(Ed. Note: Dash was the cubname of Notch.)
An indulgent smile upon her pretty face, Starskimmer watched as her cub tottered towards a fallen log and attempted to pull himself over it, chubby fingers digging at cracks in the bark, searching for the proper grip. Her first little one, she thought wistfully. Hopefully, the first of many. She had enjoyed being pregnant, heavy with cub and glowing with the inner warmth of new life. Even the delivery had not posed much of a problem; she had attended countless others as a midwife so very little came as a surprise in the process. This, though, actually watching little Dash run about in joyous discovery.... This was something entirely new.
It was as if, through his eyes, she was learning about the world all over again. The colors and sounds and smells, all of his senses greedily absorbing everything offered. She laughed softly as one of his many uncontrolled sends entered her own mind. Everything about her cub was bright and colorful and full of possibility. How could she not smile?
With a contented sigh, Starskimmer relaxed against the trunk behind her and reached into the woven reed basket at her side. After a moment of blind fumbling, she found what she wanted and drew out a dark grey rock the size of her fist. For long moments, her eyes remained on Dash as he played and her hands idly searched over the surface of the rock as if learning its contours and waiting for inspiration. A dreamy smile blossomed as time slipped by in a peaceful, uneventful haze. The lingering warmth of the day bled through into the late evening and the air felt drowsy and comforting.
Dash bent, then lay down flat on the ground in an attempt to investigate what was under the log. Starskimmer traced a finger around the circumference of the rock and faint purple licked at her fingertip. Idly, she lifted her hand away and sought out the basket again. This time, she located the small cup of mixed berries she had tucked against the side. She popped a few into her mouth, savoring the burst of sweet juices on her tongue. Most of the berries were the tart blueberries found on low slopes or the nubbly blackberries from beside the Thornwall. A few, of course, were also her favorites, her dreamberries. They were always impossible for her to resist but she knew there was a time and place for everything. Right now was the time for cub-watching and lazing about in the twilight heat.
A burst of sharp laughter brought her head up suddenly and she caught her breath roughly before letting it out in pure relief. One-Leg stood on the opposite side of the fallen log that had been Dash’s preoccupation since she had brought him down from the den. Their cub squirmed, upside-down, in his muscular arms. “Shards! What are you feeding him, ‘Skimmer?” he asked when Dash nearly managed a full escape. He caught him with effort and threw him over his shoulder. “He’s slippery as an eel!”
Starskimmer giggled. “Nothing special,” she answered with a smile as she pulled herself into a better position to watch her Recognized and their cub. “I don’t know where he gets it from at all. He hardly sleeps, never stays still, and can’t keep his paws to himself. I caught him going after some of my silks and Old Ones only know what he was planning.”
“Make a ladder and escape the den,” One-Leg offered dryly as he once more adjusted his hold on the wriggly child. “I don’t know if anyone’s told you but Whispersilk found him heading for the weaving den the other night and just barely snatched him out of her latest project.”
“Oh. No… No, I didn’t hear that.” Starskimmer blushed.
“And then there’s Greenweave…”
“What about Greenweave?” She had a niggling feeling that she was not going to like the answer even as she asked the question.
“I heard he’s still in his crafting den, cleaning up a little mess made by a little cub.”
“Oh, dear,” Starskimmer sighed and shifted her weight until she knelt. Then she pushed herself up onto her feet and crossed to her Recognized, hands outstretched. “Dash, what have you done?”
Expertly, One-Leg turned his son entirely upside down, held him suspended for a moment, and then righted him before passing him over to his mother. “He’s gone and done just what’s in his nature to do. You birthed a wild thing here, ‘Skimmer.” His grin flashed whitely. “And we named him pretty well, I’d say, though he might grow up thinking he’s something else. Never heard Greenweave curse so creatively in all my long seasons.”
He laughed and Starskimmer forced herself to give him a stern look of reprimand despite her own nature urging her to join in on the happy sound. It was easy to see why One-Leg laughed and even easier to echo it. As some poetic elf once commented, Starskimmer was built for fun and laughter and lazy rolls in the fur. But she was also a mother now, she reminded herself, and that meant she had duties and responsibilities beyond her own pleasures, as foreign as that seemed to her mind. With a heavy sigh, she drew her cub more firmly into her arms but a determined squirm nearly set him loose on his backside. “Dash!”
But she already knew remonstrances were next to useless on her high-energy son and, in no time at all, she bent to set him on the ground. In a moment of inspiration, however, she crouched beside Dash and kept him at her side with one arm around his waist. “Dash, darling, keep your tail on,” she muttered. “Mama has an idea.” By necessity of controlling him, she worked quickly in untying and unwinding a length of Whispersilk’s fine work that had kept her hair back from her face. Then she looped it around her son’s waist. After a moment’s thought, she brought it up and around to loop it around his torso in a more stable crossed formation. Knotting the two ends firmly between his shoulder-blades, she released him and took tight hold of the silky-strong tail of ribbon that was left after her work.
Released, Dash scampered off back towards the log that had been his earlier fascination. Before he could quite make it, though, the length of his lead ran out and he found himself jerked back unceremoniously. He landed on his backside with a soft “whoomph” and sat there, blinking comically. Starskimmer and One-Leg burst into laughter. His mother tried her best to mask it with her hand but there was no ignoring the bright lights in her eyes even as she managed a strangled, “Oh, Dash.”
His bottom lip stuck out almost as far as his upturned nose and the look he gave her spoke of utter, heartfelt betrayal. Starskimmer clamped her hand more firmly over her mouth and her own eyes widened as she fought renewed giggles. One-Leg had no such compunctions and his amusement echoed loud and clear until he was out of breath and forced to clamber over the log, finding it a convenient spot to sit. “Shards, 'Skimmer, I think you solved that little problem.”
“Do you think so?” She lowered her hand and her smile gentled as she moved forward to gather up her cub in loving arms and press an apologetic kiss to his forehead. Dash continued to pout, having none of that in his tiny self-righteous fury.
One-Leg nodded, grinning ear to ear. “Until he figures out how to undo the knots, that is.”
“... That won’t be for at least a season or two, right?” Starskimmer looked first at her cub in his new get-up and then towards One-Leg. Her Recognized simply shrugged, grin still in place, and motioned for her to join him on the log. She sighed heavily before complying. Once she settled, she lowered Dash back to the ground, took fresh hold of his leash, and watched as he dismissed both of the older elves as well as their inflicted indignity on him and proceeded to investigate the dark recesses beneath the log once more.
Starskimmer watched him for a moment and then sighed again. “Oh, well,” she murmured. “At least it should hold for a couple hands of days. I’ll show the rest of the tribe how to tie the lead and get longer lengths from Whispersilk.” She leaned into One-Leg’s strong shoulder and a faint smile touched her lips as she watched her son begin digging like a wolf pup. “Or maybe we can just stake him out wherever there’s someone working outside and that will work.”
“Sure, ‘Skimmer.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “We’ll just make sure to keep any cutting stones out of reach. Slow down that release.”
“Uh huh. Slow it down until we can teach him the meaning of ‘no’.”
They watched the cub in silence for a few more moments. Then, almost simultaneously, they winced as he proceeded to shove a handful of dirt into his gaping mouth. “... Or maybe drop him on his head to see if we can’t get some sense in there,” One-Leg offered.
Who knew that having a cub was so very much work and worry? Even as Dash spit out the dirt and wiped at his tongue with grimy fingers, Starskimmer sighed. Oh, it was going to be some very long seasons with this one… Which reminded her. She really would have to find a way to make up things to Greenweave.