The three elder foxes looked from one to the other until the silence was broken with a sigh and Dapper hoisted himself onto his haunches and leant towards the tiny cub.
“We foxes live in the Wilderwood. It is our home, our food. The Wilderwood feeds us when we're hungry, hides us when
we're hunted and shelters us when it rains. Everything we have we owe to the Wilderwood.
The Wilderwood is thick and vast with many trees old beyond the memory of foxes, yet among these trees there is one older yet. The eldest of the elder trees, the tallest of the taller trees, with branches twice as thick as the trunks of many a tree: Great Oak is the guardian of this forest.
Every animal that lives within the Wilderwood must put back all that they take from the Wilderwood and repay their debt to Great Oak: the worms turn the earth and make it fertile, the birds spread the seeds from the berries they eat to make new plants grow, and they eat the worms to stop them becoming too many. As although we animals rely on the Wilderwood, so does the Wilderwood rely upon us. The soil from which sprouts new trees and nourishes the old is all made by the creatures that walk beneath the forest's canopy. For once we breathe our last breath, we shall lie down and slowly become soil once again, and from that very same soil life will spring anew. And so in some ways we never die, but grow into the Wilderwood to watch down on and protect our children and their children in turn, so Great Oak is us and we in turn are her. Does that answer your question?
Though there is only one animal that truly knows the mind of the forest. One animal made bigger and stronger than all the others by Great Oak so that they can know Great Oak's mind and put fear into any creature that strays from the way of the Wilderwood: the wolves.
The wolves move as quietly as the sound of a snowflake falling to the ground, listening to the comings and goings of the woods without a soul noticing their presence. The wolves are never tempted by the world of men; never will they stray into the mannish towns to forage and grow fat on the wastefulness of man. The wolves, like us and all the other creatures that dwell in these woods, need to eat, but they do not choose their hunts randomly; they will not pounce on the first creature they see. The wolf watches and waits for the whispering leaves of Great Oak to whisper the names of those she wishes to return to the soil.
Every year when the first spring rains start to fall and the trees of the Wilderwood begin to bud, comes the count. Every animal must stand before Great Oak and list everything they have taken from the forest and everything they have given. It does not matter how much they give as long as they tell the truth about what they have taken, for sometimes the year has been hard and the Wilderwood could only provide a little for its sons and daughters and so only a little could be returned. Yet some years the summer is long and the spring bountiful, leaving the Wilderwood thriving, teeming with plants to be foraged and game to be hunted. In these years when everyone has taken much from the Wilderwood and lived well with full bellies and worry-free nights then more has to be given back to the Wilderwood, to thank her for all that she has given us. The truth is the key, for when you stand before Great Oak she can see into your soul and know anything that lies within your heart, good or bad, truth or lie.”
“So what happens if Great Oak sees that you've lied?” A hint of earnest worry had crept into the little cub's voice.
“Never you mind about that; it's nothing you need worry about, my sweetheart. Now run along to bed; it's already way past your bedtime,” said Clarabella with motherly concern.
Without a word of complaint the little fox snuggled himself warmly beneath Clarabella, unaware of the hard stare that she directed at the once again reclined Dapper.