Her stomach had no bottom to it. Everything she put into it just came right back out again. Quick Fang curled up in her den, burning and shivering, and hoped that whatever it was that she had would run its course and soon.
Her jaws ached. She should be chewing something. Something bitter, that would make her fight her own gag reflex every time she swallowed the juices. But it would make her feel better. Calm her stomach. Break her fever. Soothe her bowels. Make her well again.
Her joints ached, too, and she knew just enough about healing to know that aching joints were bad. She uncurled herself and thought she'd best find someone who maybe had some of those leaves she needed. Her body protested, but she pushed it out from under her furs and through the mouth of her den.
She stumbled. Weak as a newborn treewee, she tumbled to the ground, at once disoriented. She had trouble telling which way was up, let alone which way the den trees were. She cursed her own habit of digging her own den away from the holt when she was sick. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, but right now it was the stupidest idea she'd ever heard of.
The fall had made Quick Fang's stomach flop over, and she heaved what little she had in it, barely able to avoid getting it all down her own front. Wanting to find the holt, she tried to smell her way, but her nostrils only filled with nothing but the scent of her own sick. She fought down a body-wracking shiver and struggled to her feet. She'd find home. It couldn't be that hard for one as sharp-eyed as she was. She was a born hunter. She'd just hunt her way home.
Quick Fang's body was weak, but she felt her mind was as sharp as ever. With a quiet growl, she lurched towards the next tree. Leaning against it for support, she narrowed her eyes and surveyed her surroundings, looking for tracks and telltale signs of elven feet. And there they were, plain as the nose on her face. She smiled and licked her teeth. This would be easy. So what if she didn't know which way was home from memory? So what if she couldn't smell anything other than her own illness? She was still a great huntress, and, addled by fever as she was, she stumbled off deeper into the forest, convinced that she was on her way home.
Her wolf could have led her homeward, but sick wolves seek solitude, and Quick Fang's feral nature took over in such times. She'd driven Growler away, mostly for his own safety. She had no idea if she was contagious or not, and she didn't want him hanging around her and getting whatever it was that had her by the throat. Alone, she made her way through the forest. Her skin burned. Her ears rang. Her stomach churned. More than once she'd turned herself around. She was convinced she'd gone in circles a couple of times now, and she was starting to feel desperate. For the first time, she viewed the trees around her as hostile and unwelcoming the forest had always been her home but now roots tripped her up and branches tore at her and she was convinced that every step would be the last she had the energy for, but after every step she took, she found just enough energy to take another.
The branches closed in. The ground pitched and rolled. The light hurt her eyes. Wait. Light? Hadn't moonrise been only a little while ago? She squinted into the sun, not quite understanding. Fever gripped her, as did fear. Mistaking the sunrise for the beginnings of a forest fire, she turned and ran.
Crashing through the underbrush, the branches tore at her hair and arms. The forest closed in on her, constricting her, holding her fast for the fire to come and consume. She could feel the heat of it, getting closer. She could feel the sweat running down her back, through her hair. She could smell burning. She could see the glow. She snarled with panic. And then she heard a voice.
She'd heard the voice before, but she couldn't place where. It was a familiar one, but she struggled to identify it. It wasn't her mother's, though it was similar. It wasn't any of the tribe's she ran through them all in her head. None of them, no. Where had she heard that voice before? She knew it. She knew she did.
I know my name! she snarled back. Who are you?
She stopped in her tracks, the imagined forest fire forgotten, and fell to her knees on the soft earth. She dug her fingers into the soil and hung on for dear life. She could feel the darkness of unconsciousness dance around the edges of her vision, and she fought it off. She knew that voice. She knew her name.
And then it came to her. She'd heard the voice once before, when she quested for her soul-name. It had told her. The voice was hers.
I already know my name, she insisted. I know them both. I know them all. I already know this.
The voice whispered her names to her, over and over.
I know them already!
Still, it whispered. The whispering of her name carried on the wind. The wind blew, stronger and stronger. So strong, it threatened to pull her off the ground and fling her through the air. She gripped the earth, but it crumbled through her fingers. Strong arms pulled her up. She fought, but she was fighting the wind, trying to hold on to soil. But her fingers weren't tree roots; they would not hold her to the ground, and the wind paid her no mind, and carried her, yowling and cursing, through the forest. The wind was roaring now roaring her names.
I know my name! Quick Fang roared back.
The fever and the weakness and the illness and the strong arms of the wind claimed her.
She fell into darkness.
When she awoke, she felt the warmth of furs under her, and the smoothness of the Father Tree's wood under her fingers. She was not truly alone, although the den was empty for now. She had a damp knitted cloth on her forehead, and a bowl of cool water beside her. She dipped the cloth and brought it to her parched lips. It tasted clean. Her mind was clear again, as was her nose just about the whole tribe had been through here at one point or another, even Growler had napped here at one point. There were willow bark and feverease beside the bowl. Her favourite fur under her. Small tokens from everyone littered the den. Even the cubs had left some colourful flowers.
She lay back down and snorted to herself. She might feel like a lone wolf most of the time, but the pack was a pack for a reason. They'd sought her and found her and carried her home, cared for her and cured her. She pulled the furs up over her head and decided to regain as much of her strength as possible before she left the comfort of the den. She'd need it. They'd never let her live this down.