Chapter 14 - Go South, Always South
The moor rose and fell. They padded long into the day’s end and into the evening, back into the darkened hours of the sun’s slumber. Their paws were cold with snow. Occasionally Notail would glance about but he saw nothing. Eventually they were both exhausted. Notail came to a stop at a place where the moor sloped down towards another gathering of grey stone mandens. He wondered why man stayed here on the moors when they had the stoneforest to go to. Leave the moors for foxes.
Bone’s ears pricked up. He was looking out across the moor.
“What are they?” he asked.
Up on the moor ahead of them where stone shapes. Some stood tall and some lay flat upon the snow. They stood in a circle and within the circle were more shapes. For a moment Notail saw the shapes of foxes but they were not moving. It is only stone, he told himself. But something drew him to the circle. A faint scent of fox on the air.
“Stay here,” he told Bone.
He moved slowly towards the stones. They were moss covered and old. Man does strange things, he thought to himself as he passed between them. It was then that he saw them. Four foxes lying as if they were sleeping, the young ones beside their mother, close together so their paws were almost touching. As still as stone but not stone. She had one eye open. Her green eye. The father was at the circle’s edge. He was covered in claw marks. He had fought
But he knew why they were there. The truth of it hammered into his heart. In the field beyond the mandens, his scent had crossed with theirs. Yes, he and Bone had escaped but not because they were fast, or clever. They were lucky. And someone else had paid the price.
“I am sorry,” he said.
He thought of the father fighting. Defending his family. He closed his eyes, that was something he could never have.
He padded back to the Bone.
“We should keep going,” he told the young dog.
“It’s still hunting us, isn’t it?” said Bone
“It is,” said Notail. There was no point lying again. He knew now he could not protect Bone. Not from harm. Not from the Black Dog.
Notail looked back across the moor to the standing stones. There was nothing else upon the moor now except for the two of them. If he stays with me, thought Notail, he will become as still as stone.