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Fox Tales

02 - Rise of the Dark Prince

By Dana YostPublished 2 years ago 14 min read

A grown dragon finds a lost — or abandoned — toddler in the forest. The dragon approached quietly, with uncanny stealth and grace considering her massive size. She gently sniffed at the child who lay huddled at the base of a large Sugi (杉) tree with nothing but a fleece blanket to cover him. Lifting her head with a look of curiosity and surprise, she sensed a magical aura about the boy and noticed his blanket bearing the crest of the high Vulpine Court of Celestial Foxes. The boy looked human, probably around two years of age, and unlike the local population of humans in this region who all have ebony black hair, this boy had very light blond hair, nearly white in fact.

The dragon whispered an incantation, and as the boy opened his eyes and sat up to look at the dragon looming over him, he did not react in fear, but simply sat quietly staring in awe. As her words engulfed him in magical energy, the boy transformed into a pure white fox kit. “It is dangerous for you to be out here all alone, young kyuubi (九尾),” said the dragon, using the traditional term for celestial foxes, who, unlike mortal foxes on the material plane of men, have an immortal and magical nature. As kyuubi (九尾) grow in power they grow additional tails as well, until they reach the peak of their power at nine tails. Kyuubi (九尾) kits, however, are virtually indistinguishable from mortal, non-magical foxes, with the exception that from birth, they have the ability to change their form into other species, most commonly into humans. Their ability to control this skill is usually undeveloped early on and they often require the assistance of an older kyuubi (九尾) or other magical creature to perform the transformation.

“If the Vulpine Dark Prince were to find you, much less any other dragon, your life would be destroyed.” The male kyuubi (九尾) said nothing, but continued to stare at the enormous dragon. The dragon looked around for a moment in thought, heaved a great sigh, and then looked again to the young kit. “I am Tatsuhana (龍花), a friend of all good-natured creatures, and I abhor the destruction most of my kind inflict upon lands and civilizations wherever they roam. You are not safe here, and there is nowhere nearby where you can be safe to live your life. I must take you far from here, to a foreign land that has never seen your kind before. Only then will you be beyond the magical gaze of the Dark Prince. However, dragons are prone to wander, and I cannot guarantee you will never see another dragon, but I will find humans that know how to fight, and will try to place you in their protection. Stay in human form as you grow, and do not give away your true form, lest you be hunted once again.” Then Tatsuhana (龍花) breathed a soft incantation once again and the kit transformed into a human boy. She wrapped him in his blanket and with a great beat of her strong wings she lifted off the ground, carrying him far away to a distant land in the west.

In the realm of Celestial Foxes, a darkness fell upon the Imperial palace which once shone with sun-like radiance. The kyuubi (九尾) kingdom is in a state of fear and unrest with the possibility of civil war breaking out at any moment. The golden Sun kyuubi, Ho Khan Ra, who has ruled the kingdom of Celestial Foxes for many millenia, had been recently slain by a ruthless and ambitious kyuubi who calls himself the Dark Prince or the Vulpine Prince of Nightmares. The death of the Imperial Shogun shocked the vulpine subjects who had always considered him invulnerable to enemies. Now the kingdom is in disarray and all of the imperial family has been scattered or executed. The Dark Prince, Hotin, has amassed a considerable army of followers, and immediately upon murdering the former Shogun, he pronounced himself the new Imperial Shogun of all kyuubi (九尾) kind. His first order was to track down and capture all remaining relatives of the previous Shogun, Ho Khan Ra, and bring them to him alive, and kill any other subjects who will not submit to the Dark Prince as the new ruler.

Legions of evil creatures loyal to the Dark Prince, Hotin, marched from the palace and began searching the lands for members of the prior royal family who had fled. Most were eventually found and taken to Lord Hotin, but one known relative remained missing - a red fox niece of Ho Khan Ra named Reyn. The previous Shogun’s mate was named Sora Tsuki, the silver moon kyuubi (九尾), and her sister, a red fox named Huli, had a daughter who was nearly at the age of emerging, a time when young kyuubi (九尾) kits usually gain their second tail and second magical ability and are officially considered young adults. Generally this occurs at about 75 years of age, which is still quite young in the life of a kyuubi (九尾). After thoroughly searching the Vulpine Celestial realm to no avail, Dark Prince Hotin ordered his troops to search the material plane of men for the missing royal kyuubi (九尾).

Far to the west, Tatsuhana (龍花) flew day and night while gently clutching the young boy in her mighty claws. She stopped only to give the boy some rest and nourishment, and encouraged him to sleep while she flew. She did not need much rest herself. The boy remained silent the entire time, showing no sign of fear, simply wonderment and acceptance of all that was happening. The dragon and the boy traveled together for nearly a full month, always heading west, until Tatsuhana (龍花) finally noticed a large stone keep in the distance. The time was nearing dusk and Tatsuhana (龍花) knew that any residents or patrolmen outside of the keep should be heading back in for the night soon. She flew silently and approached with caution because people of the West often fought with dragons and would not likely be receptive to her presence.

It was cold in this region. A light layer of snow dusted the hilly landscape and the thick stone walls of the keep. Forests around the keep were sparse and did not provide much cover. Tatsuhana (龍花) kept a good distance from the keep and softly landed and looked at the boy resting in her claws. He sat up and rubbed his eyes and pulled his blanket more tightly around him in the noticeably colder air. Tatsuhana (龍花) kept to what few clumps of trees she could find and scanned a nearby road for travelers headed to the keep. After some time, she heard the iron clad steps of a patrol of knights marching down the road. She moved silently within the trees to an area closer to the road, and when the group of knights seemed about 100 feet away walking past the edge of the tree line, Tatsuhana (龍花) instructed the boy, “Walk toward the road and do not look back. Those knights will help you and keep you safe.”

She set the boy on the ground and he hopped a little with surprise because the ground was frost covered and cold to his bare feet. “You won’t be cold long if you hurry, now go quickly.” Said the dragon. The boy nodded, gripped his blanket all the tighter and did a bit of a hopping jog toward the road because of the cold. Tatsuhana (龍花) watched carefully from her hiding place in the trees, hoping she was right about these knights being friendly to him. She knew full well that not all humans or trained warriors held to standards of honor and moral goodness, but she knew that knights of the West typically held high values of goodness and a strict code of conduct. She was counting on these knights being the honorable type, but stood ready to jump in and rescue the boy if need be.

As the boy approached the road he slowed to a normal walk, except for keeping a little hop occasionally because his feet were now stinging from cold. The patrol of knights spotted the boy as he approached the road ahead of them and had readied themselves for something unexpected. As they intercepted the boy, the lead knight approached him and said, “Boy, what are you doing out here? Where is your family?” Noticing the boy’s bare feet, the knight took a knee on the ground, sat the boy on his raised leg and wrapped his feet in his own cloak. The boy looked at the knight and shivered, but said nothing. The knight asked further, “What’s your name, boy?” Still, he did not answer. “Can you speak?” Asked the knight. Still the boy stared back and shivered. The other knights murmured among themselves, and the knight holding the boy looked around, and gave an order, “Scout the tree line where the boy came out of the woods and see if you find any evidence of his family nearby. Look for tracks or other clues but do not wander far. Return quickly, this boy shouldn’t be out in this cold much longer.” And the knights began scanning the edge of the forest and a short ways into the trees where the boy came from.

Tatsuhana (龍花), seeing the approach of the knights, lifted off the ground slightly and wound herself around the trees off the ground a ways back to avoid being seen. The knights followed the boy’s tracks a very short distance into the woods until the tracks stopped. Perplexed by the sudden loss of footprints, they looked carefully and also noticed tracks that seemed like huge beast prints with enormous claws. One of the more experienced knights piped up right away, “Dragon prints. I have no doubt.” Suddenly on high alert, the knights backed out of the woods, scanning the trees and the sky for the presence of a dragon, but they could not see any. The knights returned and reported what they saw. “The boy’s footprints stop a short way into the forest, which is odd, but we also found dragon prints in the snow very close to the boy’s prints. It’s possible his family fell victim to such a beast.”

Disturbed by this, the knight holding the boy looked at him with great concern and compassion. “Very well, let’s make haste back to the keep and notify the guards to keep a close watch for dragons in the area. If there is a dragon nearby, traveling outside the keep should be minimized until we can be sure the area is safe.” The knight then stood up, picking the boy up in his arms and began marching back to the keep. “Don’t worry boy, you’re safe now, we’ll make sure of that.”

Tatsuhana (龍花) breathed a sigh of relief as she watched the knights carry the boy toward the keep. She stayed in the area about a week, trying to spot the boy within the walls and noting how he was being treated. The knight that carried the boy seemed to have adopted him as his own son, which pleased her. She took great care to not be noticed, and when she was satisfied that the boy is being cared for well, she returned to her home in the East.

Years past and the boy grew into a man. His adoptive father, Sir Cornelius Valeur, had raised him up in the values, skills, and traditions of knighthood and he excelled at his training in both mounted and foot combat and tactics. Fully immersed in the human culture, he forgot about his vulpine form altogether, and has no memory of his real parents. However, he retained the strange fox crest that was imprinted on the blanket he wore when he was found as a child. The crest became his knightly symbol and his father believed it to be the crest of his birth family and encouraged him to keep the image to honor them. As a young man, he was officially knighted, Sir Reynart Valeur. He took his place among the knights of the keep and participated in guard and patrol duties to protect the keep and its citizens. Additionally, he was called to arms to serve in the national army from time to time and had gained military experience and officer rank during his service. In one particular battle, he lost his father to a great white dragon attack. The loss was hard on him, and forced him into a new set of responsibilities to govern the property and income of his family which he inherited.

Sir Reynart eventually married and had 3 children, two boys and a girl, and he raised them like his father before him in the values and skill of knights and ladies, emphasizing respect, compassion, commitment, and integrity in all things. He led by example to act in love and with chivalry and excellence, even when it is difficult to do so. While the adventures of Sir Reynart and his children were extensive, they pale in comparison to the one yet to come - his own rediscovery of his true identity, family, and origin. By the measure of human lifespans, Sir Reynart has reached the age of 62, and while he impresses all those around him with his continued energy and vigor as he has aged, his human form shows the natural signs of aging such as wrinkle lines and silver and white mixed hair. He still does not even realize how young he truly is.

Back in the East, in the wooded hills just beyond the Taira Valley, a red fox runs swiftly through the trees carrying her precious kit in her powerful but gentle jaws. Dashing sharply one direction and then another as she ran, she paused very briefly to listen for her pursuers. Huli frantically searched for a place to hide her daughter. She had transformed them both into the form of mortal foxes which were far smaller than Celestial Foxes, but attract far less attention on the material plane of men. Her daughter, Reyn, was nearly 62 years old, but still a child by Celestial Fox standards and still had much to learn to control her magical abilities. Huli fled to the material plane with Reyn as soon as the Dark Prince had attacked the Imperial Palace of the Vulpine kingdom. She had managed to remain hidden from him and his minions for about 60 years, but unfortunately, one detected her presence now and she felt desperate to find a way to save Reyn before Dark Prince Hotin’s agents caught up with her.

Darting down an embankment and over to a large fallen tree, Huli placed her young kit on the ground near the uprooted tree. Licking her face and whispering softly she said, “You must stay out of sight, my dear. I will disguise you and protect your mind from the telepathic gaze of the Dark Prince, but I cannot stay with you. I need to draw the enemies away from you.” With tears in her eyes, she quietly spoke an enchantment and Reyn transformed into a young human woman and fell into a magical sleep. Stroking her hair, Huli said, “We will see each other again, my love. I will always be with you.” Then, hearing the enemy agents closing, she dashed away in another direction.

Finally settled into his new throne, Hotin, the Vulpine Prince of Nightmares, grinned eagerly as one of his vulpine lycanthropes, a werefox, announced that Huli, the sister of the former Queen Sora Tsuki, had been captured. Standing to all four legs and displaying his 9 black tails with monstrous yellow eyes glaring out from each one, he took a stance of power.

“Bring her in.” Lord Hotin commanded.

The werefox gestured to the door guards who then opened two massive doors to the throne room, and a group of strange evil creatures of different monstrous shapes and sizes entered, dragging in chains behind them the beaten and bloody body of Huli in her full kyuubi (九尾) form.

“Where is her daughter?” Asked Lord Hotin.

“We could not find the kit, sire” said a gruff voice from a large demon-like creature with blue skin, sharp claws, and lower K-9 teeth that jutted up from his lower jaw and curved outward.

“What?!” Hotin reacted with fierce anger in his eyes. “Gooo FIIIINND HEEEERRRRR!!!” He shouted enraged. “Do not return until you have her!”

Taking a step back almost as if the mere force of Hotin’s voice had knocked him off balance, the blue-skinned creature did a rapid bow then quickly turned and ran out the door to continue searching for the young celestial kit.

The Dark Prince approached the body of Huli, laboring to breathe and occasionally coughing up blood as she lay in her chains. Hotin leaned down close to her and asked in a soft yet menacing voice, “Where did you hide your daughter?” With determined anger in her eyes, Huli managed a clear growl at the question. Hotin gave a toothy grin, “You have two choices. Tell me where she is, and I will give you a quick, merciful death, or, force me to find her myself, and I will make you wish for death as you linger in torturous pain and I enjoy the melody of your cries.”

Huli mustered what little energy she had left and snapped at Hotin’s face, slicing him across the bridge of his nose with her teeth. Hotin lurched back and growled, then he pounced on Huli’s throat with his paws and ripped a large chunk of flesh from her shoulder. Huli shrieked in pain as Hotin reared back and made sure Huli watched him as he ate her flesh. With a laugh and blood-soaked teeth, he said, “I will consume you entirely, but I will take only enough at a time to keep you alive and make sure you feel every tear of your flesh to the fullest!”

Ordering Huli taken away for him to deal with later, Lord Hotin resumed his work re-creating the palace and resources to his liking. In the following few days, Hotin would visit Huli in her prison chamber and torture her for the whereabouts of her daughter before taking another piece of her flesh to consume. Then a gremlin agent requested audience, and when admitted, told Lord Hotin, “The kyuubi (九尾) kit has been spotted in the small human village of the Taira valley. Ao (青) chased her through a magic portal in the mountain shrine. We don’t know where the portal sent them, the Miko at the shrine closed it before more agents could follow.”

Angry that the kyuubi (九尾) kit got away again, Hotin growled and paced as he thought. “That blue-skinned buffoon better catch her this time…” Then he paused and looked back at the gremlin. “Go back to the village and see what other information you can find out. I’ll pay a visit to the Miko at the shrine myself to find out where the portal sent them.”

With that, the gremlin left and Lord Hotin transformed himself into a human priest, and plane shifted to the material plane of men in the Taira Valley.

To be continued…

Please check out the other Fox Tales stories on my Vocal profile! This is intended to be a multi-section progression of a storyline through shorter ‘episode’ posts. Please enjoy and comment if you like it! Thank you!

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Dana Yost

Life is an adventure and it is what you make of it, so make it good!

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