(Protectorate year 1,192)
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 Daft-Rabbit. A simple task for someone like you, Master, but for us mortals it’s no joke! A small body, powerful legs, and a cunning intellect, Daft-Rabbits are one of the most dangerous foes a Slavani could encounter on Y’varda. If I couldn’t catch one, then I couldn’t be considered an adult and I couldn’t get my adult job to properly serve you! For too many years I was a drain on tribe Vejtarta, it was time I fixed that.
I know a few sisters who have been on the hunt for over a decade. I can’t imagine what that’s like, 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 Daft-Rabbit and return home in victory.
My journey started early in the year. With nothing but a tent, a sleeping bag, a knife, a lantern, an emergency whistle, an emergency flare, tape, shovel, pickaxe, fishing net, deck of cards, 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 Daft-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 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 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. The heat of the summer sun, the tent, and my fur combined to create something like a beautiful sauna, and I couldn’t bring myself to disturb the warmth.
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 shook it for a prank. After an hour of this annoying vibration passed, I finally 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, however, and there sat a small creature.
It looked familiar.
I pulled out a photo of a Daft-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, large antlers, and razor-sharp teeth. But the tail was different. The picture showed a long, fluffy white tail with a spiral pattern made of brown fur. The creature before me had a tail that was pure white.
“Bah,” 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 Daft-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 Daft-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 Master’s language.
I rummaged my way through the dense forest and planned my attack. I decided to start with a basic snare trap, get a sense for how smart the Daft-Rabbit was. I went around and picked berries from the nearby bushes, humming as I filled 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 smile, “hehheh, 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 off the bush and set them down, but the ungrateful little jerk bounced back a few feet! “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. 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 Daft-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 yours 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, 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 Daft-Rabbit, but there’s no reason for you to waste your time, so what gives?” He didn’t answer, but 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 Daft-Rabbit to notice. “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 Daft-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. 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, glancing back and forth between the two. The photo, him, the photo, back to him. The swirl-pattern was unmistakable.
He was a Daft-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 Daft-Rabbits are smart, Master, I told you!
Somehow, I managed to hold back the tears. “Y-you, Snowball..?” 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.