“You’re on fire.”
The wise owl watched from her favorite branch as the old fox arranged the final twigs and leaves into yet another arcane sigil. The forest around the mountain was almost totally surrounded with them now.
The fox’s tail twitched a couple of times as it had one last critical look at its latest creation. Satisfied, it dashed off towards the next clearing.
“Hey!” Cried the owl. “Wait for me!”
By the time she found a nice rock on a convenient spot, twigs, pebbles and leaves were already arranged into the incipient form of another magic symbol.
“Aren’t you tired? You must have done about a dozen of those just today.”
“Sixteen, actually.” Answered the fox without looking up from his work.
“And you plan to stop after building…?” Asked the owl, probingly.
“As many as I can before the next new moon.”
“That’s almost five days away! Are they at least going to give you a medal or something?”
The shape kept getting more detailed as new lines and patterns formed under the busy paws.
“So… you’re just acting like this because you want to?”
“In part, but also because I have to.”
The owl looked slightly puzzled.
“Forest guardian is sort of an honorary title, you know? It’s not like you HAVE to actually guard it.”
“Somebody has to.”
“But you do realize it doesn’t have to be you, right?”
“Your point being?”
“Let the elder ones do it.”
“If we did, there wouldn’t be any forest left by now. They’ve lived for such huge lifespans that their perspective of time and what’s important has become somewhat… weird.”
“So why should you care? It’s not like they do.”
“Because I happen to like this forest and plan to enjoy living here for as long as I can. Let them stay in their marasmus if they want to. I don’t have as much time as them to waste.”
“You’re acting as if this couldn’t wait, just like every year. What’s the hurry? The forest isn’t going to simply disappear if you skip one year.”
“The forest may not…” said the fox, stopping for just a moment to look straight into the owl’s eyes. “But we’re all on an undisclosed deadline dear. Who knows? I might be the one who suddenly disappears.” He added with a mischievous wink before returning his attention to the task at hand.
The owl watched in silence as the last pebble found its place in the design. Before the fox could dash away she threw an acorn at his head.
“Ouch! What was that about?”
“Just wanted to ask if… well… you know…”
“Do you need any help?”
The fox smiled broadly.
“Get me some juniper leaves and a couple of red pebbles.” He said, dashing off to the next clearing.