Said elf looked up from the sapling thornbush he'd been giving a gentle nudge up out of the newly unfrozen ground. On his right-hand side Evervale blinked and let the green glow fade from her own hands. “Is something wrong?”
“I hope not,” Cloudfern answered before reaching out with his mind, revealing his location to the sender.
“A sending?” Evervale asked, attention only partly on the conversation, her hands once more aglow, coaxing thorns to tangle together.
“Snowfall,” Cloudfern said, eyes focused on the path leading back to the Holt — marked by scent and memory rather than lack of grass. “It didn't sound urgent, so there's no danger.”
Another sending from Snowfall cut him short: **Beetle sent me to fetch you. She insisted I'd go see you after, well...** The words, colored by faint amusement and the barely there annoyance of pain equal to a bee-sting, were followed by a quick scene of Beetle's usual place of experimentation, a bowl with slow flowing liquid and a splash.
Cloudfern smiled, mirroring Snowfall's mirth with some exasperation added in. **How sorry was she?**
**Far too much for such a small hurt,** Snowfall sent. **I hardly feel it anymore, but she wouldn't leave me be until I'd promised to seek you out immediately.**
**The poor cub's overwhelmed enough as it is, without me bothering her with such a small thing. I'll be waiting by the Dentrees. You don't need to hurry for my sake.**
Cloudfern chuckled, which earned him a curious look from Evervale.
“Just one of Beetle's experiments that's caused a bit of trouble, nothing to worry about. Will you be all right on your own for a bit?”
“I have Halfmoon,” Evervale said, smiling gently. The wolf in question looked up from the guard post he'd made for himself near the Thornwall, gave a huff and then returned his gaze to the forest beyond the wall.
“Then I'll leave you in his capable paws.” Cloudfern stood and called for his own bond-friend, who had wandered off a bit further from their small group.
Evervale gave a distracted nod, eyes again on the plants. With another, quieter chuckle, Cloudfern set off for the Holt.
Snowfall held her hand up close enough to the candle for the burn on her palm to be visible in the dim light of the den. Cloudfern hmmed and hawwed while cradling her hand and gently turned it left and right, stretching the skin a little. Snowfall hissed under her breath, but fought back the urge to pull her hand away.
“It should be healed within two hands of days. I'll put some salve on it to soothe the sting and help keep it clean. Though Beetle did quite a fine job of cleaning it for you.” The last was said with no small amount of pride.
Snowfall nodded in agreement. “She was very concerned and very swift to care for my burn any way she could, before making me swear I'd go find you. I think she was especially horrified because we've still got preparations to finish for the New Green Bliss.”
Cloudfern let go of her hand and gave a sagely nod. “New Green Bliss with a burnt hand doesn't sound like much fun, but I'm sure you'll be able to work around it.” He added a meaningful wink for good measure.
In response, Snowfall only rolled her eyes.
“Well, I promised you a salve. Sit down for a bit, it'll only take me a moment of mix a fresh batch.”
“Stay and gossip, you mean?” Snowfall said, her tone of voice deadpan.
Cloudfern gave her his best innocent smile, before disappearing into his work-den. A few heartbeats later he was back, carrying a few bowls and baskets. Balancing them all carefully he sat down on the floor, directly opposite the fur Snowfall had chosen to occupy.
“So,” Cloudfern chirped, “what has my beloved daughter been up to this nightfall? Nothing that will burn down the forest I hope.”
Snowfall shook her head. When she spoke, her voice held a trace of calm merriment. “Nothing so violent. It was a silly accident, really. She was heating tree sap for some reason and wanted to show me the results, when she tripped and spilled some on my hand. That is as exciting a tale as it gets.”
“Not exactly worthy of a Howl, no,” Cloudfern said, garnishing the now yellow-green-ish contents of the biggest bowl with the dried leaves of some plant lack of water had made unidentifiable. “Speaking of Howls, have you anything special for tomorrow?”
“That would be telling,” Snowfall answered in a chastising tone of voice. “And it's hardly a night for stories, is it?”
“Oh, I was thinking more along the lines of finding things to tell stories about later.” Cloudfern's grin couldn't have been more fake-innocent if it tried.
“You're worse than Starskimmer.” Snowfall sighed, though her lips twitched into a brief smirk. “No wonder you two Recognized. I'm still trying to determine who Beetle takes after more.”
“Maybe we balanced each other out?” Cloudfern replied, still grinning.
The brief silence that followed was comfortable in the way it only could be between two people who'd known each other for centuries.
Cloudfern was the one to break it, after having poured the mash he'd prepared onto a strip of cloth. “Oh, I forgot to ask: that squirrel, did it recover?”
Snowfall once more held out her hand, patiently waiting for Cloudfern to finish wrapping the salve-drenched bandage around her burn. “Yes, I set it free two nights ago. I must thank you, the herbs did wonders.” Then she added: “True Edge is also grateful, if only because you got it out of our den quicker.”
“Ah, anything to please him,” Cloudfern said with a playful look in his eyes and tied a knot to secure the bandage in place. “Well, I'm afraid I must be rude and leave you now. I promised Greenweave he could practice some hair ideas on me and before that I have to help Evervale finish up by the Thornwall. Keep the bandage until tomorrow night. After that the salve alone should do, but tell me right away if it gets infected.”
They both said their goodbyes on the ground outside the Dentrees. Cloudfern hurried off quickly, while Snowfall waited a little before leaving, allowing Slychase to finish hunting for bugs and mice.
The night smelled like the new green season; flowers and wet dirt. She inhaled deeply, letting the familiar scents wash over her. Her smile grew wider as she caught True Edge's familiar scent and whistled for Slychase to come to her side. She too had things to prepare.