“Come on, Cinder!” Rill’s voice came crisp and clear through the evening air as Cinder trotted along behind his friend, attempting to match the other youthful cub’s excited pace.
“This is never going to work,” Cinder replied.
“Not if you keep thinking that way,” Rill retorted with a chuckle, “now hurry and bring it before Notch gets here.” Cinder nodded and quickened his pace. The pair of cubs halted upon reaching their destination, a small secluded hideaway just off the main path towards Laughing Creek.
“Quick, give it to me,” Rill said impatiently. From a sling hanging under his shoulder made from a swatch of soft felt, Cinder retrieved a small object made to look like a cross between several of the local breeds of insect with a multitude of spiny legs and vein-thin wings, and constructed of a hodgepodge of materials ranging from mud and leaves to dry, brittle twigs and globules of berry paint. He handed it over to Rill, who knelt down and placed it on a leaf resting against an upturned chunk of tree branch which had been specifically chosen for the task. Adjusting the carving so that it looked perfect, the cub turned to his partner in crime and offered him a cheeky grin. “It’s ready. Go see if he’s coming.”
Cinder nodded, jogged back to the path and peered down it in the direction of the Dentrees. The air was still, allowing the cub to both hear and smell the older elf coming down the path towards them. He turned and sent, **He’s coming, Rill!** The older cub finished what he was doing and trotted over to Cinder, nodding sagely that their plan was ready and putting on the same scared expression that his friend had. They were proud of themselves for their acting skills, but to an outside observer they weren’t particularly convincing. A few moments later their prey arrived.
Notch got to the cubs with a passive look on his face, expecting something potentially dangerous. There was, however, a tiny glint in the corner of his eye as he looked down at the youngsters and asked, “So where’s this scary new animal you two found?” The cubs pointed to their creation, artificially making their outstretched arms shake as they did. Notch walked forward slowly, carefully approaching the supposedly fear-inducing creature. As he got closer, the cubs exchanged a gleeful look. They were going to do it. They were about to unseat the chief of pranks. The excitement was palpable as they saw Notch kneel down on his right knee in front of their creation.
And he didn’t move. The only movement the cubs could see was his knee shifting back and forth, causing the large leaf crushed beneath it to rustle and crinkle as it moved back and forth. They were saved from wondering what was taking him so long when the older elf fell backward with a small cry and scrambled to his feet. He placed himself in front of the cubs, looking down over his shoulder at them and flashing them a look of fear.
“That’s a very dangerous animal you cubs found. Stay behind me,” he ordered. The cubs exchanged another glance. They couldn’t control themselves anymore. They had done it. They’d pranked the chief of pranks! Glow would be so jealous! They danced in front of Notch, laughing.
“Hah, we got you!” Rill exclaimed. “It’s not dangerous, we made it!” Notch strode forward and grabbed the cubs by the scruff of their collars.
“You did no such thing, cubs,” he said, bringing them cautiously closer to where the false danger had been. “Look carefully.” The cubs focused intently on where they had placed their hodgepodged creation... and saw movement. Their shriek of fright came in unison as they scuttled behind the elder elf’s legs. In place of the cubs’ carefully crafted faux animal was a dark mass of legs and hair, shifting from side to side in a vaguely threatening manner.
“Wh-what is it?” Cinder asked softly.
“Is it gonna hurt us?” Rill echoed.
“Oh, it won’t do anything to you,” Notch said, smiling slightly. “Right, Otter?” The confused cubs followed Notch’s hand with their eyes as he pointed upward, and saw Otter in the upper branches of a tree, twitching a line of Preserver thread to make the “dangerous creature” dance in front of them, laughing all the while.
“Gotcha!” Notch exclaimed, laughing.
The cubs’ hearts sank as they realized they’d been pranked, but they couldn’t help but laugh at seeing the dancing “creature”. It would be difficult to unseat the chief of pranks from his perch, but if there was one thing their attempt had taught them, it was that there’s always next time.