(This story was an entry for Clue #2 in the 2013 Treasure Hunt -- see the collection for related stories and images! It is also part of the ”Return of the Fierce Ones” storyline – see the Collection for related stories, or see the forum listing here)
She dreamed her family was reunited, that the tribe was safe. She knew she was dreaming — knew that the threat of the Fierce Ones was out there, ready to wipe out the tribe. She would fight when the time came. She could almost see them, charging into the Holt, the sound of their mounts' hooves pounding the ground, destroying the quiet music of the peepers.
She fought, but did not win, and after they had left, she lay on the ground, blood pooling around her as she waited, unmoving, to die. She listened for sounds of the others, but she knew she was the only one left.
And the peepers resumed their singing.
Chicory woke, heart pounding as she jolted upward, throwing furs off herself, Glow, and the others who were sleeping under them. She ignored Willow’s protest of “Cold” and her daughter’s cry, “Mama?” and rushed out of the den and into the cool air.
It was dusk. The light was fading and soon it would be completely dark. Still disoriented from the dream, Chicory stood, peering hard into the night. Goldspice had relayed the happy news that the Fierce Ones seemed to be leaving, but what if their direction turned? Chicory didn’t hear the sound of hooves, didn’t scent humans or any other predator. Hopefully, the tribe was still safe.
And then she heard it — the call of the peepers. The sound of the males awakening and calling for a mate. The sound of spring.
She smiled. Spring meant new life, warmth, and hope. She could only hope that it also meant the return of the tribe.
Glow stepped out and took her mother’s hand. “I hear them, Mother,” she said excitedly, just as she had in previous seasons, when they would, at the first call of spring, go and find the tiny frogs.
“We all do, cubling,” Goldspice said as she approached - she had been keeping watch that night, and looked tired, but was smiling. “It will be a good night for hunting them.”
At the offer of a hunt, a chorus of cubs sounded, “Let’s go now!”
Chicory laughed, happy for the distraction, and answered, “All right, let’s.”
And they did.