(This story was an entry for Clue #10 in the 2013 Treasure Hunt -- see the collection for related stories and images! )
The cold weather seemed to have broken for a time — the snows had melted and the ground was a muddy mess. Beetle was just happy to be out of the Dentrees for a while without having to bundle herself up. She had work to do, which she hadn't wanted to do at the Dentrees because she wasn't sure her tribemates would understand.
There were things she wanted to know about the Preservers, things she didn't understand. And to find out, she would need the bugs' help. The most likely one of them to help was Foamspray. It was fearless, and didn't mind getting into things. She knew she would be able to enlist its help, if she could find it.
The second most likely to help was probably Gurgleflap. It was friendly, outgoing and liked being helpful. She knew where she could find it — somewhere near the water. Maybe if she found Gurgleflap, it would help her find Foamspray.
She wound her way to the river, and headed upstream. Sure enough, she heard the bug singing in its shrill voice as it played with the water, this time finding tiny chunks of remaining ice and throwing them in. Beetle smiled — the bug's nature seemed as curious as her own sometimes. Surely, Gurgleflap would help her.
Beetle sat near the Preserver and waited for it to finish its task. As soon as it watched the last piece of ice float away, it flitted toward her and landed on her knee. Looking at her with its dark blue eyes, it asked, "Many-mix highthing want to throw coldstuff into rushing bigwet?"
Beetle smiled. She loved listening to the Preservers talk — they had such interesting ways of putting things. "I'll play with you, Gurgleflap, but I'd also like you to play with me, too."
The bug cocked its head at her, then asked, "Highthing has ideas?"
She nodded at it, then said, "I want to learn more about all of you Preservers, but I need all the Preservers to help me! After you take the first turn, could you help me find the others?"
"Yes, yes," agreed the bright yellow-winged bug. "Gurgleflap will help. Coldstuff not as interesting as highthings. What do?" it asked.
Beetle thought for a moment, then decided what she wanted Gurgleflap to teach her. "How strong are you?"
It smiled a toothless grin and flitted up into the sky. "Gurgleflap show. Gurgleflap very strong."
Beetle followed it to a more rocky area of the riverbank, and it proceeded to find a small rock and lift it. It threw that one into the river, watching it splash. Then it found succeedingly bigger ones, occasionally offering Beetle the chance to feel the rock's weight, throwing each of them into the river as well. When it finally found a rock that it couldn't lift, Beetle lifted that one and found it not too heavy for herself, but surprisingly heavy for what she'd imagined possible of the Preservers.
Nodding to herself, she said, "You're strong for carrying things. How about your bodies? It seems that nothing can hurt them. Do you think Foamspray would help me figure that out? I want to ask each of you something different."
Gurgleflap said, "Yes, yes. Follow Gurgleflap. Gurgleflap knows where to find Foamspray."
By the end of the night, Beetle had found each of the Preservers. Foamspray had allowed her to try crushing it with her hands, and had then asked her to place a fairly heavy rock on it, to show that it couldn't be crushed. She'd been convinced.
Muckabout had let her play with its wings, though it had protested at the thought of her pulling on them — Beetle had noted that was a particular weakness, perhaps the Preservers' only weakness. Then, the Preserver had allowed her to paint it all different colors, showing her that the paint would never stick or stain permanently, but could always be washed right off. She'd been surprised to find that its wings were actually light purple - perhaps she had never paid enough attention to realize that the lavender was its true wing color.
Berryflop had demonstrated the power of the Preservers' ability to find things. It had been able to tell her what was in each cocoon in the storage dens, and had been able to identify multiple berries. Then it had taken her for a tour of the bushes in the area, telling her where to find different berries. Beetle knew part of it had to be by scent, but knew that it couldn't be all — the cocoons didn't offer any scent that she could tell, so there had to be something else to it. Then again, all Berryflop could say about some of the cocoons was whether they held furrythings or fishythings, not the specific type of animal — still, it was impressive.
There were three Preservers, though, who had been less than willing to assist her. Mushroom had been very doom and gloom about the whole thing, insisting that nothing good could come of it. Instead, it had fluttered off to meet up with Farscout, who was preparing to leave again on a long patrol. Beetle had been disappointed, but had decided that it was evidence of the Preservers' imaginations.
Dewdrop hadn't wanted to help her, being afraid of what Beetle might have in mind. It also hadn't wanted to leave the Dentrees, so Beetle had let it be. She really only had one question left, and had thought it might be better to ask Flutterby about it. It was the last bug she had left to inquire of, and she knew where it would be.
As expected, the bug was with Whispersilk. It rarely left the side of the weaver, but Beetle decided she didn't need it to. Her question was one that perhaps it would help her with while still being helpful to Whispersilk. She approached the weaver's work-den with some caution, knowing the raven-haired elf didn't like to be interrupted while she was working.
"Whispersilk?" she called, knowing that the other elf would already know she was approaching.
"What do you need, Beetle?" she responded distractedly, though not unkindly.
Stepping into the den, she said, "Actually, I was wondering if I could ask Flutterby for some help?"
Whispersilk reached her hand up and back into her hair, and pulled her hand forward, the pink-winged Preserver perched on her fingers. "If Flutterby is willing, I have no real claim to it," she answered.
"No, no, no," said the bug, not moving from its preferred elf's hand. "Flutterby stay with talk-soft highthing and help talk-soft highthing make silky stuffs."
Beetle thought for a moment how to approach what she wanted. "I need your help, but it would help Whispersilk, too," she tried.
Whispersilk's eyebrows arched, indicating that she was doubtful, but willing to hear what Beetle had to say.
"I just want to know how much goo a Preserver can make at one time. If you could make as much as you can, Flutterby, then Whispersilk can weave it all into silk so it didn't go to waste."
The bug looked like it might consider it, but Whispersilk started shaking her head. "I don't think that's a good idea, Beetle. Flutterby, or any of the Preservers, can produce more goo than you can imagine. I've never seen one run out. And I think it would make my work-den a rather large mess."
That said, Flutterby shook its head, then flew at Beetle, shaking its finger at her. "No, no, no. Flutterby no help make mess of highthing's area. Many-mix highthing have bad idea, and Flutterby no help."
Beetle's shoulders slumped in defeat. Perhaps if she'd asked one of the other bugs, she might have found out, but Flutterby's reluctance, and Whispersilk's warning were enough to keep her from asking it of the others. Perhaps sometimes it was better not to know. But now she had one other question, and perhaps it would answer this one.
"All right, Flutterby, you don't have to do that. I do have one more question though." Without waiting for the bug to refuse, she asked, "How come you can make so much goo? I've never really seen Preservers eat. Where does it all come from?"
This time, Flutterby answered. "Flutterby is good; make wrapstuff."
She thanked Flutterby for its help, Whispersilk for allowing her to intrude for a moment and left the den. Really, the bug's answer was no answer at all, but knowing Preservers, it was the only answer she was likely to get from any of them. She'd learned a lot about the bugs, but now had even more questions. As usual.