The clouds hung so low they looked like they skimmed the tops of the tallest trees. A steady, cold drizzle trickled down from them, soaking the world and painting everything with the dreary colour of mud. The season of New Green was supposed to be filled with the colour of, well, new green, but the trees were slow this year. They needed more sun. Normally, such a drizzly day would dampen the spirits of most other elves but Chicory, but as this was the beginning of the third handful of days of nothing but wet and mud and cold, even the normally bubbly daughter of the chieftess found herself dreading coming out of her den and into the night.
She pushed aside the leather flap to her den and scowled at the world. She'd promised to go gather some eggs today, and climbing around on wet and slippery branches didn't appeal to her at all. In fact, the idea of going anywhere except back to her warm and dry furs didn't appeal to her at all, but she'd promised. She sighed and steeled herself for getting wet and miserable.
Today would not be a good day.
Dewdrop remembered everything. Unlike the wolf-bonded highthings who liked to live in the moment and forget the everyday details of daily life, Dewdrop remembered every little thing that happened in the Holt, around the Holt, and that which happened before there ever even was a Holt. Preservers would occasionally ‘adopt' an elf, following them around and helping them and singing for them. Their efforts, although more often than not accepted, were nevertheless not always appreciated as much as the little winged helpers thought proper.
Dewdrop, with its bright wings and shining eyes, had given up adopting elves for the relatively brief period of time that was an elven lifespan. Dewdrop, these days, took a lesson from the fur-growlers that accompanied the highthings, and did what it could to understand and embrace the idea of “the Now.”
The Preserver's grasp of the concept was shaky at best, but it did its best. To Dewdrop, living in the Now meant not thinking about the past, and not planning for the future. Instead of choosing one elf to follow around and to help for centuries on end, Dewdrop attempted to make a habit of adopting one elf for a much shorter period of time. A single night, which is what it was working on currently. It also liked to keep its efforts to itself. Dewdrop was shy for a Preserver, and feared hurting an elf's feelings if its affections seemed flighty. They weren't -- Dewdrop loved all the tribe equally. But it just liked to concentrate its efforts to one at a time.
Dewdrop didn't much like to wander too far from the Holt—the world outside was very dangerous, after all—but it decided to follow Chicory.
Today was Chicory's day.
There were two types of eggs Chicory could go and collect tonight. The first were bird eggs -- it was still early dusk, and many birds wouldn't have returned to their nests quite yet, especially those that fed on the twilight bugs. She grabbed her basket and set out into the rain, determined to collect as many eggs as she could in as short a time as she could. She looked forward to returning home, changing out of her soaking and mud-splattered clothes, and huddling down with perhaps a warm body or two.
She listened for the bird calls and watched for the types of places they liked to build their nests in. She never had to search very far -- the trees around the Holt grew tall and strong. Good nesting grounds. In spite of the slickness of the bark, Chicory scrambled through the high branches looking for her prize. She was about to make the leap to a neighbouring tree when sudden movement caught her eye -- there! Not that tree, but the one to her left. She could see the nest now, and she altered her course.
Perhaps today wouldn't be so bad after all.
Dewdrop hid behind the trunk of the tree whose branches it'd rustled to get Chicory's attention. She'd almost been about to pass by this nice big nest with all the pretty round eggs! This should make her happy. The eggs were speckled and a good size. Dewdrop was rewarded with Chicory's happy expression as she pillaged the nest. Dewdrop mentally patted itself on the back and flew upwards to keep a better eye on its chosen elf of the day.
After gathering the eggs from the nest, Chicory climbed carefully back down to the ground. Climbing around in the rain was difficult enough, there was no need to complicate things by doing so with a basket of fragile eggs. She alighted on the ground and moved towards the river. Dewdrop knew where she was going: to the muddy riverbank, to dig for turtle eggs. She often went to dig for turtle eggs after gathering bird eggs. Dewdrop remembered everything.
Dewdrop remembered where the turtle nesting grounds were, and flew ahead to scout about for something useful to do.
The runoff from the constant rain had dug a few shallow trenches in the earth, making the ground soft and treacherous. Chicory's path would take her over one such dangerous path on the steep side of a hill. She might lose her footing and fall. Quickly, Dewdrop gathered twigs and handfuls of old leaves, using wrapstuff to bind it all together. It shored up the sides of the small trench and secured it enough for one light elf to trip across it. The wrapstuff didn't do too well in the rain, but this would likely be enough for now. Its good deed just barely done in time, Dewdrop dove behind a rock just as Chicory came around the bend in the path.
Today was proving to be more effort than Dewdrop had initially anticipated.
After suffering from so much rain, Chicory was pleasantly surprised to find how well the paths had held up. Normally there would have been at least one or two spots where the normal forest paths had been washed away by all the runoff, but what luck! Her journey to the turtle nesting grounds was uneventful.
This would be the messy part. Digging around in the dirt was always a surefire way to ensure a necessary change of clothing once returned to the Holt, but with the swollen river and slick mud, Chicory knew she'd come back looking more like a mud-bear than an elf. She immediately regretted not having told the cubs a grand tale of the Mysterious Mud-Bear and how it only came out of hibernation if the rains lasted more than two handfuls of days. But no, she hadn't thought of it. Perhaps next time.
She set her basket down and got to work. She knew the river creatures well enough to know how deep and whereabouts to dig for turtle eggs, and it wasn't all that long before she'd filled the rest of her basket. She didn't take all the eggs, of course -- but once she was satisfied with the number of eggs she had, she stood and moved to the edge of the river, to at least attempt to get some mud off of her before she headed for home. The weather might be wet, but drizzle did little to wash off the thick, clumping mud that Chicory was now covered with. She busied herself with scraping the worst of it off and rinsing her hands, arms and face (how had she gotten mud on her face?) in the water.
Turning back to her basket, something glinted and caught her eye in the reeds, off to the side. Curious, she stepped towards it to investigate. By the High Ones! It was the bangled trinket that Goldspice had made for her last season, but that she'd lost somewhere near the river a while ago. What incredible luck! She'd spent days searching for it, to no avail, and here it was, plain as the face of a full moon on a clear night. She wound the trinket into her hair again and admired it for a moment, before scooping up her basket of eggs and heading back to the Holt and her own dry den. The weather hadn't changed at all, in fact might have gotten a bit worse, but Chicory's mood had certainly improved.
Today had been THE best day.
Dewdrop remembered everything. Even where the Shiny-Bits-High-Thing had lost her shiny bit. The Preserver, its tiny eyes more attuned to finding tiny things, had found it and moved it to where the elf would see it. Still hidden in the reeds, and suddenly realizing just how far away from the Holt it was, Dewdrop decided that enough was enough and it had done plenty of good deeds for one night. Unseen, it fluttered up into the trees and made its way back home. Dewdrop was pretty much exhausted, but having improved the mood of its chosen elf, it was satisfied.
Today had been a good day indeed.