Monday, 23 December 2013
The Fox-child and his Dam
It is said that many years ago, in the time of the House of Keys, when its powers held sway over the Wildwood there were both good magicks and those most malicious. Stories are told in the villages not far from the vast Wildwood. In Goat-wyck and Lambton, even as far as Stoneburgh a particular tale is told of the Fox-Child's Dam.
It seems that a vixen gave birth to a litter of cubs in a quiet hollow beneath the roots of an old oak. This Skulk of Foxes, for so a group of foxes is known, stayed around that oak for quite some time as they grew. Every day it is said, their Dam, or mother went hunting to feed her cubs and returned often with a rabbit or a pheasant that her three cubs shared.
Now a poacher with some hedge-magicks entered the wood and coming across the by now juvenile foxes, killed two of them and chased after the third who fled. Young as this fox was, he sought his dam, but could not find her. Being possessed of his own magick the fox left the wood and hid in a barn. There he came across a small boy and vengeful of the slaughter of his siblings by a man, he fell upon the boy intending the child's death. But his own magick rose up in him and instead of bloody death, there was a merging of the fox and the boy. Knowledge, such as it was filled them both and the boy's mousy hair became russet, his eyes green and yet the fox's nature was within him.
So he hid well in the barn and when the poacher came into the barn, following the fox, he saw only a boy asleep, the fox trail confused and lost. So he left the boy asleep and went away.
Much later, when the sun had run his course and his pale sister the moon arose from her bed, the vixen returned to find her cubs gone and blood around the oak. She screeched her wild rage and grief at the forest canopy and called upon all the ancient dryads of the wood. In that instant, the dryads took pity on her and told her all that had befallen her cubs.
From that moment, the vixen in her fury swore vengeance and tracked the poacher to his village a little beyond the wood. There had been, some hundreds of years before, some faerie blood in her line and this was still strong in her. From the edge of the wood, she sang to the poacher's oldest child to come to her. The child, a handsome boy like his father, fell into a trance and walked out of the house and into the wood.
Once within the wood, the vixen had him. She pounced on him with all her rage and tore the boy to pieces until cruel death closed his eyes. Now the vixen returned to the edge of the wood, for she would have all the poacher's cubs. But a cat who had once been a witch's familiar had heard the song of the fox and guessed at it. He had been too late to save the boy, but the little girl he would protect. As the vixen's song called out once more to the little girl so that she too fell into a trance, the cat sat upon the gate post. He sang a deep song, a hearthside song, a mother's love and a gentle song. This song alone interrupted the vixen and the little girl began to cry. Her mother came to her, picked her up and held her until the girl whimpered with the two songs in her head.
The vixen would have leapt upon the cat, but the poacher's hedge-magick had awoken and he went outside with his gun. The vixen melted back into the cover of the woods and she fled back to the oak, tears of anger and loss streaming across her fur.
So the villagers say, that when the nights are dark and cold. When winter comes, grey, cold and hard as stone; keep your children indoors by the hearth. Place cold iron over the doors and windows to guard against faerie-magick, for then the Vengeful Vixen sings her bewitching song to avenge her lost cubs. If a child goes, trancelike out of doors and into the Wildwood, they will never be seen again. Mothers tell their children of the Vixen and keep the little ones indoors. If the children misbehave they are told that the Vixen may get them.
As for the fox-child, nobody knows if he has found his dam. It was said that only Lisanna of the House of Keys might know and even she would not tell. Villagers watch for the fox-child and those few children, especially boys that are born with red hair are blessed at the kirk and wear iron crosses about their necks to keep away faerie magicks. Despite the tale of the fox-child, red-haired children are loved as much for their rarity. They are called flame-haired, copper-haired and seen in the villages as the most beautiful. The girls especially are treasured if they have flaming red hair, for their eyes are green or blue and they are said to have faery blood in them, which strangely is seen as good. It protects them in this dangerous world.