Chapter Three

There was silence about the cavern, punctuated only by the muffled sobbing coming from Acorn. The three about the fire looked at each other in wide-eyed shock but could not seem to bring themselves to speak. Finally it was Chesterton that cleared his throat. "That's quite a, um, story" he said quietly. Acorn continued to sob into her hands. Chesterton got up to his feet and squatted down next to her. Carefully, he put his hand on her shoulder in a comforting manner.

After a few minutes, Acorn's sniffles died away and she looked up at Chesterton. "Sorry" she said.

He waved it away. "No, don't be." He stood back up and arched his back, making some popping sounds as his back stretched. Looking back at Acorn he asked, "Do you want more to eat? There really is plenty..."

Wiping the back of her hand across her muzzle, she nodded and scootched back over to the warm fire. She picked up her wooden bowl and lifted it to Chesterton to fill. Nodding, he scooped out some more of the wonderful smelling stew that was simmering over the fire. After filling her bowl, he reached back and rummaged around until he gave a snort of success and pulled out a loaf of bread. Breaking off a piece, he offered her the remainder of the loaf. "Since you don't have a spoon to scrape up the last drops, you might as well use some fresh bread." He smiled again as she took the loaf and watched as she broke off a couple of small pieces. "No no, do it right..." He reached over and pulled apart most of the bread into large chunks and tossed the remaining heel over to the watching fox. "Eat up!"

Acorn smiled gratefully and spent the next few minutes slurping down stew and wiping up all the delicious remaining drops with the bread. After licking her lips and fingers of any errant crumbs, she sighed and set the bowl down. "That really was fresh bread...I didn't know there was a household nearby where you could get some." She gave a small burp, covering her mouth with one small paw.

Tellon had yet to take his eyes off of her, and it was starting to make her most uncomfortable. She looked over at him and arched one eyebrow. "Well?" she said pertly.

Tellon stayed silent for a moment and than came around to sit next to her. He continued to stare at her, and quite frankly, it was giving Acorn the wild willies. Finally, he leaned over and met her eyes. "I don't know who did this, but they were not members of my family." He said, "Don't judge us all by one rogue fox." He sat back and watched for her expression to change. It did. She blinked once and than stared at him.

"I wouldn't" She said tightly, "But the fact that once all the hoods came off and all I saw were foxes, it tends to make one jump to certain conclusions."

Tellon blinked at her in suprise. "There were more than one?"

Acorn nodded. "In fact, as I recall, the group that had captured me had ten foxes in it."

Tellon nodded slowly and sat back on his arms. "Most interesting..." he said softly.

"Considering how beaten I was, I don't think the word "interesting" begins to sum it up." She said, arching her eyebrow again.

"Too true," he said. "I apologize, It was a rather tactless remark to make."

Acorn waved him away. "Don't worry about it." She said tiredly.

After a brief pause, Tellon spoke up again. "So, besides all this...what is YOUR name?" Acorn made an O shape with her mouth and her hand shot up to cover her mouth. The other two looked over at her expectantly.

"Oh, well. My name is Falina." She looked around at the three of them. "I'm from the Willow Haven clan..." She blinked a few times and continued. "But you can just call me Acorn. Everybody does" She choked slightly as she said that.

"Falina..Falina...aren't you are one of the Forest Clan's middle family's middle children?" Tellon looked over at her. "You know," he waved lightly "One of way too many children who aren't really destined to marry well or even at all?"

Acorn jumped to her feet. "How dare you!" She shrieked. "What do you know about my family!" She looked as if ready to wring his neck. Tellon just laughed softly to himself.

She lunged for his neck. It was all she could see, all she could focus on. After all she had been through, how DARE he mock her family line?! Chesterton caught her in mid-leap. Ignoring her struggles, he looked over at Tellon. "Do you mind?" he said with annoyance. "We just got her calmed down. The last thing we need is a wound up squirrel running around. Let alone one who is under as much stress as she is." Tellon gave an "All right all right" look and shuffled over to the other side of the fire to sit next to Allora. Chesterton continued to hold Acorn in his strong grip until her struggles subsided.

Setting her down gently, he turned back to the fire. Tellon waved at Acorn and cheerfully asked if her family had even bothered to petition for suitors for her paw in marriage. There was one still heatbeat before she gave a strangled scream and leaped over the fire pit, claws bared, reaching for Telon's face and neck. This time, Chesterton was too slow. Tellon easily fended her off, laughing mockingly, holding her back from arms length. Acorn's face was contorted with rage...and then all at once her face went slack and her screachings stopped. She stood, panting lightly, with her head down and tail drooped and seemed to "fall" into herself. She began to chitter softly, her front teeth lightly tapping together as if she were speaking to herself. Tellon's mocking laughter stopped and he began to edge backwards along the wall. She tilted her head upwards slightly, peering at him through her brows and hair. Raising one paw, she pointed in his direction.

There was a "Whoosh" as if all the wind and air had been sucked out of the cave and everything fell into darkness.

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