A young, eager voice pulled the smith’s attention away from her friend, Dreamflight. She saw Tremor, her lovemate’s son, barreling toward her at full speed. Apparently a night full of swimming and fishing at the river with Foxtail and Greenweave had not tired the cub out as much as she and Moss had hoped. As he neared, Tremor leapt into the air and, as usual, Goldspice caught him up in her strong arms.
“Oof.” She grunted as his weight collided with her. At four-and-one turns of the seasons, he was getting too heavy to continue this particular greeting ritual for much longer. A bittersweet smile played across her lips, knowing she was going to miss that welcome. She squeezed the boy in a tight hug.
Tremor pulled back so he could see her face. His blue eyes were filled with enthusiasm. “Goldspice! You have to come see what I found!” he chattered excitedly.
As she lowered the cub to the ground, she shot an apologetic look at Dreamflight. “I’ll have to catch up to you later.”
The blonde stargazer waved her hand dismissively and smiled down at the cub, who was impatiently dancing from foot to foot, before turning her gaze back to Goldspice. “Don’t rush. We can watch the stars dance tomorrow night just as easily as tonight. And it looks like someone has something important to show you.”
“Come on, Goldspice!” Tremor exclaimed, grabbing her hand.
The smith tried to pretend reluctance and deliberately dragged her feet for a moment, but his exhilaration was contagious. He was so excited his short black dreadlocks fairly shivered. She laughed as she allowed herself to be tugged along by the cub.
“Walk faster,” he said. “Come on! You can walk faster than that! Don’t you want to see what I found? I found it just for you. You are going to be so happy when you see it. I just know it!”
The cub babbled on cheerfully for the few moments it took them to get to the river where he had been playing. Greenweave and young Foxtail waved from further upstream and then went back to examining something in their net. Tremor didn’t take her to join them, though. He abruptly stopped and turned to face her. His little face was suddenly serious, but she could see a grin trying to spread from the corners of his mouth.
“All right, you sit right here and close your eyes and I’ll go get it. I had to hide it near this tree so Foxtail wouldn’t take it.” Tremor squinted his eyes at his red-haired cousin suspiciously for a heartbeat before smiling brightly at Goldspice. “No peeking!”
Goldspice obediently sank to the ground and closed her eyes. She listened as he rummaged around in the dried leaves a few steps away, humming to himself.
“Now hold out your hands,” he said. When she did, she felt something damp placed in her outstretched hands. It was hard, lumpy, and smelled of minerals. She heard Tremor take a step back. “Open your eyes!” His voice was tight with barely restrained glee.
She blinked a few times, smiling at the youngster, before turning her attention to the rock balanced in her hands. The gift was easily as big as one of her palms. Its bright yellow surface glinted merrily in the pale light of Child Moon.
“It’s gold!” the cub practically shouted as she examined the rock, no longer able to control himself. “I found a giant gold nugget just for you. Do you like it? I knew you would! It’s all yours. Foxtail wanted it. But I told her no. I found it and I wanted to give it to you. It’s so big, I just know you’ll make hands and hands of necklaces from it. So do you like it, Goldspice?”
The blacksmith reached out with one hand and took hold of his wrist to calm his incessant hopping from one foot to the other. “I do like it.”
“I knew it!” he crowed and flung his thin arms around her neck in a tight hug. All the while, he bounced up and down, nearly making her bite her tongue.
“Tremor, I need you to listen,” Goldspice said in the calm, firm voice proven to cut through his excited babble and fidgeting. He pulled back to look at her expectantly, blue eyes shining with happiness. “I love the gift you found for me. It was very thoughtful of you. This is a very beautiful rock and I plan to keep it on my shelf of pretty things in the forge. However – “
“Rock?” he interrupted. “But I thought… Isn’t it… gold?” The last word was nearly a whisper.
As Goldspice had spoken, Tremor’s smile had faded. She felt a tug at her heart as his eyes filled with tears when she shook her head. Her own throat tingled with suppressed emotion. The small, black-haired boy was like a son to her and she hated to crush his enthusiasm. But she couldn’t let him run around with false knowledge. Could she? She was nearly undone by the single fat tear that ran down his cheek, ready to declare herself mistaken if only to bring back his sunny smile for a moment. No, she told herself firmly. It’s better to know the truth of things.
“Oh, cubling,” she said as she folded him into her arms and patted his back soothingly. “You aren’t the first one to bring me mock-gold thinking it was real gold. It’s a tricky thing. Like those harmless snakes that wear a similar pattern to the venomous ones on their skin so that everything leaves them alone.”
Tremor sniffled. “But why would a rock do that?”
Goldspice laughed. “I don’t know the answer to that, dear one. That’s just how it is.” She shifted him to one side so she could show him the rock again. “Now look at this.”
He pushed the hand holding her erstwhile gift away. “I hate mock-gold. It’s stupid.”
Her amber eyes caught his blue ones. **Well, I don’t think it is stupid. It’s pretty and someone very special gave this to me.** Goldspice’s send was layered with feelings of love and pleased warmth. A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and she squeezed Tremor with one arm in response.
“Look at the mock-gold,” she said. “See how shiny it is? Real raw gold is actually kind of dull in comparison. And notice the color of this rock. Gold is a deeper shade, not this silvery-yellow. And gold is soft... you could scratch it with a knife, once you are old enough to carry one. And the best part is, gold is heavy. So when you pan for it, it stays in the bottom while mock-gold… floats to the top!”
Tremor stared at her with wide-eyed attention. “Really?” he asked. When she nodded, he exclaimed, “I wanna see that!”
Goldspice sent a brief thought to Moss, letting him know her intentions. When she received an amused acceptance, she stood, shifting her grip to the cub’s hand. “Come on. Let’s put this beauty away and get my panning gear. I’ll show you everything you need to know about finding gold. We probably won’t be done until after the daystar rises, though.”
He gasped. “I get to stay up late?! Woohoo! Let’s go! This time I really will find you a big gold nugget. And if I don’t, we can try again tomorrow!”
Goldspice laughed and let herself be tugged along, once again caught up in Tremor’s enthusiasm.