There once was a forest and in that forest creatures innumerate dwelt. There were mice, there were owls, badgers, rats and wolves and every other creature that could imaginably live within a forest. Yet no forest would be worthy of a story unless upon occasion the flash of bushy tail, bright and orange, could be seen amongst the undergrowth. The Wilderwood is one such forest.
The forest thrived; its sprawling trees and canopy left the forest floor dark and shadowy and full of the nooks and crannies that foxes love so dearly. So amongst the tangle of roots at the feet of the age-old trees lay the mouths of one-hundred-and-one subterranean dens: the homes of the foxes.
There were foxes old and young, some were tough, some were sly, some would boldly bound while some would sneak. Though for all their differences the one thing that was common to them all was their silky orange fur that glimmered like copper under the light of the moon. Every fox and vixen alike would boast of the beauty and softness of their pelt, each claiming that no other pelt could ever compare; all but one.
One fox was no preening beauty, for he had nothing worth preening over. What remained of his fur was matt and lank, appearing in sporadic clumps like the tufts of onions sticking from the ground. The other foxes spurned him and mocked him for his fur and as he passed, they would always say, “Look, there goes Gerald the mangy fox.”
Times were good and plentiful for the foxes of the Wilderwood; by day they would they sleep, snug and warm in their dens, and by night they would take to the open air, spry and awake with bristling tails and gleaming eyes. Hares and rabbits were abundant as they leapt and bounded, drunk with the joys of early spring. Yet despite every fox falling gently asleep at the crack of every dawn, lulled into sleep by bellies full enough to burst, there were still some who wanted more.
“Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits: I am sick to the teeth of rabbits,” bellowed Uthor, the biggest, burliest and most rambunctious of the foxes.
“There are hares aplenty too, not to forget.” gently spoke a dapper and handsome fox, reclining on a bed of leaves.
“Then catch them if you can; they're too quick by half and once you've bust your gut catching them, you'll only find that their meat tastes no different to the rabbits.” The dapper fox made no move other than to tilt a leaf with his paw, so that the dew rolled gently into his awaiting mouth, seemingly oblivious to Uthor's bluff retort. The vixen Clarabella looked on with a stare that beckoned caution, though little was it heeded.
“It wouldn't be so bad if they didn’t all try and run away, making us chase them through the woods and across the fields, and then make us dig their burrows until our paws are sore. All I’m saying is that a few more hours’ beauty sleep would not go amiss.”
“Ah, a life made for eating and sleeping with nothing but play to while away the time between, what bliss that would be! But alas! Not to pay Great Oak all that she is due seems terribly unwise, for the whispering leaves whose whispers spread throughout the Wilderwood are the eyes and ears of Great Oak,” said Dapper wistfully.
Then a fourth pair of eyes suddenly burst awake gleaming with yellow fire, two burning gems seemingly too big for the tiny head in which they were set. “Who is Great Oak? And why do we have to give her so much of what we hunt?” chimed the tiny cub.