The Fox and the Maiden’s Daughter

There used to be stories about the silver foxes that lived in the forests near the Deep. The oldest of these folktales claim that they were once fairies, spirits who lived in the world between our own and the land of gods, and served as messengers, envoys, and heralds of fortune. Perhaps it is because of these ancient tales that the daughter of the Maiden was taken there to recover from her childhood illness, to rest and grow stronger in the pastoral calm of the quiet countryside, far away from the corruption and madness of the great cities.

While the Maiden prayed every morning for the health of her daughter and then prepared the medicine to save her life, the daughter would sit up and approach the lone window of her room. Sitting amongst the ash-colored reeds at the edge of the forest was a silver fox with eyes like smoldering coal. The daughter held out a hand in greeting, and the fox smiled in response.

This routine continued for some time – the prayer, the medicine, the morning greeting – but the daughter’s health did not improve. The medicine was a thick powder, consumed with a pot of foul-smelling tea, but neither that nor the Maiden’s earnest prayers seemed to make any real difference. The daughter did not truly realize that she was dying, but she understood that her faltering health was the cause of the Maiden’s deep sadness.

“Fox.” the daughter said one morning, her breath a faint mist escaping through the thin shutters of her window, “Are the old stories about your kind true?”

The fox smiled in response.

“Will you please help the Maiden smile again?”

The fox turned and leapt into the forest.

The next morning, when the daughter approached the lone window of her room, she found a small pile of bright red berries – so plump and ripe that their juices seemed just about to burst through its taut skin – placed upon the windowsill. Sitting amongst the ash-colored reeds at the edge of the forest was a silver fox with eyes like flickering embers. The daughter smiled in thanks, and the fox smiled in response.

When the Maiden entered the room, carrying the tray of medicine, she found her daughter lying on her back in her bed, a crimson stain blooming across her thin, pale lips.

The funeral was held not far from the the edge of the forest, utilizing an ancient shrine that was repaired and reconsecrated for the occasion. Loathe to be separated from her daughter even in death, the Maiden relinquished her responsibilities in the material world and pledged herself to tend to her daughter’s mausoleum. Moved by the sacrifice and the honor due to a grieving mother, the story of the Maiden and her tragedy circulated through the land. In time, the Maiden was approached by a multitude of suitors who had heard of her tale, and despite her initial protests, she gradually came to find a place for love in her heart once again.

Sitting amongst the ash-colored reeds at the edge of the forest, a silver fox with eyes like pale fire smiled.

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