The Golden Foxes

Submitted into Contest #215 in response to: Write a story about someone making a deal with the devil.... view prompt

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Fantasy

As a Goddess, Asura was alone in her realm. So to do her bidding, she plucked two foxes from the white forest at the base of the mountains. She instilled in them a portion of her own power, turning their blood to ichor and their fur to gold.The two creatures, a densely packed female and swift, nimble male, were outfitted with collars meant to hold scrolls of the Goddess’s messages. Off the pair went, running across the surface of the Earth, spreading the word of Asura. An interaction with these foxes in nature was said to be a visit from the Goddess, bringing a message from the deity herself. 

Across the hills, these two scurried. The smaller one darted across the path, hopping from ledge or ledge and sprinting ahead in a blur. He moved like a nugget of gold, pinging down the foothills. The older, larger fox kept her distance, and watched the little one move. It watched and recorded everything. 

Deeper into the hills they ran. The crests grew around them into icy peaks, until a mountain range encased the foxes on all sides. It was a playground for the foxes; to leap from mountain to mountain, unafraid of the scale. At any moment of danger, Asura could recall them to her side, and away from threats. But there was no need for that now. They rolled in the snow, allowing high-pitched titters to echo their delight. But between the mountains, the valley trenched further, deeper than the realm itself. The foxes rolled, the snow slipped, and they tumbled into the chasm. Rock and ice followed them down, splitting them apart. The sheer white light blinked out in a moment, and the second the foxes crossed into the darkness they had left the realm. 

The pair had never left the Earth's surface aside from their divine birth. They called to Asura, praying her powers reach across realms, but they lost their hope as they tumbled. Further apart the two drifted, until all was left was the rushing darkness in their ears. 

Above this dark realm, in her own world, Asura felt the fragment of her power separate from her.

The fall suddenly stopped. First, for the bigger one, who had been tumbling down with the debris. She knocked into rocks and rubble, crashing into the stone floor. A boulder followed, crushing her back half and pinning the creature to the ground. She lay there, unconscious and out of reach. 

Unknowingly far, the smaller fox fought the fall. He clutched to a descending boulder, leaping upwards into the darkness from rock to rock. But there was no opening above anymore. No more light to reach for. He braced himself, jumping off the boulder at what he thought was the last second and rolled across the ground. 

The darkness dispersed, and the fox looked around after recovering. Across the horizon, a red haze rose up, providing its own smoky light in the distance. There was no silhouette, no reflection, from the other golden fox. The little male fox turned in all directions, crying out for its counterpart. With no response to his calls, panic began to set in for the poor little creature. His screeches became sobs, and soon enough he collapsed to the ground, begging to be found. 

Although out of sight, beings heard the cry for help. Demons crawled up from the ground, inky blackness shrouding their true form. True devils banished to this underworld rose at the sounds. The fox cried and cried, leading them in his direction. They came in closer and closer, encircling the distraught creature. He lamented, unaware, of the danger surrounding him. 

Calm yourself, pet. A voice floated, breaking through the little foxes' cries. He looked around at the whirling shadows, and his fear and loneliness twisted into tangible despair. The red haze was now blocked on all sides by shrouded demons. The voice spoke again. The fear will be gone soon. As will all else. 

The fox snarled. A throbbing blackness floated into the center of the circle, and the fox kept moving sideways, constantly moving and out of reach. The disconnected voice boomed around, sending a jolt of fear 

“How did I end up here?” The fox asked. There was a chorus of snarling laughs, and the fox could barely distinguish one shadow from the next. 

It has been eons since our last meal. We heard your joy, so close to the mouth of this realm. For it, I ripped the roof down, pulling you to us.

“You cannot consume me,” the fox said. “I am made from the Goddess Asura. She will pull me out of here before you lay a touch upon my fur.” 

Ahh, that beautiful golden fur. And why has she yet to recall you now? Why do you cry in the darkness for help, if she could do so herself?

The fox didn’t know how to answer. The devil in front of him writhed with each passing moment of hesitation. He yearned for the other fox. The bigger fox. She was older, smarter; she would know what to say. 

You have been separated from your friend, who is now as alone as you are. Too far from each other and escape. I can smell the ichor under your skin. Allow me to relieve you of it. 

The shadow neared. 

“Wait,” the fox yelped. “I can lead you out of here. Then you can scour the Earth for meals. My Goddess will reward you for my safety.” He was unsure of the fate of his friend. The devil could be lying, as they are capable. But foxes, blessed with silver tongues, were also capable of lying. “I must be with my friend. We can travel between realms on our own, as long as we are together. Help me find her, and we will bring you with me.” It was a lie, but the other fox would know how to escape. 

The shrouded demons twisted in agony, their guttural moans increasing as they listened to the deal presented. The devil directly in front of the fox slowed, considering his words. 

Either you are truthful, and I may escape this banishment. Or you lie, and I have enough to savor.

A moment passed and the demons around fought against an invisible barrier, wishing to collapse atop the fox and consume him entirely. Or to take the deal themselves, and escape into the Earth. The little fox thought of its friend, and prayed for her safety. The devil in front tensed its shadows, and in a burst the horizon was revealed. Any shadowed demons were dispersed into the air, opening up the circle. Where the plain was once flat and barren, the fox noticed silhouettes of rock and glints of red light bouncing around. 

A flash of orange, or red against gold, and the little fox ran towards it. There she lie, limp and dull. Her muscles had withered in the short time, and dull yellow tufts of fur scattered around in clumps. A breeze the fox could not feel carried the tufts away into the darkness. Sprouting from the base of the boulder, the female fox shuddered out light breath. Her eyes remained closed, and she did not react to the presence of the other one. He nudged her head to no avail. Where her legs should be, a boulder squished ichor across the ground. 

“Remove the boulder,” the fox demanded. 

That was not a part of our deal.

“It is now.” The fox pushed his little head against the base of the boulder, but no amount of effort could budge it to the slightest degree. “I need her to be conscious and aware.” 

The inky shroud tensed and dispersed the blackness in a burst of shadow. Darkness overtook the foxes, but lifted within the same moment, taking the boulder with it. In its place, the mangled legs and tail of the fox was revealed. 

Where beautiful golden legs once were, there was a table of bone, fur, and luminescent ichor. The substance of their life force painted splotched across the ground, dark red and reflecting the haze around them. The devil looked over the fox’s shoulder at the damage. He heard the drawn out inhale of a sniff as the devil surveyed the damage. The fox spun and snarled at the monster, warning him to keep his distance. 

It is now time to fulfill your end of the bargain.

He looked at the crushed mass of his friend. Tears welled, and he growled at the sobs working their way up. No more would they run across the Earth, leaping like they once did. Perhaps she was gone, and would no longer be there with him. Her breaths continued to come, but without the goddess Asura, she would not heal in this darkness. 

Or were you lying, little creature? 

There was no escaping it. He curled into the underbelly of his friend. He did not consider this being the state she was found in. He hoped she was as lost as him, perhaps surrounded and needed the interception. But as alone as he was, there were no contingencies. He prayed and prayed, screaming his hopes towards his goddess. Any semblance of power left in his own ichor, still coursing through his body, or any of the divine substance spilled across the ground - he called on it. 

With each passing moment, the golden fur of the female fox dulled. Its light leaked away, and the devil watched it seep into the ground. It released a chattering sound, a so-called chuckle. 

Poor foolish creatures, it said. I have lured your kind down here for eons. You are not the last. 

The devil wretched around, and the shadows began to fall away. A scaly, wet tentacle shot out from above. More crawled across the ground towards the fox. The haze reflected a gruesome red slickness against the slime coating the monster. The blackness melted down, into the ground and the silhouette of the devil blotted out the horizon. It was large, and stood over the foxes with a large head and a mane. 

The tentacles slithered closer, and the prayers left the fox’s mouth. He stood over the unconscious fox, snapping at the encroaching limbs. 

Above, Asura scoured the Earth's surface, knocking against the plains and pulling up the forests. She sniffed and listened for any signs of her foxes. 

His prayers boomed across the realm as Asura passed over the mountain range, the one that swallowed her creatures. She heard the echoes of her name, and pulled the Earth apart once again.

Rocks rained down, showering the scene. The closest tentacle was pinned by the ruble. Streaks of light cut through the darkness like pillars of hot iron. They burned through the shadows shrouding the demon, revealing its horrid form. The monster, with the bottom half of long, grasping tentacles, violently convulsed. More boulders pinned the feelers. The upper body was similar to a horse, covered in glittering scales, a lion's mane, and the head of a serpent jerking the fur around. It stood as tall as a giant, screeching as each slimy limb was crushed by rubble. Light burned away any shadow, and the demon's scales curled and withered as the light ate away at the demon itself. 

The fox watched the demon crumble under the caving roof. The entire realm shook, and he looked upwards to the face of his Goddess. Her great divine form did not fit through the crack, but her arm reached down. Only a few leaps above, her hand reached for the foxes. The sky continued to fall, widening the column of light. It spread out with each moment. Shadows raced away at its edges, escaping the fate of the demon. 

The little fox crawled under the bigger one, using any last strength to lift its limp form from the ground. She grunted in awareness, but the weight wobbled the little one underneath. He regained balance, leaped atop a rock, and jumped from descending boulder to boulder. Closer and closer to the hand of his patron. 

He sailed into her grip, but lost his own on his friend. Asura caught the two of them, pulling them out of the cavern. She carried them in her enclosed fist away from the ravine, placing a seal on it herself. When she released her grip, the female fox’s legs and tail had been restored, yet the tufts of fur had never grown back. 

September 12, 2023 00:27

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1 comment

Julie Grenness
23:13 Sep 20, 2023

Well written. This is a true tale of love and faith. This story used a great and apt choice of visual language to build to the engaging conclusion. Effective, and leaving this reader anticipating more such stories.

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