Why Would Anyone Want to Read This Story?

Submitted for Contest #88 in response to: Write a cautionary fable about someone who always lies.... view prompt


Apr 09, 2021

Coming of Age Fantasy Sad

A fox named Lion, and a fox named Flute.                                   

They’re distinct. The former is a princess, and the latter an educated dog. They’re both young (no older than teenagers), and have parents. But they contrast in terms of the truth.


Lion, a young vixen, yearns to learn. She desires the day when she teaches young pups as a schoolteacher or serves as mistress of a trade. However, she has to be a queen one day. But if vixens in those days aren’t allowed to enter a classroom, then why are they tethered with the cords of learning to be royalty? Aren’t they still learning?

She needs to be free to express herself—especially educationally. So she must, with my prayers and complete belief in her, be bold enough to stand for the truth—that vixens can educate others, too. But I feel I’m the only male fox seeing that this rejected truth must become reality. Because I am.     

But, sadly, Lion has had the problem of lying—ever since she birthed her rebellion by escaping the castle one night to sneak a peek at the schoolhouse. She lies to her mother who’s extremely strict. She’s a hypocrite, too, though I’ve heard otherwise.      

Lion strives to write words as free as her mind, but she knows a quill in her paw or her face glued to a book results in decapitation. Lion has listened to her mother on at least this subject. Therefore, she cowers at any mention of the consequences. But she also has a knack for doing what every other vixen couldn’t imagine herself doing, much less the one to allow others to do. 

Lion is determined to change the world. She is bold like a lion.

She just needs to stop speaking the falsities she knows will get her into trouble. But she thinks, why expose what I’m doing only to be disallowed again and again? Why be told I can’t do what I’ve been doing all because I’ll get decapitated?

Lion stops at nothing. 

So, she fibs about her chores, where she’s been, who she’s with. Her mother panics whenever she’s gone; but does Lion care? 

When the much older vixen badgers, interrogates and steals time to ensure she doesn’t get out of the castle or see anyone her mother thinks she’s been with, Lion always sneaks out somehow. Through a crack in the ground. Weasels her way through the underground tunnel the servants have dug (in her opinion, for her to escape her mother). She also sews professionally. At just six weeks old, she knits a ball of yarn into a dress. Or sews a piece of fabric long enough to warm her neck to enjoy a nice walk through the winter forest, its trees coated with freshly fallen snow. Or… 

I don’t really want to get into all the details of this liar’s life. She’s a liar—she doesn’t deserve such praise! I don’t even want to write this narrative anymore! She’s a liar, and she’ll stay that way forever. 

But here I am, because Lion’s got a heart of a lion (I know because I know her). She’s determined. To end all falsehood. This is why I keep writing. I believe in her to eventually tell the truth so she can end the law against education for vixens. I saw her—

Wait, I can’t tell it! You’ll have to see for yourself.                         

So we continue. 

Lion says she’s listening to her princess lessons. But she’s actually playing with her quill. She’s doodling on her parchment paper. She’s fantasizing about chasing Lioness across the hills and over the small mountains ringing the outskirts of this vast kingdom. Her sly fibs result in her mother’s enthusiastic applause! 

Her mother found out about her lies from one of the scribes. And then her mother publicly wrote about her successes. Lion’s face was a total tomato! Her furry cheeks puckered, her forehead crinkled with lines of annoyance when a couple of younger vixens stuck their paws in the air and let wild laughter loose from their wide-open jaws. 

But Lion still made up story after story at dinner that night in the great banquet hall as to where she was that very night before the meal. She even chuckled at her drawing of her mother in the middle of lessons! 

The village doesn’t believe her anymore. She cries wolf. The wolf hasn’t come, but when it does, she’ll have to save herself. But let’s see what happens when the wolf comes and not even it believes her.

Oh, I forgot—she’d like to become friends with that educated fox named Flute. He spends his days learning at the local schoolhouse down the road—the very place she studies with envy shining in her eyes.

But let me tell you something.

Flute, after deducing she’s the liar, throws himself into his education, vowing to become a smart king one day. Flute’s melodious sounds of his flutes float to her ears, causing her to jab the air with an enthusiastic paw. Her mother, glaring eyes, shakes her head violently, protesting at once. Her father promises she can once she’s honest. But the queen shoots a paw at her.

“Until you learn to be a truthful girl, you will never have friends. But you will never tell the truth. You will never become his friend!”

This quote is what I heard from a friend of mine. He serves the monarchy extremely well, having caught some information to share with me as I sat on my bale of hay, writing for His Majesty. But I have some time off, so I’m telling you her story. I’ve since moved from that bale of hay, as Lioness had been unleashing a waft of poo, gagging me. My eyes began to water, but blinking didn’t help. So I’m here, perched on a wooden log. That rainbow-maned unicorn just snorts and nickers at me—

I must keep going! 

So Flute, when he came of age, struggled to decide whether he should keep his paw free from a golden bracelet or to embrace a vixen’s paw—      

Well, he’s not going to marry Lion, so who’s he going to join paws in marriage to? He doesn’t want to just marry anyone, especially a servant fox (who sets up the schoolroom and then puts everything away at the end of the day). He’ll have to expostulate his ideas with her, as they will be married. But, although she can’t learn, and he can’t teach her, he’ll feel the need to…even if it means her death by the sword.     

So a vixen being married to a teacher is not going to happen. But Flute wants a future for his vixen. He wants to marry a smart queen.        

He meets Lion one day when she’s out frolicking with Lioness. He forgives her for lying to him and to the whole village.        

They agree to meet each other (with the king’s promise he’s not to teach her anything) to help her learn honesty. But Lion just lies to her parents, even to Flute, too! He forgives her over and over but stops once he says she’s too much of a liar. He forsakes her, vowing to never see her again. Or talk to her again. Because she isn’t honest.

Her parents make her clean the fetid dungeons for such mendacities. However, Lion escapes through one of the cracks, disguising herself as someone so indistinguishable none of the villagers recognize her. Lion flees to Flute, who reminds her he’s still single—she’ll have to find someone else. He then dashes away, telling her parents he’ll never marry a liar. They punish her again so much so that they believe this suffering will teach her, but Lion knows just the ticket to get out—through another crack in one of the dungeons. Lion dons another disguise and sees Flute. She tricks him, but he knows it’s her. So she grows up away from the castle, a lonely wanderer.            

She bumps into him one day, not recognizing it’s him. He reveals himself, reminding her he’ll never marry her. Furious, she flees. A couple of cold winds later, the princess promises to give up anything only to see him. But he’s at the castle! He’ll catch her. And he does, bringing her before her parents, who banish her for her inability to tell the truth. She begs their forgiveness, but they are adamant. She leaves, vowing to avenge them one day.           

She continues a lonely wanderer.

But Flute strives to help her speak the truth. She’ll receive an education and marry him, he knows. She’ll change the course of history by teaching vixens all over the kingdom. She just needs to receive his teaching. An honest king and lying queen will topple the monarchy faster than hay gets eaten by unicorns. Flute understands that honesty comes before education.        

One day, Lion disguises herself to the castle, begging for a crust of bread and a slice of apple. Her oblivious parents feed her. Flute pretends to not know it’s her. But never getting served again is too much to bear. So she flees away, him joining. Both make a pact to work on her honesty. 

Lion wants to return to the kingdom to replace her parents with Flute and herself as the new monarchy. But the new rule, her father states the next morning, was that anyone who falsifies information shall die. For all her lies, she shall get chopped with the sword.            

Flute was horrified. His face sheer white with terror, his eyes brimming with tears and his wish to save Lion from her fate slowly dying before his very eyes. They argued she always got away with lying. But at Flute’s pleas, they now decided, should he educate Lion, he’d have to gut and then hack her into pieces with his own sword or that of another. Flute warned Lion to stay away from him. 

As they ran away, Flute decided he couldn’t help her—she’d have to make herself at home from here on out. She’s not welcome back to the monarchy where she once belonged. She’d have to design bracelets out of grass or create headdress from pinecones. Somehow, she’ll sell those in the marketplace. If she’s lucky enough to teach herself not to lie anymore. If she ever learns to make money. If she doesn’t have Flute sell them for her. He told her before abandoning her that he believed in her to tell the truth and save the vixens from living in a half-educated world—with the dogs going to school and the vixens staying home to cook, clean and get married. Even if he wasn’t there to see her change. So she’d better think twice. Because, everyone knows, the sword doesn’t extend mercy.   

One day, Flute saw Lion again, unbeknownst to her. Lion was telling Lioness that since she had been able to disguise herself, she could get some lessons from the schoolhouse by sneaking up to its door and window and listen to Flute’s teacher. So the pair snuck up to the schoolhouse for many years, Lion scribbling notes. She first taught herself how to hold a quill—she used a stick as a mock quill—and then learned the alphabet. She was taught the numbers—one through one hundred—and learned some French and Latin. She spent late nights reading and early evenings cooking with spices she stole from some distant town bakeries. Begging her way through life, Lion was destined to prove herself worthy of her parents’ love and respect again. She would rather wear these grungy towels than a gown any day. But she was not going to just allow her parents to reduce her to a servant.   

Flute hid among the trees and leaf piles all this time, reconnoitering.

One day, she bumped into me. Lion, mud having turned her rich orange fur an ugly brown, stepped into the firelight late one night. She licked her lips, obviously smelling the beef broth I had cooked for myself. Her eyes sparkling with ravenous hunger, she begged in a croaky, hoarse voice. But I knew it was her, so I grabbed her scruff and bound her tight. She roared for mercy, but I dragged her to her parents. Tails switched from side to side, and their shrill gazes bored into her rancorous face. They demanded where Flute was, but Lion barked back she didn’t have him with him. She threw out a paw to prove it, and her mother extended her orange neck to squint at it. She turned to her father. He shook his head, not believing her, and cast her out again. Enraged she had to continue begging, Lion dashed away, away from me. Away from her father prizing me with fifty rubies of gold (enough for me to buy my own shack instead of share a stable with Lioness!).      

Lion lived among the trees and ponds, scavenging for any rabbits or berries. She shivered, her fur being swept to and fro by the cold wind. Clamping her trembling mouth shut, she escaped the wetlands, Flute soon returning with her. Lion told Flute to marry her so they could work on her honesty together. He bobbed his head immediately.        

So they joined paws and promised each other’s love forever. Then they ran off, and I saw a quill in Flute’s paw being handed to Lion—so she could scribble notes as he pointed to a leaf with markings on it, telling her his secretive truths about education. But I hurried to the kingdom, telling her parents what I had seen.         

Her parents, deeply saddened, sent forth guards to capture the couple. Lion and Flute both scrambled away as fast as they could but were soon bound and gagged, thrown into the middle of the courtyard and the sword was brought before Flute. Lion and he were tested to see whether they had obeyed orders. Lion proudly displayed a quill and a leaf with scribbles all over it.   

Her husband and she yipped for mercy. For them to see should Lion not have had the proper education, she wouldn’t cook delicious meals for her husband. Lion protested fiercely that had Flute not intervened, she would have starved to death. Which berries were poisonous? How could water go from bacterial to anti-bacterial? Where did the salt that seasoned fish so well come from, and how were rabbits roasted to perfect tenderness? Could we really all survive on carrion? What was the best I should offer my love?          

Was this marriage Lion’s idea of vengeance? 

Her parents howled, sentencing the vixen to death. A livid Flute, dressed to the nines with gold necklace and gold wrist chains, hesitated to even lift the sword. He jerked his face away from a sobbing Lion. She beseeched their forgiveness and even promised to prove to them she was true. 

The king’s tail twitched left. Then the dog, spewing out that her parents would be sorry they were ever born, released the whetted weapon. Lion’s piercing cries could be heard for miles they were so dreadful.     

I saw Flute from where I was not very far from the courtyard. His eyes were mad with terror but also vengeance. He could not stop shaking from his wife’s grisly death. Later, he told me he was going to run away to influence other vixens to marry away from the kingdom. If he had to educate them in secret, he would do so. He wouldn’t return to that castle even if he was paid to slave away in its dungeons and stables. Because he just slaughtered his wife with five whacks of the sword. And then, he said, slowly sliced her stomach so all the intestines and guts spilled and lay on the dirty ground. The horrified silence of the act was enough to make one of the fox guards vomit.

I hoped he didn’t go crazy. He told me he hoped not, either.

Flute, I hope, isn’t starving. The last I saw him, he was trying to make a home for himself in a badger’s burrow. But the badger forbid it, ordering him to go find his own hole. Flute, madness seeming to get the best of him, bolted off like his tail was on fire.

At least he acted like it. His eyes at least were. 

The monarchy, I heard, hired me as their personal attendant to Lion’s father after telling him I was the one witnessing their marriage and his teaching and her learning. Once I had bowed low before Flute’s in-laws, I told them of Flute’s revenge plot. They just shrugged and nodded indifferently. I bowed again.

Then I set off towards Flute after telling them I was going on a long journey. Discovering him somewhere in the deep woods, I told him I’d help him restore his life. He charged away, howling I’d just serve as a nuisance. Worst, I never heard a single flute note again.

Last I saw him he was married to another vixen. This one escaped, coming back only to tell him she was sorry she had married him. He baked her some pies, a delicious smoked chicken and had even built a beautiful but small home somewhere miles from Lion’s former kingdom. She became grateful, and they grew to love each other very much, raising four or five pups in that small shack. Not one pup went unacknowledged, for the educated vixen and her dog loved them so much some pups seemed spoiled.   

Even academically.

But I’ll never know the whole truth. Because Flute had already left before I could really understand.

The king’s former scribe is just ending this tale of caution and death.

But, fortunately, newness from one character.    

Because he’s smart.   

At least educationally. Should he have rejected Lion, she’d be alive.

Because he lacks wisdom.  

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