“I’m tired,” Nightstorm whined, “and it stinks in here.”
“It smells the same here in this area of the Craft Trees as it has always smelled, Nightstorm, so please, let’s just get the work done. You’re the one who will be wearing these leathers soon, so I don’t know why you don’t want to work on them.” Moss was trying to be understanding, but it was only half-way through her pregnancy, and Nightstorm was becoming harder and harder to deal with – even Goldspice thought so. She was spending less time in their shared den, and more time in her forge, sometimes even working there through the day instead of returning to their den to sleep.
He could only imagine what the next turn would bring, aside from a swollen belly and the eventual birth of their son – he just knew it was a son. If Nightstorm continued with her emotional ups and downs, she might wear out her welcome in his and Goldspice’s den.
For as much as he knew his Recognized, he still did not understand her. Since they had consummated their Recognition, she had vacillated between clinging to him and blatant rejection of him. Her moods were more unpredictable than the winds, it seemed, and they were becoming more so. Some nights, she was as frisky as a wolf in heat, and other nights, she wanted nothing to do with him or anyone else. She was irrational and adorable at the same time. Moss could only hope that the next turn of the seasons would pass quickly, and that the Nightstorm he knew would soon return and replace the mess she was becoming.
“I don’t want to need new leathers,” she moped, interrupting his thoughts.
“What?” he asked.
“You heard me,” she snapped. “Or, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you weren’t even listening to me. You never listen to me.”
Moss almost rolled his eyes. She was impossible sometimes. ‘Pregnant,’ he reminded himself. “I heard you say that you don’t want to need new leathers. What I think that means is that you don’t even want to be pregnant, that you don’t want to carry our child.”
Nightstorm slumped. Moss was stunned. So it was true. She didn’t want to be a mother – she didn’t want to bear a cub. As much as he thought he knew her, she surprised him almost every day.
Still no response. Moss couldn’t take it. The child she carried meant the world to him, was a gift from the High Ones. Was she really so selfish? Moss suddenly felt that there wasn’t enough space between himself and Nightstorm, and he turned and walked out, with only a “Finish them or not, I don’t really care,” to his Recognized. He didn’t look back.
Moss found his way to his den, picked up his drum, and made his way to the storage dens. He figured a skin of Starskimmer’s brew might help ease the tension he felt. After the leaving the storage dens, he headed back toward the Craft Dens, where he stopped by the forge to catch a welcome glimpse of Goldspice. Then Moss made his way westward and toward the northern point of the Den’s Creek. Drum and brew in hand, he walked until he was at the base of the Home Ridge.
Finding a comfortable seat against the base of a wide, old tree, Moss put his drum between his legs. Then, he opened the skin and took a long drink. The initial burn of the alcohol was replaced by sweetness and warmth. Sighing, he re-capped the skin and set it aside, staring outward toward the trees, looking at nothing in particular.
After a while, Moss’s breathing slowed, and he felt himself relax. Focusing on his heartbeat, he sat up and positioned himself. He would start there – the heartbeat was a good, steady rhythm, and he knew it would lead to deeper, more complex ones.
His drumming was interrupted before it could start. Thornbow’s send intruded, **You’re not going to start that here are you?**
Moss looked around. In the darkness, and upwind, he hadn’t noticed Thornbow’s presence. The bowyer was far enough away that Moss wouldn’t have seen him if he hadn’t been looking. Thornbow sat, his back against a tree, facing Moss. The light-haired elf had a branch in one hand and a blade in the other. Moss realized his friend must be working on a new bow – but why so far from the Holt?
And who was Thornbow to tell Moss where or where not to drum, anyway? He asked, **And why wouldn’t I?** Irritation laced the send, along with **tired. need peace.**
Thornbow replied, **You’re not the only one in need of a quiet place away from others in order to get something done. I was here first. And I’d rather not have your drumming interrupting my silence.**
Moss didn’t respond immediately. He had come out here looking to get away from one moody elf, only to be confronted by another. He took another swig from the skin of brew and set it back down, then replied, **If you don’t want to hear it, then you’ll just have to go somewhere else. I’m not going anywhere.**
A mental growl was the only response Thornbow gave, and Moss knew Thornbow wasn’t going to leave, either. But, he figured, that was his choice. Knowing from experience that Thornbow’s mood would likely wear off quickly, Moss figured he didn’t need to change locations, and set to drumming.
A while later, Moss was lost in the rhythm of the drum when he felt a hand on his shoulder and tensed. Looking up, Moss met Thornbow’s eyes. They were not unfriendly. The drummer wasn't surprised at the change in his friend's mood.
The bowyer answered his question with a send, **enjoyed the rhythm. It was actually relaxing.**
Moss smiled at him, and Thornbow sat next to him. “I don’t know how you do it,” the blond elf said.
Moss was confused. “Do what?”
“Manage to stay so calm and upbeat most of the time. Nightstorm hasn’t made your life easy since your Recognition. I think I’d have bitten her head off by now. I don’t blame you for needing some space.”
Moss nodded, picked up the skin, took a swig and passed it to Thornbow, who did the same. The bowyer finished the drink, then said, “Think we’ll need more of this – want to come back with me to get some?”
Moss nodded. Drumming had helped soothe him, and now the offer of company from a friend who seemed to understand was more than welcome. Together, they headed back to the Holt.
Nightstorm’s use of his soul-name felt like an assault to his weary, now-drunken mind. Moss groaned, then threw his hands up in exasperation.
“What’s wrong?” Thornbow asked, his words slurred.
Moss gave him a look and said, “Nightstorm.”
“It’s not funny. She’s needy tonight. She wants me there, in the furs with her. Goldspice is working in her forge. Nightstorm’s lonely.”
“It’s not your job to go to her every time she thinks she needs you,” Thornbow reminded him.
“I know. S’why I didn’t answer.”
“Oh,” Thornbow said, taking another drink.
They had decided to finish the night drinking in Thornbow’s den, more out of Moss’s desire to avoid Nightstorm than a real preference. He’d hoped that she wouldn’t seek him out – he’d been wrong.
All Nightstorm had to do was walk down from her own den, and she’d scent him. A moment later, she had, and the bearer of Moss’s child stood in the doorway. “I need you, Moss,” she said with a whine in her voice.
“Hmph. I don’t need you right now, Nightstorm.”
A squeak escaped her lips, then a whine, and Moss knew that she had started crying. He groaned. **Rayah,** he started, hoping the use of her soul-name would calm her. **I can’t keep this up. I can’t weather your emotional storms – not all the time. And I don’t want to be near you after what you said earlier today. I. Need. Space.**
“I didn’t mean it that way,” she countered. “And you know it! You’re just too drunk to care about me or our child.”
Moss growled at her, sending, **Not tonight, Rayah. leave.**
With a cry, Nightstorm turned and fled. Moss was tempted, for a moment, to go after her, then decided against it. He was tired of the ups and downs, and he needed a night away. He’d sort it out next evening. That decided, he returned to drinking, and to Thornbow.
Dusk. The sound of chirping birds was slowly being replaced by chirruping crickets, the flapping of bats’ wings, and occasional hoots from nearby owls. Moss, his head still groggy – and pounding – from the night before, pulled the furs back over his head, groaning at the intrusion of night, and snuggling closer to Goldspice.
The feel of firm abdominal muscles where soft, round flesh should have been alerted Moss that it was not Goldspice in the furs with him – nor was it his Recognized. Too tired to think further, he wrapped his arm around the elf beneath the furs and breathed deeply – scent would tell him who it was.
It was Thornbow. The hint of a smile came to Moss. He would have to thank the bowyer for the refreshing night when they were both more awake.
It was dark before Moss woke up again, this time because his furmate had moved and was now sitting up. Moss groaned, then pushed himself to a sitting position as well. His head was throbbing, but he felt rested and more relaxed than in a moon-cycle or more. He smiled to himself, then at Thornbow. “Thanks.”
Thornbow smiled back, nodding. “You’re going to talk with her tonight, right?”
It was Moss’s turn to nod. “I don’t like what happened last night. Hopefully, though, we can figure out a way to make this work. She needs support – and I want to be there for her. But she also has to be able to do this for herself, too.”
Moss excused himself, and after relieving himself, headed back up the stairs, this time going to Nightstorm’s den. He knew that his Recognized generally wouldn’t stay in his den unless he was there. When he arrived, he was surprised to find the den empty. **Rayah?** he sent.
**Craft Dens,** was her response.
Moss smiled. Nightstorm had shared that she was back to work on the leathers, that she would enjoy his help, and his company. She was in a much different mood this night than the one before.
When he arrived, Moss went to where Nightstorm sat looking at the leather she would soon be sewing. For a moment, she looked to him like a lost child, but the look passed and there she was again, pondering the design of her pregnancy clothes.
Nightstorm only acknowledged his presence with a quick glance, then looked back at her work. He watched as she picked up a purple piece and turned it in her hands, staring at it.
Moss knelt beside her, and took the leather from her hands, setting it down. “I’m… sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t there for you, and you needed me. Forgive me?” He reached to put an arm around her.
Nightstorm merely nodded, then slid into his embrace. **I’m sorry, too,** she replied. **I’m… not myself these days. I’m… scared, Aiyl. What if I am not a good mother? I’m… I’m afraid I might be selfish, or too preoccupied. I’m not as patient as some of the others. I’m kind of like Whispersilk… I’d rather do my own thing. But I love our little one.** She looked at him, worried, **What if that’s not enough?**
Moss thought he finally understood. Nightstorm’s moodiness was really her own fears and concerns about becoming a mother. And he thought she might be right in some ways. Her way of mothering would be different. Maybe not as attentive, but still as loving. And she needed reassurance. **Rayah, you love our cub. You will be the mother that you will be. And I will be there with you. As will the rest of the tribe. You will not lack for support, and our cub will not lack for care.**
She looked up to him, tear-filled eyes brimming over, and smiled. **Thank you,** she said. **I… didn’t realize I was so afraid until you weren’t there. I think we both needed the time apart.**
Moss smiled at her, happy that the tension, for now, had eased. “Let’s work on those clothes for you, oh beautiful mother of our cub,” he teased.
She laughed at that, and together, they went back to working.