He woke up.
“Come! Quickly, now! You must run!”
He yawned and stretched.
“I ask of you, what sort of trick is this, master fox? Have you been at the farmer’s sheep again and are searching to displace the blame?”
He cracked his neck and rose on all four, turning his head to greet the sun.
“’Tis no trick, but fear for my life, and yours, master bear, as the Adversary has entered our realm and he is hunting!”
The sun warmed him, and he delighted in the morning. This would be a fine day, indeed. Mayhaps he find honey or blueberries on his walk today.
What? Speak you true? For this would be a most horrible and unworthy lie, even from one such as you.”
He padded out of his cave on heavy paws, thinking of the sweet stickiness of honey.
“Tis true! ‘Tis so! And we must haste, master bear! For the Black One’s lackeys come, and they move quickly and leave no one alive.”
Not far away, another, smaller being awoke, opening his eyes and seeing that daylight had come. It was a warm day and he rolled over on his back to sun his fiery red stomach for a moment, then he rose, intending to find apples for breakfast.
“Master hare...We must warn -”
“Forgive me, but there is no time!”
The little red was quick and agile, and was soon standing under the apple trees, gazing up at them hopefully. Apples lay on the ground as well, but they were old and not nearly as tempting as those on the tree’s branches. He went back a few steps, crouched and jumped high.
And they run.
His teeth clanged together as he missed the apple he was aiming for, and fell head over tail back to the ground, tumbling around before coming to a definite stop against another tree. He lay there rattled and confused by this turn of events.
“We must rest, master fox. We have run far and hard, and surely we can afford some hours of sleep. No, do not object. It will not help us if we fall over from exhaustion. Better we regain our strenght and run farther in the morn.”
The big brown came strolling into the orchard, stopping at the sight of the fox with his front paws placed as far up the tree’s trunk as he could stretch, claws firmly dug into the tree. The brown tilted his head and watched the fox’s struggles. They appeared to be in vain.
“Pray tell, master fox, what are you attempting to accomplish?”
“I did not get the scent of the Black Ones until it was too late. I... Perhaps more could have been had the time to run for safe lands, had I been quicker. Had I not been so slow in understanding.”
The fox jumped in surprise, dislodging his claws and spinning around to face the brown. His tail lashed, brushing away fallen leaves. “Why, grandfather! I did not expect to see you here.”
“I did not expect to see you, either,” the bear replied, padding closer, curious now.
The fox eyed him. He took a few steps to the side and back again.
The bear watched him silently.
The fox yipped and performed an odd little dance, ending it with a grin and a staring match.
The bear yielded first, lacking the red one’s patience in such things, and asked again. “What were you doing when I arrived? Climbing the tree, master fox?”
“It was not your responsibility to call warning, master fox. And we do not know that none other made it. You’re not the only perceptive animal in the forest, and many would surely run upon scenting such evil. The birds would certainly have escaped, flying far ahead of us. Do not carry guilt for something you could not prevent.”
“Do I seem a treeclimber to you?”
“Before I would have spoken no, but now I mind you mayhaps have cat’s blood in your ancestry, causing you to climb tall trees with no thought of how your descent would pass.” The brown was amused and showing it, the big black eyes shining with mirth.
“As it happens, I was not climbing,” the fox snapped. “I was attempting to look up between the branches, for I thought I saw bees flying thence and where there are a gathering of bees, there would surely be –“
“Honey,” the bear breathed.
“Precisely.” The fox sat in the manner of foxes on the ground and looked up at the big bear in front of him.
“How were you planning to get to the honey, small as you are?” the bear asked, nearly drooling at the thought of it. “No matter. Move aside, master fox, and allow me to have a look.”
The red moved aside willingly enough, looking intently at the bear.
The bear walked over to the tree and rose to his hindlegs, front paws holding tightly around the slender apple tree. He looked up among the surprisingly plentiful branches, searching for a beecube.
His struggles dislodged several apples, which he shook off.
The fox yipped happily and snapped as many apples as he could before disappearing quickly into the woods.
The bear stopped searching for bees and sighed. “I’ve been fooled yet again, have I not?”
And again they run.