Run with the fox,
Into the wind on to the dawn of tomorrow,
Run with the fox,
Into the wild into the wild and the cold,
Beware of the rocks,
And be prepared prepare for love finally grows
578 AD. In this year appeared the star called comet, in August, and shone for three months each morning like a sunbeam
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
In a time long ago, in a place where memories are half forgotten and seem like they are nothing more than a dream, the land was in turmoil. The armies of opposing forces were making their way across the country, consolidating and bringing together the great kingdoms under a single leader. They marched under the banner of the new faith, Christianity and in its wake it changed the course of history.
As the religion of the cross made its way through old Albion it is said the old gods retreated to the their last bastion, a place where the old magics still held sway.
Conversion of the Wiht had been tried and each time had failed; the people of the Island held fast to their ways and they liked it that way. Under their Wihtwalda (King of the Wihtwara), Arwald, the old gods reined supreme. Arwald protected his people and the haven for their gods, but they say this was too much for one man to bare, too much of a burden for any mortal's shoulders.
Word of the gathering forces of the great traitor king marching through the Saxon kingdoms were making its way to Arwald. His kins men in Cantawara and Meonwara ensured what information they received made their way down to the Island.
It was a troubling time for the Wihtwalda, seeds of his own doubt had been sown and the burden of his responsibilities pressed hard upon him. Neither the skies nor the seas gave any answers to him, the future seemed dark and all too close.
Arwald knew that even he, a true son of Wonden, who could trace his linage back to Wecta and so onto the Allfather himself could not control the wyrd. If time was a flowing river, then the wyrd would be the stones and other things that direct the flow. The wyrd twisted and turned, sometimes bright and bubbly, other times dark and stagnant, but was never in the power of man to control. And so it was, the ebbing and flow of the wyrd had turned dark, a storm was coming and all the Wihtwalda could see was dark and foreboding.
So it was, that one morning, while still in the midst of the Weodmonaþ (August), with the days still long and warm, Arwald was woken by his men. Blazing across the sky was new star, it had come into view during the night was still visible now. The King looked at the sky and called the Ealdwita to him. What could this mean? The news was not good.
"My Lord, I fear this star, which we call a comet, is an ill omen, it brings with it nothing but death. All signs tell me that the Getæl is upon us." Said the priest in a low and troubling voice.
The Getæl or the Reckoning was a time to settle accounts, a time where the old would be swept away, a time or great turmoil and Arwald knew this. He stood in silence transfixed by this object in the sky, his men quietly watching him but none were quiet in their hearts and the King knew this.
After some time Arwald finally announced to those standing near, "On this day, I shall set out on foot alone. I need guidance and this world does not hold it for me."
He took with him nothing but his sword and a leather flask filled with water. The water had been brought up to the longhouse freshly this morning from the ancient chalk stream that they called the Broc. This water was sacred, for it flowed miraculously from the ground and turned into a rushing stream. It never faltered and never wavered, even in the hottest of seasons and always flowed strong to its destination.
Arwald bid his sons and wife goodbye, then turned to his men to refuse their escort, all the while ignoring their protests. He gave no indication of when he might return, he needed to be alone, he needed to speak to the Gods and he needed to find direction.
By the time the King had left the settlement, the morning was well underway. He looked up one last time at the comet burning overhead, took a deep breath and plunged into the dense woodland by way of an ancient trackway. He followed it through the ancient trees, with the sounds birds rustling leaves all around him and then suddenly he took a slight diversion. This branch in the track would take him towards the ancient burial mounds of his ancestors.
After moment he arrived and paused as he always did to pay his respects. This act was normally a joyous ritual but the news that he had received from his nephew, Eadric, King of the Cantwara (Kent) was fixed in the front of his mind. The great traitor Cædwalla had been coming and alas by now he must have invaded his newphew's kingdom. Arwald shook his head slowly because he knew that soon Cantwarebyrig may fall.
The Wihtwalda crouched down and put his hand on the earth work that held the remains of a long lost ruler of the Island. The stories said it was the son of Stuff, the prince who ruled with his brother, the great Wihtgar. He stood in silent tribute and for a brief period, in that silent and holy place he felt himself transported.
The day was warm, but the breeze was cooling and all about him was foliage that gently swayed in the wind. With this abundance of plants he truly knew why this time was called the Month of Herbs.
Suddenly he heard a rustle behind him, without thinking he pulled his sword and turned. With a smile and half cursing his own anxiety he put is sword away; he saw two fox cubs tumbling about along the trackway. They were completely oblivious to the King, because like the youth of men, a fox cub is more interested in play. Arwald crouched lower and stood very still and watched this pure innocence in action until the parent fox came trotting along.
The fox immediately sensed the King, took one look and ushered the cubs out of sight. It was not unusual to see foxes out at this time of year, food was abundant and it was time for the parents to teach the cubs to fend for themselves. It was because of this that his people would call the August full moon The Fox Moon.
Arwald took a deep breath, breathing in the smells of the woodland, the warm earthy smell that permeated every part of this place. The smell of leaf fall and mushroom, blackberries and those late flowering herbs that still clung on to their blossoms. Any other time, this would have been an idyllic day, but not now, not at this time, the darkness of the Reckoning was everywhere and there was no time to waste.
Onwards he walked until he found himself in the open air; the canopy of the trees was behind him now and above him was that ill omen shining down upon him. Arwald followed the path that led him down past the cliffs of many colours to the sea edge. This was a holy place, they called it the place of Ylfhærn Hærfestwǣta – Tide Ylfe of the Autumn Rains, she had the heart of the innocent and the courage of a warrior.
The Tide Ylfe was said to enchant the water on this side of the island, always warmer than the north and east and at this time of year you could swim all day without feeling any cold. The waters were filled with fish and all kinds of sea creatures, a bounty all year round and the next month the great migration of the giant whales would take place.
Though this place was filled with wonders and distractions there was no time for the King to stop and Arwald pressed on.
The sea front suddenly changed from the fine coloured sands to rounded pebbles, and this was a sign that he was about to cross the Western Yar onto the place they called Háligieg (The Holy Isle). This was the place of the ancient people of the Island and the isle of giants the place where Woden himself would make his presence known.
As the King made his way onto Háligieg he said a quiet prayer of cleansing. He stopped, opened his leather flask and sprinkled a little bit of the crystal clear water as an offering. Once the small ritual was complete he pressed on, walking at a brisk pace as he hit the steep incline that would take him up and over High Downes.
His destination was a point on the island where the ancient High Priests would perform their magics.
After about 30 minutes he found himself at the place he needed to be. Directly in front of Arwald were the craggy chalk rocks known as the Dragon's Tale, with the sacred Pinnacle of Ur placed between them. To his right were the burial grounds of the ancient peoples of the Island and a place where the wisdoms of these people was often revealed. Lastly, the ancient hazel tree, the tree of life, the magical instrument that would give all whom came to her solitude and comfort.
The sun was beating down now and the breeze, though strong had lost all its freshness. The comet had dimmed to nothing more than a tiny point in the sky, but not fully hidden by the sun.
Arwald looked out to sea and took in the view, it was breathtaking and under the heat of the day he could see a slight shimmer coming off the sea. He sat down quietly, opened his leather flask and drank deeply, letting to pure water flow freely over his lips, into his mouth and spelling over his beard. On a hot day like today it tasted like ambrosia, pure nectar of the gods and he was thankful for it. When he had drunk his fill, he sit the flask down, he closed his eyes and listened to the world around him.
In the distance he heard the sound he had hoped to hear, the deep throaty call of the ravens that made their home on the cliffs. Hearing them told him that Woden was not far and Arwald hoped to get a glimpse into what the wyrd may have in store for them all. The Wihtwalda pushed his back against the trunk of the old tree and let this holy place say what it had to say.
After some time, Arwald found himself drifting into slumber, but it was fitful and had no rest to it. As he slipped into the dream world and found himself in the other place he saw only darkness. When he would awaken he wouldn't know if it had been one minute or a day and in his confusion he was unsure where he was. With nothing to guide him through his wonderings, he never truly left this world to find the other.
The day continued, the sky was blue and clear and the anxiety Arwald had been feeling grew. He opened his eyes and looked out across the still shimmering ocean and in the distance he saw a strange fog. Arwald smiled, because he knew what this meant, closed his eyes and let his mind be taken. This fog that we now call the Swaailen is a sign of the other world, the land of spells and ylfe.
Arwald suddenly opened his eyes and before him was a fox who was standing on his back legs. The animal was dressed in a cloak of fine wool and he held a wooden stick which he leaned upon. He bowed once to the King and started to speak, but just as the words of greeting left the mouth of the fox Arwald cut him off. The King was so surprised by the sight before him, he draw his sword and pointed it at the fox, all the while watching it carefully.
The Fox held up one hand and said, "My King, please put your weapon down, I mean you no harm." The fox lifted up his cloak and continued, "Look, see, I have no arms about me, only this walking stick that helps me move about. For you see, it is not natural for a fox to stand on two legs as men do, but I do like it so."
Arwald put his sword away, stood for a moment and finally spoke "Who are you? What shall I call you?"
"I am Rædgiefa, the Fox King; my name means to Give Good Counsel and I am here to help you find your way." Replied the fox.
Without stoping to think, Arwald crouched down, he laid his sword before the Fox King in a sign of respect and peace and asked. "Please tell me Rædgiefa, what am I to do? I am lost and the weight of responsibility for my kingdom and people is heavy upon me. What comfort do you have to give?"
"I have no comfort to give Son of Woden," said Rædgiefa calmly in his growling voice, "that is not what I am here for. I am not here to tell you what to do, but only to guide you forth and help you navigate the wyrd."
The fox sat on the ground under the old hazel tree and broke off a twig. "You see this twig Arwald, it is nothing but a broken piece of wood from this tree. But when we take it and work it and cover it in all the things that are magical, it becomes an instrument of enchantment."
Arwald looked at the twig and the fox in puzzlement.
"I see you don't understand, and that is alright. It is good to not understand as long as you have the wisdom to know you do not and the courage to ask for help." Smiled the fox.
Rædgiefa continued, "Sometimes a sacrifice needs to be made to build something else. Sometimes, we have to change something's nature to help it move forward and continue. A violent act can seem destructive, but in the long run something new will be made."
The Fox King then pointed to a small white flower the grew beside the tree. "See here my King, this delicate flower."
Arwald looked down and and saw the familiar spiral of the rare orchard that they called the Autumn Lady's-tresses.
"This tiny plant is known for its deep rooted and rare magic, it represents divination in all its glory and its spiralling flowers showing the cycles of life. The white florets twist and turn, sometimes showing, sometimes hidden, but always there and with every ending there is a new beginning." continued the Fox King.
The Wihtwalda looked silently at the delicate flower, it felt like looking into infinity, it truly was like looking into the wyrd itself.
He turned over what the Fox King had said to him and after a moment he nodded his head and quietly spoke "I understand, and I see why you are the giver of good counsel. Whatever happens I must ensure I do what is right and proper, I must defend my country and my people to the end without knowing what the outcome will be. If I do not follow my path there cannot be the enduring place that is our home."
Rædgiefa nodded, using his stick for support he struggled to his feet and he once again stood on his hind legs. He turned to Arwald, bowed once more and said "Strength and honour, just as your name means my King."
As the Fox King turned to leave, Arwald stopped the fox and asked, "Tell me Sire, will you use your divination to answer one question for me? Will my line survive?"
The Fox King said nothing for a moment and then replied. "The future is not clear, the wyrd gives us many blind corners to make it hard to see and this is how it should be. No man should know his future fully fore he will stop truly living."
The fox then looked up at the dim stain that streaked across the sky and continued "However, it does give us signs and as you know, this streaking star is a sign that Getæl is here. The Getæl is not the ending, it is but the start of the spiral and the blood that runs through your veins will make the first great Bretwalda."
With that Arwald awoke, he sat bolt upright. He blinked int he dim light, trying to focus; the day was long gone and the sun was already on its way to setting past the Dragon's Tail. He looked up into the sky and saw the comet was still burning its way across the sky. The revelations showed him the path that he must take; they were not the answers he had hoped for, but he knew what he must do.
He bent down and picked one of the white spiral flowers that were growing by the tree. He held it gently between his battle hardened fingers, turning it around slowly and watching it wrap into infinity. Arwald then placed it tenderly, with all the care he could muster into one of the pouches he had on his belt. From that day forth, through the Getæl and onward, the emblem of the house of Wiht would be Autumn Lady's-tresses.