Heartbeat   2405.06.03*  
Written By: Razzle C.
Chicory cherishes a final, peaceful afternoon in the woods with her wolfbond Whitetip.
Posted: 02/17/11      [11 Comments]

Chicory lay, contentedly nestled against Whitetip's side as elf and wolf dozed in the warm, mid-afternoon sun of late spring. Chicory's face was buried in Whitetip's thick black fur, her nose just behind the wolf's foreleg, as the side of her head rested on Whitetip's ribs. Chicory listened to the soothing sound of his heartbeat pounding gently against that ear. Thump-Thump, Thump-Thump.

The pair of friends were napping in a favorite spot not far from Wolfjaw Creek, after watching the slaptails rebuilding a part of their den that had been damaged in a recent skyfire storm. They were still within the protective shelter of the forest, where the pair felt safe enough to completely relax, rather than out in the dangerous open of a meadow, but the bright, cheerful sun still filtered easily enough through the new leaves of the trees to brighten and warm the spot where Whitetip and his elvish companion were laying. It was a peaceful spot, quiet without the activity -- even daytime activity -- of the Holt, and Chicory liked it. There were no interruptions, no sleepless cubs wanting her attention. There were just Chicory, Whitetip, and the sound and vibrations of the wolf's heartbeat.

Thump-Thump, Thump-Thump... Thump, thump...

Chicory was suddenly alert to her wolf-friend as Whitetip's heartbeat faltered and slowed. 'What?' she thought, caught off-guard. She did not move, but all of her mind and hearing was focused on Whitetip now. It was true that Whitetip was old in wolf-terms, but Chicory had expected him to live at least another handful of turns if nothing stepped in to cut his life short. Whitetip's breathing was shallower and slower than usual, Chicory noticed now, as well.

**...** Chicory wolf-sent more a presence of companionship than words to Whitetip, and felt the calm touch of his feral mind in return. Chicory was pleased to feel Whitetip's sleepy sense of peace through their bond. Obviously, the wolf felt only tired, and had no concept in his mind of an end to his Now. Chicory nuzzled her face deeper against Whitetip's side, careful to keep her own sense of disquiet from her friend. 'But you won't wake again to tease the rabbits with me anymore, will you?' Chicory thought. Thump, thump... Thump, thump...

Chicory allowed herself to doze again, treasuring this last afternoon with Whitetip. She did not send to Cloudfern. This was the Way. There was no use, no need, and no place for his healing skills here.

Eventually, the sun drifted down from the sky, and evening approached. Chicory hardly noticed the growing shadows, or the air growing slightly cooler. However, when Whitetip's heart failed to beat again, Chicory noticed that. She waited several moments, ridiculously longer than a heart could go without beating. She did not want to admit it to herself -- not yet. **Whitetip?** she sent, knowing she would receive no answer, no sense of eager hope for playtime or hunting, from her friend ever again. With a small whine in her throat, Chicory grabbed onto Whitetip's pelt, turning her face into the wolf's side to breathe in his scent and remember him. A moment or two later, she realized that Whitetip's fur was wet against her face.

Illustration by Melanie D.
Chicory had been crying. For some time now, she realized; not merely since Whitetip had actually died.

Slowly, Chicory sat up, her hands still clutching Whitetip's fur. She tilted her head back and howled once, tears streaming freely down her cheeks. It was a long, thin, and high-pitched howl, full of her pain and sadness. She was far enough from the Holt that it was unlikely anyone would hear her, but if they did, any of her tribesmates old enough to remember her past bonds would understand this particular howl. There had been many other wolves before Whitetip, and there would no doubt be many more wolf-friends to come for Chicory. But Chicory was only concerned with the Now, and Now she was only thinking of Whitetip, and that was who she howled for this time. Her lungs spent, Chicory's howl finally trailed off, and she sat in silence again. She was mourning the loss of a dear friend...

...and celebrating the time they had shared.

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