Retta woke from a sound sleep with footsteps on her mind. The hushed crunch of soles landing on snow-buried leaves entered her velveteen ears, a quiet alarm. She was always alert when she awoke, no fuzzy lines separated her unconsciousness and clear, wakeful perceptions.
The footfalls were slow and distinct. The pauses between them varied, faltered, like the heartbeat of someone close to death. Someone was looking for her.
Slowly unfurling her tail and getting her feet beneath her crouched body, Retta crept to the edge of the burrow and looked out at the gloaming. It was sometime very early. Her keen fox eyes beheld a shadowed figure with long, light brown curly hair tied at the nape of his neck. She had never seen such hair before. It did not belong to anyone she knew. She returned to the back of her hollow and curled up once more.
Above ground, Retta could hear the feet of her mysterious pursuer walking back over the ground they had covered. There was a long stretch of silence. Then, a set of irises as white as clouds appeared at the opening of her den.
"Princess? I'm here to help you."