The fox needs a human. It is not their way to navigate this place alone, so they wait for one to come.
The one that comes is a ghost. The humans are always ghosts, echoes of this place and what it means. They are the ones with the magic and the words. The fox is merely there to take their words and move them forward.
The two of them ride forward. The human speaks, but the fox does not hear their words. They cast magic, and the fox envies them. The fox cannot speak, cannot hold the magic.
Every time the fox traverses the terrain, it is different. Different lands spring up. Different woods. Different cities. Different caves. The ghosts do not know that the world always changes, because they never act like the world is any different than what they expect it to be.
This time, fire comes to the world. A ball of fire buries itself into the earth. Heedless of the danger, the human forges ahead. They cross into the cave, running from danger when needed, fighting it when they have the strength. This human's powers are keen; they seem to see places where the fox can't, use their magic in places where they aren't.
It doesn't matter. The human's magic removes obstacles, allows the fox to move forward, to take the humans where they need to be. The fox knows when the human needs to move forward. There is no need for words or gestures; it just is.
Their empathy, their knowledge, makes it so much easier in a fight. This time around, the enemies are insects. They aren't, always, though they are the most common. The fox has to wonder if this is something the humans - the ghosts - fear, and thus is part of the shaping of this world. The fox moves around quickly, in step with the human's needs, and they are eventually taken down.
After a long fight, the fox and the human manage to flee. Or rather not flee, for the fox is too dignified to ever really flee. They just move as needed for as long as needed. The human sometimes seems to tire, or at least needs time to think, but the fox never does. The fox waits patiently for the human to recover.
As the association grows, the fox finds themselves moving quicker and the human's magic becomes more powerful.
The two of them roam through the thicker forest. The fox finds the puzzles confusing, but the human figures them out and they move though it smoother than the fox thinks possible. Maybe this human-ghost is smarter than the rest, better at figuring out puzzles. Maybe they contain a better remnant of the land.
The third place they roam involves ice. The fox takes to it quickly, though not always gracefully. The human is clever, directing the fox to exactly where they need to go in this maze of rooms and water, of overgrown greenery and areas that fall off into what seems to be the sky.
The landscape changes, too, as they go along. Spiders and spiderwebs start to permeate the main lands. The land grows colder, in temperature and in brightness.
Something isn't right, the fox can tell, even if the human may not be able to.
They head into a cold, dark place next. The human shivers and starts to burrow in the fox's cold fur. The fox is happy, for the human is warm, too. The humans are always warm. They work together to reach each of the odd squares of light, some easier to get to than others. It might take a few tries, but this human is determined and quickly figures them out. This human is much defter than some the fox has carried, for sure.
And then they finally step out after a major battle and they stop, just so the human can cry. They stand there for a while. The fox only vaguely understands the concept of time, sometimes, mostly counting it in terms of the humans that come and the distance they cover.
Then finally, they move on. Buildings come into view, and they slow and stop so the human can try to reach out and touch. The fox stands patiently as they do, seeing if their motions and words change the worlds.
Sometimes it does, though not immediately. The fox is not surprised when the terrain changes from forest and garden to sand.
This time's city comes into view. It's metal, unlike the stone that has sometimes appeared. They get lost, and the human reaches forward to give the fox several comforting pats throughout as they try to make their way through. They talk a lot, and maybe they remember what this city was, once. Maybe the city has grown, just for them. The fox does not know. The fox does not care, except to keep the human moving.
Finally, the two of them are through the city and moving on. The human seems sad to leave, as they seemed to be at their greatest power there, but the fox knows that it was not the end of their quest. The fox senses that there is more to do, more to explore.
After some adventuring, aided by the human's cleverness, they plunge into the dark again. This is not cold, or hot, like the last two dark areas. But while the fox can see better than their human companion, they let the human guide the way. At this point, the human seems to get lost and fumble around, as if losing direction. The fox nudges a crystal with their nose, trying to give their companion strength.
It is maybe what the human needs. They straighten up. They light the crystals and the braziers. They solve the puzzles. They fight to keep the light going even if their world wants to remain dark.
They win and arrive back at the surface, the human hugging the fox in gratitude. They continue to explore together, as if they had been doing this together forever. One portal leads to the skies, and the human rejoices as they work their way through. Their face, when the fox looks up, is becoming brighter, more alive. They are still ghosts, but the fox has seen this before. As they come closer to where they belong, where they need to be, they become more vibrant.
Together, the two of them travel the broken lands, and the human learns wind as they learned fire, ice, and spark. A difficult puzzle halts both of them for a while, but finally the turbines spin and the door finally opens.
The two of them travel together, finally righting the shattered islands as best they can and then returning to the main area. They travel and travel, looking for new places to explore, until they come into a new desert. The human stops and talks to the fox, who waits patiently for the signal to move on.
And move on they do. Move onto the sand, travel through it and get lost some more. At least there are oases to explore and to cool them on the way, and they continue on.
They fight more times than the fox wants to think, a sign that the adventure is coming to an end. The fox pauses even as the human urges them to move on, because the fox suddenly does not. This is never a time the fox enjoys.
When the last battle ends, there is a path. The final path. The one where the human goes on but the fox cannot. Sometimes the fox wonders if this is the same human as before, recreated for a new adventure. Sometimes the fox thinks they go someplace else, maybe to another fox, another place, another story.
There is one word from the human that the fox hears, and understands. "Please," the human says in a gentle, pleading tone.
For their friend, their human, the fox would do anything, even if they don't want to.
They go forward. The sand obscures the fox's vision, and when it clears, they are someplace else. The human hugs the fox as they walk through terrain that changes from desert to grass to stone to metal and ice, then stone and grass then stone again.
The terrain stops. The human disappears. The fox curls up and mourns.
There will be a new human, a new adventure, a new world. The pain will go away. But it always hurts.
Slowly, the fox drifts into sleep, imagining warm hands, a warm body, a bright smile. All that the fox loves. In the dream, that is enough.