It was dawn, but it did not quite feel like it to Newt. The morning had brought with it a sheeting rainfall that all but completely cancelled out the lightening of the sky from the sunrise, leaving everything an almost night-dark gray outside.
Perhaps that was why Newt did not feel ready to sleep yet — although he felt that something else was nagging at his mind. In fact, it had been for the past couple of nights. Confronting his restlessness head-on now, he had an idea of what was causing it.
It was that hesitant, deeply thoughtful look Kestrel had had on her face when she was drawing on memories of her tribe. Memories from Newt's time. It had been hard for her to remember something as simple and obvious as the general height of the elves and size of the wolves from that long ago.
...Did that mean that Newt would himself forget what his family looked like? Eventually, would his own memories of his mother, fathers, and brothers, among other lost friends and relatives, fade into obscurity?
It was a disturbing thought.
Newt raised his head from the furs and looked first at Greenweave and then at Cloudfern. Both were already asleep; not only were their eyes closed but their breathing had slowed and relaxed beyond normal waking rest. Although there were other cubs in the tribe now — which was still hard to get used to in itself — having been the only young cub in the Holt before he was wrapped, Newt had naturally become quite expert at sneaking out for time alone. With every pair of eyes and ears and every nose tailing his whereabouts, he had learned to be devious on occasion.
So slipping down to the storage dens unnoticed was no problem. Once Newt had found what he was after, getting from there to the caves the wolf-pack made their dens in was not much harder.
Newt set down the bundle he'd brought with him from the storage dens, taking care not to jostle the contents. He unwrapped the hide and set out the collection of small bowls. Browncoat watched closely over his shoulder as he unlidded the containers of different colored paints, releasing the various scents into the air from the paint color-sources. Dyeweed blue, dreamberry-and-clay red, marigold yellow, and others. Newt gently nudged his new wolf-friend off a bit to the side in the cramped space of the small wolf-cave he'd chosen, to keep his paws out of the paint bowls, and Browncoat obliged.
|Illustration by Melanie D.|
Dipping his brush into the marigold paint, Newt started at the top center of the blank far inner wall of the cave, and paintstakingly drew Lacewing's hair as well as he could remember it. The rest of his mother's likeness followed, within the boy's ability to paint it, and was then joined by his fathers to either side of her and finally his brothers to either side of them. As he worked, Newt found a sort of peaceful quiet within himself that settled his mind, but the sadness only seemed to grow until the figures on the wall blurred before him. Sniffling and rubbing at his eyes with his sleeve, Newt set down the brush.
They were small, and flat, and they smelled like paint instead of his family. How could he paint their scents? Why did they have to be gone for him to need to paint them?! How could he be sure he could remember them — or was he just expected to forget them, move on, and live in the 'Now'?
The tears started falling freely, and Newt just scrubbed at them all the harder. He wanted his tears to go away, because they were tears that meant the family he had always known was gone. So much had changed while he'd slept, so very much! His small body shuddered with fierce sobs as he angrily questioned why this had all happened to him.
Browncoat didn't really know why his young friend was so sad, he only knew he needed to be there to comfort him. To Browncoat, Newt looked, smelled, and sounded like a sad little wolf-cub at the moment, so the yearling wolf followed his instincts accordingly. He wrapped himself in a warm circle around the little boy, resting his chin across the top to keep the body heat in, and breathed deeply and slowly to encourage comfort and sleep. Newt's quiet little whimpers slowly ebbed into tragic sniffles until he finally did fall asleep against his wolf-friend's side, soothed by furry warmth and Browncoat's heartbeat complementing the rhythmic rainfall just outside the small gray cave.
Listening to the rain continuing outside, Honey had decided she was not going to be able to sleep just yet. Throwing her fur covering aside in irritation, she rolled out of her bed and stood, reaching for her clothing.
Everyone was making such a fuss about all the others that had been unwrapped from their long sleeps so far, and all the losses they had suffered. But although there had of course been some gestures of sympathy, Honey did not get the strong impression that the tribe took her losses seriously. The possible exceptions to that were her loyal brother Thornbow, and her daughter Dreamflight. On the other hand, the one elf she needed the most support from right now, her very own Recognized, had turned his back on her and gone back to that — that cloud-headed lover of his!
As a result of all this, Honey had taken to spending more of her time down at the wolf-dens. The wolf-pack, at least, did not seem to hold a judgemental grudge against her, she thought bitterly. So, having angrily tossed on her clothes, she stormed out of her den. She turned her face briefly upwards into the rain, letting it soak her face and the rest of her. It felt good, in an almost self-destructive way, to abandon her physical comfort when her soul was at such unrest these days. She basked in self pity for a few moments more, then made her way to the wolf-dens.
Before she was even halfway there, however, she caught a fresh elf-scent on the trail. Honey frowned, feeling however unjustly as though her privacy had been intruded on for the moment, then her brain identified the person that went with the scent a moment later. Newt. Now what would the young cub be doing out in the middle of a rainy day on his own? There were no other elf-scents fresh enough to suggest that someone had come with him. Bitterness becoming mild concern, Honey quickened her pace to investigate.
Her nose took her to the mouth of a small cave, inside of which Newt had fallen asleep, wrapped in the warmth of that new yearling bond of his. Browncoat lifted his eyes to meet Honey, showing his protective gaze as he did so. He recognized her from the tribe, of course, so he was unconcerned by her presence.
Honey could see Newt's face, and that his cheeks shone bright pink from crying. Having cried like that herself, Honey recognized the signs of the salty moisture of tears being scrubbed at furiously by hands until the face became raw and sore. Lifting her eyes, Honey saw five elves painted on the inner wall behind boy and wolf — obviously, the family Newt had lost.
**Didn't you notice you're missing something important?** Honey sent out accusingly to Greenweave. She felt his sleepy mind fumble for wakefulness at the send, and a moment later, felt him startle as he found Newt gone. Before he could raise the alarm, however, Honey quickly added a picture-send of the cub and his bond safe and sound in front of her. **I'll bring him back to you, so don't worry.**
Cautiously, Honey crept into the den and reached out towards Newt. Browncoat knew her, but Honey knew that a protective wolf could still snap. Instead, however, he uncurled his body enough for her to get a grip on the sleeping child and pick him up to her chest. Newt must have been exhausted from stress, because the motion did not wake him. Honey paused for a brief moment to marvel at the way a child could stay asleep even while being moved, then backed out of the den and stood, curling her own body around Newt just as Browncoat had to keep him warm and as dry as possible in the rain — which, thankfully, was starting to let up.
Many harsh words could have been exchanged between Honey and Greenweave just then, and had been already on more than one occasion, but neither elf was interested in such an interchange at the moment. The important thing was this sad, lonely cub who needed as much love and nurturing as the tribe could provide.
Standing at the base of the Dentrees, Honey found it difficult to let go of her young sleeping uncle and relinquish him back into Greenweave's care. After a few moments of inner struggle, however, she resentfully transferred the cub from her arms to those of her Recognized.
"Thank you," Greenweave murmured simply but sincerely, regarding the fisher over his armful of sleeping cub.
**Don't wake him,** Honey sent sharply, turning away. She had recently come to know herself how vital a solid sleep could be after crying her heart out. Without any further words, she quickly ascended the Mother Tree, seeking the shelter and privacy of her own den.
Newt woke surrounded by the comfort of furs and body warmth. The scents were clear, and he did not mistake even for an instant Cloudfern and Greenweave for his old family. Still, it was a familiar and comforting feeling, to be tucked in so safe and comfortable in the sleeping arms of people who loved him. Something almost close to a smile crossed his face as he considered this in his half wakefulness.
|Illustration by Melanie D.|
Many things had changed for Newt, although of course he had to admit that some things had stayed the same. Even something as basic as pack-scent was different, now, than it had been before. In the days since his unwrapping, it had already started to become more familiar, and as he spent more time around the "new" tribe, his scent and theirs had been meshing as well, making it all the more comforting and a little less disconcerting a change for the boy.
True, Newt would never see Mother, Father, or Father again — or either of his brothers; but he had a new family offering him love, now. Newt could sense how important it was to them that he accept that love.
Yes, a lot of things had changed, but some of the most important things had stayed the same... and somehow, Newt knew they always would.
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