As spring began to truly blossom, the trees and flowers of the Wilderwood bloomed, colours bursting forth like the kaleidoscopic exuberance of butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.
The fox cubs ventured above ground in greater numbers now, whereas before only the bravest, strongest and most intrepid of the cubs had dared to venture into the land beneath the sun. Now their siblings had joined them in all their numbers and would frolic and play, brimming full with the joys of life and the knowledge that at least to them all things were new and interesting. The tiny foxes, still yet to be weaned from their mothers' milk, were unaware of their parents’ night-time villainy for they did not want for more. They were content to enjoy a warm spring, play with the young of the other foxes, and marvel at all they saw; most importantly, young and innocent as they were, they had not yet forgotten to be grateful for what they had.
Gerald sat hidden away beneath the thick leaves of spring, watching the cubs. He was both sad and wistful; for Gerald had always wanted cubs of his own, little foxes of his own who would love him as no-one else had ever been able to. Yet Gerald had given up hope.
When Gerald was a young fox and his fur was still just a little mangy, he had held high hopes of finding a mate. So when January came and the mating season began he would approach vixen after vixen bringing them gifts of rabbits and mice, and always they would take the gifts without a thought. Yet whenever Gerald tried to get close each and every one of the vixens would jump back with revulsion or merely laugh with ridicule at the very idea of letting such a creature as Gerald be the father of their cubs. Some vixens had even run off to find bigger, stronger males to chase Gerald away.
“Go away and never come back, you vile pest.”
“With mange like that how could anyone love something as disgusting as you!”
“The mice and the rabbits were very delicious, but a fox like you with a vixen like me? If you wanted to kill me, why not just tear out my throat, not try and split my sides with laughter.”
Every word of every taunt haunted Gerald, at first making him sad and then, as the years went by, the rejection and loneliness had grown ever greater, making him angry and bitter. He would make them sorry for every cruel word they ever said; he would make them pay for every time they had laughed and mocked him, called him mangy, chased him away or shunned him like a monster. For as Gerald watched, the cubs continued to play, blissfully unaware that Gerald's plan was starting to come together.
When night fell upon the woods, descending from the twilight haze of the waning sun into the smothering emptiness of darkness, the foxes ventured forth once more. All of the other foxes were once again raiding the farms in the valley beneath the precipice on which the Wilderwood stood; Gerald, lit by the light of the moon, did as he had done so many times before: hunted for rabbit.
When morning breaks in the Wilderwood there is usually a chorus of birds singing their songs, accompanied by the bass of the frogs and the toads and the drone of insects. But not on this day; on this day everything had quietened to a hush, for the first rains of spring had finally come and the leaves were whispering.
They whispered the words of calling that all the animals of the Wilderwood knew. First came the squirrels skipping from branch to branch, and then came the badgers, otters, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, rats, rabbits, hares, mice, voles and moles.
Soon a vast procession marched through the forest, whilst another flooded the sky, all headed in the same direction, all to the exact same place, each with the same goal of making their yearly pilgrimage; and at the back of them, as if they had not a care in the world, came the foxes. Great Oak awaited them.