"What about that one?" Nightstorm pointed straight up.
"That's a fern if I ever saw one. Complete with fronds," Chicory replied.
"Oh, there's one," Goldspice pointed next.
Chicory giggled. "That looks like a turtle with wings."
"No, no it --" Goldspice paused when giggling crept up on her. She still pointed and shook her finger. "It's Rainpace's hat."
Chicory giggled again. "With wings."
Goldspice laughed and conceded, "With wings."
"Perhaps I should put wings on my hat," Rainpace said. He nudged Dreamflight. "What do you think?"
"I think perhaps not," she sniffed.
Five of them lay in what passed roughly for a circle. Easily the shortest, Chicory's outstretched legs were on the bottom. Beside her to the left lay Nightstorm, her legs atop Chicory's. Goldspice's legs rested on Nightstorm's ankles. Dreamflight stretched out, with her legs draped over Goldspice's shins. Rainpace, the tallest but not by much, nestled contentedly between Dreamflight and Chicory, his crossed ankles on top.
"At least it's not a turtle shell on your head," said Goldspice thoughtfully.
Nearby, a heavy sigh was heard. Those who could without putting a crick in their neck or upsetting the delicate balance of the thought circle, looked behind Dreamflight and Rainpace.
"I wish," Snowfall said in the delicate, maternal balance between indulgent and annoyed, "I had nothing better to concern myself with then watching the clouds go by."
"Sister," Nightstorm but her arms behind her head, "getting a tattoo is a serious matter. It's something you need to be absolutely certain about. Right?"
There was a sending that passed overhead, more reaction then response.
Nightstorm looked behind her, then tucked her head back into its niche. **All right, she's gone,** she sent.
**What were you saying, Rainpace?** Goldspice urged eagerly.
**That it's going to be tricky to catch the spirit of what she wants, with a simple picture,** he sent.
**True of course,** said Goldspice, **but then that is why we need symbols.**
**Symbols are all well and good, as long as there's a common opinion of what they stand for.**
The circle of friends fell silent and in four heartbeats, there was the nearby sound of thunk, grunt, and ker-splash, in that order. A silence hung in air like the pause between summer lightning, and then a heated, feral sending vibrated through the entire south side of the holt. Chicory giggled.
**She is going to run you down and kill you one of these days,** Dreamflight sent.
**I'm safe as long as Thornbow continues his regular visitations.**
As though there had been no break in the discussion, Goldspice continued, **Wolfriders have that shared understanding.**
**For most things,** Rainpace sent. **Then out of no where, a Dreamflight and a Goldspice are born who have over-active imaginations,** he teased.
Chicory agreed. **If I had you tattoo a circle, within a circle, within a circle, and it wasn't a familiar shape to the whole tribe, some elf might come along and see it and be unimpressed.**
**And we do so want to be impressive,** Nightstorm rolled her eyes.
Chicory shifted her leg, feigning a kick at Nightstorm.
**That's right,** Dreamflight grinned. **Who are you trying to impress, Chicory?**
**Why you, my love,** Chicory returned the warm laughter.
**In that case, you need to tattoo the melody of a red-wing on your belly.**
**Which is exactly what I was saying,** Rainpace inserted.
Chicory nodded. **Can you imagine trying to capture the spirit of a song bird's song in a splotch on your arm?**
**Good point,** Dreamflight sent. **So you are stuck with something trite that everyone knows about, or with something that only a handful of us would appreciate.**
**Unless we come up with some very telling symbols,** said Goldspice.
Rainpace smiled. **But what sort of fresh symbols would we come up with, that would still cover the mingled notions of all wolfriders?**
**That haven't already been done,** Chicory added. **Spirals, wavy lines, circles, boxes, there's only so much you can do with a fixed method.**
**So it is back to the animals,** Nightstorm concluded. **At least there's the means to show something, touch on the spirit of the beast, in the hope that most elves will at least get the taste of the connection behind it.**
Dreamflight snickered. **And then there's us -- who know the meaning behind it.**
**So you were thinking of what? Frog maybe?** Nightstorm needled.
Chicory kicked at her again. **A stick-leg bird, methinks.**
**Hm,** Rainpace mused. **Maintains balance, sure-footed ... possesses endurance and accuracy.**
Chicory's send was smug. **You make it sound very appealing.**
**While outside,** Goldspice continued excitedly, **the appearance is one of stillness, both within and outside of water, patience, and precision!**
**Some will deny that last part,** Chicory inserted and several wolfriders' images floated within the send.
**It works,** sent Dreamflight.
Nightstorm sighed. **I liked the idea of a lizard flattened by a rock.**
**You've been around Quick Fang too much.**
**Someone is near.**
**My turn,** Goldspice sent, then squinted at the skies above. "That one," she said," as a flickerfish."
"A tasty wolf snack?" Chicory said.
"What about there!" Dreamflight pointed.
"It's a fist with fur on the bottom," Rainpace said.
"Snt! No, it's not. It's a rock and look, the water is making white foam around it, see?"
Chicory turned her head to try to help her see the cloud from Dreamflight's perspective. "Not bad," she nodded.
"What is this?"
Looking up simultaneously, they saw One-Leg glaring down at them. "We're trying to pick a tattoo," Chicory smiled her most pleasantly. "Would you help?"
He scowled. "I'll get a switch and help the hides right off the lot of you, for piling up doing nothing, and right in the way!"
"It's very important work," Chicory said patiently.
"You'll think important when all you have to keep you warm is a tattoo when whitecold comes. Get off your lazy hindquarters and help stretch those skins!"
There was a collective sigh.
**Until next time, I suppose,** Rainpace removed his legs reluctantly.
**If I knew he'd not wake up,** Chicory said, the last to be released from the group, and sat up, **I'd tattoo a pretty Preserver on his rump while he slept.**
Nightstorm and Dreamflight laughed.
"You coming, you bunch of twittering feather-heads?"
"Right behind you, Uncle," Chicory grinned wryly as she stood.