(This story was an entry for Clue #2 in the 2013 Treasure Hunt -- see the collection for related stories and images!)
“Peep! Peep! Peep!”
Chicory managed to crack her eyes open slightly, then quickly pressed them shut again as the light seared into her sensitive pupils. Normally, the daylight didn't bother her, but Rainpace had come across an overlooked bag of last season's dreamberries the night before. Seeing a break from late winter's deprivations, they had made short work of the unexpected bounty, the effects of which had lasted until late in the day. Still in a languid stupor, Chicory happily let oblivion reclaim her.
“Peep! Peep! Peep!”
Fighting again for consciousness, Chicory became aware of the high-pitched voice that had awakened her, the owner of which she could now hear breathing in the vicinity of her shoulder. She hazarded another thin view of the world, enough to see that Rainpace was already out for the night. Lucky him.
She rolled away from the breathing and snored in an animated manner.
Giggles tickled her neck, small warm hands cupped her face, gently wrenching her head back. More awake now, she opened her eyes to the smiling face of her offspring, hovering dizzyingly close to her own.
“What's up, little bug?”
“What's that noise, Mama?”
Chicory tried to shrug off the last of her sleepiness and orient herself to the task at hand. “What noise?”
“That noise.” Glow offered with all the helpful clarity of a three-turns-old cub.
Chicory pushed herself up to her elbows, struggling to identify what that was when it became clear what Glow was referring to. A raucous cacophony was coming from the forest, rising in intensity with the fading of the daylight.
“Oh, that. That's peepers.”
Glow's eyes shone with earnest interest. “Peepers?”
“Yes. They've been sleeping all winter. Now they've woken for the spring. Come on, I'll show you.”
The air was warm and moist from the recent spring rains, but now the cool air was settling and Chicory could feel the prickle of condensation on her skin. The leaf litter underneath their feet was soft and slippery, and at first Chicory was content to let Glow slide and play in the mud, her squeals echoing thorough the forest. But as they approached the creekside, Chicory drew her close, her finger held to her lips in a silencing gesture. **Quiet, cubling. Now is the time to be sneaky and silent.**
Glow nodded solemnly, following in her mother's footprints with an almost exaggerated slowness. The dry grass crackled at their feet as they made their way carefully along the marsh plants. Chicory stopped, waiting to detect some tell-tale movement. Beside her, Glow fairly quivered with the effort to remain still and quiet. A faint rustle, and Chicory moved forward, gently parting the grass in front of her. She moved quickly to capture their prey, then brought her cupped hands in front of Glow.
“Are you ready?”
Glow nodded vigorously, leaning in as Chicory slowly unfolded her hands, revealing the tiny frog, shiny and jewel-like in her palm. Glow gasped, but before she could reach out one curious finger to touch it, it had hopped away.
Eyes wide in excitement, Glow grasped her mother's hand. “Come on, Mama! Let's find some more!”