Ed. Note: “Tremor” was the cubname of Longshot.
The sounds of the underbrush came with a consistency common to the wild, of birds chirping aloud, ringtails passing through the foliage and the soft pitter-pat of rabbits passing along the well-worn trails that Tremor now observed. His focus was clear: the slightly discoloured patch of grass that masked the snare he had set up, carefully camouflaged with various fallen leaves and tree branches. It hadn’t taken him much time to gather the long tanned strips of leather necessary to make it, though cording it to create what he needed hadn’t been fun.
His patience was beginning to be tested, having waited for a not insubstantial swath of the evening to catch something he could bring back to the Holt to show his developing skill in trapping. As a youngster just past three hands of years, his fidgetiness had been tempered by what little experience he had accrued, but it was still oftentimes a challenge to conjure the patience necessary for such a slow, methodical task.
Unfortunately, the targets he had settled on — which, to be fair, encompassed all of the animals he had been told of by his elders — chose not to comply, seemingly knowing precisely where his trap lay and traipsing around it with relative ease.
“You seem troubled.” The voice, barely above a whisper, came from behind Tremor and was easily recognizable as his cousin Whitestag. That the older elf had been able to arrive there without producing so much as a sound didn’t surprise the younger one; being one of the more skilled among the tribe at being stealthy meant popping up in the most unexpected of places. It never ceased to amaze Tremor just how skilled his relation was. It gave him a constantly high bar to live up to, and also served to embarrass him slightly. That Whitestag had been able to sneak up on him, when he had a chance to impress the older elf with his awareness, caused him to flush on the inside.
“How long have you been here?”
“Long enough to see your calm beginning to wear,” Whitestag replied, moving forward so that he was crouched next to Tremor.
“I’ve been trying to catch a clickdeer in my trap so I could bring it back for skinning and smoking.”
“A clickdeer?” Whitestag asked incredulously. “Setting your sights rather high, aren’t you?”
“It’s nothing I can’t handle,” Tremor replied, unconsciously puffing out his chest.
“I agree,” Whitestag replied playfully. “Especially considering there are no clickdeer within a few days’ journey of here.” Tremor opened his mouth to respond, but his mind was too busy thinking back to what he had learned of the area surrounding the Holt to form words. After a few moments he realized his cousin was right, but he continued speaking lest he begin showing a more overt shade of embarrassment.
“Well, fine, I’m just trying to catch anything, but I’ve been here for hours and my snare hasn’t worked. It’s like they know exactly where it is,” Tremor said, frustration subtly tinging his voice.
“That’s it there, right?” Whitestag asked, jabbing his finger directly at the concealed trap.
“Yeah, so? You saw me set it up,” Tremor replied.
“Actually I didn’t. I haven’t been here as long as you think I have.”
“Then how did you know where it was?” Tremor asked, a little awestruck at just how easily Whitestag had noticed the trap he spent so much time setting up.
“Take a long look at it and tell me what you see,” Whitestag said simply, motioning with his head. Tremor rolled his eyes but nodded, turning to look at his work. He saw nothing out of the ordinary in the surrounding area except for his trap, and his eyes glossed over it knowing full well where it was and how he had concealed it.
“What exactly am I looking for?”
“You’re not seeing,” Whitestag said softly. He quickly reached over and placed his palms over Tremor’s eyes. The younger elf flinched at the sudden movement and would have jerked backward had Whitestag not accompanied the movement with a send. **Look as if it were your first time. You’ve never been here before. Now, observe and tell me what’s wrong with what you see.**
Whitestag removed his hands from Tremor’s face. Tremor’s eyes remained closed as he processed the send before taking a slow breath and nodding reluctantly. He turned toward the clearing where he had set his trap and opened his eyes anew. It took a few moments for him to see what Whitestag had seen and to realize his mistake.
“...it’s so obvious,” he said sullenly.
“Obvious how?” Whitestag asked, urging Tremor to continue.
“I was too focused on making it appear natural on its own to realize that it doesn’t look like it fits with the ground and the surrounding brush.”
“It probably would have taken you less time to paint an arrow on one of those tree trunks pointing right at it,” Whitestag agreed jokingly. “Trapping is less a skill and more an art; the best trappers make it look like they were never there at all. To be successful you need a keen eye for detail to pair with your skill with the materials you use. Do you understand?”
Tremor nodded, embarrassed for making a mistake that was so obvious in hindsight. “Can you show me how you would do it?” he asked.
“No,” Whitestag replied, shaking his head as he placed a hand on the young elf’s shoulder. “It’s easier to learn if you have a hand in doing it yourself; we’ll do it together.” Tremor grinned toothily in reply and leapt forward, barely able to contain himself.
It was no surprise at all to Tremor that they returned to the Holt a short while before dawn dragging the carcasses of a few quillrats along the ground behind them with patches of the trap covering still clinging to their bodies. After all, by doing it together, the quillrats hardly stood a chance, did they?