Chepi, the Young Vixen, sat down next to her aunt. She was exhausted. Bel handed her a cup of tea.
‘Hard work isn’t it?’ said the older vixen.
‘It is indeed. No wonder poor Vanda needed me to watch them. I thought she was just being selfish. Oh I feel awful now.’
‘Now, Chepi, don’t you go getting all guilty now. Those cubs need you, and you, well, we are going to make sure they grow up as well as possible.’
‘Why did Reynard do it? How could he betray his family, his babies? I just don’t get it.’
‘He was always a bad fox,’ said the older vixen, embracing her niece.
‘What do you mean, Bel?’
‘He was a terror to my poor sister, your mother. He was always leaving you girls alone when she should have been looking after you. It is only pure luck you weren’t lost with your dear sister.’
‘My sister…’ Chepi fell silent as long forgotten memory of a pretty vixen cub returned to her. ‘I don’t remember what happened? I know she disappeared.’
‘ Your cur of a brother left you both in the open, you weren’t even yearlings and that rotten cur left you. Your sister was taken, somehow your mother found you before anything happened to you. I tell you Chepi, your brother was a bad fox, and still is.’
‘Look how he treated you, like some slave at his beck and call. Never letting you see other foxes, just him. And the way he treated Vanda was disgraceful. Foxes are renowned for their loyalty to their mate, and he acted like he had no mate.’
‘He liked to have fun, yes.’
‘Fun! FUN! Is that what he called it? Chepi, don’t be so naïve, he was seeing any vixen he could, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he hasn’t sold out other vixens and their cubs.’
Before Chepi could react, the lair started to echo with howls and the sound of paws. The males of the pack were returning, very dishevelled but they were home. Among them stood Brach, the Old Fox and Rigby. There was no sign of Reynard or Si, or any of Si’s gang.
Chepi and Bel were joined by the she-wolf Achak. Bel moved closer to Chepi. ‘You must prepare yourself for what they have to say.’
The pack said nothing. Instead the Old Fox came up and nuzzled the Young Vixen. ‘ I suggest we go watch the twilight, my dear.’
Outside they sat in the dimly lit forest clearing. ‘Well, tell me what you have to tell me,’ said Chepi.
‘Rest assured Si and his henchmen will never bother you again. Nor will that cur Reynard ever be a danger to those cubs.’
‘Good? Reynard was your brother; it is okay to be saddened.’
‘I’m not. Bel has told me a great deal today.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘Just tell me.’
‘Ok. Reynard was supplying Si with cubs for the Bray. Not just his own, you understand. The Bray pay well for fresh meat. In that respect, Reynard met his just reward, the Bray aren’t fussy which foxes they take, and they took him, I saw them. He didn’t have any protection from Si and his gang as they were fighting the pack. It was over very quickly.’
‘Shame he deserved to suffer.’
‘Chepi? I am shocked. I guess I am not really that shocked as he was doing the same to you. Did you know that?’
‘I worked it out when Bel told me things.’
‘Oh, my dear.’
The Old Fox nuzzled Chepi, then sat silent in deep thought.
Later that night as Chepi slept curled up with her cubs, the Old Fox turned to Bel. They talked in whispers as they walked together to the lair entrance. ‘I will be back as soon as I can, Bel.’
©JG Farmer 2019