Zach lifts his head as his eyes flutter open. “Ugh… my head…” He regains feeling in his body, but he cannot move. “What the?!” Zach looks in his surroundings and learns he has his arms tied behind their back while it’s against the stone walls of the room. Amina and Emmy start to come to, experiencing the same as the orange fox had.
“What happened?” asks Emmy. “Where are we?”
“This isn’t good,” Amina says. “Those canines must’ve snagged us while we were all “loopy” under Loopy Lilac.” Her ears twitch, hearing voices mutter outside the wooden door. Zach asks what’s going on. “Sh, quiet…” The door opens and three canines enter the hut: Sally, Cole, and Niji. The rottweiler stands in center, over-looking the prisoners, as the two spear-armed wolves stand beside her.
“Well, look whose finally awake,” says Niji. “Was not easy to bring you three all the way here. You should’ve been dead in back in the jungle.”
“Niji, please,” orders Sally before turning to the tied-up three. “You three thought you could ambush us, huh? We’re too smart for you, though.”
“We had no intent to ambush you,” Zach tells her. “We were just having cocoanapples until you came along.”
“Okay… Then, I suppose attacking us was an accident, eh?”
“Listen,” Amina adds. “We were only defending ourselves. What would you guys have done if you were in our position? Of course, we hid and fought…”
“You may be right,” utters Niji. “But that doesn’t excuse you for attacking our tribe and stealing from us!”
“My friend and I were not part of those attacks,” she claims. “I am against the fox chief in his beliefs.”
“Right…” Sally crosses her arms. “And we’re supposed to believe that?”
“Just because they are foxes, doesn’t mean they were involved in the attacks on your village,” Emmy counters. “I know Zach hasn’t, because he would never harm innocents. Besides, he and I were at the river fork when that happened!”
“Why are you defending these foxes?” Cole asks. “I thought the Fox Faction and Warthog Warriors were rivals.”
“Perhaps she is playing spy with them,” Niji guesses. “Allied with the foxes to scout on us!” The blue wolf drops his spear, grabs the warthog, and leans in close to her, pressing his nose against hers with slanted eyebrows and gritted teeth for an aggressive look. “What do you know? Talk!”
“Niji,” Sally begins. “Let me handle this.”
“I want answers, now!” Niji continues yelling. “Talk or else I will gut you!” He holds a metal blade by the warthog’s neck. The cold steel is pressed against her skin, causing an increase in breath and heartrate. “Speak now!”
“Don’t hurt her!” Zach shouts. “Just leave her alone!”
Niji turns to the orange fox. “Oh, defending this warthog, huh?” Making a fist with his paw, he jabs it forward and punches Zach in the gut, causing him to cough and grunt. “Why is she with you?!”
“Niji, relax!” Cole tells him. “Don’t let your anger get out of control!” Niji doesn’t listen; he takes Zach and holds him against the ground. The tip of his blade touches the fox’s neck.
“Stop it!” Amina commands. “Don’t!”
“Niji!” Sally places her paws on the wolf’s arms. “Please!”
Zach rolls his eyes to where the wolf’s face is, unable to move his neck and frozen with fear. “Seriously, please stop,” he asks calmly. “Emmy has nothing to do with the tribe. She’s just with us… She’s my friend…”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“I’m not lying to you… I’m being honest… I don’t do everything my tribe does… I’m different…” Sally and Cole beg Niji to cease. With enough convincing, the blue wolf pulls away from Zach, allowing the fox some breathing room and taking his word for granite.
Sally keeps her arms on him. “Go outside, Niji… Take a walk…” Without further words, the rainbow wolf does as he’s ordered. He leaves the hut through the wooden door.
“Cole, go with him. Just make sure he’s okay.”
“What about you?” Cole asks. “Are you going to be fine watching the prisoners, Sally?”
“I can handle it. I’m a strong woman.” Cole walks out and closes the door, leaving the rottweiler to guard over the three friends.
“What are they going to do with us?” Emmy whispers to the foxes.
“I don’t know,” Amina answers. “But, I don’t really want to find out…”
“So, this is it, huh?” Zach questions. “In the Canine Clan’s village as prisoners… and no one knows we’re here…”
“Don’t worry,” Amina whispers. “We’ll figure out a way out…”
Zach tilts his head. “I’m sorry…” The girls shift to him. “I didn’t mean for us to get into this mess… If only I wasn’t such a flawed fox… We would’ve escaped… I just slow everyone down…”
Amina drags herself closer to him. “It isn’t your fault, Zach. Just because you’re different, doesn’t mean it’s all your fault.”
“Yeah,” adds Emmy, moving to him as well. “Even if you’re flawed, you’re still perfect inside your heart. You protected us back in the jungle with your shooting skills. You’re a good friend.” She smiles at him. Zach looks at her for a bit before his facial expressions reflect hers.
“Um, I’m sorry to interrupt you two,” Amina butts in. They face her. “But, I’d actually like to know how you two met. We’re going to be here for a while, so is it okay if I know your story?”
Emmy turns back to Zach. “Should we?”
Zach nods. “Yeah.” They both look Amina in the eyes, and tell her the story of how they came together.
Deep in the dense jungle lies a mountain peak stretching up to the sky, surrounding a volcano dormant for nearly a century. On the side of the mountain, the village of the Warthog Warriors can be seen nestled on the cliffside but far from the edge like a toy on a shelf. The villagers’ homes are drilled into the mountain like little mines. Warthogs wander all over the place, following cobblestone roads that wind around the homes.
One warthog leaves the settlement for the tall trees of the jungle. Her purple tribal paint, bra top, and loincloth become bright as the sun’s rays hit her while on her beige skin. “Why does he not understand me?” She asks herself. “I do everything I can to keep the tribe in shape, and what does he do? Tells me I’m nothing more than useless! I can’t stand him…” She wanders further into the jungle through the trees, ranting on about her life in the village. “Oh Mom, why did you marry him…? He’s nothing more than a monster than a father… I wish that-” Pain surges from her leg and up her spine after a loud gasp. She looks down and sees her leg clamped in a wooden spike trap. “Oh no…” The warthog grabs her legs and pulls, hoping to pull it out quickly. “Come on! Give me my leg!” Ruffling in the bushes causes her to fall silent and look around. “Hello?! W-who’s there?!” The bushes in front of her shake and tremble before a figure pops out. It reveals itself to be a fox with blue tribal paint and loincloth. He stares at the warthog as he eases close. “No! No! Stay away!” The warthog struggles to pull her leg out fast. The spikes drag against her skin, opening cuts that ooze of blood. “Come on!” Panic dons her face as she continues to pull; her eyes opened wide enough to fit cocoanapples. Pain surges from her leg, slowing her progress. The fox stops about three feet from her, yet she continues in her attempt break free.
“Stop,” says the fox in a low, calming voice. The warthog freezes, still keeping a face of fear. Her heartrate and breathing begin their slow decline. “You’re making it worse… Let me help you…” The fox steps closer, leaning toward the trap. He puts his paws inside and forces the ends of the trap open, scraping the inside of his paws in the process. The warthog stumbles onto her knees, still trying to regain calmness. The orange fox puts his arms around her and lifts the wounded girl up. The warthog remains still in his hold, her body still trembling from previously. The fox takes her into a cave where he sets her down. “Wait here.” He leaves for a brief moment, returning not more than a minute later with big leaves in his bloody paws. The boy then kneels by the warthog’s foot and proceeds to squeeze white fluid onto the wounds. The warthog clenches her hooves and shuts her eyes tightly as the pain burns her leg. The fox then wraps the cuts with the remaining leaves, covering her limb. He sits in front of her. “Is that better?”
The warthog stares into the fox’s eyes. She’s unsure of what to say initially. “Y-yes… Thanks, I guess… Why are you helping me? Aren’t you enemies with our clan?”
“My mother always said that politeness is the key to friendship and trust,” he tells her. “I have nothing against you or your people…”
“You don’t?” The fox shakes his head. “Well, listen. I appreciate you treating my injuries and caring for me…”
“I learned how to treat wounds on my own,” he says. “I’m always out in the jungle and sometimes, like you, I stumble into the wooden spike traps made for enemies. Just be careful when you go out and walk. They are everywhere. My advice is to stay in the trees.”
“You are very kind… You are not like all the other foxes of the Fox Faction.”
“No… I am different… and everyone in my village tends to think that way about me… They think I will just ruin everything…”
The warthog moves closer to him. “I understand how you feel… My father is not my true father… He married my mother when I was younger… He belittles me every time I fail… I cannot stand him… He thinks I will never succeed. Many agree with his word because he is the new chief…”
“You have troubles with your father?” The warthog nods. “That’s something we have in common; my father, who is the chief of my tribe, always screams and shouts at me… He says I can never do anything right, no matter what I do… His anger and prejudice have influenced the opinion of the village on me… I don’t have any friends… It’s why I wander the jungle… I do so to get away from it all… Tell me, is that why you were out in the jungle for the same reason? To get away from your father?”
“Yes,” she says. “I know it can be hard sometimes with him, but I just feel I need to get away from him… I share your pain, young fox… And the way I think of it, it draws us closer together…”
“Who are you, sweet warthog?”
“I am Emmy,” the warthog answers. “Emmy the Warthog. What is your name?”
“Zach,” the fox tells her. “Zach the Fox. It is a pleasure to meet you.” He manages a smile.
Emmy looks down at the fox’s paws. “Your paws are still bleeding from the trap… Do you have spare leaves?” Zach picks the leaves by his feet and hands them to her. “Hold out your paws… Let me treat them.” She wraps the green leaves around the fox’s paws, patching up his injuries as he had done with her. “There… Feel better?”
“I do.” Zach continues to smile. “Emmy, you are a nice girl. I don’t understand why your father would belittle you.”
“I don’t understand why your father and other foxes would belittle you, either. Do you think it is better that we form a bond?”
“Who would know? Nobody needs to. We don’t need them. We have each other. Emmy, I swear to the Gods I shall be there by your side if trouble arises.”
“As will I,” she responds. The two lock their paws together in front of each other, staring into their eyes and smiling.
“That is how our friendship came to be,” Emmy finishes. “After that day, we would always meet in the jungle and hangout. It would mostly be talk, but we’ve gone out and done things together, like exploring. Our fathers would always be most of the reason for meeting secretly.”
Amina faces Zach. “That was really sweet of you to help her. Most foxes would’ve struck their trapped victims.” She looks to Emmy. “I want you to know I feel sorry for what you have to go through because of your father. I feel sorry for Zach as well, after witnessing his father constantly belittle him. And they are the chiefs? You two deserve better.”
“Just don’t say a word to anyone else, please,” begs Zach. “My father would disown me… ban me from the village, even… You know how hard he is, Amina…”
“As with mine,” adds Emmy. “He would send me out into the jungle and order me never to come back home…”
“You two have nothing to worry,” Amina claims. “Your secret is secured with me.” She looks back to Zach. “And you need not to fret. If anything bad were to happen to you, I will be by your side. You have my trust and guidance.”
“Thank you,” Zach replies. “Right now, it is not the main worry. We must focus on the problem of getting out… The question is how…”
“I am thinking,” the red fox tells him. “Give me time.” They’re interrupted when the rottweiler stands as the two wolves enter. The dog huddles around the two wolves and speaks softly, quietly.
“What is happening?” asks Emmy. “Can you make out any word?”
“I hear nothing,” Amina responds. “It is too quiet.”
“What will they do with us?” Zach utters. “I hope they don’t decide to kill us…” The canines breakup and motion toward the three tied friends. They order them to get up and force them to stand before exiting out the door.
Walking single-file, the two foxes and warthog follow Sally down the dusty path through the jungle as the two wolves stand between them with spears in paws.
“I don’t like this,” Emmy comments. “I’m scared…”
“I am, too,” Zach adds. “I have no idea what they’re going to do to us…”
“Stay calm,” Amina tells them. “Just don’t do anything stupid.” The three are ordered to stop and line up. They do as they’re ordered.
“All right,” Sally begins. “Do it!” The wolves stand behind the foxes and warthog. Expecting the worst, Emmy shuts her eyes as well as Zach, who tilts his head down to the ground. Amina clenches her paws, ready to accept her fate. After ten seconds pass, the wolves move to Sally’s side. Zach and Emmy open their eyes, unsure why they are nothing has happened. Feeling the tight restrictions of their wrists are loose, the three move them in front, seeing their bounds have been cut. “You are free,” Sally tells them. “Do not bother thanking us. Just go and don’t ever come around here to cause trouble.” Zach remains still as a statue until Amina grabs him by the paw and drags him away. Emmy follows along with them. However, Zach pulls away his arm and turns back to the dog and wolves. “Well? Go. Don’t make me regret sparing you.” Zach motions closer to her with ease. “I said get out of here!” The red fox grabs Zach again and forces him to leave. Zach hesitates for a few seconds before going with his friends.
When they are across the river, the friends stop to rest. Zach turns to look back at the stone huts in the distance as the water rushes between it and his friends.
“I don’t believe it,” Emmy starts. “They didn’t kill us… Why?”
“I’m not sure,” Amina says. “And I really don’t want to stick around for that. We should go back home.” She places her paw on Zach’s shoulder. “Zach, come. We should go.”
Zach faces her. “Huh? Oh, right!” He looks to Emmy. “Should we meet by the river tomorrow?”
Emmy nods. “Indeed, we shall.”
“I’m joining, too,” Amina implies. “I’d like to get to know you more, Emmy.”
“It is fine,” the warthog responds. “Just make sure you and Zach are not followed. It’s risky to gain more attention.”
“We’ll ensure of that. Let’s get out of here before those canines change their minds and chase us.” She leads Zach and Emmy away from the area and into the dense trees.