The sun was rising already and while the birds were already trying to confound each other by singing the loudest, a lonely elf heaved a sigh. Snowfall had returned from a hunt that could be called a serious disaster earlier the night, and had been so occupied since then that she longed for a bath before joining her lifemate in their den. She felt grubby and guilty. The hunt had gone well, until her wolf-friend Slychase had decided that following a ravvit was more important then setting an ambush for the branchhorn they were tracking. The wolf had jolted out of their cover and the prey had scattered so swiftly that the elves just missed out. The chaos was complete when Slychase disappeared completely for a few moments and she had been unable to make contact with her bond, until he proudly returned with the ravvit, dropping it in front of her before he took off again.
Blacksnake had not been pleased and scoffed at both her and the wolf: **How many more hunts is he planning to ruin? If you can't control him, then leave him at the Holt and walk. This is no place for games.** He hadn’t been the only one snarling tonight. When Slychase returned the second time, the wolves on the hunt had cornered him.
Honestly, she had to agree with what Blacksnake had said. Her wolf was not capable of hunting with the pack without disrupting a hunt. She knew that already in both head and heart, but as she wanted him to have a fair chance, she had persuaded Blacksnake to let him come along once more, to prove himself. Blacksnake’s pointed remarks had driven her into defending Slychase by saying he was still young. But the Hunt Leader was right, and today she became fully aware that it was better to leave the wolf at home. But she felt ashamed for her wolf’s actions, especially when Notch made his remark with a deadpan expression: **If he goes on like this for another two nights, we’ll have a meal for everyone.**
Snowfall had swallowed her pride when she heard the mental giggles as well as the irritated remarks, but this whole night had been awful. Her wolf was a walking disruption, but still, he was her bond. Slychase wasn’t the perfect wolf bond for a hunter. The connection was there, they both knew, but Snowfall also realized that if it weren’t for her, the wolf would have been driven out of the pack long ago. She realized she had been making up excuses for a long while now, but she had to face it: Her bond was the Crackle amongst the wolves, but worse, he would probably never outgrow his behaviour. Even worse than that, because she had refused to admit so way before, it had been her fault that today’s hunt was ruined. She couldn’t even blame it on her bond, and had to find a way to deal with it. She would have to ride an unbonded wolf in future hunts.
But first… a well-deserved bath. Quietly, because everybody had returned to their dens for the day and even Crackle and Otter had left the river already. Maybe they had sensed she wanted to be alone? Snowfall smiled. As if the two rascals would ever sense such a thing, and if so, they would probably join her, too.
She shook her hair loose and stepped into the cool water where she rubbed the mud off her body, and relaxed in silence…
… for a moment or two.
“Heehee! Whitecold Highting no sleep sleep? Everybody sleeps!”
The moment to vanish in a puff of smoke would be appropriate here. Knowing her calm bath would now surely be over, she looked up. “I could have known you would be here somewhere,” she said, half annoyed and half amused to the orange and yellow Preserver. Gurgleflap wrinkled his nose. “Water flows. Whitecold Highting taking a bath? Gurgleflap can help washing!”
“I’m nearly finished, but thanks for the offer.”
“You’re not! Snow white hair has all little things. Leaves, sand, twigs, mud, grass--"
”All right, all right. I will dive under, and you can get it out.” Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. If the Preserver wanted to help, she didn’t have to do it herself. She lowered her body until she was completely below the surface, and rose again when she was sure her hair was soaking wet. She leaned back and felt how the Preserver landed on her shoulder.
“Ouch! Be careful, Gurgleflap! Hair is still attached to the head!”
“Ooh,” the Preserver squealed, “Gurgleflap didn’t mean so! Gurgleflap will be careful!”
In Snowfall's world, ‘careful’ had a slightly different meaning. But she endured the treatment with a resigned mood, meanwhile trying to shut Gurgleflaps chitter out of her head and providing him with some standard answers. Apparently, Gurgleflap had already heard the disastrous Slychase story which had spread through the Holt like wildfire, and repeated the event in the typical Preserver language. She didn’t know how long they had sat there, until someone interrupted the endless monologue.
“Heehee, what do you do?”
“Washing snow white cold hair!” Gurgleflap cheered happily and with some triumph.
Nice. Two of them.
Mushroom landed on her other shoulder, and carefully inspected the hair that had dried in the meantime already. “So much water is no good! Hair will dry no good! You know nothing,” it said sternly to Gurgleflap, who was instantly insulted. “Needs to be cleaned! All mud and leaves and grass and--"
“What’s taking so long anyway, Gurgleflap? It has been a while since you’ve started already,” Snowfall interrupted, and the Preserver, ignoring Mushroom, directed his full attention to her again. “Almost done! A little dirt and its clean!”
“Mushroom will help! Gurgleflap will break hair down. Is no good. See?” It pointed at a certain point that Snowfall couldn’t see but she automatically lifted her hand to feel if she had any bald spots created by the Preserver.
“You know, the rest of the sand is not a problem. It’s all right as it is. Thank you for helping, Gurgleflap.”
Gurgleflap passed over, muttered something and flew away. Snowfall rose from the water. The part of her that hadn’t been in the water had been long dry already, including most of her hair. The sun had risen quite a lot and she felt tired. She smiled when she saw Mushroom. “You’ve saved me,” she said thankfully.
“Whitecold Highting shouldn’t bathe so long! Is bad, bad for the hair. And body! Look! Wrinkles all over! Is no good! Is really bad!”
A reprimand was the last thing she currently needed. She shook off the water and pulled on her leathers. The walk to the Holt wasn’t very far, but long enough for the Preserver to sit on her shoulder and take some of her half-wet hair. “Snow white hair is good! Very beautiful. But must stay that way! Or hair will wrinkle too! That’s really bad!”
“All right, enough,” Snowfall barked. She was a patient elf, but this was too much for the evening. Mushroom frowned. “Bad highthing! Mushroom telling what’s bad and highting mad!” Before she could say anything, the Preserver took off.
Great. In one day she had insulted a whole hunting party and two Preservers. What would be next? She blinked in relief when she saw her den. Her own, safe den with her loving lifemate and nothing there but silence and the warm furs. Swiftly, she climbed the Father Tree to the den opening she could find blindfolded, and sighed happily when she removed her leathers for the second time. Her mind softly touched True Edge’s when she crawled under the warm furs and nestled in his arms.
He shivered when her cold body touched his and he lifted his arm, caressing her hair. He frowned slightly when she turned her face towards his.
**Why do you have sand in your hair?**