Sun Mote Copse bedtime stories
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#1
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@Alyx @Quetzal @Primrose Redhawk @Meerkat For any puppies who wanna hear a story! And/or @Niamh, hehe. ALL THE TAGS.

Leo, the fearsome cougar, lingered in the sky tonight. Phox looked at the constellation with hope in his heart that Fennec was safe from such terrible beasts. He wasn't sure if any of the three kidlets were still awake, but since they were now allowed out of the den on occasion (under the watchful eye of a guardian), Phox stuck his head into the den and with a soft voice called for any of the three of them that wanted to come out. He didn't expect them to pick up on the whole constellations thing right away, but they might be tempted by a story about them.

Figuring Meerkat might also enjoy the fun, he removed his head from the den and called out for her, too. Once everybody was settled, he could get to the good stuff.
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A sleepy Meerkat lifted her head when she heard her dad's call, her eyes immediately flicking toward Towhee lounging nearby. She pushed onto all fours and bounded over to the Regent in the hopes of being taken to him. But her mother showed no signs of budging.

-He's at Neema's den. You know the way. Go ahead,- Towhee signed. Meerkat noticed her lips didn't move and found this curious, though she was no less able to understand her mother's meaning. With that said, her eyebrows raised, surprised and questioning.

-"REALLY?"- she asked, then remembered her dad's recent reminder to watch her volume; apparently, she sometimes spoke too loudly. Meerkat supposed that didn't matter to Towhee, though she didn't even think about that just now. -"Really?"- she repeated.

-Yes, really. Go. Have fun,- Towhee replied simply, making a shooing motion.

The youngster broke into a huge grin, headbutted her mother affectionately and then spun on a heel. She ran the whole way there, feeling giddy. Not only had she never made this trip unsupervised, she was doing it in the dark! She let out a whooping laugh, then another, and arrived at the den site out of breath and elated.

-"Hey, dad!"- she chirped, trotting over to him, head bowed and tail waving. She took a seat just in front of him and peered up with a look of utmost anticipation, wondering why he'd called her here.
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Retiring late and rising early was Alyx's modus operandi ever since being allowed to play outside, so it should surprise no one that she was awake when Phox poked his head into the den. Huge blue eyes followed his dark muzzle up and out of the den and she rose to her paws, compelled to follow, but the lack of light filtering in made her hesitate just long enough for Meerkat to arrive first. She'd never been outside at night before.
Alyx wasn't normally a tentative toddler, but her first few steps out were cautiously measured. Her gaze went first to the night sky, heart fluttering at the sense of foreboding that simple darkness could grant that huge blue expanse. She noticed the winking of little lights on the dark canvas and was transfixed by those, so much so that her entranced tread caused her to bumble right into Meerkat's side.
Uhf, she exclaimed, stumbling back from the point of impact and giving her head a comically vigorous shake. In the dark, Meerkat appeared more of a chocolate brown than her usual beige and her eyes disappeared into the spots around them, making them look positively ginormous. Phox was an inky spectre, visible to little Alyx only by the illuminated silver of his nape. Torn between familiarity and trepidation, Alyx blurted a shaky but childishly loud, HI! Of the four words she could say, it seemed the most appropriate, even if she was still a little unsure of the meaning (but everyone used it a lot, so it must be important).
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I figure we can do rounds even though it's a small group. :)

Meerkat arrived first, and Alyx slipped out a second later. He took note of Meerkat's lower (than usual) tone, and he patted her head with his paw. -Hey stinker,- he teased, then watched as Alyx ran right into her big sister. -And 'HI' to you, too,- he said, giving the top of her head a quick swipe of his tongue.

-Thought you might want to hear a story,- he explained. Sure, Alyx probably wouldn't understand every word of it, but she might pick up on bits here and there. -It's about one of the constellations, groups of stars, up in the sky.- He glanced at both of his daughters, wondering what they would make of this activity.
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Meerkat couldn't argue with the nickname; she could be quite smelly, which she enjoyed. Before she could respond to her dad's greeting, someone appeared in the nearby den's entrance. A squint and a sniff told her that it was one of the twins: Alyx.

-"Yo!"- the pale pup greeted, pulling the slang from who-knew-where, even as Alyx stumbled into her flank. Meerkat chuckled and struck out a paw to steady the bumbling baby. -"HI!"- she echoed the childish greeting, momentarily forgetting to watch her volume.

Phox was saying something about stories, so Meerkat turned her attention back to her pops. He mentioned constellations, or groups of stars, and Meerkat naturally glanced upward for a moment before giving the ptero equivalent of two thumbs up.
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This activity, for Alyx, was a lesson in mimicry.

HI! she said again, more confident, not even batting an eye at the strange movements both Meerkat and Phox made while they spoke. She'd been raised in an environment where that was completely normal. In fact, she mimicked the motion for hi perfectly, lifting one leg into the air as if preparing for a high five, then setting it unsteadily back on the ground. The rest kind of went over her head.

It didn't matter. Even if she didn't really know what they were talking about, Alyx knew what a story was, and she simply enjoyed listening to her father's voice. She flopped to down in the grass beside Meerkat and glanced skyward when her sister did, giving the impression she understood what was being said, but really she was just copying the older pup.
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Both of them plopped down and looked up, and so Phox began the tale. It wasn't a particularly long story, but he had his doubts about the kids sitting still for too long anyway.

-Once upon a time, there was a very naughty puppy. She would steal her brother's food, disobey her parents, and cause unrest in the pack by starting fights with anybody she met. Again and again, her parents warned her not to do these things, or the mean, powerful cougar named Leo would come and snatch her away. She ignored them, unwilling to believe that anything could stop her from doing what she wanted.

-But one day, Leo did come for her. As she stared back at his long, sharp claws and fierce yellow eyes, she began to cry out, asking him for forgiveness. He shook his head, saying that he had come here to take her away.-
Phox left out the part where she was eaten, deciding to go down a different path this time, -Leo eventually gave in, but he said that if she was ever a bad puppy again, he'd come back for her. After that, the little wolf was a model citizen. She hunted for the pack, made up with her brother and parents, and eventually she was crowned the leader in her later years.-

Ah yes, the good ol' easy-peasy redemption arc.
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When her little sister flopped down in the grass, Meerkat unconsciously mimicked the mimicker and did the same, scooting so their flanks touched. She then rolled her weight onto her left elbow and slung her right foreleg around Alyx's shoulder, letting it rest loosely there as her gaze wandered back to their dad.

It was a bit of a frightening tale, even the editorialized version, though its impact was lessened by the fact that Meerkat's mental image of a cougar was all wrong. In her mind's eye, she pictured a wolf with yellow eyes and ridiculously long claws. It was more amusing than scary. Anyway, she wasn't the disobedient type, so Meerkat needn't worry. She snorted quietly at the tale.

Although she followed along well enough, there was a host of unfamiliar terms in Phox's story. "I wanna be a model sitty-sin!" she declared, foregoing ptero since her foreleg was still slung companionably over Alyx's shoulder blade. "What's a crown?" was the next question, followed by, "Can I meet Leo, even if I'm good?"
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To Phox's credit, it was a pretty good story. Alyx's disinterest in it was less an issue with the content itself and more of a her problem. Specifically, an inability-to-understand-what-was-being-said problem. Phox had barely said two sentences before his younger daughter's attention began to wander, first to the arm thrown casually over her back, then the waving blades of grass underfoot, then the night sky, then back to Meerkat, whose undivided attention remained on Phox. Alyx puffed out her cheeks, bored, and then spotted something spectacular.

It winked out of sight just past Phox's ear. WHASSA? she asked, right about at the point where Phox began the redemption part of his story, and Meerkat blurted that she wanted to be a mouldy shitskin or whatever the heck that word was. Alyx had no idea what any of that meant. What she did know was that one of the winking stars from the sky had come down to twinkle right next to her father's ear, and that was way more interesting than all these words she didn't know.

Wriggling like a little grub, she attempted to extricate herself from under Meerkat's limb so she could rush toward Phox and get a better look at her discovery—a wee, unassuming firefly, in fact.
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To be expected, Meerkat was more attentive to the story itself, asking follow-up questions about how to be a model citizen. -You're already a model citizen. A crown is a thing that goes on your noggin. The leader of the pack wears it, but it's invisible,- Phox explained just as Alyx shot toward him, apparently deciding this was the perfect time to do something to his ear. He felt a tickle then, and his ear twitched. The firefly gently flew away from his ear and right down toward Alyx. -Ohhhh, a little star bug!- They were delightfully magical creatures.

Not wanting to dismiss Meerkat's last question, he answered that one as well. -Maybe you can be on Leo's side and make sure your younger siblings are being good for him, since he can't be around all the time to check in on them. Then you can report your findings to him.-
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Her father carefully answered each of her questions, though much of it went in one ear and out the other as Alyx gave chase to the firefly. "Star bug," Phox called it. Meerkat didn't move herself, her eyes dancing as she watched her little sister investigate the floating, twinkling insect.

Belatedly, she registered some of what he'd said. She brought up a paw and bumped it thoughtfully beneath her own chin as she contemplated invisible crowns. She would have to ask Wraen about it sometime. She could've asked her own mother, yet Meerkat simply didn't see the Regent in that light, even with her fancy title. She wasn't a leader, she was just mama.

It pleased her, knowing Phox thought she was already a good citizen and that she was good enough to side with Leo and monitor her younger siblings. Taking that idea seriously now, she paid more attention to Alyx's doings, silently urging the younger pup to capture the firefly. Maybe they could eat it and absorb its power.
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The firefly drifted down past Phox's cheek, winking in and out of sight. The story meant nothing to her, but this was something special. She licked her nose pensively and danced in place whenever the bug's light went out, then jumped to attention whenever it reappeared. Phox said it was a star bug, and Alyx repeated, sars!

Of course, little princesses preferred to examine things from a safe distance. Alyx was engrossed in watching the bug flit around, but when it suddenly appeared on the end of her nose, she went cross-eyed and her excitement turned to fright. Aaaaaah! she complained, pulling her head back into her shoulders until her neck practically disappeared. OFFFOFFOFOF! she yelled at it, dislodging it only with an abrupt shake of her head, and once it flew off, she backed right up into Meerkat and away from the offending insect.
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Meerkat didn't respond directly, but Phox took that to mean she was absorbing the information. All good with him, especially since Alyx was having a minor meltdown over a bug landing on her nose. She certainly was a peculiar little girl. Then again, which of his kids wasn't peculiar?

Phox settled back to watch the two of them, wondering if Meerkat would remember the story later on down the road. It was always so hard to know which things kids would remember and which things they would forget.
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The pale youngster's eyes glimmered with utmost delight when the firefly chose to alight on the tip of her little sister's snoot. But Alyx didn't seem to find it so enchanting. She screamed and recoiled, her head shaking rapidly as she backpedaled right into Meerkat. The older pup gave a quiet, "oof," at the unexpected impact but instinctively lifted her forelegs to simultaneously brace and gentle Alyx.

"Did it bite you?" she wondered. "With its butt?" she added, remembering how some insects used stingers in their rears. She petted a sandy paw down Alyx's flank as if she was a spooked horse, trying to calm her, even as her eyes roved the darkness, looking for the culprit.

When she spotted the firefly blinking in and out of sight a few yards away, Meerkat decided to avenge Alyx. Plus, she still thought it might be cool to swallow the "star bug." Even it it didn't give her any special powers, maybe it would make her tummy light up like a night light? With that thought in mind, the tawny pup sprang toward it. Fireflies weren't exactly known for their speed, so Meerkat managed to capture and swallow it with relative ease.

She spun back to tell Alyx there was nothing more to fear when the taste hit her. Meerkat's face scrunched into an uncharacteristic grimace, though only for a beat. Swallowing a few times, she queried of both father and sister, -"Is my tum glowing?!"- She didn't wait for an answer, ducking her head to peer at her belly upside down between her own forelegs.
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Tacking an ending on this!

A gentle paw down her back helped soothe some of Alyx's worry, but she continued looking frantically about, hoping to relocate the offending insect so she could avoid it landing on her nose again. Did it bite you? Meerkat asked and Alyx shook her head emphatically, but a thrill of fright shot down her spine. Could it bite her? With its butt?

She was buffeted when Meerkat lurched past and gave her head another shake, refocusing again just in time to see her sister's jaws snap shut on the winking light. Alyx responded with an audible gasp and fixed her father with an alarmed stare, awaiting a reaction from him. Oh! My! God! Meerkat just ate that thing! She glanced back at the older pup and watched as her face contorted.

Id bitin? she asked, repeating her sibling's former question, wif butt? She giggled when Meerkat doubled over to peer at her belly, which wasn't glowing at all, but that didn't change how funny the whole thing was. In fact, she was so busy laughing that she forgot all about how badly the firefly frightened her when it approached her nose. She settled down quickly after that and fell promptly asleep, thoroughly comforted by her sister's antics.