!’ I thought. ‘Stupid creatures, your bloodlust blinds you to the obvious. The more dirt you kick in, the closer I get to capturing you. All I have to do is-‘ and then I stopped thinking because they kicked a rock in and it smashed against my face, knocking me out.

 

 

When I came to, I was on top of the filled in hole, buried up to my neck. To my left and right were trees, in front of me was a clearing, where I had piled my mountain of dirt. It was still daytime, the wind felt cool on my face. My wings hovered just above the soil, eagerly waiting to snap back into place once my back was free. I wiggled a little, but I’m just a Worker strain, I had no chance of breaking out of here with brute strength alone.

“Hello?” I called out. “Hellllllloooooo? I know you want something from me, just make your demands! I won’t fall prey to your intimidation tactics!” The Daff-Rabbit slid out from behind a nearby bush. He looked so menacing, with his beady little eyes and his twitching nose. He hopped closer and I sneered at him, but he didn’t seem to care. “There you are, you freak. Just so you know, I won’t fall to any of your barbaric torture.” I leaned my head back, looking down my nose at him. “You fail to bury me alive and now you think you can get me to talk? Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“…” He hopped to the side, then behind me. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t twist my neck enough to see what he was trying.

“H-hey, what are you-“

CHOMP!

My eyes went wide. My skin crawled. I bit my bottom lip and as much as I desperately squirmed, I couldn’t break free!

Master! It was so gross! It was awful!

“Eww! Eww!” I felt the grinding in my skull. “Stop gnawing on my horn! That’s..! What the heck is wrong with you?” I tried to shake him off but his razor-sharp teeth held on tight.

It was so bad, Master. I still have nightmares about it and remembering the sensation of him using my right horn as a chewtoy makes me shake.

Hmm… You don’t have horns. I’ll try to describe how awful it was in a way you’ll understand. Imagine… imagine someone taking your hand and using your nails to scratch a chalkboard, you are powerless as that grinding, course feeling shakes through your body. Also the person hasn’t washed their hands in a while. And they radiate this aura of malice and viciousness.

“Stop! Eugh! I’ll talk! I’ll talk! Just stop doing tha-haaa-t!”

But he didn’t stop. Why would he? Daff-Rabbits are disgusting, evil creatures with no empathy. I was a fool for thinking he wanted to interrogate me. He wanted my suffering. It fed him, made him stronger.

Master. When you next incarnate into the mortal plane, I implore you. You must launch a campaign of extermination against the Daff-Rabbit menace! They’re locked onto planet Y’varda for now, yes, but what if they discover space technology? What if, during a war or some other crisis, our enemies arm the Daff-Rabbits to act as insurgents against the Slavani? Faced against such a threat, I doubt Y’varda could hold out for long. In a worst case scenario, albeit an unlikely one, what if a rival manages to capture a load of Daff-Rabbits and breeds them for war! What would happen then? You know how fast rabbits can multiply, the entire Slavani people could be overwhelmed by a foe stronger than us, more diabolical than us, more cunning than us, and more numerous! We need to end this threat now, but only you are capable of leading us to war against this foe. Any coordinated effort without you would surely end in disaster!

That’s what went through my mind at the time, and while I still stand by my request, I realized I had to deal with the threat at hand. You hadn’t reincarnated, that would be a problem for another time. I had to escape.

First, I thought maybe I could stab him with the sharp ends of my horns. I jerked and shook my head with gusto, but with the specific curvature of my horns, it didn’t do much except annoy him. He fought against me, pulling my head this way and that, yanking me around.

“Ow, ow! Stop!”

Second plan: “Hey! You stupid, disgusting rabbit! You’re trash! You’re garbage! All your rabbit friends think you’re worthless to the group, and you’re just the same as every other rabbit! If a dozen of you were lined up, I couldn’t tell the difference! Even if you decided to wear different clothes, nobody could tell you apart!”

He didn’t break down and start crying. In fact, I don’t think he even cared. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that these evil creatures are too stone-hearted to care about what others think of them.

Plan three: I took a deep breath in, worked myself up so my voice wobbled, and screamed.

“MAAAAAASTEEEEER! HEEEEEELP MEEEEEEE!!”

I waited with bated breath, my voice carried throughout the forest, silencing even the wind and his gnawing.

But nothing happened.

No grand rays of light.

No lightning strike of divine justice.

The ground did not split and release me from my dirt prison.

I was heartbroken. Beside myself. Why would you not help me in my moment of need? (Not blaming you, obviously, keep reading ‘cause my thoughts get clarified)

Did I not pray correctly? Did I do something wrong? Was I such a failure that being tortured for your amusement was the best I could do? My mind raced with the possibilities. I went through all my sacrifices and offerings I had given recently and began to count the absurd number of small failings.

I felt nauseous. I began to cry. How could I have shirked my religious duties so thoroughly that you would leave me to this fate? Tears streaked down the fur of my face. I angled my head so the disgusting Daff-Rabbit would have easier access to his new chew toy... If this is what you wanted of me, I might as well comply... be of some use to you...

This was the fate I deserved...

…But there was rustling in the nearby bushes.

I didn’t bother looking over, it didn’t matter to me what it was anymore, but the Daff-Rabbit cocked his head. He hopped in front of my face and sniffed the air. I don’t know what he smelled, but out leapt a mighty wolf! The same wolf I fed fish to the previous night!

Mr. Wolf snarled and growled and pounced! He flew through the air towards us, but the Daff-Rabbit was too fast. Using his powerful hind legs he shot off to the side, and the wolf stood proud in front of me, protecting me from the savage creature with a rabid instinct.

The Daff-Rabbit stared back, his beady eyes undeterred by mortal emotions like fear or concern. There was more rustling in the bush behind him. Out from it, lumbering and heavy, each step shaking the earth, came the same bear from last night, and her cub!

“Wh-what are you guys..?”

Mrs. Bear swiped her mighty front paw towards the Daff-Rabbit, but he retreated, of course, easily outpacing the slow yet powerful attack of a mighty bear.

He had his back to a tree, he had a good view of both Mr. Wolf and Mrs. Bear, he wouldn’t be surrounded and captured. But, from the thick canopy of branches above, an army of squirrels, relatives of the ones I taught how to cook, began pelting the Daff-Rabbit with acorns and nuts!

The Daff-Rabbit swung around to my left, the other side of the bear, but it was a trap. My animal friends knew he would try that, and the great hawk from last night swooped in and clipped the Daff-Rabbit with its talons! The wound wasn’t deep, but even still, a prominent red spot grew on his white fur.

I thought for a moment. “H-hey..!” I spoke quietly so only Mr. Wolf could hear me. “Dig me out of here! I’ll rebury my arms just under the surface, and when you chase him over here, I’ll jump out and grab him!”

Mr. Wolf nodded, planted his hind legs firmly in the dirt, and started digging with his front paws.

The Daff-Rabbit heard my plan, but don’t worry Master, I intended for him to hear it.

“Everyone!” I shouted. “Get him! Get him and I’ll catch you more fish to eat!”

Mr. Wolf leaned forward and licked my face. I knew then they weren’t doing this for the promise of more fish, or even repaying me for the fish from last night. They were all just kind creatures who wanted to help out a good friend during her time of need.

I could feel my heart melt, and tears clumped up my fur. I had never felt such pure bonds of friendship before.

As Mr. Wolf did that, Mrs. Bear and her son chased the Daff-Rabbit around, expertly coordinating with the Squirrel army to keep the Daff-Rabbit out of the bushes and give the Hawk perfect opportunities to swoop in and grab him. Were he any normal rabbit, it would have ended quickly, but he was a clever one and managed to dodge and weave between all the blows. As I watched, I got the feeling that the entire animal kingdom didn’t like the presence of the Daff-Rabbits in their forest. I can’t blame them.

Before long, my arms were free and I would be able to pull myself out of the dirt when needed. I nodded to Mr. Wolf and he charged off, helping everyone chase the Daff-Rabbit. With so much after him at once, the Daff-Rabbit was closer and closer to being caught. He only dodged swipes by the barest of margins, he only jumped away at the last moment, I assumed he was getting tired and overwhelmed.

Knowing that the Daff-Rabbit overheard me tell Mr. Wolf my plan, I knew he wouldn’t come close to me. My animal friends kept him from escaping into the brush, and I deterred him from trying to run between the trees and escape. His mistake was disregarding me as just a close quarter threat.

I took my arms from the dirt… grabbed a rock… reeled back my arm… took aim… and waited for the perfect moment… My body shook. I would have begun to sweat if you created us with sweat pores. The Daff-Rabbit was a fast beast and only one shot would allow me the element of surprise, and all my allies were in the way! Finding that one in a million shot would be nearly impossible!

I waited for that perfect chance, the one split second that would complete my hunt and let me return to the village in triumph.

The wind grew still and the branches overhead moved in such a way that a bright beam of light shone down on one single patch of dirt. I held my breath, that was the spot. I knew instantly that you were showing me exactly where to aim!

The animals chased him this way and that, forcing him to dodge and weave around all their teeth and paws and talons and acorns. He moved closer and closer to the spot, two hops closer and one hop back, edging his way towards the light until suddenly! He jumped in the perfect direction!

I wouldn’t let the chance pass me by, I trusted your intervention and launched the rock with all my might, perfectly aimed at the center of the godly rays! The Daff-Rabbit twisted his body in the air and the moment his paws landed the rock connected with his chin! CRACK! The force whipped his head away and the consciousness drained from his eyes.

He didn’t stumble or wobble, he fell to the side with a thump, motionless.

The animals surrounded him and I wiggled my way out of the dirt.

“We did it! We did it!” I pulled my legs out and shook off the dirt, my pockets felt heavy and I had to dig out rocks from the inside. I ran over to hug my animal friends, and they all reciprocated the love. “I couldn’t have done it without you all.” The hawk landed on my horns, I pet Mr. Wolf, and I scratched the bear cub behind the ears. I looked up and smiled at all the squirrel friends. It was around then that a tortoise walked by, but I don’t think that was the same one.

Then, our eyes turned to the rabbit.

Using every last skill I had, I grabbed an armful of vines and branches and grass from nearby trees and tied them tightly around the Daff-Rabbit. I paid special attention to his hind legs, making sure he couldn’t move an inch in any direction. He was wrapped like a burrito, with his head exposed and his antlers tied down. For ease of carry, I twisted a dozen strands of thick vines into a makeshift rope so I could carry him like a duffle bag.

When I was finished and hoisted him over my shoulders... I heard a noise. We all did.

“Ashley...”

We all looked around, trying to find the source of the voice.

“Ashley Vera Vestiture...”

“H-hello? Who are you?”

“I am the rabbit you have over your shoulder.”

I pulled him around and look him in the beady little eyes. His mouth didn’t move as he spoke so I assume it was some kind of telepathy. This is just more evidence to their threat, Master. I may not have much experience in the wide wide galaxy, but I’ve never heard of a Non-Slavani using magic before. How long until their skills grow and they start throwing fireballs at our village? Or summoning droughts?

“Wow.” I shifted my weight to one leg to offset how fat and heavy he was. “Didn’t know you things could talk. But... who are you talking to?”

“...You.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s not my name, you stupid rabbit.” I poked him in the nose.

He sighed, I nodded along as he spoke. “Worker Ashley Vera Vestiture, Second Daughter of Worker Sella Fimr Coravet and Worker Bell Gierma Swordmaster, Born of the Vejtarta Spawn Pits on Crown World Y'varda.”

“Oh my gosh!” I reeled back in fear, dropping the Daff-Rabbit onto the ground. Mr. Wolf got ready to pounce, the squirrels readied their weapons, the Hawk readied itself to fly, and Mrs. Bear waved us all goodbye as her son got tuckered out from all the chasing and they had to return home. “How do you know my name!? That shouldn’t be possible!”

“But it is.” His voice was calm and mature, it resonated in my soul, like those old recordings of you in your fourth incarnation. “Long ago, your Master crafted us with her arcane magic so your skills could be tested. She made us quick witted, fast, and cruel, all the things needed to force her Slavani children to grow strong in the face of adversity. You have passed the test, young Worker Ashley Vera Vestiture, Second Daughter of Worker Sella Fimr Coravet and Worker Bell Gierma Swordmaster, Born of the Vejtarta Spawn Pits on Crown World Y'varda, and so I am permitted to grant you one wish.”

I muttered “You don’t need to say my full name every time, idiot…”

“Congratulations, young Ashely. Please release me so I may test the next Slavani who comes of age and undergoes the trial.”

“I... I can wish for anything?”

“Yes.”

I smiled devilishly and looked down my nose at him. “Okay, heeheehee!” I grabbed the handle and hoisted him over my shoulder again. “I wish to take you back to my village and become and adult! Ha!”

“Wha-but, you need to release me! I am an intricate part of your village’s culture and-“

“Heh, iiiiiiidiot! Everyone learns the story of you creatures when we’re kids!” As I left, I turned back to my animal friends and waved them goodbye. “Master came to this planet with the intent of settling it for us Slavani. She set up camp for the night where village Vejtarta now sits and the next morning, decided to hunt in these woods for breakfast. There, she found a particularly delicious, yet incredibly dim witted, species of rabbit that she accidentally almost hunted to extinction.” I turned my head to him. “That would be you, ‘Daff’-Rabbit. ‘Course, Master is Master, so a dim-witted animal to her is a genius to us Slavani. Therefore, all that crap about her ‘creating’ a being as vile and disgusting as you is pure evil propaganda!”

He tried to protest, but I would suffer no lies from a trickster beast like him. When I reached the ransacked tent I set up on the first night, I pulled out a roll of tape and shut his dumb face. It didn’t do anything, ‘cause he speaks telepathically, but it made me feel better.

Thus, with my prize in tow, I started the long walk home.

My stomach really hurt, which made sense ‘cause my three-day food window was now over. I slowly felt my life force drain away, but I knew I had enough energy to make it back to Vejtarta.

 

 

I walked through the night and returned early in the morning. Finally, I was home.

The vast golden fields of wheat, the warm eastern wind creating waves on its surface, large vertical vegetable farms built onto the sheer cliff face of a nearby hill, I was finally home.

My sisters halted their daily jobs and cheered me on as I walked along the paved stone roads of the village. Everywhere, my sisters retreated into their homes to pull out flower petals they saved for whenever one of us becomes an adult, and they threw them in the air so all of us could bask in the bright, vibrant colors. A massive air corp used their wings to fly back to the village while far more glided along with the wind, and they landed on the rooftops so they could clap as I made my way to the village center.

“Congratulations, Ashley!”

“Wow! That was fast!”

“Was that a new village record?”

“I think it is! At least as far as I remember!”

“She must be some kind of genius!”

With the brightest smile on my face, I gave all my sisters a sweeping bow before I disappeared into the elder’s house.

The muted cheers died down after a while, but I waited by the door and listened a bit longer. At last, I completed the last leg of my journey. I was an adult now, everything after this was just a formality.

The elder’s house was a maze of wooden walls and thatch insulation. It doubled as a museum of Vejtarta, with all kinds of old artifacts lining the walls. There were large statues, beautiful paintings, decorative and practical weapons hanging along the walls, small idols stacked on hand-crafted wood cabinets, and many large books from scholars around the Slavani Client State, all barely illuminated by a series of dim torches around the various rooms and cubbies.

I held on tight to the Daff-Rabbit, just in case his evil instincts sent him into a rage and he tried to destroy our history.

At the center of the building was a large circular room, with a bonfire in the center surrounded by a circle of large stones. Above the fire was a hole that passed through the second floor, third floor, and the roof, letting the smoke pass into the morning sky.

The elder was a disheveled old woman with matted fur and a delicate set of robes. She looked old and decrepit, it wouldn’t be much longer until she’d travel down into the spawning pits for a bath, rejuvenating her body back to its youthful appearance.

I know not everyone can be as memorable as me, Master, but she met you about 200 years ago and you liked her leadership skills. After your praise, she returned home and became the mayor of our town. Her horns are a little more curled than mine, and I think her wings are a little bigger.

“Hm?” She looked up from a tattered old book, her eyes worn and tired. “Ahh, Ashley Vera Vestiture.” Her voiced was dignified and refined, with an air of confidence I hope to have if I ever decide to live as long as her. “How do you do?”

“Just fine, Elder Worker Tamira Voss Kepitarta Von Ishetried, Seer of God and Her Glory, the Deal Dealer, born of the Vejtarta Spawn Pits on Crown World Y’varda. I have returned from my trial!”

The Daff-Rabbit got uppity. “Hey, she only called you by your first three names, why are-“

I bumped the rude little creature with my hip. “She’s the elder, idiot. Don’t be rude.” I turned back to Elder Tamira. “I completed my trial! I’m an adult now!”

“Oh-ho!” Her old eyes sprung to life as she tossed the book aside and adjusted her seat. “You did already? That’s incredible! Tell me! Tell me how you did it! Come, sit, sit!”

I dropped him at my side.

“Ow.” He said in my brain.

I sat down and impressed upon her the grand tale of how I vanquished the Daff-Rabbit and removed just a little bit of evil from the galaxy. The ups, the downs, the twists and turns, and my eventual triumph with the help of animals. Elder Tamira nodded along with my words, taking in the story and all the information I provided.

“Hmm...” She scratched her furry chin. “Eating all your food the first night? Smart move. I never would have thought something like that...” she leaned forward and gave me a wide smile. “You see, Ashley, there isn’t one single way to complete this trial.”

“There isn’t?”

“No. Most eventually capture one of their kind and return in triumph, yes, but every year there’s a large number who capture a different animal and only think they won, while others capture the Daff-Rabbit but fall victim to its promise of a wish. It’s not common, but some end up befriending the rabbit and return home, unwilling to hunt them further.”

I recoiled in shock and fear. “Some ‘befriend’ these creatures?”

“Yes.”

“B-but they’re evil!”

“Yes. That’s why ‘those sisters’ are forbidden from leaving the Crown Worlds, who knows how they could be lied to and misled out there in the hostile galaxy? You see, Ashley, it’s something of a personality test, it aids me in finding a job to best suit you in adulthood. Had your net trap succeeded, I’d recommend you for a huntress, or maybe a soldier who sets traps for an enemy army when we go to war. Had you chased down the Daff-Rabbit and caught him with your own hands, a lawman. Many many possibilities, but you befriended animals to help you in your quest, not many can accomplish such a feat!”

I felt my heart swell with pride. ‘Not many’, Master. ‘Not many’!

“S-so what kind of job should I do?”

She slowly stood up and her joints creaked. “Agh, legs aren’t working too great anymore...” She shook out her legs and walked over to a map of the local area. In the center was Vejtarta, to the east was the forest, in other directions were places not relevant to my story, and to the northwest was a vast grassy plain. “I’ll send you to the Verta plains, to work as a ranch hand. You’ll work with animals, help them grow and eat and protect them from predators.” She turned back to me. “Depending on how good you are, you’ll be given more and more responsibility, entrusted to more and more animals, and who knows? Maybe you’ll even become the Grand-Beastmaster of Y’varda, training the warbeasts that Master might one day ride into battle when she returns to us!”

My eyes went wide and I leapt over to her. “I’ll do it! I’ll do it right now! When do I leave? Who do I talk to?”

Elder Tamira put a hand atop my head and on my shoulder. “Calm, calm. It’ll all happen in time, first we must celebrate your victory! That three-day time limit is up, you must be hungry.”

I nodded, then we both looked down at the Daff-Rabbit. I’ve never eaten one before, but I’ve heard your comments on how delicious, savory and juicy their meat is. My mouth began to water and my stomach cried in pain.

The Daff-Rabbit, so evil to its core, seemed... almost relieved that we were going to eat it. I understand why. Being in the presence of us Slavani must be torture for a thing like him. It could not accept that you’ve made such perfect, incorruptible creatures. It could not stand to live in a world where such goodness exists…

He tasted really good! After we cooked him up I had his juicy leg meat on a sandwich, using a loaf of spicy Vejtarta bread and vegetables made from our very own farms.

Streamers, cake, partying, music, I wish you were here, Master, it was fun!

Well, the sun shined bright in the sky and the wind died down to the point that nothing was sent flying, so I guess you were there in spirit! But still, I bet you would have been great at the ring toss, or the trench game.

As for my current job, it feels good being an adult. All the animals are nice to me and I even stopped a pack of hungry predators all by myself in the middle of the night. I’ll be working hard towards breeding the perfect warbeast for you, Master. I know you’ll love it!

 

 

With love: Worker Ashley Vera Vestiture, Second Daughter of Worker Sella Fimr Coravet and Worker Bell Gierma Swordmaster, Born of the Vejtarta Spawn Pits on Crown World Y'varda.


Submitted: June 09, 2020

© Copyright 2022 RichardPercival. All rights reserved.

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Jake J. Harrison

HI RichardPercival,

Thank you for the opportunity to read your story!

You posted this as a book and I am still trying to figure out if this is the first chapter of a longer story or a stand-alone short story? Either way, I think it works better for now as a stand-alone short story as it has a beginning, middle, and end and doesn't really hint at more to come. The story reads like a fable with mythical creatures, a narrator sent on a task that must be completed, and an act of kindness being repaid. I have always loved fables.

You asked whether I would have the read whole thing if it wasn't for a review? The answer is yes for several reasons:

1. I wanted to see how she would catch the Daff-Rabbit. This is story's engine and you seem to know it - good. You actually give away the fact that the rabbit is caught by using the device of a letter. So, what the reader is then thinking is how will this somewhat dimwitted creature catch the clever Daff-Rabbit. It doesn't seem possible through much of the story. That's the tension that keeps the reader moving ahewad.

2. I wanted to learn more about the world you have created. Some animals can talk and use telepathy. I think you can even flesh this out a bit more.

3. I wanted to know more about the narrator. I realize over the course of the story that she's some type of animal, is not the brightest, and lives on some world that she thinks was created by a higher power she called Master.

4. You write well so that I am not distracted by grammar, awkward sentences, etc. I pointed out some suggestions for tightening up your prose, but overall you're a good writer.

5. I enjoyed the humor of the story. The narrator has an oblivious self-deprecating charm which made me chuckle a few times.

I'm undecided on the letter format. I suppose it works fine and you use it as a vehicle to tease out the voice of the narrator.

There are some things you can do to make this even more compelling:

1. Be more precise and descriptive with your language. At times, you get a bit lazy and use bland words like "some" "thing" etc. In your next draft, flesh these out.

2. The story threw me off in places. The narrator seems to develop a deep bond with the rabbit at the beginning and is heartbroken when she finds out it's the Daff-Rabbit. I don't understand that connection as a reader. You need to show them deepening this bond a bit more. Just sharing a few berries is not enough to explain his sadness.

3. Raise the stakes. Tell us what happens if she comes back without the Daff-Rabbit. Does she not become an adult? Is she removed from the tribe? Can she take as much time as she wants?

4. Follow though on the signals. You throw a few false signals that don't materialize. For example, the berries. As a reader, we expect that the berries are poisonous because she has a stomach ache, the fish are dying, etc. Adding something like this in would actually amp up the tension in the story. She needs to get the Daff-Rabbit quickly or will have a serious stomach problem, etc. If you don't develop more, then remove from the story. The berries and hunger really don't factor into the conclusion one way or the other right now are just a distraction.

I hope this feedback helps. I'm curious to know if this just a stand-alone story or part of a book. Let me know.

Please also message me with any questions.

Best,

Jake

Sat, June 13th, 2020 3:19pm

Author
Reply

Ah, thank you for the review!

I’ll get to work fixing all the things you mentioned and keep the ‘precise language’ part in mind for future stories. I’m glad you liked it and I appreciate the feedback.

Yes, this is a stand alone story, but my plan is to have each chapter of the book be a different letter to their Master, like an anthology. This letter/chapter was about the adulthood ritual of a certain tribe, but the next might feature how these creatures are spawned from goo, or how they travel through space, or different subspecies of their people, if that makes sense. Each new chapter will show off more and more of these weird creatures and their society.

Sat, June 13th, 2020 2:14pm

charlamaye

good story

Mon, March 7th, 2022 9:18pm

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