(This story is part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers - Background" series of stories -- see listing for related stories.)
The painted wood on the walls made Birdcatcher snort. Only a few hand of days ago, he had agreed to put his Honey – his daughter - in wrapstuff. Only a day ago Greenweave had decided to go back to his former lovemate.
The hunter’s eyes narrowed at this thought. Honey’s Recognized hadn’t needed long to go back to his former life, and Birdcatcher didn’t know if he was angry or jealous. In any case it’d made him think.
Drawing a deep breath, he ran his fingers over the silken shell around his daughter. “Oh my darling… while you sleep the world will move on,” he muttered and felt his heart aching.
His eyes wandered over the other cocoons around him. Each of these silent things had shadowed someone’s life. Was it really right to put them away? Wasn’t it selfish to put them to wait until maybe, probably, a healer would come to release them? Birdcatcher felt like it wasn't the wrapped ones whom the potential healer would finally release. By all means, this healer would release him from the sticky wrapstuff that held his heart in an iron grip, the past, and a hope that might not be fulfilled while he lived.
His gaze fell on the first cocoon, which his little brother had waited to be freed from for over an oak’s age. Meanwhile he had lost his mother, his fathers and a brother. How many elves would Honey lose while she waited for a healer?
“Father...” His son’s voice made him turn around.
“Thornbow,” he said with the shadow of a smile.
The archer came down the last few steps and entered the wrapstuff den. He rubbed his arms uncomfortably and his green eyes were pinned on his sister’s cocoon. Birdcatcher knew how it felt to see a sibling put away like this and now he also knew how his parents had felt.
“Do you think it was the right decision?” Thornbow asked his father.
Birdcatcher flinched. He had seen that question coming and he had thought about it not only since Honey was sleeping here. “No,” he said honestly.
Thornbow looked at him with wide eyes but Birdcatcher didn’t see it. He looked at his little brother’s cocoon and felt a heavy weight pressing on his heart. The weight of old pain and memories that had haunted him for so long but lifted after his Recognition and the birth of his own children.
With a soft 'pock' Lacewing sat the cup down where Newt used to sit, then she took her place between her lifemates. Birdcatcher looked at the cup a little uncomfortably. It was over a full turn of the seasons now and she still put the cup down at the same place. A short look over to his brother told him that he felt the same way. Glint bit his lip but didn’t say anything either and passed his father the meat they had hunted.
“Put it away,” Strand said sternly and tore the awkward silence apart.
Lacewing looked at him and then down at the small cup. For a moment, Birdcatcher wondered if his mother even had noticed what she had done.
It had been Newt’s favourite and therefore looked old and much-used, but it still worked just fine. Strand had made it together with him. He remembered how his little brother had run toward his mother with the fresh-painted cup in his fingers all smiling and proud. He had spent a lot time painting each member of his family on the little piece of work. Strand had been proud on his son as well, even if the faces just were recognizable with his help. Though it had been something they had made together, in a way Birdcatcher could imagine it was painful for his father to see it around.
His mother never-the-less decided to ignore Strand’s request and took the meat from Turtle as he held it out to her. For her that little ritual held some comfort he guessed.
“I said… put it away,” Strand repeated.
“No,” she determinedly answered, and this time she didn’t look at him and simply cut off some meat for herself.
Birdcatcher felt the mood turning. Suddenly there was something heavy and gloomy hanging between them. It happened all too often since Newt was gone. The whole family seemed to be shaken by the event and where everyone was hoping they would stick together, Birdcatcher feared they were just drifting apart. He looked to Glint and Turtle; both had turned their eyes down to the ground.
The blond hunter turned back to his father when he heard him getting up. Strand took the cup and walked a few steps to put it back in the shelf where it always stood while not used. His expression was no less determined or grim than Lacewing’s.
As soon as the potter had sat, Lacewing was back on her feet, and with a forceful 'TOCK' she put the cup back where Newt used to sit. The blond weaver sat down and passed his eldest son the meat with a grim expression. A heavy knot built up in his stomach when he took it.
Glint shifted his weight and seemed to feel equally uncomfortable. Helplessly, he looked at his older brother, eyes shining with a hope that Birdcatcher would know what to do, but he didn’t. Birdcatcher was as helpless as his younger brother.
When Strand put his hand on the cup again Lacewing shoot him a stern, sharp gaze. “It stays,” she hissed.
“It goes,” Strand snapped back. “He won’t need it today or any other day, so it will go back.”
“He’s still a part of this family and I’ll put it here again and again no matter how often you take it away,” she answered back with a stubbornness that was usually one of the things Strand loved about her.
“He’s not HERE. So what use it? We don’t serve food for Birdcatcher and Glint either when they are not here, so why shall we do it for him?” The blond male gripped the cup tightly. Birdcatcher and Glint both gritted their teeth. The small cup looked so frail in his hands.
Lacewing looked angry and hurt at the same time. “If you’d have listened to me-“
“He’d be dead!” Strand cut her off roughly.
“And if we would have listened to YOU he’d be maimed!” Lacewing shoot back; her voice getting louder and Birdcatcher felt the mood pressing down on them. A heavy weight pressed on his chest and he looked over to Turtle who seemed to hide in his shell just like his namesake.
Turtle looked lost but he didn’t need to hear them to understand that they fought. The tension was hard to miss even if you were deaf, their body language and faces spoke a clear and loud language. *Lifemates…* he chimed in. *Let’s not get lost in anger,* he requested and lifted his hands in a calming gesture.
Lacewing’s head flew around and her blue eyes seemed to burn a hole in Turtle’s forehead. They switched to sending and Glint and Birdcatcher only could follow the exchange of it by the looks on each of their parents’ faces.
Anger, hurt, fear, and more anger showed and overall reproval against the other. The brothers only could watch how the silent fight passed between them. Glint grasped for Birdcathcer’s hand and squeezed it helplessly.
They didn’t need to hear the words to know that there was an exchange of words going on that would leave deep marks in all of them. The tension in the den became unbearable. Finally, without any warning, Strand jumped to his feet and the little clay cup shattered into pieces as the potter smashed it against the wall.
For a moment there was a stunned silence. The only noise was Strand’s ragged breath.
“NO!” Lacewing broke the silence. She was on her feet again now, too; her body shaking with pure anger. “HOW COULD YOU! YOU BROKE IT!” Her eyes felt with hot tears. Never before had Birdcatcher seen her like this.
The blond archer wanted to come to his feet and get between them but Turtle grasped each boy by an arm. Irritated Birdcatcher snarled at him, he was ready to jump due to the tension and anger, but a look on Glint’s father’s face swiftly let the anger melt away. He looked deeply hurt and it tore his heart apart to see him like this. Whatever they had said to each other had surely cut him deeply.
*Let’s go and let them clear it on their own,* Turtle sent, his sending caring all the pain he felt. Neither of the young males dared to speak up against him in fear it would break his spirit.
So both nodded and exchanged a look before they followed him outside. Birdcatcher saw Glint supporting his father more than his father dragged him out.
They barley had left and reached the ground when a loud “SMACK” made them all flinchAgain, the heavy silence lingered between them. All three of them turned to the entry of the den, watching anxiously. Only a heartbeat later Lacewing stormed out of the den and passed them. Tears ran over her cheeks without mercy. Finally Turtle woke up from his numbness and was on her heels the next moment. He left the brothers standing there helpless and feeling like cubs that didn’t know how to handle a tricky situation like this. Honestly, Birdcatcher doubted that he ever would know how to handle this no matter how old he was.
Glint gave him a worried look. There had been fights before but never like this. Birdcatcher could read his brother’s eyes. “Go,” he said and nodded. “You help Turtle to calm down mother and I'll look after my father,” he decided.
Glint nodded. “Thank you,” he said with a mix of relief and fear before he took off after his father. The eldest son of the threemating looked after him for a few moments and hoped Glint’s more serene nature could help to calm Lacewing down.
Now it was his turn to try and save what remained to be saved. Taking a deep breath he squared his shoulders and walked back to the family den. His stomach was a single knot now and he was somehow afraid what he would find. Just one Turn of the seasons ago, he thought he knew his father pretty well. But that was before Newt had gone into his timeless sleep. He never would have thought that Strand was able to break his son’s favourite cup – the cup that he had made together with him - but apparently, he had been wrong.
Hesitantly, Birdcatcher poked his head in and saw Strand crouching over the shards of the broken item. One by one he picked them up. His cheek was burning red, and all four fingers of Birdcatcher's mother's handprint were clearly visible there.
“Father?” he asked in a low voice and climbed in. "Is everything all right?"
“No,” Strand answered while he picked up each shard with trampling fingers. “Nothing is right. It’s not right, it’s not the Way, son. Wolfriders shouldn't mourn that long. They shouldn’t put their dead away and visit them.”
“But father... he's not dead yet,” Birdcatcher reminded him, feeling oddly helpless again.
Strand snorted. “No. And that’s even worse. We all would be better off if he was. This is no life. Neither for him nor for us. Each of us is trapped in that sticky Preserver spit.” His voice was rough with hurt and anger. Birdcatcher felt how his whole body started to feel numb and lifeless. “If he was dead we could let go and life on but now we are trapped in that sticky hope that one day a healer will come along and save all of us. But what will he find? A shattered family and his wolf-friend with someone else. If he even sees Brook alive again. Or any of us.”
“Father. Don't say such things,” Birdcatcher tried to soothe. “He’ll be back sooner than any of us think.”
“You really think so?” Strand asked and shook his head. “We should have let nature take its way. It would hurt as well, but we would be able to move on.”
After Strand had picked up the last shard he left the den and Birdcatcher felt his heart drop. Probably his father was right. The sticky silken hope tore them apart. Newt’s ghostly presence hung between them and he was neither gone nor here.
“No, Birdcatcher DON’T!” Glint never before had been so angry and helpless. He hung on the arm of his older brother and dug his heels in the ground to stop Birdcatcher. The hunter headed to the den where they had put Newt. His expression was grim and he was determined. “You can’t DO that. It would kill him! You can’t kill our little brother!”
Birdcatcher tried to shrug him off but his Glint’s grip was strong like a stone. “I can and I will!” he snapped back over his shoulder walking on with long strides. “It will be better for ALL of us.”
“Your father was hurt and angry when he said these things, Birdcatcher, PLEASE. All we have to do is wait,” Glint answered, his voice changing from angry to tearful.
“Wait? How long? If we wait any longer Newt’s cup will not be the last thing that shatters into pieces. Our family will as well as long as we have this sticky hope hanging between us.” the blond elf barked and roughly shrugged his arm. Finally, Glint's fingers gave way and Birdcatcher was free again.
“There WILL be a healer. And you'd regret it.” Glint tried again. All he could hope was to talk some since into his older brother.
Birdcatcher stopped and turned around. “You really believe that?” he asked in a sharp voice. “When? WHEN, Glint? You really think a healer will come along? And who will it be? Raven? Blacksnake? Who? And what will Newt find? A family that’s almost broken apart! You know as good as I do that they said things to each other that can’t be taken back and it will only get worse the longer we wait.”
Glint backed up but then squared his shoulders and spoke up again. “We can't know that. Yes there are cracks but we are not yet broken, brother. When Newt’s back he’ll …”
“You are as gullible as your father is,” Birdcatcher snapped and cut him off.
“And you are as bone-headed as yours!” Glint shot back.
For a moment, they stared at each other. Measuring, challenging. The worst fights always started with, “You are like your father.” More cracks. Birdcatcher started to count them. More cracks waiting for little Newt.
Birdcatcher snorted and headed down the stairs into the new “home” of his little brother. He wouldn’t let it happen. His knife was ready to open the cocoon; free Newt and his family from all the grief and pain.
He heard Glint’s hurried Footsteps close behind him, but Glint would be grateful, as well, as soon as he saw that it was the best for all of them.
His face still grim, Birdcatcher walked over to the cocoon that lay oh so silent and silver on the elevation Cedarwing had created for it. His determinedness started to falter with every step but he knew it would be for the better when he ended this.
Along with Glint, he now had to deal with Dewdrop, who watched closely over the precious bundle. Birdcatcher considered tricking the bug to leave, but Glint was right behind him so he had little time.
Birdcatcher reached toward his brother’s cocoon as he pulled out a knife under the shrill protest of the Preserver. The sound was ear-splitting but Birdcatcher tried to block it out and shush the annoying bug away when it fluttered around him.
At this moment his eye fell on something standing next to the cocoon. Birdcatcher stopped waving around and reached for the object. Glint almost bumped into him trying to stop him and save his little brother but Birdcatcher barely noticed it.
“Brother, please!” Glint started, but cut himself off when he noticed Birdcatcher stood still. Dewdrop settled on his shoulder and whispered to him they had to protect the cocoon or something like that. Birdcatcher couldn’t hear it. His eyes were fixed at the cup in his hand.
“He... fixed it,” Birdcatcher whispered and rubbed his thumb over the cracks in the cup. Strand had fixed it. The shards were put together and the cracks filled up with fresh clay so it would hold together. The cub’s drawings were still there even if angry lines crossed them but the pictures of the faces of each family member were still recognizable.
Carefully Glint took the knife out of his brother’s hand and put it away much to Dewdrops' relief. Birdcatcher didn’t struggle.
“He fixed it and brought it here,” Birdcatcher whispered again. The anger was gone. All that was left was this strong longing to have Newt safe and sound again and to have him back with the family. Newt was like the clay. He’d hold them together.
Glint took his arm and gently pulled on it. “See. He still has hope, as well. Put the cup back and let's go. Please,” he asked Birdcatcher.
The blond hunter nodded numbly and placed the repaired cup down where he had found it. All the will to “fix” the situation had left him. If his father could still hope he should as well. He followed the lead of Glint out of the wrapstuff den.
“Father?” Thornbow asked. “What do you mean by no?”
Birdcatcher shook his head to free himself from the shadows of the past. He put a hand on his son’s shoulder and looked at him. “It wasn’t the right decision,” he said calmly. “Not if you considered the Way, but it was a good decision for us if we want to hope.”
Thornbow frowned not sure if he understood this but didn’t ask on. Birdcatcher looked at Honey's cocoon again, brushing his fingers against it. “We have to watch out for cracks for her and fix them as soon as they appear.”
The archer nodded, even though he didn’t quite understand. “We’ll do that father. Don’t worry. No matter what will happen with Greenewave and Cloudfern, we are still there for her.”
After a long moment of silence, Birdcatcher nodded. “Let's go and meet the hunt, my son. She's safe here for now.”