When the land was much newer, a young fox came to live at the base of a tree that had long since died. Often an old owl would perch on the broken limbs of the tree. Sometimes the two would talk, though Owl was wary of Fox because he knew Fox was crafty and would try to eat him if given the chance.
One day, Fox was foraging in the forest and smelled something strange. His nose led him to look up and he saw a column of darkness rising over the hill where his home was. Even though he was a clever creature, he was puzzled because he had never seen such a dark cloud as this. He went back to his den and saw that Owl was watching the strange sight.
“Owl, old friend, what is that darkness rising over our hill?”
“Fox, my foe, that is smoke.”
“Smoke? What is Smoke?” Fox asked.
“Smoke is a terrible creature that will choke you and kill you.”
Fox was afraid. “Should we flee?”
“Not from that Smoke. It is the Smoke of the People.” Owl explained.
“The People!” Fox gasped.
“Yes, I have seen them arrive. They bring their own trees and make their own homes and will begin to hunt in our lands.”
“And they will use Smoke to hunt us?” Fox asked appalled.
“No,” Owl snorted. “The People have Smoke because they have a stronger power called Fire. They make Fire and Fire makes Smoke. Only the People and the Thunder Spear can make Fire. They use it for their own strange ways—not to hunt.”
Fox became curious, “Why can we not make Fire? You are wise and I am clever. Why can we not have this power?”
Owl looked out over the hill towards the column of Smoke. “It is because I am wise that I do not try to make Fire.”
But Fox only thought of what he would do if he could have the powers of Fire and Smoke. He raced over the hill and then stealthily approached the place where the People had come and made their People Trees. Fox crouched in the underbrush and watched the People.
Each day he came back to the same place and with his keen eyes studied the People. In this way, he learned how they made Fire. They gathered moss, twigs and branches from the forest. They placed the twigs upon the moss and then scratched one paw against a dark stone in their other paw. Bright sun specks flew from the stone onto the moss and the People would breathe upon it. Fire awoke and then Smoke rose.
Fox knew he could do this. He went back near his tree and began to collect all these things: moss, twigs and branches. He piled them near his lair and then went to search for the dark stone. He found many dark stones and wore his claws down scratching at them to make the sun specks fly, but he had no luck.
At night, as Owl perched above, scanning the dark forest for his next meal, Fox dreamed of what he would do with Fire. He would become as powerful as the People. Fox would rule the land. So each day he gathered more and more moss, twigs and branches as he searched for the striking stone. Soon he had a huge pile gathered all around his tree. But without a stone like the People possessed, he did not have the power of Fire.
Desperate, Fox hatched a plan. If he could not find such a stone, he would steal one from the People. Being a crafty creature, Fox watched and waited until he saw his opportunity. One day, a small member of the People made Fire and set his striking stone at his side. And then he disappeared inside a People Tree.
Fox did not hesitate. He dashed to the stone, snatched it in his jaws and sped back across the hill. Back at his tree den, Fox dropped the stone and capered in delight. He would soon make Fire and then all the world would fear him.
His eyes darted to the top of the tree in search of Owl. He wanted to brag to him and say, “Who is wise now, old friend?” But Owl was not there, and Fox could not wait.
Moving towards the large pile of moss he’d gathered, he awkwardly clasped the striking stone in one of his paws. He raked his claws over the stone. It pained him, but he began to see tiny sun specks flying from his claws. He clawed faster and suddenly he saw a small Fire awaken in the moss. Fox moved close and breathed on it as he had seen the People do.
The Fire grew and Smoke filled Fox’s nose. Fox sprang back from the Fire and the Smoke. Owl had been right. Fire and its evil-smelling Smoke could choke and kill. Fox moved cautiously backward as the Fire he had created grew and grew against his tree. Soon a dark column of Smoke that rivaled anything Fox had seen the People create surrounded his home.
This was the beginning. With this kind of power Fox would become king and all would bow before him. He basked in the warmth of his supremacy until a spark from the Fire leapt onto his coat. Fox yelped and then saw that the Fire was burning up his home and everything around it. He ran up the hill with Fire and Smoke in hot pursuit.
The next day, a weary and scorch-pawed Fox returned to his tree. All was ashes. The entire hillside had burned. He would have to find a new home, new hunting grounds.
Owl called to him from the very top of the only tree that had not been blackened by the flames. “What have you learned about Fire, old foe?”
Fox looked around him. All blackened earth. He thought about his once-dream of ruling the land with the power of Fire. He thought about Pride and Greed and Foolishness. He considered Humility and Generosity and Wisdom. He glanced up at Owl who stared back like a thousand stoically analog owls before him.
“Start small,” Fox answered with a crafty, digital flash in his eyes as he began to browse for a new way forward.