Princess Snowbunny, part 1

Princess SnowbunnyAnd now for something completely different.

My sister tells me that my niece has aspirations as a writer. For the last several weeks, I’ve been contemplating writing a story for her. At the same time, Nimue has been asking me to write a princess story. (Years ago I made one up off the top of my head at her request. I wish I’d written it down. All I remember about it now is that the princess was sick. There were multiple references to snot.)

So, this week I’m taking a break from The Dark Calling and starting–get ready for it–another series. It’s a first for me in two ways. One, I haven’t previously tackled more than one series at a time. And, two, this is more or less a children’s story. I usually ply my wares in darker territory. But, if the experience of crafting this first episode is any indication, I think I could have a lot of fun writing for kids, too.

This is not flash fiction as it’s nearly 3,000 words long. I don’t have a graphic for non-flash fiction at the moment, hence the absence of a picture in this post. I’ll update it when I find/create one. A photo has been added. I’m not certain I’m going to stick with this one–it was put together quickly–but I wanted to include something. By way of acknowledgement, the bunny graphic is an adaptation of a picture by Jannes Pockele.

For now, just enjoy the story. There are Monty Python references, witches, knights and even dangerously vicious bunnies. Buckle up, kids. This is gonna be fun.

the trials and tribulations of
Princess Gretchen Lilibeth Mireille Von Snowbunny
Part 1

The story books get it wrong. Well, partly wrong, at least. It wasn’t always the prince saving the princess. More often than you’d think, it was the princess doing the saving.

But somewhere along the way, someone–probably a prince who thought way too much of himself and way too little of girls–decided that all heroes should be boys. The stories were changed. Every legend of every princess who slayed dragons, or out-smarted evil witches, or rescued princes from tall towers was “corrected”. People eventually forgot there were princesses who could kick some serious tail.

“That’s not the way it happened!” Princess Gretchen Lilibeth Mireille Von Snowbunny cries. “Not at all!”

I’m getting to it, Grett. Cool your jets.

Sorry, dear reader. I know most of the time characters from stories don’t yell at you while you’re reading about them. But Princess Gretchen Lilibeth Mireille Von Snowbunny is not like most characters from most stories. For starters, there’s her name. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it?

I’ll break it down for you.

Her grandmama was named Lilibeth. It’s kind of a combination of Lily and Elizabeth, and it means “the lily of the night is my oath”. Her grandmother was half faerie, and the Fae take names very seriously. Mireille (pronounced ‘meer-AY’) was the name of a girl her mother knew as a child. Something unfortunate happened with her mother’s friend, though, and she never talked about it. Von just means “from”, and Snowbunny was the name of the town where her family lived before her great, great, great, great grandfather became king.

I know, I know–Snowbunny doesn’t sound all that tough. Well, not to you and me. But a long time ago, bunnies were not the friendly little fluff-balls they are now. They used to be fierce, and the snow bunnies of Mount Schneeklippe were the worst of all. Snowbunny Village, where the princess’s family once lived, was a dangerous, wild place high on the mountain. Every day the people had to keep watch for herds of rabid snow bunnies galloping and hopping along the rocks and meadows and cliffs. They were bigger than bunnies are today, and they had a vicious streak a mile wide. Not only could they leap 50 feet, but they had huge, sharp fangs, as well.

Believe me, anyone who lived in Snowbunny Village was Brave, with a capital ‘B’.

Oh, and her first name. Her dad, King Orlin Randolph Garin Von Snowbunny, liked the way Gretchen sounded. Simple as that. People usually just called her Grett, though.

“You’re not telling them about what happened!” the princess complains. “You’re not telling the story! They don’t care about my name.”

Actually, some of them probably do, Grett. It’s an unusual sort of name, and lots of people are probably curious about it. But I know you want me to tell them what you did. I’m getting to it.

“Not fast enough,” she huffs.

It would be easier if someone weren’t always interrupting me.

Princess Snowbunny rolls her eyes.

Okay, where was I? Oh, yes–I was about to tell our readers about Princess Snowbunny’s trials and tribulations. First, you should know this was a long time ago. So long ago that you won’t find mention of Princess Snowbunny or her great feats in any history book. There are few people who even know about the things that happened then, but I happen to be one of them, so you’re in luck.

(You may be wondering how Princess Snowbunny can talk to you if this all happened centuries in the past. Well, sometimes people live on in stories, especially if the story is a really good one. As long as people tell her story, Princess Snowbunny will still be around…even if she doesn’t always have the good manners to keep quiet.)

“I heard that!” she says, glaring at me.

Hush, princess. The reader is our guest.

So, in Princess Snowbunny’s day there were a lot of dangerous things that you and I don’t have to deal with now–some of them a lot more dangerous than the snow bunnies of Mount Schneeklippe. Like dragons, for example. Of course, all dragons weren’t bad. Some of them were quite nice, but the mean ones could be really nasty. There were witches and wizards. There were mages and barbarians. There were even trolls and goblins, trickster sprites and dark elves.

All of theses creatures, both magical and not, were like people. Some of them were good, and some of them were bad. The good ones used their powers to help others, but the bad ones didn’t care about that. They only wanted gold or power or fame. When one of the bad ones went on a rampage, a brave warrior would have to step forward and take action. Someone who wasn’t afraid of a witch’s curse or a dark mage’s fire magic. Someone strong enough to fend off the toughest barbarian hoard, or clever enough to outwit the trickiest of trickster sprites.

Someone like Princess Gretchen Lilibeth Mireille Von Snowbunny.

When Princess Snowbunny was only 7 years old, she got her first bow and quiver of arrows. She practiced every day for 2 years, until she could shoot the wings off a fly from 30 feet away. Then, when she was 9, her father gave her a sword. It was a short sword (which is actually a type of sword, not just a description of its length). She named it Biter. By the time she was 11, she could wield Biter better than most knights.

Mind you, Princess Snowbunny wasn’t really a violent person. She didn’t like to hurt people or things, but she found that she enjoyed learning the art of battle, for it is an art. Almost like dancing, she learned to use a shield for defense, a lance if she was on horseback, throwing knives if she ran out of arrows, and her hands if she ever found herself without a weapon.

Of course, her father didn’t have any intention of sending her off to war–and it wasn’t because she was a girl. The women of her kingdom were as skilled in combat as the men. It was because she was an only child, and she would one day be queen. He loved her too much to let her risk her life, even if she was the best warrior in the entire realm.

When she was 16, her mother passed away. She grew ill, and not even the best healers in the land could bring the color back to her cheeks. Princess Snowbunny loved her mother very much, and she grieved for a whole year. She stopped training and sparring. She wore black every day and cried quietly into her pillow every night. It was the saddest she could imagine being, and it hurt very, very badly.

But even when things are that sad, time has a way of easing the pain. She would always miss her mom, but Princess Snowbunny slowly accepted that she was gone. After a year, she started training again, and soon people all over the kingdom were talking about the princess warrior who could unseat any knight at the annual Royal Joust. Her reputation grew, and even though she’d never been in a single real battle, everyone in the land was sure that no one anywhere could beat her.

Well, almost everyone.

For not long after her nineteenth birthday, there was a secret meeting of some pretty shady characters. In the shadows of the Düster Woods, far east of the king’s castle, a handful of treacherous villains plotted against the princess and her father, the king.

Kikka, the dark witch of the Southern Lakes, was there. It was said that she used blood magic and made pacts with all kinds of evil spirits and foul creatures. She cared for nothing so much as power. Her goal was to dethrone the king and reign in his place. Make no mistake about it–she had no intention of being a kind ruler.

Jantis was there, one of the king’s former royal guards. The princess’s father had dismissed him from service when he was caught stealing a necklace that had belonged to the deceased queen. Any other king would have had him executed, but Jantis was shown mercy. He repaid that kindness by plotting tirelessly to kill the king, who he believed had disgraced him, hurting his pride.

Adalbert was there, a mage known far and wide for his wisdom and knowledge. He could sometimes see the future in his dreams, and he knew that Princess Snowbunny’s skill would soon be put to the test. He could see the princess riding her spotted mare across the Ruhig Plains, Biter strapped to her side and her quiver full of arrows. He knew she was brave, but he did not think she could overcome her foes. So, he aligned himself with the enemy, believing it smarter to win than to lose.

Viheke was there, a noxious little trickster sprite from the north. She delighted in chaos, and she was also quite powerful in spite of her size. She could summon animals great and small to do her bidding, and there were even some who said she could harness the winds and call upon the rain. The last time a knight had gone hunting for her, he’d been struck by lightning. When the search party found his body, his armor was black and charred, and he’d been baked to a crisp inside it.

And finally, Bernhard was there, a troll who lived in a cave not far from the Southern Lakes. Bernhard was big and strong, and it was well known that he feared nothing. Many thought him brave, but it wasn’t courage that kept him fighting when others turned and ran. Like most trolls, Bernhard wasn’t all that bright. He wasn’t afraid because he didn’t have the intelligence to understand when he was in danger. Kikka often used him, bribing him with food and trinkets to do her dirty work. He was there because she told him to join her.

When all five of them had arrived, Kikka wasted no time getting straight to the point. “This princess must die,” she said.

They were huddled around the stump of what had been a mighty tree. The top edge of the stump was smooth and about the height of a table. Bernhard had gathered logs for each of them to use in place of chairs, and Adalbert had brought some wine. They sipped as they talked.

“I care nothing about the princess,” Jantis said. “She did not disgrace me. But if hurting her hurts the king, I’m all for it.”

“Bernhard can hurt king!” Bernhard said.

“Yes, yes, we know.” It was Viheke. She was sitting directly on the stump, right next to her goblet. She smirked at the troll. “Bern, baby, when it’s time for you to hurt someone, we’ll let you know.”

Kikka ignored them all and finished her thought. “Princess Snowbunny is the future. The king is yet young and in good health, and he rules the land capably. His reign will last decades if no one opposes him. Adalbert has seen it in his dreams.”

“Quite right,” Adalbert agreed.

“But the princess,” Kikka continued. “When she comes to power, she will be unrivaled. She will be a mighty warrior queen, both fearless and cunning. If we let her rise to power, she will hunt us down, every one. Her father keeps us at bay, but she will destroy us.”

“I haven’t seen that in my dreams,” Adalbert said.

Kikka glared at him.

“But,” he sputtered, fear in his voice, “it’s a perfectly logical conclusion. I’m sure Kikka knows the way of it. Yes, I’m quite sure.”

Kikka nodded once, slowly. Adalbert simply looked down at his goblet and tried to keep his hand from shaking.

“As long as the king dies,” Jantis said. “Painfully.

Kikka shrugged. “Of course. Both will perish, but the princess first.”

“Kik, how do you plan to pull that off?” Viheke asked. “Daddy dearest doesn’t let little Princess Grett come out to play. She doesn’t go on patrols or hunt. She hardly ever leaves the castle except to go on outings with her dad, and they always have, like, thirty guards with them. Unless you have some kind of magic that can take her down from a few miles away, I don’t see how we can pull this off. Sorry.”

Kikka took a deep breath. Though Viheke was barely a foot tall, she was the only one there more powerful than Kikka. If a fight broke out, which sometimes happens when bad people plot to do bad things, Viheke would come out on top. Kikka didn’t much like her, but she needed her. So, she was trying to play nice.

“I would appreciate it if you called me by my full name,” Kikka said.

Viheke shrugged. “Sure, dollface. Kik, Kikka–whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.”

“Not ‘dollface’,” Kikka said. “My name.

“Got it,” Viheke said with a smile.

Kikka smiled back, but there was no joy in the gesture. “As for your question, the answer is quite obvious, isn’t it? Why is it the princess doesn’t go on patrols? Or hunt outside the royal woods? Or ride with the knights when they go into battle?”

“Poppa’s a little over-protective, that’s why,” Viheke said.

Kikka nodded. “But the king does leave the castle with nothing more than a light escort at times. As few as five guards. To hunt, for example. It would not be so hard to abduct him. It’s well known that Princess Snowbunny is a spirited young lady. If she believes her father is in trouble, she won’t hesitate to ride to his aid.”

“And with no one to stop her, she will,” Jantis said.

“Exactly,” Kikka confirmed.

“So, kidnap the king and the princess will come to us,” Viheke said. “Pretty crafty, there, Kik–I mean, Kikka. A two-for-one. Nice planning. But what if the royal advisers manage to convince the princess to stay put in the castle? I mean, they’re not going to be thrilled if she goes traipsing off after daddy. They’ll want her to rule while he’s gone and send knights to do the nitty, gritty work of rescuing the king.”

“That is where I come in,” Adalbert said. “I am one of those advisers. I’ll make sure the princess is sufficiently motivated to handle the matter on her own.”

Jantis and Viheke both nodded.

“That could work,” Jantis said.

“Bernhard can hurt king!”

The others mumbled agreement, trying not to roll their eyes.

“It is settled, then,” Kikka declared. “Let us discuss the specifics of my plan…”

They stayed late into the night, scheming to kidnap the king and lure Princess Snowbunny out of the castle on a quest to save him.

›š

 ✦          ✦          ✦

 

That same night, the princess slept restlessly, tossing and turning until dawn. She had nightmares, but she couldn’t remember the details of her dreams when morning arrived. Only that she’d been alone, somehow both scared and angry.

It wasn’t a good sign.

 

 ✦          ✦          ✦

 

Now, I know that’s just the beginning of Princess Snowbunny’s tale, but this is only Part 1. If I tell the whole thing in Part 1, it wouldn’t make much sense for there to be any other parts. If there were no others parts, I’d have to change the title, but how can I do that when we’re already this far into the story? So, we really don’t have any choice but to stop there for now.

But rest assured, there will be a Part 2. The princess would be more than a little upset if I just left you hanging.

“That’s right!” Princess Snowbunny says.

I’m going to let that one slide. After all, she was quiet for a long time, and that’s not easy for her. Like Kikka said, she’s got a lot of spirit, but you’ll see that for yourself soon enough.

In the meantime, think about the difficult choice it sounds like Princess Snowbunny is going to have to make. Imagine how you would feel if someone you cared about was kidnapped. Do you think you would go after them? Or would you send knights to take care of the rescue while you wait back at the castle? (Which, by the way, would be the “proper” thing to do.)

There’s not really a right or wrong answer. A lot of people would say it’s smarter to let the experts handle that kind of thing, and in Princess Snowbunny’s day the knights were supposed to be the experts on rescuing people. Besides, if something unfortunate happened to both the king and the princess, who would rule? The land would be thrown into chaos. The whole kingdom would suffer.

On the other hand, if it was your dad you might feel pretty strongly about going after him, yourself.

If Kikka’s plan works in Part 2, Princess Snowbunny is going to have to decide for herself. Running off to rescue the king single-handedly will be risky. A lot of things might go horribly wrong. Then again, I think you already know enough about the princess to know what she sort of choice she’ll make. You seem pretty smart.

Right, then. That’s the end of Part 1. Part 2 will be on the way shortly.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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