“Are you sure you want to wear that during the winter?” Fadestar’s face was skeptical. She leaned on the wall of the weavers’ den as Otter pulled on his new outfit. It was just as he had requested, and he had come back several times to ask for changes. Fadestar had had to make several adaptions until he finally said he liked it. Fadestar hadn’t really been happy with that, since it had started to look more like a summer outfit than one suited for winter, but since he was the one who would wear it, it was Otter’s choice.
“Why not?” the young archer replied, looking down happily at his new coat. The one he used to have got ruined last winter, after having served him for over four winters. But it was Starskimmer who had taken the lead in advising Moss what it should look like, not him. This was the first time he had chosen an outfit entirely for himself and he had wanted it to be just like he had imagined it in his head. “It’s got fur so it’s warm and I can move easily in it. I don’t like tough leather that keeps me from moving like I want.”
“And your belly and arms are uncovered,” Fadestar replied with a frown. She didn’t like the implication that whatever leathers she made were tough. “It’s only buttoned over your chest and the rest is open. Why don’t you let me close it up for you with some buttons? Or maybe I can weave a shirt for you? That way, your belly would be warm. And I could make some sleeves too. I could even make it to look like your old long coat.”
“I don’t see the problem,” Otter stubbornly said. “I like it the way it is.”
“It hasn’t been really cold yet,” said the young tanner. Fall had been mild – temperatures hadn’t gone really low. But it wouldn’t stay like this forever, she knew. Otter had to know that, too.
“So? I never wear much in summer either. I’m used to wearing less clothing than the rest of the tribe. I can handle cold better than anyone else.” Otter’s eyes narrowed. “I like this coat and it’s brand new, so I’m not going to wear something else.”
Fadestar raised her hands in defense. If Otter didn’t want to listen to reason, he’d just have to feel the winter cold when it came. “I just wanted to warn you that I might not have the time to adjust it when it’s too late. Tanners always get busy in winter. Everyone comes with repairs at the last minute.”
“I won’t need your help,” Otter said confidently. With that, he walked out of the weavers’ den. Fadestar sighed, but it was his choice. There wasn’t anything she could do to change his mind. She knew when she could win her battles and when she couldn’t.
Otter pulled his coat over his head and threw it in the corner of his den. A kicking move, and his boots followed the path of the coat one by one. With more care, he put the bow and quiver next to it. Breathing deeply to temper his frustration, he rubbed his arms, then reached for one of his sleeping furs. He wrapped it around himself tightly, hoping that the feeling would soon return to his cold fingers. His natural warmth would warm up the furs.
Otter had just come home from a short hunting trip. He had wanted to hunt some heron so he had left late that night. He hadn’t had any trouble tracking the heron he had seen in the area before, but by the time he had a clean shot, his arms had gone numb and he had been shivering from the cold.
The snow had only been a few inches deep and really, they’d had colder winters before with which Otter hadn’t had any problems. Only this time, his arms had started to shake because of the cold and a shiver that had run down his spine had made him miss the heron. The bird had sensed the danger, and had flown off. Otter had been unable to get to it a second time, had acknowledged his loss, and had returned home.
The den flap moved, letting the cold wind in. Otter turned towards the den’s entrance.
“What do you want?” he snapped. The last thing he needed was a lecture from the one who had warned him in the first place.
Fadestar had seen him wander off, and had also seen and heard him return. She had been practicing some new dyeing techniques she had learned from Nightstorm. She had found it to be much easier to work with daylight than with candlelight.
When Otter had returned, the leafless trees had made it easy to spot him. She had also heard the frustration in his footsteps.
She had figured that it had been the right time to come over. She had been waiting long for the right time to arrive. This was it. “I have something for you. If you want it.”
The archer remained quiet for a little while. But his interest was raised, and finally, he met her eyes. He noticed she had something behind her back. “What, then?”
“Don’t be angry with me, but I took the liberty to... well...” Fadestar felt nervous, Otter could see that. Growing a little impatient, he sat up, pulling the sleeping furs tight. He still hadn’t warmed up completely.
“What is it?”
The tanner swiftly took a few step forward, and revealed the package behind her back. “I wove a shirt for you with Dreamflight’s help, and made you a new coat. Made a pair of pants to match it. You know, for when the winter gets really cold.” She dropped the package in front of him, before taking a few steps back. “You can always use the other one I made for the milder periods of autumn and spring, but I thought that you could use something for when it’s really cold,” she quickly added.
Otter stared at the package, and then stared at her. “I didn’t ask for it,” he said.
“I know you didn’t,” the young tanner replied. “But I know how stubborn you are, and I know how stubborn I am. So I just made it. Don’t worry, the fabric is as flexible as the other coat. Nightstorm had some really soft leathers that I could use. It’ll just... cover more. And if you don’t want it, I can give it to someone else.”
For a little while, he debated on what to do. Then, he reached for the package.
“My arms are still feeling a little numb. Do you want to help me put it on?”
Fadestar’s eyes sparkled. “Of course!”
First, she helped him get into a long, dark-brown tunic with a high, open collar. Then, she helped him into his new coat, which was trimmed with soft rabbit fur. On the arms and on the bottom hem of the brown coat she had sewn a dark-blue strip with decorations shaped like small, simplified fish. She had also put a lace through the fur around his neck, so if he would get really cold, he could always tighten the fur if he wanted to. She couldn’t help but caress the fur on the coat. The remark that Otter had made earlier when he picked up his coat, that Fadestar had understood to be ‘your leathers are tough’, had stung, and hadn’t let her go. She’d wanted to make it all by herself, but had realized that it was easier to do with some help than do it all by herself, perhaps ruining some fine, precious furs in her attempts. Nightstorm had come to the rescue.
The thought made Fadestar smile. before she patted him on his shoulders. “There,” she said. “Done. It looks really well.”
Otter tried out a few moves, including one in which he imitated drawing an arrow, while Fadestar stood back and watched him do it. The fisher bent over, moved to the side, raised his arms... but Fadestar had been right – this coat was as supple as the other one.
“I think you’re even more stubborn than I am,” Otter finally said. The fisher knew when he could win his battles and when he couldn’t.
Fadestar’s eyes flickered with humor, but she kept a straight face. “You think?”
“Yes. But thanks, I like the coat.”
The young tanner chuckled. “So do I.”