Tender Vitals 2: Rabbit Run
by Headley Hauser
“Ha!” shouted Dancer, “beat you again!”
“Putrid Peeps!” cursed Skittles, as she dropped Mopsy’s ears. She knew she could have gotten more speed out of the rabbit if she’d applied the hard thistle on the heel of her slipper, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that. It didn’t matter anyway. Mopsy was a quick little bunny, but she could never hope to match Sneaky Pete, Dancer’s mount.
The two fairies were at Spriteful Intent 2016. It was quasi-military training convention set up by the Imperial Military Protectorate, or IMP, for short. Dancer and Skittles had spent all their frequent flitter miles to travel to the event in the brush lands of York. With all the feral cats patrolling the American east coast, they felt their lives might depend on such training.
“Soldier!” shouted Puff’n’Pout, their drill gnome, “that thistle isn’t on your foot for a little late snacking!”
Gnomes were uncommonly fond of thistle though Skittles couldn’t imagine eating the hard wood-like fibers. Gnomes were a hard folk – so hard that they were frequently mistaken for ceramic statues.
“It didn’t matter,” said Skittles. “Even if I hurt her, Mopsy couldn’t beat Sneaky Pete.”
“Didn’t matter?!” shouted Puff’n’Pout. “Didn’t matter? Maybe it wouldn’t matter if tabbies were eviscerating you and your mount right now! Then your squad would have to decide if they want to put their wings on the line to pull your tushy out of food dish!”
Skittle blushed at the word, tushy. Drill gnomes used such salty language!
“I don’t see why we train on rabbits anyway,” Skittles complained later in the fairy barracks, “foxes are faster.”
Dancer laughed. “You want to trust your life to a fox?”
“Or maybe a badger,” said Skittles, ignoring Dancer. “They aren’t fast, but at least they’re strong and hard to kill.”
“Fairies don’t survive by armor,” said Dancer as she cleaned his thistle of fur. “It just slows us down. Rabbits are fast, and they do what they’re told. There are no better beasts for fairies to ride.”
“What about swans?”
Dancer tested the point of her thistle on Skittle’s hiney. “Airborne tactics are next week. Face it; you’re not going to find a ground beast better than your little Mopsy.”
“I bet I can,” said Skittles.
“What do you want to bet?”
“How about a whole package of SweeTarts?”
The next day at training it looked more like Skittles was riding a flowering bush than a rabbit. Her mount was encased in a weave of branches so thick with flowers that the only thing visible was the twitching bunny nose.
“What’s this then?” barked Puff’n’Pout.
“I decided my mount needed some armor.”
“Waste of flowers,” said Puff’n’Pout, who as the son of a garden gnome was very sensitive to wasting flowers, “all it will do is slow you down.”
“Why don’t you start us and see?” said Skittles.
Puff’n’Pout lined up Dancer and Skittles on the large oval path and struck the wind chimes – tinkle-tinkle, and they were off.
At first, Skittles ran zig-zagged and Dancer pulled ahead on her very fast Sneaky Pete.
“C’mon, Jack,” said Skittles. “I’ll let you eat your armor if you win.”
Zoooom! Skittles and her mount took off, just barely catching Dancer and Sneaky Pete at the line.
“I win!” shouted Skittles.
“I don’t believe it!” shouted Puff’n’Pout.
“I don’t believe it, either,” said Dancer, “but I still owe you a package of SweeTarts. That’s no regular bunny under all that shrubbery, is it?”
Skittle’s mount leapt into the air and twisted so that the weave of branches broke. As he came to earth on his long back legs, and dipped his head with long ears, he began to eat his armor.
And now for educational purposes...