Lynx had been the one to escort young Lightgaze, now True Edge, on his Very Long Walk. A generation later, it seemed to True Edge that it was only natural that Whitestag would soon be doing the same for his sister. As his proud family and their wolf-friends approached the Craft Trees, the last leg on the path out of the Holt proper, True Edge found himself looking back on the tales his elder brother would tell when the winds and rains kept the tribe cooped up in their dens for night on end.
”No Wolfrider had ever come across a fish like that. Half again as long as any stoneback you’ve ever seen, and three times as clever. It would not be caught, not by any elf. But Fisher wasn’t just any elf. He waited it out, for moons. He watched the waters night after night, gleaning their secrets. He observed the bears that had hunted these rivers for ageless turns, always attentive to the lessons of the wild. He learned…”
And only when he knew the great beast, only then did he strike.
Doeskin was waiting to bid her good wishes, along with Leather and little Fadestar. Upon coming into range, Snowflake bounded ahead and grabbed a carved animal toy right out of Fadestar’s chubby little fingers. She raced further ahead of the adults clamoring behind her. True Edge cursed to himself. He should have known something would happen from the way his daughter had been moving.
Leather could only move so fast with his tiny daughter, frail and barely four turns old, in his arms. Growler’s haphazard attempts to catch up with his elf-friend managed to keep Snowflake’s family from closing ground. Snowflake breezed past the drying hides and up into a nook that any adult elf would have trouble squeezing into. She raised her head to the moons and howled triumphantly.
”Burn stood proud and tall, his chest heaving, his misty breaths thundering out into the cold late-autumn dawn. Badger crouched low at his feet, defeated but never broken. Burn’s left hand was balled into a red stained fist. His right hand was held high, and locked within its grasp was the Torc. The symbol of the chief’s-- of his-- authority…”
“Mine!” the girl cried out, confident as always that with success came validation. True Edge knew all too well how little the protests below would impact his head-strong daughter.
That didn’t stop Snowfall from trying to teach her daughter a kinder way to deal with others. “Snowflake! Give that back this instant! You know better than to treat a little cub like that!”
Snowflake’s lack of response was as dismissive of her mother’s attempts at reason as always. The older girl howled again, trying to drown out the wailing of the younger.
True Edge stroked his mate’s arm soothingly, and addressed his son. “Well, if you still think you’re up to the task you have set for yourself, now would be a good time to prove it.”
Whitestag took up the challenge with typical grace, reassuring his mother with a pat on the back as he stepped onto the scene. He spared a moment to comfort Leather and whisper something into Fadestar’s trembling ear. Then he addressed his sister. Not with more shouts and demands, but a simple and declarative shift in his posture. He just looked at her. True Edge had no doubt that he was embellishing his stance with the wolfish sending that he could do so well.
”Ivy and Raindrop were as close as sisters could be. They were an unbeatable team both as rowdy huntresses and as shameless pranksters. But it was always clear who was in charge in their schemes- Ivy. That is, until in time Ivy became a plantshaper. Jealousy finally reared up inside Raindrop, she would not be second in this as well. Ivy was used to being dominant one, and would not abide her sister’s sudden attempts to take the lead in non-magical matters. Their prankster minds turned against each other, their tricks and traps crossing more and more lines of decency and safety. When at last the inevitable staredown came it lasted for hours, jealousy and bitterness pulsing off them both like steam from the hotsprings...”
Whitestag could get through to his sister better than anyone. Snowflake’s eyes slid down, ever so briefly. She hopped down from her perch to approach her brother. Whitestag held out his hand, and Snowflake put the toy into it without any further fuss. Snowflake’s respectful gaze skewed into confusion as Whitestag gave his prize back to its original owner without any fight.
Fadestar clutched the toy close, and tried to shield her arms in her father’s chest. Leather placed a hand on Whitestag’s shoulder in thanks. True Edge breathed a sigh of relief.
“Don’t feel bad, little dear.” Whitestag sent a playful look at his sister before returning his kind eyes to the cub. “She just wanted to borrow something to remember you by on her Long Walk.”
Snowflake’s high-pitched yelp was full of shock and embarrassment. Lost for sendings as well as words, her mind spat out a jumbled mix of distant trees and veiled islands. “Go now!” She double-timed down the riverbank with Growler close on her heels.
True Edge shared a good-natured chuckle at the scene with Snowfall. True Edge accepted his fiercely independent daughter for who she was, but to see such a display of elfin camaraderie-- brief as it was-- did his heart good.
Whitestag waved goodbye to the crowd. “We might as well, at that. Grandfather will be waiting for us at the South Pass. Warm furs and full bellies, all.”
Lightgaze tugged on his elder brother’s leathers. “Come on! Come on! Come on! It’s going to get light soon! What are you waiting for!”
Lynx looked down at the enthusiastic cub. “It’s not even midnight, lad. What’s your hurry? The trees and mountains and rivers will still be there tomorrow. We’re going to be gone for a long while and I plan to take my time with the goodbyes.”
True Edge held his love, the mother of his cubs, closer. **Come with me, Yuki. I know a spot where we can catch one more look at them both.**