A late burst of unseasonable warmth had driven most members of the tribe toward the river. Greenweave, One-Leg and Suddendusk and Moss were mending nets, interrupted by occasional splashing from Newt, Rill, and Cinder. Nightstorm was having a heated discussion with Thornbow as she washed some newly-dyed fabric and he made encouraging comments instead of helping. Kestrel and Snowfall were cooling off in the river while True Edge took turns giving them massages. Starskimmer, Honey, and Windsong had their feet in the water as they watched Otter and Notch show off.
Chicory was ankle-deep in mud, looking for small fish or other river animals in the shallows with Glow, while Goldspice stuck to the dry tumbled rocks near the high bank, helping Copper and Brightwood search for interesting stones. Beetle and Cloudfern sat nearby, having chosen to crush and mix herbs for teas and poultices while in the company of the tribe.
So many members of the tribe together in one place. The thought washed over Goldspice as she took a break from her search and reached her arms upward, stretching her back. The feeling of closeness to her tribemates filled her with happiness. She was grateful for the safety of the Holt and its territory. Though there were threats every day, they were within the realm of what was expected.
|Illustration by Tah-marien|
There were those who patrolled. Farscout and Fadestar were out there now, at the far edges of the tribe’s territory. Willow, Pathmark, and Rainpace were out checking traplines.
Windburn was likely in the storage dens, and Foxtail with him. Goldspice marvelled once again at the thought of her cousin helping in the storage dens. The past hands of seasons had brought a lot of change to Foxtail — more responsibility; thankfully, the girl still had spirit to her. Goldspice grinned.
A splash of water on her face brought her attention back to the moment. She looked toward the source of the splash and grinned when her eyes met her beloved’s. Moss had apparently finished what he was working on, and judging by the look in his eye, he didn’t want to be at the river any longer.
Goldspice felt a heat that had nothing to do with the weather beginning to burn, and she smiled in response to his unasked question, then bid Chicory, Brightwood, and the two cubs a good night, and headed away from the riverbank. Moss was beside her in an instant, arm wrapping around her waist as they headed toward their den. She leaned her head on his shoulder, grateful for him and happy to be near him.
They were almost to the Dentrees when the howl of returning hunters caused them to stop. Among the voices was Longshot’s. The hunt had been successful, and there was a promise of fresh meat to enjoy. On a night like tonight, Goldspice knew that the gathering would be a joyous one; full bellies and dreamberries, stories and tales, especially young Crackle’s. She had been on the hunt, so the tales would be even more entertaining. Everyone would have something to add, and Goldspice didn’t think she wanted to miss it.
Her lovemate squeezed her shoulder, and she met his eyes. Longshot’s part in the hunt was something he would want to hear about — and not later. She smiled her agreement — their own plans could wait. And without any words between them, they turned as one and headed back toward the river.
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