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Episode 011
A Fox for Love and War


Episode 011: A Fox for Love and War

3652 BC

“You cut too close to the bone, Tia,” said Tia’s grandmother as she took the meat and tossed it into the pot. “You shaved off a piece of bone with the meat. If I hadn’t caught it, one of us could have cracked a tooth.”

“Like you have any teeth left, Momma,” said Bloom, Tia’s mother.

Three women from three generations sat inside the hut, preparing the sheep before curing it with smoke. Tia’s aunts and younger brother were there too. Tia was still young, and she enjoyed the time spent with her mother and her mother’s mother, but she found her thoughts wandering from life in her family hut to greater possibilities.

“What are you thinking about, Tia?” her mother asked. “You’re barely paying attention to anything we say.”

“She’s thinking about Levi again,” said her brother.

“No, I’m not,” said Tia.

“Levi is a nice young man,” said Grandma. “He’ll make an excellent husband, Tia.”

Tia was thinking about Levi. But not the way her younger brother was suggesting. Everyone said that Levi would make an excellent husband, but all Tia saw him as was a friend.

“He’s perfect for you, Tia,” said Mother. “He’s your age. He’s not with any other woman. He can hunt, and he can ride a horse. What else would you want in a husband?”

“You’re right,” said Tia. “He is all those things.”

Tia smiled as she returned to cutting the sheep lying on the stone slab in their family hut. Levi was the most suitable man for her. He certainly did care for her. And they’d grown up playing and hunting rabbits together. But the thought of marrying him didn’t bring her joy. After all, he hadn’t done anything to win her over. He was just the only suitable man in the village.

“It’s your time, child,” said her mother. “You are a woman now. You should be having children of your own. Your father has been talking to the chief, and they have agreed that you should be married this season.”

Tia’s knife slipped from her grip and landed in the dirt. Her aunts laughed as they cut the mushrooms. Tia bent down, picked up the bloody knife, and wiped the dirt off on her sleeve before returning to the meat on the shale table.

“She’s smitten,” said Aunt Lilly.

“I’m not smitten,” said Tia.

“I was nervous about marrying my husband as well, young child,” said her great-grandmother from the edge of the hut. Everyone looked up at their maternal grandparent. Great-grandma Allo was old and never left the village; she spent most of her time sitting and knitting the wool from the sheep. Whenever she talked, everyone stopped to listen. “It’s okay to be nervous. The unknown can be fearful, but sometimes it is the known that is most fearful.”

“I’m not nervous about marrying Levi,” said Tia. “I just don’t know if he is everything I want in a husband. I grew up hearing about the stories of mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and even you, Great-grandma Allo. You all talk about the bravery, strength, and love of your husbands.”

“Levi can be all those things,” said her mother. “You just have to give him the chance to prove himself.”

Aunt Lilly took the pile of chopped mushrooms and added it to the pot of hot water resting over the open fire. As her aunt stirred the pot, the smell of boiling stew filled the hut. Tia’s entire family lived in this hut: her great-grandmother, her grandfather and grandmothers, her mother, father, aunts, and uncle, and her brother and two cousins. It was always filled with people. They were her family, and she loved every one of them.

“It smells delicious,” said Aunt Lilly. “It’s sad when a sheep can no longer give us milk, but it always means a great feast for the family.”

“And it’s nice to eat something other than fish,” added her grandmother.

“Tia?” a familiar voice called from outside of the hut. “Are you in there?”

Levi stood at the entrance to the hut, his patchy red beard and long blond hair flowing over his broad chest. He held a bow over his shoulder and wore nothing other than leather pants and a vest.

“We were just talking about you,” said her younger brother.

Levi’s smile was obvious. He loved it when others talked about him. He walked inside the hut and took in a deep breath.

“It smells great in here.”

“How can we help you, Levi?” asked Mother.

“It’s back, Tia. Do you want to come hunt it with us?”

“The fox?” asked Tia’s younger brother.

“I caught it trying to sneak up on our sheep. We think we know where it lives. Will you come with us?”

“I have to help out with the stew,” answered Tia, as she quickly returned to cutting the meat.

“Nonsense,” said Mother. “There are plenty of us here to look after the stew. You go with Levi and catch that fox. It will be good for you two to get out and spend some time together.”

“I can help too,” said her younger brother.

“Don’t intrude, Temer,” said Mother.

“Take Temer with you,” said her great-grandmother. “He needs to get out of here just as much as you do.”

Tia was glad her great-grandmother had intervened. As much as she liked Levi, she didn’t want to be alone with him. He always managed to make things awkward.

“I’ll wait for you outside,” said Levi. “My sister is getting the horses ready.”

Tia put the knife down and left the meat carving to her aunt. Once she had her fur tunic on, she left the hut with her younger brother.

“Have fun out there, Tia,” said Mother. “Don’t get into any trouble.”

“We’ll be fine, mom.”

Tia and Temer met Levi and his younger sister Trudy on the outskirts of Kurhass, next to the stables. The settlement had grown so much since she was a child that they had added two more horse stables. Levi was already waiting with two horses ready to go.

“You know for sure which way the fox went?” asked Temer.


“I sure do, young man,” said Levi.

Levi pointed across the plantation of grain to the fields of grass on the hill beyond. Typically, sheep roamed the fields, but lately they clustered around the village. Their recent encounter with the fox had spooked them all. It migrated onto their land in recent months and had killed several sheep already.

“We have to hurry,” said Levi.

Tia and Temer climbed their horses and galloped down the slope, passing through the grain fields and climbing up the grass hill beyond. They were riding fast, weaving through the bushes and around tall patches of grass. The forest had been clear-cut many years before, but there were still stumps to be avoided.

Levi broke ahead of the others and darted in and out of the stumps. He was showing off.

“Look at that,” said Temer. “He’s such a good rider. I want to be like Levi.”

Trudy and Tia rode off to the side, avoiding the patch of stumps, while Temer followed Levi and attempted to navigate the dangerous obstacles. It didn’t work out for him, and he ended up having to slow down because his horse almost came to a stop.

“I found something!” Levi shouted up ahead.

Tia waited for her brother to catch up before joining Levi and his sister at the top of the hill. The ground was covered in clumps of wool and bones. Blood was splattered in circles all over the grass.

“This was one of our sheep,” said Levi. “Probably one of the babies.”

They gathered around in a circle, never leaving the backs of their horses. Since they were standing at the top of a hill, they could see in all directions. Kurhass was still visible in the distance. The river Kur was not far from them. They had to shield their eyes from the glare of the bright blue sky.

“I see it,” said Temer.

Everyone turned to the north. The red bushy tail was weaving through the grass.

“It’s heading for the river,” said Levi. “Let’s chase it down before it makes it back to its den.”

They took off galloping. Levi was faster, and his horse was stronger than the others. The others fanned out to the sides as he broke ahead of the group. The river was visible now, and it looked like they had the fox trapped.

“What is he doing?” asked Tia as she watched Levi pull his bow off his shoulder.

“He’s going to take the shot,” said Temer.

“While riding?” asked Tia. “That’s impossible.”

Before Levi fired his arrow from on horseback, he turned back and smiled at the others. He aimed his arrow and fired. Tia just stood there, shaking her head. The arrow flew high and soared right over the fox. Levi had missed wildly, and the animal turned around. Its ears pointed straight up, and as soon as it saw the others closing in on him, it bolted through the bushes.

“I knew he was going to miss,” said Tia. “No one can take a steady shot while riding a horse. And now he’s scared the fox. It will never stop now.”

“Don’t be so critical, Tia,” said Temer. “Levi can still catch it.”

The others followed as Levi bolted after the fox, but Tia and Trudy trotted a little slower. They watched the young men ride headfirst and full speed after the fox.

“If the fox takes a sudden turn, they’ll lose it,” said Tia.

“I know,” answered Trudy. “I’ll go right, and you go left. We can pick up the chase if they lose it.”

As the two girls broke off, their prediction came true. The fox made a hard left turn before Levi was on top of it. Levi and Temer couldn’t turn that fast and kept on riding, while Tia was able to head off to the left and pick up the chase. Not long after, they came to the edge of the Kur, where the fox was cornered at a bend in the river.

“We’ve got you now,” she whispered under her breath.

Instead of chasing after the fox, Tia stopped and watched the little creature. It stood there in the open grass, watching her back, waiting for her to make a move. She pulled out her bow but didn’t aim, prepared to pursue if the fox broke away. But she could see it panting and knew it was out of breath. She looked over her shoulder. Trudy was too far back, but Levi and Temer were riding in fast.

“Wait,” called Tia. “We have it cornered.”

She knew Levi had heard her because he looked right at her and smiled as he rode past. But he didn’t listen. Instead, he charged directly at the fox and spooked it into running one more time. It ran along the edge of the river, and even though Tia was able to make chase right away, it slipped past them and back into the grass.

“You scared it away,” shouted Tia. “We had it trapped.”

She was frustrated with Levi. Instead of thinking ahead, he was always trying to show off.

Suddenly, an arrow flew from nowhere and struck the fox in the back. The poor creature tumbled over before kicking its legs in the air. Tia stopped riding.

“Where did that come from?” she asked. “Who took that shot?”

Tia looked over her shoulder at Trudy, but she had her hands on the reins. When she looked back to the other side, she saw a young man standing beside the river, holding a bow at the ready. He ran ahead, grabbed his knife, and finished off the fox. Levi and Temer sat on their horses and stared.

The stranger holding the fox was tall. He had a long dark beard. His hair was pulled back and tied behind his head. He was taller than anyone in Kurhass, and his shoulders were broader. He was shirtless and wore leather pants. Then Tia noticed the others standing behind him. There was another young man and woman sitting on horses behind him. All of them held bows.

“Don’t move,” said Tia.

She held her bow in one hand and arrows in the other. But she refrained from lifting the weapon for fear that it might cause a shoot-out. No one spoke. No one moved. Even the man with the dead fox in his hand stood perfectly still. When he walked towards Tia, the others grabbed their bows.

“Wait,” said Temer. “Don’t get my sister killed.”

Levi lowered his bow. The stranger walked towards Tia, moving his eyes back and forth between Levi and Temer. But as he got closer, he stared deep into her eyes. She was excited. She felt the thrill of another man looking at her for the first time in her life. When he stood a couple of paces away from her horse, looking up at her, he held out the fox in both hands and presented it to Tia.

Tia looked at her brother and Levi first.

“For you,” said the stranger. “For beautiful lady.”

Tia smiled, and every hair on her body stood up. She had never felt this way before. After sitting motionless for a moment, she shook her head, returned to her senses, and reached out, taking the fox.

“Thank you.”

“My name is Clay,” said the stranger. “That is my brother, Herb, and my sister, Rose. What is your name?”

“I am Tia. That is my brother Temer, and that is Levi and his sister Trudy. We are from Kurhass.”

“We come from Brynhass,” said Clay.

“I know of Brynhass. My father has traded with you before.”

“We know of Kurhass. Our horses come from Kurhass.”

“And our sheep come from Brynhass.”

The tension between the two groups ended as the conversation between Tia and Clay became more natural. Clay’s brother and sister rode in to join them, and Temer and Trudy joined from the other side. But Levi remained distant.

“I am liking you, Tia,” said Clay. “This fox is for you. A gift from me. We came here for deer, but I am happy to find you.”

Tia blushed at the offering from this stranger and found herself lost in the young man’s eyes. They were bright blue—unlike anything she had ever seen before.

Levi, however, came trotting in as she stared at Clay’s eyes, riding directly between them. The action startled Clay, who stepped back.

“Who do you think you are?” shouted Levi. “That fox was mine. I was the one who chased it down. I should be the one to present it to Tia.”

“But I am the one who killed it.”

Levi jumped off his horse and stepped up to Clay. The two men were similar, but Clay was more robust, muscled, and tanned. He didn’t even flinch at Levi’s advance. The two men puffed up their chests, but Levi was the one who aggressed. He stepped right in front of Clay and clenched his fists.

“Don’t cause trouble, Levi,” said Tia. “We’re not enemies.”

Levi ignored her and struck out with his right arm. Unfortunately for him, Clay was much faster. He ducked before striking Levi in the side of the chin with his left fist. Everyone gasped at the sudden outbreak of violence. The one who seemed most stunned was Levi, who stumbled backward before regaining his footing.

“Stop it,” said Trudy.

The two men raised their fists and circled each other. Levi struck first, punching with his left arm and then his right. Clay blocked the first punch, but the second hit him in the head. Before Levi could strike with a third punch, Clay walloped Levi with his right fist, knocking his opponent out cold. Levi landed on his back with both arms extended.

“You’re not going to get away with that!” shouted Temer as he jumped off his horse and charged.

Herb, Clay’s younger brother, pulled out his bow and aimed it at Temer. The threat froze Temer in his tracks.

“That’s enough,” called Clay’s younger sister.

“Stop it, Temer,” said Tia. “Don’t be foolish.”

Tia climbed off her horse and walked to Clay. The gesture made him to lower his guard. As she approached him, she held out her hands.

“We don’t mean you any harm. Levi didn’t know what he was doing.”

Clay smiled and took Tia’s hand in his.

“I did not want to fight,” said Clay. “I only wanted to give you a gift.”

“I accept your gift,” said Tia.

She was rippling with excitement. She was captivated by his good looks and generous gesture, and she wanted more. The entire world around her disappeared. The grasslands and blue sky turned dark, and all she saw was this tall young man standing before her. The touch of his hands on hers sent shivers down her entire body.

“What is this?” said Levi, rolling over onto his side.

Everyone turned to Levi as he crawled a couple of paces on the ground before standing up. His eyes were red and dripping with tears, and a large red spot on the side of his face betrayed the strength of the punch delivered by Clay. When Levi saw Tia holding Clay’s hand, he turned and ran to his horse.

“Levi,” called Trudy. “Wait. Don’t go.”

But Levi wasn’t listening. He climbed onto his horse and rode away, disappearing over the grassy hill.

“I didn’t want this,” said Clay. “He attacked me. I only wanted to see this beautiful lady and give her a gift.”

Temer turned his eyes away from the hill that Levi had disappeared over and looked back at Clay. His gaze was suspicious, but he quickly calmed himself and stepped off his horse.

“We are all friends,” said Temer. “I don’t want to fight with you.”

“I would like to walk with Tia,” said Clay. “I do not want to fight with her family. Our villages are friends.”

Tia looked back at her brother and Trudy, who both shrugged. Clay’s brother and sister climbed off their horses as a sign of trust. While the four conversed, Clay led Tia by the hand to the edge of the river Kur. As they walked along the rocky beach, they stopped next to a patch of yellow flowers. Clay knelt down, plucked the brightest and largest one, and placed the stem in Tia’s hand.

“This is the most beautiful flower in our home,” said Clay. “It is hard to find in our village, but here it grows everywhere. Its beauty is like yours.”

“I have never met a man like you before,” said Tia.

“Many men from Brynhass have to leave to find a wife. Until now, I could never understand why. After seeing you, I understand everything. Beauty like yours does not grow on our side of the river.”

They walked along, leaving their siblings behind. The warmth of his hand felt like the touch of the gods. Nothing in the world seemed to matter anymore. Walking together made time stop. Tia had no idea how long this feeling would last, but she prayed to the gods that it would never end.

Her bliss in that moment made the events to follow even more painful.

“Wolf!” came a shout from the hill on the horizon.

Clay and Tia turned their heads and saw Levi gallop toward them. He rode aggressively past, bringing his horse dangerously close to them both. Clay grabbed Tia and pulled her away, putting himself between her and danger.

When Levi stopped ahead of them, he pulled out his bow and aimed an arrow directly at Clay. Levi had a crazed look that Tia had never seen before. He released the arrow, which sailed through the sky and zipped right between Clay and Tia’s head, nearly killing them both.

Clay let go of her hand, pulled his bow off his shoulder, aimed, and fired within a split second. If Levi hadn’t dodged his head, it would have killed him, but instead, it grazed the side of his cheek before spinning through the air.

“Levi!” Trudy shouted from a distance.

But it was too late. Clay sprinted, caught up to Levi’s horse, and pulled him off the beast. Levi crashed into the grass, and the thud echoed through the fields. The horse ran away while Clay punched his attacker again and again. Every strike sounded like bones cracking, and Levi’s screams echoed through the open air.

“Stop it!” shouted Tia.

Levi kicked Clay off him and pulled out his knife, swinging it at Clay’s face. Before Tia could catch up with the two men fighting on the ground, Clay ripped the knife out of his opponent’s hand and slashed Levi.

“Clay!” shouted Tia. “Stop!”

Clay held the knife back, ready to plunge the copper blade deep into Levi’s chest. But at Tia’s command, he stopped. When Tia finally made it to their side, she saw the blood oozing out. Levi’s face was frozen in terror—he knew he was a moment away from being butchered. Clay’s face was filled with rage, yet he restrained himself.

“I’m putting a stop to this now,” she said. “There will be no more bloodshed.”

She reached down and took the knife out of Clay’s hand. Once Clay released Levi, he crawled away and ran.

“I’m sorry, my love,” said Clay. “He almost killed you.”

“I know,” said Tia.

The two embraced as Levi again ran over the top of the grassy hill. The others rode to their aid. Temer jumped off his horse while Rose hugged her brother. Even Trudy, Levi’s sister, stayed to make sure everyone was all right.

“We should go back to our villages,” said Clay. “This cannot get any worse. Our chiefs will not be happy.”

“We will tell our chief what happened here today,” said Temer.

“As will we,” said Clay.

“We will not let this tear our villages apart,” said Tia.

“I love you,” said Clay, as he gave Tia a farewell kiss on the cheek. “I promise I will come back for you. I’ll talk to my father and the chief. I’ll come for you and seek our marriage.”


“I’ll be waiting for you,” said Tia.

After their goodbyes, the two groups climbed onto their horses and rode off in opposite directions. For Tia, it was a joyous ride. She never said anything, but her smile was evident. Her body felt warm and alive. She was excited for tomorrow and the days beyond.

For Temer and Trudy, the ride was different. Tia could hear them talking behind her. She didn’t listen to the words they said, but their tone showed that they were worried about getting home. Maybe that was why they trailed behind her.

“Tia!” called her father as they approached the edge of Kurhass.


Several villagers came running into the fields, holding their bows and arrows, and others came with spears and knives.

“Are you okay, Daughter?” asked her father. “Where are they? Did they hurt you?”

“What are you talking about?” asked Tia.

“The attackers. We saw Levi ride into the village covered in blood. He said you were attacked.”


“That is not what happened,” said Trudy. “There was a fight. Not an attack.”

Tia’s father looked to Trudy, then to Tia, and then to Temer. His look of concern changed to one of confusion before he finally lowered his bow.

“So no one is following you? Everyone is safe?”

“Everything is wonderful, Father,” said Tia.

She looked up and saw Levi standing at the edge of the village. He held his cheek where the knife had cut him. When everyone turned to look at him, he backed up and disappeared between the huts.

“We have a lot to talk about, Father.”

The children returned their horses to their stables, and Tia and her brother followed their father into the family hut. They sat down around the fire and ate dinner with all the aunts, their uncle, and their cousins. All the while, Tia and her brother shared the story of their adventure by the river. After eating dinner, she presented the fox to her family.

“I’ll turn his fur into a warm scarf for you,” said her grandmother.

“This probably changes your decision to marry Levi,” said Great-grandmother Allo. “To tell you the truth, I never liked that Levi.”

The family laughed at their grandmother’s remarks.

“Clay said he would come back for me,” said Tia. “He will speak with his chief and come to Kurhass with a marriage proposal.”

“You will not accept, will you?” asked Tia’s mother.

“That is not something you can decide,” said Great-grandmother Allo. “The proposal is between the chiefs, and if they decide it is right for the village, then the final decision lies with Tia.”

“But Grandmother, this is my daughter. She will be taken away from us forever.”

“Do not forget, young child,” said Great-grandmother, “my little sister left Kurhass to marry a young warrior from Brynhass. If Tia leaves us for Brynhass, she will be with family.”

That night the family went to bed with full bellies. When they first cooked the sheep stew, they thought they were celebrating the sheep’s life, but by the end of that day, it had become a celebration for Tia. The following morning, she awoke to the news that Levi had fled the village and taken with him a horse. No one was sad he had left. Even his sister and parents felt he had humiliated the village by lying to the elders about the attack from Brynhass.

Many days and months went by before any word came from Brynhass. It wasn’t until the longest day of the year that a caravan of men and sheep crossed the plateau and entered the fields of Kurhass. The men were decorated with black and white paint under their eyes. Flocks of sheep came in tow. The caravan entered the village, and everyone gathered to witness the ceremony.

The first thing he when they made eye contact was to hold up that same flower from the day on the river. She blushed and returned to her hut and put the fox scarf around her neck. Her great-grandmother was resting. The last few days had been hard on her, and she seldom got out of bed.

“Great-grandmother,” whispered Tia as she kissed her on the forehead. “My husband has come for me.”

The wrinkly old woman, lying under layers of fur, awoke from her slumber. At first, it was a smile and an adjustment. But she then opened her eyes and looked around. When she locked her eyes on Tia, she smiled.

“Tia, my great-grandchild. Go with your husband. Start a new life and have many babies. Remember that family is everything and that I love you very much. I will always be here for you. You just have to look up at the stars to find me.”


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