2012 TREASURE HUNT CLUE #7: What reason does a brother give his sister for why fish sparkle? (Answer: In “And Whether Fish Have Wings”, by Angie, Coyote tells Beetle a story in which “Once fish were a kind of bird and they had very shiny feathers on their big wings and they were all over the place.”)
(with thanks to Angie for “And Whether Fish Have Wings”)
Outside, a cold wind blew and rain spattered against hides that were lashed tight over the dentree windows. But inside Beetle’s den, it was snug and warm. Beetle was cubsitting the tribe’s children, and they were gathered around her on the sleeping furs, listening with rapt attention as she brought her story to a close.
“And so those silly, silly fish lost their wings and feathers -- but in return they grew fins and scales,” Beetle said, beaming at the hushed faces that hung on each word she said. “But their fins and scales still reflect back slivers of the moons they tried to fly to... and so they can seem to flicker and shine as they swim beneath the clear water.”
Glow was the first to react. The four-turn-old cub hopped up and down in excitement and grabbed after Beetle's hands. "I want one!" she squealed. “I want sparkly fishie feathers! I'll wear them in my hair and then I'll sparkle, too!"
Beetle felt her joyous smile begin to fade. "I'm sorry, but it was a very long time ago... fish no longer have —"
Rill seized on that as well. He leaped to his feet and mimed shooting a bow. "I'll go and hunt flying fish! I'll bring you home lots of sparkling feathers!"
Glow clapped her hands and fizzed with delight, while Rill shot another flying fish with his imaginary bow. "But there are no —" Beetle tried to say.
"But some fish DO have noses," Cinder interrupted her, his words firm with conviction. “Catfish do, and they'e got whiskers too. And salmon do — especially chum and humpbacks. And if you look at sawtooth just right, they have bills like ducks do —"
"Ducks don't have noses!" Rill said, rolling his eyes. "Bills are beaks, not noses!"
"Let's go get sparkly feathers!" Glow trilled, leaping to her feet and dancing in a dizzying circle. "I want sparkly feathers!"
"There are no flying fish or fish with feathers," Copper said, sounding a lot more worldly than her five-turns-going-on-six in age. "It's just a story."
"No it's not! We'll go hunt them!" Rill cheered.
"Fish can jump, but they've never flown," Copper said. "And there's no birds up on the moon, either. It's just a story."
Glow stopped dancing and turned to Beetle in stark dismay. "But I want sparkly feathers!" she repeated, her voice going quivery with impending tears.
Beetle gazed back at the youngest of the cubs, her heart having sunk somewhere around her knees. She had loved that story — but clearly, none of the children were taking it to their hearts as she had.
"Your story is boring!" Rill said, as if reading Beetle's mind. "It would be better if there were some hunting and fighting it in. What if your feathery-fish had really really big teeth that could bite an elf in half? And a big long tail with a stinger on it, too? That would make for a really good story!"
"But I wanted sparkly feathers," Glow whimpered. Tears were beginning to form in her golden eyes, and her lower lip was quivering. "There aren't any sparkly feathers?"
Beetle opened her mouth to say as much, but it was Cinder who came to the rescue. The boy sprang up and grabbed for Glow's hand. "We can go make some sparkly feathers!" he said with vigorous enthusiasm, before sliding a blue-green look over his shoulder toward their cubsitter. "We can, can't we?"
Beetle seized upon that life-saving offering, while Glow's tears vanished in an instant and the other two cubs rallied with visible interest "Yes! We can!" Beetle said, bouncing to her feet and making an automatic check-list of supplies in her head. Goose feathers? Should be at least half a bag of them in the storage dens. Hoof-glue? If she couldn't find any in the storage dens, then raiding Suddendusk's workden should provide. Some sort of glittery powder? Goldspice's forge would be the place to start... "Let's go and gather what we need!"
Beetle herded her charges out of the den and toward the stairs down and down again to the storage dens. With a little glue and pulverized crystal-stone, maybe there was hope yet, Beetle figured, to salvage her favorite story in the childrens' memories as well.