Thistle stared at the tiny, gray-eyed bundle in her arms. Sentry held his arms out, and Thistle lifted her daughter, handing the babe to her Recognized. Sentry smiled down at his tiny daughter, wondering what manner of child she might grow to be. “What should we name her?” he asked aloud.
Thistle blinked a couple of times, the color of her eyes deepening. Then she sent, **The color of her eyes. Like a rock.**
“You want to name our daughter ‘Rock’?”
Thistle’s face scrunched up. The name ‘Rock’ was too hard for a cub. She thought a few minutes more, then spoke, “Onyx.”
“Ahh.” Sentry smiled as he spoke. “Now that’s a name worthy of our daughter.” He stared at the cub again. “Onyx. A name to match your coal-topped head and smoldering eyes.”
Thistle smiled, then lay back. She was tired.
Sentry whispered, “We’ll be back.” Thistle nodded, then closed her eyes. She was asleep before Sentry and Onyx were gone.
“Sister,” Sentry called out as he entered Darkcurl’s den. “Come meet your niece.”
Darkcurl pushed off the covers eagerly, and was at his side and taking her niece into her arms before she even responded. “She’s beautiful,” she exclaimed as she unwrapped the swaddled babe.
“She takes after you,” Sentry said quietly.
“How is Thistle?”
“Asleep.” At Darkcurl’s look, which demanded more information, he added, “She’s very nurturing with her. A regular mother-wolf.”
The baby squirmed, then opened her eyes. “She’s awake,” Darkcurl whispered. “And what’s her name?”
“Hello, little Onyx,” Darkcurl spoke to her niece. “I’m so happy to finally meet you.”
Sentry rolled his eyes at his sister’s high-pitched voice, but smiled as he watched her interact with his daughter. Onyx blinked, then the babe reached out toward her aunt. Darkcurl pulled the child closer, and then chuckled as the babe grasped the metallic necklace she was wearing. “No, Onyx,” she whispered. “Don’t pull on that.” She looked at her brother. “Help?”
Sentry spoke softly to his daughter and gingerly unwrapped the child’s fingers from the golden flower that hung on a rough metallic chain. Cloudchase had made something similar for all the tribe’s females at one time or another. Sentry commented, “That one’s really good!”
Darkcurl nodded. “She gets better with every one she makes.” She held the metal flower up, looking at it, then let it go. “It’s a pity, though, that we can’t find harder metals. But the baubles she makes are nice. I fell asleep with this one on… I’ll have to find a place for safekeeping it.”
Sentry nodded, then chuckled as his daughter reached for it again. “Looks like you’ll have to hide it from Onyx. She seems to really like it!”
Darkcurl smiled, then took the necklace off and moved to a small shelf where other special keepsakes were placed. She spoke, “You’ll have to tell Cloudchase she has an admirer. I bet she’ll make something for Onyx that the child can really play with.”
Cloudchase laughed as Onyx toddled around, picking up some rocks and putting them in her mouth. “Onyx, don’t eat that,” she would say as the rough ore disappeared, then would breathe a sigh of relief as the rock reappeared and was replaced. Cloudchase marveled at the child’s inquisitive nature. Most cubs tended to be happy playing and interacting, but this one was different. She seemed so… Cloudchase couldn’t really put a finger to it, but it seemed that the child was almost serious. The metal worker couldn’t think of a time when she had heard Onyx laugh, and she made a mental note to ask Sentry.
When Onyx reached the end of the line of rocks Cloudchase had set up, she sat down. Then, reaching forward, she took the nearest rock in her hand and held it up to Cloudchase. “Yes, that’s a rock.”
The child tried lifting it up again. Cloudchase squatted and took the rock into her hand. “Thank you,” she spoke, moving to set the rock back down.
Onyx whined a little until Cloudchase lifted the rock again. “You want me to do something with the rock?”
Onyx smiled some, and Cloudchase plopped down. “You want to see what’s in it?”
Onyx clapped her hands, smiling.
Cloudchase shook her head. No other cub had ever shown as much interest in her work as Sentry and Thistle’s daughter. Turning and stretching to reach the hammer that was on her table, she heard Onyx squeal a little. When she repositioned herself next to her, Onyx climbed onto Cloudchase’s lap and sat watching.
Cloudchase, mindful of the toddler in her lap, covered the ore with a thin leather rag, then took the hammer to it, breaking it open. When she uncovered the pieces, there was a rough, red gem sparkling in front of them. Onyx clapped and burbled.
“You really like this, don’t you?”
More clapping was the only answer she received.
“She still doesn’t have a wolf-friend.”
Sentry rolled his eyes, then turned to face his lifemate. “She’ll bond in her own time. Not every elf bonds with a wolf during childhood.”
“She not interested in the hunt, either.”
“Well… She’s still young!”
At Thistle’s pointed look, he admitted, “Yes… she’s different, that’s all. It’s all right for her to be different, love.”
Thistle sighed, then allowed her lifemate to put his arms around her. “Seems she likes metals and gems better than anything or anyone.”
“Maybe she does,” Sentry spoke into Thistle’s red hair. “And that’s all right? Isn’t it?”
When he didn’t get a response, he added, “Maybe she ought to learn the craft.”
Thistle groaned. She wished her daughter was more like her, but she was resigning herself to the fact that they would never be very similar. “She needs a wolf friend. She needs to be able to hunt for herself. Then she can learn metalworking all she wants.”
Sentry smiled. “She’ll be happy to hear that.”
“Down, Climber,” Onyx said in exasperation as her wolf friend jumped up on her. She gently shoved the half-a-turn aged pup toward the ground and said, “Down.”
Cloudchase looked over at her young apprentice. “She just wants to play with you, Onyx.”
“I don’t want to play right now.” The pup crouched and moved to jump. Onyx stepped away, pushing at Climber again. “I want to learn. We can play later, like we always do.”
“She’s your wolf friend, and she needs you to play with her now.”
“Why can’t she just go play with the rest of the wolf pack?” the child asked. “She needs to know that I’m not going to play with her every time she wants to!”
Cloudchase tried a different tactic. “Why don’t you and Climber go to the riverbank. I’ll meet you there and we can try to find some ore.”
Onyx’s eyes lit up at the idea, and she said, “We will see you there!” She took off running, and Climber headed after her. A moment later, Onyx stopped and turned to call back to Cloudchase, “What supplies should I bring?”
Cloudchase called back, “None. I’ll get them all this time.”
Onyx didn’t respond, but turned and continued running toward the riverbank. She knew she’d been sent to the riverbank to play with Climber, but what she wanted was to look for rocks. She decided to do both. As Climber lapped up some water, Onyx began searching for rocks.
She pulled a stick out of the water and threw it toward the woods. Climber went to get it and returned, tail wagging. Onyx ignored her wolf-friend and knelt in the mud to inspect something at her feet. Picking it up, she examined the muddy rock, wiping some of the mud onto her clothes. After a few moments, she knelt down again and held the rock in the water, watching the rest of the dirt wash away. She turned it in her hands, then commented, “It’s shiny!”
“You found a good one, Onyx.”
Onyx was startled, then turned to see Cloudchase, who was busy unloading supplies for panning. “It’s pretty, but what can we make of it?” she asked her mentor.
Cloudchase took the rock in hand and smiled at the child before her. Onyx loved rocks and metals, gems and anything shiny. She was an apt pupil, and likely to surpass her teacher. She sat on the riverbank and took a hammer, handing it to Onyx. “Let’s find out, shall we?”