The Forest now seemed like a entirely new land. It felt familiar yet strange at the same time. Weighed down by the snowpack, most tree branches had bent in such a way as to create mysterious sanctuaries, which the white-footed Mouse was all too happy to explore.
All seemed quiet in the Moon basking Forest. Only the howl of the wind broke up the peace momentarily. But the seemingly tranquil Forest still offered plenty of dangers, especially for a defenseless little Mouse. Many predators lurked high and low, waiting for the the perfect moment to strike. But the tiny Mouse was not afraid, not one bit. In fact, she could be called quite brave. She was always mindful of her natural environment, as a good Mouse should be, but she never ran away or stayed hidden. No, she much preferred to enjoy herself, especially on a time like this. She adored the snow, so much so that she would wait all year long for Winter to come.
If anyone wanted to cause her trouble, then this was certainly not the time to do so. The white-footed Mouse was to play in the snow, and no one could change her mind.
“I love Winter, so please allow me to enjoy it,” said the brave little Mouse as if speaking to the entire Forest.
On the other side of the moonlit Forest, a brilliantly coloured silver Fox was constantly peeking from his burrow, inspecting his snow covered surroundings. The silver Fox did not like the snow at all. He much preferred to stay inside his den, away from the cold and snow. The arrival of Winter had made it very difficult on him, so much so that Spring could not have come any sooner.
You see, the silver Fox was quite cowardly in his nature. Snow meant that he could get stuck and freeze to death. Ice meant that he could slip and fall. Wind meant that his bright ashen fur would get ruined. He was afraid of everything that Winter brought. His warm and cozy burrow was a much better choice than any fun he might have had in the snow.
Yet on this particularly white night, the silver Fox felt very agitated and anxious. It was his first time going out on a hunt.
“A Fox only becomes one after successfully completing a hunt,” his family told him.
“You cannot just stay hidden inside your hole the entire Winter,” they continued.
Winter was already a stressful event, but a hunt, his first one at that, meant even more worries for the cowardly Fox. He keep looking outside as if hoping that the snow would magically melt, but it was to no avail. Winter had come in full force, and it had no intention of leaving anytime soon.
Seeing as he had no other option, the poor Fox took his first steps outside into the harsh cold. He could barely set his paws on the perfectly white snow, wobbling at every movement. It was not a very good start for the silver Fox, who even after a few considerable steps, had advanced very little. In fact, he had remained fairly close to his home. His initial plan, a safe plan he thought, was to sniff around for a little bit, and then to quickly return to his cozy and inviting burrow. Yet a particular scent had drawn him further and further away to a small clearing in the woods.
There, he saw a tiny little Mouse playing in the snow without a single care in the world.
The Fox was rather surprised by the odd creature, so he moved in closer, making sure not to make a single noise. The white-footed Mouse continued to enjoy herself, blissfully unaware that a fearsome predator was stalking her. Well, as fearsome as a cowardly Fox could hope to become.
“A good hunter always remains calm, and strikes only at the right moment,” his family advised him.
The silver Fox quickly climbed one of the nearby trees, and positioned himself on a broad branch that was close to the ground. By staying perfectly still he nearly vanished from sight. His grey and brown fur made it seem as though he was a part of the tree itself. He then quickly turned his attention over to the tiny Mouse, who never once appeared disturbed by any potential danger. Much to his surprise, she just played in the deep snow, rolling and swimming one moment, then climbing and jumping the next. The silver Fox simply did not understand how anyone could enjoy Winter so much. After all, he dreaded it. But even at such an incredible sight, he knew he had to remain sharp. His goal had been set. He would capture the white-footed Mouse and bring her home.
He just hoped that he would be able to follow through. But as he drew closer and closer, he became more and more nervous.
“What if I fail?” whispered the Fox to himself.
“What if my family will laugh at me?”
Dark and depressing thoughts soon flooded his mind, as he was slowly succumbing to the pressure of the hunt. Nevertheless, he soon calmed himself down, thinking that he had not even dreamt of getting this far when he first left his home.
He suddenly jumped from the branch, and made a desperate dash straight for his newfound prey. Just as he was preparing to make his decisive move, however, the white-footed Mouse sensed slight trepidations in her whiskers, alerting her of an incoming danger. She evaded the silver Fox’s fierce attack, and ran as fast as her tiny legs could carry her. The silver Fox immediately gave chase, hoping he could catch her in a second attempt.
Both predator and prey ran throughout the still Forest, faster and faster. It was a fight for survival, and no one was about to give up. The Fox simply wanted to prove himself in front of his family, so he could finally be treated as one of them. The Mouse just wanted to escape and be free once more. The frantic chase eventually led them to the neighboring Lake, which was now completely frozen.
The little Mouse had crossed the Lake before, and as such, she thought to herself that it might be a good way to lose her pursuer. The cowardly Fox, on the other hand, had never even come close to the Lake, fearing he might drown. Yet, in his desire to succeed, he continued to run after his prey, disregarding any signs of danger. Little did he know that the Lake had remained just as menacing, even in its frozen state.
The small Mouse was able to simply glide across the glass like surface, but the much heavier and inexperienced Fox did not fare so well. Soon enough he tripped over and fell right on his nose. And just like that the chase had ended, the white-footed Mouse becoming nothing more than a dot in the distance.
Defeated and hurt, the silver Fox no longer cared about the hunt, or any hunt for that matter.
“I have had enough!” said the upset Fox.
“I just want to go home, away from all of this.”
Unfortunately, it was far from over for him. By tripping and falling, several cracks had formed along the thin sheet of ice. And the weight of the Fox had only served to increase the size of the cracks. Ultimately, under the heavy strain, the ice finally gave way, pulling the silver Fox into the frozen dark water. Everything had happened so fast that he simply did not even have time to react. Once in the icy water, the frightened Fox started beating the water with all four legs, desperately trying to keep himself afloat. He had never swum before, let alone in such waters, which made it pretty impossible to escape his deadly predicament.
Meanwhile, the white-footed Mouse had reached the other side of the Lake safely.
Wondering what had happened to her pursuer, she stopped for a moment to survey the mighty Lake. Some distance away, she noticed that the silver Fox had fallen into the frozen water and was hopelessly struggling to get out. This was exactly what she had hoped. There would soon be one less predator after her. But seeing the poor Fox in such a dire situation triggered something inside the tiny Mouse. He heart simply could not bear to see the poor Fox die.
So instead of letting him drown, she decided to do something completely unexpected.
She swiftly ran all the way to a snowy field of cattails at the edge of the Lake, picking those that had not dried off. She weaved the stems into what appeared to be a net of some sort, which the brave little Mouse then threw at the drowning Fox. Unfortunately, he was not in view anymore.
He had more than likely submerged under to the icy black water, but the brave Mouse was not about to give up so easily. She grabbed one of the cattails and started drumming on it, creating a melodious buzzing sound.
Abruptly and with a great splash, the desperate Fox emerged from the cold water. He grabbed onto the net and slowly pulled himself out of danger. The poor thing was so tired and cold that he simply fainted. The white-footed Mouse knew that she had to take him to a warm place, so she wrapped the net around the freezing Fox, and pulled him ever-so-gently along the smooth icy surface. She then placed him inside a tree hollow, making sure to cover him lots of leaves, while drying off his wet fur with her tiny little paws. The white-footed Mouse stood next to the silver Fox all night long, trying to warm him up. Even though she had been chased all over the Forest, she did not hold a grudge. She could have easily let him drown, but she decided that the best course of action was to save him and take care of him.
“Why did I spare the life of a Fox who tried to catch me?” wondered the little Mouse confusingly.
The white-footed Mouse continued to have doubts, but in her tiny little heart she knew she had done the right thing. The Fox could perhaps be taught that a small Mouse like her was not worth the trouble of putting his life in peril. Or perhaps he could be taught that a Fox and a Mouse could actually live together as friends. Such thoughts continued to race through the mind of the white-footed Mouse. But as she was gazing at the sleeping Fox, her biggest thought and fear was that he might try to catch her yet again.
The morning Sun suddenly rushed inside the tree hollow, illuminating the silver fur of the sleepy Fox in the most splendid of ways. This left the white-footed Mouse in pure awe. She had never seen anything more beautiful in her life. In that one moment, the silver Fox carried all the beauty and marvel of Winter itself.
The gentle caress of the Sun prompted the silver Fox to slowly open his eyes. He was waking up, but the little Mouse just stood there transfixed by his beauty. She no longer cared if the Fox wanted to catch her. The silver Fox had become as precious to her as the Winter that she loved so very much.
“What happened?” asked the puzzled Fox.
“You fell in the cold water trying to catch me,” replied the Mouse gradually gaining her composure.
“But I saved you and brought you here,” she continued.
The Fox stared intently at the small Mouse, having a very hard time understanding what had happened. He remembered running after the little Mouse all the way to the frozen Lake, where he tripped and cracked the ice beneath him. The remembered falling into the cold water and struggling before passing out. But how such a tiny creature, the very same whom he had chased all over the Forest, came to his help, he did not remember. Yet there he was, inside the tree hollow, safe and sound. He had survived, and it was all thanks to the tiny little Mouse sitting in front of him.
“I am hungry,” said the silver Fox.
“Come then, let us find some berries,” replied the white-footed Mouse.
The still tired Fox carefully got up and followed the tiny Mouse outside the tree hollow.
In daylight, the snowy Forest looked even more beautiful. The sunrays had made everything shine, as though a million tiny little diamonds had been been strewn all over the place.
The Fox, however, was not impressed. His silver fur radiated as brightly as the Sun itself, but for all intents and purposes, he would have rather stayed in the comfort of his own home, where it was warm and filled with all the food that he could ever need.
The Mouse, on the hand, was at home. Simply being in the Forest, in Winter time, made her very happy and excited. But seeing the Fox and his shiny silver fur made her even more joyous.
She was also glad that the Fox had given up on trying to chase her, preferring to spend time with her instead. Maybe he still wanted to do it, but felt too tired and hungry.
Whatever the case was, the little Mouse did not care. She had become mesmerised by his silver fur.
“Is Winter not the most beautiful thing ever?” asked the happy little Mouse.
“Of course not! Just look at what happened to me!“ came a stern reply.
The silver Fox explained how he did not even want to leave his sweet home, let alone go on some wild goose chase. He only did it because his family had told him that it was the only way for him to become a proper Fox. He admitted just how scared of Winter he was, and how he had hoped to stay hidden until Spring. But he simply did not wish to disappoint his family, who had cared for him his entire life.
Upon hearing his story, the white-footed Mouse thought carefully about what she should do. Clearly, the silver Fox was not her enemy. He had only chased her because of the old traditions passed down in the Forest from generation to generation. It was also clear just how frightened he was of everything. He could not even walk properly on the soft white snow, while constantly looking all around him as to prevent some unknown tragedy.
Perhaps there was a way to change all of these things. A Fox and a Mouse could become more than prey and predator. Cowardness could be turned into bravery. Traditions could be changed.
And the tiny little Mouse was to make it all possible. That was what her heart had set upon doing.
“Then there is no reason for you to chase me, is there?” concluded the white-footed Mouse.
“We should be friends instead,” came a final declaration.
The silver Fox looked at her curiously, not knowing what to think. True, there really was no reason for him to chase her. Equally true was that the two of them should become friends.
The solitary Fox had never actually had a friend, but he liked the idea. The white-footed Mouse
had saved his life, after all. He owed her. But deep down, he also liked her. He liked that she was not afraid of anything. She could be with a predator and not be scared. She could play in the middle of the Forest and not fear for her life. He liked that very much about her. She was the complete opposite of his cowardly self.
All of a sudden, the white-footed Mouse felt her whiskers vibrating once more, causing her to come to a full stop. The frightened Fox also came to stop, thinking that there was some sort of danger up ahead.
“Ha, there is food here!” shouted the tiny Mouse.
“Where? There is nothing but snow!” cried the tired and hungry Fox.
The tiny Mouse began to dig passionately in the snow until a small bush carrying tiny berries appeared. She quickly picked them and shared them with her newfound friend, whose face had brighten at the sight. She then moved to another area and began digging there, revealing yet another bush. She continued doing that until they both filled their stomach for the day. Their great feast was soon followed by a well deserved nap. Both the white-footed Mouse and the silver Fox lay under the roots of a large tree next to each other and fell asleep.
Curled around the tiny yet brave Mouse, the cowardly Fox felt cozy and safe. He did not mind being so far away from his home. And for all her bravery, the white-footed Mouse most definitely appreciated the protection of a much larger creature. She adored snugging down in his silver fur. The odd pair slept carelessly, dreaming of one another.
Much to her surprise, the white-footed Mouse woke up to discover that the silver Fox was playing around in the snow. She knew how much he hated Winter, but she figured that snow can have such an effect. Seeing him enjoy himself like that made her want to join in on the fun. The two of them jumped and ran and rolled around in the snow until nightfall.
“I must return to my home, to my family,” said the slightly disappointed Fox.
“Then I will follow you,” replied the small Mouse unexpectedly.
Naturally, the silver Fox did not wish to leave his friend behind, but he knew that his family would never accept the two of them. They had sent him out to hunt, not to make friends, especially with prey. Yet the white-footed Mouse still wanted to come along. She wanted to prove to his family that it was possible for predator and prey to become the best of friends. And just as she had done with the silver Fox, she wanted to show them that is was very much possible to forage for berries and other goodies around the Forest, instead of going on a hunt.
In her mind and in her heart, she was firmly convinced that the Fox’s family would ultimately approve of the their friendship, and maybe even change their ways.
The cowardly Fox doubted that such a thing could ever happen, but his newly discovered love for the white-footed Mouse made him hopeful. So together they set off in the direction of the silver Fox’s house, hoping that their unlikely friendship would prosper.
Nocturnal creatures by design, the silver Fox and the small Mouse braved the harsh night wind, not knowing what would come next for them, but infinitely happy to be together.
After a very long walk through dangerous icicles and heavy snowpacks, the pair finally reached the silver Fox’s burrow. His family was standing in front of it, howling and growling in preparation of a new hunt. The timid Fox ran up to them and bowed politely.
“Please allow me to introduce to you my friend.”
“How do you do?” said the white-footed Mouse.
“Ah, look, he has finally caught something,” said the silver Fox’s family.
In an instant, the introductions came to an end, and the white-footed Mouse saw herself surrounded by the silver Fox’s family. Unlike his friend, they appeared savage and vicious.
They cared not about the gentle and polite nature of the tiny Mouse. They only cared about the hunt. In their eyes she was nothing more than prey. All seemed lost for the poor tiny Mouse.
But in a moment of equal bravery and foolishness, the silver Fox rushed in and attacked his own family, allowing his troubled friend to get away.
Such a careless action came at a high price, sadly. His family immediately turned on him, biting him and and hurting him profoundly.
The white-footed Mouse ran and ran, trying to get as far as possible from them. She did not even look back, fearing they might be behind her. In-between her heavy panting, however, she started hearing cries of pain. They came in loud at first and then more and more subdued, but the tiny Mouse still recognised the sounds. They belonged to her friend, the silver Fox. He was suffering.
The white-footed Mouse, paying no attention to her own safety, turned around and sprinted toward her friend. She was horrified to see that the silver Fox was brutally punished by his family for letting the prey go and attacking them.
“Why do this to your own family?” yelled the white-footed Mouse.
“Even as my enemy, I still saved his life!”
“Why would you save the life of your enemy,” asked the silver Fox’s family.
“Because in my heart I know that all who dwell in the Forest are friends.”
Completely surprised by her unusual answer, they approached the tiny Mouse, who was standing her ground.
“Do you truly believe that all who dwell in the Forest are meant to be friends?”
“We are living proof of this,” said the white-footed Mouse tending to the wounds of her beloved friend.
The silver Fox’s family was so impressed with the tiny Mouse and her unexpected bravery that they began to see her in a completely different light. She was no longer prey. She was just like them, another dweller of the mighty Forest. Maybe, in the end, they could all become friends. They also reconsidered their punishment for the silver Fox. Instead of prey, he had brought home something that was needed for a very long time, change.
They thanked the white-footed Mouse for saving one of their own, and invited her to stay with them. Soon enough the silver Fox’s family learnt to forage for berries, and never again did they go on a hunt. More than that, they become good friends with everyone they met.
Throughout their adventure, the silver Fox, who learnt to be brave, and the white-footed Mouse, who learnt to love, formed an everlasting bond that changed the traditions of old.
Together with their family and friends, they lived happily ever after in the place known as the Forest.
~ The End ~