(Ed. Note: Laughter was the cubname of Beetle; Coyote was a former name of Notch.)
(The first scene refers to the events of ”Stink-Bug”.)
Starskimmer paused in her sewing and looked toward where Laughter was sleeping. It was only a few days since her daughter had fallen into a patch of nettles while out with Coyote and Brook. Since that time, the cub had not wanted to be separated from her mother, and Starskimmer hadn’t minded at all. She knew from experience how quickly cubs could grow, and she cherished times with little Laughter, snuggling, teaching, and talking. The brewer wondered to herself how long the child would sleep — and how much longer she would be able to work with Whispersilk on the new summer shift Starskimmer had wanted — not that she ever really kept them on that long.
She smiled at that thought — it was always fun to have something new to be seen in. And it was even more fun to watch and feel a furmate remove her clothing. The feel of silk added something even more sensual to the experience.
**Starskimmer?** Whispersilk asked, having noticed that she was no longer working.
**I was just thinking... Laughter will wake up soon.**
**Aye. Maybe Brook could take her for a while? She told me she’s hoping to watch the cub again soon, both to make up for what happened and to help the cub not be afraid.**
Starskimmer thought on it while she resumed her sewing, but shook her head. **I doubt Laughter will want to leave my side yet... she’s been rather clingy since falling into the nettles. I can’t really blame her.**
**You have more patience than I have. It’s a good thing that you’re her mother and not me.**
The breweress looked at the weaver and smiled. **You’ll be ready when it’s time.**
She watched as Whispersilk closed her eyes, shook her own head silently, and reopened them, not responding to what Starskimmer had said, but resuming her work on the shift.
Laughter began to stir, then whimpered, “Mama?” as she sat up and looked around. Once the cub saw her mother, she crawled to where Starskimmer sat and moved into her lap.
Starskimmer wrapped her arms around the little one, taking a break from the work. She breathed in her cub’s scent, then said quietly, “What would you like to do now that your nap is over, little one?”
Laughter looked up and met her eyes, then smiled brightly. Her mother watched with interest as the cub twisted around and looked across to Whispersilk and the work that had been done. Gingerly, she reached her tiny hand out to touch the pale blue silk. “It’s pretty, Momma,” Laughter whispered.
“Yes, it is,” Starskimmer affirmed. She wondered whether the weaver minded that Laughter had touched the fabric, but when her daughter let go and didn’t seem inclined to pull at it, she sensed Whispersilk relaxing.
“I want to help!” her cub announced.
Whispersilk looked up from her work, eyes wide. Then, the weaver locksent, **No! The cub has never stitched a day in her life. She would ruin the fabric!**
Berryflop, who had been unusually silent, perhaps out of respect for the sleeping “little-highthing,” fluttered upward, voicing its protest.
Starskimmer pondered how to respond. Whispersilk was right, without a doubt. Laughter’s first lesson in sewing should not be started on the beautiful silk fabric that lay between herself and the weaver. Still, this night was as good as any for some instruction. And it might give her and Whispersilk enough time to finish the item.
“Settle down, Berryflop!” she instructed the Preserver. Then, turning to the cub and ruffling her hair, she said, “All right, Laughter, I’ll let you help.”
At Whispersilk’s widened, protesting eyes, Starskimmer sent, **Don’t worry. She won’t touch the fabric. You’ll see.**
Ignoring her friend’s quizzical look and pushing Berryflop away, Starskimmer scooped her daughter up and moved her to the other side of the small den and set her next to a bowl of bone needles. Then, she took thread and made it the length of the cub’s armspan and bit the end so that Laughter could manage the thread.
Laughter took in her mother’s every movement, and listened intently as Starskimmer explained what she wanted Laughter to do. When Starskimmer showed her how to thread the needle, the cubs arms went up quickly, as she announced, “I can do that!”
Smiling at her daughter, Starskimmer left the cub to her task and resumed her own seat across from Whispersilk. Berryflop had settled down on a spool of thread and was watching Laughter intently. Giving the weaver a knowing look, Starskimmer sent, **It will take her a while to figure it out, but I’d wager that by the end of the night, she’ll be able to thread the needles.**
Whispersilk smiled back at her, then responded, **And you’ll have a new shift by that time as well! Any plans on who will see you model it first?**
Starskimmer grinned. **Whitestag. Our tryst was interrupted the other night, and I want to make it up to him.**
Whispersilk laughed out loud, “Of course.”
Starskimmer glanced to see if her daughter was still working, or if she was listening to the conversation. The cub was focused intently, trying to put a thread through the eye of the needle. She was proud of her daughter — the focus the little one had at such an early age. She wondered, momentarily, what path her daughter would take, but then remembered that it was more important to simply enjoy her.
She didn’t know when, exactly, Whitestag would get to see the shift, but that wasn’t really important at the moment. What was important was right here, right now. Sewing with her friend, and spending time with her daughter.
Illustration by Kyna H.
The summer night was sweltering. Starskimmer had on very little, and wished for even less. She was planning to head to the river for a swim, and maybe to find someone to give her a massage — perhaps Blacksnake, she mused. Passing by her daughter’s den, she paused.
A not-right scent was coming from her daughter’s den. Rolling her eyes, and wondering what her daughter’s latest test might be, the brewer opened the flap of the den. The stench that greeted her almost made her drop the flap and flee, but a mother’s love made her take a step inside.
Peering around, she noted with pride that the den seemed organized enough. Beetle was nowhere to be seen, but on the floor, she spotted the skin of... something... lying on a fur. ‘What’s in that?’ she wondered.
Plugging her nose with one hand, she knelt on the floor to examine the skin. Whatever her daughter had been mixing had putrified and was starting to seep through the skin and onto the fur beneath it. The skin, and whatever was in it, had to be removed, and since Beetle wasn’t around to take it out herself, Starskimmer knew she had to.
Reaching out with her free hand, she grabbed the bag and slowly stood up. Making her way to the exit, she held the bag as far away from her as she could.
She’d only taken one step outside, when Beetle’s send met her own. **Ugh... Mother! What is that smell?** she asked, entering her den through the entrance to Cloudfern’s.
Illustration by Kyna H.
Starskimmer didn’t take the time to ask where Beetle had been while the rotting bag of juice was stinking up the den. **I was hoping you could have told me. Let me get rid of it, and I’ll come back.** Stepping out, Starskimmer made her way past the trees ringing the clearing in front of the Dentrees, to a place where she could bury the putrid contents beneath the ground. Then, she turned to see Beetle carrying out the small fur, holding it away from her body.
**I suppose that’s ruined, too. C’mon, I’ll help you get rid of it as well.**
“What happened?” Starskimmer asked her daughter.
“Well, I don’t know,” Beetle began. “I’d told Coyote that I could make a batch of dreamberry brew, and that it would be unlike anything he’d ever tasted before. I’d gathered all the ingredients I needed, including a skin of old wine that was down in the storage dens. I had set everything out on the floor of my den, and I was planning to work on mixing up something later tonight. But then I needed to relieve myself, so I left the den. I went through the tree to Father’s den to talk with him, but then he wasn’t there and I smelled something horrid. When I came in, you were carrying out that skin of putrid liquid. But that wasn’t what I had left there!”
Listening to her daughter’s story, Starskimmer knew what had happened. Her son. He had tricked his sister into gathering everything he would need for a good night out with his friends, and he had gone so far as to place a stinking bag of juice in its place as payment.
Starskimmer reached out to touch her daughter’s arm, causing her to stop. “Beetle,” she whispered, then changed to sending, **Let’s brew up something Coyote won’t likely forget, starting with this old fur.**
Beetle’s eyes widened, then she grinned. **He definitely has it coming to him, doesn’t he, Mother?**
Starskimmer nodded, her own grin widening. **Your brother is likely to be upriver somewhere tonight, so we’ve got time. And when he returns in the morning, he won’t be able to sleep in his own den — that small fur is enough to stench up his own furs so that they can’t be used for a few nights until they’ve aired out.**
**And can we brew something good, Mother?** Beetle asked, her thoughts leaning toward a firey-hot brew that would burn her brother’s mouth, without harming him, of course. **Something spicy, and maybe with some stinkleaf root in it?**
**Beetle, you have quite the devious mind, don’t you?** Starskimmer asked proudly. She knew her daughter wasn’t the type to prank others, but this interaction was showing her how strong Beetle was growing up to be — she wasn’t about to let her brother pull such a thing on her again. And hopefully, though Starskimmer doubted it, he would learn something as well.
“Let’s get brewing,” Beetle answered happily.
Starskimmer nodded, happy enough for the change in plans and an evening brewing and scheming with her daughter.
Starskimmer looked intently at the flat bowl she held to sift the grit and water. There were easier ways to find what she was looking for, but this was relaxing for her. Sometimes, using her magic was simply too easy. And sometimes, it was a lot of work — the time she had been spending up at Bluestone Cave was an example of that. She hadn’t had the opportunity to simply enjoy dirt and rocks as she was doing now.
Nearby, Beetle was supposed to be doing the same thing, but when she looked up, she saw her precious daughter standing, admiring a hunk of black rock — obsidian, Starskimmer noted. Beetle’s voice was distracted when she called, “Mother?”
Illustration by Kyna H.
Setting the bowl of dirt and rocks on the grass above the riverbank, Starskimmer stood and made her way across the water to stand next to her inquisitive daughter. “That’s a nice chunk of obsidian,” she commented.
Beetle nodded. “I was wondering....”
The rockshaper was curious as to what experiment her daughter might be thinking up, and was surprised when she said, “What could we make out of it? I know that we could make some arrowheads, or a knife, but I want to make something special. For Willow.”
Putting her arm around Beetle, Starskimmer took the obsidian in her other hand. “Knives and arrowheads can be special too, daughter.”
Sensing Beetle’s hesitancy, Starskimmer peered at her. “You really don’t want to use it for one of those things?”
The younger elf shook her head. “Arrowheads and knives do make good gifts. But with everything that’s happened... I want something peaceful to give to my lovemate —not a weapon or tool. I was thinking... maybe a mirror? Well, a small one. I’d have to get it to size — could you help me with that? I don’t want to chip it.”
Letting go of Beetle’s shoulder and holding the chunk of obsidian closer, Starskimmer looked more closely at it. There was enough there that she could get a few arrowheads, and maybe even a small knife from it in addition to the mirror her daughter wanted. But... she didn’t want to make it that easy. This would be a great opportunity for the two of them to work together.
They hadn’t talked much about the time they had spent in separate places after the Fierce Ones had returned. There hadn’t been much need for talking between them. When they had reunited, a long hug, open-sent with shared relief and the joy of reunion had been all that was wanted. And it had taken longer, still, for a day like today, where they could work side-by-side on something as relaxing as a gift.
Seeing Beetle’s posture change to impatience, Starskimmer smiled at her, then said, “I’ll help with the finishing touches, but we’re going to use our hands and put some work into it first. And we’re going to make more than just the mirror.”
Beetle nodded her agreement, and together, mother and daughter got to work.