The wind was bitter… the first flakes of snow mingled with the rain as we crossed the ridge. It would be a long, cold night, in spite of the flame that burned on the western horizon as the sun sank into the earth. We followed the lights, seeking shelter in the village, a little way beyond the Field of Sheaves.
Moonrise was still hours away, but even so, a pale ghost of music drifted on the wind. This was the place… our mysterious informant had been correct. All we had to do was wait. Crowds were already gathering… shadowy figures, face and form concealed behind scarves, hats and turned up collars… and a darker figure still that ran amongst them.
Moving fast, indistinct, no more than a blur of midnight feathers, he towered over the assembled company. Crow held the dancing ground as an age-old battle was about to begin…
A distant flash and the sound of drums filled the night. Village streets illuminated by an eldritch glow… silhouettes etched against the reflected flame…
The Foxes did not look out of place… the night of the Hunter’s Moon is theirs to dance. The cars and trappings of the ‘real’ world, however, seemed an intrusion. A lone driver entered the street. I saw his face aghast, as if he had stumbled into the Otherworld. He turned and fled.
Crow did not flee… wings wide in challenge, he confronted the skulk of Foxes, who met him with flame and defiance, harrying him to the dancing ground.
Around and around, with torches singeing his feathers, Crow was harried… until the Silver Fox arrived. There could be only one outcome. Crow disappeared into the night… and the dancing of winter into spring began.
At Hunter’s Moon, the winter comes. We had felt its first, white touch. The Foxes dance beneath the rising moon to mark the passage from summer to winter.
It is a celebration, meeting darkness with light, cold with warmth…
At Hunter’s Moon, Old Fox holds the throne and Young Fox will contend with him for the prize… it is the way of Nature, the way of renewal, echoing the journey to spring.
The Foxes watch as this ancient rite of life, death and rebirth plays out. From the eldest to the youngest, each one plays their part, touched by magic and mystery.
Yet all is not well. As the dance draws to a close, an ancient foe appears, its scales glittering green, its teeth white as the bones of earth… The legendary Wyrm has awoken.
Breathing flame and fear, its sinuous body writhes infinity, curling upon itself as the Foxes defend their new home. Ousted from their old home by the Demon Dogs, they will not be beaten… the Wyrm turns and retreats. For now…
Triumphant, the Foxes dance once more, then one by one, they disappear into the night from whence they came, leaving behind them something of their flame and magic, reflected in the eyes of the watchers, young and old.
The final flames light the sky, the watchers turn to see the Hunter’s Moon, its brightness dimmed by celebration… and when they turn back, the Mister Fox is gone.