Jack gnawed at the root, trying to break it in half to get at the meat inside. He had been impatient again. A mistake, but one that could be corrected in the future. Jack was reminded of one of the first tenets his guide told him.
“You will make mistakes. Make sure they’re ones you can afford,” Fox told him. “You don’t want to repeat them out here.” Fox drank from his bowl, a soup that he had prepared. The water was melted from snow and nourished with the tubers Jack was struggling with now. Fox had always managed to soften the vegetables so that the skins slipped right off, leaving only the nutritious and hardy meat. This was the first time Jack had met Fox.
Jack did not fare well in the initial hours of his exile. The winds ripped through the cheap leathers the village had permitted him. The sunlight reflecting off of the snow blinded him, and he couldn’t tell the difference from one drift to the other. He remembered climbing up to the top of a drift, and seeing nothing but vast fields of white, and feeling, for the first time, remorse and despair for his future.
Fox found Jack slipping up the side of a drift, but the greeting was far from standard. Jack was unaware of Fox’s presence until a crude spear pierced the snow next to Jack’s hand. Jack retracted his arm, but the reflex threw off his balance and Jack slipped quickly to the bottom of the drift. Another crude spear tapped the bottom of his chin.
Fox was only as tall as a barrel and a half. The man was layered immensely in pelts and furs, making it impossible to tell his actual frame. A quiver full of crude spears hung from his side. In front of his eyes sat what appeared to be smoked glass. His mouth was covered with a brown worn cloth.
“Talk.” The command was muffled, yet Jack could hear a slight strain in it. The man in front of him was old.
“I- I don’t know what to say,” Jack spoke for the first time in eight hours, his own voice sounding raspy. His lips cracked at the movement.
“That’s fine.” Fox lowered his spear. “Follow me, quickly.” Fox turned quickly and walked away, prodding at the ground with one of his spears every so often. Jack stumbled along, struggling to maintain pace in the drifts. After one particularly rough fall, where he floundered in the snow for a minute trying to stand, Fox had disappeared from sight.
“Fox!” Jack shouted, trying to follow the paces in the snow. The footptrints were disappearing quickly in the heavy snow and Jack’s flailing was demolishing the rest. He paused, his heart beat quickening. “Fox!”
His voice sounded muted in the rising storm. The wind was picking up. All around him were pristine drifts, disturbed only by his destructive pacing. Yet in the distance, he could see a dark shape coming towards him. “Fox!” he shouted again, moving towards the figure. He crashed into the snow when a hand reached out from the snow and grabbed his ankle.