The Fables of the Jackalope
By Charles Moffat - August 2018- January 2019.
The jackalope lived happily up in the mountains, far from the curious eyes of men and elves. One day as he was hopping around it began to rain and he took shelter from the storm in a cave entrance. While it rained he used the time to sharpen his antlers on a rock, for he needed to keep them sharp should he encounter predators or the odd hunter.
But lo and behold his scratchings awoke something in the cave and before he could bound back into the rainstorm a long lizard-like claw came snaking out of the cave and grabbed him up. Behind the claw came the grey and dusty face of a dragon who apparently had been collecting dust in his slumber.
Unable to squirm free or stab with his antlers, the jackalope cried out: "Whoa dragon, I have never met one of thee. But have you ever met one of me?"
The dragon had been about to eat the tiny morsel that had been annoying his slumber, but paused to consider it. "Nay, I have not. What are you? Did you lose a bet with a whitetail deer?"
The jackalopes eyes glimmered. "I did not, but perhaps you would like to hear the story? If the story pleases you perhaps you will let me live? I would wager my life on it that I have a story that will strike your fancy."
"Hmm..." said the dragon, holding the jackalope a bit too firmly and bringing him up to his flaring nostrils. "Very well, since you are willing to wager your life on these stories. Perhaps they are worth a listen."
And so the jackalope began his tales...
Once upon a time says I.
"'N' that is the story of how I gained my antlers. What do you think good dragon, is it worth sparing my life?" asked the jackalope.
The great dragon thought about it, eyeing the tasty jackalope. "The story was good, but not good enough-"
"Perhaps another story?" offered the jackalope. "Maybe this one will be more to your liking."
"Perhaps. Best make it a good one. I am starting to get sleepy," said the great dragon, laying down on his haunches, but keeping a firm grip on the jackalope with one claw.
Once upon a time says I.
"'N' that is the end. I escaped 'n' the hunter never invaded Ulmaster's forest ever again. We all lived happily-"
"Who is this Ulmaster you spoke of in the story? Why does he have a whole forest?" demanded the dragon, clenching the jackalope a bit tighter.
"Oh, Ulmaster is an unicorn. A great black unicorn who is millennias old. The greatest magical creature of all-"
"Greater than I?" squeezed the dragon, raising one tremendous eyebrow.
"Well, you're, er, great 'n' everything, but to be fair he is Ulmaster. He is an immortal demigod. I guess you would have to meet him to understand," replied the jackalope, despite being barely able to breathe.
"This insult will not stand wee creature. Very well, where is this Ulmaster you speak of?"
"To the east. Past the great city of Oraknev, past the valley of Dangarn, past the ruins of Ilva, past Ilva Pass, when you get to the mining town of Kazark you take a left 'n' go north. Ulmaster's Forest is the great forest north of Kazark 'n' Ulmaster is the lord of it."
"Very well," said the dragon, beating his wings and taking to the air like a sudden hurricane. "We shall see this puny unicorn of yours and see if he is as powerful as you claim. After I lay waste to him I shall claim his forest as my own."
"Should I tell you another story while we journey to our destination, oh fearsome dragon? Tis a long journey before us 'n' I have one more tale worth telling if you would but listen while you fly."
"Speak loudly then," boomed the dragon over the roar of the wind past their ears. "I can scarcely hear over the wind."
Once upon a time says I,
"You jackalopes seem to always outwit your foes," rumbled the dragon, the wind roaring as they flew over the huge crevice that was Ilva Pass. They were making good time and almost there. "Do you really think you can outwit me with your fancy tales of an unicorn?"
The jackalope gasped as if insulted. "I don't need to think, I know. You may be great 'n' powerful, sir dragon, but Lord Ulmaster is greater still. Squeeze me as punishment all you want, but facts are facts 'n' you cannot change them."
For once the dragon did not squeeze him as punishment. Instead the dragon stayed silent, banking northward and speeding across a lake towards a grand and ancient forest.
On the north side of the lake the forest was old, with trees as thick as houses and trunks as sturdy as castle foundations. Creatures in the forest grew quiet as the shadow of the dragon passed over, for there had not been a dragon in this forest for hundreds of years.
A clearing up ahead drew the dragon's attention, a beautiful meadow of wildflowers where deer and unicorns mingled. They scattered to the edges, finding refuge in the shadows of oak trees as the dragon landed slowly, with a great display of his powerful wings.
"Where is Ulmaster?!" bellowed the dragon, his roar piercing the sky like a thunderclap so that every creature within leagues no doubt heard him.
"I am here, as always," said a tall black unicorn, emerging from the forest at a relaxed trot. His voice was deep and it carried effortlessly on the wind. He was larger and more magnificent than any horse the dragon had ever seen, but still only about half the size of a mammoth. "I am Ulmaster, Lord of this forest and all that dwells within."
"You are no lord of mine!" snorted the dragon. He glared at the jackalope and tossed him aside. "This unicorn is pitiful. Why did you waste my time with your ridiculous lies? Foolish rabbit. Tricks are for-"
"The wise," finished Ulmaster, his deep voice startling the dragon with its power. The very ground seemed to rumble with urgency. "It was very wise for yonder jackalope to trick you into coming here. Here he is safe and will find others of his own kind. Have you learned nothing from all your years dragon? Have you not learned that dragons are usually defeated because they are outwitted by something smaller and weaker? Truly you must have noticed how others of your kind die out of arrogance and foolishness?"
"They were all fools if they were defeated so easily," growled the dragon, approaching the unicorn like a cat might approach a mouse. "None of them were as wise or as powerful as I. My breath alone can melt rock or freeze stone until it cracks. Choose one unicorn. Do you want fire or ice?"
Ulmaster pondered for a moment as if he truly did not care which. "Fine. Lets start with the fire. Show me what you can do dragon."
The dragon laughed and sucked in a great intake of air, so mighty it was as if all the wind suddenly changed direction and became part of the dragon's bloated chest. When he breathed out it came as a great torrent of fire, over a hundred feet long and engulfing Ulmaster in flames. The unicorn didn't even try to dodge out of the way.
When he had at last expelled all of his breath the dragon looked satisfied, until the flames and smoke diminished and the black unicorn stood there looking bored amongst the cinders that had once been wild flowers.
"Would you like to try again?" asked Ulmaster. It wasn't sarcastic. It wasn't even taunting. The unicorn truly seemed sincere.
The dragon fumed out his massive nostrils. He huffed and puffed and this time blew a blast of cold icy air at the unicorn, so cold it froze the smoke in the air into tiny ice crystals. The air about Ulmaster formed into ice crystals and for a moment it seemed as if the unicorn would be encased in a block of ice.
Ulmaster thudded one hoof against the ground, the noise of it resounding like a thick brass bell. The ice shattered about him, falling harmless as snowflakes. "That was a good one dragon. I really feel like you tried. But I have lived through thousands of winters and thousands of summers. It has been a long time since heat or cold was a threat to me. Perhaps your claws or teeth might fare better?"
The dragon looked incensed by these words, disbelief clouding his eyes. "What is this trickier? What are these lies and illusions meant to fool my eyes? No one can withstand my power and survive. You must be an illusion."
"Oh, I am quite real," said Ulmaster, trotting closer until he was within claw's reach of the dragon. "Come touch me. I will show you my power. It is my turn now, yes?"
The dragon reached out one claw and took an angry swipe at the black unicorn. The blow would have slain a mammoth, but instead it impacted as if Ulmaster was made of mountain rock and just as unmovable.
"Good," said Ulmaster. "Now that that is settled, it is my turn. I shall start with fire." He dipped his horn towards the dragon and his shiny black hide now shone with brilliant white flames that leapt and danced as if they were alive.
The living white flames leapt from Ulmaster and crawled over the dragon's scales like a swarm of insects. The flames were so unbelievably hot they melted the dragon's scales, which were so supposed to be immune to all flame and cold. Only hellfire or something similar could burn a dragon.
"This is the divine fire of the Living Flame," explained Ulmaster as the dragon roared in pain. "Holyfire if you will. It was a gift to me from one of the aspects of the sun god. I have wielded it for thousands of years, long before you were ever born dragon. I have never felt its flames myself, I am told it only harms creatures who are truly evil."
The dragon backed away now. Fear had entered the dragon's eyes. For the first time in its life, the dragon understood what fear was. So long he had bullied other creatures smaller than himself. He had never considered it possible for him to fear a creature or being that could somehow best him, for of course none of them had even come close. And now that he knew fear he was terrified.
He needed to get out of here. He needed... the lake. He could smother these wretched flames in the lake. He just needed to get aloft...
Something grabbed him from behind. He turned and saw the oak trees. They had moved, somehow, and now their thick branches were like arms, grasping his tail and hindquarters so it was impossible for him to fly away from here. Each of the huge trees were as big as he was too, and very thick. They glared at him with eyes of twisted knots, faces in the wood that he had missed earlier. He would need his dragonfire...
He gasped for breath, seeking to draw in air like he had done so before. But he had already breathed twice in the last few minutes. His lungs needed a breather. But still he needed to try.
Ulmaster charged and stabbed him in the chest with his single black horn, five feet long and as sharp as a longsword. The horn went deep, piercing his lungs.
All the while the dancing white flames had migrated to his wings, where they now tore at his wings - maiming his ability to fly.
The poacher! The story! The dragon roared and looked about for the jackalope. He had fallen into the same trap the jackalope had done to the poacher. He couldn't spy the wee rabbit, but he could hear him.
The jackalope was laughing at him. Not chortling. Not cackling. Not a hearty chuckle. Rolling around in the meadow somewhere, laughing so hard like he was being tickled by an army of butterflies.
The dragon roared and with an impressive feat of strength ripped himself free of the oak trees that had bound him to the ground. He flapped hard, his wings ragged from the living flames, but still he managed to get aloft a few feet.
The unicorn stabbed him in the neck this time, a hideous blow to his windpipe. He could feel his lifeblood flowing down from the wound. He looked down as he plummeted to the ground once more. The jackalope was there, a mere claw's length away and a bit to the right.
"I warned you dragon!" shouted the jackalope. "I warned you. I gave you all the hints 'n' clues 'n' you still did not listen."
The dragon swiped at the pesky creature with his one massive claw, but the jackalope jumped and landed on the back of his claw. The wee creature was taunting him as he lay there dying.
Ulmaster backed away from the dying dragon, as did the living oak trees who shambled away slowly. Even the living white flames danced away, rejoining the unicorn and disappearing from whence they came.
The dragon had been humbled. Truly Ulmaster was indeed the master of this forest. Even the mighty trees obeyed his command. No doubt the unicorn commanded many other beings and had other hidden abilities. It was clear now the dragon had been dealing with some godly entity. The jackalope had called him a demi-god, but even that seemed a poor description for this lord of unicorns.
"Oh great Zarmaxathrax, god of dragons," whispered the dying dragon. "I have never prayed to you before but I see now my mortality bent before me, for I am bent, broken, burned and bleeding. My life up to now has clearly been wasted and I have thrown it all away for my reckless pride. I see this now. Please Lord Zarmaxathrax, hear my plea. Curse that fucking jackalope so that-"
The jackalope charged forward and stabbed the dragon in the neck, just under the jawline. The dragon's head slumped to the ground, dead, before he could finish his curse.
"Silly dragon says I," said the jackalope. "Don't you know jackalopes always get the last word?"
This was a fun one to write. An epic fable containing 3 other fables, all pertaining to jackalopes. Best jackalope fable ever? Maybe.
Yes, I am totally referencing children's cereal commercials. Without using the full slogan.
The largest horse ever recorded was called Mammoth (sometimes Sampson) and he weighed a whopping 3,360 pounds. Ulmaster is slightly bigger than that, about 3,500 lbs. Actual mammoths weighed about 6,000 pounds.
For weight comparisons, the dragon in this story weighed about 20,000 pounds. The jackalope weighed about 20 pounds. Jackalopes are larger than normal hares and their antlers add some extra weight too.