(Ed. Note: based on a story idea by Catrina and Angie.)
Humming under her breath, Fadestar skipped down the few steps towards the weaving den, her mind caught up in turning over the new possibility for a pattern. It had come to her late the night before as she clambered down through the trees on her return to the dens. The silvery light from the moons above had seemed to dance about her and a slight breeze had moved the branches just enough to create faintly shifting shadows on the ground beneath. Caught by the sight, she had crouched, frozen, for long moments until she had it entirely memorized. That was her goal for the night.
The double impact of scent and sound, though, gave her pause and she cocked her head to one side. “Greenweave?” she ventured. It wasn’t that she did not recognize him. That would be silly; he was part of her tribe, after all. It simply seemed… Unusual to find him inside when all of the things were green and growing outside and the river running lively and silver with fish.
“Yes, it’s me.” The usual warm laughter colored his voice and beckoned her onwards again. She obeyed, slipping into the warm den and offering the brown-haired fisher a smile in return for the one with which he greeted her. A pile of thin fibers gleamed on his lap, a tangled mess of easily recognized websilk, undyed and silvery-white. He motioned to them as he noticed her eyes flick downwards and chuckled. “I hope you don’t mind me popping in here to do a little work. There’s too many distractions out there.” His grin widened. “I promise not to get in your way.”
“Oh. Oh, no.” Fadestar felt her eyes widen at the very ludicrous thought of Greenweave ever getting in anyone’s way. Let alone hers. Aside from being her elder, which gave him every right to be wherever he liked, he was patient and kind and as gentle as a early-turn rain. She took a step further into the weaving den. “No, it’s alright. I don’t mind. Not at all. It’s just… I almost never find anyone here when it’s so pretty outside,” she finished a bit awkwardly. “Sometimes Nightstorm but she’s usually more interested in what to do with the fabric after I’m done making it, and maybe sometimes Dreamflight…” She noticed the very slight tightening at the corners of his mouth when she mentioned his temperamental daughter and rushed onwards with a trace of breathlessness, “Oh, and Foxtail sometimes when she’s in the mood but you know how that goes. She’s gotten very good with colors, though, and it’s always nice to have a second pair of hands when it comes to dyeing.”
“She’s changed a bit, hasn’t she?”
Feeling like they were back on solid and safe ground, Fadestar nodded and came even closer to the fisher. “I didn’t know her that well before Whispersilk died but everyone says that.” She paused, watched his nimble fingers pick over the silk in his lap idly, and then added, “We all change. It’s part of living.”
Greenweave laughed but she knew immediately that there was nothing unkind in the sound, only relief and affection and perhaps even a bit of surprise. “Truer words have never been spoken, dear Fadestar. There’s always something new happening in the Holt, isn’t there?”
“And we’re always learning.” The ground of the conversation felt more real with every word and any tension still remaining in the set of her shoulders flowed away like water to the river. Fadestar cocked her head to one side to better study his work. Then she crossed the remaining space between them and settled down beside him. “What are you making?”
He lifted a few strands for her, handing them over for closer inspection. “I’m preparing the threads for a new net. You have to use the strongest ones and then twist them in the right way or the knots won’t hold right or, worse yet, the fish will break through the entire net and ruin it.”
Fadestar peered down at the fibers now tangled between her slim fingers intently. So intently, in fact, that she started with a barely audible inhalation when Greenweave slid another set of strands into her other hand. He chuckled and closed her fingers more firmly around the smoother, twisted bits of websilk. “Do you see how it looks different?” he asked gently. “You take a lot of the single pieces and wind them together and twist in the right way to get a stronger cord. A lot of little things that work together to make a stronger, bigger thing.”
“Like a family.”
Greenweave’s hand paused atop hers and she felt him still at her side. Concern for him overrode any renewed nerves and, with a reassuring smile, Fadestar turned her hand just barely beneath his and squeezed slightly. “And like the tribe,” she finished firmly. “It’s really the same thing sometimes. We all work together and look out for each other.”
“We do.” He returned the squeeze gratefully before untangling their hands and showing her the difference in the loose websilk and the twisted cords. “Just like websilk into a rope and rope into a net. We catch each other. It’s a good thought.” She dipped her head to hide the faint flush at her cheeks from his implied praise, and he smiled anew. His thumb rubbed at the loose collection of strands in his hand. Then he sat back a bit so she could see better and demonstrated with a few deft motions how he would smooth the silk and then twist it until it refused to part from itself when released. Eagerly, she reached for a few of her own strands and mimicked him with near success. While his strand proved smooth all through, hers featured the slightest of bumps at the point where her work had begun. She looked up to see him nodding. A hint of bright laughter shone in his eyes. “Tell me, cub,” he began, “are all of you this clever and wise naturally or was it something in the Preserver silk?”
“I… I’m not…”
The laughter bubbled up at her wide-eyed dismay, and Greenweave dropped his work in order to reach out and ruffle her dark hair affectionately. “It’s alright, Fadestar. I’m only teasing. You and Newt both just seem so much more grown-up than I remember most cubs being. Sometimes I wonder if you’re not already wiser than some of us creaky old folks.” Amusement continued to spark in his eyes, and his mouth quirked in reflection of it. “But we still have a few tricks up our sleeves, so don’t go getting too full of yourselves, hm?”
Fadestar relaxed and returned his smile. Then she picked up more of the loose silk and presented it to him. “Then I guess I better pay attention when you teach me how you make your ropes for your nets,” she ventured. When he laughed again, she joined him with a soft giggle. “Come on. Please show me. I like to learn new things.”
As he nodded and picked up the offered work, angling his body and hands so she could view how he moved with more ease, Fadestar reflected that her original plans could wait. This was, somehow, far more important at the moment. Shadow patterns could wait. Learning a new skill from a kind tribemate? Not always.