This week’s writing prompt #FictionWritersGroup

Victory Song

Cunning, sly, wily, sleekit. Never clever or smart. Well, we changed all that. We showed them. Who’s the clever ones now?

   ‘Where are we going?’

   ‘I told you, it’s a surprise. You’ll just have to be patient for once.’

   ‘I hate surprises and I have no patience.’

Rory wasn’t her usual type. His red hair for one thing would have normally been an outright ‘no’, but there was something about him. Unlike the usual boys who hung about her, vying for her attention like peacocks displaying their wares, Rory was an enigma. He was deep. Elusive even. There was something about him which intrigued her.

   ‘Rory, seriously, what is this place? I thought we were going to dinner?’ She pulled her light cashmere cardigan tighter around her and leaned in closer to him, shivering, as the clouds passed overhead. She stopped as they reached the edge of the forest. Ahead of them was a narrow dirt path, barely visible under the leaves and broken branches.

    ‘I am NOT going through there! I’ll ruin my shoes.’

   ‘Come on Lady Victoria. Get over yourself.’ He grabbed her hand and led her into the forest. The path soon disappeared, and she found herself treading across the soft, springy, moss covered forest floor, through a thicket of tress, so tightly packed they blocked out the light. Reaching a small clearance, they stopped. The smell of damp decaying earth underneath a layer of russet and gold-coloured leaves hung heavy in the air. The silence engulfed them.

Rory sat on a boulder in the middle of the clearing and unpacked his ruck sack. He laid out a picnic blanket and grinned as he pulled out a hipflask and a pack of sandwiches.

   ‘Dinner is served Madam!’

Victoria screwed up her face as she looked around for somewhere to sit. ‘This isn’t exactly what I had in mind. This place gives me the creeps. It’s so quiet.’

The leaves rustled and whirled around beneath her feet.

   ‘You’ve angered them now.’

   ‘Who?’

   ‘The foxes of course. Have your really never heard of this place or the legend of Fox Forest?’

   ‘Never. But I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.’

He offered her the hipflask along with the box of sandwiches and leaned back against the stone as he recounted the tale.

   ‘Forsooth Mi’Lady. There’s been bloodshed in them here woods. It was your lot actually. The ‘Tally-Ho’ brigade. Ten men, six hounds, one terrified, exhausted fox, ripped apart in the name of sport.’ Bravery at its finest.’

 Rory paused to take a swig from the hipflask, before continuing.

   ‘Now legend has it that, the foxes soon realised they could out-smart the stupid hounds if they worked as a pack, which isn’t typical fox behaviour you understand. They were usually chased into these woods by the hounds and surrounded by the hunt. It was simple. One fox would put itself in danger and lure the hounds deep into the woods, probably to this very point, before disappearing underground. The idiotic dogs raced around like headless chickens, howling and barking, and slowly, the foxes would appear from their underground stakeouts, surround the hounds, and well… you can guess the rest. This carried on over centuries, until the hounds would no longer enter the forest. It is said, that sometimes in the dead of night, the sounds of animals in pain can be heard coming out the forest, but no one is ever sure it’s the fox or the hound.’

   ‘You’re an idiot Rory! For your information my lot weren’t bloodthirsty killers. Fox hunting was purely about pest control. The fox were vermin. If you had done your research properly, you’d know that they weren’t ripped apart. The dogs were called off and the fox was shot. You’re a typical towney, you just don’t understand country life. You think you can impose your idealistic values and morals on us, yet you don’t realise how much you need us.’ She glared at Rory, her cheeks flushed despite the cool night air.

A twig snapped behind her.

‘Can we play with her mummy? Please?’

‘No! it’s not safe.’

‘But Rory is with her. Perhaps she will sing with us?’

   ‘What was that? Did you hear that? Someone’s here. Rory, this place is freaking me out. Can we go? Please?’

   ‘Relax. It’s probably just an animal,’ he smiled.

   ‘You and your bloody legends! It’s ridiculous. Animals can’t decide to stake out and ambush other animals

A gust of wind rushed through the forest, whipping the leaves up into a frenzy, like mini-tornadoes, swirling around in front of her.

‘I told you, didn’t I? She’s not the playful type.’

   ‘There it is again. I heard voices? I want to go now. Please.’

He smirked. ‘But I haven’t finished the story. You haven’t heard the best part.’

The leaves settled as he continued.

   ‘So, the hounds stopped coming in, but the idiotic huntsmen pack didn’t. The Laird’s son, a foolish young lad, about fourteen or so, keen to show his bravery, and frustrated by the hounds whimpering pathetically around the edge of the forest, declared he would follow the fox on foot and would show it no mercy when he found it. Did you know that the fox hunters often collected small trophies from their kill? No. Thought not. Anyway, poor lad. They heard his screams from the edge of the forest, but they were too late. They found him right here, laid out on this boulder. Died of multiple bite wounds. And worse, but I won’t go into detail.’

Victoria paled. ‘Okay. Enough now. You’ve had your fun. I don’t even know why you’re telling me this.’

   ‘Well, despite the ban, they seem to be gathering a head of steam again. Ýour lot. We knew they would of course, but these things are better nipped in the bud, don’t you think?’

A familiar horn sounded in the distance. Up ahead Victoria saw a streak of red, racing towards the forest, keeping low, the hounds hot on its heels. The leaves whipped up and moved swiftly towards the edge of the forest.

‘Run my boy, run. Fast as you can’

Victoria gasped as she watched the leaves transform into row upon row of snarling foxes standing their ground at the forest entrance. The hounds halted and paced back and forth, unwilling to go any further. Their cries and whimpers could be heard, alongside that of the huntsmen.

   ‘Get in you stupid bloody dogs. After it for God’s sake.’

   ‘I’ll go father.’

   ‘Rory, no! I recognise that voice. It’s the Pembleton boy. Please, we’ve got to stop this. We can’t let them harm him,’ she pleaded, scrambling to her feet.

Rory smirked. ‘Enough now’ he called.

‘Let us sing to him.’

   ‘No. He understands.’

The foxes retreated and the leaves rustled once more as they settled onto the forest floor. The boy, pale and shaking, turned and ran.

   ‘Oh my God. You spoke to them. What are YOU? What just happened?’ Victoria whispered. ‘I don’t understand.’ she backed away, horrified.

    ‘Just consider it a warning. Now go spread the legend amongst your own folk.’

Rory turned and disappeared into the leaves, singing his victory song.

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