The bounty of the waning night’s catch could be measured by Chip-tooth’s round belly as he lazed under the weight of an extra meal. Beesting, Dagger, and the rest of the hunt team had packed it in for the coming day, nestled among the roots of a stand of pines above the shores of the Great Stoneback lake. Axehand had been too full of unspent energy to sleep, though, and as much as he had enjoyed the diversion of a pre-dawn rabbit chase he was still anxious to get home. He had a baby girl, Flash, just shy of a turn old, whom he hadn’t see in too long. She was sprouting up by the night and he was missing it! But of course Tallow needed meat in her belly to keep milk in her breasts. And by Javelin's jutting jowls, Axehand would see that she got it!
He was so moons-drunk with thoughts of his family while he finished skinning his kills that it came as no surprise at all when family called out to him; **Khash.**
What was surprising was the sound of Tallow's call. Her mind-voice was distant and strained. The soul-mates were at the edge of their combined range, near past it. But Praf, though she wasn't as strong a sender as he, was capable of feats of purpose-driven focus that could put the most dedicated hunter to shame. He could feel her determination to push through — to the Troll-pits with the greedy mountain! — and show him what what he needed to see. He knew, with or without their instinctive bond, what she had in store for him. Eager, he didn’t waste time with words and worries. He simply opened his mind to the gift his mate offered.
This was no memory. It was happening in the Now, and **it was happening among the Craft Trees. There were neither sounds nor scents, and the sights were limited. Blurred to the sides and top and bottom, almost as though see through a troll-tunnel made of seawater; its walls a blend of hazy forms and faded colors. Where the candlelight was coming from couldn’t be made out. All of Praf's concentration was focused on the center, on Flash.
The precious little cub was standing upright, her chubby hands grasping those of her cousin Sunlight. Her heavy head bobbed around, examining this new vantage; tufts of red hair bounded this way and that. At the sides of the ‘tunnel’, Praf's hands came into view, and slender fingers flexing in a “Come to Mama!” motion. Sunlight mouthed words of encouragement.
Flash's deep green eyes soon locked in on her mother's —and through them her sire’s!— and it looked for all the world like she was going to take that first step forward. Instead, her face titled down to see why her little feet weren’t coming along with her! Her focus shifted back to Mama, to the floor, to Mama. A moment’s pause, and at last her left foot lifted from the ground, and landed a petite pace forward. The right foot quickly followed!
A third step and she teetered off-balance. Her weight supported by Sunlight, she landed on her rump with a silent bounce. Flash blinked, and pondered her legs, puzzling out whatever could have gone wrong. An irrepressible rush of pride took Praf and the happy mother moved forward to embrace—**
And it was gone. Tallow’s concentration was broken, returning Axehand’s sight to his own watering eyes. He sent feelings to her of joy and thanks and of how proud he was of both of them. His chest swelled as he sensed those feelings returned in kind. He gave Chip-tooth a good rib-scratching, and a playful slap on the hindquarters to get him upright. Gear and meat and hides weighed less than nothing, and were quickly packed to travel. First to his fellow hunters, and then soon to his family.
Flash’s papa wore a huge grin all the way home.