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- "Have I ever told you the tale of how a Son of Renert defeated Death itself?"
- The Juska were huddled together, some in blankets, around a crackling fire. On the other side of it sat the Seer. Silence reigned, and taking this as a cue, the vixen continued.
- "Long ago, when beasts died, they passed on into the realm of the Devil, called Hellgates. He was a harsh creature, and tormented those who entered his lands, cursing them to walk through the black ashen plains forever. Heed closely." The young Juska were gathered around, listening to the vixen Maltra as she told her tale. It was a cool evening, and they stared into the flames as the Seer spoke.
- "Aye, that was the law of Death; but one day, everything changed!" she spread her paws wide and the flames flashed and swirled in greens and blues and fiery reds. The gathering of stoats, rats, weasels and foxes jumped in fear and awe. "Long ago, aye, before even your grandsires' grandsires' grandsires' grandsires were even imagined, a clever animal roamed the earth. He was Vulpuz, son of Renert the Cunning, who was Father of Foxes. The son, Vulpuz, was so cunning he could trick a mouse into his belly without so much as a fight for it, or so they said. You have all heard the tale of the game he played with Mustela, mother of weasels, tricking her into giving him her dominion over the fowl of the forest, have you not?" The group of excited listeners quickly informed her that they had, and urged her to go on. "One day, Vulpuz was in his father's den, teaching the younger cubs of cleverness and wiles, when he heard a cry in the meadow. At once he rushed to locate the voice, for he knew at once that it belonged to Renert. He soon found his father, who had grown feeble in his old age, slain by the wildcat, Silves, for of all creatures the cat held a great grudge against Renert for his trickery; they say Silves had made a deal with the Devil himself to trap Renert at last, and having finally caught the old dogfox in the open, he had made quick work of the Father of Foxes."
- "Wot 'appens next?" asked a young fox named Ruvitan.
- "I'm getting there," the vixen smiled. "Now, when Vulpuz saw that his father had been taken to Hellgates, he endeavored to release him in some way, and went at once to the Gates of the Devil's Court, for though clever and cunning he was, he loved his father greatly and would have done most anything to free him. He demanded the Devil let loose of his father, but the Great Dark One would hear none of it, no matter what clever turns Vulpuz took. The little fox was forced to leave the Court at once, and went home to his mother, grieving for Renert, Father of Foxes. He listened to her howl in sadness and loss that night, and knew then that he must find some way to free his father from the clutches of the Devil himself.
- As the other foxes all went to fitful slumber, Vulpuz remained awake, a plan forming in his cunning brain."
- Maltra sat up and accepted a platter of fish and a beaker of wine, settling in to a bite of repast as she yet again paused her narrative. The others sat about, sharing the small shark that had taken four Juska to reel in earlier that morning. She chewed passively, then swallowed and continued.
- "Morning came and as the Devil sent out his dark spies across the land, looking for signs of new death, he was surprised to see Vulpuz, lying on his side, in the meadow where Silves had slain the Father. The little fox was slain."
- The crowd was stunned. Ruvitan spoke again, nervously, "B-but if Vulpuz was slain, how'd..."
- "I am getting there, impatient one. The Devilrat took Vulpuz to his realm, for all beasts must go to Hellgates when they die. Vulpuz awakened there, and abode some long time, refusing food or drink. The Devil came to him three times, demanding that he eat and drink, for what good is a slave without vittles to sustain him? But Vulpuz doggedly shoved it away every time.
- When evening came, the fox slipped out of the Court and at once set out across the tormented lands to seek his father, Renert the Cunning. He searched long and hard, and by afternoon of the next day he found the elder by a sulphur pit, on the far reaches of the black land. They dwelt together until the next evening there, then returned to the court of Hellgates, demanding release once more. The Devil again would not release either of them, and took great pleasure in their entrapment in his great domain. 'I have you at last, you sly old villains; Father of Foxes and Vulpuz the Trickster," the Devil replied. "You shall forever herein remain, roaming the dark lands for a time immortal. Nothing shall change my mind.' Vulpuz conceded that it was to be a very long night indeed."
- Maltra paused, staring into her half-empty goblet; this time for so long a time that one of the audience spoke up again. "That's it?"
- She continued with a start. "Ah. Hm. The next day, the Devil drifted across his domain. Far and wide he ranged, and returned to Court by noontide. When he had returned and supped, he decided, as was his custom now, to pay a visit to the chamber of Vulpuz and his Father. He entered the dungeons and commanded that his prisoners be brought forth. His Jailer went to do his bidding; but presently, he returned, a look of shock on his face. The Devil quickly began to realize something was amiss in his Court: Vulpuz and Renert, Father of Foxes, were gone.
- He searched low and high that eve, and surely even into dimensions of that dark keep hitherto unknown, enraged. Rumors came to him that they had escaped in some way, but he could not believe them, and refused to until at last his servants came forward bringing the fox's drinking vessel, which they had found a little ways down near the garden wall. It had been emptied, and along the rim was evidence of a poison the Devil had not expected.
- Furiously, the Lord of Hellgates realized he had been deceived: Sleeping Nightshade, the fox had taken; and though he seemed dead that day when the Devil had found him in the glade, in truth he was alive. Having broken the most ancient rule of Death itself, now both Father and Son were free."
- There was silence, and then the gathered Juska applauded the tale.
- "Haha, clever Vulpuz!"
- "Aye, to outwit the Devil himself!"
- "Sleeping Nightshade! Who would've thought?"
- "Caw! I yew said it, mate."
- Ruvitan, however, was not entirely satisfied. "But what happens next? How did Vulpuz come to be Lord of Hellgates itself?"
- A half-smile formed on Maltra's lip. "The Devil knew from then on that Vulpuz had made a fool of him, and for that, Vulpuz would surely have to pay the price. From that day forward, the Devil knew he must find a way to trap Vulpuz the Clever Fox once again, and this time bind him truly forever. But that," she said, lying back slowly to rest, "is a tale for another time."