Colyne Stewart, October AS XXXVII (2003)
There once lived a fox, short in stature, who dwelled in the lands of Ealdormere, though he knew the name naught. This fox often felt alone in the snow-clad woods of the north, though he did have a loving mate. For although his vixen offered him all her love and support he suffered from a melancholia where the poor beast continually doubted his self worth.
One day the fox, who was passing by a lodge, did hear within it the sounds of much merry making. Timidly he peeked within and saw a great number of beasts and men engaged in various activities, all laughing and singing and shouting. About to turn away and slink back into the night, some of those within espied him and bade him enter. He did so, though with trepidation. There he met a great many people who talked with him and laughed with him. Never before had the fox met so many who shared his interests and his dreams; no one other than his vixen. And lo, his vixen was also in the room, for she had followed him, and they both felt at home.
And so the fox and vixen would often visit at the lodge and made many friends. However, the fox would look at the work and the art created by his new friends and acquaintances and would despair, for his hands were not so skilled. Also he would watch as some trained in the arts of war and again he bemoaned his fate, for he had been maimed in a trap while young and his paws and back were oft wracked with pain.
Still, the fox tried not to show these feelings of inadequacy to others, and he went with them to visit another nearby lodge. There he was introduced to a great white bear. And this bear did intimidate the fox for it was ferocious and fierce. He was therefore much surprised when the large creature spoke in a gentle voice and bad him sit by her. The fox did so, and soon he had developed a great love for this bear, and for the land she represented, which was called Septentria. This bear, who ruled with a calm but indomitable badger, did come to influence the fox very much. For they were generous and loyal, strong and brave. The bear praised the fox and vixen much for the state of their fur, which pleased them both no end.
And yet still the fox did doubt his self worth.
Traveling then to a stretch of the north where great rams stood sentinel, the fox did meet the wolves for the first time. These wolves were the right and regal rulers of the north, that land known as Ealdormere. They were noble and graceful and the fox was much impressed again. Over time the fox would travel to the home of these two wolves, after they had handed the responsibility of ruling to their pups. Under the male’s tutelage both the fox and the vixen were trained in the arts of war, though before they could stand with an army they would have to pass a test. Here again the fox’s self-doubt crept and he was afraid to stand the test.
A year thus passed. In that time the fox met many folk who inspired him in many things, but also saddened him for they all seemed to surpass him in all skills. What could he do that would equal what they could do? He met a flock of ravens who were great in the arts and sciences, as well as two sturdy oaks who were likewise skilled. Also a bison and a kestrel and many more besides who could produce great things with their hands. And he met dogs and wolves and rams and hares and boars who were skilled at war. And he hung his head in shame at his own feelings of jealousy and inadequacy.
After the fox had dwelled in the land those twelve months he found himself called forth before an assemblage of the populace of the north. There did the bear and badger ask him and his vixen to be their bard and sing the songs and tell the tales of the land. To this they accepted, though they both feared they would not be up to the task. Then the ruling wolves of Ealdormere did call the fox noble and award him arms and he was shocked for he had not thought he had done much, if anything at all worthy of praise.
These two things did hearten the fox and he did stand his test of war. For his test he was set to battle with the badger and they fought hard and long. Though the fox’s maimed paws did cause him much pain, and though the fox did have a gaping wound on his side from an earlier lesson, he did somehow persevere. He did pass his test of war, and did best the badger in battle. His vixen, also now ennobled, did likewise pass her test of war.
The fox then began to compose tales and poems though he tried not to sing, as his voice was such that only those who enjoy screams of torment could listen. These tales and poems he began to tell and soon he was known across the land as a storyteller of some skill. Under the guidance of several other bards, such as the great plaid bear and several southern rams, he learned that the craft of words was indeed an art and worth no less than any item formed by the hands of others.
And also the fox marched south to War in the
where he stood in the shieldwall with his brothers and sisters at arms. Though great feats of arms may be beyond his skill still he fought and protected the lives of many, though he himself was sore wounded. land of Pennsia
Now that fox has learned to accept himself and his limitations. He does refuse to let others define him and does what he can, as he can. And he is much happier for it. (As is his long-suffering mate.)