The Old Fox and the Old Gods

The old fox hated the old gods — though not because they were older. It was that they were too old. Cavalier. Cruel. Impatient in their immortality. They whittled away their time antagonizing mortals for the purposes of fending off the tedium born of lives lived too long. And the old fox was done with their foolishness. She was wise that way.

    The day she ended their reign came unexpectedly, for it was in the evening and she sat by the fire in her hollowed tree playing the pipes. She often did this of an evening, for the music sunk deep into her soul and offered her rest. But, of late, the music was too rattling. Too harrowed. For the old gods had begun their abuse of mortals anew, and the old fox witnessed the devastating chaos day after day.

    Once it was a human boy made to travel all the world with a weight of stone upon his back that could only be removed should he come across a field of black poppies, the price for the gift of his ailing mother's life. Too late did he realize that poppies are never purely black, and so he perished under the weight of the stone. So, too, did his mother.

    No short time after the boy came the twin daughters of an evil man who sought to imprison him and keep him from his harsh ministrations. Alas, the price was all the liquid the gods desired that the young women could provide — one agreed on too soon, for the liquid the gods desired came from within the women.

    And then there was the old mother hen. A sweet soul, and too many chicks to count. But she wanted the saving of one, and so she made her bargain. It took the lives of all her chicks, for she had pledged her feathers to save her child, and the old gods took the liberal view that her chicks' feathers belonged to herself. When the old gods spared her life in the wrenched and wretched form of their mercy, the old mother hen took her own life for she could not bear the pain.

    There were more tales, but the old fox did not like to dwell on all of them. Still, she played her music, and as she played, she reminisced too vividly. It is a dangerous thing to play music and remember as though the memory were being lived anew. It imbues the memory with strength. And if it is strong enough, then comes the magic. So much did the old fox hate the old gods, that her memory became a fierce magic. 

    She recognized the power of it at once.

    The pipes were cast aside, as the old fox folded herself in the magic and let it whip her away to the hall of the old gods.

    Once there, she began to bind it around the old gods until they could not move — all the while longing to make them sputter and choke, a last suffering for all their wrongs until they were no more.

    But as she wrapped the magic tighter about the gods, the old fox felt a curious darkness leak into her soul. She could see it with her second sight; it was made of shadow and weight and grew as her magic left her. It took her a moment to recognize the shadow. But when she did, she recoiled. For it was the same darkness that lay about the old gods. It was the shadow of despair — for where the old gods had it born of ennui, the old fox had born her own of hatred.

    She stopped her magic, then, and cast it anew to draw her pipes to her hand. Suddenly they appeared, and she began to play. As she did, the darkness began to fade as her vengeance died. Her capture of the old gods, however, did not. The magic wrapped around them tighter until their power was gone and they were captured within the stone of their own hall.

    The old fox breathed, then. She looked about her own soul to make sure it was free of shadowed stain. 

    And indeed it was. For she had turned her hatred into something stronger. Something fairer. Something true. She had turned it into justice.

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