As the snow fell, blanketing the forest around them in silent white and tucking all who would have been about into warm burrows for the long night, one small creature stood awake and almost vibrating with excitement. The cold air slipping through the gaps in the furs that cloaked the den’s opening made no difference to the little girl-cub. In fact, her small bare fingers closed on the edges and would have thrown them open even further had her mother not already cautioned her with a laugh about letting the snow in to litter their sleeping bowl. She barely reacted to the cold herself, too intent on the view out the doorway. Everything shone dimly in the light of the moons, just like those strange pale stones in that one special area of the river, gleaming and sparkling when she played with them. It was so white that it nearly hurt to look at, so white and soft that it matched her hair. Finally, she sighed and turned to look over her shoulder. She said not a word, though. She had never been a chattering sort of cub even at only 6 turns old.
Dreamberry laughed softly again at her too-solemn daughter and pushed herself to her feet before stretching in delicious languid movements. The Long Cold’s dim days made for very satisfying sleep but the extended nights left too much time for an active cub to itch for exploration. Even one as quiet and well-behaved as Snowdrop. “What now, little one?” she asked as if she weren’t already aware of her daughter’s aching need to go outside. “Is your father out there? Or one of the pack?”
She could not resist teasing, especially when Snowdrop heaved another sigh and took a step to the side, her fingers still clutching the den-flap so that it peeled back as she moved. A gust of bone-cutting wind slipped into the cozy den and Dreamberry held back a shiver, gritting her teeth. Nonetheless, Snowdrop noticed and quickly pulled the flap back into place. Her little fingers fumbled for a moment but, after two false starts, she managed to get them settled and the lower ties done. She could not reach any higher and so stepped back, biting her lower lip. Then she gave her head a slight shake and turned back towards her mother.
The moment Dreamberry saw the cub’s face, she had to bite her own lip in mirror-reaction. The cause was quite different, however, as she felt laughter threatening in the face of Snowdrop’s continued attempt to be solemn and mature. It was already too late to hide her desire to be out in the snow, though. Only moments ago, the cub had been nearly quivering for it and only her quiet determination to be considerate and obedient kept her from darting back to half-hang herself out the doorway into the shining white world.
Dreamberry held out both arms in silent welcome and allowed herself a wide smile when Snowdrop scampered across the den to fling herself bodily into the embrace. “You want to go out there, don’t you?” she laughed, the sound soft and half lost in Snowdrop’s hair. The cub nodded and cuddled further into her mother’s warmth. “And what will you do out there?”
That gave Snowdrop pause and she lifted her head to blink big blue eyes as she thought of the possibilities. Dreamberry waited patiently, the smile lingering at the corners of her mouth. Finally, Snowdrop drew back a bit and lifted a hand, fingers splaying out as she spoke. “I could make pictures in the snow. I could pretend to be a long-ear and make those marks, too. Birds make marks. I could use a stick to make those. I could roll it all into balls and...” She trailed off and looked up at her mother with a shy little smile. “I like how it tastes,” she admitted with the air of someone sharing a guilty little secret.
“You know what, little one?” Dreamberry drew her daughter into another tight hug before releasing her and standing. “So do I. Let’s get dressed and go play outside.”
Nodding eagerly, Snowdrop scurried across the den and soon buried herself amongst the spare furs as she searched out her favorite warm clothing. Blue like her eyes and silver like her hair and cozy as her mother’s hug. Dreamberry watched for a moment and then joined her. Laughter rang out again in next to no time and she reflected how, with such a silent little cub, it really was the little things that made the time special. They would, she promised herself, stay out in the Long Cold until their fingers tingled and their noses glowed red. Then they would make up stories to tell Bearheart when he got home from the hunt.
Just to make it all the more perfect.