Chapter 13

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Feeling more secure with the gifts, the mother fox lets the pups wander while she enjoys the meal. It would prove to be her fatal mistake. Paw watches the pups stumble this way and that. Each one scatters in a different direction. He tries to control them by throwing out little chunks of meat. They take the bait and move closer to him. He's happy to see the pups draw nearer. The demigod follows the bravest pup. Once it has come within reach, Paw carefully moves his cover out of the way. The answer to his problem, a crude basket made from twigs, slams down over the demigod.

At first Paw thinks he hurt his prize. The pup lets out such a dreadful cry that he makes Paw wonder if he's damaged the demigod in some way. He leans down and lifts the rim just enough to see that the demigod is okay. With a broad smile, he shows his teeth and terrifies the pup. It yelps even louder.

Who should respond but the brave mother. With snarling fangs and wild, worried eyes that say, Mine, the red mother fox explodes out of her den.

"Stay back, Mother!" the Indian tracker shouts.

She circles around him with such a dreadful look of concern he can't help but mock her.

"Ha! Ha! You, the cleverest animal of the woods, have been beaten at your own sly game. I see you putting together some plan to hurt me and take back your treasure. It won't work. He's mine!"

The mother fox scolds him with harsh chirps and reveals fangs as she steps forward and then leaps back.

"Do not worry, Mother. I am not here for them. Just this one!" Paw says while he slips twigs beneath the basket and makes a hasty lid.

Mother Fox doesn't wait to see what happens next. She snatches whatever babies she can and hides them in the cave.

Paw is so impressed with her speed and determination, he wonders if it isn't wrong to separate a child from its mother this way. Before he can finish this thought, his legs burn and rejuvenate with a newfound energy.

"There it is, Mother Fox. You keep your other little babies but I keep your greatest treasure! You also keep your hide, even though I think it would make a fine hat."

He sticks his tongue out at her and runs away.

Ten springs pass. Paw is now thirty-seven and Kiowa is half his height. A full-grown silver fox follows him and seems like an extension of his soul.

"You look like your father," Paw says, ruffling the boy's hair with one hand while he holds a platter of paint in the other.

"Sadly, you must go through the lessons of the rabbit before you become..."

"Become what, Uncle?" Kiowa looks up with large, round nut-brown eyes.

"Well, many moons will tell. You will have a vision, and in that vision you will see an animal. That will be your spirit and the source of your magic. Until then you are a rabbit."

"I don't like being a rabbit, Uncle. They are stupid and weak. I want to be a fox like my demigod, Moon Beam."

"Rabbits have a good life. You paint your face. You dance all day. You play games. You eat plenty. Seems like a grand old time to me."

"Yeah, I guess so. How many moons till I turn into my spirit animal?"

"Well, let's see. If it were one moon, I would say one moon from now. If it were two..."

"You would say two!"

Paw holds up all ten fingers. He flashes them repeatedly. "Many moons is this many."

"Ah-hoe, Uncle. That is a long time to be a rabbit."

Circling all around them, the silver fox inspects everything Paw does with the greatest curiosity. His emerald eyes reveal an endless silent inquiry.

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