(Ed. Note: Snowflake is the cub-name of Quick Fang.)
Stretched out along a sturdy branch, Whitestag had nearly been asleep when the sudden splash awakened him and only his inborn grace saved him from slipping to a rather ignoble belly-flop on the ground below. As it was, a grunt escaped him and he had to wrap strong, hunt-tested arms around the branch for extra safety. Instinct kept the noises to a minimum, though, and his recovery time soon had him peering down through the leaves, immediately tracking the sound’s source to a very familiar, small form beside the dusk-darkened river. Grinning now, he shifted noiselessly until he could squirm back along the branch towards the trunk. He barely let his eyes leave his target and only the tree itself presented a problem as he had to break concentration in order to keep his neck intact.
As he slithered silently down to the ground, though, the grin on his face grew even larger. His small, beloved sister remained oblivious to his movement, far too focused on the trouble she was creating beside the river bank. With every turn of the season, her senses sharpened and it became harder to surprise the wolfish cub. He found the challenge to be a good test of his own skills... aside from the pure amusement and pride in watching her learn. As he padded closer and watched the intensity of her focus and the way her little body crouched in an instinctively pounce-friendly attitude, he thought of a conversation with their sire a mere few moonrises past.
It was time to channel those energies. It was more than time to teach the cub the basics of proper hunting.
Giving a low whistle, Whitestag had to bite back immediate laughter as Snowflake spun on her heels, promptly overbalanced, and toppled onto her rump. The damp earth of the bank cushioned her fall but one hand landed in a much wetter spot and mud splattered up to cover her pale skin. An automatic growl vibrated from the back of her throat in response to the shock. As she quickly linked the whistle to him, though, she wrinkled her nose and bared sharp, white teeth in her special version of a grin. All for him.
He crouched down as he reached her and settled a broad hand atop her ruffled silver-white hair. “Hello, Boots,” he chuckled. “The ground come up and bite you there?” When she responded with a quick, half-hearted snap, he rolled his eyes and expertly avoided his little sister’s gnashing teeth before shifting his hand and pressing a finger to her nose. “Ah, ah, ah. No biting or else.”
Snowflake gave a little growl of displeasure and squirmed away from his touch, her mouth turning down in an unhappy pout. Then she scrambled up onto the balls of her feet again, crouching easily once more, a position just as natural to her as breathing. Her teeth flashed again but, when her older brother only laughed again, she released a huff of increasing displeasure.
“That’s my girl.” Relenting, Whitestag brought his humor back under control and dropped down to mirror her crouch. His smile still lingered, though, as he regarded her fondly. “You bite me and I’ll bite you back,” he reminded her, “and I dare you to tell Mother about it.” In a shockingly elf-like moment, Snowflake paused, stared at him, and then ducked her head in agreement. She knew just as well as he did that, to her mind, any nip from him would be less troublesome than the resulting talk from their mother.
Extending his hand, he drew her attention to the tree he had left. “Know what I found up there?”
Snowflake hesitated and then, carefully enunciating, she muttered, “Peepers?”
“Why them?” Whitestag cocked his head but kept the larger grin that threatened at bay by drawing his expression into something as solemn as he could manage.
“Noisy. They go peep, peep, peep.” Her childish voice squeaked out a fair approximation of the high-pitched croaking.
“So you were listening. Good. I thought you were just watching the fish.”
Shaking her head, Snowflake settled more firmly back on her haunches. “No fish,” she answered. “Too brrr.” She gave a demonstrative little shiver even though she herself remained quite comfortably barefoot in short pants and a ragged top. “An’ peepers are loud. When they go quiet...” She paused and looked thoughtfully at the tree in question.
“Yes?” he prompted, increasingly interested in her deductions.
Snowflake squinted at the tree and her words came in a slightly lisping whisper as her focus narrowed to forget her fangs and the care words required to get past them. “Means other things are comin’. Big things. Probably with teeth.”
“Hm.” Whitestag’s noncommittal noise failed to distract her and he allowed his own senses to drift outwards, his ears picking up soft peeper croaks. Clever cub, he thought, to draw conclusions like that. Perhaps she had enough elf in her, after all. Even if it was only the sort of elf blood that knew and enjoyed the hunt. He could work with that. It was the sort of instinct that could be trained, that could be grown. Straightening suddenly, he motioned for her to join him and waited until she obliged, a look of confusion on her face. “Come on, Boots,” he announced. “Let’s find the peepers and I’ll show you how to hide from them so they keep croaking. Then you’ll always know when something with teeth is coming.”
An immediate grin, full and toothy, lit Snowflake’s face and she slipped her hand into her older brother’s. Then she gave an insistent tug. “C’mon, c’mon! Show!”
Chuckling, he let her lead and made a mental note. After this lesson, he thought, there would be more. His little wolf-sister would be a fine hunter, a fine elf-maiden. He would only have to help her find her own path there.