(This story is based on this piece of art, by Yvonne B..)
“So can you do it?”
Nightstorm looked at her niece and rolled her eyes before turning back to the hide she was scraping. Every hair had to be removed and the skin itself smoothed or else the dye would take unevenly, ruining her careful planning. Worse yet, failing this step could also weaken areas of the leather and result in tearing. “Of course I can do it,” she answered. “But why should I?”
“Because I asked.”
Something in the way Foxtail said it held elements of exasperation, impatience that Nightstorm even felt the need to question it or, worse, hesitate to comply. With a sigh, the older elf set down the stone scraper and turned to face the redhead. At the sight of Foxtail’s face, though, she paused in her sharp response and frowned. Despite the tone of the words, the redhead’s face held none of the sulky petulance that Nightstorm had expected. Instead, she looked more than a little hopeful as she stood, idly twisting a bit of thong between her fingers. It made the dark-haired elf remember abruptly about the seasons when tiny Foxtail would toddle along after any member of the tribe who would give her a moment’s attention, the many days she spent curled up in dens with Nightstorm or Snowfall. It was a strange thing to think of then, faced with Foxtail behaving more maturely than she had in two hands of nights.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Nightstorm rocked back on her heels and tilted her head at Foxtail. She studied her for some long moments more. The younger elf still wore a kerchief over her shorn hair, but it had become more of an accessory than a tool to hide the childish fit which had led to the carnage. As for the rest of her clothing, there was nothing much wrong with them. They were sturdy, sensible, well-suited for the huntress. Then again, such considerations had never stopped her or Whispersilk from creating new leathers for anyone before. Least of all for Foxtail.
Though that did make her wonder why the redhead had asked her and not Whispersilk. Such ponderings only lasted a moment, though, because Foxtail was shifting from foot to foot now with the attitude of a wolf pup kept back by a sire. Impatient, anxious, eager to get on with things. Nightstorm shook her head but it was not a dismissal of the topic so much as a switching of thought processes. Then she smiled and almost laughed as Foxtail reacted with a wary look. She motioned for her to come closer and turned back to the hide, picking up the scraper and inspecting the work she had already completed. “So you want new leathers,” she began, leaving it half a question and half a statement.
As expected, Foxtail took the bait to further explain herself and plead her case; she had none of the verbal restraint found in either of her parents.
“Yes, I do. My old ones... They aren’t right anymore. They’re not sensible enough. They’ll get caught on things. Besides,” she interrupted herself with a vague gesture of her hand and then came further into the crafting den, moving to stand at her aunt’s shoulder and peer down at the working leather. She pursed her lips. “I just think it’s time for a change,” she finally finished in a careful, quiet voice.
Nightstorm gave her a sidelong look, eyebrow raised, and indulged in a knowing smirk. “I guess sometimes that happens,” she agreed. “Sometimes even the smallest of creatures wants to change its fur. Like those rabbits that go white in the winter. Things like that.” She bent to drag the scraper down the hide and waited to see if Foxtail would object to the suddenly divergent conversation. Really, sometimes it was too much fun to tease her niece! How could she resist?
When Foxtail held her tongue, though, Nightstorm paused in her work once more, hard scraper pressed against the soft leather, and she turned to look over her shoulder. The redhead looked impatient, but she stayed quiet. Nightstorm was impressed. It made her feel particularly indulgent and, as she reminded herself, dressing Foxtail always proved fun. The younger elf was open to colors, layers, shapes. She had yet to find something Foxtail would outright refuse to model for her. She smiled and straightened. “All right,” she said, “what did you have in mind?”
Foxtail’s face lit with delight and she all but clapped as she moved closer. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. You have good ideas and...”
As she listened to Foxtail offer ideas and ask for input, Nightstorm smiled. Whether things were changing or not for her headstrong niece, they could still enjoy each other... Especially as she planned on taking full advantage of the redhead’s attention and putting her to work on the creation of her new leathers. It would be a learning experience and not a boring one at all.