A light snow was falling as Rill followed along quietly behind his mother. He still dreamed for the day he could hunt on his own. For now though, especially after the time he had run off to look at the humans, he never got too far without someone being with him. True, things had gotten better as time had passed, but he still had to tread carefully.
Quick Fang was sniffing the air and her son turned to regard her for a moment. He hadn't yet caught scent of any prey, but his mother had something of a knack for it. Behind him, Softjoy and Growler also perked up. They, too, seemed to have caught the scent and were excited for the hunt. Why hadn't he noticed it yet?
**Mother....I don't smell anything. Where is it?**
He had learned to not speak aloud when there was prey close by. That was one thing his mother would nip him for sure over. It took awhile for him to learn some lessons, but Rill had taken that one to heart.
**Sniff for it...not think about it.**
Her reply was simple and direct, but Rill still felt kind of put out about it. What was he missing? Why couldn't he spot the same signs or pick up the same smells his mother or the other hunters did? There had to be a trick to it...something he was missing. What could it be?
Quick Fang remained still for a long moment and then suddenly loped off towards a dense thicket near by. Rill was still pondering his current train of thought even while she and the wolves were reacting. Roused from his musings, the young elf took off after her and the wolves.
It didn't surprise him that she spooked a young buck who had bedded down in the thicket. As the beast made an alarmed sound and took flight, he only wondered why he couldn't have noticed it sooner. Again he was slowed by his inner monologue as his mother and the wolves gave chase. Silently he cursed to himself for not riding on Softjoy's back so he could keep up. Instead he had tried to go on foot as his mother did. Now, outpaced and falling behind, Rill probably couldn't catch up before all the excitement was done.
He wasn't usually one to worry much, but this was really beginning to weigh on him. Rill always did well when practicing hunting with his agemates. When he went hunting with Mother, though, he always seemed to come up short and feel like a clumsy cub. Her advice was always the same; less thinking and don't try so hard. That just didn't make any sense to him anymore, though. How did one stop thinking?
His mother's howl drew his attention and Rill picked up his pace. He cleared the next ridge to see Quick Fang standing over the now dead stag. Nearby, the wolves also raised their voice in chorus with hers. It stirred his own wolf blood and Rill joined in, though a bit belatedly, and then crossed the rest of the distance to his mother's side as she began to butcher the kill.
Rill did his part, holding one of the beast’s legs aside to give her easier access to disembowel it. Apparently his mood was easily read on his face. Quick Fang paused in her work and glanced towards him.
He shrugged, trying to find the words to describe what he felt.
**I just keep thinking about why I don't catch scent of the prey....why I never seem to see it. You keep trying to teach me and I keep missing it.**
Quick Fang studied him for a minute, her expression a mixture of confusion and concern. Rill wasn't sure what to make of it. He was really confused then when she stood and began to walk away, motioning for him to follow. Rill fell into step beside his mother as the wolves decided to go ahead and eat while the elves talked.
**Not good with words,** she sent in a matter-of-fact tone. **Mother tried, couldn't teach me.**
Rill smiled a bit at that. His grandmother did always have a way with words. He had learned a lot of lessons from her. More, in fact, than he could really remember. She was always teaching him something and it was easy learning from her. He could tell, though, that his mother was trying to teach him something important, and it was clear she was struggling for the right way to express it.
**Finding prey... instinct and practice. Learn where the prey beds down. Learn trails. You think too much, miss little clues.** With these words she sent clear images of deer curled up in nests, of disturbed leaves and a blurred hoofprint in the moss. Fur caught on bark, scrape marks on a tree where a buck had rubbed its antlers — these were the signs she looked for without even thinking about it.
He pondered that for a moment. That was the crux of the problem. His mother hunted by instinct. His father seemed to hunt by his wits though and his mind was always busy. Why couldn't he do the same? It was rather confusing for the young elf.
“I don't know how to make it less busy. Some thought is always bouncing around in there. Isn't that how Father hunts? He makes all sorts of things to hunt with.”
Quick Fang smiled a bit at the mention of Suddendusk. Rill had always seen his parents as being so different and it didn't seem that he could hunt the same way as either of them. It really puzzled him.
**He does things his own way,** she admitted. **And I do things mine.**
“Then what is my way?”
His mother continued to smile and reached out to ruffle his hair. **I don't know, cub.** Quick Fang frowned then, struggling to recall the memories of her own cubhood, when she had learned to hunt, that she could share with him in sending. It had been many moons ago, and hunting came so naturally to her now she could barely recall a time she didn't know the signs prey left behind. Finally she recalled seeing her brother, tall and confident, striding along in search of prey. She also remembered her parents, swift and sure on their wolves, successful in their hunts, and herself, clumsily trying to keep up and feeling awkward and angry.
In the memories she shared Rill could see her following behind her mother and father on different hunts. Then still others when she hunted with another elf he didn't know. He had heard stories of Whitestag and knew these must be memories of him. Back in those days she, too, felt out of sorts while trying to pick up the art of hunting and other skills.
**It takes time,** she finally added as the images faded. **I felt small following Mother and Father and Whitestag.**
Rill grinned a bit at the notion of his mother feeling the same way as he did now. She always seemed so strong no matter what happened.
“In those memories you seemed to learn a lot from your brother.”
She gave him an odd glance but finally nodded.
“Yes,” she said rather than sent this time. It seemed to Rill for a moment that she looked rather sad but continued. “He taught me well. I will try to teach you well. So will the tribe. You will sniff out your own path.”
Then, without another word she turned back to the body of the deer and cut off a long strip of meat which she then shared with her son. “You are a cub. Cubs learn.”
Rill smiled and stuck a bit of meat in his mouth. As he chewed he could sort of believe his mother was right. She had learned and his father had and so did the rest of the tribe....but all in their own time and in their own way.
“All right....but let’s hunt some more today. We can give the rest of this meat to Grandmother and Kestrel since they can't hunt right now. Then we can go find another deer....and I'm going to catch the scent....and chase it down..”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I wait, you catch scent. That's how Whitestag taught me.”
He looked towards his mother and grinned. Rill was wondering if she could hold back the urge to give chase when she caught wind of prey before he did. Part of him wanted to prove he could do it and another wanted to see if she could resist the temptation.
“Will you be able to wait till I find it? Or will you go running off when you catch wind of it?”
“I can wait,” she said with with a feral grin of her own. “Unless you’re too slow. Come now...we hunt!”
She took off at a slow jog and motioned for him to join. Rill grinned broadly and ran past his mother, taking the lead towards a broad meadow ahead. He had seen rabbits there often enough...they could start with those. His wolf blood was singing in his veins and he tried to listen only to that as they went on to see what they could hunt up.