(This story refers to events that happened in ”The Gathering Storm (Part 7)”.)
Wolves and riders were still returning to the Holt; the pack was almost reunited. Windswift sat near the gathering tribe, observing the elves and biting at fleas. The sound of elvish conversation was welcome after the large silence and separation the tribe and pack had endured. The wolf was content and had a full belly. She placed her head on her paws, and fell asleep.
Rainpace approached the wolf dens. Some of the unbonded wolves were out with the pack, hunting, but Sunsoak, Windswift and Murkfur were there. Windswift looked up when Rainpace neared them. He sent an image of wolf and rider, checking traps and eating food, and Murkfur eagerly bounded away from the play with packmates and gently bumped into Rainpace.
Windswift approached, curious about the trapper, but not liking the sense that he was not confident. Because of that, she didn’t want him to ride her. Still, she knew that the one who bore the trapper would return with a full belly, so she tried to get his attention by nudging her way between them licking the elf's hand.
Rainpace laughed, scratched Windswift’s ears, then mounted Murkfur. The she-wolf snorted unhappily and nipped at the dark wolf. Then, she turned and went back to the other wolves; but as Rainpace and Murkfur headed in the other direction, Windswift turned and watched until they were out of sight.
Windswift thumped her tail happily as she ate the fresh caught rabbit. Rainpace sat nearby, skinning a rabbit to eat meat as well. They had a catch of rabbits, and were taking a break to fill their bellies. Rainpace tossed a choice bit toward her, and she caught it happily, gulping it down.
The elf laughed, then commented, "You earned it! I'm glad you were around when I came to find a mount."
Windswift cocked her head and huffed. She had enjoyed the ride with this elf, and enjoyed the full belly even more.
Rainpace spoke again, "I've tried riding all of you unbonded wolves now. I just don't know which of you I like better. But I should decide soon."
Windswift snorted, and stood, going to the elf and nuzzling him. He gave her another bit of rabbit, and she gulped it happily. The elf still seemed uncomfortable and lacking in confidence, but he was easy to be around, and had a ready source of food for whichever wolf rode with him.
A little later, wolf and rider walked silently toward the Holt. Once they approached the Dentrees, they heard Glow’s squeal and the patter of her feet as she ran toward her father. Windswift loped away, heading toward the wolf dens. When she arrived, Murkfur snorted at her. She nipped at him, then curled up in the morning sunlight and took a happy nap.
Windswift made her way through the huge den in the base of the largest tree, picking her way toward Rainpace, Chicory and Glow. Sleuth was already there, and the three elves were cuddled together against her. Windswift lay next to them on the other side. Rainpace glanced up at her arrival and sat up to give her a scratch. The wolf rolled slightly, offering her belly to him as well. He rubbed the wolf’s belly, then leaned on her, falling asleep.
The wolf sensed the elf’s confidence. He was strong again, and Windswift liked that.
Rainpace approached the wolf dens slowly. He needed a mount again. Murkfur was away, but Windswift was there, watching. When the elf sent his request, she slowly rose and made her way over. He reached out to pet her, and she licked his palm.
“You’d make a good wolf-friend,” he said quietly.
To Rainpace’s surprise, Windswift jumped and put her front paws on his shoulders, licking his face. He tried to move away, but it only would have caused him to fall, so he stood still. Then, Windswift sent, **Rainpace and Windswift, riding together. catching small animals. riding together. friends. **
“Oh!” came Rainpace’s response as Windswift got down, bumping him with her head. He stood, a goofy look on his face. “That’s settled then,” he said, mounting his new friend and riding away from the wolf dens.