Albus Lepus (al-bus lay-pus)
Albus Lepus, Sage of Saltgate, served as chief advisor to Queen Frieda Jacobs from the day of her coronation until the day he died. It was a partnership which would shape their new nation into the irrepressible institution it is today. And yet, the queen’s treasured companion—that terrifically tardy white rabbit—is perhaps best known for his frequent (and frequently contentious) encounters with the irredeemable interloper known to the world as Alice of Wonderland. In fact, it is believed by most that exasperation brought on by Alice’s unceasing aggravations led directly to Albus Lepus’ untimely demise.
Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!
Appearance & Personality
As a result of the process which granted him sapience and opposable thumbs, Albus Lepus lived the bulk of his life in a state of arrested development. No matter how much his mind matured, his body remained that of an adorable baby bun-bun—all white floof and big ears and preposterously pretty pink eyes.
The result of this incongruence was a near-perpetual state of frustration, a decided lack of patience, and a mean streak which had a tendency to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune moments.
As he grew older, Lepus learned to soften the rougher edges of his personality through the regular consumption of moon grass. This, of course, is how he came to strike up a friendship with the Blue Caterpillar—his one-time rival for the position of Sage.
That said, his constant consternation over his persistent problems with punctuality was an impossible problem to fix. Some scholars believe that Lepus’ obsession with watches and clocks may, in fact, have been the result of his genetic modifications. Others believe that his twitchiness at the sound of ticks and tocks was simply the result of being caged next to a crocodile who, for reasons unknown, swallowed whole every timepiece he ever saw.
(Yes, that crocodile.)
Albus Lepus was born in the year 114, in the riverlands of The Reek, to Roger Bugskit and Cotton Brushbuns. Dubbed Sixthkit Springlitter at birth, Albus wasn’t called Albus until he was stolen from his family by a traveling magician named Oscar Diggs.
The destitute Diggs was looking for something—anything—to liven up his act and keep himself from being fired from the Quadling Cathouse where he made a pittance as a parlor room entertainer. Adding a hat trick to his show, Diggs reasoned, might be just the ticket.
Unfortunately for him, it was not.
Eventually, to make rent, Diggs sold Albus to a dwarven thinktank trying to resurrect the lost process of “genetic elevation and manipulation.” There, alongside two hares, a massive crocodile, and a trio of bears, Albus was part of an experiment to extract the secrets of elven longevity. And as the project grew larger and larger—pigs, goats, and wolves being added to the mix—the animals grew smarter and smarter.
This was a development that seven of the dwarven scientists grew increasingly uncomfortable with. As the test subjects began to gain sapience, the septet lobbied their superiors to put an end to the experiment. But when these frustrated young men realized their pleas were falling on deaf ears, they took matters into their own hands.
The seven dwarves set free the animals they had “elevated,” Albus Lepus among them, and they left their homeland behind.
While many of the test subjects parted ways with the dwarves over the coming weeks, as the dwarves marched steadily southward, Albus stuck with them until they decided to settle down on the outskirts of a Fatherlandian forest. Then he bid the dwarves goodbye and sought adventure elsewhere.
After a time, Albus came upon the city of Saltgate. It was a beautiful place, set upon the shores of the Sea of Tears, and was home then to the most powerful royal family in the Edenian South: House Winters, the rulers of The Realm.
And home, of course, to the Sage called Merlin. Yes, that Merlin.
It was here, in Saltgate, that Albus Lepus found his true purpose: the pursuit of knowledge. It was here, under the tutelage of Merlin, that he learned about real magic—sorcery which put to shame the humbug which Oscar Diggs had practiced. And it was here, in Merlin’s library, that Albus befriended the first of several powerful women who would shape his life: the heir apparent to the Realmish throne, a girl called Sadie Winters.
For over a decade, Sadie was the only friend that Albus had—the only person, aside from their teacher, who saw him for the intelligent young rabbit he was and not the cute and fuzzy bunny whose body he was trapped in. And for over a decade, Albus was the only friend that Sadie had, too. She’d been left in the care of a wicked stepmother who both denied her access to the outside world and forbade her to play with her young stepbrother—the only other playmate she might have had—and so, Albus Lepus had Sadie Winters’ full attention and affection.
That all changed the week before Sadie was to turn eighteen and inherit her father’s throne. One evening, in the dead of night, Sadie arrived outside Albus’ burrow with the blood of a murderous huntsman on her hands. The man had been hired, Sadie told Albus, to assassinate her—all so that her wicked stepmother could continue to rule until her stepbrother came of age.
“I need someplace to hide,” Sadie told him—and a plan for convincing the queen regent that the huntsman had succeeded.
Albus, happy to help a friend in need, told her that they could hire a kíndallan shapeshifter to play the part of the huntsman. As for a hiding place, Albus told Sadie he had friends just over the border in Fatherland—and that she would be the most well-protected young woman in the world, so long as she didn’t mind the company of dwarves.
Years passed, as years do, and Albus began to serve as an apprentice to Merlin in his role as Sage of Saltgate. While Merlin advised the evil queen, Albus worked with Malik, the queen’s son, and he was pleased to learn that the young man bore no ill will towards his presumed-dead stepsister. In fact, as the day approached when Malik would turn eighteen and ascend to the throne, the boy confided in Albus that he wished his stepsister were still around.
“I don’t really want the job,” Malik told Albus. “And I think the people can tell.”
Albus decided in that moment that he could trust Malik. Then he asked him, “What if I told you didn’t need to sit the throne, after all?”
Malik was intrigued. The trouble was that someone was lurking in the shadows as Albus revealed to Malik that his stepsister was still alive—a certain jealous queen who, above all else, desired power.
By the time it came to light that Sadie Winters, the rightful heir to the Realmish throne, might still be alive, it was too late. Those who believed that she’d faked her death once to escape the evil queen didn’t believe she could have cheated the Grim Reaper a second time when she bit into the murderous monarch’s poisoned apple. And so, though a woman who looked exactly like the missing princess soon married the heir apparent of neighboring Fatherland, the people of The Realm chose to keep their support behind Malik.
It didn’t matter how many times Albus Lepus told them they were all fools, nor in how many ways he told them. They liked Malik. He was a good lad, and the beautiful girl he’d rescued from a nearby witch’s tower, the dazzling Daisy Rampion, was more their speed than studious old Sadie had been anyway. And so, soon enough, Albus—in his role as Sage’s Apprentice—was asked to officiate a royal wedding.
Over the ensuing decades, Albus worked tirelessly to get Malik and Daisy’s descendants to acknowledge Sadie and her superior claim in some way. First as apprentice and then as Sage himself, Albus worked ceaselessly to get justice for his long, lost childhood friend. And yet, though the kings and queens who followed Malik did eventually acknowledge Sadie’s right to the throne, they refused to give up their power.
It was then that Albus, working with an aging Sadie, arranged the diplomatic union which would unite the competing claims: a marriage between Sadie’s grandson Leonid and Malik’s granddaughter Auset. Yes, neither of them was an heir apparent to their prospective thrones, but at least Winters blood would again have some power and influence in The Realm, and Albus knew that it was the best he could do.
That said, he never stopped looking for ways to do better.
Decades later, when Charlotte Goose began compiling the soon-to-be infamous family tree of her granddaughter Frieda—a genealogical chart which would prove the prophecy about the blood of seven queens true—Albus was a chief contributor. He supplied Goose with anything and everything she needed: books, portraits, vital records, and more. And so, in 263 when Frieda—a descendant of Sadie through two different lines—ascended the throne of The Realm, it was obvious who would crown her, and who would serve as her chief advisor.
The finally aging Albus found in Frieda Jacobs a fiercer and more determined version of the childhood friend he’d lost so long ago, and he adored this gift from the universe. Frieda Jacobs was like Sadie Winters reincarnated, at least to Albus, and so the white rabbit acted as the Queen of Hearts’ most devoted servant for the rest of his life.
He stood by her side for the next forty years, until just after the taxing trial of Alice Lewis. Then, with not much left of the long life he’d been granted by the dwarves nearly two-hundred years before, Albus asked his apprentice Mary Ann to carry him out of the well-appointed home he kept in the Realmish countryside, and to help him crawl down into a burrow he’d been digging just for the occasion. And finally, with one last nod to the woman who’d looked after him for many years, he crawled beneath the ground of Wonderland to take his final rest.