It wasn’t long until they could see red and white circus tents in the distance. The spires poked over the rise of the third hill.
“Would you be willing to stay here for the evening and enter the fairgrounds tomorrow?” asked Barney. The bear nodded.
The man pulled a sleeping bag out of his satchel and lay on the ground. Buffin tromped off nearby to gather dry leaves to start a fire. Soon the blaze burned low and the weary travelers snored deeply. A shadow crossed the campsite and scurried into the other thicket. It hopped back and forth with lightning speed, venturing closer.
“Buffin, wake up; there’s something in the forest.”
The bear grumbled in its sleep and opened large crusty eyes. “What’s the matter?”
The shadow wasn’t moving like it had before; it stood tall and stationary, surveying the interlopers. The silhouette had pointy ears, a bushy tail, and large hindquarters.
Barney reached for a lasso of rope that usually secured his pack and cast it at the shadow. The snare hit its mark, but the silhouette hopped away. Barney was pulled through the forest by the large phantom.
“Help me!” he cried.
The man was dragged through two brier patches, a muddy bog, and a field of grass. Without warning, the phantom stopped. All was silent except for the wind brushing against the tall forest. Barney wanted to lay still and gather his senses. The stars came out shining against a dim blue sky. Constellations were magnified and the man felt he could reach out and touch them.
Buffin bellowed behind him, “Where are you?” The bear wasn’t a fast runner and didn’t like to walk.
It wasn’t until Barney’s rope slackened that he realized the thing was coming back. The grass parted and it emerged. The oversized rabbit didn’t have the rope around its body, but was actually holding it in one of its paws.
“My name’s Sarah. Why did you try to catch me?”
Barney didn’t know what to say. He just looked at the rabbit that was as tall as he was and maybe even taller if the ears were counted. “I wasn’t sure what you were, but I knew you were spying on me.”
“I was only doing a bit of scouting. You and the bear blocked the path I use to get home from the carnival.”
Barney Fuggle was immediately interested. “What do you do among the circus tents?” he asked.
“I scavenge food and watch the carnies take advantage of rich folk looking for attractions.”
“You could be the main attraction,” commented Barney.
Sarah’s ears shifted directions at the sound of approaching footsteps. “What’s that great lump of fur coming toward us?” she asked in a nervous voice.
“Hi Barney,” shouted Buffin as he burled his way into their meeting. Bears are rarely intimidated by social situations.
Barney introduced Sarah and added, “I think her personality is as big as she is.”
“But my, you are unusual,” exclaimed Buffin! “How did you get to be so big?”
“I could ask you the same question, but that isn’t polite.”
“I’m afraid I don’t get out much to enjoy society. I’m not as well versed in rabbit etiquette or social party rules,” explained the bear honestly.
“You don’t need to worry about that, I’m usually the main attraction at these little gatherings anyway, but I do get tired of telling the story of my size. There is a long and short version of it, but the story starts long ago when I belonged to an aging magician. His name was Conundrum. It was his pride to profess that he knew everything about the origin of the world. He was magically gifted and could look into a stranger’s eyes to see their past. He knew a person in an instant and people traveled for miles to get his sage advice. You could say that I was a prisoner in his care, but my capture happened when I was very young and I didn’t feel like a slave to the wise man. He would sit up all night in his carnival wagon and tell me about his past…”