Every so often, an elf needed a bit of peace and quiet to himself, Blacksnake thought as he settled his back against the strong breadth of the Mother Tree’s trunk. Especially when the tribe’s cubs were being wound up to a fever pitch by some of the younger adults, most notably Notch and Otter. As near as he could tell, the warming weather had them all bursting at the seams to escape the dens and run wild. Worst case of den fever that he had ever seen and it was not helped by the fact that, if he were honest, the cubs were hardly little cubs anymore. So many seasons had come and gone that they had grown like regular weeds, needing less and less supervision, and, as such, they wanted to stretch their legs and push their boundaries.
Noisily, it would seem. He smiled a bit and craned his neck in order to peer through the budding limbs between him and the ground. A small, harmless tussle had broken out between Rill and Cinder and their wolves circled with excited steps as Glow stood nearby. Her laughter drifted upwards easily, words unintelligible but amusement clear. Whatever the conflict was, no one was about to get his nose out of joint over it. Blacksnake nodded to himself with satisfaction and moved to sit back once more. A new voice gave him pause, though, and he again arched forwards to look below at the noisy scene.
His faint smile returned at what he saw; Foxtail and Newt had emerged from the storage dens, carrying a variety of items including the familiar sight of a soft, Preserver silk ball. It looked like his redheaded granddaughter had some ideas about using up the youngsters’ energy. Perhaps she could also make a dent in Otter and Notch as well, he thought. That would be a feat indeed. Something even his headstrong son would find impossible to ignore.
He watched a bit longer as Foxtail rounded up the others with Newt playing back-up, and then, as they caught the spirit, Notch and Otter adding their skills to the herd. When the small, babbling group trotted off into the surrounding trees, he settled back fully against the trunk and brought out a small leather satchel, unhooking it from his belt and untangling the ties. Opened up and laid out atop his lap, it revealed a few knots of bone and wood protected within the soft material. He picked one particular piece up and turned it to better catch the moonlight filtering through the barely clad branches above him. Barely formed lines still gave the impression of a running wolf. It was rough but his practiced fingers could easily pick up the place where he left off, and Blacksnake rubbed a thumb over a natural bump in the wood while his other hand searched out the finely honed stone knife clipped to his belt.
Yes, a bit of peace and quiet and time with his own thoughts was exactly what the elder desired. Yet idle hands went against his nature and so the carvings came out for the clever work of his knife. He had promised little Copper a gift and had a few ideas for the smallest members of the tribe, Flicker and Spark. Their teeth were coming in nicely and True Edge had found his spare bits of antlers, intended for knife handles, used for gnawing more often than not. The old wolf’s son complained, of course, but Blacksnake easily detected the pride in the growing cubs. Flicker and Spark were more than simply the next generation; they were a pair of miracles.
Thoughtfully, he brought the edge of the knife against one of the unfinished lines and continued it with neat, short strokes. Before long, a powerful leg emerged from the piece of wood, caught in the act of running. Then, ever so carefully, Blacksnake began drawing out a stomach, the other legs, a throat stretched outwards, a head lifted with ears pulled backwards from the fierceness of the running pose. He had just started adding little details when the sound of a branch creaking made him pause. He waited a moment, scenting the air, and then bent to his work again. “Looking for someone?” he asked without lifting his attention away from the wood in his hands.
“Just some peace and quiet.” Thornbow padded along the branches until he reached the elder elf. He leaned back against the sturdy tree trunk and watched Blacksnake’s work for a moment in silence. Then he laughed softly. “I’m guessing that’s why you’re up here, too. I almost forgot how loud it can get with so many younger elves running around.”
Blacksnake shot him a sideways glance but the look held only mild amusement. “As if you’re an Ancient,” he snorted.
“No, but sometimes they get a bit too rowdy when they’re all together.” Thornbow smiled, used to the other elf’s humors. “I have long since learned to only take one or two at a time for lessons. I made the mistake once of trying to teach bow stringing to Cinder, Rill, and Glow all at once. Then Crackle and Otter stopped by…” He trailed off with a sigh and Blacksnake snorted. “I know, I know. It became four too many and I am not ashamed to admit that I had Thief run them all off for me.”
“Not paying enough attention.” Thornbow looked upwards at the early night sky, arms folded across his chest idly. “I’m sure you know how much a snapped bowstring hurts when it gets you.”
Blacksnake made a sound almost like laughter in the back of his throat. “Which one figured out how to turn that into an offensive weapon?”
“Which do you think?” Thornbow dropped his chin to give Blacksnake a square-on look but amusement lurked in his eyes. “That granddaughter of yours has a wicked habit of creating mischief.”
“Which one?” A smile grew behind Blacksnake’s beard. “On purpose or by accident?”
“Accident. I don’t think Glow could hurt a bug on purpose but she has awfully slippery fingers when it comes to bowstrings. It got away from her and whipped Rill in the arm and, well… You can just imagine what happened next.”
“A contest as to who could whip the hardest?”
“Or take the most punishment. It was hard to tell.” Thornbow watched as Blacksnake picked up his knife and the growing sculpture again. When the other elf shook his head, he shrugged himself. “No one lost a limb, though, so I just stopped the lesson and sent them off to get rid of the energy. I suppose not every elf is interested in archery.”
“Or ready for it.” Blacksnake lifted the wood in his hand higher and squinted at it in the bright moonlight. “With those cubs, it might be an idea to start them off with something that requires less precision and focus.”
Thornbow lifted one blond eyebrow. “Such as? They are already terribly proficient at poking things with sticks,” he said dryly.
The corners of Blacksnake’s mouth twitched again in silent laughter but he remained focused on his carving. “The weather is getting warmer. The fish will start running,” he drawled. “Send them over to Greenweave to learn how to tie nets. Then, if you insist on helping them learn to hunt, start them on the sling.” He paused, considered. “But I would give them only capnuts first. Just in case.”
The laughter Blacksnake had suppressed erupted from Thornbow, and he shook his head, conceding to the other’s wisdom. “Just in case they learn how badly stones sting, hm?” He smiled. “It’s a good idea. They have enough energy and it would probably be best to try different lessons to keep them from getting bored.” He pushed away from the trunk behind him and gave a warm nod. “Thank you for the suggestion, Blacksnake. I will talk to Greenweave about it. Windburn, too.”
Then the blond archer gave a slight bow and, without another word, slipped away — back through the budding branches and shifting shadows, silent as every good hunter should be. Blacksnake nodded to himself slightly in approval before settling back against the broad trunk of the Mother Tree. He smoothed a thumb over one of the developing wolf’s flanks, testing it for splinters and lines. Then he turned the carving and began work on the finer, facial details.
Yes, peace and quiet was something an elf needed every now and then but sometimes it was worthwhile to bear an interruption or two. You could learn things or teach things… And, sometimes, it simply reminded an elf of his place and importance.
Blacksnake smiled. The wolf in his hand would be completed by the end of the night and then, well… He had plenty of other things to do. It was all part of the Now and the tribe and his part in it. Life was good.