The night was clear, and Goldfinch looked up at more stars than she could ever hope to count. A light flashed across the sky and she gasped. “What was that, Mother?”
Honey sighed contentedly and gave her daughter a squeeze. “It was a star that was falling.”
Goldfinch squirmed out of her mother’s arms and turned to look at her. How could a star fall? Weren’t they fixed in place? “But… stars don’t fall, Mother!” The child felt her world was upside down for a moment. Stars couldn’t fall! If they could, then what else in her world could change in an instant?
Honey smiled at her and reached her hand out. Goldfinch reached back and allowed herself to be pulled close again, only this time, she was cradled and able to look up at her mother and at the stars. The initial fear of stars falling subsided as she waited for her Mother’s response.
Honey smiled down at her, confident and loving. Goldfinch’s heart was full. Then her father’s scent, carried by a light breeze, met her nose, and her heart swelled. She squirmed out of her mother’s arms and hurried to greet him. “Father! Father!” Her arms flailed as she ran, and when she saw him, she threw herself to him, knowing he would catch her.
Greenweave caught her and swung her around. “Hello, pretty bird!” he said to her, making her giggle.
He didn’t put her down, but carried her back up the hill toward where Honey sat watching them. When he stopped, Goldfinch took his chin in her hand and turned him to face her. She felt serious now, and she wanted an answer. “Father, Mother said that a star fell. But they don’t fall, do they? They… can’t!”
Greenweave’s eyes changed to mirror her own seriousness. He carefully sat down, keeping her close and holding her in his lap. Her mother scooted next to them, and her father put an arm around her. “Hmmm… so you saw your first falling star, eh?”
Goldfinch nodded. “But they’re not supposed to fall, Father!” she cried.
Goldfinch’s parents exchanged a look, and her father set her a little in front of him, and then began massaging her shoulders. Goldfinch grunted happily and looked to her mother to tell why the stars, which seemed so permanent, could fall. "Mother?"
Honey smiled at her daughter, and then reached out to touch her, reassuring her. Then, Honey turned and leaned back, placing her head in her daughter's lap and looking up at her and at the stars. Goldfinch giggled at her and squirmed in delight. She loved having her parents' attention -- this was turning out to be a perfect night.
When Goldfinch settled down a little and leaned back into her father's chest, Honey began. "The stars live long lives -- even longer than the lives of the wolfriders. Most of the stars have been in place since before the High Ones. But..." she hesitated for a moment, then continued, "...sometimes a star will die. It doesn't like to die in its place, though, so it runs as fast as it can, and it gets brighter and brighter... and then, it's gone."
Goldfinch's eyes were wide as she stared at the stars. What her mother said made sense… it was like older wolves that left the pack to die alone. But it made her sad. "But why wouldn't it want to stay with its friends?" she asked.
Her mother reached up to touch Goldfinch's cheek, and the cub looked down at her mother, her eyes full of tears. Goldfinch asked again, "Didn't it want to stay?"
Goldfinch sensed a send pass between her parents. Then Honey spoke, "Goldfinch, when a star can't stay in its place, it doesn't want to get in the way of a new star."
"A new star?" she asked her mother.
"That's right. A new star. When a star dies, it makes room for a new one."
"Ohh," Goldfinch whispered, then squirmed her way out of her father's lap. Honey scooted to put her head in Greenweave's lap. He played idly with her hair. Goldfinch looked at them, then lay back on the ground beside her mother, looking up at the sky. "Mother, when will the new star show up?"
"New star?" Honey asked. "Oh, Goldfinch, stars take a long time to be born. Even longer than wolfrider cubs."
Goldfinch giggled. "Did I take a long time to be born?" she asked, stars forgotten, and rolling onto her stomach so she could look at her parents.
"You took two whole turns of the seasons," Greenweave said simply. "Just like all the other cubs that have ever been born."
A few quiet moments passed, the family lost each in their own thoughts. Goldfinch watched her parents. Her father was braiding her mother's hair into many braids, twisting and pulling, weaving the hair into an elaborate style. He looked peaceful. Her mother looked happy, too. They must have always been like this.
"Mother, Father, were you always together like this?"
Their long silence in response to that question almost made her uncomfortable, but Goldfinch assumed that her parents were remembering. After a time, Honey responded, "I've known your father ever since he was born! I remember waiting two turns of the season for him -- just so that I could see him. And then I had to wait even longer so that we could play together."
Goldfinch smiled. "Oh, Mother. I'm glad you and Father have each other. I'm glad that you had me, too! And that we're together now! And that nothing will make any of us go away... and that we’re not stars, so that there will never be another elf to take your place!"
Goldfinch curled up next to Honey, their heads sharing Greenweave's lap. It was a perfect night -- even if a star could fall.