Princess Aurora’s escape had been perfect thus far – apart from the breast-bindings chafing beneath her yeoman’s disguise. She strode towards New Town, hidden from even her father’s most conscientious soldiers by the close-canopied forest, until a scream sent the birds shooting from their roosts.
Aurora ran towards the sound. In a clearing she tripped over a terrified rabbit, its broken leg dangling from a trap. Wedging the device with a stone, she gently pulled the creature’s ragged flesh free. The quivering rabbit jumped away, bucking and twisting its ears back into its head. Fur fell from the creature’s body, which twisted and stretched as if on a rack until it was bare and filled the clearing floor. Aurora stepped back, and saw that the rabbit had become human.
‘Thank you,’ croaked the bloody, naked, young man. ‘I am Prince Gabriel. A witch cursed me, saying that only my True Love could set me free.’
‘That’s terrible,’ said Aurora, dreading what must come next, ‘But I’m already late.’
‘Marry me!’ Gabriel pleaded. ‘Father won’t mind that you’re a boy - he’s open-minded.’
Remembering her disguise, Aurora’s cheeks reddened. ‘Why do all princes have to do this? I’ve just escaped one arranged marriage. This is nonsense!’
‘But I’d still be a rabbit if not for you!’
‘Happy to help, but I’m apprenticed to the blacksmith in the next town, so no thanks!’
Shouldering her pack, Aurora left.
‘Told you he wouldn’t!’ shouted Gabriel.
‘Third time’s the charm,’ said the witch, from atop a tree. ‘The True Love line will do the trick eventually. Always does. Besides, your father’s paying me handsomely to get you married, so shush!’
Waving, the witch magicked the screaming rabbit-prince back into the trap, just as another fresh-faced girl entered the clearing.