A few months later Chepi and Bel sat outside their new home watching the young cubs play and enjoying a warm early autumn afternoon. What with building a new den and keeping on top of the cubs, Si and his goons seemed like a distant nightmare. So did Old Fox. Nothing had been heard of him since he left the wolf lair. Achek and her pups had become regular visitors, bringing Brach with them now and then. Chepi and the cubs would travel to the wolf lair too. Each time she would ask if there was any news of the Old Fox, nothing.
‘Do you think he is alright?’ she asked Bel.
‘He’ll be fine, he knows how to look after himself.’
‘But nothing, he said he had things to deal with, we must be patient.’
‘I think Brach knows more than he says.’
‘He probably does, but they will have their reasons for not saying more than they do.’
‘Chepi, your focus must be the cubs, he will be back when he can or when the time’s right.’
Chepi sighed, ‘but it’s been so long, I miss him.’
‘I know you do; I miss Curr just the same.’
‘Yes, and don’t protest, my dear niece, your feelings for the Old Fox are obvious.’
At the edge of the green, Bel saw the two wolves, Brach and Achek, approaching. ‘We have company, go smarten yourself up.’
Chepi looked up, ‘it’s only Achek and Brach…’
Chepi knew better than to argue with the older vixen and returned into the lair for a brush down. ‘Fuss over nothing, that’s what this is,’ she muttered, almost slamming the door behind her.
A few minutes later she returned to the green, the cubs, Bel and wolves were nowhere to be seen.
‘They have gone for ice creams, my dear,’ said a voice behind her.
Chepi turned, a glint in her eye. ‘You’re back…’ she said but her voice trailed when she saw a much younger fox. ‘Sorry. I thought you were someone else.’
‘Now who would that be, I wonder.’
A fox about the same height as you, but much older. Your voices sound the same.’
‘Older, not that much older, if you don’t mind.’
‘Greying fur on the muzzle and brush, am I right?’
‘Yes, but still fast on his paws.’
‘May I use your den a moment?’
‘If you must, but I warn you the wolves are around so don’t try anything.’
‘Brach and Achak are good friends of mine,’ he said as he disappeared inside.
Chepi sat down, a confused look in her eyes. Just as she got comfy Bel appeared. ‘You alright, Chepi? You look a bit perplexed?’
‘Who is that fox?’
‘Don’t you know?’
‘He sounds like Old Fox, but he is far too young.’
‘Is he indeed.’
‘Where’s he gone?’
‘Inside, whatever for I don’t know.’
‘Go in and find out.’
‘I think I will.’
Chepi got up and went into her home. There in her living area was the Old Fox.
‘Hello, my dear.’
‘Oh, grey fur? It’s easy with a bit of the liquid clay from the east side of the Forest.’
‘You don’t what?’
‘Well, I was sent to watch that brother of yours. I hadn’t planned on getting to know you, but well we did. I couldn’t exactly tell you; I didn’t know how much you were involved. And once I knew he was hoodwinking you as well as the rest of the town, I couldn’t tell you.’
‘So who are you?’
‘Oddly enough my name isn’t Old Fox.’
‘My mother used to call me Arvi, so that’s my real name.’
‘Hello Chepi, are we now formally introduced, then.’
‘I guess so.’
‘Can I … oh wow, haven’t you three grown.’
‘Sorry, they found out from the wolf pups’ said Bel chasing in after the three cubs.
‘Can you what?’ said Chepi ignoring the invasion.
‘I was going to kiss you, but I think these three have different ideas’ said Arvi from beneath a pile of cubs.
‘You can do that later,’ said Chepi, ‘I think you will be occupied for a while yet.’ Then she grinned, ‘meet Ginger, Ruby and Koko.’
©JG Farmer 2019