Disclaimer: I don't own this franchise or any of these characters, and I don't wish to make any profit from writing this story.
Author's Note: I started writing this for Jackrabbit week, for the story verse theme. I knew I wouldn't finish this story in time, but I'm hoping to keep working on this
It was supposed to be a story, an old folktale to tell at bedtime, and nothing more. "If you call for the pookas, they will come and take you away." Jack had lost count of how many times his mother had told him the story as a child. It was an odd tale, no one else in the village had even heard of a pooka. However, the story had been passed down in Jack's family for over a century.
Several generations back, some ancestor of Jack's had supposedly been taken away by the pooka - or at least that's what his mother said. His mother had always looked quite serious when she said it, but to Jack it was nothing more than an amusing game.
He told his friends the tale and they couldn't resist the urge to make a game out of it. Jack and his friends would dare each other to call for the pookas to come and whisk them away. There would be a linger of fear, in case the story was somehow true, but when nothing happened Jack and his friends would laugh themselves silly. It was just a game, and nothing more.
It was also fun to tease his younger sister, Mary, who took the stories far too seriously just like their mother. It was just her and him alone in their home while their parents were at a village meeting - a perfect time for some innocent fun. Mary had asked for a story, so Jack told her one.
He grinned as Mary's eyes widened in disbelief. "He'll really come and take me away?"
"Only if you ask them, at least according to mother," Jack had said. Oh, why not exaggerate it a little. "Or if someone else asks them to."
Mary looked horrified, but then scowled. "Jack, that's not funny."
"What Mary," Jack teased as he lifted her into his lap near the fire. "You don't want me to call the pooka for you?"
Mary tugged at his shirt. "Jack, stop."
Jack mockingly held his chin in deep thought. "I don't know, I do want payback for you hitting me with that snowball earlier..."
"Jack!" Mary pleaded.
Jack grinned and held his hand above Mary's head. It would be a fun trick. Call for the pooka and then tickle Mary as she gave a surprise cry. That's what was supposed to happen.
"Great old and powerful pooka!" Jack declared. "I wish for you to come take my sister, Mary away."
Before Jack could finish his trick, the wind threw the door wide open. A tornado of green leaves, strange for the middle of January, swirled around the siblings and blinded Jack. He wrapped his arms to shield Mary, but suddenly realized much to his horror there was no one in his lap any longer.
"Mary?!" Jack cried as the wind suddenly died and the door slammed shut. Jack blinked and his heart stopped as he rose from his chair.
His mother had said they would appear in the shape of a horse, goat or a rabbit. Jack had always laughed at the very idea of a large rabbit suddenly appearing before him. However, Jack was hardly laughing now. A giant rabbit was now standing in the middle of his home and Jack was certain it was twice the size of him. He wore a long cape with a hood that he pulled down.
The pooka had his arms neatly folded over his chest. He almost looked bored as he gave Jack a curt nod. "G'day, Mate."
Jack swallowed. A dream, this had to be a dream, right? "T-the pooka?"
The pooka scoffed. "Correct, but my mates call me Bunny."
"B-Bunny?" Jack stammered.
He brushed the last bit of snow off his cape. "I got to admit, I'm surprised," he looked at Jack curiously. "No one believes in pookas anymore, so what made you call me?"
Jack swallowed. "It was just a story my mother told-" He instinctively reached for his sister and then remembered she had vanished. Oh, no.
Jack no longer felt frightened and looked to Bunny. "Where is she?! Where's Mary?!"
"In my warren," Bunny stated simply as he moved towards the fire and warmed his paws. "Ya did ask me to take her."
"That was a joke!" Jack snarled. "I didn't mean it."
Bunny's eyes narrowed and sharply turned his head to Jack. "The rules of magic don't care for the meaning or reasoning behind words." He rubbed his paws together. "Words are power, whether ya meant them to have it or not."
"B-but," Jack stammered and ran a hand through his hair. "I've called for pookas before, my friends have too, and you never came."
Bunny looked puzzled. "Question, were you asking for yaself to be taken or each other?"
Jack opened and shut his mouth. He recalled all those games. In all the times Jack had done it before, it had always been to take himself away and the same had been for his friends. Until now, Jack had never asked to take someone else away.
"Before now, it's always been myself. Not someone else."
Bunny nodded. "That would be why I never heard ya request before. Seems ya family don't remember how to properly call a pooka." He brushed some leftover melted snow from his fur. "Ya can't ask pookas to take you, someone else has to ask for you."
Bunny paused. "Although, the one exception if the caller was a child who was in needin' of protection."
Protection? Why on earth would a pooka care what happened to a child? Jack thought, still unable to believe this was happening for real.
"Also," Bunny continued. "In this family story of yours, was a relative taken?"
Jack ran a hand through his hair. "Um, yes, I think it was a great-great grandmother or grandfather, mother wasn't sure which."
Bunny gave a half smile. "Ya have pooka blood then. Pookas were more likely to hear a call from a human who carries pooka blood in them."
"What?" Jack stared at his hand. He and this creature before him, somehow had similar bloodlines? Was it like learning you had fairy blood in you?
"It wasn't uncommon for a taken human to come back to their original family after they become a pooka," Bunny continued, not noticing Jack's shocked expression.
Jack paled. Become a pooka?
"We are shapeshifters, although we can't keep human from for more than a few days, but still there were a few that would risk marrying a human-"
"What do you mean become?" Jack asked, determine not to get off topic.
Bunny trailed off and for the first time, earnestly looked surprised. "Please, tell me ya family didn't forget that part about pookas?"
Jack frowned and his fists tightened. "About what?"
Bunny stared blankly and then pinched the bridge of his nose. "Bloody- ya summoned me and ya don't even know the most important part!"
"What part?!" Jack asked growing impatient.
Bunny sighed. "That when ya ask a pooka to come take a child away they become pooka themselves."
Jack's heart stopped. He could have not heard that right. "Y-you mean Mary's going to turn into a pooka?"
Bunny nodded solemnly. "Afraid so."
"Why? Why would you do that?" Jack demanded.
"It's nothing personal," Bunny stated firmly. "It's just the rules. I didn't make them, believe me, but I have to follow them."
Jack was speechless. How could he have been so careless?! Because of him, Mary had been whisked away and was going to turn into a large rabbit and it was all his fault.
Bunny then gave an almost gentle smile. "Don't worry, she's safe and I'll make sure she stays that way."
Jack scowled. Safe? How could she possibly be safe, when she was far away from home and going to turn into a pooka?! Jack could imagine how terrified she was, crying her heart out as they spoke, begging for Jack to come get her cause it was all his fault.
"How do I get her back?" Jack asked.
Bunny's ears twitched, but his expression was unreadable. "What makes ya think ya can get her back?"
"There's always a way in fairy stories," said Jack, firmly. Whether it was to grab a person from a fairy ring, or to hold on them tightly while the victim was forcibly transformed into various monsters, there was always a chance of a rescue.
Jack noticed Bunny's eye twitched as he shook a finger at him. "Don't ya group me with fairies! We're hardly the same race."
Jack had to admit that surprised him, but didn't let it deter him. "But is there?"
Bunny gave Jack a silent, hard look. "It won't be easy."
"I don't care."
"Ya be risking ya life."
"I said I don't care."
Bunny gave a tired sigh. "Kits," he muttered and turned his head. "All right, Mate, ya got one chance." He began to circle Jack. "My warren is deep underground, I got tunnels all over the place connectin' to it."
He paused and held his paws behind his back. "If ya can find ya way through the tunnels to ya sister, ya get her back."
Jack nodded. "Fine, I-"
"But," Bunny continued as he raised a paw to shush Jack. "Ya only got 24 hours," he drew back the curtain and looked out the window to stare at the setting sun. "By the next sunset."
Jack licked his lips. He hadn't expected a time limit. "And if I don't make it, Mary still becomes a pooka?"
"Yes, but ya got to pay a price too for daring to play." His face was unreadable and he folded his arms. "Ya would join Mary and turn into a pooka too."
Jack's jaw dropped. "Are you serious?!"
"Like I said, I didn't make the rules," Bunny interjected and gave Jack a look that seemed almost sympathetic. "They're more ancient than I am, and I'm old believe me, I'm just bound to them."
He stared at Bunny and then looked to his own hands and tried to imagine them as giant paws. A pooka? He'd turn into a giant rabbit? And he would have to snatch children away too when summoned? Jack's brain couldn't even grasp the concept. But Mary-
Jack's hands tightened into fists. No, he had to do it. There was no other choice. "I'll do it," Jack stated.
Bunny was silent as he looked at Jack, like he was judging if Jack was even worthy to try. "Then say it proper, say 'I, Jackson Overland, do understand that I will become a pooka if I fail to rescue my sister, by the next sunset'."
Jack felt numb as he repeated the words. "I, Jackson Overland, do understand that I will become a pooka if I fail to rescue my sister, by the next sunset." There was a warm tingle on his skin; it didn't hurt, but an egg shaped mark appeared on the back of his hand.
"That means the contract has been accepted," Bunny explained pointing to the mark. "You're bound to the rules like I am now."
Jack swallowed as he carefully touched the new mark on his hand.
Bunny clapped his paws. "Well then, let's get started, Mate." He thumped his foot and Jack gave a startled cry as a giant hole in the ground beneath them engulfed them both.