Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
The Feral Foxes




Chapter 8
The Feral Foxes

When we measured pulsar synchronicity across the local cluster, we discovered that every 4,603 milliseconds they all shifted along a curbed axis. This led to the development of the pulse-shift space engine, which is still in use today.

—Okume Baya Dacadan, winner of the Imperial Science Foundation grand prize.

Agra had become a very adept hunter and Vaega had a growing pile of pelts, which she slowly transformed into leathers to sew into clothing and bedding. Trion had finished the buildings and was reading up on building a stove and possibly a tailoring table.

In the late afternoon, as Agra was walking back to camp through the brush with four rabbits hanging from a pole she had fashioned for that purpose, that she balanced over her left shoulder with her left hand while holding her spear in her right hand.

Near the gate, she heard a yapping sound to her left, from the wooded area. This did not concern her, and she kept walking.

The yapping became more insistent. More sound came from behind her. She turned around and saw several brown and reddish foxes bouncing toward her.

Where normally foxes were shy creatures who stayed clear of humans, these displayed uncommon aggression. Their eyes were wild and full of fury.

Agra dropped the rabbits and ran for the gate. She opened it just enough to slip through and closed it, or tried to. Already one fox had passed the threshold and its body blocked the gate from closing. She pulled the gate as hard as she could, wishing she had heavy boots to kick the fox out.

She could not close the gate, and already another fox was working its way in through the narrow gap.

Trion came running, pistol in hand. He brandished the weapon and shouted: “Step back.”

Agra let go of the gate handle and tumbled away, rolling, then crouching, spear at the ready.

Trion fired.

The first fox collapsed in a red mess, blood squirting out of the wound. The second fox jumped sideways inside the enclosure and lunged at Agra. Three more foxes appeared in the frame of the open gate and jumped through. More, Trion could not tell how many appeared behind them, an unnatural fury in their eyes, as though they had been driven to a killing frenzy.

Vaega was at some distance near the cabin. “Come inside, quick!”

Trion fired again. Another fox lurched, then stopped, its limbs trembling, blood seeping into its fur.

More foxes jumped through the gate. Trion realized the four bullets left in his pistol were not enough. “Agra, come, let’s go.”

Agra was slashing left and right with her spear, while the foxes surrounding her jumped in to snap at her and jumped out again to avoid her strikes. Already eight foxes had surrounded her.

Trion shot one of them, but they closed rank again around her.

Agra dared a glance at Trion. In her eyes, he could see a growing desperation that mirrored the wildness of the beasts. She stabbed at one fox, felt the blade hit, but the creature leaped out so quickly she felt she had barely nicked the skin.

She felt the bite in her leg: searing pain in her calf muscle. She had not seen the fox that now held her limb in its canines. With a great cry she swung her spear around and jammed the tip of the blade right into the fox’s shoulder. It yelped and let go, trying to bite the spear tip.

Trion fired again. Another fox fell in a spray of blood. For an instant the animals looked in his direction. He was very close to Agra now. He took aim again and fired, but missed.

One bullet left.

Desperate and angry, Agra struck with more fury. Her leg hurt but her arms brought the spear down again. This time the blade went into the animal’s flank and through to the other side. She lifted it then brought it down again, and the fox tumbled and limped away.

Trion swung with the pistol and struck a fox with the barrel. The animal tumbled but stood again, disoriented perhaps, eyes unfocused, darting here and there.

“To the cabin!” Trion shouted.

They made their way slowly, through the garden, keeping the five foxes around them at bay with the spear and swings of the pistol.

Vaega was inside already, both hands on the door. When Agra and Trion tumbled in, she slammed it shut, keeping the foxes out.

Agra let out a long howl of pain. “It hurts so much.”

Vaega knelt with a medkit. “You’ll be okay. I’ve got you.”

She cleaned the wound, stitched the skin back together, bandaged it up. “You have to rest; stay in bed.”

Agra lost track of time after a while. It was day or it was night; she didn’t know sometimes.

Three days went by. They were out of water, and Agra’s battle with the fever had weakened her.

At last the foxes left and Trion went out to get water. He brought more bullets this time, but did not see any animals.

With water replenished and Agra feeling better, they surveyed their little camp. Vaega and Trion tried to not show their disappointment when they spoke.

“The garden is ruined.” Vaega stated.

“We need more water storage.” Trion observed.

“We really need to learn how to make pemmican.” Vaega added.

“Agra nearly died.” Trion added after a moment. “We were so lucky.”

Vaega remained silent.

In the doorway of the cabin, holding on to the frame, Agra stood weakly. Naked, shivering, too thin, even gaunt, she called out. “I will go hunt.”

Vaega and Trion returned to the cabin and helped her back into bed. “Please rest. Trion will go hunt. I will cook what he brings back. Please stay here and regain your strength.”

Agra closed her eyes. Standing and walking for even a moment had exhausted her. “Thank you both.”

Trion went hunting and Vaega replanted the garden as best she could.

That night at the campfire, eating food, they spoke quietly, and cooked rabbit meat and raccoon they would feed Agra when she woke up.

“I managed to salvage one fox fur. The rest were too badly mangled,” Vaega said.

“Have you figured out how to make clothing yet?” Trion asked.

“I think so. Tomorrow I will make pants and a tunic for Agra. Hopefully this will keep her warm.”

“I’ve noticed the scars on her legs from walking in the bush. So many thorns and branches cut into her skin,” Trion said, looking into the fire.

“I have noticed that too. I’ll make her stout leggings.”

Vaega pointed to Trion’s left leg, where a red welt streaked just above the knee. “I’ll make one for you too.”

“Thank you.”

Agra came out of the cabin and sat with them and ate the rest of the grilled meat.

“Does it still hurt?” Trion asked, pointing at her calf where the fox had bitten her.

“Some. There is still a tightness in the muscle, but I hope this will go away.”

Trion held her gaze for a moment. “That’s good. I hope you feel better soon.”

“Thank you.”

Agra went back to bed. Trion and Vaega stayed a little longer.

At last, they put out the fire and went to bed too.

Next chapter: Bows and Arrows

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