(Ed. Note: Acorn is the cubname of Chicory.)
Cider tried not to smile, but it was getting hard. Little cubs grew as quick as meadow grass, and little Acorn was no exception. The only trouble was, her leathers were not growing with her. Cubs outgrew their clothes seemingly with every breath.
'Try explaining that to a six-year-old cub, though!' Cider thought. Easysinger had tried reasoning with her small cub, and the patient chieftess seemed to be running out of ideas by now. The child's father, Blacksnake, had tried — once patience failed — to corner Acorn in some trick of logic that would get her to agree. The cubling held firm, though, even refusing to be tempted by Doeskin's and even her own uncle Leather's new clothing. She insisted on wearing what she had already, which quite aside from being too small, was also ripped and torn in the usual cub-worn fashion. She wouldn't even slow down to consider Dreamberry's bright weavings.
But Cider had an idea.
"Acorn!" she called cheerfully, waving her fishing bow in the air to get the cub's attention. "Want to come with me and help catch some fish?"
"Yes!" Acorn agreed readily enough, leaping up from where she had been nosing around some half-dried moss at the base of the Mother Tree with some of the wolves. She ran to Cider's side and eagerly took her elder's hand.
At Laughing Creek, the two elves waded together into a shallow part of the gently-moving water. Cider's expert eye keenly picked out motion in the clear river water almost immediately, but today she was looking for a particular kind of fish. She had left her bow on the riverbank for the time being; her first catch would need no arrows. Acorn splashed a bit noisily next to her, but this close to the Holt the fish were used to a little splashing.
"Ah!" Cider cried, snapping her hand quickly down into the water and back out again almost as quickly, fist clenched around her catch. "There, Acorn! See what I've caught! Do you know which kind it is?"
With great solemnity, Acorn pried Cider's fingers away from the small fish just enough to see the squirming body, and considered. "Minnow?"
"That's right," Cider told her, nodding approvingly. "You are learning quickly! So he can be your reward — won't he make a nice, fine supper for you?" The crafter somehow maintained a straight face as she offered the tiny fish to the cub.
Acorn gave her a surprised look. "No," she giggled, shaking her head.
"He's too small!"
"Oh, I suppose you're right," Cider nodded sadly, as if not having seen this for herself. "Ah, well. We'll have to try for something bigger, then!" She gently released the little fish back into the river, and reached for her bow.
Cider and Acorn reached the Dentrees and passed on their fairly respectable catch to other hands for smoking, cooking, wrapstuffing and some eating. After having some of their fish themselves, the cub made as if to split off and seek out something else to do, but Cider offered, "Why don't we go for a wolf-ride?"
Little Acorn's face lit up. "Awooo!" she howled an enthusiastic agreement.
"All right," Cider said brightly. She yipped a greeting at a small group of wolves nearby, and reached out to one of them. It was a still-unbonded cub, about four moons old. She gently scooped him up and held him in her arms as she turned back to Acorn. "Ready to get on and go?" she asked.
Acorn now looked at her elder as though she doubted Cider knew anything that everyone knew. "Can't!" she exclaimed. "He's too small!"
"Oh, are you sure?" Cider said, acting surprised. "Too bad, I guess we'll have to ride another one." She gently set the cub down again and met her own wolf-bond's eyes as she did so — Bauble seemed almost as skeptical as Acorn did. That was all right, though. Cider was confident she was making progress!
Some time after the wolf ride, Cider and Acorn had decided to do a bit of gathering. Cider sent Bauble home on his own while the elves searched for signs of eggs or nuts. Cider steered the search towards the thinner forest area near the edges of Broad Meadow. She had to admire the cub's patience when it came to foraging. She half expected to hear "Home now!" any moment, but so far Acorn had been happy to stay out and play.
Finally, they came across what Cider really wanted as it neared dawn; signs of a quail's nest. First, of course, the unmistakable call of the adult male, which Cider quietly pointed out to the cub, who listened as well. Then, after some thorough searching, the actual nest. It was deep within the protection of a thick leather-leaf bush, but the little round speckled eggs were just visible. It would be difficult to reach that nest and get at the eggs.
"See the nest, Acorn?" Cider asked, eliciting a nod from the little cub. "Good. Now how about you just crawl right through this hole in the bush and go grab those eggs for us?" She pointed at a bare patch of the thicket that a cub a few years younger might have wriggled through, but she knew full well poor Acorn would never have a chance of fitting into.
Acorn turned to look at Cider, wide-eyed. "I can't fit through there!" she protested.
"Oh? Why can't you?"
"The hole's too small!"
"Yes, that's true." Cider mused, as if thinking it through for the first time. For added affect, she stroked her chin. "Hmmmm... That hole's too small for you. I keep forgetting how big you're getting! A lot of things that used to be big enough for you are too small now, aren't they? Like this hole -- and like your clothes."
The moment of truth. Cider held her breath for a heartbeat or two, hoping she'd made her point instead of making the cub mad.
Acorn thought it over. "You're right!" she said finally. "Think Uncle Leather'll make me some new ones?"
Cider kept back a laugh, but had to smile. 'Just try and slow him down,' she thought, remembering his earlier coaxings of his stubborn neice, but aloud she just said: "Why don't we go ask him?"