Tales to Tell by puimun
...And one day he spoke them. Softly, it is true. And to himself, it is true.
But even the sotto voce whispers of a man are heard by the ever-pricked ears of gods and goddesses. The sparrows heard his idle boasts and twittered their message to the rats. The rats twitched their noses and scurried through the maze of underground warrens to the outer walls and squeaked their message to the foxes. The foxes whipped their tales about and snaked and ran and slid through the forest until they found their patron, Liri of the Wood. And as Liri played tripping tunes upon her pipe, the foxes chattered a tale to her of a vain human and a city and a challenge. Liri laughed. It was a fluting sound, as lovely as her pipes, as fickle as wind, and as slippery as water. She laughed and laughed and laughed and the foxes laughed with her in their coughing little way. "I believe it is time we paid the Emperor a visit," she said, tucking the pipes away and stroking the copper backs of each of her foxes....