“I want to go hunting. I haven’t been hunting – a long hunt – in… Oh, I don’t know. All winter I was cooped up at the Dentrees. It’s spring. I need to go!” The white-haired elf was obviously exhausted from days spent waking to feed her infant son.
“You need rest. Sleep. I’ve offered to watch him while you—”
“I need to be away from the Dentrees!”
Suddendusk knew by her mood that it wasn’t time to argue, but he couldn’t help but point out, “You’ve gotten away from the Dentrees some. You’ve joined others on hunts since Rill was born.”
“It’s not the same, and you know it. I want the whole hunt to myself! I need some time to myself. I need more than the time between feedings. I want to ride, to track, to pursue, kill, and recover my prey. I need that!”
Suddendusk knew, as only one Recognized could, that what Quick Fang said was true, but he didn’t know what he could do about it. While he was more than happy to watch their son so that she could go for a few hours, what she was asking… to go on a longer hunt… to be away for a day or more… was unthinkable. Or was it?
“Please,” Quick Fang whispered.
The pleading and the desperation in her eyes pierced him. His Dehn was caged and needed to be free. If only there was a way for him to free her.
This wasn’t something he had faced with Windsong. While Evervale and Crackle were nursing, she had been content to be at the Dentrees to care for them. She had never missed a feeding. But, surely Quick Fang wasn’t the first elf to experience this need. Others in the tribe’s history must have found some way to feed infants when their mothers were gone. He would find out.
He knelt before her, meeting her gaze with his own. He silently promised he would find a way to help her leave, if only she would wait. She nodded. Rill’s tiny voice elicited a small groan from Quick Fang as she turned her face from Suddendusk’s to the baby. He watched as she then moved to pick Rill up and got ready to nurse him. The babe latched on and began suckling hard.
“OH!” Quick Fang said, and Suddendusk moved closer, wondering what the trouble was. “I’m leaking!” she said, motioning to the unoccupied breast.
Suddendusk remembered that from when Windsong had nursed their children. She would be so full, some of the milk would spill over before she could get the babe to her breast. Suddendusk had even tasted it once or twice – it had been warm and sweet. Watching Quick Fang wipe the excess milk away with her free hand, Suddendusk commented, “You’re not the first one to have milk to spare. We could ask your mother…” he stopped, his voice trailing off as a thought came to him.
“Wait!” he said, excited. He hurried out of Quick Fang’s den and to his own to get a bowl. Saying nothing to Windsong or Crackle but a hurried, “Explain later,” he rushed back to the den where Quick Fang sat, bewilderedly feeding Rill.
She spied the bowl in his hand and asked, “What’s that for?”
“For the leak.”
She motioned to her breast, “I’m not leaking any more.”
He nodded slowly. “But you were. Which means that breast is full.” He waited a moment, giving Quick Fang a moment to process the information.
“Yes, it’s full!” she said, starting to catch his point.
“Let me see,” he said, as he knelt before her. Gingerly, not wanting to hurt her, he took a hand to her breast, placing the bowl underneath it. Squeezing a little, he watched in growing excitement as milk trickled out and down into the bowl. His excited gaze met Quick Fang’s. Maybe there was a way!
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Suddendusk asked, knowing the answer but asking it anyway.
Quick Fang nodded, smiling at him. She sent, openly, **Need to hunt, feel wind through hair, heart racing, fresh meat. Need to be free for a while.**
Suddendusk looked down at the small bundle in his arms. “I’ve never fed one of my babes before.” He grinned. Once they had come upon the solution, Quick Fang had been content to wait for the day she could go on a hunt and be gone, maybe even for a few days. They had expressed milk from her every time Rill had nursed. Now, there were many bowls full of milk, all carefully preserved in wrapstuff.
Quick Fang and he had talked, and she planned to express her milk herself while she was gone. She had several small bags with her, and Foamspray, who was accompanying her hunting team, would seal the bags in wrapstuff. Not only would Rill have enough milk while she was gone, there would be extra when she returned.
Snowfall had shown him some of the instruments she had used over the years for feeding baby animals. He had settled on the horn of a bighorn. He had found some thin, supple scraps of leather and sewn one to fit the bottom of the horn. He felt certain it would work—his son wasn’t lacking for an appetite, so he would learn how to use it.
He watched as Quick Fang mounted Growler and sent, **Your freedom, Dehn.**
She smiled at him, **Dhay, thank you. Send for me when there’s only a bowl or two.**
No sooner had she finished sending than Quick Fang darted away, howling with joy for her freedom.