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The Zootopia Princess Bride

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Mad Grinch Productions Presents:

The Zootopia Princess Bride

Created from the mad, mad mind of: Zanrok

Co-Created & Directed By:

Cimar of Turalis WildeHopps (currently a captive under duress)

Cover Picture By: OceRydia

A '100 Kisses' Universe story

Disclaimer:

We don't own the movie! Any Movie (... yet)

But the crowds (aka pirate shippers) demanded it so here it is, we had no choice!

 

OceRydia's DeviantArt Page HERE!


Chapter 1 – We Don't Need A Babysitter!

Judy and Nick looked into the bedroom, watching their two kits playing away on a console game.

"Ridley, Ella, guess what?" Judy asked going over to the fox and bunny kits sitting on the lower of the two bunkbeds as they smashed away at the game controllers with intense determination. She pulled up the blanket around their legs, tucking it in while they tried to look around her at the tv screen The blanket was unnecessary, as even with the cold winter weather tonight the room wasn't the least bit frigid but she never could resist mothering her kits.

The action only got an eye roll from Ellla, as she kept button mashing away, a look of focused concentration on her face that Nick always said reminded him of Judy. Ridley on the other paw was able to draw his attention away from the game just long enough to give a half-hearted smile and, "What?" in response to her question before his attention was re-consumed by the game. With a gasp, his ears, so much like Nick's if just a tad bit longer than a usual foxes, snapped back as Ella started laughing and he snarled, "Ella! Not fair!"

Nick's arm wrapped around Judy's shoulder and he whispered into her ear, "They're just like you when you get sucked in a case file, can't pay attention to anything else for more than half a second."

She looked up at him and bumped his hip with hers. "No, they're just like you when you're pulling a hustle, mind focused only on the goal." She leaned up and kissed him and both kits managed to spare enough attention to look at their parents and make 'blaaa' sounds and icky faces at their kiss.

"Mom! dad!", "Do you have to kiss in here?!" they squealed in exaggerated horror, both temporarily forgetting completely about their characters on screen.

Nick looked at Judy, a smile crossing his face. "That on the other hand, seems to have gotten their attention." He kissed her nose gaining another set of horrified protests from their two kits, before smirking at her, "And you call me the hustler?"

"Okay we're listening! We're listening!" the two kits squealed like their arms were being twisted. Judy smirked.

"Well, I learned from the best. That's how you always get my attention when I get too focused and it seems to work just as well in getting theirs."

She gave him one more quick kiss and there were groans of pain from the two kits.

Judy looked back over at them, smiling as they both fell back on the bed, Ella with her long, ever so pointed ears splayed out like she was dying in a manner that had Judy giggling, remembering her childhood play when she was a kit. All Ella needed to complete the reenactment was a bottle of ketchup and a theatrical rendition of, "Blood, Blood, Blood! And Death!". Ridley on the other paw had his tongue sticking out sideways with his eyes crossed and his paws sticking up into the air.

"Ridley," Nick said chastising, "Stop acting like a dead possum. A dead fox looks more like this."

Nick made an exaggerated pained face and then with his tongue lolling out, slumped over, dropping his chin onto Judy's head between her ears.

"Nick!" Judy squealed, trying to push the heavier fox off her with little success, "I just got my fur done! I swear if you drool on me you will be a dead fox!"

It took Judy nearly a minute to get him off of her, because for a supposedly dead mammal, he had a remarkable ability to stay flopped all over her. Though she only socked him in the arm lightly afterwards because his fooling around had sent Ridley and Ella into a giggling fit on the bed.

Light or not, Nick dropped to the floor moaning theatrically which had the kits squealing in laughter. She huffed at his antics but had a hard time not laughing herself.

She shook her head, still amazed at Nick's ability to act like a kit himself, "Come on, You are going to wrinkle your shirt and we need to get going if we don't want to be late."

Nick grinned and popped back up to his feet, brushing himself off and in the span of a few seconds had shifted from overgrown kit, to suave business mammal.

"Right you are Carrots, can't be late for this undercover mission. How many more chances are we going to get to be paid to essentially go on a high-class date and make out?" There was a renewed round of gagging noises at that.

"And what makes you think we're going to be making out?" Judy asked with a raised eyebrow and ear, "Awfully confident, aren't you?"

Nick grinned, stepping closer and putting his arms loosely around her waist.

"Always," he said, pulling her closer, but smirked instead of kissing her. "Plus making out is the best way to allay suspicion that we're there for any reason other than to be on a date, especially if say… we get caught snooping around where we shouldn't be."

"Okay! Okay! We're listening! What did you want to tell us?" the kits squealed, Ella even grabbed a pillow to try covering her ears. Which was quite adorable to Nick and Judy considering the small pillow only covered half of the length of her ears.

Nick smirked and then leaned over to her ear whispering just loud enough for her to hear, "And I might have arranged a little surprise upgrade for after we finished our job at the restaurant, it is our anniversary after all and the rooms in the Palm Hotel that Bogo had gotten us just didn't fit the occasion or our cover story. There's an extra-large bed and we don't even have to worry about late checkout in the morning."

Judy flushed a little as he let her go, smirking even more now and she quickly turned to their two kits.

"Ehem, well…" she cleared her throat. "We wanted to just make sure you two are good for the night and to tell you that Grandma Wilde just arrived."

There were two more groans at this.

"Mom, we're old enough to not need a babysitter!" Ella said in exasperation.

"I thought you liked hanging out with Grandma?" Nick asked sweetly, still smirking.

"Dad, it's not that!" Ridley pitched in, "We love grandma but every time she comes over to babysit us at night she can't help tucking us in and marking us!"

"Ya!" Ella joined her brother, "We're not little kits anymore!" she said, folding her arms across her chest and pouting in an amazingly cute fashion.

"Well maybe she won't this time," Judy said trying to cajole the two young kits, who had recently decided that eight years old should be the new legal age of adulthood and meant they didn't need adult supervision anymore. "Right Nick?" Judy finished turning to Nick to get his agreement only to find him looking like he agreed with the kits.

"Judy, my mom still marks us like we are little kits," he said rolling his eyes.

Judy elbowed him, and after a short wince, he quickly added, "Which, doesn't mean there's anything wrong about it! It just means she loves us; absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about at all!"

Both Ridley and Ella gave them looks that screamed, "Really?"

The door behind them opened and an greying vixen wearing an older styled dress and carrying a wrapped package entered,

"And how are my favorite grandkits?" she said excitedly, going over to the bed to sweep Ridley and Ella into a hug before rubbing her muzzle on the top of their heads. The two kits gave pointedly exasperated looks toward their parents before hugging her back.

"Grandma, how can we be your favorites?" Ella asked playfully, "We're your only grandkits."

"Well I can't possibly imagine having better grandkits so that's how you're my favorites," she replied and kissed Ella on the cheek before letting them go and turning back to Judy and Nick.

"And don't you two look just absolutely lovely!" She said coming over and tightening up Nick's tie which he'd loosened before pulling his head down to kiss his cheek and give the top of his head a quick rub with her muzzle. Nick gave Judy a copy of their kits eyerolling expressions of exasperation before smirking and mouthing, 'your next'.

"You haven't looked this handsome since your wedding," she said taking a step back, smiling as she looked him up and down. "You look just like your father. He'd be so proud if he could see you now." Nick caught the small hitch in her voice before she turned to Judy, sweeping her into a full hug and giving her an even longer rub between her ears with her muzzle before stepping back with her paws still on her shoulders.

"You look lovelier than ever, dear! And I bet I have you to thank again for actually getting my son to dress up properly." Mrs. Wilde grinned, beaming down at Judy with such pride and happiness that the rabbit blushed a bit more. She reached up and adjusted the small pearl bracelet around her ear before nodding, "Beautiful. Nicholas couldn't have found a more perfect mate in the entire world."

Judy shuffled her foot blushing hard, "Um… thanks, but I'm not-"

"Oh, yes you are." Nick cut in, smirking while Mrs. Wilde chuckled.

"Well, don't let me hold you two up. Go have a fun evening and don't worry about rushing back in the morning. I'm always happy to spend time with Ridley and Ella and I even brought them a surprise."

There was a whoop and a shot of 'Yes! I love Grandma's cookies!' from the two kits which caused her to grin and Nick to roll his eyes and whisper.

"If you stuff them with your cookies again, they'll be bouncing off the walls and you'll never get them to go to bed."

"And a cup of warm milk afterwards and they'll be out like a light," she said in response before shoeing the two adults toward the door. "Now go on you two and make sure to enjoy yourselves. I'll take care of everything until you're back." She leaned in, smile beaming and whispered low, "And I wouldn't mind having a few more favorite grandkits, so don't you two worry about hurrying back in the morning either."

Judy felt the heat from her cheeks travel up her ears as she glanced at her grinning fox, seeing his tail wagging.

"Well no promises," he said to his mother before winking at Judy, "But Judy sure has brought me around to her 'try everything' philosophy."

Nick's subtle look towards her as he said that made the heat hit the tips of her ears and then burst through her whole body. Judy grabbed his tie and gave it a yank as she headed for the door and away from all the eyes that certainly didn't need to see anything more than a chaste kiss or two.

"Have fun with Grandma and don't get into too much trouble," Judy called back to Ridley and Ella before speaking to Nick. "Come on, Ellaine will take care of them and we don't want to be late for our big night."

"As my bunny wishes," Nick said before turning his head over his shoulder as she led him, calling back to his kits. "And, no hustling Grandma for extra cookies!"


A/N

Opps! it looks like its bed time for all the little kits out there, check back tomorrow for Chapter 2!

...

You can check out the full cover picture by OceRydia on Deviantart at:

ocerydia (.dot.) deviantart (.dot.) com /art/Request-Cover-the-Zootopia-Princess-Bride-679612883

...

Also A Special call out to Quirky-Middle-Child on Devaintart for his Princess Bride Comic AU!

He gets credit for the first ever Zootopia/Princess Bride Crossover for that hilarious little comic strips:

quirky-middle-child (.dot.) deviantart (.dot.) com /art/Princess-Bride-AU-647502743

quirky-middle-child (.dot.) deviantart (.dot.) com /art/Princess-Bride-AU-2-649266761

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Your honor, the defendants to this multi-copyrights violation case plead insanity. As proof, please look at the name of the group running this project.


Chapter Two – Grandma's Present

The door closed behind Nicholas as his mate led him away by the tie and Ellaine smiled, remembering how it had felt to be that young and in love again. The warm old memories always came with a dull longing ache that she knew would never go away, but she wouldn't give them up for anything in the world. And for all the pain that forever missing piece of her heart caused her, seeing their son happy and together with the love of his life, as well as seeing and spend time with her beloved grandkits filled her old aching heart with joy. John would have been ecstatic if he could see how their little family had grown and how happy Nicholas was with Judy. He would have delighted in spoiling their grandkits rotten too. She knew that he would have wanted to be here with her to watch over them and play with them and make them cookies and read them stories. She touched the simple ring that she still wore. He might be gone but she could still do all that, do it for the both of them; his memory would always be with her after all.

With a sad smile she turned back to the two kits only to burst out laughing at the anguished looks they had from watching their parents leave.

"Ugh… I'll never understand why they get so kissy like that!" Ridley said and Ella nodded. "Everyone knows girls have cooties anyway," he said and snickered as Ella stopped nodding with a quick 'Hey!'

The two fell into a squabble of 'do toos!' and 'do nots!' that warmed her heart and made her laugh again.

"Okay, you two," she said, interjecting in their heated debate that was now raging over which was worse, boy cooties or girl cooties.

"Do you want to see the present I brought for you?"

The two immediately stopped their bickering only to join forces, excitedly shouting "Yes! Yes!" and then followed it up with a flurry of questions.

"What type of cookies did you bring this time?"

"Are they chocolate chip cookies? Those are the best!"

"No the snickerdoodles are better!"

"Ohhh! we haven't had those in forever!"

Ellaine smiled at the two enthusiastic kits, but shook her head, "You two ate a whole batch of snickerdoodles just last week."

"Exactly!" Ella said, "That was forever ago!"

And there's no doubt that their John's grandkits too, She thought looking at them warmly. They both inherited his sweet tooth just like Nicholas.

"Well…" Ellaine said, grinning, "Seeing how it's been forever, maybe I can make some more tomorrow for you two," she was interrupted by squeals of joy and had to raise her voice a little to be heard, "but I actually brought you two an extra special present." She pulled the wrapped package out from behind her back and handed it over to the excited kits who immediately started tearing open the wrapping paper… only to find a book.

Ella's long ears and Ridley's wagging tail drooped as they stared at the book like it had stolen their sweets, causing Elliane to smile again. The two kits reminding her so much of Nicholas when he was young and the world had seemed to be perfect; he'd reacted to that same book in the exact same manner when John's father had brought it over to read to him as a young boy for the first time when he'd been sick.

"It's a… book," Ella finally managed to get out, valiantly trying to sound excited and failing miserably.

"That's right. When I was your age, television was called books," she said grinning at their looks of horror. "And this isn't just any book, this is very special book. It was the book your great-grand-father read to your grandpa, and that we used to read it to your father. And today, I'm gonna read it to you two."

"Does it have any sports in it?" Ridley asked hesitantly and Ella nodded in agreement as they looked at the book, the plain cover of which only had a stylized ambigram for the title and was otherwise blank.

"Are you kidding?" Elliane said passionately, "It's got fencing and fighting. Spys. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Hustles. Chases. Escapes. Food. Adventure. True Love. Miracles."

The two kits looked at each other then back at the book's plain cover rather dubiously.

"It… It doesn't sound that bad," Ella finally said quickly adding, "As long as it has fights and adventure, at least." Ridley nodded his agreement saying, "I guess we can try listening to it."

"Oh. Well, thank you very much. That's very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming." Ellaine said with a bit of an exaggerated huff, though she was holding back a grin at their skeptical wariness of the book.

"How about this," she added, "would you two like something to munch on while I read?"

"Yes!" they both answered now far more enthusiastic and she smiled, going over to the door and picking up a tray she'd left in the hallway.

The two kits scrambled around into more comfortable positions in the bed as she put the tray down between them.

"I made blueberry scones with carrot frosting for you two today," she said as they eagerly dug in with muffled sounds of pleasure.

"Now, enjoy that and try not to make a mess and I'll read you the story," Ellaine chided gently, handing them each a napkin before picking up the book and settling comfortably into a chair she pulled up to the bed.

"Now lets see here…" she said opening the book and starting to read.

"The Zootopian Bride, by S. Boargenstern. Chapter One. Butterfuff was raised on a small farm in the country of Florin, the only daughter of a small bunny family. Her favorite pastimes were roaming through the fields of wilde flowers and tormenting the farm boy that worked there. He was a fox and his name was Westfurley, but she never called him that."

Ellaine stopped for a second, grinning as she looked at her grandkits who seemed to barely be paying attention and couldn't help teasing them a bit.

"See, isn't that a wonderful start to the story?" she asked sweetly, only to receive a few murmurs of 'Yeah,' and 'It's really good' that sounded more like they were talking about the scones they were just about already finished eating than the book. She smiled, a content happy feeling in her heart as she watched their grandkits before looking back down at the page and continuing.

"Nothing gave Butterfluff as much pleasure as ordering Westfurley around."

Nicholas Westfurly was just coming out of the kitchen from the burrow after bringing in another load of firewood when Judith Butterfluff came sauntering up from the fields carrying a full basket which she flopped down in front of the fox before saying haughtily,

"Farmboy. Peel this bushel of carrots. They'd better be ready for bread and soup this evening."

The fox leaned down, picking the basket up before smirking and giving her a small nod with his head, almost like a bow and quietly saying, "As you wish."

She harrumphed, turning and snapping her long ears around as she walked away dismissively. She couldn't understand why her father had hired the young fox of all mammals. Sure their farm wasn't nearly as big as the other bunny burrows in Florin but that didn't mean they needed help, especially from a fox. And one with such an annoying smirk that he wore all the time like he knew the world better than she did. So what if he was a few years older than her, that didn't mean he knew more than her.

Judy looked back one last time before heading back to the field only to see the fox standing in the kitchen doorway holding the basket and gazing back at her, his smirk now more a soft happy smile as his long beautiful tail swooshed slowly behind him. She felt a sudden heat in her cheeks and ears she could not explain before turning and hurrying off to the fields and away from that dumb fox and his dumber smirking smile.

"As time went on," Ellaine read, leaning back comfortably in her chair, "Butterfluff seemed to always find herself around the Farm boy. She ordered him to help with her chores, had him work in the field, ordered him to do everything she could think of, but no matter what she told him to do, 'As you wish' was all he ever said to her."

It had been months and months since the fox had started working at their farm and Judy had grown more and more unsettled by his constant smirk and her inability to get him to ever say anything more than "As you wish". He was no idiot, far from it; her father had even had him help with the farm's taxes and she'd checked his work afterwards. He'd done a better job with them than she thought she probably could have, which irritated her. But no matter what she ordered him to do, all he ever said to her were those three little words accompanied by that smiling smirk...and it was driving her mad.

That fox, as she thought of him because she would not give him the dignity of using his name until she'd managed to beat him at that stupid game of his and get him to say something else, anything else, than "As you wish", was the most annoying, irritable, insufferable, smug mammal she had ever met. She knew he only ever said those three words to get under her fur, she could see the bubbling teasing laughter in those piercing green eyes but even knowing what he was up to didn't stop it from working. He was like a thorn in her hindpaw she couldn't get rid of, always making her think of him even when he wasn't around as she tried to figure out what she could order him to do to that might finally get him to say something besides 'As you wish'. He'd even managed to find a way to annoy her in her sleep, slipping into her dreams to look at her with those dancing emerald eyes and smug smile as he leaned down right to her ear and whispered those three words to her.

Judy came around the side of the barn carrying two wooden buckets looking for the stupid irritating farm boy. She spotted him at the far end by the wood pile swinging an axe, splitting logs for the fire. Stalking over she watched as he placed another log on the chopping block before swinging the axe in one smooth motion, splitting the log in half.

Judy stopped by the two pieces of split wood, unceremoniously dropping the buckets and saying, "Farm boy. Fill these with water…"

But as she looked up at him intending to give him a bit of a glare too, her eyes caught the open unlaced front of his shirt where the cream-colored fur of his ruff puffed out a bit as he breathed a little harder than normal from his effort chopping the logs. She suddenly couldn't help imagining what his fur might feel like if she ran her paw through it; it was so much longer than her shorter fur with an undercoat she could just catch glimpses of now and then that looked softer than a feather pillow and the colors… his russet and cream colored fur was so vibrant and beautiful compared to her dull gray and white and the way it covered his sleekly muscled chest...

Judy swallowed and realized she just been on the verge of staring at him. Startled, she quickly looked up only to see his smirking smile and happy eyes and before she could pull her thoughts together added one word to her order.

"… please?" she finished, feeling suddenly, unreasonably, shy.

The fur around his eyes crinkle a bit as they seemed to smile while his tail started swooshing back and forth behind him. He did nothing else, but sounding happier than she'd ever heard him, he said, "As you wish."

Judy felt something inside her give a throbbing ache and she quickly turned and rushed away breathing far harder than she should have been, one paw clutching at her pounding in her chest. She looked back once before turning the corner of the barn to only catch a glimpse of him still looking after her, a happy little smile on his muzzle as his tail continued to wag. Her heart throbbed again and she all but fled.

"That day, Butterfluff was amazed to discover that when Westfurley was saying 'As you wish,' what he had been saying all along was 'I love you.'

Ellaine paused to turn the page, smiling wistfully at the kits that so far didn't look very interested in the story, though she was remembering what that moment had been like for her. They might not really understand it now but they would one day. That first moment in a mammal's life when they started realizing that they'd somehow lost their heart to another was one that they would never forget.

Carefully placing those treasured memories safely away in that part of her heart that would always be his, Ellaine looked back down to the book from her two grandkits, the youngest members of her small family that she loved with the rest of her heart and continued reading.

"And even more amazingly was the day that she realized that she truly loved him back."


A/N

Whoops! Ran out of scones and coffee. Guess you'll just have to wait a bit for the next chapter while we go get more.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Disney's lawyer's blackmained us and said that if we got the next chapter out quickly, they wouldn't sue us. So here you go, we're safe now right? ... Wait! What?! Oh come on! Crossing your fingers behind your back so you can blackmail us again for anther chapter isn't fair! *Zanrok points at Cimar* Sue HIM! This is all his fault and he's masterminding it!


Chapter 3 – Wait! Is this a Kissy Book?

"And even more amazingly was the day that she realized that she truly loved him back," Ellaine read to Ridley and Ella, leaning back in the comfortable chair, a feeling of happiness and contentment budding in her heart at being here, watching over her grandkits.

A month. It had been a whole month since that moment she'd glanced back at Nicho- the farmboy, Judy tried correcting herself. Ever since then though, since she'd realized what he meant by those three little words, well… suspected… (hoped)…

Judy flushed and shook her head trying to prevent herself from daydreaming… again; instead she focused on the bread dough she was kneading and laid into it, using the helpless dough to vent her confused frustrated feelings. That first rush of that possible understanding of what might be behind those words had left her with a strange niggling feeling, one that only grew and grew the more she was around him. The more he smiled that happy smirk and said 'as you wish'.

Why did he have to look at me like that? Her heart beat faster as she remembered the look in his eyes, Why does he have to smile and wag his tail like just seeing me makes his day? Why does he have to keep saying those three words? Why am I falling in love with him?

The dough smashed flat under her paws as her ears shot straight up.

Oh gods, I'm in love with him. I'm actually in love with him. I've fallen in love with-

Nicholas walked through the door of the kitchen carrying an armload of firewood and she was so startled that she almost sent the bread dough flying. The farm b… Nicholas, only gave her a short glance with a happy smile that sent her already racing heart nearly pounding out of her chest before placing the wood by the fireplace and turning to grab another load.

I can't take this! I need to know, I have to know if those three words mean what I want them to mean!

Judy might have been a bunny but she was never one to shy away from a challenge. She wasn't some fair furred helpless damsel that would wait around pining after her heart's love… She paused for a second considering that… her heart's love?

Oh gods, how did I fall this hard for him?

The acceptance of that she loved the fox was still reeling through her, but she couldn't deny it any longer. And she couldn't, wouldn't, just leave things as they were. She needed to act. Do something...anything.

Judy looked around the kitchen in a half panic before seeing Nick open the door to leave for more firewood.

"Farmboy!" she called out, a bit of desperation coloring her voice and he turned, saying nothing but smiling in a way that did not help her focus. One more panicked looked around and her frantic gaze stuck on some of the dishware hanging right above her. "Would you fetch me that pitcher?" she asked nodding to the item in question and blushing just a bit.

He didn't move for a second as if her request had frozen him. Then, Nick's tail started to wag in a slow joyful manner. He looked right at her and she could see the smallest smiling smirk appear on his muzzle as he carefully, slowly moved toward her. The kitchen wasn't that big and it only took him a few seconds to reach the pitcher, but it felt like a small eternity to Judy. Her heart beat away like a galley drummer increasing the tempo to a ramming pace's crescendo that nearly stopped dead as Nick halted his advance right in front of her. His sparkling emerald eyes staring deeply into her lavender ones as if communicating a hundred thousand silent words.

He was only inches away, but he didn't move closer, didn't speak, didn't kiss her like she suddenly wished he would. Instead, after another eternally long second his paw moved up and grasped the pitcher hanging well with her reach. Moving just as carefully and never once taking his eyes off hers, he brought the pitcher down and holding it with both paws, offered it to her as if it was a priceless porcelain antique, rather than a simple clay vessel and murmured those three words in a way that made it clear what he really meant.

"As you wish."

Her heart stopped, skipped a beat and held, but unfroze at his words. She reached out with slightly shaking paws to take the pitcher from him, a small shy smile breaking across her face as their paws touched for a second before he let go.

Green eyes sparkling merrily, he turned and headed back for the door, but she called out once more before he left.

"Westfurly…" he turned and she could feel a sudden heat in her ears, "Would… would you meet me by the old oak tree out by the hill tonight? I… I want to ask you something…" she said, her voice faltering at the end as the heat traveled from her cheeks to her ears.

This time there wasn't even the faintest hint of a smirk, just a pure happy smile and he replied before shutting the door.

"As you wish."

Judy hurried through the rest of her chores that day, skipping dinner before all but running out past the fields to the hill behind the farm.

She found him sitting by the old oak tree lazily watching the sunset, though his ears flicked as she approached and he closed his eyes putting his nose into the slight breeze. He sniffed once, then twice and then a smile broke across his muzzle like the dawning sun. Nick stood up and turned to face her as she entered under the twilight shade of the leaves to stand before him.

He didn't say anything, nor did he do anything. Just looked at her like she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. It made the thumping in her chest felt like there was an elephant herd stampeding through her body, and needing to do something, she reached out and took his paw with hers.

"Westfurly… Nicholas," she started and then just blurted out everything before she lost her courage, "I need to know how you feel about me, I want you to tell me. I have to know if you feel… feel like I do about you…"

If she hadn't been watching him so intently she wouldn't have been sure if she had missed something he'd said because the pounding of her heart was so loud, but he, as usual, didn't say anything. Then he took a half step closer and shifted his paw in hers so that her smaller fingers meshed with his larger ones; his rough yet soft paw pads rested against the fine fur on her palm.

The sun was just starting to dip below the horizon and the sky was shot with pink, red and orange streaks throughout the darkening blue sky and white clouds. Yet Judy didn't see any of it. She only saw how the setting sun illuminated his russet fur and made his eyes seem to shine like the light reflecting from two pools of pure emotion.

There was the feeling of something soft curling around the back of her legs and Judy realized that it was his longer, more elegant tail, but her attention was brought back to Nicholas as his free paw took her other one; their fingers sliding together like they were two mismatched pieces of a larger whole that inexplicably, extraordinary, had been made to fit perfectly with one another.

"As you wish, Butterfluff," Nicholas said, smiling loving at her. "But I think I can show you better than I can tell you."

Moving with a cautious almost questioning hesitation he lowered his head to hers and Judy stood up on her hindpaws to-

"Hold it! Hold it" Ella cried out sounding slightly distressed, stopping Ellaine as she read, "What is this? Are you trying to hustle us like Daddy trying to get us to eat our veggies? Where's the action and adventure?"

"Ya, where's the sports?" pitched in Ridley, looking slightly uncomfortable, almost embarrassed as he looked at his grandmother with a rather dubious, accusing expression and asked, "Is this a kissing book?"

Ella meeped, her long ears snapping up, slightly more pink than usual as she pointed at the book in Ellaine's paws. "It's a kissy cooties book!" She tried to use one of the pillows on the bed to shield herself from the book's vile aura.

"Wait, just wait…" Ellaine quickly said, trying to hold back her amusement as Ridley squealed about cooties and tried to hide behind the pillow, to only to start arguing with his sister.

"Ella! That's my pillow, go get your own to hide behind!" he called out as the two tussled. Ellaine had to reach out quickly and grab the food tray before it was knocked over by the rambunctious kits.

"I had it first! And don't try to hide back here now, you've got cooties now! Ick!"

"Oh, come now you two," Ellaine said with an amused snort. "You can't get cooties from a book, especially one you're not even reading."

The tussling stopped for a second and both the fox and bunny kits doubtful faces appeared above the pillow looking at her suspiciously as she put the tray down on the night stand and took her seat again.

"That book sounds awfully kissy," Ella said her ears angled like they were trying to sense some quiet hidden trap, "Are you sure we can't get second hand cooties from it?"

Ellaine laughed at the wary expressions of her two cute kits (she'd talked to Bonnie just to make sure it was alright to call them that, but she'd been told that as their grandmother she had inherent rights to call her grandkits 'cute'). Ella though huffed indignantly at her laughter.

"You said this book had fights and chases and cool stuff, not… not kissing!" she said accusingly.

Ellaine couldn't help but chuckle some more at her spirited little granddaughter. "It does, it does, my precious little bunny. Keep your fur on and let me continue reading so we can get to your adventure," she said soothingly but Ella only puffed up at that.

"I'm not a bunny, I'm a box!" she said proudly as if daring anyone to contradict her, which Ridley immediately did.

"No, Ella. I'm a box," he said poking her button nose, "You're a funny since you look far more like a bunny than a fox."

Ella stuck out her tongue at Ridley, before saying sweetly, "Well my innocent looks just hide that I'm half predator," she said with no little amount of satisfaction, pointedly examining her extended claws that were not the normal blunt claws bunny's had. "I'm gonna take after mom and dad and use that misconception to fool all the criminals I catch when I grow up."

"I thought you said you were going to be a firefighter?" Ridley asked seeming confused now and Ella stuck out her tongue at him again.

"I might still be. I reserve the right to change my mind," she said smirking at him, looking just like Nicholas for a moment. "I'm a girl after all, I can do that."

Ridley crossed his arms and glared in a way that had Ellaine grinning because he looked just like his mother for a second when she was chastised Nicholas.

"Don't think you can try hustling me like that Ella," he said and Ellaine cut in before the comedic little scene turned into another (adorable) squabble between the two siblings.

"Well, do you to want to hear about this exciting story or should I just tuck you two into bed for the night?" she asked and Ella snapped her mouth shut on her retort, before turning to her, seeming to weigh the danger of second hand cooties verse the possibility of an exciting adventurous tale.

"When does it get good?" Ridley asked plaintively making a sour face like he'd bitten into a lemon at just remembering the book's lead up to Westfurly and Butterfluff's first kiss.

"Hang on for a second and let me read," Ellaine said, smiling as she sat back, finding her spot in the book once again and skimmed over the cootie panic inducing bit.

"… Westfurly had no money for marriage, not even enough for the local sloth priest to perform the ceremony and both he and Judy vehemently objected to that idea as well. So, he packed up his few belongings and left the farm to seek his fortune across the sea." Ellaine read, skimming her claw along the books page, as the two kits settled back to listen with skeptical expressions that had her grinning again. They were beyond cute and it warmed her heart. She wondered if they'd manage to hold onto their opposition to the 'kissy' bits for the rest of the story as she kept reading or if they'd get caught up in the tale like everyone seemingly did.

"It was a very emotional time for Butterfluff…"


A/N

"Ehwwww! Cooties!"

*Writers flee and hide*

*Sigh*, guess you all are going to have to wait for the next chapter until we can get some more cootie shots.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Do you have any idea how seriously sick coodies can make you? NO!? Well just hope you never contract a case of cooties then! They're the reason why we missed all those update meetings with Disney's lawyers. And now those mean lawyers are saying if we don't hurry and cough up backlogged chapters from when we were waiting for the cootie shots to arrive then they will sue us for copyright infringement of Disney's zootopia characters!

...

And if anyone else needs cootie shots after the last page, here's where we got ours: thewinterbunny DOT deviantart DOT com /art/The-Princess-Bride-As-You-Wish-Part-1-695032064 (meh, this is FanFiction DOT net, so you'll either have to recreate the URL or simply use google to find it :P )

OPPS!

This is Ao3, so here's a free cootie shot for you courtesy of The Winter Bunny!

The Winter Bunny's DeviantArt Page! *Ehem* I mean Free Cootie Shots Page! HERE!

Oh and don't believe that nonsense about things like antivenoms shots being made from the actual snake venom because that's obviously not true. It's not like our talented doctor The Winter Bunny just took that kissy page from the book and used that to make our cootie shots. That would be ridiculous! (Seriously, go get your cootie shot by checking her page out or you will get terribly sick from cooties!)


Chapter 4 – Pirates

Ellaine smiled at the exasperated looks on Ridley and Ella's faces as she skimmed through the scene about Westfurly and Butterfluff's emotional departure, but they held back from commenting… mostly. Smirking, she continued to read, looking forward to their reactions as the story progressed.

The past few months had been the best Judy ever had; she could not remember a time in her life before in which she'd been so happy. For the first month they'd didn't do anything different while around the farm or the rest of her family. It had been a hidden romance full of glances and stolen looks with subtle touches, and that ever present 'As you wish' to her every request. As they worked together around the farm, their paws would linger just a bit longer while they passed one tool or another back and forth, the tips of their fingers touching each other. Or Judy would walk by the farmboy just a bit too close, her hip accidently bumping his or he would pass close to her and his tail would faintly brush and run against her leg. And nearly every chance they had they would sneak off together.

Judy would take him to all her favorite parts around the farm, the old trails through the hills, the hidden meadow to the north or the glen where the wildflowers bloomed and Nick would tell her of the city he had grown up in. They would talk about their dreams for the future and if the fur around their lips was a little ruffled when they returned, well there wasn't anything too odd about that as they'd only been out to collect some of the wild blueberries that grew around the farm and who could blame them for eating a few as they worked?

By the second month, Judy's mother and siblings were giving them knowing looks but Judy was too happy to care if their secret really wasn't so much of a secret anymore. And if they weren't as careful to smooth out their fur or their clothes when they returned, well… she really didn't care about that either. What she cared about was that they got to spend their days together, and then in the evenings and late at night they would sneak out together to go watch the stars under the farms great oak tree before sneaking back to their rooms… or at least one of their rooms.

By the third month, they'd already planned out their future together and made promises to each other. Nick went to talk to her parents, though Judy had already spoken to her mother just so she could soften up her overprotective father before Nick spoke to him. After that, the only problem they faced was that they didn't have enough money to start their own life, so they came up with a plan. Working as a farmhand wasn't a very profitable job but Nick had saved up all the money he'd made and with it bought the best of the farms famous blueberry wine her father made. He would take that and travel across the sea to Guilder where the common country blueberry wine was a rarity and sell it, making enough that he and Judy could start their life together. Judy thought that it was a good plan, but watching Nick pack to leave on his journey torn at her heart.

Finally though, everything had been packed and they ran out of excuses to delay Nick's departure.

Judy walked with Nick toward the old stone fence with the gate marking the edge of the farm. Her paw was nearly white knuckled as she held onto his, refusing to let go as they stopped at the edge of the property.

Nick turned, taking her other paw just like they had under the oak tree the night of their first kiss. He gave her a sad smile and opened his mouth, but before he could speak Judy was hugging him tightly, burying her nose into his ruff and neck as she stood on her toes, shutting her eyes hard to hold back her tears.

Nick's arms wrapped around her and she felt his muzzle press comfortingly against her head and ears.

"Nick…" Judy said, sniffling just a bit, "I'm afraid I'll never see you again."

Nick's hold on her tightened and he whispered back, his voice filled with determination. "Of course you will."

Judy squeezed him back as all her fears seemed to rise up at once; she held onto him like she never wanted to let him go. She might have squeezed just a bit too hard because Nick made a few gasping sounds and she wasn't sure if he was fooling around or not.

"Sorry!" she said quickly, loosening her grip only to hear Nick's tail starting to wag and look up to see him smirking happily down at her.

That smile felt like a warm beam of sunlight that promised that everything would be alright but despite its presence, some of her worries persisted. She tried to smile back but only half succeeded. Then, wiping a tear away she asked, "But what if something happens to you? What if-"

But Nick cut her off.

"Judy," he said his voice low and loving, "Understand this. I will always come for you. No matter what happens I will always come back to you."

"But how can you be sure?" Judy asked, her grip on him tightening as her eyes watered and threatened to spill over despite her best efforts to stop them. But just as a tear began to roll down her cheek Nick reached up and wiped it away.

"Such an emotional bunny," he said teasingly, though she could feel his arm and tail wrapping about her protectively. "I know, because I'm a fox and you're my bunny." He said leaning down to rub her cheek with his, before doing the same to her other cheek and then between her ears, leaving behind a strong scent mark.

"I know because this is True love," he whispered into her ear when he'd finished before pulling back just enough to look her in her eyes with his piercing emerald green ones. "Do you think this happens every day?" he asked with an ironic smirk, as he glanced between them. "A fox and a bunny falling in love?" His paw moved up to rest lightly on her cheek as he continued. "I love you Judy. I love you more than anything in the world and I will always come for you. True love will always find a way; That's how I know."

Then leaning forward again he kissed her nose which had started to twitch in time with her thrumming heart beat, and smiled as it stilled. Another tear rolled down Judy's cheek, though this time it wasn't out of fear and worry. Judy reached up and pulled his head down, rubbing her chin across his muzzle and over his ears, trying to drive her scent in deep enough so that it would never leave.

"I love you too," Judy said pulling back, her cheeks wet as she placed her smaller nose against his. "I always will." she said and then kissed him.

Ellaine flipped a page in the book, smiling at her grand kits who looked about as thrilled with the story as they were about going to the dentist. Looking back down at the page she continued.

"Westfurly didn't reach his destination. His ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never left captives alive. When Butterfluff got the news that Westfurly had been murdered-"

"Oh, thank Serendipity," Ella muttered loudly in relief. "I thought the kissing was never going to end!"

Ridley nodded along with his sister, adding, "Ya, at least murdered by pirates is exciting."

It took a bit of effort but Ellaine managed to turn her amused laugh into a cough and, smiling knowingly kept reading.

"She went into her room and shut the door. And for days, she neither slept nor ate…"

Judy didn't know how long it had been since she had heard the news of the attack on Nick's ship, but the pain from the hole in her heart seemed to only grow rather than lessen. She could still smell his mark on her but with every passing day it faded ever so slightly, like a constant reminder that he was never going to be coming back to her.

She knew that she couldn't hide away from the world forever, knew that she had to do something, anything, or her grief would consume her. But all she could seem to think about was Nick… her lost Nick… and why she'd never see him again...

And why did those pirates have to attack that ship? Why did some criminals have to steal her love away from her? Why did the king's guards never seem to be able to catch them all? How many others like her were there out there, alone, because some criminal had taken the ones they loved away from them?

And it was then that she knew what she was going to do. It wouldn't fix the hole in her heart as nothing could do that, but it might be just enough of a reason for her to go on living.

"I will never love again," Judy vowed to herself, standing and going to pack her bag to leave the farm. There was no point in staying around anymore, not now that she had made up her mind.

"Nick is gone, but I'll do my best to make sure no one else has to ever feel this pain too..." she said, a final tear for Nicholas dropping before she hardened her heart, set on her path.

No one should ever have to feel the pain she had to live with every day, and she was going to do something about it. If there were too many criminals for the King to deal with then she would just have to do something about it herself.

"Now that's more like it!" Ella said excitedly as her grandmother finished the chapter, seeming much more interested in the book now. "I love the dark hero comics!" The little bunny kit turned to Ellaine asking eagerly, "Is she going to be like the dark knight or Zorro and go kick tons of criminals butts?"

Ridley snorted disdainfully, playfully shoving his sister.

"Ella this is a story in medieval times, she's going to be more like Robin Hood… and anyway, everybody loves The Masked Fox but when it comes to main universe DC Comics, Superbunny is so much better than the Nightfox."

There was a shocked indrawn breath from Ella as she stared at Ridley with wide eyes before finally spluttering, "IS NOT!"

"Is too!" Ridley replied, before saying like it should be obvious. "Superbunny can beat the Nightfox ten ways till Sunday without even break a sweat."

"Well Superbunny sure didn't seem to be having an easy time in Superbunny vs the Dark Knight," She replied indignity, only for Ridley to scoff.

"Ya and he only needed to rip off Marvel's Ironwolf suit to be able to do it."

Ella's ears went back and their grandmother, seeing the signs of an impending no holds bar, 'best hero' argument coming, decided she better intervene before they really got into it.

"Ehem," she cleared her throat, then once she had their attention, raised the book she was holding and gave them a questioning look. "Would you like to hear about this story's heroes?"

They both gave her chagrined looks and she smiled before added teasingly, "Because we haven't even gotten to the good part yet."

They both nodded and Ellaine settled back in her seat and began to read again, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth as one paw idly played with the small locket she always wore. She knew from experience how losing your true love could hurt. It did leave a hole that would never go away since part of your heart would always be missing, but she had something better than revenge or some cause to patch that wound. Ellaine's finger rubbed the locket that now held a picture of her new family portrait alongside the old one with her husband as she looked lovingly at her grandkits and continued to read.

"A few years later,"


A/N

Pirates Eh? *Grin* See they never got their cootie shots and that's why they're so grump and 'Argh! Let's Kill'em and take their booty!'

Well too bad Nick couldn't hustle his way out from those pirates but I guess we'll just have to see how this story turns out with our one remaining hero, because dark heroes are sooo much cooler!

...

(If this is one of those lawyers, check back Friday for your payment.

If this is one of those Conspiracy nuts or pirate shippers, same deal check back Friday,

You can't wait till Friday? Well, go read The 'What If? Collaboration' on Cimar's page until then!)

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: AHHH! Okay, Okay! Heres the next chapter, just stop threatening to sue! We already said we own Zootopia. I mean don't own Zootopia! Don't!


Chapter 5 - A Few Years Later...

"A few years later, the main square of Florin City was filled as never before to hear the announcement of the great Prince Humperdinck's bride-to be."

Prince Humperdink checked his mane again making sure that it was perfect, to which Countess Dawn Rugen of the Bellwether barony rolled her eyes.

"Leodore, that is the tenth time you've checked your mane. As I've told you before there is nothing wrong with it… not that those lowborn commoners could tell even if there was," she said, though after working so long as the prince's head advisor she knew that it was probably pointless to point out the pointedly obvious point. The prince was infatuated with his appearance and took ten times the amount of time caring for his mane than she did for her wool poof-do.

Prince Humperdink scoffed and made some minute and doubtlessly pointless adjustment before replying.

"Rugen, commoners are simple mammals, all I need to do is look good and they'll cheer all day for me. Anyway I'm prince Leadore the Lionhearted, they wouldn't call me that if it wasn't for my mane," he said pompously, finally turning away from the full body length mirror two antelope servants had been holding, giving his mane a practiced shake that he thought looked dashing but really was just pretentiously arrogant. Not that Dawn cared how it looked. He could dress like a peacock and dance like a chicken but so long as she remained in her position of power as his head advisor it didn't matter what idiotic foibles the spoiled prince had.

"Right, Leadore," Dawn started resisting the urge to roll her eyes again only for the prince to interrupt her.

"Leadore the Lionhearted," the prince corrected automatically in an over confidently smug manner.

"Right… your highness, Leadore Humperdink the Lionhearted," Dawn corrected herself, though any sarcasm in her tone went right over the prince's head. Someday she might let it slip what most of the commoners actually called him, just to see the expression on his face, but they had too much to do today, "We need to get this ceremony started, the king and queen have arrived." She gestured to his adoptive parents as old King and Queen Otterton made their slow doddering way, paw in paw, to the edge of the balcony overlooking the square… to an eruption of cheers from below.

The prince huffed petulantly at the ruckus cheers to the almost senile old king and queen as they gave a short wave to the crowd and then the king with a short cackle snuck a kiss from the queen… to even more cheers from the crowd.

"You see that?!" Leodore said in a low irritated whisper to Dawn. "They just totter around and the people love them! I should get twice the cheers just because of my magnificent mane, not half of what they do!"

"And that, your highness, is exactly what you are fixing today," Dawn whispered back soothingly, "Remember what this whole ceremony is about? All you need to do is pander a bit to the crowd and they'll cheer for you like they do for your parents. You did come up with this plan after all," she added cajolingly, trying to steer the prince back to what he needed to do. That last part had even been almost true, though she'd helped him refine it after all. Under all that pompous spoiledness, the prince actually had a fairly cunning mind… when he bothered to use it.

"Right, you are Rugen," the prince said, and after a final adjustment to his clothes and mane walked to the center of the balcony stage overlooking the crowd.

"My people…" Prince Humperdink said in a booming voice only sounding mildly arrogant, as the crowd hushed. "A month from now, our country will have its 500th anniversary. And on that sundown, I shall marry and take my place as King so that the old king and queen can rest from that strenuous task. And to help me with this burden I shall marry a lady of strength and bearing and unwavering devotion to the justice and the people. A lady that you all respect, and a lady that was once a commoner like yourselves…" The prince paused nearly preening in the attention of the crowd before continuing grandiosely. "But perhaps you will not find her common now. Would you like to meet her?"

There was a resounding, "Yes!" from the crowd like that of summer thunder and Leodore raised his paw gesturing behind them to an archway in the courtyard.

"My People, I give you your new Princess!" he said grandiosely as all of the mammals turned to see the small figure stately walking out along a carpet set before the arch and there was a sudden silence as every mammal, as if on cue, held their breath.

As the figure entered, the light shining down into the courtyard glittered off the elegant white robe and gold tiara that seemed to only highlight the soft gray fur of the small mammal. Then like a wave washing through the crowd, those closed kneeled, followed by those behind them and those behind those until every mammal in the courtyard was kneeling in respect to the beautiful little bunny before them.

"The Princess...Butterfluff!" the lion finished flamboyantly and for the first time since Leodore had met her, Butterfluff's stern heartless expression broke and she smiled. It was only the barest smile, a broken smile, a smile scarred by loss, but a smile that still showed a caring appreciation to the mammals before her as well.

"I must say Leodore," Dawn said from his side looking over the scene before them. "That considering how the common folk revere her, that choosing her as your bride was quite the smart move." Dawn shook her head, "And to think she could have gained such renown and respect so quickly from saving a few mammals, catching some criminals, and 'trying to make the world a better place'."

"Buttercup's emptiness consumed her. Although the law of the land gave Humperdinck the right to choose his bride, she did not love him." Ellaine read and flipped the page, "Despite Humperdinck's reassurance that she would grow to love him, the only joy she found was in her daily excursions to rid the kingdom of criminals and evildoers."

"Wait!" Ridley said with confused indignation. "He gets to tell her to marry him?!"

"Duhhh," Ella said with an eyeroll. "It's a medieval times story, they did all sorts of stupid stuff like that back then."

Ridley huffed crossing his arms. "Well yaaa, but she's supposed to be the hero; I would have thought Butterfluff would have kicked his butt ten ways to Tundratown if he tried to make her marry him!" The little fox jumped up on the bed and made some mock fighting punches and kicks like he was taking on the prince, "-taken his tail and tied him up with it before sending him home crying!"

"Sure she would have," Ella said with another eye roll and a dismissive ear flick that flopped her long ear over her shoulder. "If she'd cared. I'm sure if he'd tried to force her to against her will she would have bitten off his face, but he's the kingdom's prince so if now all she cared about was fighting crime then why not? Think of all the resources being princess would give her to do that."

Well, Ellaine thought to herself, I can sure see Finnick's influence from babysitting. She wasn't sure if that was amusing or worrying, but had to chuckle. Granted, seeing the way those two have influence him, it's probably worth it. Seeing a streethard hustler try to keep up his tough guy act around the kids, even as he acts like a doting uncle is adorable. Ellaine shrugged, Well, their language hasn't gotten too colorful and with Judy and Nicholas to teach them when it's appropriate to fight, it should be alright… I might want to go with them the next time he takes them to the park just to make sure that he's only teaching them to use a bat to hit baseballs though.

She gave a small snort at the thought and smiled, despite his gruff exterior and rough manners the small fennec fox had a good heart; and anyway it wouldn't hurt Finnick if she mothered him a bit too, with the way Ridley and Ella were growing, mammals already thought Finnick was their little brother.

"Okay you two," Ellaine said. "Settle down if you want me to continue, I think the story will explain it all and it's just about to get good."

The two kits stopped their tumbling around on the bed almost as fast as they'd started it and sat attentively like two perfect students that had absolutely not been tussling around a moment before.

Ellaine grinned and looked back down at the book.

"After the ceremony, Butterfluff headed back out, her mood brighter than it had been in years after seeing the crowd's appreciation. It wasn't why she'd devoted herself to fighting crime but the fact that the mammals of the kingdom were happier for her efforts was something at least, and anyway she'd heard a rumor from the prince about pirates near the kingdom's coast…"

It was late in the afternoon and Judy was running along the deserted road at a brisk pace determined to make it to the coastal port town before dusk so that she could talk to the sheriff and whatever naval captains were in dock. Everyone knew that pirates preferred to skulk around during the dark hours of night where they could hide their heinous murderous actions and when better to set a trap for someone than where they felt most comfortable.

Judy's hind paw came down on a rock in the road and she stumbled for a second in her dress, before starting to recover, and then stumbling again on her fancier than normal clothes.

"Carrots stick!" she cursed regaining her balance. "And finding something I can actually fight in is going to be the second thing I do once getting to the town," she muttered, her ears angling back in annoyance.

She hadn't cared much for the idea of marrying Prince Humperdink when he'd summoned her to the castle and made his intentions clear, (in fact, at first she'd laughed outright at it. His whole extravagant speech in the throne room when meeting her, about how the tales of her bravery and heroics had captured his heart had been… well not cute, bunnies had a different idea of what that word meant, but it had been complementing, if also childish and ridiculous. Seriously, how could you have 'fallen in love' with someone you'd never seen or even spoken with before?) But Prince Humperdink and his advisor had made a compelling argument about how it would help the kingdom and had even been surprisingly accommodating about her intention to continue in her crusade to rid the kingdom of crime.

"Off course not!" The prince had said dramatically, an overdone look of horror on his face, "Did you expect me to be so callous as to try and cage such a majestically intrepid force of good as you, my love?! To expect such a valiant mammal as yourself to spend all day draped across my arm or waiting for me in my chambers?" In fact, that's exactly what she had expected. The prince did have quite a reputation around the kingdom after all, but maybe she'd been wrong though. She'd certainly been wrong about Nick…

Judy's mind froze up at the memories, just like she had back in the throne room, and she almost stumbled again as her eyes started to water. But she gathered up those feelings and thoughts and shoved them back down far away inside of herself and resolutely refocused on her task in life. She had made a promise to herself, a promise to Nicholas' memory, and she would not let her grief for her only love consume her.

Her hindpaw caught on the hem of her dress again and Judy let out another curse. What had the prince said before? "But surely you don't intend to go out dressed in such simple garb when you are now a princess?! Most noble clothing is rather stuffy and useless but style doesn't have to preclude function, why just look at me!" the prince had preened, seeming to practically strut as he flipped his mane and waved at himself. "You simply have to know the right tailors my love, and I certainly know the best!"

Judy rolled her eyes at the memory, having to concentrate to not let the overly fancy cloths hinder her.

"Clothes fit for a royal ball or for bagging criminals my fluffy tail," she muttered in annoyance. "Just goes to show what the prince really knows about actual fighting." She didn't know how anyone was supposed to move easily in this stiff fancy clothing.

But after a few more minutes of grumbling she eventually sighed. He had meant well, she was sure, and the clothes were beautiful, but it just went to show that the princes' cushy pampered upbringing had apparently left him lacking a bit when it came to any sort of hard work. Judy glanced down at the stunning red fabric of the 'outdoors' dress (which was anything but) and for a moment couldn't help wishing with all her heart that she could have worn something like this for Nick to see…

"My lady!" The pleading voice jarred Judy out of her thoughts and she skidded to a stop, barely managing not to fall flat on her face do to the stupid dress. "A word, my lady?"

Judy looked over to the side of the road and saw… she blinked, the small group was the oddest collection of mammals she'd ever seen. There was a rather shifty looking weasel, a hare with the oddest striped fur that looked like the very stereotype of a spaniard conquistador, and a fox. Judy blinked making sure she was seeing that part right… and yep it was a fennec fox, just the largest damned fennec fox she'd ever seen and with a pitying thought, she saw all the signs of gigantism in the poor mammal dressed like a circus strongman that was still only slightly taller than the hare... if you included the ears.

"We are but poor, lost circus performers, my lady," said the overdressed weasel in humperdink-ishly flamboyant clothing, gesturing to himself and then to the two next to him who stood posed as if to garner attention. "Would you perhaps know if there is there a village nearby?"

"There is nothing nearby," Judy said, wondering how she might help them. Maybe she should direct them toward the castle? She was sure that they might find some work there. "Not for miles, but if-"

She was cut off as the road weary downtrodden look of the weasel shifted to that of a sly sneer befitting his crooked whiskers and he cut her off.

"Perfect. Then there will be no one to hear you scream. Fezzik! Inigo! Get her!" the weasel shouted, pulling a dagger from his belt and waving it at Butterfluff.

The oversized fennec fox grumbled something in an annoyed deep voice and started forward when the hare put a paw on his shoulder.

"Fezzik my friend, let me handle this," he said with a spaniards lilting draw, before turning to her and almost courteously saying, "Senorita, it would pain me to have to draw my sword against a lady like yourself so if you would be so kind as to not fight and simply come along there will be no need to hurt you- OOffftt!" he went flying backwards as Judy's foot connected with his face, and she used it to flip before driving both her hindpaws into the fox's gut. There was a satisfying deep grunt as she flipped again and landed in front of the shocked looking weasel, before easily disarming his clumsy hold on the knife. With a quick flip of her wrist to the side, Judy sent the blade spinning, only for it to landed right between the hare's legs just as started to sit up.

There was a rather distressed squeak from the hare as his eyes widened looking at the knife, quivering point first in the dirt, a bare inch below his pants, while the weasel muttered a rather shocked, "Inconceivable!"

"Now, if you all would be so kind as to not fight and simply come along to the jailhouse, there will be no need to hurt you," Judy repeated sarcastically, before giving the weasel a disapproving look. "And to think that I thought you were honest performers when all you are hustlers offering a second rate play of the three billy goats gruff, why you didn't even try this at a bridge." Judy said with a sad shake of her head.

"Second rates?! Second Rates?! I'm no second rate!" the weasel shouted, seeming more upset over her comments than by her foiling their plans. "HA! You were completely fooled by my plot! Second Rate? HA! Macbeth and Hamlet were second rates! My little performance was the genuine article! Why I'm so genuine that not even the king of Sicily thought twice when I walked into his court claiming to be Duke Weaselton and sold him a fake crown! There isn't even a Duke Weaselton! HA! And, you, think you can defeat me as simply as this?! Well think again dumb bunny because this has all been an act! HA! Why I'm just-"

"You're just trying to stall me while your strongman sneaks up behind me?" Judy said, one ear swiveling around to follow the noises of the large fennec fox plodding up behind her. Judy took one more moment to watch the weasel's whiskers tick as his jaw dropped and he muttered another, "Inconceivable!" before twisting around to deliver another blow to the rather sturdy, if not so small, smallish fox. Except that as she turned her hindpaw caught on the hem of her dress and her foot slid out from under her.

She gave a startled cry of surprise but before she could recover, felt a paw grab the back of her neck and everything started to fade to darkness as it clapped down with surprising force on a pressure point.

...

Ellaine glanced up and smiled seeing her two grand kits now sitting right on the edge of the bed in rapt attention.

"NO!" Ella said, wide eyed. "But! But! But, Butterfluff can't be defeated like that! She was totally kicking their butts!"

Ellaine shrugged. "Being good doesn't guarantee you'll win," her smile slipped a bit as she thought over her experiences in life, and a bit of sadness slipped into her voice as she continued. "Everyone gets unlucky now and again and sometimes despite the best we try, things just don't go our way."

"But that's why you get up and try again!" Ridley said with resounding determination. Ellaine looked up at the little fox kit, who looked so much like Nicholas as well as her late husband. His expression was so reminiscent of the way John Wilde had adamantly believed in hope, believed that they could always succeed in the end by simply continuing to try even when everything seemed to be against them. The world would knock him down but he'd just get right back up, brush off the dust and smile kindly before trying again. Nick had been like that as a young kit too, had always been optimistic and happy willing to try when others wouldn't; had been until his father passed away and the realities of life had hammered him down. But Ridley didn't just look like Nicholas and his father, he also had traces of Judy in his looks and attitude, traces of the determination and belief that had brought her son back to who he'd been.

Then in a manner only little kits could manage, Ridley shifted from a look of utter determination to unabashed childish gleefulness and anticipation.

"So what happens? How does she escape? Does Butterfluff wake up and catch them all unaware or does she hustle them?" He said rapid fire, his tail wagging furiously behind him. He looked just about ready to jump off the bed and bury his muzzle in the book to figure out the rest if she didn't start reading again.

"RIDLEY!" screeched Ella trying to bat away her brothers tail as it started whacking her. "STOP THAT!"

Ellaine laughed, then stood up quickly and hugged both kits tight. She gave them an extra squeeze and quick nuzzle on their heads before retaking her seat.

"What was that for?" Ella said a bit confused and looked at Ridley who seemed just as mystified by her sudden hug.

"Grandmothers are allowed to hug their grandkits whenever they want," Ellaine said with a smile and then winked at them. "It's why we bake treats for you all, you know."

Ella's mouth dropped.

"Wait! You mean you're hustling us for hugs with cookies?"

Ellaine gave the two dumbfounded kits her best inscrutable kindly grandmother smile and picked up the book.

"Did I hear someone ask what happens next?" and then she ran her claw along the page till she found her spot and started reading.

"Elsewhere in the kingdom of Florin near the coast…"

"You sure you want this boat?" the shipwright, a female arctic fox asked dubiously.

"Well, it's one of your boats isn't it? It's not going to fall apart on me is it?" the red fox asked before looking at the boat suspiciously and tapping it with a foot like he now expected the whole thing to suddenly sink.

"Of course it's not!" the sandy white vixen snapped in an angry huff. "I'm the best shipwright and naval mechanic you'll find this side of the sea from Gildor!"

"Then what's the problem with me buying it?" he asked with a smug grin and she narrowed her eyes at him, crossing her arms. She'd known this fox now for a couple of years since his ship always came to her for work, she was after all the best shipwright around, and he was a sly silver tongued roguish bastard that always was working an angle. She just had no idea what it was this time. Maybe he was fleeing from some girl he'd inadvertently flattered with his too quick tongue and charming smile, then angered when he'd flatly shot them down? It sure wouldn't be the first time from what she'd heard. Half the eligible ladies in the town seemed to have tried, and failed, to pin that fox down, and some hadn't taken to kindly to being so blatantly rebuffed.

But then again, there had been all sorts of rumors going around Florin's... less than respectable circles, lately, and anyone that kept an ear to the ground knew something was brewing. She huffed, looking at the inscrutable fox; she'd bet everything she owned that he was probably going to be right in the middle of whatever trouble was building in the kingdom.

"Isn't this boat a little… small... for your crew?" she asked cautiously, probing him to see if she could figure out what he was up to.

"My crew?" the red fox said with dramatic wide eyed confusion as he pulled out a black mask that covered the fur around his eyes and secured it with a long black cloth he wrapped around his head in a very piratical fashion. "I think you have me confused with someone else." He smirked and tossed her a small pouch that clinked heavily as he stepped onto the small fishing boat tied to the dock. In one smooth flourish he drew his rapier and slashed the mooring lines, then pushed the boats prowl away from the dock with his foot, giving her a jaunty salute with the sword as he hung on by a mast line.

"Thank you very much Shipmaster Skye, but I must be going now!"

"Hey!" Don't you go cutting up my ropes!" She shouted at the too smug fox, picking up a belaying pin from another boat and pitching it at him. "You have to pay for those!"

The fox ducked the pin, which hit the mast and clattered off the mainstay line, releasing it and dropping the ship's mainsail which caught the wind. The masked fox laughed and flipped her a gold coin before he ducked under the boom as it swung across the deck, carried by the wind, only to come up on the other side holding onto the ship's wheel.

"I do know how to set a sail you know! But thank you for the help as I am in a bit of a hurry!" he called back giving her a little bow before turning around, his tail swishing as he sent the wheel spinning and the boat rolling, now knifing close hauled into the wind. "Life, love, and sea wait for no one!" he called back cheekily.

Skye only shook her head and muttered. "Gods above help whoever that fox falls in love with," as she watched the boat disappear into the late afternoon's sun settling toward the horizon.


A/N

*Grin* and for all of you complaining about 'cliffhangers' right about now, Well... you ain't seen nothing yet!

You want cliffhangers, we'll give you Cliffhangers! Cliffhangers so epic you'll go insane!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Well, now isn't this a pickle? We spent all our effort protecting ourselves from Disney since we don't own Zootopia and forgot that we don't own the The Princess Bride either (*sigh* if only, if only…)


Chapter 6 - A Dark and Scary Night

"But what about Butterfluff?" Ridley asked with impatient worry as Ellaine flipped another page, and Ella's long ears perked up as if their grandmother might give away some spoiler to the story.

"Well… I could tell you…" Ellaine started saying contemplatively before flashing them a sweet grandmotherly smile. "But that would be cheating. I think it's best if I just keep reading."

There were two groans from the kits as they sat, impatient to the point of fidgeting as she adjusted her position in the chair and began to read,

"By the time Butterfluff started coming to, it was already dusk…"

Everything seemed dim and hazy as Judy's awareness started returning. It took her a few moments to realize that she must have been out for at least a few hours because the afternoon light had turned to that of evening dusk. She tried to move but found her paws tied behind her back, then tried to speak only to find that she'd been gagged.

Her view of the world seemed to sway suddenly as the ground shifted, wooden planks appearing below her as she caught sounds of water splashing. Judy concluded that she was being taken aboard a ship. A ship would make these kidnappers were…

Pirates

Carrot-be-picked  Pirates!

The word shot through her mind bringing with it an old white hot rage and she began struggling furiously. She'd never forgive any pirate, not after what they had taken from her, and someday she'd track down that hateful Dread Pirate Roberts and see him face justice for what he'd done by taking her one true love away from her forever.

But it did not seem that day would be today. Her struggling only accomplished getting her picked up off the oversized fennec fox's shoulder and roughly dropped into an out of the way corner of the boat.

Judy fumed for a few moments at the seeming indifference the pirate bandits were showing her before she settled her emotions and startled looking around for something, anything, she could use to escape.

She watched for a few moments as the Spaniard and the strongman started going about the boat preparing to pull away from the small dock while the weasel fiddled with something along the shore.

Well if they thought she was helpless and just ignored her… she could use that to her advantage. Judy scooted back into the corner of the boat where she'd been tossed and started slowly and quietly to work at her bonds.

"Fezzik!" shouted the weasel's irritable voice from the shore, "I thought I told you to bring me a piece of her dress!"

"You said we needed to get the boat ready before you said anything about the dress," Grumbled the fox in a low slow mumble as he turned toward Judy and she stopped working at her bonds.

"Yes… but I need the dress now and the boat after!" the weasel said rolling his eyes as if explaining to a simpleton.

The fox muttered something low under his breath about 'stuff him in a dress', before reaching Judy and with another slightly louder murmur of, "Sorry for the mess", ripped part of the hem of the beautiful red fabric off.

There was a snicker from the Hare as he passed the fox and patted him on the shoulder and whispering, "I think Vizzini's in a bit of a hurry, I guess," right before there was a shout from the weasel again.

"Hurry up you slow gelatinous tub of lard! We don't have all day!"

"Guess he's wants a quick… egress," the fox whispered back to the hare behind a paw before moving back down the ship's gangway to where the weasel seemed to be cutting up some piece of clothing.

"What's that?" The fox asked as he handed over the ripped cloth.

"It's fabric from the uniform of an Army officer of Guilder." The weasel said imperiously, holding up a patch he'd cut off the uniform.

"Whos' that?" the fox asked perplexed and the weasel gave him a withering look.

"Guildor?! Guilder is the country across the sea you oversized twit! The sworn enemy of Florin!"

"No, I mean who's uniform is that? Which officer did you take that from?" the fox asked with an eyeroll.

"Don't you go rolling your eyes at me you ingrate and it doesn't matter whose it is! Once the princess fails to arrive at the port, the prince will have his guards sniff out her trail. When they arrive here and find the fabric and the patch he'll suspect that the Guilderian's have abducted his love. And then when her body is found dead on the Guilder frontier, all his suspicions about the peace treaty the Guilderian's have been asking for will be proven completely true!" The weasel said with flourish at his apparently brilliant logic before wedging the pieces of fabric into a cracked side of one of the mooring posts of the dock.

"Wait, you never said anything about killing anyone in this hustle." The fox said sounding, if anything hurt. "I thought you just needed a bit of muscle to knock some heads around."

"I've hired you to help me start a war!" The weasel said straightening up pompously. "Duke Weaselton would describe it as a noble and prestigious line of work with a long and glorious history." He tried curling the end of one of his crooked whiskers in what was probably supposed to be a refined and dignified way… and totally failed to be, then added, "And anyway, I was offered what I couldn't refuse… Money. Lots and lots of money."

"I just don't think it's right." Mumbled the fox discontentedly in his deep voice. "Killing an innocent girl and all."

The weasel's attempt to look refined disappeared and her turned back on the bigger fox.

"Am I going mad or did the words 'think' just escape your lips?!" he jabbed the fox in his chest, "You were not hired for your brains you hippopotamic land mass!"

"I agree with Fezzik," The Spaniard hare at the prow of the boat said, taking a second away from his work with the lines and looked over at the two and added. "Plus Fezzik is a fox not a hippo, I don't think you can call him 'hippopotamic' even as big as he is."

The furious weasel with his finger still pressed into the surprised foxes chest blinked, and then his face turned beat red as he glared at the hare.

"Oh. So the sot has spoken has he? You two couldn't even spell hippopotamic!"

"H. I. P-" Fezzick started saying, counting each letter off on his fingers, before the weasel flew into a rage and cut him off.

"Shut up! What happens to her is nothing of your concern! You're paid to do your jobs and I'll be the one to kill her since you two imbeciles won't. And remember this!" he said marching up the planks and over to the hare, jabbing a finger at him too, "When I found you, you were so slobbering drunk you couldn't even buy brandy and were waving a carrot around thinking it was your sword!" the weasel turned back around the giant fennec fox, "And you! Friendless, Brainless, Helpless, Hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were, unemployed in Greenland! Trying to hustle popsicles!"

The weasel glared at him for a few more seconds before he turned and stormed over to the edge of the boat, undoing the mooring lines and pushing them away from the dock.

The hare finished unfurling the sails and came over to the fox and patted him on the shoulder.

"They weren't popsicles, they were pawpsicles," the fox mumbled.

"And good pawpsicles too," the hare added, then shrugged. "Though maybe Greenland wasn't the best place to try and sell them."

"-and what dumbass named an entire island covered in ice, Greenland…" the fox muttered darkly.

The hare shrugged again looking over at the weasel who'd stomped over to the small boats wheel like he was some grand fleet admiral.

"Probably someone with no sense of fun," he emphasized the last word.

The fox snorted and replied, "Ya... someone who can't understand a pun."

"And to think for someone so smart, he can't even rhyme a single part," the hare said grinning

"For someone so brainless, I sure find it far less painless." The fox returned a bit louder and there was an irritated shout from the weasel.

"Enough of that idiocy! Do I have to do all the work around here?!"

The hare turned around and saluted before running up to the prowl of the boat and hanging off a line to look out forward.

"Hey, Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?" He called back jauntily, making an over obvious attempt to look around for any.

"If there are, we'll all be dead!" The fox called back smirking out of sight of the weasel as his crooked whiskers twitched in irritation.

"Stop that! No more rhymes, I mean it!"

The fox finished tying off a line and pulled a bag out of his pocket offering it to the hare.

"Hey Inigo, you want a peanut?"

Even Judy had a hard time trying not to smile as the weasel let out a frustrated scream.

For the next couple of hours Judy sat quietly in the corner of the boat like a good little frightened captive as the hare and the fox traded rhymes and the weasel seemed to almost literally smolder with annoyance. They had to be the oddest group of pirates she had ever encountered (though that wasn't many) and she reasoned they really weren't pirates exactly, given the plan the weasel had been spouting about so proudly.

And while she might have looked it, she sure hadn't spent the time being a good little captive. She'd managed to spit the gag out to see how they'd react, but they hadn't done anything, so she'd spent the remaining hours slowly working on the ropes tying her wrists. She'd had to be more careful that her efforts didn't alert them once the two had stopped rhyming and the only remaining sound was the rocking of the boat and the water splashing against it in the silent dark night, but in the end she'd managed to loosen the rope to the point she could slip her paws free.

Now, she just needed the right circumstances and she could make her escape and warn the prince that someone has trying to play on his fears to start a war.

The weasel, Vizzini, yawned and looked back toward the hare sitting at the rear of the boat.

"We should reach the cliffs by dawn at this rate." He said lounging back against the rail of the boat.

The Spaniard hare nodded inattentively before glancing back toward the dark waters behind them like he'd been doing for a while now.

"Why are you doing that?" The weasel snapped seeming rather irked at the lack of attention to his brilliant statement.

The hare looked back at him for a second and shrugged, simply saying, "Making sure nobody's following us." Before his attention returned to the stern of the boat.

"That," Vizzini said with utter self-assured confidence, "would be Inconceivable." He took a second to leer smugly at Judy, "Everything is going just according to my plan, wouldn't you say princess?"

Judy's ear twitched and despite her resolve to try and look as helpless as she could until she made her escape, she bite out sharply, "Despite what you think, you all will be caught."

The weasel snorted and Judy continued not really able to stop herself.

"That had to be the worst framing job I've ever seen and I've seen quite a few over the last couple of years. Nobody is going to believe that Guildor did this because a piece of my dress and a uniform patch conveniently ripped free and got left behind on the dock. Clothes don't just rip and leave clues sitting behind like that; You basically left a big sign over the dock screaming 'Frame Job!', only a true idiot would believe something so contrived!"

Meanwhile back at the castle…

"Your highness, Your highness!" a messenger came barging into the prince's office out of breath, "Your highness! The Princess! She's been taken! When the princess didn't arrive before the support at the port, the town guard went out to find her! They found these after two wolves of the guard tracked her trail to a dock south of the town!" The messenger held out two pieces of fabric which the prince took. "The kidnappers must have left it there on purpose to-"

The prince stood up suddenly, waving the insignificant messenger rabbit to silence.

"A piece of my dearest love's dress?! And a Guilder officers badge!" Prince Lionheart proclaimed dramatically, "Why those traitorous Guiderians! I've always said they meant to backstab us! And to think that we might have not known if fortune had not graced my magnificence with such a clue!"

He shook his mane theatrically, "But that is the way of thieves and scoundrels; they shall always mess up and leave clues to their foul deeds behind that the righteous will inevitably find!"

Lionheart turned, setting his face in his most regally commanding visage he could before the insignificant rabbit that was surely stunned by his sheer grandeur and called out, "Countess Rugen! Gather my personal guard and send word to have my fastest ships readied to depart immediately!... And have the tailor prep my best fighting clothes!"

"-and when you all are caught, you'll end up hanging for your crimes!" Judy finished with a huff. Normally she'd have thanked her lucky stars at such incompetence from criminals, but this weasel brash belief in his infallibility, despite all the evidence to the contrary, just got under her fur. That and the fact that she'd been captured by such a dolt, probably didn't help.

The weasel just smirked at her, apparently unfazed at her long list of every mistake he'd made so far.

"Of all the necks on this boat, your Highness Butterfluffness," he said disingenuous, "the one you should be worrying about is your own."

The weasel sneered and looked over at the hare as if expecting applause at his remark, only for his face to fall as the hare continued to look out past the rear of the boat.

"Will you stop doing that! We can all relax, it's almost over!" he snapped.

The hare looked back at him with a worried expression and asked, "You're sure nobody's following us?"

"As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways, inconceivable. No one in Guilder knows what we've done. And no one in Florin could have gotten here so fast." The weasel finished confidently with a dismissive gesture, then frowned ever so slightly.

"Just out of curiosity, why do you ask?"

"No reason." The hare said with a shrug, "It's only I just happened to be looking behind us and something is there."

"What?!" Vizzini said in shock before scrambling to his feet and hurrying toward the back of the boat, followed by Fezzik.

The three of them stood there for a few moments staring into the gloomy fog covered night while Judy strained to hear over the sound of water splashing against the ship's haul. Her hopes dropped, then suddenly soared, recognizing the faint sound of another ship plowing through the seas somewhere in the distance behind them.

This might be the perfect chance! Judy thought and looked up. She could probably take them. All three of them, especially with their backs turned… but that would leave her on a boat she didn't know how to control…

I really should have become more familiar with boats and the waters around Florin if I want to take down pirates, she berated herself.

Well now's not the time to learn. Make your escape to that other boat and enlist their help to bring these brigands in. She thought and slipped her paw free of the loosened ropes, hurriedly starting to undo the bindings tying her feet.

"It's- it's probably just some local fisherman," the weasel stated as if it was obvious, though he sounded distinctly nervous. "Just some fisherman out for a pleasure cruise… at night… through eel-infested waters…"

Judy had only a moment to wonder what the weasel was talking about but put it out of her mind since she was already diving overboard.

She hit the water, arcing through it in a shallow dive, then breached the surface and started swimming powerfully toward the ship in the foggy distance.

There was an enraged scream from Vizzini back on the boat and Judy smirked as the three kidnappers started squabbling.

"Go! Go in and get her!" the weasel screamed only for the hare to shrug helplessly.

"I don't swim."

"Then you go get her you brute!" he shouted at the fox who shrugged too and made little paddling motions in front of himself.

"I only doggy paddle,"

"Then turn the boat around! Veer left. LEFT!"

"Do you mean to port?"

"Did I say PORT, you oaf! Stop thinking and start doing! Turn this boat to the left so we can get her!"

Judy was already passing the rear of the ship and starting to put distance between them before it even started to turn and she grinned in triumph… right up until the first shrieking sound pierced the night in the distance.

"Do you know what that sound is, Highness?" Vizzini called to her menacingly as the boat started its slow ponderous turn. "Those are the Shrieking Eels! If you doubt me, just wait. They always grow louder when they're about to feed on mammal flesh!"

Two more shrieks pierced the night each sounding closer and Judy threw all her strength into swimming as fast as she could. But there was another shriek, closer, and the other ship now seemed very far off in the distance behind them.

"If you swim back now, I promise, no harm will come to you. I doubt you will get such an offer from the Eels!" Vizzini called toward her and she would have scoffed if she hadn't been swimming for all she was worth.

Another shriek pierced the night from right behind her and she felt something disturb the water right behind her outstretched hindpaw.

She jerked the limb forward as something made a snapping sound like the clattering of lots of teeth coming together and then kicked back hard.

Her foot connected with something tough and rubbery. This time the shriek that filled the air was pained and angry as the rubbery slithering mass grazed against her as it passed by. But before Judy could congratulate herself, three more shrieks, all from different sides and closing, sounded loud through her ears.

Judy saw the first one coming in from her right and tried to twist away, but the ginormous eel slipping toward her just under the surface of the water was far more agile than her in the sea. It opened its tooth filled maw to bite and Judy twisted, slamming her fist down on top of it, and instead of being bitten was only rammed, the air exploding from her lungs as she rolled over the eels back while it passed below.

More shrieks filled the night and something bit the long trailing sleeve of her dress and ripped part of it away. Judy twisted, trying to keep her head above the water to gasp in air and dodged the next eel more by luck than anything else.

She gasped, starting to slip below as instead of trying to tread water she yanked another limb out of the way of a snapping mouth. The passing eel shoved her hard and she rolled trying desperately to stay afloat as another shriek pierced the night right in front of her and she looked up, only to see the dark night blocked out by a maw filled with row upon row of razor sharp teeth about to snap down on her-

"She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time," Ellaine said, looking at the two kits sitting right at the edge of the bed with wide eyes.

Both kits blinked owlishly before little Ella burst out with a confused, "What?"

"The eels don't get her. I'm explaining because you two looked nervous," Ellaine said with a grandmotherly smile, and okay she might have had just the tiniest touch of a grin in that smile, she admitted to herself

"We're not nervous!" Ella protested and Ridley added in a slightly quavering voice. "Ya, n-not nervous, like at all!"

Ellaine leaned back in her chair, keeping her muzzle tightly shut so she wouldn't giggle at the way Ella's paws were tightly gripping the tip of her brother's tail that was wrapped around her in a petrified puffed out manner. Still leaning back, she gave them one of her patented, 'Are you sure that all those cookies just up and disappeared by themselves?' look and Ella squirmed while Ridley bit his lip.

"Well… maybe I was just a bit… concerned," Ella said shooting her brother a glance and he nodded quickly.

"Right. Just a little concerned. But that's not the same thing as worried! For one they are spelled a lot differently." Ridley continued and Ella nodded vigorously.

Ellaine gave them another one of her looks right out of the grandmothers arsenal and added in a 'worried for my grandkits' tone while hiding her smile, "Because I can stop now if you want."

"No!" both kits immediately shouted and looked at each other.

"You… ah, could read a little bit more… if you want…" Ridley said after a moment and she let a little bit of her smile slip through as she looked back down at the book in her lap. The two of them were simply too cute at times.

Clearing her throat, she intoned in Vizzini's voice. "Do you know what that sound is, Highness? Those are the shrieking eels!"

"Where past that, Grandma!" Ridley interrupted and Ella pitched in with a... "You read that already!"

"Oh. Oh my goodness I did!" Ellaine said a little dramatically and smiled at the two kits now back to leaning forward on the edge of the bed. "I'm sorry. Beg your pardon my dears," she added grandmotherly before moving her claw down a bit on the page murmuring. "All right, all right, let's see. Mysterious boat behind them. Butterfluff was in the water, the Eels were coming after her. She was frightened, but still fighting. The Eel started to charge her and was about to bite. And then-"


A/N

And we'll stop here for a second while we go get more of Grandma Wilde's cookies before we hit the really insane cliffhangers!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Wow, there was like a super super long line to get those cookies! But OMG does grandma Wilde know how to bake some good cookies! Totally worth the wait! They were so good that even the actual owners of Zootopia and The Princess bride (i.e. not us), of which which the story is clearly not based off of in any possible way (*cough* hands owners payment of cookies) don't seem to care about the totally innocent seeming similarities this story and those movies.


Chapter 7 – Cliffhangers of Insanity

In the moment before the tooth filled maw was about to snap down on her, Butterfluff could have sworn she head some voice in her mind shout Your Dead Fluffbutt! like some sarcastic and angry drill instructor. And in that moment, she knew she was done for and had only one regret.

She didn't regret her choices that had led to this moment; no, not her decision to try and rid the kingdom of crime, even though it had lead to this fate. She didn't regret her decision to try what others had said was impossible, or to leave her family's farm and give up any hopes for a family of her own, and certainly not that she had fallen in love with that farmboy, her farmboy, that silly sly fox with his 'as you wish' and his kind smile…

Losing him had made a hole in her heart that had never healed, it still hurt to this very moment, but she would never regret that she'd fallen in love with him. Even the crushing pain she felt every day was worth having had that all too short amount of time together with him.

No, she didn't regret loving Westfurley, didn't regret the pain that love had caused her, she only regretted that she hadn't been able to bring his Carrot-be-damned killers to justice.

I'm sorry, Butterfluff thought, looking into the open tooth filled maw as the eel closed on her, I tried Nick… I tried…

The jaws snapped shut with a resounding THUNK, and Judy blinked as the charging eel shrieked in pain, rolling to the side. The wooden belaying pin that had hit the top of its head came down again and the eel stilled, dead or unconscious.

"Two hits… shouldn't have taken two hits…" muttered the large fennec fox's deep voice and before Judy could react she was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hauled back aboard her captor's ship that had come up behind her.

"Ha! I knew Butterfluff was going to be alright!" Ridley shouted, bouncing up on the bed and pumping a paw into the air.

"Well of course she's alright," Ella said as if it should have been obvious, though her long ears which had been flat against her back in worry, were now upright in a cautiously optimistic pose. "Butterfluff wouldn't be taken down by some stupid slimy eels-"

"Big, large, fang filled, flesh eating eels!" Ridley interrupted.

Ella scoffed as if that shouldn't have made any difference, though the way her ears flattened against her back again said differently.

"Well they didn't get her." Ella added defiantly and turned up her button nose.

"Ya…" Ridley added with an eye roll as he plopped back down on the bed next to his sister, though his long tail was still beating the air excitedly. "But now she's been caught by the pirates again. How do you think she's going to get out of that?"

Ella gave an even louder scoff.

"Bunnies can't fight well while swimming, We're not like beavers or otters! She's just waiting to get the deck back beneath her paws before pummeling all those criminals to carrot paste, that's what!" she retorted as if it were fact.

"I thought you said you weren't a bunny, but a box!" Ridley smirked at his sister.

"Oh, you're just a real funny fox now aren't you!" Ella snarked back at him, though her brother just snickered and stuck out his tongue.

Ella, Ellaine's oh so sweet and mature little grandkit that didn't need anyone's helps since she was so grown up, apparently decided that the only reasonable and responsible way to reply to such a childish tease was to reply in kind and stuck her own tongue out while making a face back at him.

"Okay, settle down you two," Ellaine interjected while trying not to laugh at her rambunctious grandkits. "We want to get the 'pummeling to carrot paste' part right?"

"Right!" Ella replied eagerly, suddenly sitting back on the edge of the bed in a perfectly attentive manner as if she hadn't just been making faces at her brother.

There was another snicker by Ridley but he turned back to listen eagerly enough, tail still wagging and Ellaine smiled, her heart feeling warm as she watching her energetic young grandkits before looking back down at the book in her lap and picking up were she'd left off.

"Should have brought my baseball bat, wouldn't have need two hits with my bat…" the fox continued to mutter darkly as if his failure to take out the giant eel on the first hit was a smear on his reputation while he hoisted Butterfluff out of the water.

"Wait…" asked the Spaniard hare in a confused tone, "I… I thought you said you get three swings when you're up to bat? Is it different if you're not using an actual bat? Am I only supposed to get one swing when I use my blades scabbard to practice this base-ball game because you said that was fine if I used my-"

"Will you two shut up about baseball and get her back on the ship so we can be done with her?!" the weasel shouted angrily, storming over to them.

"Vizzini, If you wanted to be done with her," Fezzik said, holding up Judy as she coughed up a bit of water and swung in his grip to face the weasel, "Why didn't we just leave her to the eels?"

The weasel face turned red at the question and Inigo leaned over to the large fennec fox and whispered in his spaniard's drawl, "Maybe we should ask Vizzini about the batting rules, he looks a lot like the umpires do when they argue with the players. Maybe he knows-"

"I said Shut It with the baseball!" the weasel fumed, and rounded on Fezzik after giving the hare a glare. "We can't take care of her here, you dolts, because we need to take care of her there!" he shouted pointing off into the distance.

"That seems like a whole lot of extra trouble for the same thing," muttered Fezzik.

"Extra trouble?!" Vizzini looked like he was about to explode at the fox, "My plans don't have extra trouble! They don't have any trouble! That would be Inconceivable-"

Butterfluff, finally over the momentary shock of not being dead, decided that she'd had enough of being held captive and planted both of her hindpaws in the weasel's face, sending him tumbling backwards. She used her impromptu springboard (the weasels crooked whiskers did, in a way, remind her of springs) and launched herself up to break the fox's hold on her.

Unfortunately, Judy misjudged the fennec foxes strength; even for his abnormally large, smallish size, he had a truly ridiculously strong grip, Judy could have sworn that she'd fought mammals twenty times his size that hadn't been as strong, and she ended up doing more of a flip in his grasp rather than breaking free.

Recalculating for her mistake, Judy took a swing at the hare as she spun, but this time he seemed less surprised and deftly dodged her kick with a swordsman's grace.

Butterfluff cursed to herself, preparing to try and and break free again with a solid kick to the foxes elbow when her eyes went wide as she saw the belaying pin headed for her.

There was a skull ringing thump and everything seemed to go hazy and fade to dark, her hearing fading away a second after her sight as disconnected voices spoke around her.

"Strike three! Sheeeeee's Out!"

"That's not how-"

"Will ou two stobpt 'alking about that 'upid Game! *Sniffle* I 'ink she 'roke my whiskers!"

"Nooooooo! She was soooooooo close!" Ella wailed clenching her little paws in front of her like she'd just dropped a fly ball.

"You were right," Ridley nodded with an overly serious expression as his sisters paws continued to grasp at the air. "She should have waited till she had her paws back on the ground before pounding them to carrot paste."

Ellaine barely managed to turn a rather un-grandmotherly laugh at her grandkits silliness into a more grandmotherly cough as she flipped the page and continued reading.

"Butterfluff wasn't sure how long she had been out, but it was the voices of her captors that stirred her back to wakefulness…"

"I think he's getting closer," the hare said with a sort of casualness, as he manned the rudder of the boat and pointed behind them like he'd spotted clouds in the distances. Clouds that could be storm clouds, not that that seemed to bother him in the slightest.

"He's no concern of ours you twit! Just sail on!" The weasel answered in a peevishly distracted voice as he fiddled with his whiskers. He seemed to be trying to straighten the rather crocked hairs back out.

"You sure he's no concern of ours?" The hare continued looking back, and gave a small indifferent shrug, "I mean I think having someone tail us through the night might make him a little bit of our concern."

The weasel's fingers twitched and the crooked whisker he was working on bent at a right angle.

"Of course he's not, because I said He's NOT!" the weasel bellowed, "As I said before he's probably just some fisherman that got lost out on his pleasure cruise through eel infested waters and thinks to follow another boat back to shore!"

"Huh… okay." The hare crooked his head and rubbed one of his stripped ears in a distracted manner. The weasel sighed in relief, returning to his attempts to straighten his now even more bent whiskers.

The badly bent one, snapped and fell to the deck, the weasel staring at it in stupefied shock like he'd just lost some great treasure. He whimpered a bit, his paw going back up to massage his remaining bent whiskers.

Judy blinked drowsily and realized that the hares contemplative, distracted look was growing more and more thoughtful, like he was coming to some great conclusion. His paw stopped rubbing his ear and his head crooked to the other side before he finally spoke.

"Do fisherman usually dress all in black?"

Another one of the weasel's whiskers bent with an audible, twing! as the weasel's paw slipped again.

"Of course all fisherman wear all- Wait he's wearing all black? Who in their right mind wears all black to sail a boat at night?!" The weasel's explosion trailed off into confusion, though Butterfluff's ears snapped up at the mention of all black clothes. She knew exactly who was purported to go around wearing all black. Knew exactly which Pirate was said to dress like that!

Judy glanced past the hare to the boat in the distance behind them, well the boat that had been in the distance; it seemed far closer now.

The water was covered in a layer of early morning fog, but the deep dark of the night was disappearing as the sun started to rise and burn away the haze. Her eyes narrowed and she could just make out a shape at the tiller of the other boat, a somewhat indistinct figure in the mist, but one that stood there like a hazy black wraith born from the night and her imaginings of the phantom that had destroyed all her happiness.

Him!

Her ears snapped back down.

If that was the pirate she thought it was, then she didn't have any more time to fool around with these dunderheads! She couldn't let this chance escape her!

Butterfluff jumped up to her feet…

...or tried to.

She bounced on the deck from her effort and then looked down to see that she'd been tied up, and not just tied up at her wrists this time either. No… this time she might actually be in a spot of trouble, or so she thought. They'd all but cocooned her in ropes. Her arms were bound to her sides and her legs tied tightly together with enough rope she could barely see her dress under it all.

There was a nasty snicker from the side and she looked up from where she was rolling on the deck to see Vizzini, that darned stupid criminal that had somehow managed to blindside her with his little ragtag hustler crew.

"I suppose you think you're brave, trying that stunt earlier, don't you?" he said with a cruel sneer as he came, over still trying to straighten his badly bent and now mismatched whiskers.

Judy glared back defiantly, even as for the first time since she'd lost… lost him, she felt a wave of near helplessness at her situation wash over her. But she'd learned to live with that sort of despair so she glared back anyway at the sneering weasel.

"Brave?" she snorted derisively, started him right in his eyes. "Only compared to some."

Twing!

Another whisker bent and the weasel glared back at her hatefully. He opened his mouth and-

"Um… Vizzini? Is that fisherman our concern now? He's like, right on top of us," the hare interrupted, his voice still devoid of an seeming real worry as he looked at the boat behind them with its full sails that was now no more than a couple hundred feet behind them. The hare glanced back over at their only mostly full sails, and then back at the ship behind them, then back and their sails, his paw going back to rubbing his oddly stripped ear in a thoughtful manner, then muttered quietly.

"I wonder if he's using the same wind we're using?"

"What?!" the weasel squealed indignity, "That's inconceivable! You can't steal wind! Its… its… wind!"

Judy snorted and rolled her eyes at the weasel; a criminal though he was, he was clearly not any sort of 'pirate' let alone sailor. The hare just shrugged, still looking between the sails curiously as Vizzini sputtered before finally seeming to collect himself.

"Well it doesn't matter! That fisherman or whoever he is, he's too late!" the weasel said stomping up the deck to the front of the boat and pointing forward. "Too late! See?!" he shouted triumphantly and before them through the fading mist appeared… a sheet of grey.

A very solid sheet of grey.

Grey rock.

Grey granite walls of sheer jagged stone that seemed to rise straight from the sea to tower impossibly high above them.

Judy's ears lowered back against her head as she stared at the intimidating stone precipice ahead.

"HA! The Cliffs of Insanity!" Vizzini nearly bounced as he cackled, pointed forward excitedly.

He jumped down and went over to where the fox was sleeping and kicked his legs a few times.

"Come on you big oaf! Get up. Get Up!" he shouted before starting to run around the deck collecting items and shouting orders (and more noticeably glancing worriedly back toward the closing ship behind them.)

The cliffs seemed to loom over them as the boat passed into their shadows and the striped hare guided them around a larger rock outcropping and into a small hidden channel only just illuminated by the rising sun.

"Hurry up. Hurry up! Move the thing! Um… that other thing. Move it!" The weasel bellowed, waving haphazardly round the deck before grabbing some sort of harness like device and tossing it toward the fox, then glanced behind them again.

It seemed as if for a second that they had lost the other ship, but then it too swung around the outcropping, still closing on them.

"Doesn't matter! We're safe now!" the weasel shouted triumphantly as the boat edged toward the sheer stone wall. "Only Fezzik is strong enough to go up our way!"

"Um… he's strong… very strong for his size… but there are some mammals that are bigger and stronger-" the hare pointed out with a frown, only for the weasel to shoot him a hurried glare and scoff.

"Any larger mammal would fall under their own weight if they tried! These are the cliffs of Insanity, INSANITY!... You Dolt!" he added almost as an afterthought before scoffing again. "Not even Billy Goats would risk their hooves on the Cliffs of Insanity!" he said self assuredly, and for once, Judy didn't doubt the crazed little weasel. The jutting vertical… more than vertical in some spots, cliff did look like only a mad mammal would attempt to climb them.

She gulped a bit to herself and wondered just how any mammal could get up those cliffs. The oversized fennec fox sure was strong, stronger than anyone his size had a right to be, like he ate nothing but spinach and turned it into pure muscle, but could even he climb those cliffs! It was… was… insa- and then Judy saw the rope hanging down the sheer walls at the spot they were headed for and harrumphed.

So that was their secret way up the cliff? A rope?!

Judy felt almost hustled again, but then took a second look back up at the cliffs who's top seemed to hover somewhere high above them and considered it again. Even she might have a hard time climbing a rope up that wall…

Her thoughts were cut off as she was hoisted off the deck and then unceremoniously strapped into a loop of the harness the fox was now wearing like she was some bit of baggage to be hung off a utility belt.

"Hey! What are you-" she started protesting, but was cut off almost immediately as the other two mammals finished securing themselves and she was jerked upward as the little strong man of their circus hustle proved he really could have played the role and started climbing the rope paw over paw with a steady efficiency that even she found impressive.

"Shut it you! And don't try anything or we'll just cut you loose and let you fall!" the weasel threatened at her outburst and tugged at his strap as if to make sure it was secure.

Looking back down at the boat getting smaller and smaller against the cliff wall below, she decided that now might not be the moment for witty defiant remarks and kept her mouth shut. The weasel, apparently satisfied that his strap wouldn't give way, gave a sort of triumphant snort at his perceived victory at her silence and one of his paws went back to straightening his whiskers in an imperious manner as he glanced back at the other ship that had been tailing them.

"Ha! See that! If that fisherman wants to follow us now, he'll have to sail around for hours until he finds a harbor!" The weasel crowed to them all as the other boat bumped helplessly against theirs far below, "See I told you we had nothing to worry-"

"Huh, he's climbing the rope," the spaniard mumbled almost admiringly as he glanced downward

Twing! another whisker snapped. He really need to stop doing that, Butterfluff thought to herself with a hidden grin. The weasel was going to run out of whiskers at this rate.

"And he's gaining on us," the hare added, his eyebrows going up, the note of admiration in his voice, clear now.

"In-Inconceivable!" the weasel stammered looking downward with a slightly agape expression.

He finally got control of his jaw back and snapped it shut. Then from the spot he'd secured himself to on the harness just in front of the fennec fox as he continued to steadily climb the rope with them ladening him like a ridiculously over packed cart mammal, he glared.

"Faster! Faster! Darn it!" the weasel shouted right into his face as if that would help.

"I thought I was going faster!" the fox said gruffly, huffing and puffing a bit as he continued to reach up, paw over paw and drag them skyward.

"You were supposed to be this Colossus!" the weasel snarled, anger and worry edging his voice as he pressed his red cheeked muzzle right into the climbing foxes. "Your resumé said you were this great legendary thing! A mammal that could take on any mammal, a mammal ten times stronger than any other mammal, and yet he gains!" Vizzini snarled ill temperedly jabbing a finger downward.

The fox snorted, seeming to almost ignore the weasel as he continued to climb, eyes focused on the rope.

"Well, I'm carrying three mammals. And he's got only himself," the fox grumbled lowly.

The weasel's red faced flared a bit more and he opened his mouth to snap back when the hare cut in.

"I'm pretty sure his resumé only said ten times stronger than any other mammal his size…"

"I Don't Accept Excuses!" the weasel shrieked. "I'm just gonna have to find myself a new giant, That's all! Maybe a proper giant this time!" he continued jabbering angrily, glancing back down below them.

"Oh don't say that Vizzini," the hare defended the fox who only snorted. "His resumé is rather impressive. Why the Brutes association gave him top marks."

"I don't care what his resumé says! Faster, darn it! Faster!" the weasel shrieked, now almost continuously glancing below them as he shouted in a panicked manner.

"Faster! Didn't I make it clear your job is on the line here!?"

The fox only let out a derisive snort as he puffed, pulling them up, and to Judy's amazement when she glanced back upward after her attempts to swivel her head around enough to get a better look at the mammal chasing them, That Mammal chasing them that she wanted oh so desperately to have a chance to take down, and realized that they were actually almost at the top of the cliff.

"Faster, Faster!" the weasel continued to bellow, his voice almost squeaky now as the fox pulled them up to the edge where the rope bent over the sheer drop.

The fox, still huffing and puffing, seemed to finally run into some difficulty trying to manvering over the lip of the cliff edge with all of them, but the hare, in spry athletic movement wiggled out of the loop holding him to the harness and rolled over the edge before reaching down to help the weasel up too.

The weasel, with more than a little relief to Butterfluff's ears, stopped his yelling as he gasped for air in his flailing attempt to haul himself over, only managing after the hare got a paw under his arm and helped hoist him up. The weasel without a word of thanks, and still puffing from the minor exertion, jerked out his dagger and ran out of view toward were the rope had been secured.

Moments later as the Spaniard helped the fox reach over and haul her bound form over the side, she caught the sound of what seemed like sawing, but her focus was to intent on trying to see the figure below them.

She caught just the barest glance of black clothes and a black bandana covering the head of some predatory mammal, not all that larger than herself along with the flash of a long dark almost black tipped fluffy tail flashing side to side below as the blackclad figure climbed- but then her view was cut off as she was roughly hauled over the edge and dropped onto the ground.

There was a loud snap and the thick rope with the fennec fox still hanging on over the edge jerked as one of the three heavy strands that comprised it gave way and started to unwind.

The hare hurried to help pull the fox up as there was another Snap!

Judy turned her head over and saw the weasel frantically sawing with the knife at the rope where it had been tied to some large pillar of stone amid what she now recognized as castle ruins at the top of the cliff.

There was a grunt from behind her and the sound of two bodies hitting the ground next to her right before the last fraying fibers on the remaining strand of the rope broke, and with a sound like a hissing snake the cut rope shot past her and the fox and hare.

Butterfluff watched with a dawning sense of horror as what she realized had been her one chance, her one and only chance! to bring her beloved farmboy's killer to justice, disappeared over the edge of the cliff.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

All her hopes, all she had worked for over these past years, all for the chance to bring the murder of the mammal that had been, and forever would be the closest to her heart, dropped away down the Cliffs of Insanity.


A/N

Well, opps… That was more of a cliff fall than a cliffhanger… *scratches head* Darn... too bad I was really hoping to have a sort of epic confrontation scene and sort of battle free for all with tons of Carrot paste pounding! It could have been EPIC! Oh well, guess we have time to grab some more cookies before we get to the next part, I do wonder what will happen now that Judy um… *ehem* I mean Butterfluff, is trapped and their mysterious pursuer is a goner.

(looks over at Zootopia and Princess Bride owners tapping feet and awaiting cookies… Um… right… we better make sure not to take nearly so long updating this time…)

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Ohhh! Looks like there were extra cookies in there for us as well as Disney (i.e. owners of Zootopia) and Buttercup Films Ltd. (i.e. the we think? owners of The Princess Bride). Well whatever *munch, munch, munch* here's *munch* another chapter *munch*...


Chapter 8 – THE Cliffhanger

" 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!Butterfluff yelled as the rope and all her hopes from these past years disappeared over the edge of the-"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!", "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Ella and Ridley both yelled, interrupting their grandmother as she read, Ridley bouncing to his feet with wide eyes, and Ella grabbing her long ears and looking at the book in her grandmother's lap distraughtly.

"But what about her revenge?!"

"But what about Justice!?" Ridley said right over Ella.

"She didn't even get a chance to fight him!" Ella went on speaking right over her brother even as he continued spewing questions too.

"How is she going to put him in jail if the pirate is dead?!"

"How is she going to fight him if he's dead!?"

"What kind of story doesn't have justice in it?!"

"Forget Justice, what kind of story doesn't have the big battle in it!?"

Ellaine couldn't hold back any more and broke out laughing, effectively silencing their rapid fire questions. Ridley flopped back down onto the edge of the bed and both of her lovely little grandkits sat there looking at her like she'd just gone as crazy as her story clearly had.

She let out a few more laughs, leaning back in her chair, her paw on her chest as the laughter faded to chuckles and then a few giggles.

"Grandma?" Ella said in a confused voice, her paws still holding her ears in a distraught manner by her sides.

Ellaine giggled a few more times seeing her granddaughters oh so cute, confused, button nosed expression and leaned forward to rub her head soothingly, then pluck her little paws off her long bunny ears.

"Nothing dear, nothing," she giggled, stroking her grandkits long ears, which were so much like her mothers, back behind her head so they weren't sticking out to the side. "Why don't you wait until I get to the end of the chapter, then see if you still want to ask those questions, Humm?" She smiled kindly to the little bunny. Or funny, or whatever other silly name those two came up with to call themselves this week...Ellaine thought bemusedly.

She reached over and patted Ridley's head too, since it had crooked to the side in a bewildered manner, one ear askew, just like Nick's ear would as a young child whenever he didn't understand something.

Ellaine giggled again, feeling more content and happy and all around satisfied with life than she had in years, and tweaked the oddly angled little fox ear gently, causing it to snap back along with the other, the two now moving in sync.

Yep, just like Nicholas, she thought with another giggle looking between her two perfect little grandkits, musing on what a perfect job Nicholas and Judy had done with making the both of them.

"Ow! Grandma! What was that for?!" Ridley said in an aggrieved manner even as his cheeks reddened and Ella grabbed her ears looking worried, like she might be next for a grandma's ear or cheek pinch.

"Oh, no reason," Ellaine giggled in a very grandmotherly fashion and smiled contentedly.

The two of them really were just too cute. The best of both their parents in each, she though, noting every little detail of Judy's features that showed through in the little fox kit and all the features from her father in the young bunny too.

She wanted to simply hug both of them to her right then and there, but Ellaine held herself back. For the moment at least. Even the best of kits could only take so much grandmotherly fussing and cooing before they'd started to protest.

Best wait till her next batch of cookies was done baking so she had something to bribe them with before she started fussing over them again like the protective grandmother she was, Ellaine mused happily.

She giggled and then asked, "Would you like to find out all the answers to your questions?" and raised the book in her lap up a bit and gave them a knowing bob of her eyebrows.

Both kits immediately resumed their spots perched excitedly on the edge of the bed and nodded their heads in unison.

Inigo and Fezzik eyes both snapped over and watched the cut rope whip by them and disappear over the edge as the princess, or princess-to-be more exactly (Princess once married? Prince's Bride? Princess Bride?) the what-ever-her-title-was let out a distraught, almost despairing shout.

"Ha! That's right 'Princess'!" Vizzini sneered as the Hare and the fox got to their feet. "Take that as a lesson! There goes all you hopes of escaping! Best you learn that now! Ha!" he crowed only to finally stop as he caught the flat looks both of his companions, or employees as he preferred to think of them, were giving him.

"What? I knew you two would make it, that's why I started cutting the rope when I did! It went just to plan! Just like all my plans go to plan!" the weasel sniffed indignantly even as Fezzik rolled his eyes and grumbled in his deep voice and Inigo shook his head sadly.

The two of them exchanged a mutual look as Fezzik grumbled about 'plans' never 'going' as planned, and the two of them turned away from the weasel and walked over to the edge of the cliff to look down at Vizzini's handiwork that had them almost dropping down the cliff along with their mysterious pursuer.

"Really. And to think I put up with those two ungrateful imbeciles!" the weasel huffed behind them, "They should be grateful I even took them on. Even promised to give them equal shares of the money when we split it! One part for me, then one for my brilliance, then one for his sword, then one for the dumb brutes strength. *Huff!* More than fair I say! Ingrates! Where would they be without me?! And hey… Why are you two just standing there staring!" the weasel shouted angrily. "Come on we don't have all day, we-"

The hare continued staring down the cliff with a thoughtful expression, not paying any attention to the weasel. The fennec fox, also seeming to pay the spluttering weasel no mind, glanced over at the hare.

"He's got very good arms," the fox said with a shrug toward the black clad figure clinging precariously to the rock wall some thirty or forty feet below them. The hare nodded.

"WHAAAAAAAT?!" Vizzini bellowed, before rushing over to the two of them and looking down the rock face with an unbelieving expression, which only seemed to get more unbelieving even as he saw the black clothed and black masked mammal below.

"He Didn't Fall?!" Vizzini yelled, waving his knife in the mammal's direction.

"Inconceivable!" he muttered loudly as if the mammal's failure to follow his plans was some inexcusable offense.

The hare's brow furrowed, and he turned from his contemplative examination of the mammal to the weasel.

"You keep using that word," he said in his Spaniards draw, and his brow furrowed a bit more. "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Vizzini for once seemed speechless as he gaped back at the hare, who had already gone back to watching their pursuer.

"By Brier Rabbit, He's actually climbing…" the hare muttered as they all heard the sound of pebbles falling away to the water far below and watched as the mammal reached up for another handhold… only for the rock outcropping he'd grabbed to crumble away under his paw, leaving him swinging by one arm for a second as the stones clattered down the cliff to finally splash into the distant water with a faint echo. Then the mammal regained his hold, and then with considerable, slow effort, managed to find another bit of rock, that this time, after a precarious shifting second, held, and pulled himself up another foot.

Even Vizzini seemed too impressed by the mammal to make any more exclamations or threats. (or maybe just too shocked he was still refusing to follow his plans…)

The three of them watched for another few moments as the figure below managed to make it up another foot along the cliff before the weasel huffed moodily.

"Well, whoever he is," Vizzini said, his voice unusually sober and serious, "He's obviously seen us with the Princess, and must therefore die."

He turned to Fezzik.

"You. Carry her!" He gestured to Butterfluff who still lay were she'd been dropped, bound by the ropes as she was, but now listening intently with her ears up. The weasel ignored her obvious interest in what was going on and turned to the hare.

"We'll head straight for the Guilder frontier to finish the job. Catch up when he's dead." He gestured back down with the knife at the climbing mammal as he arduously gained another foot.

"If he falls, fine," the weasel said his voice going hard as his knife. "If not, the sword." He gave a meaningful glance toward the hare's rapier.

The hare nodded in seeming agreement but then added in a thoughtful, almost giddy manner,

"I want to duel him left-handed."

The weasel stared for a second stupidly,

"You do know what a hurry we're in, RIGHT?" he finally burst out but the hare only shrugged.

"Well… it's the only way I can be satisfied." He raised both paws in a sort of 'it can't be helped' gesture, "If I used my right…" he made an almost pouting expression and drawled, his accent showing through, "It' be over too quickly."

"Oh, Have it your way!" The weasel threw up his arms in disgust before turning to follow the fennec fox as he picked up Butterfluff and tossed her over his shoulder. "Just hurry up and meet us at the frontier once he's dead. And if you take to long playing with him, then you can meet us back at the Thief's village where we're going to get paid for this stupid misadventure. But I'll take any tardiness out of your cut!" he added with a final shout as he stomped off gesturing for Fezzik to follow.

The fennec fox though took a second to walk over to the hare, giving him a more serious look as he glanced down a final time at the black clad pursuer.

"You be careful…" he mumbled in a low serious warning. "Foxes in masks can't be trusted. I know, I'm a fox."

Inigo look over at the fox carrying the princess, whose ears quivered seeming to swivel to catch every sound, and nodded solemnly.

"Come on, I'm waiting!" Vizzini, who'd gotten to the edge of the castle ruins, turned back and sneered sarcastically.

There was a final nod between the hare and the fox. Then Fezzik turned and left the hare all alone, waiting there among the broken ruins at the top of a sheer precipice, to kill a mammal that by all rights should have already been dead. The only sounds, the occasional crumbling and falling of stones on the cliff and the wind from the sea and the fading, sudden boisterous protests of the princess as she was carried away.

Inigo turned away from the cliff edge and then with nothing else to do in the desolate ruins, shook out his paws before raising one as if holding his rapier and set his feet in a duelist stance, his long ears angled back and down. He took a few hops forward, then back, sword paw ahead and free paw behind him as he moved his wrist in a few practiced thrusts and parries as if fighting a shadow. But it wasn't more than a few moments before one of his ears twitched in impatience and he stopped.

There was the sound of more pebbles bouncing down the cliff and his ear twitched again toward the noise. A moment of hesitation… and then like a kit skipping out of his school classes, he turned and oh so casually strode over to the cliff edge, looking down.

"Hello there!" he called out, then waved downward like they were two random strangers meeting while on a pleasant afternoon stroll through the park.

"Slow going?" Inigo asked courteously as if inquiring about how nice the day's weather was.

The mammal on the cliff narrowed his eyes through the black mask under the black cloth wrapping his head in a very piratical manner, like he wasn't sure exactly what game the hare was playing at, but then responded in an equally courteous, if slightly brusk and peeved manner.

"Look, I don't mean to be rude, but this is not as easy as it looks," he said with a nod to the cliff wall were he was precariously perched, just as another few loose stones on the sheer face dropped away. "So I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me." He finished in a distracted manner, his bushy tail swishing behind him and the sword at his side clattering as he swung his foot over to another spot just as the stone it had been on crumbled away.

"Oh… sorry." Inigo nodded his head solemnly, making an apologetic gesture and turned back around from the cliff so as not to distract the masked fox.

He pulled out his rapier this time, flipping it from one paw to the other as he fell back into his duelist stance, one foot in front of the other, body in a line while making a few short practice jabs and slashes, before adding a flourish, his sword swishing through the air to his side.

He frowned.

Then, tossing the sword back to his other paw and abruptly sheathing the weapon, he strode back to the cliff edge.

"Um… excuses me, I do not suppose you could speed things up?" he asked in a pleasantly polite, but slightly impatient manner.

The fox, a red fox Inigo was quite sure of by now despite all the black clothing, head scarf and mask that covered up much of the mammals features, looked up again, his expression a bit more irritated than before as he reached for another hand hold.

"You know… if you're in such a hurry, you could lower a rope, or a tree branch, or one of your long ears," the fox said with a sarcastic bite to his voice. "Or otherwise find something more useful to do than distract me."

Inigo nodded his head seriously, his striped ears bobbing as if the fox hadn't been mocking him at all.

"I could do that. In fact," he added with the utmost seriousness, "I've got some rope up here, probably enough to reach you." He gestured back toward where the end of the thick rope Vizzini had cut was wrapped many times in an overly secure manner around the rock the weasel had used to anchor it. But then he looked back down at the fox and shrugged gravely.

"But I do not think you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you," he added with an earnest, almost sad and apologetic voice.

The fox came to a stop on the cliff edge and stared directly back up at Inigo.

"Yes, that does put a damper on our relationship."

He turned back to the cliff, finding another handhold and apparently ignoring the hare as he started climbing again.

Inigo unphased by the dismissal, nodded his head again seriously.

"But…" he added as if a sudden idea had stuck him, "I could promise I will not kill you until you reach the top."

The fox didn't even bother to look back up as he continued his climb.

"That's very comforting," he answered, seeming to barely be paying attention to the hare. "But I'm afraid you'll just have to wait."

"I hate waiting," the hare muttered darkly, his ears going back as he turned as if to pace, then stopped and turned back.

"I could give you my word as a Spaniard!" he said suddenly.

"No good," the fox replied with a grunt as he pulled himself higher, still ignoring the hare as he took a moment to rest and examine the cliff for another handhold. "I've known too many Spaniards." He reached up, stretching for another small jutting bit of stone on the wall.

"I could give you my word as a hare!" Inigo continued undauntedly.

There was a derisive snort.

"I've also known too many bunnies and hares. I'd trust your word as a Spaniard before I'd trust that." He said in a biting tone, some small bit of pain and hurt edging his voice though it seemed to go right over (or through) the long ears of the hare above him.

"Is there no way you'd trust me?" Inigo asked, throwing his arms out in a distressed manner.

"Nothing that comes to mind" the masked fox said with another sarcastic snort.

The hare bit his lip, one hind paw starting to rapidly thump the ground as he stood there impatiently, seeming to think hard as the fox inched his way up another foot, then he blurted out almost desperately,

"I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo La'Savage Montoya," he said his voice hard like the words had to be dragged out of him at great cost. "On the soul of the mammal I loved like no son has ever loved their father! You will reach the top alive!"

The fox stopped. He looked up and his piercing green eyes met those of the hare, seeming to judge the sincerity of his words for an eternal, timeless, moment like he was judging if love was really something he could trust his life on.

His lips made a thin line on his muzzle under the black mask as if it wasn't enough, as if he would never trust his life to the strength of-

"Throw me the rope," the masked fox said, his voice almost too low to hear and filled with an unreadable emotion.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: *Passes over popcorn to Disney and Princess Bride owners and takes seat.* Okay, you all ready to get this show on the road?


Chapter 9 – Fencing, Fighting, Hustling

The rope clattered down the cliff edge and the masked fox pushed the sword sheathed at his side further behind him and out of his way before grabbing onto the line.

It was only a matter of seconds before he reached the lip of the precipice, rather than the long dangerous minutes it would have taken without the hare's aid. The fox nodded to Inigo as the hare helped him over the craggy edge that crumbled even as he got his feet under him, sending pebbles and stones falling down to the water far below.

"Thank you," the masked figure said with a weary but grudgingly appreciative tone, as he made his way toward safer ground. He reached behind him as he did so to grip the hilt of his sword and draw it from its scabbard.

"No, no, we'll wait until you're ready," Inigo said, waving his paw at the masked fox before he'd fully drawn his sword. "Take a moment to catch your breath."

The fox looked up with another grudgingly appreciative, almost curious glance, then nodded, sliding his sword back into the scabbard.

"Again… Thank you," he said before taking a seat on a nearby rock that had once been part of the old castles crumbling wall. He lifted one of his hindpaws and plucked out a few pebbles that had gotten lodged between the pads of his feet and toes, then did the same to his other as Inigo took a seat on another nearby rock, watching the fox with a inquisitive expression, head tilted to the side.

The fox sent one last pebble flying with a flick of his finger, though his wary attention never quite left the hare who seemed to be watching his black gloved paws with an excessive amount of attention.

Still watching the hare watch him, he roller his shoulders, then grimaced and grabbed the back of his black pirate shirt, untucking it and shook himself, a slew of small pebbles and stones from the cliff tumbling out.

"I don't mean to pry…" Inigo asked in a courteous manner, though he was still staring intently at the other mammals gloved paw, "But you don't by any chance happen to have hooves instead of paws?

The fox stopped shaking himself, and gave the hare a baffled, are you serious? look as a final pebble fell out from under his shirt and clattered on the ground.

There was an awkward moment of silence as the fox glance at his gloved hand and then back at the hare.

"Do you always begin conversations this way?" he asked, "Because even for a Spaniard, that's a bit of an odd conversation starter. Hells, I would think any mammal, and especially a hare or rabbit would know foxes don't have hooves but paws and claws."

"It's not that odd of a question," the hare shrugged as he examined the black clothed and masked figure before him. "Not any more odd than a mammal that goes around dressed from head to tail in black," he added with a raised eyebrow before shrugging again. "I've seen a wolf constable back in Spain convincingly disguise himself as a sheep when undercover, so why might a sheep not disguise themselves as a wolf… or a fox?"

"Yessss… but hooved mammals only have three fingers," the masked fox replied slowly as if not sure if he was speaking to a simpleton or not and raised his gloved paw wiggling all four of his digits, then swished his long fluffy tail up and to the side were it landed in his outstretched paw.

"Plus this tail ain't, nofake," he said dismissively, flicking the tip of his tail, a bit of scornful pride showing through as he snapped his long fluffy tail back behind him with a sniff as if the hare had gravely insulted him by suggesting otherwise.

Inigo gave a slight nod in turn as if to apologize for any insult, even as his gaze fixed back on the fox's gloved paw and his mouth hardened into a thin line.

"Yes, that is true, and that is no doubt a fine tail." The fox gave a slight huff, muttering something about more than merely 'fine' even as the hare continued, his whole attention fixated on the other mammals gloved paw.

"But you see, my father was slaughtered by a hooved mammal that had four fingers on their right hoof."

The fox stopped his muttered comments and looked back at the hare again, this time with a little less of the dismissive scorn as he noted the hare's seriousness, then reached over with his left paw and pulled the glove on his right off. He raised his now uncovered paw, flexing his fingers and claws, turning his paw back and forth so the hare could clearly see the deep russet red fur and pads of what was undoubtedly a fox's paw.

The hare sighed dejectedly, as if he'd known that would be the case but hadn't been able to help hoping otherwise.

"He was a well known sword maker, my father," the hare said as if to apologize to the other mammal for his question with the explanation. "A great sword maker… and an even better father," Inigo continued. "Then one day the four fingered sheep appeared and requested a special sword. My father took the job."

Inigo paused, pride and sorrow mixing in his expression as he looked down to the rapier sheathed at his side; then with evident care, touched the weapon's elegantly crafted wire basket guard and slowly withdrew the blade to look at it mournfully.

"He slaved a year on it before it was done…" he said quietly, examining the rapier all the way from the masterfully inlaid hilt to the fine razor edge and point as he held it like a curator would a priceless piece of art. The hare looked up, still quiet, seemingly lost in his memories and then as one swords mammal to another, offered the blade to the fox for him to examine.

The masked fox slowly reached over and grasped the weapons hilt held in the open palm of the hare's. He raised it, turning it carefully from one side to the other, inspecting it.

The fine gleaming steel of the skillfully crafted weapon and beautifully gold inlay on the almost delicate looking, yet sturdy guard of the rapier, seeming to make the simple rapier strapped to the fox's side pale in comparison. Still examining the blade, the masked fox reached out and tapped the weapon's blade with his claw.

There was the slightest ring of perfectly forged blade steel and the fox nodded with an understanding only one intimately familiar with such weapons and their use possesed.

"I've never seen it's equal," he said to Inigo admiringly, carefully handing the rapier, hilt first, back to the hare, who looked at the weapon with the same knowing look as he took it back. But then sorrow once again filled his expression.

"The four fingered sheep returned and demanded it, but at one tenth his promised price." A deep anger bubbled up edging the Spaniard's voice as he continued defiantly.

"My father refused! Then, without a word, the four fingered sheep slashed him through the heart." Inigo's paw gripped the rapiers hilt so hard the fur over his knuckles paled. It was a long moment before his hold finally loosened and he carefully returned the rapier to the scabbard, though his paw remained on the weapons hilt with a light, almost reverent touch.

"I loved my father…" the Spaniard hare continued somberly. "So, naturally, I challenged his murderer to a duel." He shrugged, "I failed." Inigo shook his head sadly. "The four fingered sheep left me alive; laughed, and left me there with my murdered father and my father's masterpiece coated with his blood. I think the four fingered sheep was amused by it, but before he left… he gave me these…" The hare tilted his head to one side and reached up with his paw to draw a finger across the odd ridged black stripes of fur on his cheek, then did the same to the stripes on the other side and the fox finally noticed that unlike the dark markings on his ears, the stripes lining the fur on the hare's face was covering old knotted scars where the fur had regrown black instead of white.

"How old were you?" the masked fox asked.

"I was eleven years old, just a small kit," the hare said with another shrug. "When I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing." His voice hardened again, this time though filled with determination and an almost wistful longing. "So the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the four fingered sheep and say… 'Hello, my name is Inigo La'Savage Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die'."

The hare's hard expression held for a second and then he grinned almost boyishly.

"My friend Fezzik helped me out with that. I was just going to kill the four fingered sheep, but he said that proper revenge needs a properly dramatic line. I think he's right, it is a good line, a good thing for those to be the last words the four fingered sheep hears."

"You've done nothing since then but study swordplay?" the fox asked in sincere interest.

"Meh… more pursuit than study lately," The hare shrugged halfheartedly and gestured, "You see I cannot find the sheep. It's been twenty years now. I am starting to lose confidence," he said sadly, his ears wilting and flopping against his back as he sat down next to the black clothed mammal. "I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There's not a lot of money in revenge," He added, waving off in the direction the weasel and fennec fox had gone.

The fox snorted, "No, I guess there isn't. Money problems always seem to be at the root of life's issues and then by the time you get it, it seems that it's too late for money to fix them." He gave a small, sad smile, then clapped his paws on his knees and got up.

"Well, I certainly hope you find your sheep someday," he said taking a few steps away and turning back to face the hare whose ears perked back up.

"You are ready, then?" Inigo asked, excitement coming back to his voice banishing the hare's melancholy.

"Whether I am or not, you've been more than fair," the masked fox replied with a courteous gesture of his arm.

The hare grinned, hopped to his feet, and walked over to stand facing the masked mammal in the middle of the old ruined castle's courtyard.

"You seem like a decent fellow," the hare said as his paw reached down to grip and draw his rapier. "I hate to kill you." He gave a half smile and made a remorseful gesture with the blade.

"You seem a decent fellow," The masked fox replied with a charming smirk as he drew his own blade and mimicked the gesture back as he put his free paw over his heart dramatically, "I'd hate to die."

The hare smiled as he raised the blade, looked right back at the fox who did the same. Then with a gesture like a conductor signaling the start to a concert, he smiled and said one word.

"Begin!"

" 'Begin!' and with that one word the fight…" Ellaine paused in her reading as she noticed that her two grandkits attention seemed to have wandered away. She looked over at the bunkbeds where the two of them were sitting on the lower one whispering furiously back and forth.

"I know, I know but still-"

"If he doesn't win then what will happen to Butterfluff?!"

"She'd find some other way to escape, but I still want to find out why a masked pirate is after her!"

"So do I, but I like Inigo now too… I don't want to see him lose either!"

"I know, I want to see him get his revenge on that four fingered sheep but…"

"But if he wins then the masked fox will be dead and-"

"And if he loses he'll be dead-"

"So who do we want to win?!"

"I want both of them to win!"

"You can't have two winners! Not to a duel to the death! Well… I guess you could… but if they tied wouldn't that mean they'd both die?"

Ellaine put her paw up to her mouth to stop herself from interrupting the two little kits as their hurried, oh-so-serious, whispered debate over who they were rooting for continued. Her muzzle twitched as she bit back a giggle. Ridley's tail was lashing in a distraught manner behind him as he waved his paws and Ella's ears kept popping up and down as she nodded or shook her head.

Finally, it was too much for her and Ellaine spoke before she lost it and started laughing and snuggling her too cute grandkits to her in an excessively grandmotherly way.

"If…" Ellaine bit her lip again trying not to let the happy laughter bouncing around inside of her show too much in her voice. "If you two want to know who wins that badly…" she said, her voice not quite betraying her amusement as she flipped a few pages forward in the book and had to try even harder not to giggle at her little hustle. "I guess we could just skip to the end of the fight so you can find out…" She looked down at the book as she ran her claw down the page as if to find the spot to jump to when there were two simultaneous, and vehemently desperate, 'NOOOOO!'s.

"No! No Grandma! Please don't skip over that! We want to know what happens!" Ridley said, half panicking as Ella sat up next to him waving her paws too.

"You can't skip over parts of the story Grandma! Thats… thats… not right!" the little bunny kit (well, half bunny Ellaine thought with a smile) said after a moment's hesitation before coming up with a justification and then continuing onward determinedly. "Not Right! You have to read it through properly!" she added, nodding her head vigorously, her arms crossing as if stating something everyone should know.

"Ohhh?" Ellaine asked questioningly, her muzzle almost quivering as she worked not to giggle and smile. "I need to read the story properly?"

"Yes!" Both Ridley and Ella shouted promptly, both of them nodding their heads.

"So I should read it all without skipping over any of the parts?" she asked again, still just barely managing to keep a 'oh dear me, is that how its supposed to be done?' grandmothers tone to her voice.

"YES!" Both of her grandkits answered again, their nodding even more enthusiastic this time.

"Even the… the icky, 'kissy' book parts?" Ellaine barely managed to ask without loosing her grandmotherly hustler expression while both kits froze mid nod, Ella's long ears, which had been flopping backwards and forward, flopping over her eyes.

"I… ah…"

Ridley looked at Ella uncertainty as she reached up and raised one ear up, looking at her brother with a conflicted expression.

There was another hurried whispered conference between the two kits.

"... listen to kissy bits! Eeww!"

"-but what about the fight!?"

"-might get cooties!"

"-can't tell if grandma's hustling us! Is she holding the fight scene hostage?!"

"-doesn't matter! I want to find out what happens! Cooties or not! Anyway, I think we've been vexanated for them."

"What's vexanated?"

"Dunno exactly… all that stuff the to make sure we don't 'get sick' the doctor was talking about before we go stuck with all those needles-"

"Ugh! I hate shots!"

"-last week when mom and dad took us to the vet-"

"haaaaaate going to the vet!"

"-for our yearly checkup, so I think that means we're safe from them."

"Are you sure, because if your wrong and we get cooties that means we might have to go back to the vet!"

"Well, we might have to risk it if we want to hear grandma read us the story!"

There was some more whispering and nodding of heads between the two siblings before they finally turned back with determined expression as Ellaine, still sitting in her chair with the storybook, relaxed as any grandmother knitting on a sunday afternoon would.

"Yes!" The both said again nodding resolutely, "You have to read the book properly! No skipping!"

"Well, if that's what you two want…" Ellaine said sweetly as she smiled back at them. "Then I guess that's just what I'll have to do. It's not like I could ever tell my two favorite grandkits 'no' afterall," she added with a giggle as she flipped back to the page she'd been on and had held marked with a claw.

"Now where were we… oh yes, here it is." Ellaine said happily, settling back into her chair as she began reading to her two favorite, and now very attentive grantkits. Her two grandkits, that along with their mother and father, she loved more than anything else in this world.

" 'Begin!' and with that one word the fight started."

"Begin!"

The fox grinned back at the hare standing just out of reach, the other mammal's blade raised, matching his across the gap for what seemed more like minutes rather than mere moments. Neither rushed or tensed but merely stood loose and ready, watching the other, though their confident, not quite hidden smirks seemed to already jab and clash like swords in the silence of the ruined courtyard.

Then the silence was broken with two clashes of steel on steel and a swishing sound like that of a sharp knife through paper as the tip of the hare's rapier slashed through the air, right where the fox's head had been before he leaned out of the way of the blade.

The hare took a single step back to where he'd stood before and grinned like a puppy on Christmas who'd been given a new chew toy. The fox smirked back and-

Clang! Clang! SwWwissh!

Inigo's blade met the fox's for two lightning quick moments and then he leaned to the other side, the fox's own rapier missing his ear by mere fractions of an inch as the predator stepped back, before the hare could take advantage of the opening from the slash.

Another few moments of silence as the two mammals watched each other, the slightest movement in the hold of one of their blades causing the other to shift theirs just enough to respond. A quick feint from one and the clash of steel and feint from the other and each backed off again.

The fox started to circle the hare, who moved in unison with him so that they were always facing each other across the open gap of ground, just out of reach of each other's teasing testing strikes.

The hare was grinning broadly by this point and the fox smirked.

Clang! Clang! Slash! Clang! Clang!

The air was suddenly filled with the sound of metal against metal as the circle was broken and flurry of strikes and parries where exchanged. One after another after another as steel striked and screeched across each other in a nearly continuous beat as each blocked the other and struck back.

Inigo grinned like a fool and nearly laughed in delight before he picked up the pace, one strike following a second then a third before he had to deflect a slash or a jab and could strike again as he started to put his foe on the defensive, pushing him backwards.

Without even looking behind himself, as if he'd memorized the entire courtyard before they'd begun, the masked fox shifted so that his retreat pushed him up a pile of rubble toward a flat bit of slanted masonry that had once been a wall, or landing, or some other broken piece of the castle. The hare followed each retreating step of the fox, yet the thin long blade of his plain sword snapped against the tip of the hare's fine rapier as each slash was deflected to one side or another and the fox used the momentum of the parry to strike downward at the hare even as he moved back up the slab of stone.

"You're using Bunnyetti's defense against me, eh?" Inigo questioned delightedly, seeming more thrilled than worried by the fox's skill as one of the counterstrikes nearly nicked his long ear.

"I thought it only fitting, considering the rocky terrain and my Lapin opponent!"

Inigo laughed excitedly, "Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Feral!" he replied deflecting one of the foxes jabs high and then attacked savagely with a series of powerful lunges, first at the foxes feet and then at his chest,then back at his feet again. Each lunge from the hare was timed with a further hop up the rubble pile toward the fox, adding the strength from his legs to the straight powerful strikes and forcing his opponent to fall back again, now perilously close to the edge of the slab which they now fought on.

"Naturally," the fox grunted with a bit of effort, glancing down at his precarious footing, and shifted so that his side faced the hare, his rear foot brushing some dirt off the edge.

"But I find that ThiBull cancels out Capo Feral, don't you?" The fox asked, the strain leaving his voice as his posture took on an almost natural ease and he deflected each new lunge with a serious of fluid, graceful, angular parries and counter strikes from his new stance. The sound of the clashing steel filling the courtyard for a moment as the fox smirked at the hare and then rather than even bothering to block the next lunge, stepped backwards and off the stone slab.

Inigo stared down at the fox as he landed easily back on the courtyard a few feet below him with a causal flick of his long tail for balance.

"Only unless the enemy has studied Agri'paw…" the hare snorted and then with an answering display of nonchalance took two steps and somersaulted over the fox below to land cleanly with his sword pointed at his foe, "Which I have." He smirked back at the fox before charging forward, his sword once again meeting his opponents with a series of clangs of steel on steel as he drove in close to the larger mammal and pressed him back against the rubble pile. But the masked fox was too quick and with a few sly movements and parries, slid out to the side, retreating a ways across the courtyard before he made a clever counter sending the hares blade wide of its intended path and struck back hard, now on the attack.

Inigo back peddled hurriedly, the razor's edge of the masked fox's simple but study rapier coming closer and closer to hitting him, despite all his efforts to block and parry as each attack followed just a bit faster than before.

"You are wonderful!" the hare all but laughed even as there was the slightest tug on the sleeve of his shirt as the tip of the fox's rapier slashed through the loose bit of fabric.

"Thank you," the fox smirked as their swords clashed again. "I've worked hard to become so," he said, striking quick as any predator and another small tear appeared in the shoulder of the hare's shirt where the blade had made it partially past his defense.

Inigo took a quick glance backward as he retreated toward the very edge of the cliff where he'd helped the fox up and then smiled back at his foe.

"I admit it," he said, sounding almost giddy. "You are better than I am!"

"Then why are you smiling?" the masked fox asked curiously even as he forced the hare back another step closer to the open cliff edge in the broken bit of castle wall.

"Because I know something you do not know," Inigo said slyly, his long ears seeming to nearly quiver with excitement even as he continued to retreat backwards, now but mere feet from the edge.

"Oh?" the fox asked with amusement, thrusting with a particularly powerful strike. "And what is that?"

"I-" the hare started angling his sword to catch the incoming blow even as it pushed him right to the edge of the cliff, "am not left handed." He finished, his right paw coming up to grip the hilt along with his left as he turned the fox's blade, the sound of two razor sharp edges shrieking against each other as the hare deflected the fox's slash in a half circle using both paws and then struck back, quick as a jackrabbit, the gleaming rapier now in his right paw and striking much faster than before, faster even than the fox had been.

Parry, jab, reverse and slash, duck a hurried counter and lunge… Inigo stepped forward away from the precipice edge, striking and slashing and then took another step, the fox's lips now a thin line on his muzzle as he tried to keep him pinned against the cliff edge… and couldn't.

Jab, jab, deflect and slash, reverse and slash, an opening- thrust- the fox fell back, Inigo's blade almost catching him as the predator frantically tried to regain his footing and bring his blade back into position. But the hare gave him no time, springing forward and turning the backwards step into a full retreat down a section of the ruined wall along the cliff edge.

Clang! Clang! Clang!  Slash !

The fox nearly tripped as he backpedaled, his foot slipping on the raised stones of a half crumbled staircase to the ruined castle's only remaining and half destroyed corner tower.

Inigo lunged forward and the fox only just got his sword up in time to deflect the blow past his cheek where the rapiers edge sparked against the stone. The hare pulled back and lunged again even as the masked fox tried to get his feet back under him while simultaneously scrambling further back up the staircase and parrying the blow.

The tip of Inigo's rapier flashed by the fox's hurried block, only to be deflected downward at the last second as the steel skittered off the cross guard and nearly buried itself in the fox's long tail. The masked fox made a stifled yip, his eyes going wide and the hare snickered… only to stop a fraction of a second after he'd started as he ducked, snapping his ears down as a viciously fast desperate slash from the off balance fox nearly took the fur off his head.

The slight break in the hare's attack was all the fox needed to right himself, but that moment was all he had before the hare was back on him, pressing the attack, forcing him backwards up the staircase to the half broken corner turret overlooking the sea far, far, below.

Back on flat ground, the masked fox threw himself into the fight and for a brief few moments he and the hare dueled, almost even, the sound of their whistling blades and clashes of steel drowning out the sharp sea wind.

But almost even, was not even enough and after a few blows he was forced back, then after another few blows, back again.

"You are amazing," the fox commented, sounding as nonchalant as if he were judging the duel rather than fighting it, but a note of strain in his voice gave him away as another blow pushed him back and knocked his sword to the side.

"I ought to be after twenty years!" the hare said with grin as he slammed his blade down against the fox's out of position parry, twisting his rapier as the blade screeched down against the other until the guards hit and locked and he shoved forward using his better position to slam the fox and his sword arm against the old battlement.

"There's… Something I ought to tell you-" the fox grunted as he tried to push back against the hare, but with his sword guard tangled with the hare's and his arm at an awkward angle, he was only shoved back against the battlement wall again.

"Oh!" Inigo snickered triumphantly as he pushed and the mortar of one of the stones the fox was pressed up against along the battlement edge crumbled, the stone sliding back with the fox and almost falling to the sea below.

"Tell me," the hare asked holding off from a final push for just a second.

The masked fox's bright green eyes meet those of the hare's and seemed to smirk despite the dire situation he was in, off balance as he was with the hare about to shove him over the battlement to a long fall and a certain death.

Inigo saw him raise an eyebrow under the mask in an almost mocking manner as the fox said with perfect calm, "Never try touching a fox's tail unless they invite you to!"

His long russet tail snapped up, its fluffy black tip whapping the hare across his nose and causing him to stumble backwards.

"Certainly never try to stab it!" the fox sniffed indignantly. "Oh, and also…" he added almost as an afterthought, "I'm not actually left handed either." He grinned, standing back up off the crumbling battlement wall and tossing his rapier from his left paw to his right, brandished it at the hare with an unnecessary flourish and smirk.

Inigo blinked, his nose twitching erratically from the swat across it, but even momentarily stunned, he struck back with a lightning quick paw, his sword flashing as the fox flourished his. Except that the fox's blade seemed to catch his with ease, the dramatic flourish turning into textbook disarming counter as he spun his bade in a circle against Inigo's, forcing his arm to the side and up in a quick motion that had the hare's rapier sailing out of his paw to land down in the courtyard behind them.

Inigo stared at his empty sword paw in disbelief, then made a startled hop a foot backwards as the fox feinted forward with his blade. The stunned hare barely had time to ponder why there wasn't a sword blade in his chest before the fox, still smirking made another fainting motion and Inigo reflexively hopped back again like frightened mouse being played with by a cat.

Inigo's ears snapped back angrily as he realized that he was being played with, and in a single motion he turned and with three quick steps sprinted off the towers edge. He turned mid air and bounced off the wall with his feet, and then in a move of unrivaled athleticism, twisted to grab a moss covered support bar in a broken archway below the tower using it to arrest some his momentum before he hit the dirt covered stones of the courtyard in a short tumble, snagging his rapier as he bounced back up to his feet once again, facing toward the fox standing a good thirty feet away, above him on the broken tower.

The masked fox snorted humorously down at the hare, and then with a casual flick of his wrist sent his sword spinning forward to land point first in a clump of weeds not five feet in front of the hare.

Inigo's mouth opened as if to ask why the heck he'd done that for when the fox crouched and then leaped. He hit the wall in the same spot Inigo had, bouncing off it but then instead of grabbing the bar in the broken archway to slow his fall, he grabbed it and spun like an acrobat, up and over once, then twice, then on the third he released, doing a full spin and flip before landing perfectly, feet together, one paw casually resting on his pirates black cloth waistband and the other reaching out to rest on the pommel of his sword he'd landed next to.

The masked fox smirked.

Inigo's ears dropped down along with jaw.

The hare's rapier lowering a bit as his head cocked in a confused manner as he stared at the fox like he wasn't sure what he was or had just seen.

"Who… are you?" the hare finally asked slowly as if a name might solve the quandary before him.

The corner of the masked fox's lip twitched.

"No one of consequence," he said indifferently, but Inigo shook his head slowly.

"Nooo…. I must know," the hare repeated, a coy grin stretching across his face as his ears came back up.

"Get used to disappointment," the fox replied smugly.

The hare shrugged, a sort of 'fine, have it your way' motion.

"Okay," he added, and then started forward toward the fox with his rapier as if to take his name with his sword at his foes throat.

There was no feinting this time, no testing strikes.

The fox pulled his sword from the ground as the hare walked toward him and then-

Clang!Snap!Clang!Clang!SwWwissh!Clang!

The speed of the dueling, clashing swords made the previous round seem like one between sloths.

Inigo jumped, the fox's blade sweeping just under his feet as he extended his arm lancing his sword forward with blinding speed only for it to miss skewering the fox's ear as the short triangular appendage pinned back against the black bandana covering his head. He ripped his blade back in a downward strike that should have carved a line across the predators long muzzle, but the fox's sword met his with a ringing of steel that sent the smaller hare flying back. He hit the remnants of a stone pillar behind him feet first and used it to launch himself forward, blade leading into another lunge, but the move was a feint and at the last possible moment he whipped his body around slashing at the fox's shoulder.

The masked fox ducked, his sword snapping up horizontally for the edges of their blades to meet. A grating shrill whine filled the air as Inigo's jumping slash sent him flipping over the fox as if their blades had been a fulcrum and as the two razor edges of the blades ground against each other. But the fox had already reversed his grip and struck back blindly between his legs right at where Inigo landed, one paw out to steady himself, his rapier already deflecting the blow down so that the fox's rapier dug into the thin rocky soil of the old broken courtyard.

He slashed, aiming to cleave the fox's paw from the sword before he could pull it free, but the fox simply let go, the hare's slash whistling harmlessly through the air right above the sword's hilt. The masked fox rolled into a forward tumble, his long tail snapping up under his swords cross guard yanking the weapon from the ground and sending it flying even as Inigo leaped forward to take advantage of his unarmed opponent. He stuck, but the masked fox caught the flying sword as he rolled out of the tumble, spinning to catch the hare's rapier, the two blades screeching again as Inigo shot past him, their blades locking for a brief moment as the fox guided the blades down and around as he spun, then slashed up at the passing hare.

Inigo's fur stood on end as he felt his opponents blade shave a few hairs off the tip of his short puff of a tail before he managed to turn his careening charge into a twisting jump that landed him on top of a tumbled stone pillar, like that of a great fallen tree in the courtyard, now again facing the masked fox. The hare's brow furrowed as the fox leapt up onto the other end of the long broken piece of stone and the two stared at each other for a half second; the fox showing nothing but his annoyingly confident smirk as the hare's lips hardened into a thin line.

Then that brief pause was gone and the next few seconds were a blindingly fast series of strikes and parries as the two sword mammals fought head to head with no room to move to either side.

Five, seven, eleven, sixteen blows and counters, the ring of steel on steel so fast that they sounded like one continuous noise before Inigo's eyes went wide again as his countering slash came in too high, his arm just the slightest bit out of position from the last blow. He leap backwards off the broken pillar even as the base of the fox's blade smashed into his rapier sending it cartwheeling out of his paw again.

The hare snarled, hitting the ground before flipping backwards. That first time he'd been startled, caught by surprise when he'd been whapped on the nose, but this time… this time he'd been flatly outmaneuvered. Inigo stood up, snatching his falling sword from the air before it hit the ground and gave the fox a hard look as he hopped down in front of him.

Never before had he faced another swords-mammal that could match him blow for blow like this fox had, and never before had a mammal disarmed him, let alone done it twiceNever before, not since he had been but a small kit holding a blade he didn't know how to use and facing his father's murderer, had he ever been afraid that he might lose.

There were no words spoken, only an exchange of looks as the fox set himself in a fencers stance and Inigo raised his father's rapier for the last time, his long ears angling back and down with determination. Somehow he knew that this was it, like that sixth sense that warned of a stalking predator that this next exchange of blows would decide the victor. The two of them would match blades once more, but only one was going to walk away… and for the first time since he'd sworn to learn the swordsman's art he wasn't entirely sure if the one to walk away would be him.

None the less, he leveled his rapier at the fox.

He had been defeated once before in his life and he'd sworn that it would never happen again, sworn that he would beat everyone that stood between him and his revenge. He would not lose. He could not lose. Not for the love he bore for his father.

He stared back at the masked fox, his determination burning through him and saw something behind the fox's annoyingly nonchalant confident smirk. A sort of answering determination burning deep in those green eyes, like he was a mammal possessed, a fox on a mission that would not let anything, not even death, stop him from reaching his goal.

And like two unstoppable forces of pure will, the fox and hare stuck, their blade's clashing hard enough that the sound rang in the hare's ears. He forced the fox back a step, then had to retreat a step himself as their swords sang through the air in an almost hauntingly beautiful melody that ran counter to the sharp jarring beat of metal striking metal that was closer to the sound of a blacksmith's hammer on an anvil, than two swift bladed rapiers meeting.

Inigo growled more ferociously than any prey should have been capable of and threw all his skill, all his speed and strength that he'd obtained from a lifetime of training, into the fight. Strike and strike, parry and slash, dodge and lunge- but he could not seem to break through the fox's bladesmanship. He growled again, gripping his rapier with both hands and striking like a the thin blade was a greatsword, headless of the damage such blows might cause to it, confident in his father's craftsmanship as he hammered on his opponents sword in near desperate fury. If the fox was too skilled with the blade for him to take outright by pure skill then he would shatter the fox's blade if that's what it took to win.

He was Inigo La'Savage Montoya.

He would not lose!

Not before he had taken his revenge!

He stuck with everything he had, the edge of his rapier striking that of the fox's. The superbly crafted steel bit into the other, chipping a piece of the fox's blade away, but the fox, still standing in a traditional fencing posture managed to deflect most of the blow's force to the side, sending Inigo's sword arm far out to the side as his blade flashed up toward the hare's face.

Inigo leaned to the side, trying to backpedal and bring his rapier back to bare as the fox's sword nearly grazed him, but the fox struck at his face again, even faster, and this time Inigo felt the edge catch some of his fur… a literal hair's breadth from nicking him as it took everything he had to avoid the blow. But even as he dodged the second blow, he saw the fox's paw already moving for a third and this time, he could not dodge, not with his sword so far to the side, his feet out of place and body and head twisted and off balance from the previous two strikes.

The fox's sword flashed by his eye like silver lightning, raggedly scored and chipped as it struck with terrifying speed, splitting his view of the blue sky over the ruins of the abandoned castle that still stood sentinel over the sea.

A clap like that of thunder exploded in Inigo's long ear, followed by an explosion of pain like that of his old school house nun whacking it with the flat of a ruler.

He stumbled back, is free paw going up to grab his ear, surprised to find that it had not been cut off, only for that surprise to double as he felt the fox's rapier tip lance through a gap in the wire basket hilt of his rapier, then twist to catch the metal. It only took a moment, a fraction of a moment of distraction as he'd grabbed for his ear, thinking it severed, and then his blade was gone, roughly jerked from his paw and the fox's sword snapping up to stop quivering, right under his chin pressing against his throat.

Inigo's shoulder's fell, his paws going slack as he realized that he had failed… failed… once again.

The fox continued to eye him, blade never leaving the jackrabbits throat as he walked in a half circle around the hare, kicking the hare's rapier further away as he moved.

Inigo slumped to his knees, looking down at his empty sword paw.

Empty for the third time in one fight.

He had failed… he had given it his all but he had still failed, beaten by this fox before he could find the four fingered sheep.

"Kill me quickly." Inigo said quietly.

If nothing else, he would die like a true Spaniard; die with honor, defeated by another master of the blade after giving it his all. And maybe, just maybe, if there was something after death, that would be enough and he would be able to see his father once again…

The masked fox snorted.

"I would as soon destroy a stained glass window as an artist like yourself," he said with an amused tone as he circled around behind the hare. The fox's blade resting against Inigo's neck disappeared as he continued, "But… since I can not have you following me-"

An explosion of pain blossomed at the back of the hare's head before it was washed away by darkness. Inigo flopped forward, out cold, the fox standing above him where he'd stuck the hare with the pommel of his sword.

The masked fox made a saluting gesture, his blade going out to the side as he gave a small bow.

"Please understand that I hold you in highest respect," he said to the unconscious hare apologetically before sheathing his now chipped blade, his nose going up to point into the wind as he sniffed, scenting the air.

He continued to sniff until his nose twitched like it had caught some half remembered scent. His head snapped around, his nose pointed in the direction the weasel, fennec fox and the princess had gone.

Without a moment's hesitation he took off after them.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Deliveryman knocks on abandoned looking studio door. "Hey anyone here?! Sorry this package sort of got stuck in the system." Knocks again and 'Mad Grinch Productions' sign Falls off "Opps. Well, Hello? I mean we're only a little late delivering this!" Looks at package with stickers slapped on all over -'Fragile' -'Rush Delivery' -'Handle with Care!' -'Don't you Dare Steal this coffee! This Means YOU!'… "Um… it's only like a year late. Hello? You guys still want it?" deliveryman knocks once more and the door sways inward on a broken hinge to a scene of a deserted looking production area, random equipment in disrepair scattered everywhere… "Um, Hello?" a gust of wind pushes the door open further, rattling around the abandoned facility. "Huh… guess they went under…" Deliveryman starts to turn but there's an odd sound, a sniffing sound. He turns back to the empty facility once more. "Hello? Anyone?" Silence… then that same odd sniffing sound from somewhere else inside, then a groan (a light someone deep inside flickers ominously like some horror zombie apocalypse movie) more groans and moans echo around the space and the flickering light shows something reach up past a desk… something like a desiccated hand -reach- grasping -clawing

"Cooooooofffeeeeeeeeeee…" moans a grating inhuman voice, then more voices join it, first just whispers, then louder, and louder, "Cooooofffee" "Cooffee!" "COFFEE!"

Deliveryman screams, dropping the package and runs away.

Mad Grinch Productions statement: We assume no liability for anything done by Zombies-


Chapter 10 – Sportsmanly Fighting

Vizzini gasped and panted as he continued his way up the almost nonexistent goat trail along the rocky hillside.

Maybe… maybe wearing his fancy court apparel out on this job hadn't been the best of his none-the-less always bright ideas. Though it would have been a shame to leave such a nice and expensive set of clothes that were perfectly suited to his status as a distinguished business mammal back in the inn where he'd rented a room before this job. No, taking the clothes with him (along with all his other belongings, tucked here and there into the pockets he'd sewn inside the fancy puffy jacket) was in all likelihood a good idea; leaving them there would simply have been asking for someone to steal them! Not that he'd exactly 'paid' for the clothes to begin with…

...or his bill for the room before leaving…

...or the wine and food that'd found their ways into his pockets on the way out of the inn's kitchen while avoiding the brute of a bear that owned the inn… (both in the literal and figurative sense…)

Bahh! Not that it mattered. Thieves and scoundrels all in that little podunk town! They deserved everything they got. Mammals didn't call it 'Thief's village' for nothing!

Now if these clothes were just a little less warm and his jacket just a little less heavy and this hill not so blasted high! Vizzini snarled to himself as he panted and looked forward to see if he'd finally made it to the top.

Fezzik, small little brute of a fox that he was, with princess still slung over his shoulder and glaring back at him was chugging along like this was an easy little jaunt and was about to round a rock outcropping at the hilltop.

"Fezzik… *Wheeze*… Fezzik!" Vizzini shouted after taking a moment to breath. "Slow down you overweight lout! *wheeze* I told you to follow me, *wheeze* that means *wheeze* you're supposed to be Behind Me!... *Wheeze*…"

The princess, gagged as she was after all her annoying shouting as they left the castle ruins, rolled her eyes at him in obvious contempt even as the fennec fox stopped and waited for Vizzini, who, huffing and puffing, finally caught up with them in the little boulder strewn meadow at the top of the hill.

"Well, we can't all get royal treatment *wheeze* and be carried around your highness *wheeze…* " Vizzini sneered back at Butterfluff as she lay slung on Fezzik's shoulder.

"mmhmhmhm, mMhhhh mmMmhmh Mmhmm!" Buttercup responded through the gag, narrowing her eyes at the weasel.

"What was that your highness, I couldn't hear you." Vizzini snickered mockingly to his prisoner.

One of Fezzik's larger ears swiveled a bit as the bound bunny let out another series of muffled noises.

"She says to come closer and she'll show you some real Royal treatment," Fezzik said as his large ear twitched, listening to the bunny's short tirade. Then he smirked, as the bunny added something else to the end of her muffled threat.

"Also, the princess says that your short ears must be as bad as your crooked whiskers."

Heat flushed Vizzini's face as his (remaining) crooked whiskers twitched violently, and he spluttered angrily…

"Why you impudent little worthless rabbit!-"

"mhmhmhh, mhh mmmhh, mh Mmhmt," Butterfluffy cut in with another eye roll.

"Bunny, not rabbit, you Dolt," Fezzik said, then pointed his thumb at Butterfluff at Vizzini's outraged look, half at what had been said and half at being interrupted mid rant, turned on him. "That's just what she said." The fennec fox shrugged innocently.

"I Don't care what she said!" Vizzini screeched, "Bunny, Rabbit, it's the same stupid thing!-" he shouted red faced, marching up to them, sticking his finger right in front of Butterfluff's nose. "Especially when you're going to be a dead bunny-rabbit once we make it past the next hill and into Gilder Territory!"

Princess Butterfluff, rather than looking terrified or even cowed, smiled through the gag at the weasel leaning in to shout right into her face. One of her long ears cocked back like a pulled bowstring and-

THWAP!

"AGGGHHH!" Vizzini cried out clutching at his freshly squashed whiskers and stinging muzzle. That stupid rabbit had ear slapped him! Ear Slapped him! "Why You! You..." The impudence! Nobody slapped him! Well… that white vixen who worked at the docks had when he'd drunkenly tried flirting with her back at the inn, (seriously, who knew foxes where so touchy about their tails!? All he'd done was give it a pat), but to be slapped with an Ear?!

Vizzini, slightly off balance and still clutching his muzzle, squinted up at bunny about to lay into her for the shear inconceivable indignity of such an action... and was just in time to see, not one but two long ears cocking back-

THWAP!-THWAP!  THWAP!

Ellaine paused as muffled snickering broke out from the bed where her grandkits sat. Ella had both paws over her mouth trying to stifle the noise while Ridley looked somewhere between sympathetic and amused.

"Really, he should have seen that coming from, like, a mile away!" the young fox kit muttered to himself while rolling his eyes in obvious exasperation. His sister, for her part, nearly fell over as she redoubled her efforts to stifle her snickering.

"Oh? Is that so?" Ellaine asked in an innocently grandmotherly tone as Ella tried, and failed, to regain her composure and nearly rolled off the bed.

Ridley just rolled his eyes at his sister's antics this time.

"Ya, that's like Ella's favorite thing to do when mom and dad aren't looking."

"Do *Snicker* not!"

"Do to!" Ridley smirked, poking at his still laughing sister as she held both paws over her muzzle.

"Do Not! *Snicker*" Ella's ear snapped over, slapping Ridley's paw away even as she continued to snicker and snort.

"See! See! Dooooo To!"

"Hey *Snicker* you poked me *snicker* first!" Ella retorted.

"Kits, settle down." Ellaine said, still using her grandmother voice and hiding her amusement at their antics in hopes of forestalling what she was sure was about to become a sibling poke/slap war.

There was another snicker from one and a replying eye roll from the other before Ridley looked back over at his grandmother while his sister's snickering fit started to subside.

"Really, I thought that was kinda of an obvious thing to beware of about bunnies," Ridley said, "Vizzini completely walked right into that."

"Well… you do know bunnies better than a lot of other mammals," Ellaine replied to her half-fox grandkit with a somewhat entertained grin, looking at his slightly longer than normal fox ears, "Not everyone might be aware of that you should watch out for bunny ears."

"Ya, and knowing still doesn't always help," Ella added, sitting up and having to stifle only a remaining snicker or two, "Mom still gets dad almost every time he tries to sneak up on her and grab her tail!" She burst back out into another set of snickering giggles and this time Ridley joined in with a few snickers of his own too.

"Ohhh?" Ellaine said dragging out the word and letting her eyebrows raised in a shocked manner, "Your father has been doing exactly what now?" she finished, summoning all the affronted grandmother sternness to her voice she could and sniffed. "I thought I taught my son better manners than that!"

Both kits immediately stopped snickering, looking at each other with identical 'opps' expressions.

"I mean, it's not like… like…" Ridley started, trying to backpedal.

"Dad isn't… I mean he's just playing around!" Ella quickly added as Ridley's explanation stumbled.

"Ya… ya!" Ridley pitched back in. "That's just mom and dad teasing each other, it's not like mom actually gets angry when dad does that either!"

"Ya, otherwise Mom wouldn't try to hide her smile or pull those ear smacks and dad definitely wouldn't be grinning so much afterwards," Ella said defensively waving her paws.

"Un-huh" Ridley said, nodding vigorously. "Dad definitely wouldn't be grinning so much if Mom really ear smacked him… or when she chases him afterwards," he added almost as an afterthought.

Ellaine, just raised her eyebrows a bit further, forcing an even more affronted and indignant look of grandmotherly shock on her face as she put a paw over her heart.

"Judith does what now?" she let out a little gasp as if it were too much for her old ears, "Karma save me! And I thought they both were better mannered than that! Tail grabbingChasing! What must they have been teaching you two!" Ellaine let her voice go all high and scandalized as the two siblings looked wide eyed at each other as if they'd just inadvertently tattled on their friends.

Ellaine almost lost it and broke down laughing right there and then, what with her grandkits concerned looks of 'Uh-oh! What do we do now?!' on top of the all too easy to believe thoughts of her son trying to sneak up, in a no doubt overly-dramatic and none too subtle manner, to pinch Judy's tail before fleeing with his irate wife right on his tail.

She almost lost it; but managed, just barely, to hold her own laughter down as she continued her own little overly-prim grandmother drama and continued, indignation and sternness mixing with parental promise of punishment.

"Dear me! To think that they would do such things! I will have to have a conversation with Judith and Nicholas when they get back, oh yes I will! And what will Bonnie think when I tell her what our kits have been up to?! She'll be heartbroken with disappointment!" She added in an almost tearfully heartbroken voice as if it was the end of the world even as Ella and Ridley had a silent conversation of frantic gestures and mouthed words back and forth as if trying to figure out how to forestall getting their parents (and themselves) into even more hot water.

"Uh… grandma…" Ridley hesitantly interrupted her as she started to wipe away a pretend tear, "You were reading us a story, right?" he pointed toward the seemingly forgotten book in her lap, with a desperate look of hope as if changing the conversation might save them and make her forget everything. "We'd really like to hear the rest of that story before we have to go to bed." He added in a nearly desperate voice and Ella nodded frantically next to him.

Ellaine turned her amused laugher into a pretend sniff over her supposed disappointment in their parent's behavior before grinning ever so slightly to herself and picked up the book.

THWAP!

Vizzini stumbled backwards, face stinging

Then, even as his paw clutched at his stinging muzzle and freshly re-smashed whiskers on that side, Vizzini tripped over one of the large stones littering ground and tumbled backwards down the hill.

There was a stifled snicker from the fennec fox as the weasel floundered, clutching at his muzzle as he tried to stop his tumble. Butterfluff turned her head, discreetly looking at the distracted fox, her body tensing and ears angling back.

Fezzik's snickering abruptly stopped and he glared warningly at her.

"I like you bunny, but try that on me and I'll bite that ear off!" Fezzik rumbled dangerously, his tone seeming to be a mix of respect and threat as he scowled, his lip lifting to show his sharp canine teeth in an almost smile.

Butterfluff and the fox eyed each other for a moment, before her ear returned to a half cocked position and his smile became a little less toothy.

The small truce was interrupted as Vizzini's cursing became louder as the weasel climbed back up the hill once again.

"That! That! That impertinent insolent little *Wheeze*…"

The weasel stopped mid rant for a second to put his paws on his knees and gasp for air, before straightening back up, red faced and stepping toward her with his paw out and shaking… only to immediately step back as he realized he'd almost stepped within range of her ears again.

"No, don't think you'll catch me off guard like that again!" he shouted pulling out his dagger and waving it threateningly as he inched forward. "Try that trick again and I'll- I'll- HEY!" He waved the dagger even more threateningly right in front of her face as the bunny only stared past him with a shocked expression.

"Pay attention to me when I'm threatening you, you… you stupid bunny!" Vizzini' screeched, face passing tomato-red and heading for rutabaga purple.

"Umm… boss…" Fezzik started to say.

"Don't-interrupt-me-when-I'm-ranting,*wheeze*-you-over-grown-" Vizzini's eyes seeming to almost pop out of his head as he waved the knife around, and Butterfluff involuntarily flinched back as the tip crossed right in front of her nose, even as her attention stayed locked on some spot past the weasel.

"Boss!" Fezzik said over the tantrum weasel and pointed down the path they'd just come up.

"Puffed-up-overpaid-giant-eared-"

With a sigh, the brutish fox reached out, carefully grabbed the ranting, knife waving, weasel by the collar of his puffy coat and lifted, turning him around.

"Boss!" and he pointed down toward the spot that Butterfluff, still slung over his shoulder, was intently staring at.

"-underwiskered…" Vizzini's voice trailed off as he blinked, though his mouth continued to flap for a few seconds before it seemed to catch on that his brain was no longer sending it stuff to say.

The weasel squinted, then reached up and rubbed his eyes before squinting again as if there must have been something wrong with them before. But no, even after rubbing them he could still see the far off shape of some black clothed mammal, that was certainly not his apparently-less-skilled-than-advertised-spaniard-swordsmammal cresting the previous hill and following the nearly non-existent trail towards them.

"In-freaking-conceivable!" he finally blurted out and both the fox and the bunny rolled their eyes.

There was a long moment of silence as Vizzini apparently bent his mind around the latest not-so-inconceivable inconceivable thing to happen to his perfect plan in the last day before once again snapping to a decision.

"Give her to me! Then catch up with us quickly" He shouted turning to his last remaining minion (ehem, 'associate' he reminded himself to call them… at least out loud), then stopped before he could step toward the bunny that had already started cocking back her ear again, even as his minion started to ask a confused question.

"WAIT!" he said rather shrilly, taking a step back before reaching into his coat looking for more rope… only to find that he'd already used up all he had taken from his 'borrowed' boat.

Swearing colorfully under his breath, he pointed to his… 'associate'.

"If she so much as twitches that ear, or for that matter twitches so much as a muscle…" he trailed off threateningly, and Fezzik closed his mouth before sighing and nodding.

Vizzini carefully approached the bunny, knife first, as Fezzik glared warning at her slung over his shoulder as she was. Butterfluff glared back but made no move this time as the weasel, in starts and stops edged around her and sawed through the ropes binding her feet.

Working quickly, and with quite a few nervous glances back at his prisoner still glaring back and forth with the fox, Vizzini re-tied a shorter section of rope from one of her feet to the other with a small gap to hobble her, then taking another section of the rope grabbed her ears.

There was a muffled yelp from Butterfluff at this indignity, but he ignored it, tying her ears down to her back, then tied the last bit of rope to the her bound paws behind her back, keeping the other end in his hands like a leash.

"Okay, lets try this again, and no freaking funny business you over zealous bunny-rabbit!" Vizzini sneered angrily at her, giving her a poke with his knife to emphasize his point.

"Now give her to me, and catch up with us as soon as you can," Vizzini snarled, waving his knife frantically somewhere to the side before returning it to the bunny's back as Fezzik lowered her to the ground.

As soon as her paws touched the ground, Vizzini thought he saw the damned whisker-murdering princesses eyes flicker toward him, as if judging her chances, so he gave a tug on the rope tied to her and poked her in the back again with the knife.

"Un-un, none of that now!" he growled before starting to force around the bend in the trail just as Fezzik spoke up.

"So, what now?" the oversized Fennec fox said, rolling his now unburdened shoulder, and looking toward the prisoner he'd been carrying a moment before.

Vizzini stopped, cheeks reddening furiously again and started to take the knife off the bunny to gesticulate with it again before he stopped, thinking better of that idea. Instead he'd gave a sort of angry headbob toward the direction they'd just come from.

"Finish him! Finish Him! Your Way!" he snarled angrily, turning back to force the bunny another step around the hilltop.

"Oh good, my way. Thank you Vizzini." The fox said rolling his eyes, before adding sarcastically, "And which way is my way?"

The weasel, too angry or panicked, seemed to miss the sarcasm and turned around, making a quick gesture at one of the rocks sitting around the boulder filled field, before immediately returning the knife to the bunnies back.

"Well, you're always talking about that stupid baseball game of yours…" Vizzini started off slowly as if speaking to some sort of particularly dumb child, his voice rising in volume and speed as he continued until he was nearly shouting. "So pick up one of those rocks and get behind that boulder. In a few minutes the mammal in black will come running around the bend. The minute his head is in view, HIT IT WITH THE ROCK!"

And with that final snarl, Vizzini turned back and marched his hobbled prisoner out of view.

The fennec fox stood there for a moment scowling before crossing his arms.

"Hitting the batter isn't very sportsmanlike," he muttered, before scowling even more. "And I prefer to bat over pitching anyway."

His scowl grew even more as he reached down a picked up a fist sized rock and bouncing it in his paw, looked at the boulder Vizzini had frantically head bobbed at mid rant. He gave another disparaging snort, scowl still growing and noted how that boulder stood upwind of the little goat trail and instead went to stand behind a less obvious boulder on the other side, scowl still deepening and muttering about sportsmanship and mammals that didn't respect the sport.

The black masked fox crested the next hill in almost causal, yet mile-devouring loupe, before stopping for a moment to put his nose forward again and check the scent trail he'd been following. It took him less than a moment find the scent of his prey, the scent that he would not, could not forget. With a nod of his head to himself he continued on…

Only to stop suddenly at the sound of a grunt; he snapped his head to the side, instantly on alert and ready to face the threat… but only had a moment for his eyes to go wide as he saw the grey blur of a rock hurtling straight for him.

His muscles started to tense to jump out of the way. His paw already traveling to the hilt of his sword. But even as he started to move, the world seeming to slow around him in his adrenaline fueled sight, he knew he'd be too late as that whistling blur of rock closed toward his still widening eyes… closed on him… and then with an almost agonizing slowness that must have lasted less than even a fraction of a second, right as he started to reflexively cringe, awaiting, anticipating, the impact of that speeding rock on his oh so prized muzzle… the rock seemed to curve ever so deceptively to the side and shot by his face with a crack like a cannonball, to hit and break apart on the boulder behind him.

The masked fox's sword blurred out of its scabbard as he spun, aborting his too late dodge, even as the broken bits of rock shards pelted across his back and faced the mammal, the… fox? That took a step out from behind the boulder that had hidden him, already bouncing another round, fist sized rock in his paw.

"You know, I did that on purpose," the odd, little, yet not so little fox said, bouncing the rock in his paw again even as the black clothed mammal shifting into a defensive posture, hesitating from attacking as he quickly took stock of his new opponent. The smaller than standard fox stature, the long fennec fox ears on a disproportionately larger than normal fennec fox frame, the seemingly slow but powerfully precise way the other mammal moved, more like the movements of some mountainous bear squashed down into some fennec fox's body, and last but certainly not least, the near effortless way his paw caught and gripped the rock in his paw.

"I didn't have to miss," the little large fennec fox smirked, his grip on the rock with one finger knuckled back, shifting to hold it with two fingers and thumb.

"I believe you," the masked fox replied with a slight swallow, eyes carefully watching the rock in the other's paw even as he judged the distances between them. He gave a slight appreciative nod toward that paw, smiling even though his whole body remained tensed to spring.

"Very nice curve ball you had there," he gave a half-hearted smirk, "I'd hate to see your fast pitch."

The fennec fox smirked toothily.

"Well thank you, it's nice to meet another fan of the sport."

The masked fox shifted his footing slightly even as he nodded back. He was still hesitant, his sword up defensively as he judged the distance between them again and came to the same disheartening conclusion.

"So what now?" he asked, tense smirk still plaster across his muzzle as his tail shifted nervously behind him. "You pitch your rock and I bat with my sword, and if I make it to the first boulder I'm safe?" The masked fox gave a hustlers grin, not one of his best under the circumstances, but fairly good even then and continued with a friendly shrug, "I mean, it's not like you'd intentionally try to brain me with that ball of yours, why that would clearly be against the rules and I don't even have a batting helmet! Would be a shame to the sport."

The fennec fox nodded amiably, toothy grin still in place as he patted the ball between his paws like a pitcher warming up.

"Well, we face each other as god intended," the fennec fox said, his smile seeming to grow even more. "Sportsmanlike. No Tricks, No weapons. Skill against skill alone."

The masked fox blinked, seeming slightly taken aback.

"What," he gestured with his sword. "You mean, you'll put down your rock and I'll put down my sword, and we'll try to kill each other with naught but claws and teeth like civilized mammals?"

The fennec give another one of his wide mouthed smiles.

"I could kill you now," he said, angling his body back into a pitchers stance threateningly as the masked mammal brought up his sword. "You want to see if that little blade of yours can stand up to my fastball?"

The masked fox gave a sour glance between the quite hefty looking stone in the fennec's paw and his battered, beaten, and chipped blade, before slowly lowering it down to the ground as he gave the slightly smaller, though certainly stouter fox, a questioning glance.

"Frankly, don't you think the odds of paw to paw fighting are slightly in my favor?" he asked as the other lowered his rock. "I mean I wouldn't want to be unsportsmammaly."

The fennec fox just smirked and shrugged before taking off his shirt, rolling one shoulder then the other… One very, very well-muscled shoulder, then the other just as heavily muscled shoulder.

He looked at the rock still in his paw and squeezed for a moment, knuckles whitening before there was a loud Crack! And then he flipped the rock behind him, where it hit the ground… in two pieces.

The masked fox swallowed slightly watching as the fennec fox cracked those knuckles and the muscles under his arms bulged like some overly muscled, spinach eating sailor goat.

"It's not my fault if the Biggest always think they're the Strongest." The fennec then cracked his neck to one side then the other and gave another toothy smile. "I don't even exercise."

The masked fox grunted, hustler smile still valiantly attempting to stay in place, though clearly not doing a great job as he put his paws up in a boxing stance and the fennec crouched slightly in a wrestlers pose.

"Sportsman like?" the masked fox asked, unhappy smile still in place.

"Sportsman like." the fennec replied

"No clawing or biting of the tail or ears?"

"Of course."

The masked fox nodded, then shot forward paw swinging.

The smaller fox just stood there, then right before the blow landed moved his head to the side letting fly past. The larger fox took a quick step back, watching for a counter… then when nothing happened he grunted and shot forward swinging for the smaller mammals side.

The fennec took one step forward planting his foot, letting the inside of the larger foxes arm hit his side instead of the clawed paw. This time the grunt the larger fox gave was involuntary as the impact felt more like that of hitting a tree, rather than a mammal, and didn't so much as budge the smaller fox from his crouched stance. Then to his horror the little fox's arm shot forward over his outstretched one and grabbed it like a vice locking it in place against the little mammals side.

He twisted it, trying to yank his arm back, but to no avail, then giving up on his trapped limb the masked fox snapped his other paw forward striking two quick blows to the other mammals chest and stomach. Not that that seemed to do much more than sting his fisted paw, given the serene expression of his opponent. So in growing desperation he swung, aiming to claw the little mammals side to get him to release his arm… only the smaller mammal had shifted his free arm back and when the masked mammal's claws dug into the fennec's forearm instead of his side, the fennec smiled and returned the favor grabbing the taller fox's forearm in turn, digging his own claws in.

The black clothed mammal grimaced, shifting his weight forward to try and knock the smaller mammal down as he struggled with him, one arm trapped against his opponents side the other locked in a mutual arm grasp that seemed to favor neither of them. But the smaller fennec fox just crouched slightly more, one foot bracing behind him against the larger mammals shove. The masked mammal grunted, shoving forward again, throwing all his weight and height advantage into it, trying to topple his smaller foe. But the wily brute of a slightly smaller fox seemed about as immovable as a boulder planted in the ground as he kept his posture lower denying the other mammal the leverage he needed .

The masked tried one last time with a almighty grunt of effort that succeeded in doing absolutely nothing, then deciding that trying to topple the dwarfish brute of a fox was a pointless cause, shifted sideways to try and simply pick him up and toss him… only to find out somewhere along the way that ground had become the sky and the sky had become the ground, and it hurt a hell of a lot as he slammed backfirst into it.

He let out a low groan as he looked back up over his head at where the damned strong little bastard was casually turning around to face him after somehow turning things around and making him the flipp-e instead of the flipper.

The masked fox scowled rolling to his feet and facing the little trollish fox that seemed content to just stand there and wait for him.

"Look, are you just fiddling around with me or what?" he asked annoyed.

The little fox looked almost wounded by the insulation and shrugged before starting to move toward him in a low ponderous gate.

"I just want you to feel you're doing well," he said, throwing a wide haymaker punch, that the masked fox dodged easily, though it backed him up to a low boulder. "I hate for people to die embarrassed." The fennec added, body and hips twisting as his fisted paw shot forward toward the masked fox like a small, short jackhammer.

The larger fox, wary of his foe now, and rightly so, gave an almost silent yelp at the punch, and not able to dodge backwards, jumped up onto the boulder and then over the smaller fox as that piledriving fist cracked against boulder.

The masked fox rolled, came back up to his feet as the small fox gave his fist one shake, the rock seeming to only slightly stung his paw as he turned to face off again.

"You're a quick one," the fennec fox said, smiling as he started that slow ponderous gait toward him again like a boulder just starting to roll down a hill.

One step, two, three, Swing.

"And a good thing too," the masked fox grunted, dodging again, in no way wanting to find out if his body would do any better of a job than the rock of stopping that punch.

"So why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?" The large little fennec took another few steps forward, closing on him again, still holding a conversation, even as he threw another powerful fisted blow, seeming far more comfortable with those piledriver punches than with using his claws, for which the masked fox was more than grateful for.

Maybe he was afraid of chipping his claws with those damned strong blows of his, the masked mammal mused as a blow that grazed his side caused him to grimace and wonder just how badly that might bruise later.

"Oh no, It's just that they're terribly comfortable," he replied, his mouth working on auto-pilot as he concentrated on not getting pulverized. "I think everyone will be wearing them in the future," he added flippantly as he dodged another mighty blow to the side, throwing everything he had into a sucker punch to the fennec's kidney. The little fox actually grunted this time and the masked mammal smiled to himself as he darted out of the strong little bastard's reach again… only to yelp as something grab hold of his tail like a steel shackle.

"Hey!" he yelped, " I thought we said-"

"Not clawing or biting it!" the Fennec said right over him as he twisted, one paw gripping the larger fox's much longer tail, heaving tremendously on it like it was a dammed rope.

The masked fox's yelp cut off with a strangled gasp as he was flipped bodily over the fennec's shoulder and back into the ground.

He looked up and only had time to whimper as the smaller fox turned once again and the ground switched places with the sky before his muzzle became reacquainted with it.

The masked fox let out a pained groan.

"Yep, being quick won't help once I got a'hold of ya," the little troglodyte of a mammal replied, turning to throw him by his tail once more.

Seeing this, and desperate to avoid another repeat, the masked mammal scrambled, twisting around on himself to reach where the little fennec already had his tail over his shoulder ready to toss him again. Not quite able to reach his tail from that awkward position the masked fox grabbed his foes other shoulder with one arm, twisting up enough that he was able to snap his muzzle forward and sink his teeth into that over muscled forearm squeezing the hell out of his tail.

The fennec for once gave a pained grunt of his own and as the masked fox felt the little fox's grip loosen he reached forward and yanked his tail out of the little rule-lawyering bastard's paws.

Unfortunately, just as he reclaimed his tail the little fennec's other fist came up toward the masked fox's face and the world seemed to pop for a second with all sorts of bright colors before it came back into focus as he awkwardly fell backwards off the other fox's shoulder, still bent back on himself, one paw still holding his own tail… only to yelp once more as he was brought up short from fully face planting into the ground as his tail, looped over one shoulder of the little brute and held in his own paw over his other caught under the fennec's muzzle.

The fennec gave another grunt as his muzzle was forced up and the masked fox, in a burst of inspiration that had him nearly crying for his oh-so-already-and-about-to-be-abused-beautiful-tail, hurriedly reached back up with his other paw to grab it and pull it tight around the smaller fox's throat.

There was another grunt a slight wheeze as the masked fox did everything he could to pull his tail down tight in a very impromptu choke hold while dangling off the fennec's back and scraping against the ground.

The fennec's two strong paws reached up to grab the fluffy stranglehold on his neck, but the masked fox with the smallest of whimpers, yanked, pulling the fennec's head back and the paws reaching up, already encumbered slightly by the fennec's overly pronounced musculature missed.

The was a half strangled growl as the paws cam down and tried to reach behind him to grab hold but the masked fox, curled upwards, whimpering, and hung by his tail wrapped around the others neck like an oversized backpack just out of reach of those too damned strong for there size paws.

"You know…" the fennec gasped out between a partially strangled breath as he turned in place, still trying to grab hold of the fox on his back. "I Just figured out why you are giving me… so much trouble."

The fennec stopped turning in place and backed up suddenly slamming his back, and consequently the other fox curled up and dangling by his fluffy tail on his back, into a boulder.

"Why… Offft… is that, you think?" the masked fox managed to grunt out.

"Well…" the fennec replied, his voice starting to show some strain as the fluffy tail seemed to ratchet down another notch around his throat. "I haven't fought just one mammal for so long…" he took a second to take in as much of a breath as he could while looking from side to side. "I've been specializing in groups…" He stopped swiveling his head, having spotted his target. "Battling gangs for local charities… that kind of thing," he finished and stumbling a few steps to the side, smashed his back into another boulder.

"And -Offfft…" There was a groan from the fennec's back before the masked fox wheezed back, "why should that make such a… OFfffft…" the fennec slammed back against the rock again even harder.

"-difference?" the masked fox finished, his voice out of breath and an octave higher.

"Well…" the fennec fox, gasping for air now, used the distraction to reach up and get his paws on the fluffy tail around his windpipe before the other could yank his head back out of reach again.

"you see…" he tried to yank the tail away from his throat, but the other fox stubbornly held on, pulling back hard, whimpering as they played tug of war with the appendage.

"you use different moves…" the fennec gasped out still tugging on the tail causing the other fox to whimper… but his vision was starting to go black at the edges, and his arms felt so heavy.

"when you're fighting half a dozen mammals…" he wheezed, concentrating on the words, trying to use them to focus and keep the blackness from encroaching as he mustered his energy and slammed back against the rock once more.

There was another groan from his back and the fluff choking his throat loosened for a second… but only a second. His paws responded too slowly- he'd only gotten the barest breath in-

He concentrated hard- what had he been saying?

"than when you only have to be…" he wheezed, tugging at the fluff- tugging- his knee hit something, was that the ground? He couldn't seem get a good grip on that choking fluff- could pull it away…

His sight was narrowing down to just a pinprick of light. His thoughts felt fuzzy and incomplete. But he concentrated, concentrated hard as that light seemed to get further away… he just needed on good strong tug-

"worried about one." He wheezed out the last of his air, tugging with everything he had left as the light in front of him disappeared… tugging but he couldn't feel his arms, in fact the last thing he felt was something hard cushioned by something fluffy hitting the side of his face before he felt nothing more at all.

The masked fox groaned to himself as the freakishly strong fennec fox finally toppled forward to the ground, sending one last bit of pain up his tail as it was squashed between the fennec's cheek and the rocky ground.

He let go of his improvised fluffy garrote, rolling off the back of the smaller mammal and to the side before carefully… carefully, extracting his abused tail with one last whimper.

He spent a moment getting his breath back… then another couple going over his prized tail looking for damage and straightening his fur back out.

He sighed with relief when it seemed like there was nothing broken and he'd be stuck with only bruises.

Groaning, he sat up before looking at the large, unresponsive fennec fox beside him. He reached over and with a grunt rolled the mammal over onto his back, finding that moving the mammal was far easier when he wasn't planting himself in the ground like a mule that had decided to go only that far and not a inch further.

Leaning over he placed one ear on the fennec's chest and waited… before letting out a snort as he heard the clear heartbeat.

"I don't envy you the headache you'll have when you awake," the masked fox said standing to his feet, "But in the meantime," the fox said with one last look back at the fennec laid out on the ground as he sniffed the air and caught once again the scent of his prey.

"Rest well… and dream of large vixens, because you ain't ever getting near this beauty of a tail again." He snapped his prized possession disdainfully before turning and began to jog down the path after the trail of his prey once more, mumbling to himself as he went.

"Only one mammal on this good earth gets to touch my tail besides me…"