“You’ve been spending a lot of time working with Farscout lately.”
Fadestar looked up, wide gray eyes blinking owlishly, and stared at her redheaded dye-partner. The bafflement radiated clear and strong. Foxtail had been peculiarly quiet since they had moved the skeins of still-pale websilk from the weaving den into the nearby clearing and its prepared buckets for dye, so the sudden statement came as a shock. She couldn’t imagine what had provoked the previous reticence but, used to her own tendencies to think in silence as well as that of her sister and her new mentor, she simply dismissed it from any concern. After all, whatever might be bothering Foxtail had no impact on her ability to work; she was just as quick at lifting and mixing and timing. If something was truly weighing on the chief’s daughter and she itched for advice, Fadestar reckoned that she would be the last to know.
Not that she took it personally, of course. While she had spent time around the wilder elf over the turns since her re-awakening, they had never formed a close bond — despite the shared link of Foxtail’s mother and the lingering overlap of their interest in weaving. Fadestar had been too busy, over all, dealing with too many of her own adjustments and challenges and griefs both little and big. Also, if she were honest with herself, Foxtail had just been exactly the opposite of what interested her — too noisy and selfish and quick and witty and shockingly immature.
Over time, though, the flaws shone less brightly and Fadestar liked to think it was both a maturation of the older-younger elf and her own growing understanding of her new world. They certainly got along better and spent more time together. Foxtail would never be someone she sought out, still too much an opposite of her own firm quietness, but they never argued or rubbed each other raw.
Suddenly, acutely aware of the amused green gaze on her, Fadestar blushed and made a noise in the back of her throat. She ducked her head a bit before shifting forward to lean over the nearest bucket. When Foxtail’s giggle broke the silence, she repeated the noise but brought her attention upward again. Foxtail’s infectious grin brought a faint curve to her own lips. “Sorry,” she said. “I went cloud-gathering.”
“I know. You get this funny look in your eyes when you’re thinking too hard. Not as bad as Dreamflight, though, and it’s not nearly as worrying as the look Notch gets but…” She shrugged and smiled again. “You don’t have to answer, you know. I was just saying it because I was kind of curious. You’re really serious about becoming a long-range scout, aren’t you?”
Fadestar nodded. “Oh, yes. Absolutely.” She paused. Something in the way Foxtail asked struck her as odd. She could not place her finger on it but it made her wonder if the redhead had been silent for so long because of just such a question. “Is that strange?”
“No. I don’t think so, anyway. I mean, it’s not something I could do. I’d go howling mad, being by myself for all those hands of moons. But Farscout can do it, and Kestrel, and Pathmark in his own way. The tribe needs scouts. Especially after, well…” Foxtail crouched beside a bucket and picked up a stirring stick, dipping it within to move the soaking strands within it around in a gentle swirl. There was a simple fluidity to her movements, Fadestar thought and immediately wondered why she sometimes forgot that the redhead was a successful huntress in her own right. Leaf-green eyes again flicked up to meet cloud-grey. The meaning shot clear and easy between them but the events were still a bit too close for comfort and easy discussion. After a moment, Foxtail gave another shrug, stood up, and lifted a piece of the dyeing websilk with her stick to peer at the color distribution. “But don’t you think you’ll be lonely out there once Windburn decides you can go out on treks without Farscout?”
“Well… Maybe a little bit, I suppose.” Fadestar bent to retrieve her own stirring stick and copied Foxtail’s motions, checking the deepening blue in the bucket closest to her. It was a reasonable question, really, especially from an elf such as Foxtail. However, the thought had only occurred to her infrequently. She supposed it was her own quieter nature; she adored her tribe and her friends and could not imagine life without Crackle and Newt but… Time with just herself felt just as nice sometimes. She gave the contents of her bucket another contemplative stir. “But, when you come back, you have time to rest and be with everyone. It makes every reunion special. I don’t think you could ever take someone for granted if you were away from them and loved them so, even though it’s hard, it all works out.”
She drew her stick from the dye bucket and shook off a few drops before leaning it against the bucket’s side. Then she looked over at Foxtail. “Does that make sense?” she asked. It seemed to be something that might fall outside of Foxtail’s usual thought process and she was curious if the other elf would follow. A wrinkled nose and a slow nod came as her answer. Still, she felt the need to offer a bit more explanation and continued, “When I first was unwrapped, I never wanted to be away from my sister. I was afraid she would disappear again, or I would. It took a while but I realized she wouldn’t. I was awake and the tribe had a healer again. It was different, of course. I will always miss my father but…”
Fadestar watched as Foxtail gave a nod to show her continued attention before she moved to set up the drying racks for their silks. In response, she stepped out of the way and picked up her stick to begin the retrieval. “But this is the Now and it’s precious. I never got to go exploring before. This is my chance.”
“And make the Now bigger than it was before?”
Surprised at the quick summary of her thoughts, Fadestar looked at Foxtail who rewarded her with a flashing of sharp, white teeth in a wicked grin. “I understand that. It makes more sense to me, anyway, than wanting to go out alone for moons and moons. Nobody likes to be bored and roped up. Even if they think they do. It’s just the wolf in us, I guess.” She held out a hand for the dyed strands Fadestar pulled from the buckets. Laughter lurked around the corners of her mouth. “Don’t look so shocked. I had some time of my own to think about being stuck and alone some turns ago. Didn’t like it one bit and don’t plan on ever doing it again.” With that, she neatly snatched at the heavy wet strands and turned back to lay them over the drying racks.
Fadestar found herself blinking at the other elf maiden’s back once more but the moment of shock passed faster this time and she laughed at both of them. “Just as well, Foxtail,” she replied with more giggles. “I can’t see you straying too far from Notch, anyway.”
“Hey! That’s not fair.” With her own rush of laughter, Foxtail spread the rest of the strands out and then launched herself at the smaller elf. They tumbled to the ground in a flailing tangle of limbs but the giggles continued unabated even as the redhead soon rolled to ascendancy atop the darker elf. She grinned down at her conquered tribemate. “Consider it my good deed for the tribe, sticking around. You know he would pine without me.”
The whopper of a lie brought out more laughter and Foxtail slipped onto the grass beside Fadestar, both elves looking skywards as they regained their breath.
Finally… “Alright, well, if that’s what you’re going to do, I guess I’ll have to spend more time in the Craft Tree.”
Fadestar turned her head to look at Foxtail with some surprise. “You don’t have to. There’s Dreamflight and Nightstorm, too.”
“No, I’ll do it.” Foxtail smiled. “Just remember to pick up anything interesting you find on the way to bring back and show me, alright?”
“... Alright.” Fadestar smiled and relaxed back into the soft grass. “Alright, I think that works.”
Maybe she had even more people to come home to than she thought.