(This story is related to Windburn and Whispersilk's second Recognition in "Second Chance"; and is also related to "Suddendusk & Quick Fang's Recognition" - see listing for more related stories.)
Goldspice let her hammer drop down on the work surface with a resounding thump. “I told you, no, it isn’t ready yet!”
Foxtail hovered in the doorway, more curious than moved. Although she had pestered her about the same thing for three nights in a row now, it was rare to see Goldspice so irritated. The smith fluttered around her work-den, rattling around with her hammers, molds and metals. Small clay jars were shifted from shelf to shelf, allowing the chief’s daughter brief, tantalizing glimpses at their shiny contents. No fire was stoked in Goldspice’s forge tonight, she did work with the softest gold, experimenting with her newest pet project. Foxtail couldn’t help but notice that it didn’t seem to be going very well. The thin, pretty lines that the smith was trying to turn into spider webs, all of pure gold, kept bending and breaking, dragged down by their own weight.
“How hard can a brooch like that be to make?” Foxtail wondered out loud as she wandered into the den, stopping to pick up a jar. Garnets, perfect in their brilliance, winked at her, and she gave a whistle of delight before Goldspice snatched the jar from her hands with a hiss. “Would you make the eyes out of that?”
The smith shuffled the jars and placed the garnets on the back of the shelf. “You asked for green stones yesterday.”
“I might’ve changed my mind.” She couldn’t help it, her hands strayed to tug at the small bits of gold scattered round Goldspice’s discarded hammer. Their flimsy appearance was deceptive and they were warm from her handling.
Goldspice gave a little sound of despair. “Fox, you’ve changed your mind four times in three nights.”
“Isn’t that just what Moss did?” Foxtail batted her eyelashes, actually getting a giggle out of the jeweler. No matter how many times Goldspice was teased about how she and her lovemate came together, her eyes still misted over slightly whenever she thought back to it.
“You’ll have to do more than that to win me for a mate.” Moving swiftly round the table, she snatched a pair of tongs out of Foxtail’s hands. Everything in the den was delicate and she trusted the chief’s daughter with none of it. “Besides, won’t Notch hold it against you?”
Foxtail’s face clouded briefly. “I’m not the one on Notch’s mind right now,” she said.
Goldspice began a scoff, but abandoned it, shaking her head in sympathy instead. It was true that Notch had eyes for no one but Willow now, putting all his energy into trying for the new healer’s attention. Rainpace and Dreamflight were the same, and Quick Fang had other concerns. In one stroke, Foxtail had dropped from all her friends’ center of attention.
So naturally she’d come to bother me. Huh!
“He’ll come round,” she said lightly. “He can’t focus on anything for too long anyway.”
"And don't my cold furs know it," Foxtail muttered. "Willow pushes him out, so he hunts her all the harder, while I'm left bare-rumped. How can even Notch be that stupid?" Goldspice snickered, though she was not sure she was meant to. Then she lunged over the younger elf's shoulder and picked an unworked coil of metal out of her grasp.
"Do you want to come to me and Moss today?" she asked, a real offer. She and her lovemate shared often, welcoming tribemates alone or sometimes even in pairs into their furs when the mood struck, and their nimble fingers, well trained from forge and harp-craft, were a sure cure for many ills, she happily knew… Foxtail eyed her, considering, then shrugged her shoulders and went for the shelves again.
"I'd rather you finished the brooch. I want to give it to Quick Fang before the cub's dropped, you know. Could you give it silver whiskers?"
Blinking in surprise, Goldspice barely even noticed that the chief's daughter was poking at her filigree again. "Whiskers? Out of silver?"
Foxtail shrugged, brandishing the web of gold. "Yes, like this, see?"
"Not that – !" This was too much. Flushed with fury, the smith lunged. Foxtail, the quicker huntress, danced away from her grasp and ducked under the table, knocking aside some jars that Goldspice had waiting there. She flitted across to the other side while Goldspice chased her, the golden weave twinkling temptingly in her hands, extended a foot to trip the older elf, only to be foiled when Goldspice stepped on her hard. Foxtail yowled. The jeweler caught the dropping filigree with one hand, and, quicker than the chief's daughter was prepared for, caught Foxtail's wrist with another.
"You're just getting in my way!" she snapped. "What are you really here for?"
Suddenly angry herself, Foxtail tried to snatch her arm from Goldspice's grip and gritted her teeth at her friend's greater strength. "I'm just bored," she grumbled.
Goldspice huffed. "Go bother your father. He'll keep you busy soon enough."
Foxtail looked away. Goldspice felt her annoyance sinking lower in her belly, while her heart gave a twinge of sympathy, she wasn't sure what for. She let go of Foxtail's arm. The chief's daughter at once moved within safe distance of the exit, but didn't leave the den just yet.
"Goldspice," she spoke up after a moment. "My uncle, Riskrunner – what was he like?"
Unprepared for the question, the smith hesitated, not surprised by Foxtail's having a different reason to come to her but by what that reason was. Even through the Now of the wolfriders, she never let the memory of her father blur. What was Riskrunner like? Tender, protective, a provider, proud of her, eager for her to grow and show her skills – she could remember what he had been like as her father. As a tribemate, she never had the chance to learn.
She glanced at the chief's daughter uncertainly. Riskrunner was a vivid memory for many tribemates – Foxtail knew the stories about him, had seen him through others' eyes, like all of them. More. But she was Foxtail – life whirlwinded around her. It wasn't unusual for her, for whatever reason, to want a reminder.
She noticed that Foxtail was not taking advantage of her distraction to poke her fingers into yet more places they didn't belong, but had turned back and seated herself on the edge of the table. She had that attentive look that cubs sometimes got when Goldspice tried to teach them how to work carefully with their hands – a look she never maintained, of course. Her younger cousin was really very different from her. Strange to think that the same grandmother, strong, chiefly Easysinger, had produced them both, but then she also produced two sons as different as Riskrunner and Windburn.
"He wasn't anything like my father, was he," Foxtail said smartly, disrupting the jeweler's thoughts.
Goldspice had to nod her head. It was true. Images and impressions sprang to mind, ready to be sent, but she chose to speak instead of inviting such close connection. Not when she didn't know what was really on Foxtail's mind. "He was… more like Blacksnake. Windburn is more like Easysinger."
"I never knew Grandmother." The chief's cub's voice was a little distant. "Sending-visions just aren't the same. You can't touch them." She kicked her legs back and forth and scratched the back of one ear. "Blacksnake says Riskrunner was just like her, though. He must have loved him a lot."
More than he ever loved Windburn. It wasn't a secret. It wasn't even something that needed to be said.
Goldspice took the golden web between both hands and inspected it, and any damage to it, carefully. "I think the reason he loved him so much was because he was like him," she said, her gaze intent on the metal. "They were always hunting together, making bets and boasts. Father was an excellent hunter, always fast and sure, he was…" she grinned faintly. "He was more like you than like me."
Foxtail gave a short, unsure laugh.
"He loved you, though," she said.
Goldspice smiled wistfully, treasuring the memories. "All fathers love their daughters."
The huntress' nod was as half-hearted as her laughter. She stared through the weave of gold and past it and her fingers drummed patterns on the wood of the table. "Do you think I'd have gotten along with him, then? I wonder what it'd have been like to have him as chief. Then you'd be chief's heir."
"High Ones spare me!" Goldspice blurted out and quickly put down her gold web. She gave Foxtail a sharp look. "Don't be on about that. Not with Windburn's new little one coming. You'll never have to be chieftess if you don't want to."
"I don't know what I want," Foxtail said stiffly.
Her face was clouded suddenly, set in a dark frown, more like her chief-father's than she perhaps realized. Uneasy, Goldspice allowed the silence to last, even taking up her tools again – her most slender tongs – and examining the twists of metal, at close attention to their weak points, where the gold threatened to snap.
"You should start thinking of something to give your mother, too," she noted, her tone casual.
The chief's cub sighed.
"I don't know if I should bother," she said sullenly. "Everyone will be raining gifts on her…"
Goldspice glanced back, half-smiling. "Fox, are you jealous?"
"Jealous!" Foxtail flared readily, leaping off the table. "I'm not a little cub."
She turned her back to her cousin, arms crossed, staring across the shelves packed with jars and tools. The nervous energy about her stopped her hands halfway before she could start messing about with them again; she was too tense even for that. Yet somehow Goldspice didn't find that encouraging.
"Foxtail – " she started
The chief's daughter didn't seem to be listening. She tossed back her head and her fiery curls gave an angry bounce. "You know, Father calls this his 'second chance'," she murmured. "He said to True Edge that this time he'd get it right. I bet Riskrunner would never have said something like that!"
The jeweler felt the blood rush to her face.
"What are you talking about?"
"Blacksnake says Riskrunner always got things right the first time," the younger elf continued, oblivious to the other's staring eyes on her and the light clenching of muscles in Goldspice's arm, the twists she was making of the gold. "He would've been happy enough with me. He wouldn't have needed a second chance!"
"He never got one!" Goldspice snapped. "He died before he could give me a little brother or sister. You should be grateful!"
"For what? For being replaced?" She snorted in disdain. "I wish I'd known Riskrunner, or Grandmother. They would have wanted me whether I was chiefly or not. Blacksnake always says – "
She needed comfort, not anger, Goldspice knew, she needed kindness and help. But her fury was greater than her, stoked high like her mother's forge-fires, moving her hand to abandon the gold-work and grab Foxtail's arm. Skin was hot over skin, hurt against misaimed anger. The smith could curse her temper, but could not stop the words escaping her. "You little fool," she said. "He wants to be a better parent because he thinks he'd been bad to you. What do you care what Blacksnake says? Windburn's your father!"
Foxtail physically winced at the word. She shook her shoulder violently, and this time managed to tear herself free of her kinswoman's hand. "Don't bother. I don't want that advice! I just came to ask about the brooch." "Well, you're not getting the brooch," Goldspice growled.
Foxtail blinked. They locked eyes almost without intending to, gold and vibrant green, furious and defiant, sparks flying between them. The older elf's hand darted to the table and slipped closed around the delicate piece, dangerously tight, not showing any hesitation. She drew her clenched fist back.
"You're not getting the brooch," she hissed again. "I'll make something else for you to give Quick Fang. This brooch is for your mother. And you'll get it when you've realized how precious she and your father are."
Foxtail reared back, drawing away as if struck, with her teeth as tight as the smith's fingers, her nostrils flaring. She didn't speak, tilted her chin up and sent a brief, hot impression of a challenge.
But Goldspice had dealt with hotter. Not only Foxtail was Easysinger's grandcub. "Cubs and parents are like gold. Too precious to throw away if you don't like what you made the first time. Do you hear me? You'll get the shaped gold when you've shaped things right with Windburn over this, and not a night sooner."
She wasn't sure what Foxtail was going to do. Her cousin was not as sure to strike out of anger as, perhaps, Quick Fang, but she had been known to do it, and her face was now a bright red with her eyes slit-thin emeralds. She breathed in and out a few times and pulled her own hands back, mastered all her self-control, and swept out of the den.
Everything was suddenly quiet, Goldspice thought as she began looking for someplace to hide the brooch. Maybe she should take it into her den, or ask Longshot to hide it in his... without Notch's cooperation, Foxtail would have a much harder time stealing it. Her lungs were heaving like forge bellows and she felt the blood heating her own face, slowly moving away and back into her cold fingers. It would be a while, she knew, before she calmed down enough to get back to work.
"She won't be back for it too soon, though," she murmured to herself, and thought, sadly, that this was no relief.