Crackle hung upside-down from a tree limb by her knees, breathing in the heavy floral scent of the nightstar flower and hoping for a breath of wind to cool her. It was hot, horribly hot. It had been one of those rare sticky days when heat soaked into the ground, leaving the forest steaming well into the night. The entire tribe gathered near one of the river junctions and accompanying pool basin, trying to cool down. The fishers were busy bringing in a large meal since it was too warm for an actual hunt. Rainpace had set a few traps earlier to provide a little variety without a large expenditure of energy.
Crackle sighed. Everyone seemed busy doing something useful or socializing. Her usual playmate, Otter, was swimming yet again. She was so bored of swimming. Her fingers were still wrinkly from the last time. Her head began to pound, so she flipped out of the tree. Brushing her tangled mop of red-brown hair out of her eyes, she encountered a fat-bodied spider. She carefully placed it on the tree trunk and watched with interest as those spindly legs hauled the spider higher up into a leafy hiding spot.
The quiet mutter of Windsong’s distant voice carried to Crackle’s ears. With the instinct of all mischievous children, she darted into nearby bushes to hide until she could figure out her mother’s intentions. She peered out from between the leaves to see Windsong striding determinedly in her general direction. Crackle sank back further into the bush. Mother was going to assign her a task, too, no doubt about it. “She has to find me first,” Crackle muttered under her breath. Luckily, there were so many footsteps in the area that hers would blend in and the scent of the nightstar flower nearby was so overpowering that her own odor should be masked.
“Hmm.” Windsong sounded puzzled. “Where did that cub go?” The older elf’s footsteps went in the direction of their hometree and faded into the distance.
Crackle quietly crept away in the opposite direction. When she got far enough away to not be heard, she ran for the wolf den. Playing with Muddypaws would be a great way to pass the time. On the way, she picked up a stick and slashed at the undergrowth with it. Small trees and shrubs gave up their leaves in a satisfying shower. Crackle laughed as she spun around in the green rain, not noticing the ones that stuck in her hair. When Muddypaws ran up to her, she threw an armful of leaves into the air so he could join in the fun.
After the two spent a few minutes cavorting in the leaves, Crackle grabbed her wolf-friend and, laughing, buried her face in his ruff. “Mother will be here soon,” she said. “This will be the next place she looks. We better get moving if we don’t want a chore.”
Muddypaws danced away a few steps and then looked back at her with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. Grinning, Crackle shouldered her stick and followed him. They wandered through the forest looking for something interesting and playing chase along the way. Soon, they found a cleverly hidden trap. Muddypaws nearly stepped in it, but Crackle shoved him aside before that could happen. She crouched down to examine it, noting the distinctive knot that Rainpace preferred to use in his rabbit snares.
Crackle said, “He did a good job hiding it, didn’t he?” Muddypaws licked his lips and wandered off a little way. “Well, I thought it was. And watch this!” She jabbed her stick forcefully into the center of the rope circle. With a whoosh, the rope tightened on her stick and lifted it high into the air. “It’s really sensitive too!”
The young elf heard her wolf thrashing in the undergrowth nearby and, thinking he had gotten himself tangled in another trap, she ran toward him. He had managed to spring another trap but avoided being snared by it. She giggled at the sight of him cheerfully rolling in the pungent branch-horn wet-bait left behind. Just then her stomach growled loudly.
“Think the others have dinner ready yet?” she asked, clutching her griping belly. “I hope so, because adventuring is hungry work. Let’s head back and see. If they aren’t done, we can always take a quick swim to wash you off. No one would try to give me something useful to do while you stink like you do.”
The wolf snorted as he rose and shook from head to tail. Then he darted off with a playful bark. Crackle chased him all the way back to the river and tackled him just as they cleared the vegetation. The whole tribe looked up as the two tumbled into view in a swirl of fur and leaves. A few elves were close enough to notice the tell-tale twinkle in her moss-green eyes and began glancing around to make sure their belongings were where they had left them. As she marched to the river with Muddypaws in tow, she passed Rainpace. She grinned at him. “You make some great traps.”
Uneasy surprise widened his blue-grey eyes and he smiled half-heartedly. “Umm… thanks."
“Yep. They sure are interesting!” She gave the older elf a pat on the shoulder with one dirty hand. “Muddypaws and I need to rinse off though. That bait you used was smelly.” As Crackle shimmied out of her clothes and into the water, Rainpace stood and hurried off into forest.