Sally emerges from her hut, arms stretching and yawning. She walks past the two blue wolves as she exits the village.
“Yo, Sally,” Niji utters. He and the other wolf follow her. “Had a good night last night? I did. I had a wonderful dream that I was in bed with one of my hot wives.”
“They aren’t your wives if they’re fake,” Cole adds. “You should focus on getting a real woman.”
The rainbow wolf growls at him. “Quiet, you.”
“Don’t start,” Sally interrupts. She stops by the river and kneels to the water. “I don’t need to hear fighting between you two.” Putting her paws together, she scoops the clear liquid into her paws and takes a drink. “Now, when we go out on our walk, I expect the both of you to-” She pauses, noticing something drifting toward her in the top corner of her eyes. The dog tilts her head to the object and makes out a wood-woven basket full of goodies inside. “Huh…? What’s this?” Reaching out, she touches the platform the basket’s nestled on and pulls it closer, then takes it out.
Cole leans closer to the rottweiler. “What do you have, Sally?”
“Is that a basket?” asks Niji.
Sally turns to him. “No, it’s a bunch of Loopy Lilac for you from your wives, Niji.”
“Ha, ha, ha, very funny…”
Sally looks inside to see it’s fully stocked with cheeses, meats, and breads along with a hand-carved sculpture of herself. Looking further, she can spot a knife, beautifully-crafted to suit the needs of a hunter as well as delicate-woven bracelets and jewelry. “What…?” Her eyes then notice a paper note inside with the inscriptions, “to Sally” written on it. Sally takes the note up. “What’s this?”
“Whoa, Sally someone loves you,” comments Cole.
Sally examines the writing on the note and reads it aloud. “Dear Sally, you may only know me slightly, mostly in a negative way, but I just want you to know I am thankful for what you’ve done. Please find everything within this gracious-crafted basket as a token of gratitude for your sacrifice. Many thanks, a friendly fox.” Her ears twitch, hearing the crunch of leaves from afar. Sally picks her head up quick and darts her eyes across the river. On the other side is the fox with blue paint and loincloth, standing still as a statue while looking back at her. The wolves take notice of him as well before he turns and vanishes into the trees.
The orange fox continues on his journey away from the canine village and regroups with his red fox and warthog friends by the river down further. He stops before them as they sit and talk to each other while facing the water. They only notice him when he steps on a twig, alerting them of his position behind them.
“Oh! There you are, Zach!” Emmy stands. “Where were you?”
“I… had to take care of something,” he says. “Nothing major.”
“You didn’t go near the Canine Clan’s village, did you?” asks Amina. “I know they let us go out of kindness, but they’re still dangerous.” Emmy agrees.
Zach stares into the red fox’s eyes, keeping a flat-mouthed expression and seriousness as he goes for a lie. “Of course not. Why would I go near a tribe that held us hostage and nearly killed us?”
“I know you too well,” Amina tells him. “You have a habit of returning an act of kindness. I know it’s sweet and the right thing, but knowing the other tribes and their stances, it’s not safe.”
Zach continues with his partial lie. “I didn’t go anywhere near the canine village, Amina.”
“You sure?” Zach nods to her. “All right, then.”
“Zach,” Emmy starts. “Amina and I were talking and we were thinking of playing hoopstones at the old temple ruins today. You up for a little challenge?”
“Um, sure,” Zach responds. “Why don’t you guys go ahead and set up? I’ll join you in a minute.”
“You all right?” the warthog asks. “You don’t seem like yourself.”
“I’m fine, Emmy. Really, I am. Just need a little time to myself. Go on and get it all set. I’ll be there.” Amina and Emmy head off through the trees, leaving the orange fox standing there, alone. Ruffling resonates loudly toward him. “I had a feeling you were going to chase me down.” He turns his whole body around to face the rottweiler and her wolf companions. “Do you like the gift for you?”
“What is this?” Sally barks, demanding an answer as she holds the basket up. “Are you trying to prank me in some way?”
“What? Of course not… It’s my way of saying “thank you”.”
“Thank you?” repeats Sally. “For what?”
“For what you did yesterday… Look, our tribes are rivals and I shouldn’t’ve, but this is the least I can do.”
“Well, I appreciate the effort and crafts, but it isn’t necessary.” She holds out the basket. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“I wanted to, though. You are not like all the other canines. You’re generous and you did what no other canine would do. For that, I give you the basket of gifts to show my gratitude and loyalty.”
“You are living a fantasy, Fox,” she tells him. “Have you forgotten our tribes are against each other?”
“Just because our tribes are, doesn’t mean we should. Sally, before we met, I was very much like you; afraid my chief father would disown me or banish me for befriending a rival member… He doesn’t even talk with me to begin with, so I don’t care of his opinions at all.”
“I’m not afraid of anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Yeah, why should we trust a fox like you?” adds Niji. “Your people have stolen from us… Your tribe is nothing but trouble.”
“I may be a fox, but I don’t do anything my father tells them to do,” Zach assures them. “Either way, I’m just hoping we can put the past behind and pave the way for a new era of friendship and peace.”
“Your chieftain father doesn’t think so,” Cole utters. “And ours is the same way.”
“Doesn’t have to be with the chiefs… Can be with just us… I better go and meet up with my friends… Thank you very much for our lives…” Zach turns and disappears.
Amina and Emmy prepare the hoops and large rock for their game in the abandoned courtyard of a destroyed temple. Moss and plants overgrow along the stone structure, covering most of the cracks they seep through.
Zach appears before the girls once again, heading over to the field. “Hey, are we all set?”
“Yep,” Emmy tells him. “Got the hoops all set and we have our rock.”
“Although,” Amina starts. “It’ll be a bit unfair.” Zach asks her why. “Well, hoopstones usually involves an even number of people to play. We’re just three. Are we just going to play two on one?”
“Hey!” calls a voice from over yonder. The group turns and spots the rottweiler and her wolves coming onto the field. “What’s this we hear about a game of hoopstones?” Amina and Emmy are speechless, frozen with fear, except for Zach. “You have room for three more?” Cole and Niji look at her confused, as does Amina and Emmy.
“We do, in fact,” Zach says. “You up for a game?”
“No,” Sally tells him. “I’m up for more than one if you plan to play all day. You up for that, Fox?”
Zach smiles. “Sure, we’ll play. You and your wolves against us?”
“For the first game, sure. Then, we mix it up.” Sally stands on one side of the stoned-line as does Zach.
Emmy leans closer to the orange fox. “Why are they here, Zach? How did they know about our little game?”
“You did something nice for them, didn’t you?” asks Amina. Zach chuckles and rubs the back of his head. “Zach, are you crazy?”
“I wasn’t hurting anyone. Besides, never wrong to do something nice for a change.”
“Great,” Emmy utters. “Now we’re playing hoopstones with the canines. Hope nothing goes wrong with this…”