AN: Hey, guys! Welcome to Vulpine, my first not-NaNo-related-project on here. If you're one of my FFN readers, then I'm glad you've decided to cross over here and check this story out. If you're not, hello to you! Hopefully I'll learn your name.

I'm terrible at these synopsizes or whatever the plural is; it's hard to say anything with so little space. But, basically, Vulpine is the story of a one little fox trying to figure out her place in the grand scheme of things, and a whole bunch more trying to survive their training period in order to return home. We'll have 5 POVs in total, but the first one that you're about to see will only appear 1 other time in the story. The other 4 will be rotating. It'll make sense, I promise.

I've been working on this project for awhile (hence the delay), so I actually already have five or so chapters completed. I should be able to update weekly, provided I stay ahead of the game. But, anyway, hope you enjoy this & what is to come. :)

Prologue

In Which the Sun Sets

He let out a low, weary groan as he came into consciousness again. It took several minutes for his aged, rheumy eyes to clear. When they did, he found himself a little too close to his denmate for comfort; she had snuggled up to him in her sleep, as she often did during the day, while the sun was high and the bugs hummed and the birds sang. He drew away very gently, and shifted himself to point his silver-flecked muzzle towards the entrance of their den. She slept on, unperturbed.

What I wouldn't give to be able to sleep like that again, he thought, before sighing softly. Then again, if I could, I'd probably be dead.

His eyes flicked up towards what pieces of the sky he could see, all navy blue with a hint of violet, and he groaned again to himself. It seemed like the days passed in the blink of an eye now. They were definitely shorter; they'd left the summer solstice behind two swipes ago, and it was all downhill from there. The days would grow short, the nights would stretch out like the abyss, and the chill would settle over his bones again as food grew scarce.

At the last thought, he threw his denmate a side-glance. She had never experienced winter before, did not know the dangers it held. He had no doubt she believed she was prepared, that she believed she was ready to face the bitter cold, the frost sticking her whiskers to her face and the snow cloaking all prey from her keen nose. But belief and fact were two very different things.

He yawned, jaws stretching and popping like they were trying to get away from the rest of his head. He was bone-weary, that was the long and the short of it, and if he was being honest with himself, his denmate was to blame. She had started another one of her rounds of questioning at dawn, just when they were settling down to sleep. That was always how she was, at her most restless when it became time to be still.

"What does it mean?" she had asked, looking up at the blue-black sky, searching for the scores of gleaming diamond eyes that had long since disappeared.

"What does what mean?" he had grunted beside her, eyes closed, his curled-up posture causing a slight rattle in his chest with each breath.

"You know. To be a fox."

That was always the question she asked. It was ridiculous, laughable. There was no key to being a fox: they simply were. But she was not the kind to settle for answers like that.

"It's got to be more than four paws and a bushy tail, don't you think?" she had gone on. "I mean, squirrels have that."

"Squirrels don't have long faces," he had replied, knowing it was not enough of an answer, knowing it would only set her off with more, but having nothing else to give but silence. Quiet was his friend, not hers.

"Wolves do, though."

"Wolves aren't red."

"Dogs can be. Real ones, I mean, the kind Man has. Isn't that what you said?" She had turned to look down at him, white-rimmed ears pricked quizzically. "You said they can be red sometimes. And you're not all that red." She had poked his black shoulder, and he had retorted with a soft snort.

He did have answers, of course. One didn't reach his age without them. But they were not the sorts of answers she would want to hear, or he would want to share.

"Why does it matter? You're a fox, I'm a fox. That's all there is to it. There's no great meaning behind it. We might have just as easily been squirrels or wolves or dogs."

"Do you think it's really that easy? Do you think it's all left up to chance like that? What if I had been a squirrel, and you had been a wolf? Would you have eaten me, instead of saving me? Or would we still have known each other, somehow?"

He had rubbed one paw over his dark muzzle, a weary sigh escaping him. "I do not know," he said again. "No one does, and those thoughts will drive you mad if you pursue them. Sometimes things just are. It does not have to mean anything."

"That's like saying nothing means anything." A tiny furrow had marked her brow, and she had squinted back up at the stars with her green-gold eyes. "It can't be true. If we don't mean anything, then what's the point? Why did you find me, why did you save me? Why are we even be alive, if in the end nothing matters?"

He had been quiet for a long time, trying to think of the right response to give, trying to find something that would satisfy her enough to stop her from prying even further.

"There are plenty of stories that try to address that very question," was all he had been able to come up with. "But none of them do a very good job."

Her ears had pricked, and he had sighed to himself, for she always loved his tales. "What sorts of stories?"

And he had told her about the Tempers – something fairly harmless, something that would catch her imagination and make her forget her original question entirely – and that had been enough, at least for one day.

But now the sun had set, and the two of them would soon be preparing for another busy night, and she would begin her questions again just when he most wanted to rest.

As if on cue, his denmate stirred next to him, her bushy tail twitching and her little head rising, jaws parted in a long yawn. His little blob of gold uncurled herself, and as her honey eyes found him again she gave him a sleepy, sweet smile.

"Dusk, Sage," she greeted him.

"Dusk, Sprite," he said, before rising slowly to his paws and stretching, hearing his bones pop and crack. She did the same – minus the crackling – and hurried out of their den, her thick tail disappearing before he could even open his mouth. She was already gone, his little leaf on the breeze, his tiny forest urchin. She was already rushing off to poke her nose where it didn't belong, to overturn rocks better left alone, to splash through rivers hiding deep secrets. She would get herself in trouble as she always did, running around from when the sun set to when the moon disappeared, and he would be the one to pull her tail out of the fire, as always.

There were plenty of things he knew about, when it came to being a fox. There were hoards of answers he had considered and disregarded, plenty of responses he had been taught, plenty of solutions beaten into his brain. But none of those mattered anymore, not out here. For the moment, as far as he was concerned the only reason he was a fox – and not a squirrel or a wolf or a dog – was so he could protect her, and he would do so for as long as he was able.

With a resigned sigh, he left the warmth and relative comfort of their den behind, plodding out into their forest.

AN: Foxes are largely nocturnal! So Sage & Sprite greet each other with "Dusk" instead of "Morning." There will prolly be plenty of references to the time, since I'm not used to writing mostly night scenes, and I'll need to stay on track. :P

There will be some daylight scenes mixed in, for various reasons.

See you in a week, if you choose to stick around. I will probably make a bio page on the blog soon; link's in my profile if you're unfamiliar with it. Toodles!