The Holt was covered in a thick, white layer of snow. The fading colors of daylight which tried to hide the rays of moonlight shimmering through the leaves made it even more beautiful. Grey eyes shimmered brightly while a young girl peeked from under the den flap, which kept the warmth inside.
Fadestar had always loved snow. She loved the look of it, the feel of it, but most of all she loved it when it was still untouched. There were some footsteps here and there, but virtually everything was untouched. In Fadestar’s eyes, it was perfect. It wasn't snowing anymore, but she loved to see the little crystals falling to the ground, blending in the bigger whole of a white blanket.
Some movement grabbed her attention, and she spotted Beetle nearby, who was deeply in thought. Fadestar could tell, because Beetle had her chin wrapped in her fingers and she was tapping her feet in the snow.
She didn’t go out, though. Still being able to hear her father’s voice warning her not to go out when it was cold, she remained inside. She felt torn, however, because she wanted to go outside and at least feel the snow. Rationally, she knew she could. The past moons had confirmed that she was stronger than she had ever been, more vital than she had ever felt before, but she had remained cautious. She had played outside, had spent more time outside of the den, but it felt strange to her. All the time she had had to stay inside, away from her playmates, had frustrated her but at the same time, she had gotten used to it. Right now, the snow had a magical pull to it, which she found hard to resist – even though she knew that she wasn’t forbidden to stay inside.
Kestrel’s voice broke Fadestar’s hypnosis, and she quickly closed the den flap, turning around with a guilty look on her face. Kestrel shivered from the draft that had entered the den, and was still half asleep and still covered with sleeping furs next to Snowfall. She had pushed herself up to lean on one elbow, to look what was the matter. **What are you looking at?**
**Snow,** Fadestar replied in all honesty, and couldn’t hide the excitement in her mental voice, and yet, there was a hint of sadness.
Kestrel suppressed a wince. Her little sister still seemed so reluctant to do the things that other cubs normally would. Fadestar still was very careful and even though Kestrel liked that Fadestar looked after herself, she wished the girl would take some more initiative to have fun, too. **Is someone outside already?**
Fadestar nodded. **Beetle.**
Kestrel rubbed her eyes and quickly reached out for the inventor outside, and when she received a reluctant response she told Fadestar, **Go with Beetle. I will be out in a heartbeat.**
Fadestar hesitated only a moment, and then climbed out, quickly making her way to the ground. She looked at her feet, sinking into the bright surface, and she looked at the way her breath crystallized in the air.
“Out for a romp in the snow?” Beetle asked, her voice level. Fadestar hadn’t really interacted with Beetle much — of course, between being away learning about humans, spending time with the healer and with Newt, Beetle had not really had much time for her.
However, Kestrel had asked her a favor and had promised her to be out in the cold soon, too, so Beetle had agreed. Being unfamiliar with Fadestar, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with her. But maybe… Beetle’s glance became thoughtful. She had had an idea before Fadestar came down, one she had every cycle of the moon when there was snow. She figured it was fun to try for cubs, too, because she had enjoyed trying it when she was little. Fadestar perhaps could assist in what she wanted to do. “You know how to make snow-shapes?”
Fadestar shook her head, patiently waiting until Beetle would make a move. She hadn’t really played in snow, and she felt how her cheeks burned. Sure, Quick Fang and Pathmark had told her things they had done, but even though their intention was good, she had felt left out and had tried to ban their stories from her mind.
Beetle saw the uncomfortable youngster, and continued her story somewhat hastily, not really knowing what to do with that situation. “That doesn’t matter. I want to try something.” Her eyes went thoughtful. “I want to make the perfect snow shape. I tried to do it before, but I never managed.” There was a hint of frustration in her voice. Fadestar's eyes shimmered with interest, but she waited, because she felt Beetle had more to say.
“Snow-shapes always get ruined when you want to get up. I have wanted to make the perfect snow shape ever since I was little. Here, like this.” Beetle stepped away from Fadestar, and let herself fall back in the snow. Beetle grinned as she saw the astonished look at the cub’s face, as she started to move her arms and legs. It became a funny figure, almost as if Beetle’s shape got wings, but when Beetle got up, the shape had indeed been ruined. The prints of Beetle’s feet and hands were all over, and the place where she had sat up was deeper than the rest. “Now you try,” she told the cub, after shaking her head in dismay.
Fadestar bit her lip, nervously looking up the tree den to see if anyone was looking. She knew she could, but something held her back. Beetle shrugged, and tried again, a little away. After that, again, constantly trying another way to get up, and not damage the figure she’d made. Every time, the prints would be elsewhere, but she never got the perfect shape. Fadestar found it intriguing to watch the curly-haired elf, until she found the courage to try herself. She firmly closed her eyes, stretched her arms at shoulder length, and fell back into the snow. She winced softly when she felt the cold powdery substance, but she had no time to get adjusted as she heard Beetle’s voice close-by.
“Like that!” Beetle said to her apprentice, “And move your arms and legs.” The cub followed the instructions closely, and Beetle felt somewhat relieved that Fadestar finally participated, because she had felt slightly uncomfortable when Fadestar had watched her try over and over again. Fadestar was a little awkward -– always had been, too, and Beetle didn’t really know how to treat her. Maybe it was something they had in common, because Beetle knew that some of her tribesmates found her a bit awkward, as well. But now the cub joined Beetle in her efforts to make the perfect snow shape, it became a whole different story. Eager, she continued the instructions, “And now… get up without ruining it!”
Fadestar ruined it by falling back into the snow, and despite Beetle’s wince, the cub giggled. Beetle closely watched her, to see if she hadn’t hurt herself but as that didn’t seem to be the case, she smiled, as well. She stretched out a hand to help Fadestar up, and encouraged her to try again, after which Fadestar let herself fall in the snow again, Beetle next to her.
“What are you two doing?”
Beetle grinned as Kestrel towered above her, hands placed in her sides. Kestrel didn’t look too shocked, so Beetle casually gave her a reply, frantically moving her arms and legs in the snow. “We’re making snow-shapes. We just can’t make a perfect one…yet.”
But Fadestar interrupted. “I know how, Beetle!” her voice broke the serene silence. She struggled to get up and grabbed Beetle’s hand. “We need new snow!”
Beetle let Fadestar tug her along, slightly baffled by the sudden enthusiasm. She looked to Kestrel for help, but the elder just raised her shoulders, not knowing what the cub was up to, either. To her, it was a good sign to see her sister so enthusiastic for something, so she didn’t mind following the pair. She had gone out to relieve Beetle of her cubsitting duty, but apparently, it wasn’t necessary.
Fadestar guided them to an area nearby, which had yet been untouched by elves, wolves, and other inhabitants of the woods, and stopped there. “Here, here we can make the perfect snow-shapes!” She closed her eyes firmly, like she had done every time, and fell back, frantically moving her arms and legs. “You too, Beetle!” she summoned the inventor, and Kestrel mentally grinned.
**Better do what she asks, Beetle.**
Feeling slightly awkward now Kestrel was watching, but curious as to what Fadestar had come up with, she fell in the snow next to Fadestar, making the shape as she had done so many times already. “What now?”
Fadestar laughed joyfully. “Kestrel! She can fly and pick us up! No more footsteps or ruined shapes!”
Kestrel and Beetle exchanged a glance, and Beetle’s eyes started to shimmer. The elder sighed, knowing she wouldn’t have a choice in the matter. Besides, she hadn’t seen Fadestar having this much fun in a long time, and she didn’t want to spoil that. She let her eyes slide over both figures. She could lift her little sister without problem, and she figured that she wouldn’t have a lot of difficulties with Beetle, either, who was rather slim. “All right,” she succumbed, while her feet came off the ground, “who’s first?”
“Me!” the cub cheered before Beetle could say anything.
Fadestar instructed her. By observing Beetle’s tries, she had seen that her behind would leave the firmest imprint in the snow, so she told Kestrel to grab her pants and the top of her shirt. Carefully, Kestrel lifted the precious bundle from the snow shape, and brought the cub to a safe distance. Then, she headed back for Beetle.
Beetle had lain there, silent now, with a frown on her forehead. How come she hadn’t thought about that? That cub might be a silent one, but she had a sharp mind. It was something to remember, she thought, when Kestrel carefully lifted her to where Fadestar was standing.
The pinkish glow of Kestrel’s magic disappeared, and together they watched the perfect snow-shapes in silence. Beetle felt a genuine satisfaction by simply watching their achievements. Even though she hadn’t thought of it herself, together they had made it happen. It was almost like a present.
“You did it,” Beetle told her, and Fadestar blushed. The girl looked up at Beetle and Beetle looked back, giving her a nod of appreciation. The cub beamed.
Kestrel’s mind briefly connected to Beetle, thanking her for the time. To Kestrel, Beetle’s idea had been a gift to Fadestar. The cub’s dark grey eyes seemed lighter, and they shimmered with joy and pride. Beetle just smiled in return.
“We should show Crackle! And Newt and Otter!” There wasn’t much Fadestar was proud of, but this was definitely the highlight as of late!
But even before Fadestar had finished talking, they heard a fierce yapping, and Beetle’s Rooter entered the scene, half rolling and half jumping through the snow, clearly enjoying herself. “No no, Rooter, NOT --“ Beetle started, but it was too late. Her young and too active bond had gone straight though their snow figures, burying herself somewhat away, until nothing showed but her head.
Beetle looked stunned, as did Fadestar, and Kestrel had to bite the inside of her cheek to not laugh out loud. The two looked so disappointed! She coughed. “We, uh, can make new ones?” she proposed, clearing her throat.
Beetle snorted, glaring at her wolf bond at whom she couldn’t stay mad; especially not when she had a pile of snow on her head. “Let’s do that,” she nodded, poking Fadestar. “But this time, I get lifted first.”