(This story happens shortly before ”Setting Sights”.)
Longshot looked around. His father had leaned back against Goldspice, whose arms were wrapped around her lovemate. Nightstorm's head had taken the place of the harp in Thornbow’s lap — she was looking up at him, and past him, pointing up at the treetops. “I can see the stars better this way,” his mother slurred to no one in particular.
More laughter from the group. Longshot strained to look upward from where he sat, and fell over. He rolled onto his back, and pointed upward in mimicry of his mother. “See that one?” he asked no one in particular. “That one looks like Evervale.”
Nightstorm murmured her assent.
Thornbow reached toward the wooden bowl next to him. “Empty!” he announced, disappointed.
Moss added, “Wineskin’s dry, too!”
“Awww,” his mother and Goldspice moaned in unison.
Longshot pushed himself upward. “I’ll go get ush more,” he said. Once he was sitting, he pushed upward to standing, taking a sidestep to regain his balance.
“I’ll go with you, son,” Moss offered.
Longshot shook his head, clearing it as much as he was rejecting the offer of company. His father looked very comfortable there with Goldspice. Besides, he knew where the best dreamberry bush was — full of the most ripe, most succulent berries he had ever tasted. He didn’t want to give away his secret.
He took another step away from the group, then stopped and put his hand on a young tree. Behind him, Goldspice said, “Are you sure you don’t want one of us with you? It seems that you’ve had your share of the goods.”
Longshot laughed. “Noaw, I’ll get the shtuff — I ate an’ drank moshtof it,” he said, confident that it wouldn’t take him very long. The bush of berries was only a short sprint away. “There’sh a bush,” he said, as if that made perfect sense, and then he added, “An Evermark and Pathvale gave me a shkin of wine. I’ll shtop by my den t’ get it.”
His father was sitting up, looking at him strangely. **You’re certain you don’t want company?** he asked.
Longshot nodded, then turned and walked away — moving around the trees that seemed to jump in his way as he went. It was nice of his parents to want to do something special with him. With his lovemates away — one hunting for human words, and the other out scouting — Longshot had more time available. They had spent the night talking and sharing stories, and playing music and games. Longshot had enjoyed dancing, and had gotten Goldspice and his mother to join him a few times. They’d had fun. The wine and berries had been good — but now he wanted to share with them the best. He just had to go and get it.
Goldspice’s forge, where they had been drinking, was just out of sight when Longshot fell. He pushed himself back up to sitting, then again to standing, and looked around. “What tripped me?” he asked no one in particular. Not finding the culprit, he stood again, this time seeming to lose balance. He grabbed for a tree to steady himself and took a breath. He took another step forward, and fell again.
Newt had just finished gathering herbs for Cloudfern when he heard a crash in the woods near him. Testing the air, he smiled and called out, “Longshot!”
“O’er here,” came his archery teacher’s reply.
The archer’s voice sounded strange to Newt, and he hurried toward the sound. He found Longshot sitting, looking dazed, beside a bush. The dark haired elf looked up at him, and smiled. “Hello, white-hair!”
‘He’s drunk!’ Newt thought to himself. Aloud, he simply replied, “Hi, Longshot. What are you doing here?”
“Ahhh,” he grinned. “I’m going to the bush to get the drim-berries for fa'r and mo'er an Thornspice and Goldbow.”
“Berries?” Newt asked, puzzled. It wasn’t the right time of year for dreamberries.
Longshot nodded. “Shee, I know zha besht bushh of berries. Evervale showed me.”
Newt had a feeling that arguing would get him nowhere. “I see,” he responded. “Do you want some help finding it?”
Longshot’s mouth worked itself in puzzlement as he thought, then he nodded.
“Shee, the bush is right behind the nexsht clump o treesh,” Longshot told him, putting an arm around him and leaning. “Lesh go,” he whispered. “I’m shupposed ta bring’em back!”
Newt didn’t reply. The bush his friend was talking about couldn’t have berries on it right now — but the other issue was... there were no dreamberry bushes nearby in this direction. He was a gatherer — he should know! Still, Longshot seemed determined to find them, and wasn’t in a state of mind to be argued with.
They didn’t get far before Longshot stood and looked around, puzzled. “Sh’not here,” he said, his face fallen and confused. “I thought...” he stopped, looking around.
“You thought there’d be a dreamberry bush,” Newt finished the sentence, then added, gently, “But they’re not in season, and none grow in this area.”
The archer seemed perplexed. “Evervale... she brought me shome before she left.”
Newt smiled. “She either got some from the storage dens, or she grew some with her magic.”
“Oh,” Longshot’s voice grew quiet. Then he looked at Newt, almost as if seeing him for the first time. “You’re shiny,” he said, and laughed. “You’re like th’moon, Newt.”
Newt smiled indulgently. Longshot meant no harm, and hadn’t said anything that hadn’t been said before. Something about the way the archer was looking at him, though, made a funny feeling stir from within. Suddenly, he was uncertain about being so close to the dark-haired elf. He looked down, and saw the hint of shadow, and realized dawn was upon them. He’d have to get back to the Dentrees.
**Longshot,** Moss’s slightly fuzzy, but open, send intruded on Newt’s thoughts. The tanner was looking for his son.
“O’er here, Father,” Longshot called happily, “With th’prettiest moon.”
When Longshot looked at him again, Newt felt not uncomfortable, but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He was glad that Moss was coming to help — he had to get back to the Dentrees soon.
When Moss arrived, Longshot pointed toward his father. “There’sh father. He’sh a good drummer.”
Newt smiled, and said, “Yes, he is. Why don’t you go with him? I need to get back indoors.”
“Thanksh Newt,” Longshot said, smiling as he stumbled into Moss’s arms.
“You’re welcome, Longshot,” Newt said.
Heading quickly home, Newt thought more about what had just happened, but he could make neither heads nor tails of it, nor of his feelings.