(Ed. note: "Vole" is the cubname of Beartooth; "Golden Almost-Growler" is Chieftess Wolfsister and "Glowy-Touch Highthing" is Feverease; "Too-Angry Highthing" is Chief Burn; "Sparkle-Laugh Highthing" is Ripple; "Wisp" is the cubname of Easysinger.)
Little-little new Highthing born - RTH 615.10.16
Foamspray remembered Before-time. It was built to remember. Of course, some of its memories were hazier than others from lack of use, especially its oldest memories, but still it remembered. However, the Highthings that Foamspray and its fellows took care of were mainly concerned with Now-time, so most of the time, that was what Foamspray focused on as well. And Now, it was time to welcome a Little-little new Highthing to the Holt!
All the Dentrees were abuzz with the excitement. Unable to sit still, all the Preservers were flitting here and there about the Holt proper, and the Growlers were gathered around curiously as their Highthing-friends filled the air with their musical speech.
"Did you hear? Cubmaker's been in labor all night! Won't be long now!"
"Clayshard must be proud — his fourth cub, already!"
"Wonder who the child will favor, mother or father?"
"I'll bet my whole bag of riverstones it's a girl!"
"No — I'm sure it'll be a boy!"
Foamspray was used to it all, but it was no less excited nonetheless. Any new Highthing born in the Holt was a wonderful thing. Soon enough, Mud-Mixer Highthing appeared at the mouth of one of the dens, holding a small leather-wrapped bundle.
"Well, don't just stand there, Clayshard!" someone shouted. "Introduce us to your whelp!"
Grinning proudly, Mud-Mixer Highthing held up the baby for all to see as they crowded around to welcome the little one. "His name is Vole."
Highthing loses first wolf-friend - RTH 631.04.13
It was Gentle-Smile Highthing's first big hunt with Golden Almost-Growler's pack of hunters, and he was clearly excited. He hadn't stopped grinning since Golden Almost-Growler, calling the names of those who would form her hunting party that night, had added at the end of the list: "Vole!"
He rode his Growler proudly that night, but it took only a few hours before the routine trip was interrupted.
The attack was sudden. A black bear stumbled out onto the Highthings' hunting path and came nose-to-nose with the Growlers at the head of the pack. Foamspray saw that the bear was deeply injured in its right shoulder, with a set of gashes that had no doubt been caused by a prior conflict with another predator. It was favoring that foreleg as well, walking only on the other three legs. The bear was apparently starving due to the difficulty feeding itself with such a wound, and was obviously desperate. Instantly, bear, Growlers, Highthings, and Preservers were all on alert. As Foamspray darted up and out of the way into the air, it saw Berryflop buzzing around behind the bear, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a thick tree trunk. As both Preservers reoriented to help, Foamspray saw the bear slapping its way through the pack, snarling in combined fear and outrage as it shoved weapons and livings things alike aside from itself. As Foamspray hovered, bobbing, trying to get at a good vantage to fill the beast's eyes with wrapstuff, the bear knocked one of the Highthings off her wolf and towered over her, jaws gaping.
From one side, there was a fierce growl and young Gentle-Smile Highthing jabbed his spear hard into the bear's ribs. Furious, the bear turned aside from the Highthing on the ground and sank its horrible teeth into Gentle-Smile Highthing's head! Distracted by the rest of the scene, though, it almost immediately let go again, one fang and the two teeth behind it yanking free of the bear's mouth, lodged in the young Highthing's bleeding head, and smacked Gentle-Smile Highthing flying with the back of one enormous paw. The poor young Highthing and his spear landed, both lying broken and sprawled across a stand of bushes. His Growler, now riderless, launched itself at the bear, only to be thrown down again almost as quickly as the bear ripped into the poor creature with teeth and claws. Taking advantage of the bear's momentary distraction, the rest of the hunting party was able to move in and finally kill the wounded bear.
As soon as it was over, Golden Almost-Growler called Foamspray and Berryflop to wrapstuff their wounded. Once that was done, the group turned back to the Dentrees, where Glowy-touch Highthing was waiting.
When it was Gentle-Smile Highthing's turn to be unwrapped, Glowy-touch Highthing deftly pulled the teeth from the side of his head as though they were arrow-points, then filled his young body with her glowing magic, repairing his cracked skull and other injuries until finally he was no longer stillquiet. The agitated Preservers finally moved in, weaving themselves into his brown hair and chattering in concern as they checked him over personally for any further injury.
"How long before he can hunt again?" Golden Almost-Growler asked her lovemate in her deep, gruff voice. She had not moved from her spot, seated on her haunches just inside the entrance to the den since the healing of her hunters had begun.
"What — really?" Gentle-Smile Highthing asked, his eyes bright with excited pride. "You mean I still get to go with the hunters?"
"Of course," Golden Almost-Growler told him, sounding almost surprised. "Other hunters get hurt sometimes. You, too," she explained simply with a shrug. Then, looking at him keenly, she observed, "Pretty tough, for an elf," by which she obviously meant one without wolf-blood.
"Thank... thank you, chieftess," Gentle-Smile Highthing said quietly, obviously grateful for the respect he'd just been paid.
"A few days," Glowy-touch Highthing answered the Almost-Growler's earlier question, then turned to Gentle-Smile Highthing. "Here," she said with a smile, dropping the three bear teeth into the young Highthing's lap. "I think these are yours — Beartooth."
Foamspray didn't understand why these Highthings so often felt the need to change the names they called each other the way you might change the cap you wore on your head, or like a coccoon of wrapstuff that needed replacing after being torn open by a wild animal or errant Highthing uncarefully watched — but it accepted this as just one more of the many strange habits of the Highthings that it didn't understand. After all, the Preservers had their own names for the Highthings, which made more sense anyhow.
Gentle-Smile Highthing, however, seemed to be excited and, if it were possible, even more proud to receive his new Highthing name. "Thank you, Feverease," he said solemnly, clutching the teeth in one hand.
Glowy-touch Highthing's kind smile faded somewhat. "I'm sorry to say your poor wolf friend didn't make it," she told him softly. "The bear killed her when she attacked it just after you fell. The hunters brought back her body. We didn't know if you might want something of her?"
Gentle-Smile Highthing considered for a long moment, looking down at the teeth in his hand. "Just a pair of claws," he finally answered. "I'm going to make a necklace with them and these teeth. I'll put her claws between the teeth, because she was the only thing that came between me and death today."
Hunting - RTH 763.07.03
Foamspray trilled a beautiful, shrieking song as it flew over the Highthings' heads. It was a lovely warm summer night out, and Foamspray was excited to be going on a Long-Days trip with the Highthings and their Growlers on their hunt.
"Quiet!" Too-Angry Highthing snapped up at it with a growl.
Vexed, Foamspray flew down right in front of Too=Angry Highthing's face and waved a finger at his nose, though it did stop singing. The other Highthings all listened to Too-Angry Highthing when he gave an order, so Foamspray did, too. Then it flew away again just as quickly to go sit on Gentle-Smile Highthing's shoulder for a sulk, grumbling quietly into his ear as it did.
Gentle-Smile Highthing laughed, and Too-Angry Highthing spun half around on his Growler to glare back at him. "What's so funny, Beartooth?" he growled.
"Nothing, my chief," Gentle-Smile Highthing replied calmly, just so happening to reach up with one hand to brush some hair back from his face, blocking the other Highthing's view of the Preserver.
"Then you be quiet, too! Are you a cub, to scare away our food?"
As Gentle-Smile Highthing, still grinning as Too-Angry Highthing turned forward again, lowered his hand from his hair, he patted Foamspray fondly on the head.
Wrapstuff Den - RTH 871.3.24
"Listen, bug!" Gentle-Smile Highthing was saying in an uncharacteristically naughty-bad fashion. "It's not like I want to take your whole howling room of cocoons apart! I just need this one thing. It's supposed to be a present for Ripple!"
"NononononononoNO!" Foamspray shrieked defiantly, fluttering in the Highthing's face. Just that same night, not an hour earlier, one of the Highthings had brought leftover scraps of leather from a project and had Foamspray and Muckabout wrap it all up. It had gotten used to the Highthings opening their cocoons, but really, so soon after wrapping? Wasn't this a bit much? It was beautiful! It must have been one of their better cocoons that winter, and Foamspray wasn't about to let go of it so easily. Why couldn't these Highthings just let things be in their wrapstuff, anyway? Consternating, adorable things that they were!
"My goodness me, what is all this racket?!" a soft voice demanded at the mouth of the storage dens. The voice belonged to Fly-Quiet Highthing. She would understand! Foamspray flew over to her side and tugged anxiously at a stray lock of her hair. "Gentle-Smile Highthing no cut wrapstuff!" it insisted.
Fly-Quiet Highthing smiled at the currently naughty-bad Highthing before her. "Having a little trouble tonight, Beartooth?" she asked, sounding almost ready to laugh at his plight.
Gentle-Smile Highthing sighed in frustration, and explained, "I don't want the whole blasted thing, Butterfly. There's a particular piece of green-dyed leather that Tanner said I could have. It's for..." he paused, his cheeks turning faintly pink. "It's for a New Green gift."
"I see!" Fly-Quiet Highthing said, eyes twinkling. "There, there, Foamspray," she soothed the rattled Preserver. "Why don't you let poor Beartooth have his one little piece of leather out of the pile, and then you'll get to wrap it up again?" she suggested gently.
Foamspray considered that — oooh, wrapstuff it again! It decided that it liked the idea a lot, and finally relented.
Going Home - RTH 906.01.30
The hunting party was in high spirits as they rode back towards the Holt, carrying a heavy load of wrapstuffed deermeat slung between three pairs of Highthings and Growlers in as many sturdy leather carry hammocks. Jumpy-dance Highthing led the way atop her Growler, with her lovemate at her side and Mushroom on her head, nestled warmly in her thick red hair. Flutterby was, of course, darting and weaving amongst the Highthings, while Foamspray rode comfortably perched on Gentle-Smile Highthing's shoulder, keeping itself warm inside his fur-lined hood. No one even seemed to mind the light dusting of snow that was falling all around, adding to the white blanket that had already settled on the ground and trees.
Always-Watch Highthing edged closer on his Growler, grinning as he slapped Gentle-Smile Highthing on the back. "Bet you can't wait to get back to your lovely lifemate, Ripple, can you?" he said with a wink.
"Right, Sentry — and there's no one you're missing, hmm?" Gentle-Smile Highthing retorted with a smirk of his own.
"You strike true, Beartooth old friend!" Always-Watch Highthing admitted with a laugh. "Looks like we'll both be glad to get home tonight!"
Up at the head of the group, Jumpy-dance Highthing gave a happysound howl, then started into an old song the tribe often sang on the return of successful hunts. At her cue, the rest of the Highthings joined in, and the cold air was soon filled with voices warmly singing. The patter of Growler paws on snow covered ground formed the rhythm below the melody.
"Look, we've reached Sentinel Peak already, Foxsly!" Brewberry Highthing called out happily as the song dwindled, pointing up ahead of the group. "Not much further to the Holt now."
"Yoooooo-ah!" Jumpy-dance Highthing howled again in reply, urging her Growler on faster. "Crest is right. Come, hunters, let's ride!"
Very happy Highthings - RTH 1045.05.12
Flowers were fully in bloom in the Holt and the surrounding forest everywhere they grew. It made a bright and happy backdrop to the happiness playing out next to the main cookfire below the Dentrees, where Gentle-Smile Highthing and Sparkle-Laugh Highthing sat side by side. As Foamspray whizzed through the air above, playing a simple game of catch-you-or-catch-me with Gurgleflap and Dewdrop, it paused and hovered just long enough to hear a few of their words.
"I always knew we were meant for each other, beloved," Gentle-Smile Highthing said, softly rubbing one hand across his lifemate's much-big belly.
"Me too," Sparkle-Laugh Highthing replied, looking into his eyes with a delighted smile. "I'm so glad the High Ones agreed with us!"
"Indeed," Gentle-Smile Highthing laughed, leaning in close to bring his face level with his lifemate's belly. "Hello, little cubling. What will you be like? We've waited so long for you..."
Highthing teaches daughter spear - RTH 1197.10.21
It was a quiet, pleasantly cool autumn evening, and Foamspray was spending it watching the goings on around the Holt from its comfortable perch among the lowest branches of the Mother Tree. Below, the Highthings were going about their daily chores of gathering small foods like nuts, herbs and berries (Foamspray allowed itself a moment of bliss at the thought of wrap-stuffing most of it!), tanning leather, and the like. Gentle-Smile Highthing had a half-size practice spear that he'd sanded the point blunt on, and was showing his small daughter, Little-sharp Highthing, how to use it. He had set up a large, battered old reed basket that, truth be told, was long past any use other than as the practice target it was being used for now. Gentle-Smile Highthing's first daughter, now grown, sat nearby and watched as she worked on her woodcarving.
As it watched, lazy and content with the relaxed scene below it, Foamspray saw Gentle-Smile Highthing's mate, Sparkle-Laugh Highthing, walk by, carrying a large basket of dreamberries in her arms. Gentle-Smile Highthing looked up from their daughter and saw her as well. "Hello, Ripple!"
Sparkle-Laugh Highthing nodded in returned greeting, smiling at her family. "I see you're wasting no more time in teaching our second daughter the way of the spear than you did with our first, lifemate," she said, nodding towards Stick-Whistle Highthing, who grinned and lowered the flute she was busy carving from a long, thin piece of wood.
"Yes, I remember it well," she said with a sidelong glance at her father. Absently, she pried a shaving loose from one of the flute soundholes with the tip of her knife before continuing. "Anyway, I'll say little Burr seems to take to it a lot better than I ever did!" she said, watching her little sister's efforts approvingly.
"Nonsense, Piper!" Gentle-Smile Highthing insisted, helping his little one adjust her hold on the scaled-down practice weapon. "You're as good with a spear as I am, when you want to be."
"Maybe," Stick-Whistle Highthing allowed with a shrug, going back to her project.
"This flute of yours looks different somehow," Sparkle-Laugh Highthing commented, leaning in for a closer look.
"I'm giving this one eight holes instead of six — maybe I can get it to play that new song I've got in my head a bit better," Stick-Whistle Highthing explained. "If it works, it should play those last two higher notes I could never get..."
Sparkle-Laugh Highthing smiled. "I hope it works for you. I'd better get these berries to Crest for his latest batch of wine before he sets off howling for them!"
Put Highthing in river - RTH 1249.06.08
"Awww," Foamspray muttered as it hovered, watching the small raft disappear around a riverbend with its sad cargo.
Finally, turning to fly back to the Holt, Foamspray tucked its memory of Gentle-Smile Highthing away in its heart, along with all its other memories of anything from Before-time, and the other Highthings it had known during its long life. Thinking of the Highthings still at home to help take care of, it focused its mind back on Now-time.
Another Little-little new Highthing born - RTH 1251.08.01
Over the centuries, many new events had been added to Foamspray's long memory, but for the most part, it focused on Now-time like the Highthings it helped to take care of did. Two white-colds had passed since the death of Gentle-Smile Highthing, but that was Before-time, too — and Now, another of the many Little-little new Highthings would soon be born into the Holt!
Bugbrow Highthing — so named for his thick bushy brown eyebrows that looked like little fuzzy brown caterpillars, though the Highthings did insist on calling him "Reedweaver" — and Jumpy-dance Highthing were in the latter's den at that moment, waiting to welcome their little one to the wild, fierce, dangerous, beautiful world. The rest of the Highthings, the Growlers, and — of course! — the Preservers were eagerly clustered around as close as they could get to wait as well. There was the usual hubbub, until... finally —
A joyful shout from Bugbrow Highthing: "Her name is Wisp!"