For what you have tamed

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For what you have tamed

Post by Valonia »

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”…
“What does that mean -- ‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties… To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world... you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me… But you have hair that is the colour of gold… The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—

"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields." And then he added: "Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret."

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

"You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world."

And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye," he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember…
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose..."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

- The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


As Valonia returned to her house back in Britain, the rabbit came to greet her. It wriggled through the hole it had made through the stone foundation, then planted itself squarely in the center of the open place on the floor. During the time Valonia had been gone, the little lagomorph had clearly made itself at home. And like some proud conqueror, the rabbit stood triumphant among the ruined piles of mail that had been slid under Valonia’s door.

Valonia surveyed the rabbit, the piles of shredded letter pieces, and the piles of other things the rabbit had left behind in the various corners of the house. (While Valonia had tried to train it to use a box in one corner, it had clearly taken liberties with her instructions.)

“You are rather bold for food,” she said in dismay.

At her voice, the rabbit flipped its ears at the druid happily and made an excited little half-wiggle.

Valonia let out a long pseudo-exasperated sigh, lay her satchel down on the floor along the wall, then sat cross-legged on the floor, waggling her fingers at the creature. At the gesture, the rabbit hopped to her, then threw itself in a bodily flop on the carpet right in front of the woman’s folded legs.

“Whatever will I do with you, little food thing?” Valonia scratched the little creature gently along its side, conscious of just how vulnerable it was making itself to her. She could see the white parts of its underbelly and feet.

The rabbit made a soft grindy-chittery noise with its teeth, a sign of its contentment.

While petting the creature, Valonia surveyed the damage it had made, and with her free hand, plucked up bits of vellum and paper. One of them bore her mentor’s handwriting… but whatever Althaia had to say was difficult to read in between chewmarks.

She looked on the scroll with concern. It had taken this long for the older druid to write to her, so Valonia suspected something was amiss. She was also dismayed that she now couldn’t read what the other woman had been up to in all this time. While Valonia might be able to piece together some semblance of the missive, it would take even more time, all thanks to the small menace before her.

Still, it was difficult to be too annoyed at the small menace.

“Clearly, I should not continue to let you inside,” she mused aloud to the rabbit, continuing to stroke it. “You would chew whatever mail I receive. And the legs of the chairs and table, it seems.”

And the wooden baseboard. And parts of the stairs, even if the rabbit did not seem to have mastered climbing the staircase.

“But I cannot leave you outside,” she considered. “There are too many dangers… And you are food for everything.”

Valonia had a terrible mental image just then: the rabbit scrabbling at the sealed stone foundation, searching desperately for safety that no longer existed, only to get swooped up in the talons of some bird of prey or carried away in the mouth of some predator. Valonia would come back from wherever she had been, only to find the shredded half-eaten corpse of her little friend laying in the yard.

It was a horrible thought. It would be bad enough to lose her friend. But to lose it when she could have done something? To let others suffer through her inaction…?

Meanwhile, the rabbit seemed unconcerned by her dark imaginings, instead sprawling before her so she could rub its back along with its sides.

It was foolish, of course, for Valonia to get this attached to such a short-lived creature. She knew (perhaps better than most) that nature was not often kind or gentle. The survival of one being sometimes depended on the death of another. Sometimes the hunted escaped, and sometimes it did not. While Valonia was soft-hearted enough to sympathize with the plight of prey, she knew all too well that the cycle was necessary for both hunter and hunted. Without threats or minimizing their numbers, prey animals could develop illnesses, or overgraze the area and starve to death. She had seen both, after all. And death by starvation was long and drawn out, and involved far more suffering than a swift death to a predator.

It was why respect for nature involved accepting it for what it was, without trying to modify it to suit her own ends.

Still, Valonia cared about her little rabbit friend. She cared about it in a different way than she had cared about the mountain lions she had fostered. For Cole and Alvor, she had been repaying a debt. She had been fond of the cats, but she had been responsible for the death of their mother and their survival was both a duty and a responsibility. Valonia felt obligated to undo what she had done.

But the rabbit was different. Valonia hadn’t made some sort of mistake to acquire it. It had found her. As skittish and shy as its kind typically was, this one clearly trusted her. And some part of her responded to it too.

“My grandfather would have scolded me, I think,” she explained softly to the rabbit, even if she knew it would not understand. “Our actions have weight, he would say. ‘Want’ without knowledge may kill what you claim to care about. I should not have befriended you. It would have been far safer for you if I had not.”

As wrong as her grandfather had been about certain things, there was much Holtraed had been right about as well. If Valonia had listened to what he had told her, she would have left the rabbit alone. It was dangerous for it to think of humans as a source of food or safety. It would have been better for it to have remained skittish and wild. Now it expected safety from her. That dependence on her was a hindrance.

But the creature trusted her now. Valonia had fed it and provided it safety and comfort. She couldn’t very well banish it from her presence because it had become inconvenient.

Well… Technically, she could. But that wasn’t the sort of person she wanted to be. Intentional or not, she had created a bond between herself and this little creature, and so she had a responsibility to take care of it.

“But you are not my animal companion,” Valonia said firmly… then squinted at the little rabbit carefully as doubt began to set in. “…are you?”

As she stopped petting it, the rabbit looked at her with its expressionless gaze, nose twitching. It did not seem particularly mystical, totemic, or metaphysical. It looked like an average rabbit, really. Mottled browns and grays and tans and whites. It was certainly no ethereal or spirit creature, judging by the many small pellets it had left around the floor.

“Bah. I must be trying too hard to read signs where a normal person would simply take things as they were,” Valonia muttered to herself, stroking the rabbit some more.

Her uncle probably would have had words to say about that, about how druids kept trying to construct nature conspiracies or something.

Still, it wasn’t unheard of for druids to find animal companions. Not that Valonia knew how that worked, however. Even if she had been interested, she didn’t know the rites for that, how one even went about doing such things. She was still only a journeyman, after all. And, unfortunately, the druids had an irritating habit of not writing such things down. In an odd irony, for such a literate order, they didn’t like writing their own secrets down for posterity.

Regardless, while it was plausible that this rabbit was her animal companion, it was equally as plausible that she’d simply found a wild rabbit and had befriended it through snacks and pets. In fact, that seemed far more likely than to have inadvertently forged some symbiotic bond.

A rabbit made for a terrible companion animal anyway, grimaced Valonia. They were very fragile.

“Maybe you are just a messenger creature instead?” she suggested to the little bun. “Some kind of symbol to teach me a lesson?”

If the rabbit did have any mystical wisdom the share, it refused to offer any of it, preoccupied as it was with pets and scratches.

Still, Valonia considered that it would make sense for it to be more symbolic rather than an actual animal companion. Like elk, rabbits symbolized sensitivity, compassion, and gentleness. Unlike elk, however, rabbits represented a certain degree of vulnerability and fear.

“Or fear of vulnerability and loss,” she mused quietly to herself. That would make sense. While Valonia did not wish to dwell on internal analysis of either, she could sense the truth of the matter. The worst parts of her life had involved making herself vulnerable or experiencing loss. Even now, she was aware she shied from making herself vulnerable to people. It was why she had not sought Arthur out further. He had said that bandits should be killed on sight, and given Valonia’s past… well, she feared his rejection. And as for Vern? He had said she was a book so open he had not wanted to read it. And if that was the case… well, rabbits too distanced themselves for self-preservation.

The rabbit had nothing to add to her introspective musings, instead closing its eyes and absorbing the attention.

Valonia expected she was being foolish, but she knew she had decided to keep the rabbit with her. She couldn’t simply abandon it. There was risk both in leaving it here alone AND taking it with her, butif she could only decide between those options, she preferred to have it where she could actively protect it. She might not be the best choice of protector or preserver, but she simply couldn’t leave some things to chance or circumstance.

The rabbit would likely fit in her satchel, so she would just have to reorganize it to make sure it had room. And wrap her important things with some sort of waxed cloth so there was no chance of accidents, and…

The corner of Valonia’s mouth quirked upward at a different, but semi-related, thought. “My uncle would probably say something about how food should be prepared before I put it in my lunch bag.”

Valonia liked Uncle Robert. But her mother had been right too: he was a bit of an ass.

With that problem mostly solved, she looked at the scraps of paper that the rabbit had turned Althaia’s letter into. She couldn’t make out most of it, but one visible word stuck out in her mind.

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