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part 2 of 2
His Captain at Arms Peter of Farmichael stared northeast towards Kiln Tower, “The enchanted storm is gone, My Duke. Perhaps the blithering Flemen will now respond to our messages. There is no wind. The day is fair, clear, and beckons”
“Most often he has sent my purchase to me by his spell-slave the White Vixen. Each time, promptly and without damage, the rat like thing has appeared. A sow could have waddled hence and return by now. Perhaps it is as you’ve said; the blither-witch discussed terms with a disgruntled customer, and paid the difference in ice squall.
“We can wait no longer. Gather a troop. We will set off as soon after true dawn as is possible. The ice is melting. By noon much will be gone.” A distended collection of icicles broke loose at his kick and fell splattering all the way downhill to his thorn hedge.
“Wake up Brickeleau. We’ll take the rum pot with us. A drunken tinker is better than a damaged pot and a drunk wizard is better than none.”
The sun peeked and washed the world with a brilliant white morning’s light. Vixen-Victoria crawled from underneath a huge smoldering oak. She shook herself from nose to tail and stretched. She unfolded her wings and stretched them. She trotted and flicked her wings but they were cold. Her limbs felt stiff and leaden. Even her tail moved slowly. Her stomach grumbled. Its unanswered request slowed her step and prevented flight.
“The maiden’s hair is long and light. The maiden fair is strong and slight, Victoria.” The were-vixen stepped barefoot on ice covered ground dusted with snow.
She wrapped her wings and arms about her. Goosebumps covered her and she shivered. “Indeed, that is far from the most enlightened of acts. But perchance I can fly.”
She extended her wings and flew a few paces but cold thick air so receptive of flight in its rush also numbed her. She fell.
“What a foolish mistake; no fur.” Victoria again wrapped her wings about herself. She walked among smoldering oaks and elms. Smells of the charred and burnt greeted her but the electric odor of ozone was gone. Mist and smoke rose straight into the sky from Red Miller’s Wood.
The ice weakened. The melting’s dripping, made soft sound. The trees hissed. From spot to spot a limb broke loose with a loud pop and fell in a shower of twigs, ice water, and snow.
A path that widened to a road stretched before Victoria. Beyond the road’s fork, in the dim distance she saw the morning sun silver the roof tiles of Brick Manor. “Too bad I haven’t your potion, Lord Duke. I could walk to your wicked, kick-filled presence.
“I should bite your leg in twain, Offensive One. I’ll start. I’ll decide by the fork. A thousand paces should warm me enough to think clearly. Go and bite, or go and beg, or go somewhere else; maybe the foxy place. A vixen should be welcome there.”
Victoria watched her breath fog, “If I don’t freeze solid first.”
Her footing slipped for a few steps. Muddy ice water and melting ice-mud splashed her numb feet. Numbness crept slowly up her legs as she walked but her heart was warm.
“Red Miller’s Wood still stands. Ice falls about her but she moves unhurt. Foxstone shows the wizard descending from the sky and the Duke of Dirt on his road, the one that pierces the wood. It is clear that Flemen held her captive until now but what can the Duke of Clay Fields want from Victoria?
“This afternoon will find us a day’s march from Lady Victoria,” The Lady of Leads hung her head and sighed. She patted her horse’s neck
“If she will come towards us?” Foxcraft rubbed his chin and addressed no one in particular. His stallion stumbled along nosing at grass. Its eyes rolled about.
“Then My Liege, we should meet sometime the middle of tonight.”
“A good thought, Casseyleed. How then can we give aid or take message to Victoria? Vicious ones come towards her from two directions. They may have evil intent; it is their nature.” Foxcraft frowned and spat.
Hanna, the Lady of leads spat too. “We must assume they both do. Halving or even quartering the travel time may not be enough. We must pray.”
Foxcraft spat again, “Pray? What was in that trail ration we ate a while back?”
The Lady of leads spat again as well, “Don’t ask.”
Foxcraft’s horse stopped walking. Casseyleed reined her mount close and stared at the horse, “It’s asleep.”
“Wake up, donkey’s spawn,” she kicked the horse on the flank. It gurgled, fell to its knees and collapsed. Although still in stirrups, both of Foxcraft’s boots rested on grass.
Foxcraft stood and finished dismounting. The horse’s tongue protruded with its eyes in blankest stare. “Prayer for what? What is my need?
“I have never seen a horse fall as this. An enchantment might do such.” He touched the horse’s main and looked at its eyes patting its neck.
“The thing is dead; two years old and it’s dead. We must pray for the mercy of heaven and the success of our endeavors. A fresh horse would be nice too. After all, ‘Ye have not because ye ask not.’”
“We’ve no priest,” said Casseyleed.
“Hanna has a well oiled tongue and it was her thought. Let her pray. I’d like a horse that is well rested, not afraid of a fight, and that isn’t dead.” Foxcraft paused to rub his chin, “And a flagon of ale.”
The dawn’s full sunlight fell on Victoria. She turned away from Brick Manor and opened her wings seeking the sun’s warmth. Motionless in the light she prayed, giving thanks for its heat, and drew strength. Soon she refolded her wings and forced her numb feet towards something her second sight perceived in the invisible near distance, a group kneeling about a dead horse.
An open snow covered grassland rising and falling before her stretched to a low ridge near the visible horizon. With her breath a white-gold in the frigid air, she walked and planned. If I can warm up, I’ll be able to fly.
A thunderous cacophony of splintering tree limbs and shattering ice bounded after her from Red Miller’s Wood. She did not look back but continued to take a step and then another and so repeated the matter.
With a rolling belch Brickeleau the Wizard awakened himself but managed to stay upon his horse, “What was that?”
“Red Miller’s Wood explodes magical ice geysers and his own stomach rebels and he can’t determine the source of either noise.” The Duke of Clay Fields rolled his huge gray eyes and shook his head.
“God rolled back the sky and spat. Lacking a spittoon he chose Red Miller’s Wood,” the duke contemplated his wizard. His index finger tapped his nose.
“Really?” Brickeleau belched again.
“Oh. It wasn’t God after all. It’s that fool wizard that haunts my purse and the ruin called Kiln Tower.
“Phlegm-women-curse; yes the Platinum Phallus is pruning frozen trees with his magic wand.”
The Duke turned to his Captain at Arms, “Peter of Farmichael,” he paused, to look at his wizard. “Forget I asked anything. Brickeleau punishes himself.”
Indeed, Wizard Brickeleau’s impromptu puke was followed by a raging series of dry heaves. He dropped a potion bottle. A small tree and his horse became stone.
“Where’d my horse go and where did this statue come from?” He belched.
“I was hoping that you could speak with Wizard Phlegm-women and ask of the potion he promised me so very long ago.”
“Getty-yup ye horse. It won’t move.” Brickeleau belched.
“Peter, do cut the fool’s head off.”
“Wade, wade a minute,” said Brickeleau. Clay Field’s cavalry rippled in laughter.
“One chance, Bricke-loon, call Phlegm-men here, now.”
Wizard Brickeleau produced another potion bottle and chanted a spell,
“OH, come-come-come from the firewood.
OH, come-come-come from the veil,
I meant vale, I meant vale,” the little chipped jug slipped from his hand. It dropped. Potion mist snaked skywards from the result.
“Stone pony, meat only,” he sat amid fresh horse steaks and roasts, even horse sausage. “Call the phony, call the phony.”
Wizard Flemen’s flying greyhound drawn shed swelled from a dot in the sky until it blotted out the dawning sun. The dogs fell as surely as anvils. Bits of ice and bloody drool preceded their arrival.
They dug their enchanted claws into the earth, rending the ground, and made an abrupt stop. They began to gorge with huge mouthfuls from Brickeleau’s horsemeat mound.
Flemen and ivory sled continued flight, a low pass that impacted a large oak tree. The cracking jingle-jumble frightened horses and drew eyes. The massive plant regurgitated ice, ivory, and cursing wizard into a heap near the duke.
“Crude, tasteless, but effective, Brickeleau may live. Who else can offer meat for a feast, jests for a festival and talented wizard all with but a single spell?” The troopers laughed with their Duke.
Warmed by the sun and aided by cold air, Victoria spread her wings and flew. The dawn melted snow and earth appeared. The morning sun glared but promised a green revelation along the expanse of the eastern horizon. Parts of the ground underneath her showed through the melting snow..
Her torso and arms stiffened and numbed. The sinews of her wings began a cramp. Soon I will only be able to glide; then I must land. I can’t feel my hands anymore.
Second sight showed seekers coming for Victoria. Why? Who are they? The Dream Wench and her kin, the small one and the older child, who are they? How do I know their song? Why am I drawn to them? They are fewer than my enemies.
Victoria slowed but still bloodied her knees and hands when she landed. She fell. Nothing hurt. She felt nothing but a decreasing tingle.
“Fur on her, vixen be clothed by God. Warm from within walking again on four.” The only feeling that remained, Vixen-Victoria’s warm heart and her aching wings, became enough. She walked slowly singing the Song of the Snow Vixen.
"...My love. My Victoria."
“Foxstone shows she comes to us.” The Lady of Leads held the crystal high above her head and for a long moment the image within stood shimmering above its radiance.
“We’ve only to move in haste,” Casseyleed shouted to the group.
“Moving ready for combat,” said Foxcraft.
“Seer’s Crystal shows Foxcraft travels towards the Snow Vixen,” said Brickeleau and belched.
“The potion; I need power. Foxcraft must fall,” The duke straightened his scabbard and blade.
Flemen’s bruised countenance crawled and peeked from the ruin of his ivory sled, “Where is Black Book of Dark Spells,” he wheezed? Soot-black smoke curled from his nostrils.
“Where is my curse potion Phlegming?” The Duke of Clay Fields pulled Wizard Flemen from the sled’s wreckage and to his feet, “Well? Produce it or make another.”
“I’ll need some gnat snot.” Gray-green smoke curled from Flemen’s feet.”
“Stop that odor and produce my potion.”
Vixen-Victoria crept, a deliberate walk. "I can’t stop. I’ll never move again."
She stepped off a large circle to see and sniff what lay behind. She smelled horsemen and fresh, if sour, magic. She saw the two wizards and the soldiers of Clay Fields. An eagle flew from the group. The leadsman must be The Kicker. I am downwind. They can’t smell me. I am the Snow Vixen they can’t see me on the snow. But they are faster. The eagle flies a search. My distance to The Wench closes faster than my distance to my enemy.
Keep walking, Snow Vixen. The contest continues.
“The sun is hot. The ground is not. Warm my trot. For love I’ve got to find.
I cannot leave my heart, before I find my start. Victory, Victory mine. History, history mine, for I am Victoria, The Snow Vixen.”
“A spell, a prayer whatever’s there, I only speak to Love. Whoever is above, I only speak to Love. Give my heart a shove, for naught is left but love in The Snow Vixen.” Vixen-Victoria stumbled and fell. She quivered in a white pulsing heap. Her breath made small steam balls in the morning air.
“She’s stopped. We need to fly.” The Lady of Leads dismounted and threw her coat to the ground. Her boots joined it.
Foxcraft’s face contorted, “It’s too far. You will land exhausted and unarmed only to face the Duke of Dirt and two wizards.”
“I must. I will not let her die alone,” her breeches joined the pile and she spread her lean brown wings and gave a precautionary flutter.
Casseyleed’s frown turned into a determined grin. She slid from her horse and her clothes began to join the pile, “My Lady, do not leave me. One can only turn a thousand, but two ten,” she flexed thin shoulders and fully extended her wings. She flew.
Foxcraft’s voice boomed into the still air. “Earth! Now Cassey!”
Bare and quivering the two flyers awaited their lord’s word. Their wings folded.
“Daggers.” Foxcraft tied his about his sister’s waist and kissed her cheek. He tied another about Casseyleed and kissed her cheek as well.
“We have no choice. Even so, how will you find her? You cannot fly towing Foxstone.”
Hanna said, “The sun is at our backs and grows stronger. Over the horizon we will see her.”
“I will see her first,” said Casseyleed with a smile.
“Go. We will follow with all possible speed.” Foxcraft grimaced and watched them fly away.
The Duke of Clay Fields kicked Wizard Brickeleau who produced a thunderous fart. The duke turned and kicked Wizard Flemen who creaked and smoked, “You two fools are going to find the vixen and produce my potion or be kicked into jelly. I need that potion to engage Foxcraft.”
“The enchanted eagles will find her, My Duke,” Burped Brickeleau.
“My greyhounds will join the fray once they puke, Your Excellency. Your potion will be ready soon.” Flemen, chained behind a moving cart carrying the two sleeping greyhounds, walked quickly and ground ingredients uneasily with a mortar and pestle. He dumped the result into a small black kettle and continued to pulverize herbs. Brickeleau broke herbs to useful lengths and staggered along retching.
“Those stupid birds keep circling that half eaten mound of horse meat. Curse them again, Brick Butt. Make them return to the hunt.”
The duke turned to his Captain-at-Arms and continued, “Peter of Farmichael, ride back and burn that, that, former horse; burn it to ash. We need the eagles to hunt the vixen and scout for Foxcraft. Go!”
Clay Fields stared towards the morning sun. Glare and haze hindered him but, “There are two eagles over Brick-Butt’s horsemeat mistake but there are three more circling something in the distance.
“That’s six. No five. We started with how many? Where did the others come from?”
“I feel her, My Lady. She lives but the eagle seeks her death.”
“The air will thicken lower, beware. Let us attack the eagle together. Draw your dagger. The thing dives. Follow me.” Hanna drew her dagger and held it with both hands fully extended in the direction of her descent. She beat the air with powerful wing strokes in a vertical accelerating decent.
Down faster; she shortened her wings and caught up with the eagle but the speed difference was so slight she would only tickle her opponent.
From several wing beats behind Casseyleed yelled, “When he climbs, breakaway right.”
Any creature fears the loss of his own flesh. To keep his the eagle broke off his dive and climbed, Hanna turned right and Casseyleed cut the eagle’s throat slashing with her dagger as her dive crossed the eagle’s climb.
The single slash dispatched the bird. It didn’t seem to know it had died, for it climbed gracefully and entered a long glide. Then its head fell to one side, it tumbled. An erratic flopping ended with an explosion of feathers when the ground stopped its downward plunge.
Altitude spent, The Lady of Leads circled low and landed. She saw Vixen-Victoria. She knelt. Her bare flesh prickled on snow and ice-mud.
She reached out and touched the were-vixen. She gently picked her up.
Casseyleed landed and wrapped her wings about her, “My skin is like sand and puckered like a pickle. I’m freezing here.
“My Lady, two more eagles approach. Armed and armored horsemen of Clay Fields follow. But they are strung out like fence posts.
“Fighting against an eagle’s plunge on the ground will be ugly and perhaps deadly. We need to fly as far and as fast as our strength allows towards Foxcraft.
“A moment Cassey,” Hanna hugged Victoria to her breast, “Child, do you live?”
The were-vixen’s mouth dropped open, “Fly.”
“Lady Hanna, how can you carry such a heavy load?”
“There is nothing else,” Hanna made a step and staggered into the air beating her wings rapidly and harshly. Vixen-Victoria snuggled, a ball of white fur among Hanna’s breasts and arms.
Casseyleed out climbed the pair and circled. Two eagles screwed their way through the air towards them, shrieking. Thirty armed men strung out like a circus parade advanced watching the eagles. A cart pulled precariously through patches of melting snow followed by three figures brought up the rear trailing strange smokes and peculiar fires.
Flemen winced from a vicious kick but poured powder onto the crushed mass that contained Short Wand. The mess vented a lavender smoke from the bed of the cart. The greyhounds stirred. Trash burned and melted away.
The tangle of ivory and silver underneath the dogs shifted and ordered itself. Harness became recognizable. A solitary sleigh bell sounded a single tinkle.
The Duke grabbed Flemen by his long hair, spat in his face and said,
“What is all this? This smoke had best clear and leave my death potion.”
“Soon, soon, oh so soon, Master of Clay Fields.”
The hounds stood and shook, shaking from nose to tail; ears flopping. The dogs coats pinked to a deep bruise-red, darkened in stages, and wrinkled to a scab-maroon.
The sled’s wreck smoked and shifted. Dull ivory and duller silver drew together. Harness hung from the greyhounds once again. From a mist the color of stale cream with odor to match, and a snapping sound, Flemen’s sleigh-and-two stood ready on the creaking cart. He freed himself from his chains with a word, “Off.” He climbed aboard cart and then sleigh. He sighed. “My craft well waged.”
Standing next to Flemen, Clay Fields tightened his grip on the wizard’s neck, “Most impressive. Now, my potion and my revenge.”
He kicked Flemen’s hind part and snickered, “We want the same people dead. Help me and be rewarded; a reward even a wizard will cherish. Defy me and die.”
“Wand of Wonder be whole and come.” Flemen’s outstretched hand filled with the restored Short Wand.” He laughed even as he was kicked repeatedly by the duke.
“If I fly any further, I won’t be able to walk. I can’t fight. I’m too tired.” Hanna began to glide, searching the ground. Snow lay about but no longer covered the whole earth. Ice free meadows beckoned with aromas of wet grass and broken pines.
In Hanna’s cramping arms Vixen-Victoria stirred, “Hungry, so cold.”
“I can see Foxcraft. His banner appears sun soaked and strong. They descend the Foxridge into Clay Fields,” said Casseyleed. The morning sun blazed warm in a clear sky and laced her wings with silver.
Two wild eyed eagles slowed their flight, watching The Lady of Leeds’ descent and Casseyleed’s orbit. From a height of some six thousand paces they dived. Casseyleed withdrew her dagger from its sheath and fixing the weapon in both hands extended before her, followed the eagles in a vertical dive of her own propelled by rapid wing strokes.
With shortened wings, the lead eagle aimed its fall for Hanna’s head. The second dived with less speed guarding his leader’s attack with slow turns right and left.
The lead eagle struck Hanna’s head with balled talons. She dropped Vixen-Victoria. The were-fox spread her wings and climbed at a sharp angle. She stroked the air laughing, “Die carrion birds.”
Hanna’s assailant spread his wings and fled in a climbing turn. Casseyleed banked to follow and severed his head. The carcass fell.
The second eagle moving its gaze from the still falling Hanna to the climbing Casseyleed discovered his neck mortally bitten. His eyes stilled and his wings folded. Trailing a thin stream of blood, he plunged earthwards
Vixen-Victoria chewed a mouthful of feathers and flesh; gliding down and down. She laughed a foxy laugh as she half-crashed splattering snow and chewed feathers. She spat and stood to her feet and spat again.
The Lady of Leeds landed and staggered to The Snow Vixen. Casseyleed followed wrapping her wings about her after landing. She stumbled and fell but arose shivering with teeth chattering. Even so, she cleaned blood from her dagger in the snow and re-sheathed it.
Blood oozed from the top of Hanna’s head and ran down her hair. She kneeled and touched the Snow Vixen, “Victoria?”
She growled, “Who asks? Naked one, thou art in need. Heat of Sun and bush be one. Fuel of flame, I name thy name: FIRE!” A leafless plant burned. Casseyleed placed herself as close as she dared and sighed. Shivering, Hanna followed.
”Who said you could claim my heat? Who are you?” Barked Vixen-Victoria and limped to the fire.
The three stood around the blazing bush with wings outstretched. Each glanced east and west at times searching. Vixen-Victoria said, “I can resemble you by my word. But my fur helps keep the cold at bay. Can you become as I?”
The Lady of Leeds shivered less, “No, only you, My Lady Victoria, are the Snow Vixen.
Casseyleed faced west and backed in close to the fire and groaned, “They’ve slowed. The loss of their eagles causes puzzlement. They crowd together. Perchance they council.”
Vixen Victoria pawed at her muzzle, “A mouthful of the bird’s flesh warmed me. Even the blood helped but the feathers are nasty and stink of rot and carrion. Let us consume one of the birds.” The Snow Vixen walked stiffly to an eagle carcass and began to eat.
Casseyleed rubbed snow into the wound in Hanna’s scalp, “It cleans well, My Lady. I cannot eat as your niece; raw eagle flesh and feathers? I cannot even watch.” She patted and rubbed her hands dry over the fire. “She cracks its bones as well. Is it not enough that we have killed? Must we eat too?”
Wizard Flemen held restored Short Wand over the kneeling warriors of Clay Fields, their Duke, and their tipsy wizard, “You will follow my command or suffer. You live because we all posses a common enemy, the vermin of Skulk’s Den led by Foxcraft himself. The winged ones are caged songbirds compared to The Lord of the Pale Citadel.
“I have prepared a potion. All will drink. All will serve. Perhaps even all will live. As long as my enemies suffer and die, I care not how.
“My Lord Duke, even as you do not have your potion, I do not have my fee. The White Vixen is the cause of our mutual grief. Her demise will be our mutual joy.”
Foxcraft spoke, “What else can be done, except to press on? When the horses have eaten and watered, you can rejoin us. The fifteen will come with me on foot.
“Perhaps Hanna and Cassey will fly Victoria back and shorten our journey. Such is my prayer.”
“Casseyleed has never flown so far. Her wings have only finished their growth. How can we expect sage thought? My sister is only a maiden after all.”
“Reynard, how could a warrior’s effort come from a maiden? Yet it was three eagles that fell from the sky not our own sisters.
“The day warms. Let us advance,” Foxcraft joined a trail at the bottom of the ridge. Wild grasses stretched before him. Fallow fields overgrown but emerging from snow and ice showed standing water further ahead but the trail led towards two bare flyers spreading their wings before a fire that increased in size as he watched.
Did he see? Yes, a third set of wings small and white caught the lights of fire and sun. She sparkled with ice gems. Tears stood in Foxcraft’s eyes, “My Child.”
Beyond the winged ones, smoke burst from the ground. A black, brown, and gray cloud mushroomed up and spread in the air.
“What was that?” said Casseyleed. A deep sound throbbed in the ground and air.
Vixen-Victoria barked a laugh, “Wizard Flemen casts a spell; a curse on us and our off spring.” She laughed again, “If he expects to kill us why curse our pups? And what good will it do today? They are not here to stand and fight or even run away.
“The fool wastes his magic,” She walked in widening circles and ovals.
The Snow Vixen began casting her spell, “Begin, oh wind, the smokes of yesterday. Upon the foolish one, The Vixen has her way. So be it. So live it. I will.”
“The wind will make it easy for them to smell us but it does not matter for they yet see us around our fire. My words are Spirit Fire.” A breeze began to blow from the direction of the morning sun. Warm, it fanned Victoria’s magic bush fire and sent a white smoke streaming towards Flemen across Clay Fields.
The White Vixen strutted and flicked her tail, “The one called Foxcraft is overtaken by his own horsemen. They mount and travel to you, bare ones.
“Wench-of-the-Vision, why do you and your handmaid stand with me? Be warned. Wizard Flemen hates me. I know not why but I have learned to hate him as well. Flemen is most powerful and often controls the weather. He will try to kill you both if you stay with me.
“I caught a warmth-that-strengthens at your castle. My magic is stronger than ever before. I have eaten my fill. I’ve never eaten my fill before. I will engage Flemen in combat.
“I have no family, no sire, nor dame; no heir.” Vixen-Victoria flew into the air and shouted defiance, “Bring your best, Foot-Stink. My magic will make your eyes water and fasten your bony butt to the ground. Your worthless tongue will fail you from your own stench.”
Hanna and Casseyleed spoke together, “My Lady...”
“I am neither yours nor a lady but The Snow Vixen. Know this. I will run no further; my death or theirs, the wizard and the kicker.” She cirled in the air again and began a chant.
With no choice but to follow, Casseyleed and Hanna staggered into the air.
The Snow Vixen finished her spell, "The mists of snow will grow with bits of fire for I have made it so. The Vixen of the Snow with fire I crush my enemy. Victoria, Victoria. I am Victory."
Vixen-Victoria’s fire followed her flight. Misty snow balls whose train became flame formed seething. Lightening enveloped the heaving swirling cloud of ice-fire.
She rose higher. She flew further advancing towards her enemies, barking and laughing. “Snow swirls. Snow hurls fire-death and ice-pain.”
Flemen’s greyhound drawn sleigh took him into the air. He raised Short Wand and uttered a curse. Star-thorns spread from its tip. A snow that became fire rained. Lightning scattered among Clay Fields warriors and played between Flemen and his dogs. Dogs, wizard, and sleigh caught fire and fell to the ground.
The entire enemy force, on fire to a man, ran in every direction possible seeking relief. Elsewhere the snow melted without a trace.
Victoria screamed. Star-thorns cleaved to her. Her wings trailed behind her, for she fell from the air like a stone. Hanna only managed a collision, but Casseyleed caught the Snow Vixen on her arms and turned towards the advancing Foxcraft removing the star-thorns by singing a blessing:
The moon shone from the clear night sky. Skulk’s Den dominated the horizon. Signal fires burned upon its ramparts. The Lord of the Dark Citadel ordered a halt and built a large council fire.
The Snow Vixen stood before the blaze, “Just who are you and why do you think I belong with you?”
The Lady of Leeds stretched out her arms, “Your Aunt.”
Vixen –Victoria showed teeth, “Oh?”
“I am Foxcraft, Lord of The Dark Citadel, Skulk’s Den.” Tears stood in his eyes.
“Your prisoner, My Lord; a were-vixen is a freak needlessly feared. I am your slave. You have taken me in reasonable bondage. You seem a benevolent master.
“You could have kicked me many times by now and yet you refrain. You could have chained me and ordered me about and yet you chose to carry me and succor me.
“You could have bound me with spells and curses yet in grace you have left me unfettered by chain and free of magic restraint.”
Foxcraft scribed a sphere in the air between himself and Victoria. His motion became an orb of soft white light.
Foxcraft spoke, "Daughter of Foxcraft, come, enter The Light.
“My Lord asks for all. Very well, Lord of the Dark Citadel, death in The Light exceeds life in darkness.” The Snow Vixen stepped slowly into Foxcraft’s growing globe. She shivered but continued, “So cold, so hot, so strange.” She drew a quick breath and closed her eyes, “My Lord.”
Vixen-Victoria swirled, suffused with Light. The Orb became as milk-ice melting into the form of a maiden with green eyes and blonde-white hair that hung straight down her back over her shoulders and onto her wings.
Ghost-fire, white and thin, played about her. Arms, breasts, wings, and legs quivered clean. The fire ceased. She gripped her stomach and exhaled a brown cloud that melted in the moon light.
Tears streamed down Casseyleed’s face. Hanna took her hand. They both knelt on one knee, “Hail The Daughter of Light. Hail the Mistress of Skulk’s Den.”
All save Foxcraft kneeled. Foxcraft said and his Skulk repeated, “Hail, The Daughter of Light. Hail the Mistress of Skulk’s Den, The Daughter of Foxcraft.”
"How long was I gone? I must ask Father. For now, a foxy surprise for a child."
"Feet be four. Hands be none. Vixen be one and gone." Vixen-Victoria laughed.
The Snow Vixen trotted down a familiar hallway, swinging her tail about and twitching her whiskers. She sang softly.
"...Victory, victory mine. Victoria."
“Kitty,” Vixen-Victoria allowed herself to be picked up.
The green eyed child dropped her near the hearth, and began petting her, “You’re so nice and soft and warm now. Where have you been?”
Victoria rolled over onto her back and looked into the child’s eyes, “Who are you little one?”
“I have a long name. I’m still trying to remember it all. But my short name is Silvia because I like trees.”
“Would you like to have a sister?”
“Oh yes. Yes, I would.”
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
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