(This story is part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers - Background" series of stories -- see listing for related stories.)
The ground underneath Farscout was cold, but at least it was dry. The daystar had set and the moons hovered overhead; the night air cooled the world even more. Cloudfern passed the basket and Farscout took a dreamberry. A ripe one, not dried, taken from the stores and released from the wrapstuff that kept it fresh. Alive. Unlike the young ones, he didn’t eat these to get the dreamberry buzz, but to help him remember. Taken sparingly, they could help open the mind and clear away the fog of centuries. Blacksnake to his right took few as well. All three did. They were there to remember.
Farscout held the berry in his mouth for a moment, enjoying the smooth plumpness of its shape. He pressed it against the roof of his mouth with his tongue, and let the flavour bloom around and inside, flooding his tastebuds. He closed his eyes and leaned his head on the tree he sat against.
“Whitestag,” Blacksnake said.
He shared a memory: Whitestag’s first solo kill, when he was still Sunray. Blacksnake’s mind overflowed with images of the strong young hunter, his father standing proudly behind him, his mother smiling from a nearby tree. The bristleboar had been felled with one blow from Sunray’s spear and the hunting party gathered around with congratulatory back-slaps and whoops of celebration. Blacksnake recalled thinking that someday, when his own days were done, Sunray might be a good Hunt Leader after him. If Riskrunner were too busy to be both Chief and Hunt Leader, that is. The memory came with the smell of hot blood and the taste of a good, clean kill. Sunray, so young still, was one of the tribe’s most promising hunters. He was deeply missed.
The eyes of the three elves were closed, but the sendings and shared memories lay thick in the air between them.
“Flash,” Cloudfern offered next.
It was hard to think of Whitestag without thinking about Flash and Fletcher, too. Cloudfern brought her memory to mind and laid it out for the others. Another capable huntress, but one with slightly less judgement and a quicker temper. Often, she would charge in without thinking things fully through, and nobody could really tell whether it was skill or luck that carried her to victory. She shared her father One-Leg’s love of life, and his stubborn nature. They butted heads most spectacularly, and although the Holt was often filled with the bellows of both father and daughter, underneath the harsh words was always the undertone of love.
It was always with a tinge of grief and loss that the elves remembered their lost tribemates, yet the next name also carried a faint flavour of hope.
“Fletcher.” It was Farscout’s turn.
So young he’d been when he fell, and so full of promise. A strong archer, a good hunter. He was easily led, especially by the personalities of both hurricane-strong Flash and supremely-confident Whitestag. Sometimes it seemed that Fletcher was a helpless nutshell boat caught in the overpowering currents of his lovemates, carried by Flash or inspired by Whitestag to places he’d never have gone on his own. But he balanced them, too – Farscout remembers coming across the trio once on his way home from his travels. Fletcher, bent over his work, a pile of perfect arrowheads beside him. Flash, in a rare moment of calm, stripping the bark from branches that were a good shape for arrow-shafts. Whitestag, quietly sifting through a recent kill’s feathers to find the best ones for flights. The trio worked well and silently together, content in each other’s quiet company. It was Fletcher’s influence that brought them there, and offered the more active pair a solid rock from which to launch their dreams and ambitions. Along with the hope came a sadness, however: when Fletcher awoke, he would find both his lovemates dead and gone.
It was important to Farscout that they brought these memories forward, sharpened them and cleared away the cobwebs. He wanted to share with Brightwood all the good memories of those who’d been born and died after she’d fallen to the Fierce Ones. Thankfully, there were only two: Whitestag and Flash. She would never know those elves, even though she was older than them by centuries. Descendants of her tribe that she would never know outside of shared memories. Ancestors she predated. For some reason, that created a sympathetic ache in Farscout’s chest—he knew it would pain her to know that she had missed so much of her own tribe, her own home.
“Don’t forget Finch,” Blacksnake said. “Finch was only a year old when Brightwood and the others were attacked. She wouldn’t have any memories of her besides the scents of milk and dirty nappies.”
“Finch,” Cloudfern agreed. Their minds traveled together, led on by the memory of Finch’s singing, lilting and clear. She’d grown to be average in size, but surprisingly strong. Many jokes had been made about her unassuming presence being outshone by the huge axe she wielded with skill. Her music filled their minds, though, and they followed the line of it through to her sister, Windsong, whom Brightwood will someday get to know herself. Perhaps she’ll be able to get a sense of Finch through her younger sister, who shares many of her best traits: music, strength, motherhood, hunting. But Windsong will be a stranger to her at first.
“They will be a new tribe to themselves,” Cloudfern noted quietly. “When they wake up, they’ll be a tribe within a tribe. Lost.”
“Not for long,” Blacksnake answered. “They’ll be lost at first, but we’ll bring them home. It won’t take long for them to find their places again. Especially the young ones. There will be a lot of new faces, but not all that much has changed, really.” He smiled. “And Notch will be thrilled to have a brand new audience for his drunken marshbeast story.”
Farscout chuckled and opened his eyes. The dreamberries had done their job: his mind felt wide open and clearer than it had been. Centuries of memories swam up at him, all vying for attention. He pushed them back gently, focused on a new one. Brightwood. Her laugh, her scent, her voice, the touch of her mind, the shape of her name, her breath, her skin, her smile. For once, it did not hurt as much as it did before to wallow in her memory.
Cloudfern stirred beside him, stretched and yawned like a wolf. His tongue curled in his open mouth, his teeth bared, and then his violet-blue eyes fluttered and opened. The dreamberries, the memories, the cooling night all conspired: Farscout watched those violet-blue eyes and when they opened, for a brief moment, they were not Cloudfern’s eyes, but Brightwood’s, and his heart leapt higher and farther than it ever had before, so high and far that he felt dizzy from it. When the eyes focused, though, they were Pryn’s, not Aya’s. Farscout blinked and remembered to breathe, his heart pounding in his chest.
He knew it hadn’t been a vision brought on by dreamberries, or a hallucination; it was hope. There had always been hope, but now, thanks to Willow, it was suddenly much more tangible and real than it ever had been before. There was still a wait to be endured, but there was an end in sight now, and that made all the difference.