"Iím sorry, love," Moss whispered to Goldspice, pulling her closer. "This isnít what I had in mind."
Goldspice tilted her head back to look at him, smiling. "You have no control over the background noise."
Rill was crying Ė howling was a more adequate description. He had been shrieking since his mother left to go hunting earlier that night. The shrill sound of the babe was distressing, making it difficult to focus on other, more... pleasurable things. Moss sighed. "Iím glad Longshot was never like this."
Goldspice was more sympathetic. "He misses his mother."
Moss shifted his weight and moved until he and Goldspice were eye to eye. "He has Suddendusk and Windsong, and Snowfall."
"Theyíre still not his mother. You remember when Longshot didnít want anyone but you, right?"
Moss nodded. "But heís almost a turn of the seasons old now. He should be past this stage."
"Almost," Goldspice pointed out.
Moss tried to think about it. A shrill wail pierced his thoughts and he threw the furs off. He wished there was something he could do to help Rill and his family. And the tribe for that matter. It was likely that Rillís noise would keep many up this day.
A rap on the taut leather at the door and a send of **Father?** was the only warning he got before the leather moved and a gust of frigid wind and a few flakes of snow sent him diving back under the bedfurs. Longshot peeked under, asking, "Is this a good time?" and entering before receiving an answer.
"Shut the flap!" Moss ordered in haste. "Donít you know itís cold out there?"
"It should be, itís snowing!" Longshot laughed, shut the flap and then sat down. His face grew more serious. "Father, do you think you could take a turn?"
"What?" Moss was confused. He didnít know what Longshot was talking about.
That made even less sense. "What do you mean?"
Longshotís earnest gaze made Moss sit up, and Goldspice sat up next to him. Both looked at Longshot as he spoke, "Weíve all tried helping. Suddendusk is with him now, of course, but Rill wonít calm down even for him. He wants nothing to do with Windsong. Crackle canít get him to laugh. Heís not entertained by Evervaleís shaping. He didn't enjoy flying with Kestrel. He wonít eat. He wonít drink. Willow says heís not sick. Even Snowfallís at a loss. What if you tried?"
Mossís eyes widened in wonder. "If he wants nothing to do with his father, sisters, grandmother, or anyone else, what makes you think heíd want anything to do with me?"
"Iím not sure. I just know that others have tried Ė- even Beetle! She tried taking him for a ride on Rooter, but he wasnít having it. So... while everyone thatís here is trying, I thought maybe you could."
Moss sat motionless, considering. Rill didnít want food, drink, family, or even a ride on a wolf. What could he do for the babe that might soothe him? What did he have to offer that the others didnít?
Goldspice spoke from beside him, "I could bring him some shiny things."
Longshot nodded. "That might distract him for a little while. Good idea."
Goldspice grinned, then hastily moved to dress herself. Once she was wrapped up in her own fur-lined clothing, she sent to Moss, **Youíll come up with something. Looking forward to silence so we can start over,** and left.
"Well?" Longshot asked his father. "Will you try?"
"Iíll come up with something," Moss promised his son. "I donít know what yet, but Iíll offer some help." Longshot nodded, then followed Goldspice out, letting further gusts of cold into the den.
Moss shivered, tempted to pull the covers back up over his head and try to drown out the Rillís cries. A particularly ear-splitting sound caused him to cover his ears. As he wondered what he might offer, he decided that he might as well get dressed. His winter morning with Goldspice was not going to happen Ė- not today anyway.
Once he was dressed he looked around again. Lining the shelves were his collection of drums. He cocked his head as he looked at them, thinking.
"May I come in?" Moss asked through the leather door of Suddenduskís den. The howling of the babe intensified, if that were possible. Windsongís face appeared as the flap opened. She didnít look surprised. "Goldspice was just here."
Rillís cries told Moss that the child had not been interested in shiny objects. Moss felt again a measure of doubt. "Iím... well..."
"Come in, out of the cold," Windsong offered, cutting him off.
He followed her in, then looked at Suddenduskís face, which was pulled tight with a fatherís desire to soothe his son. He looked tired. Rill, on Suddenduskís shoulder, was red with a babyís rage. Tears had stained his face, and his fatherís leathers.
Snowfall sat next to True Edge, whose arms were wrapped around her. Both looked miserable with their helplessness in this situation. Fadestar was probably with Kestrel in their own den, trying to sleep. Crackle was nowhere to be seen. Likely, she was in another den, trying to ignore her brotherís crying. Moss guessed that Longshot was with Evervale and Pathmark in their den.
The den wasnít large enough for many, and it felt crowded right now. Moss barely had room to move, so he sat down at the entrance, crossing his legs and setting the drum he had brought with him in his lap. "I... donít have a gift to offer him," he said apologetically. "But... I can play for him."
Suddendusk nodded, continuing to shift his feet so that he was rocking some. Moss measured Suddenduskís cadence, then began his playing in time with that.
Pum. Pum. Pum. Pum.
He followed Suddenduskís rocking with his playing. Continuing that beat over and over. The beat was slower than Moss was used to playing, but it seemed to fit. The drumís resonance sounded like humming, so Moss hummed along with the beat as he played. Rillís crying continued, but seemed less intense somehow.
**Keep playing,** Snowfall sent to him with hope.
Moss continued, closing his eyes as he played. Another voice, Windsongís, joined in humming, only she added a lullaby tune.
Pum. Pum. Pum. Pum. Thrrum pum pum pum. Thrrum pum pum pum. Pum. Pum. Pum.
Rillís cries were softer and slowing.
Suddendusk sent, **Please, keep playing.**
Snowfallís voice joined in, harmonizing with Windsongís melody.
Pum pum pum pum. Thrrum pa pa pa pum. Pum pum pum pum pum pum. Thrrum pa pum pum. Pum pum pum pum pum pum. Pa pum pum pum pum. Pum pum pumpum pum pum. Thrrum pum pum pum. Thrrum pum pum pum. Pum. Pum. Pum.
Rill was silent. Moss kept playing his slow song, Windsong and Snowfall humming in harmony with him. Soon, they were silent as well. Moss played, slowing the beat until there was no more to play. He opened his eyes.
Suddendusk looked at him, tears in his eyes. Rill was asleep on his shoulder. "Thank you," the weary father whispered.