The princess demands, "What is the meaning of this?"

The princess stood to her full height and with as much regal outrage as she could muster, demanded, "What is the meaning of this?"

"The meaning," growled the tiger, "is that your people, and particularly your family, have trampled on our rights for long enough. It is time for change, and your fate will be the instrument of that change."

"And what is your plan?"

"Let me tell!" blurted one of the hyenas.

"Yes, let us tell the Princess our plan!" pleaded the others.

"All right!" spat the tiger. "Explain!"

"We're going to enchant you," cackled one of the creatures, "just as you enchanted us!"

"Nonsense!" cried the rabbit. "We don't have the charm to render a creature mute and tame!"

"No, but but we hyenas know of a spell that will transform the image of a human to the form of an animal. Let her be a bunny, and then give her back to her people! They will do the rest. By their own art will they ruin their own princess as they have ruined us for years, even as they mourn her loss." The hyenas' cackling rose in a crescendo the princess almost dared to hope would echo beyond the wall.

"That isn't the plan!" roared the tiger. "What do we gain if the humans don't even know the child's fate? No, we will wait until they have noticed her missing, until they have searched all the castle grounds and beyond, and then we will send an emissary directly to the king to make our demands. Every animal will be disenchanted and freed--and all of our safety guaranteed in perpetuity by solemn oath--before the princess returns to her castle. That is how you deal with humans!"

"Unacceptable!" rumbled new voice, even deeper than that of the tiger. From the foliage emerged a shaggy brown bear with large, sad eyes. The bear continued, "If we threaten the princess, she and her people will always hate us, even if they cooperate with our demands. They will always look for ways to dominate us if think they can succeed."

"What do you suggest, bear?" growled the tiger.

"Rabbit, didn't you bring the princess here on the promise of showing her our misery?"

The rabbit quietly agreed, shifting its fore-paw nervously in the dirt.

"Then fulfill your promise. Appeal to the noble heart that sought to learn of our plight. Let her live among us only until she has tasted the bitterness of our oppression, until she is ready to show compassion to us and to those in the hands of the trainers. Then return her to her family to advocate for the animals. From the look of her, I judge her parents deny her nothing she asks."

"Never!" cried the hyenas. "Let her be tamed! We crave revenge!"

"We shall neither be their slaves nor their imitators!" countered the tiger. "Let her be held! We demand justice!"

"You don't know what you say," pleaded the bear. "Let her be taught! We need peace!"

The End

8 comments about this story Feed