Kickaha falls into a trap set by another trickster. Or at least that is what the trickster is to be believed. But this is Kickaha, so things don’t quite go according to script.
Kickaha hid in a bush and moved the leaves aside slightly as he observed the very obvious trap. It was a delicious looking pie, sitting in the middle of a forest clearing, right on top of a tree stump. The alluring aroma indicated it was fairly fresh and still warm. This obviously had to be a trap. You didn’t find pies just laying around in the forest. The squirrel family put them up on tree branches to cool so they get exposed to more air. The idea of someone leaving a pie out down on the floor level was simply absurd. So, it was a trap. And thus the foxyote knew he should ignore it and give it a wide berth.
But therein lay the problem. Kickaha knew it was a trap, and knew it was a bad idea to interact with it in any way. That meant he had to mess with it! He couldn’t just pass by something so ridiculously obvious without doing something! It would bug him all day. Besides, he’d never know what kind of trap it was unless he sprang it. Or what kind of person had set such a trap. Therein was a question in and of itself. Whose idea was this? Kickaha had to know.
And so the rusty orange and yellow foxyote emerged into the clearing. He thought about pulling up the hood on his cloak. The magic in the hood would make it very hard for the hypothetical pie-trapper to focus on him. It would be an effective and prudent precaution. So of course it had to be rejected out of hand. This was a battle of wits, a learning opportunity. It would be unsporting — unethical — to deny this unknown-and-potentially-nonexistent adversary the opportunity to observe.
But the situation still called for caution. Just not the rude sort of caution.
So Kickaha circled the tree stump the pie stood on, getting a view from every angle, watching it as if it might explode. Which was actually a possibility given how his life tended to go. At least it’d be a fruit flavored explosion. Those tended to hurt less and could be quite delicious. However, after a few minutes of nothing happening, Kickaha was forced to accept that there would in fact be no explosion of fruit. Maybe for the best. The pie was clearly still hot, and that would burn.
The foxyote crawled closer to the tree stump at a snail’s pace, constantly glancing around his surroundings, waiting to see what where the trap would come from. But nothing came. Was the pie itself boobytrapped? Who knew? But it was time to find out. Kickaha retreated from the clearing and returned after finding a rock that was roughly pie weight. Now he approached the pie with determination as it was time to figure this out.
Kickaha held the rock in hand, directly to the left of the pie, with his free hand he prepared to grab the baked good. He crouched down, examining the tree stump. He glacially moved the rock closer to the pie. Then in one swift fluid motion Kickaha snagged the pie with his free hand pulling it off the tree trunk while replacing it with the rock of roughly equal weight. Then the foxyote froze, still as a statue except for the twitching of his ears as he listened for any signs of trouble. Nothing appeared to happen. Well then, there was only one thing left to do.
Kickaha reached into one of his cloak pockets and produced a knife and a fork. He cut a slice of the pie free and then took a bite.
“Huh, not bad.” Kickaha muttered, glad to see he hadn’t fallen over dead the second he ate it or something. No poison. “Could use a little more cinnamon.” He finished up his slice of pie then started for the edge of the clearing.
“AHA GOT YA!” And it was at that point a figure leaped down from a tree branch and threw a net over Kickaha. It was a cream colored rabbit wearing a blue cape. He was a head shorter than Kickaha, unless you counted the ears in that case he was a head taller. Considering Kickaha was barely over three feet tall, this meant the rabbit was very short. That made it kind of impressive that he had the upper arm strength to toss a net halfway across the clearing and over Kickaha.
“Oh no.” Kickaha said in a flat voice as he tossed himself to the ground to avoid being knocked down. The net still went over, but he managed to avoid suffering any injuries. However, that wasn’t to say there were no casualties whatsoever. The net was rather heavy, and it had completely squashed what was left of the pie, turning it into a gooey inedible pile of a mess. “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Kickaha shouted with actual emotion.
“Looks like I caught you in my trap.” The rabbit replied smugly. “No one expects a net thrown over them.”
“To be fair, it’s largely because we expect something with a bit more effort put into it.” Kickaha tapped his fingers against the ground as he looked at the rabbit. The net had tangled him up pretty good. Honestly, he was rather annoyed. This was the second time in one month he found himself caught in a net.
“It was enough effort to catch you.” The rabbit replied. “And now, know that you’re the next victim of the great Ambrose of the Arcane Arts.”
“You know you can just say the Art, right?” Kickaha asked. “Everyone knows what you’re referring to.”
“What? No they won’t.” Ambrose replied with a huff. “They might think I’m a painter, or a sculptor, or something like that. It’s important to provide clarification for these things.”
“So you say.” Kickaha replied, sounding uninterested.
“Hey! Don’t act bored! You should be scared, or outraged, or for some reason strangely excited! But not bored!” Ambrose stomped one of his paws against the Earth. “I just told you, I’m the great Ambrose of the Arcane Arts. I’m fairly notorious as an agent of karma around these parts.”
“Is that so?” Kickaha asked. Being an actual notorious trickster that lived around these parts, he found Ambrose’s story highly unlikely. “So… What kind of karma are you delivering up today?” Kickaha was quite curious. Again, he was a trickster, and by that nature it meant sometimes he was a little mean. Never to anyone who didn’t deserve it. But no doubt he had left some people angry or upset enough to send someone after him. He was really curious just what specific act had resulted in meeting this strange rabbit.
“Oh the usual kind, magical transformation into an animal.” The rabbit paused as he realized Kickaha -WAS- an animal. “A different type of animal.”
“And what terrible thing did I do to deserve this fate?” Kickaha was compiling a list of suspects in his head that might be behind this. There was a kangaroo zookeeper, the entire board of education, a dog catcher, a very determined and very scary mall cop, and now that he thought about it a few supervillains as well after his last internship.
“I have no idea.” Ambrose shrugged.
“Really?” Kickaha gave him a disappointing look. “Then why are you targeting me? Someone point you in my direction?”
“Oh no, not at all.” Ambrose waved a hand dismissively. “I simply lay a trap and work my magic on whoever falls for it.”
“Okay, I see where this is going, and I’m going to stop you right there.” There was a flash of green light as Kickaha shrunk down and transformed into a small mouse. He made a mild expression of disgust at assuming this form, wriggled through the holes in the net, then quickly grew back to normal size and resumed foxyote form. “First off, you know what karma is, right?”
“Basically that bad things happen to bad people. Or at the very least magical transformations.” Ambrose nodded.
“That’s… Like maybe 10% of it.” Kickaha put a hand on the rabbit’s shoulder. “Look, I get what you’re trying to do, but you’re going about it all the wrong way. Karma goes two ways. Good and bad. Occasionally in a third direction that we’ll just call bizarre chaos. Either way, to be an agent of karma, you can’t just pick people at random.” Kickaha paused for a moment, feeling the metaphorical eyes of some of his past adventures staring sternly at him. “Okay. Sometimes you can do that. But at least you need to watch them for long enough to pick the appropriate hijinks to match their actions. What sort of bad karma comes from sampling an abandoned pie?”
“Blah, blah, blah. Nah, that takes too much time.” Ambrose crossed his arms. “It’s faster just to grab victims at random. Besides, who hasn’t done something in their life deserving of some magical punishment and-“ The rabbit froze. “And why are you out from under the net? I had you trapped! You can’t just leave the net.”
“Oh sorry, my bad.” Kickaha quickly walked back to the net, lifted up a corner of it then crawled under it. “Picking people at random doesn’t really count as karma, if anything it kind of just makes you a jerk.”
“Look, do I come into your neck of the woods and tell you how to do your job?” Ambrose asked.
“I mean, yes, you kind of are?” Kickaha shrugged. “Look, I can tell you’re new at this. Let me give you some friendly advice. Take the time to learn about your targets, it’ll make things much more satisfying for you in the end, because not only do you know they deserved their reward or punishment, but you get to pick a form for them appropriate for their actions. Also, you might want to consider trading out the cape for a cloak. Capes are fashionable too, but a cloak gives you fashion and functionality. Can sew more pockets into it, and have a hood, which can be enchanted to make it easier to-“
“A cloak?” Ambrose sounded disgusted. “Surely you jest. Only old out of touch people wear cloaks. Capes are in. Anyone worth anything wouldn’t be found dead wearing a cloak.”
“Is that the modern trend?” There was a very slight edge to Kickaha’s voice. It was barely noticeable, but it was there. Kickaha’s good will and educational spirit hadn’t yet flown out the door, but they were definitely putting on their coats and muttering “Well, just look at the time.”
“That’s right!” Ambrose replied smugly. “Now then, time to take you back to my secret lair where we’ll begin the process.”
“Why not just do it here?” Kickaha asked.
“Out in the open? Where anyone can see or interfere?” Ambrose looked horrified. “Imagine all the things that could go wrong. I try to run things to a perfect script. There’s no room for outside variables. That’s why I have the lair prepared, a secluded place where I can guarantee no interference.”
“But doesn’t that make it kind of boring?” Kickaha asked.
“What? Why would it be boring?” Ambrose asked. “Doing things by a set series of rules, the same way each time. It creates familiarity, and a sense of comfort. The exact opposite of boring. Now! Let’s get you back to the lair.” The rabbit grabbed the edge of the net and attempted to drag Kickaha.
The foxyote did not choose to be helpful. He had been careful not to get tangled in it when he slipped back under it. As a result it was easy for him to let the rabbit pull the net right off of him and avoid being dragged anywhere.
“H-hey!” Ambrose shouted. “That’s not how it’s supposed to go! How’d you get out of the net?”
“Well, first you threw the net on top of me.” Kickaha explained. “Then just now you pulled the net away from me. I mean, I see we disagree on karma, but what just happened was pretty basic physics.”
“But that doesn’t… I mean…” Ambrose stomped his paw again. “That’s not how it goes. You’re supposed to stay in the net so that I can drag you back! That’s how it always goes!”
“Well, apparently that’s not true since you just dragged the net off of me.” Kickaha resisted the urge to stick out his tongue. “So, obviously it doesn’t always go that way.”
“You think you’re real clever huh?” Ambrose scowled. “But a good trickster always has a contingency plan.”
“Why would you have an alternate plan if everything always follows the exact same script perfectly?” Kickaha grinned smugly.
“Shut up! That’s why!” The rabbit shouted. “Now hang on a second, I need to summon an item.” The rabbit’s hand-paw glowed with a blue energy. Then he stood there in silence. And continued to stand there in silence.
And the silence continued.
“So is something supposed to be happening?” Kickaha arched an eyebrow.
“Give it a minute!” Ambrose snapped angrily. “It takes time to travel all the way here!”
“You know, if you had a cloak, you could have just had proper pockets sewn in to hold any items you might need on a job.” Kickaha lectured the rabbit. “And with the right enchantments the pockets can be bigger on the inside.”
“I can’t wear a cloak, because if I was I wouldn’t be wearing a cape.” Ambrose spoke as if he was explaining something to a child. Before this argument could escalate though, a spherical bottle of blue liquid came flying through the forest and landed in the rabbit’s glowing hands. “Ah, there we are.”
“So um, what was your plan if I decided to just leave while you were waiting for that?” Kickaha asked. “I mean, I stayed, because I was raised to have some basic manners. I think. It’s complicated on how I was raised. The point is, I was respectful enough to stay and see this bit through to the end. A lot of humans would have just run off by now.”
“I’d simply stop them from running! With the net!” Ambrose puffed out his chest.
“The same net that this is a contingency for when it doesn’t work?” Kickaha grinned cheekily.
“S-shut up!” Ambrose replied. “Enough talking out of you!” He threw the glass bottle at Kickaha’s feet. It shattered and the liquid soaked into the earth and purple smoke began to rise.
“Gasp!” Kickaha actually said the word aloud. “It’s some kind of poisonous cloud!” He flailed in mock terror as he moved his hand behind his back casting a quick spell. A very simple spell that creates a small breeze of wind around his head preventing any of the gas from actually being breathed in.
“That’s right! Enjoy your last few minutes of consciousness! For this is a special formula I created myself. Soon you will feel your body slowly start to stiffen and-
“It’s too much!” Kickaha shouted. “I’ve already breathed so much in! My entire body is racked with pain!”
“Well there shouldn’t actually be any pain-“ Ambrose tried to interrupt.
“What’s that? I can’t hear you.” Kickaha stumbled around on his feet. “Everything is going dark! I can’t see anything! And it’s so, so very cold! He threw himself down on the ground. “Wait… I see a light at the end of a tunnel… I’m going towards it… and…” Then the foxyote stopped talking and lay there on the ground motionless.
“Uhhhhhh.” Ambrose just stared. He wasn’t sure how to react to what he had just witnessed. That definitely wasn’t in his script. He slowly walked up and pocked Kickaha’s body to see if he was really dead.
“Oh it’s so much pain!” Kickaha jumped back up to his feet, but was now leaning on Ambrose. “Alas! Alas! Such a cruel world! To be struck down in my prime! Well, one of my primes. The primes all blend together into a sort of… composite. But anyway… It is so unjust! So unfair! The world is a cruel place! If only I had more time… But I’m afraid this is goodbye!” He went limp leaning against Ambrose’s side.
“Alright… I’m starting to think that maybe you’re not really-“ Ambrose didn’t get to finish before Kickaha was up again.
“I hear people calling from me at the end of the tunnel, where the light is.” Kickaha flailed about as he spoke. “It’s warmer there, and there are voices. They promise peace, an end to pain.. Yes, into the light, they’re calling me.”
“W-what wait a minute!” Ambrose shouted. “Don’t go into the light! You’re not supposed to die! That potion wasn’t lethal!”
“Alas! It must be my very rare, suspiciously selective and inconsistent allergies!” Kickaha cried. “But don’t worry about me. They say there’s a happier place waiting. Just as soon as I reach the end of this tunnel, the light is so close.”
“I told you stay away from the light!” Ambrose shouted. “You will not make a murderer out of me!” He grabbed Kickaha and shook him. “You hear me! Live! The script says you live so live darn it!”
“It is too late.” Kickaha’s voice dropped to almost a sigh. “My last regret, is that I couldn’t correct your terrible fashion sense.” With that the foxyote fell over landing in the rabbit’s arms, completely limp again.
“Are you done?” Ambrose asked, irritated.
“Nope.” Kickaha opened one eye. “Got one more in me. See, there’s this thing called the rule of three, so everyone expected me to do it three times. Which means I have to do it one extra time to usurp expectations.”
“Everyone? Who is everyone?” Ambrose looked around in confusion. “We’re the only ones here!”
“OH WHAT A WORLD! WHAT A WORLD!” Kickaha was already back up and screaming. He clutched a paw to his chest and made coughing noises. “To think this is how it ends! After so many other things that probably should have been the end! This is it! Tell my vacuum cleaner. Both of them. I’ve always resented them.” With that he fell over, crumpling against the side of a tree.
“Finally.” Ambrose wiped his brow. “I thought it would never end. Now, should I just drag him by his tail… Or put him back in the net?”
“Alas!” Kickaha was suddenly up and screaming again. “I die! Alone! Forgotten! No one here but a nameless rabbit with a poorly designed cape!”
“I thought you said there was only one more!” Ambrose shouted. “And I have a name! And my cape is very fashionable.”
“If only I had been a little wiser, a little more patient, maybe I could have taught him to escape his errors. But life is cruel and doesn’t give second chances. And so, with one last gasp, I die.” Kickaha gasped for air then fell to the ground for a fifth time.
“Okay, you done? We done with this? Can we move on?” Ambrose asked. “You said you wouldn’t do that again.”
“Well yes, but now that you and everyone was expecting me to stop at four, I had to go one more.” Kickaha opened one eye and spoke out of the side of his mouth in a hushed voice. “That’s just how these things work. But, done now. Pretty sure I’ve run this gag as far as I can without running it into the ground.” He closed his eye.
“Pretty sure you did that around the second time.” Ambrose gritted his teeth. “So, any more fake death throes? Or are we done for real this time?”
Kickaha didn’t reply. Instead he just held up an arm and gave a thumbs up.
“I’m going to take that as a sign you’re unconscious now from the knock-out gas.” Ambrose stated flatly. “And I am going to refuse to acknowledge any evidence that points to the contrary.”
“Have you ever considered a career in politics?” Kickaha asked, his eyes still closed. “I think you’d be fairly good at it.”
“LA LA LA! Can’t hear you!” Ambrose grabbed one of Kickaha’s legs and began to drag him through the forest. They were now on their way to his secret lair.
“This is it?” When they arrived Kickaha dropped the ‘dead’ act and sat up looking around. They were in a small underground chamber that had been dug beneath a tree. It was a burrow. And it wasn’t furnished with anything. “Not much of a lair. You know, if you got a smoke machine, some dim lighting, and a few decorations, you could make this place very menacing.”
“You just never stop.” Ambrose rubbed his head. He was starting to get a headache. “Thank goodness we’re finally at the lair and I can put an end to your constant yammering.”
“It’s not yammering, it’s banter.” Kickaha explained. “And people would find this little escapade quite boring without it.”
“Whatever. I don’t care.” Ambrose went to the back of the burrow and dug at the earth where the soil was softer. There was a small item buried there that he was retrieving. “For now your fate has been sealed… WITH THIS!” He scooped up the item revealing it to be a pocket watch.
“A rabbit with a pocket watch?” Kickaha tilted his head. “No wonder you’re annoyed with me taking so long. You’re late, you’re late, you’re late, right?.”
“Make your jokes while you can!” Ambrose retorted. “For these are your last few moments of freedom! For you see, I won’t just be changing your form, but also your mind! All traces of who you once were will be gone! Instead, you’ll be just a big dumb animal! Or a small dumb animal! I haven’t decided yet! Either way, this is no laughing matter, and now you’ll see just how serious the situation is.”
“Oh I’m aware.” Kickaha stood up and brushed himself off. “Trust me, this has been a very hare raising experience.”
“Good then you finally understand the danger that you’re-“ Ambrose paused as he suddenly got the joke. “I hate you. I hate you with all of my hate.”
“Well that’s not very nice.” Kickaha acted taken aback. “And here I’ve done nothing but try to be helpful to you.” Kickaha looked around the burrow. “Say, I’m noticing a lack of furniture around here. Where am I supposed to sit while you do your whole watch thing?”
“You don’t need to sit anywhere!” Ambrose huffed so hard that Kickaha was afraid he might blow the burrow down. “I have not set this place up to cater to the desires of my victims.”
“So what? I do this standing up?” Kickaha asked. “What if my legs get tired, and I collapse before you finish your thing, ruining all your hard work? Or what if I just wander around randomly? Won’t that affect your script?”
“Well, normally you’d be laying down on the ground, helpless, tied up in a net.” Ambrose replied sheepishly.
“Not exactly the most comfortable of positions.” Kickaha shrugged. “But this is your show, so we’ll try things your way.” Kickaha laid down on the ground. “But if it’s all the same to you, I think we can forgo the net. It’s rather uncomfortable. You know, maybe you should try one made out of spider silk. It’d be a much better experience for your victims.”
“It’s not supposed to be comfortable!” Ambrose stomped his foot and the burrow actually shook. Both rabbit and foxyote froze for a moment afraid it might collapse. “And stop doing that! You’ll bring the place down.”
“It feels like that one’s on you, Thumper.” Kickaha stuck his tongue out.
“Oh, I am so looking forward to this.” Ambrose moved around Kickaha then squatted down and dropped the watch so that it hung by a chain from his hand with the clock directly in front of Kickaha’s eyes. “Now then. You are getting sleepy. Very sleepy.”
“It’s still early afternoon though.” Kickaha objected. “I’m not even the least bit tired. In fact, I have a bit of extra energy from that pie. I normally avoid refined sugar for that reason. Nobody likes a trickster on a sugar rush.”
“Of course you’re not already sleepy you daft fool! Why else would I use the watch to make you sleepy!” Ambrose raised his paw to stomp it, caught himself just in time and lowered it gently. “So stop interrupting.” He swung the watch back and forth. “And get sleepy already.”
“You know, if you had a comfortable chair like I suggested, or maybe even a bed, I might get tired a lot faster.” Kickaha spoke in a ‘helpful’ tone. “I imagine it would speed things up.”
“You don’t need to be comfortable! You just need to go to sleep!” Ambrose gritted his teeth.
“I’m just saying, there are several ways to improve your operation.” Kickaha continued with his ‘helpful’ tone.
“Just shut up and go to sleep already. When I snap my fingers, you will be asleep.” He snapped.
“Fine, fine, I’m sleepy.” Kickaha allowed himself to go limp with his eyes still open. He let them lose focus so that he was giving a blank stare and it would seem like he was mesmerized by the watch.
“Good, we’re here, finally.” One of Ambrose’s eyes was twitching. “Okay then, repeat after me. You are in my power.”
“You are in my power.” Kickaha parroted back.
“No! No! No! That’s wrong!” Ambrose threw his arms up. “-YOU- are in my power!”
“That’s what I said. You are in my power.” Kickaha spoke in an emotionless voice.
“Okay, let’s try this again. Repeat after me. I am in your power.” Ambrose tried a different tactic.
“You’re in my power. I’m not sure what the exact miscommunication is here.” Kickaha made his best attempt at a shrug while laying on the floor.
“But that time you! And you! ARRRRRGGGGGGGH!” The rabbit paced back and forth in the burrow as he began to make several angry noises. There was a long and completely incoherent rant as he walked in circles around the burrow, clearly at his wit’s end.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Kickaha asked still in the monotone voice.
“No. Shut up. Just, never talk again.” Ambrose rubbed his temples. “Okay then, you will now follow all of my commands. Do you understand?”
“…” Kickaha remained completely silent.
“I asked if you understood?” Ambrose grew even more exasperated. Much to his chagrin he was met with more silence. “Answer me already!”
“I was told to never talk again.” Kickaha barely maintained his composure as he spoke.
“What?” Ambrose looked taken aback. “So you obeyed that order! Then… Fine! You can talk when talked to.”
“Well you haven’t stopped talking to me since we met.” Kickaha pointed out.
“Just… Alright, we’re getting this over with.” Ambrose rubbed his paws down his face. He looked like he had gotten older since the start of this encounter. Some of his hairs were even starting to gray. “The sooner your personality is erased the better.” He thought for a moment. “Something small and quiet. Okay… Are you listening?”
“Am I allowed to answer this one?” Kickaha failed to not grin.
“That’s a yes.” Ambrose swung the watch back and forth. “You are not a… Um… Fox? Coyote?”
“Foxyote.” Kickaha provided.
“Thank you.” Ambrose replied by instinct then scowled. “You are not a foxyote. Feel your body and mind change as you realize the new truth. Picture this, a small creature, one that lives on nuts and seeds, or whatever crumbs it can scavenge. Perhaps you find your home out in the woods, or in the walls of someone’s house. See the tail and paws, naked of fur, but useful for climbing. Feel as your body begins to change.”
And change Kickaha did. His body did get smaller, as well as he soon lost the use of his hands. He was forced to shift positions slightly as his arms and legs adjusted to a quadrupedal stance. Then, his ears became shorter, and more pyramid shaped while the claws on the tips of his paws were hidden in sheaths. His muzzle grew shorter, and his tail longer.
“What is this!?” Ambrose demanded. “What are you?”
“A house cat.” Kickaha purred happily.
“Why are you a house cat? I was making you picture a mouse!” Ambrose had been shouting so much he had to stop here and gasp for air.
“Right. I pictured the mouse. You mentioned it possibly living inside a house wall. So, I became a cat to catch the mouse just like you wanted.” Kickaha explained. “Cats are famous for their mouse hunting abilities. Well… Minus a notable and very strange exception.”
“No! That’s completely wrong! You’re supposed to be a mouse not a cat! And you shouldn’t be able to talk.”
“Then why would I be picturing a mouse?” Kickaha asked. This entire time he had never once broken his monotone voice, seeming as if he was still under the spell. “It’s not like I walk around looking at myself all day. If I’m picturing a mouse then that means you want me to do something about it.”
“Well you’re not supposed to be a house cat!” At this point Ambrose sounded more like he was pleading than demanding. “Fix this at once.”
“As you wish.” Kickaha suddenly began to grow in size. He had been larger than the rabbit before, but now he was much larger. His tail stayed the same length, but the fur was thinner along it except for the very end which had a tuft. Then his ears became more round, and a furry mane grew in around his neck and chest.
“W-w-w-w-what is this?” Ambrose dropped the watch, fell to the ground and quickly scooted away from Kickaha.
“A lion.” Kickaha gave a simple reply.
“This isn’t what I asked for! This isn’t what I commanded! I told you to fix it!” There was a noticeable level of fear in Ambrose’s voice. The fact that he was a prey animal in a small burrow right next to a large predator was not lost on him.
“Right, you said house cat was wrong.” Kickaha was impressed with himself at this point that he had managed not to burst out laughing. Maintaining this constant neutral tone throughout the entire process was the most challenging thing he had faced all day. “So I assumed the form of a different cat, something not from a house.”
“You shouldn’t be this big!” Ambrose scrambled along the floor until he found his watch and began to wave it back and forth. “You are under my power! And you will obey! You will cease being such a large cat this minute!”
“As you command.” Kickaha’s fur grew fluffier, especially on his tail. His fur pattern also changed, becoming a more snowy white with spots. He maintained the yellow stripe on his tail, as well as the mark on his back and chest, but as the changes finished had very much clearly become a snow leopard.
“Ok, seriously?” Ambrose asked. “You’re still a cat?”
“A snow leopard.” Kickaha added helpfully. “Now, I’m not a house cat and I’m not too big.”
“You’re not supposed to be a cat at all!” Ambrose shouted.
“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” Kickaha couldn’t help it. He gave a very small snicker at this.
“ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!” Ambrose walked over and banged his head against the wall. “Okay, I have had enough of this. Listen very closely. You are not a foxyote. You are not a cat of any kind. You are small, you are vulnerable, you are easily overtaken. Do you understand? You are weak and pathetic.”
“I understand.” Kickaha grew smaller again, though his ears grew a lot longer, as did his hind paws. Meanwhile his tail shrunk all the way down into a little tuft. His muzzle became rounded and his nose twitched as his body became a little rounder. He had become a rabbit. Just like Ambrose. He was even bipedal again and had his original fur colorings back.
“What? But! This! You!” Ambrose was completely at a loss. “Am I a joke to you?”
“Am I compelled to answer that question honestly?” Kickaha asked.
“Yes!” Ambrose paused as he considered this. “I mean no! I mean don’t answer it at all!”
“Do you need a hug?” Kickaha asked.
“Yes.” Ambrose slumped.
“There there…” Kickaha embraced the other rabbit and patted him on the back. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll get you a proper cloak, and teach you to do this properly.”
“T-t-thanks…” Ambrose sniffled. “Wait… I mean! Don’t touch me! And wait a second… House cat, lion, snow leopard. That was three in a row.”
“Yes, I mentioned the rule of three earlier.” Kickaha nodded.
“But then you said people expect three so you did four, but then I expected four so you did five.” He narrowed his eyes. “So how many more cats are you going to turn into.”
“None.” Kickaha shrugged. “I did it three times, now we’re moving on.”
“But, you said you can’t do it three times…” Now Ambrose just sounded confused.
“No, I said people were expecting me to do it three times, and thus I had to usurp their expectations.” He held up a finger as he lectured. “Now since I already subverted the rule of three, no one knew what to expect, so playing it straight was the thing most likely to catch them off guard.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Ambrose snapped. “But you’re not supposed to be a rabbit! Why are you a rabbit?”
“Pretty much for the same reason you needed a hug.” Kickaha patted Ambrose on the back.
“Don’t patronize me!” Ambrose shouted. “Listen carefully!” He swung the watch back and forth furiously. “You are a mouse! Not a cat! Not a rabbit! You are a tiny little mouse. You can’t talk. You can’t walk on four legs. You are just a tiny little rodent and nothing more!”
“I’m pretty sure rabbits aren’t rodents.” Kickaha replied instantly.
“Of course not! But you’re not a rabbit you’re a mouse!” Ambrose sounded desperate.
“Pretty sure I’m a rabbit.” Kickaha lifted up a paw. “Yup, no pawpads and everything.”
“Well yes, you’re a rabbit now, but you’re supposed to be a mouse.” Ambrose was very, very tired of this.
“Then why did you turn me into a rabbit?” Kickaha asked.
“I DIDN’T!” Ambrose bristled.
“You clearly did, you’re the one with the watch after all.” Kickaha had dropped the neutral tone. It was clear at this point that Ambrose was completely broken and there was no point in continuing it.
“But I… I’m a karmic trickster… And you’re my victim. You’re supposed to be completely within my power.” Ambrose pleaded.
“Okay look, lose the watch, that’s clearly not working out for you.” Kickaha explained. “And throw out any scripts you have. I’m guessing you’re new at this, because plans don’t work. Just be happy it didn’t cause you any harm this time.”
“Why are you like this?” Ambrose sobbed.
“Well, no physical harm.” Kickaha tried to give the other rabbit a pat again. “Look, maybe, take the time to shadow people first, learn a bit about them, then get into action. Also, if you’re going to use the pies, a bit more cinnamon. They’re pretty good right now but they could be better. And maybe don’t drag people back to your burrow.”
“It’s a lair.” Ambrose protested.
“It’s a burrow.” Kickaha insisted. “I live in one myself. I recognize it. Don’t bring victims back here, this is where you live. Give you some proper work life balance, and also your stuff doesn’t get wrecked. I mean, you almost caved the place in earlier today. That wouldn’t have happened if we just did this in the forest.”
“But, how will I control each part of the scenario?” Ambrose objected.
“You can’t.” Kickaha smiled. “You followed your script, brought me back here, and everything still went sideways. That’s how these things work. Always expect the strangest turns possible. If you try to fight it, you’ll be swept away by it. It’s all about learning to work with the chaos instead of against it.”
“How do you work with chaos? It’s chaos! That’s literally impossible!” Ambrose cried.
“You improvise, learn to adapt, and don’t have yourself set to exactly one plan.” Kickaha explained. “Look, I feel kind of bad for how hard this is hurting you. Maybe let’s call it for today, you get some rest, and I’ll teach you the basics later.”
“Yes… Rest… This is all… A nightmare and I just need some sleep.” Ambrose moved to a corner of the burrow and laid down and curled up into a ball to sleep.
“Right um… I’ll see myself out.” Kickaha moved for the exit. He’d wait till the rabbit was a little less mentally broken to set him on the right path. However, there was still one small thing he had to do before he left. After searching his pockets for a bit, Kickaha found a bunch of thread and a needle. He chanted a small spell and they formed into something else. Then Kickaha left.
But not before he placed a white box containing a blue cloak at the entrance of Ambrose’s burrow.