Part 3 - Called by a God
(Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)
There was no sign of the fox for the next few days, and I began to feel disappointed and somewhat foolish. Perhaps it had just been a normal wild fox and maybe the amber had just appeared there by sheer random chance? I sincerely hoped not, but it was possible (and little did I know, I was dealing with a Trickster). On the third night, however, I found the fox sitting in the same spot waiting for me as I strolled with my retinue of stray cats and the odd squirrel. Feeling strangely happy about this, I grinned and said hello. Once again he gave me an odd stare, but this time I didn't feel uncomfortable; if anything, it felt like I was being greeted by an old friend. The fox then rose and, supplanting one of the cats, took his place at my side where he stayed for the remainder of my walk. This same thing occurred for the next few days: I'd reach that spot and the fox would be there to join me. He turned out to be an even better listener than the usual animals I met in my nocturnal travels because, while most animals would sit still while I talked to them, he actually appeared to understand. I must have shared my whole life's story with him in that short time, although what interest that was to a fox, I had no idea.
Unfortunately my birthday soon arrived, bringing with it the accustomed unusual attentiveness by my family for the next day or two while they recalled my existence. I don't remember much of what happened on that birthday, it being spent trying to avoid the usual lectures by my parents along with the added problem of being anxious to get another chance to see the fox, but I do remember Kendric's gift. Unlike the rest of my family who only ever gave me things I neither wanted nor needed (daggers, bits of armor, a sword, books on subjects that didn't interest me... I passed them all on to Ken who could use them), my brother always knew what would be appreciated and this time was no different; he had noticed that I'd begun wearing that piece of amber and had gotten me a strong gold chain for it. This he gave to me along with the cryptic comment, "Good luck". Looking back, I probably should have asked what he meant, but I think I just assumed he was giving me another warning to not let anyone else know what had been happening. It turns out, though, that Ken may have been having one of those psychic sibling moments that occasionally popped up between us.
I wasn't able to sneak out of the house again for a few nights, much to my frustration and impatience, but when I finally did, I was disappointed to find that the fox was once again not waiting for me in his usual spot. With a sigh, figuring that it must have gotten bored with waiting and wandered off somewhere else, I continued on my walk. It wasn't until I'd reached the last part of my wanderings before I'd turn to go back home that I noticed him sitting up on the small hill at the edge of the property. I almost called out to him, forgetting that yelling out would be a bad idea, when the full moon came out from behind the clouds and shone a brilliant beam of light onto the fox. Confused but curious about this sudden show of dramatics focused on an animal, I climbed the hill to investigate. At the top I noticed that, although it was the same fox, he appeared even larger and more vividly-colored than usual, and he seemed to be holding something white in his mouth. Before I could get a better look, he padded over to me and dropped what turned out to be a scroll at my feet. Grateful for the bright moonlight, I saw that it had a small winged fox emblem embossed in the wax seal and was addressed to me by name. (Even then, overwhelmed as I was, I was curious about how an animal could know that the words "Cyneric Conroy" belonged to me. Now that I'm a Messenger, I realize it's quite simple for even an unintelligent animal to carry a message, but at that moment it added to the unearthly atmosphere.)
Breaking the wax and unrolling the scroll, I saw that it read in neat, even handwriting:
Congratulations! We have learned at the Woodland Mosque what you have likely deduced some time ago: you have been Called by Hermes to become one of His Messengers. I asked my four-legged friend to convey this message to you as I know that he will get this scroll to you safely. Please conclude whatever needs to be completed and set out as soon as you can. The fox has agreed to stay by your side until you arrive and I hope that he will help convince your kin that you are serious.
We hope to meet you soon,
Armand, Head Messenger- Order of the Fleet Fox, Woodland"
Flipping it over I noticed the words:
"PS. This letter will self-destruct in five seconds upon reading this sentence."
Then further down:
After staring in befuddlement at the bizarre mixed message from this letter and wondered how whoever this "Armand" was knew what my parents' reactions would be, I looked down to see the fox gazing at me intently. Guessing that he wanted some sort of answer, I nodded. The fox nuzzled my hand affectionately and ran off, which puzzled me greatly; he seemed to like me and the note did just tell me he would stay, after all. I shrugged, figuring that he was probably just hungry, and hurried back home to show the letter to Kendric and, with his help, plan out a good way to break the news to my parents.
(Part 4 can be found here.)