Forever to Practice   0543.09.26*  
Written By: Linda Aarts
(2015 March/April Trade) “I just can’t pick up scents like you do. Or Raincaller. I don’t feel like a wolf. I can’t track. And I really try, but it is just not in me. I want to learn how to hunt so badly, that it almost hurts sometimes.”
Posted: 05/03/15      [6 Comments]

Collections that include this story:
Flight for Life
Returning Ancestors
Here I Come

“It's not fair! I am trying and trying and I just can’t do it!”

The young voice echoed through the woods as she cried the words out to nobody in particular, and the frustration was almost touchable. Firecat threw away her small bow and abruptly sat down, tears welling in her eyes. She wanted to be the best at something, and it seemed that everything worked against her. She couldn’t pick up scents like the wolflings could, she couldn’t bond with the wolves to have a hunting partner, and the bow was much harder than she had anticipated.

Firecat had been looking at the wolflings and the wolfriders ever since she was born. She was fascinated by them. And what she truly wanted was to be one of them. Her mother and father had explained that what she wanted couldn’t be done. You couldn’t simply add wolf-blood to your veins and be done with it. However, if she wanted to hunt, it was something that she could learn. And she should ask the hunters to train her and take her as an apprentice. Her father Redmane had even offered to help her. But they also had explained that there were differences between the wolf-elves and the pureblooded elves.

Mother had said that the differences made them a stronger tribe. Cubmaker's soft voice had spoken of the skills of both wolflings and pureblooded elves. That they sometimes differed and that it was all right to be different. Wolf-elves were better at hunting, but that didn’t mean pureblooded elves didn’t hunt. Her father was a good hunter, her mother had told her, and other pureblooded elves hunted, too. And pureblooded had a stronger magic and a much longer memory, something that the wolflings hadn’t — they forgot quickly.

But to Firecat, with her two hands of age, the wolflings had everything she wanted. She longed to be just as skilled, and she had wanted to prove that she could be that way, pureblooded or not. She had run and run to improve her condition. She had asked Raincaller to teach her how to hunt, but the wolfling wasn’t as patient as she had hoped. Firecat couldn’t help that she had so many questions! She had been curious of how Raincaller experienced nature, if she saw things different from her, what the wolfling scented, what she felt, what her wolfblood felt like… but Raincaller had quickly told her to be quiet and listen. Firecat hadn’t heard anything, but she had really tried. And then, when Raincaller had given her the sign to follow, she had stepped on a twig. The rabbit that Raincaller had scented and seen long before Firecat had was spooked and ran off. Raincaller had not been amused. “Cub must listen to learn,” she had repeated a few times to express her dismay. “No talking. This lesson has ended.” And then, she had elegantly left the young elf with her own thoughts.

A tear fell on her hand, and another on her leg. She abruptly dried them off. Firecat hated to cry. It didn’t accomplish anything. But she felt so frustrated. She wanted to learn, but didn’t know how.

**What’s wrong, little sister?**

Firecat sniffed and looked up. Sparrow and her wolf friend Arrow appeared between the bushes. Her older half-sister sat down next to her, while the wolf lifted his nose and tested the air. “Why are you crying?”

“I’m not crying,” Firecat muttered, following the wolf with her eyes. The longing to bond hurt in her chest. Sparrow shrugged and leaned back on her elbows. It seemed as if she was waiting for something as she eased back in the autumn leaves.

“I just want to learn how to hunt,” Firecat said. “And to bond with a wolf, like you.”

Sparrow nodded. It wasn’t a secret that the young elf wanted to be like the wolfriders. “I know you do,” she gently said, combing through Firecat’s hair with her fingers. Firecat noticed how Sparrow looked at her wolf and that the darkbrown wolf came closer. With a yawn, the wolf sunk through his legs and with a “thud” fell down on the ground. Firecat leaned forward and petted the wolf’s head.

“I just can’t pick up scents like you do. Or Raincaller. I don’t feel like a wolf. I can’t track. And I really try, but it is just not in me. I want to learn how to hunt so badly that it almost hurts sometimes.” Firecat sighed deeply, and her shoulders slumped. “I just don’t know how to do it without the wolfblood. So I wanted to ask Raincaller about her wolfblood and how she hunted and what she felt and saw and scented, but I think I disappointed her.”

“I saw Raincaller just now, and she told me that you had asked her to hunt. And that it didn’t go as planned. That is why I came to see you. To see if I could help, instead.”

Firecat pouted. “She said I talk too much,” the cub answered. “I don’t mean to. I just want to learn, so I ask questions.”

Sparrow laughed. “I know you do, cubling. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Only, when you hunt, you need to be very quiet. So it probably wasn’t the right time to ask her those questions. You should try again when you are not on a hunt, and maybe she can give you the answers you seek.” She ruffled the golden hair of the cub. “If you aren’t quiet during the hunt, your prey will hear you coming from miles away.”

“Yeah,” Firecat agreed and frowned as she thought back to the incident. “Rabbits have good ears. I stood on a stupid twig, and it was spooked. Even rabbits have better ears than I have.” She sighed. In the meantime, Arrow had rolled over and Firecat could now pet his belly. The wolf shuddered with pleasure. “Maybe I should’ve sent the questions to Raincaller. Maybe she would’ve kept teaching me.”

“Perhaps that would have been the better choice. And sending, my little sister, will be one of your best qualities in the hunt, because you are so good at it.” Sparrow said, poking Firecat.

Puzzled, Firecat looked up, and her golden eyes met Sparrow’s. Sending came as natural to Firecat as breathing. She was good at it. And she could send and receive sends from a long distance. Even with her two hands of turns, she was more skilled at sending than some of the wolfriders. Her mother’s words echoed in her mind, that pureblooded elves mostly had stronger magic than wolfriders. But she couldn’t see why it would help her in a hunt.

“Why?” she asked Sparrow.

“Because,” Sparrow answered, squeezing Firecat’s shoulder, “you are so good at it. And you can benefit from it by using it to your advantage. During hunts, we send a lot. And the wolfriders use more images and feelings than words. If you learn how to anticipate, you don’t need to pick up every scent they do. Or hear everything they hear. They communicate through sending and sounds. And,” the older female continued, joining Firecat in grooming Arrow, “if you learn how to read the wolf language and their behaviour, it will tell you lots, as well. For instance, the way their ears point, their stance, or even how their tail wags will tell you what a wolf feels. If you master those skills well, you don’t need to send to the wolves.”

Firecat nodded, then sighed. “I would love to have a wolf bond like your Arrow. He’s sweet.”

Sparrow grinned. “He is, now. But he can be really fierce, too. Master the skills to read the wolves’ ways the best you can. And who knows? Maybe there will be a wolf in your near future who wants to be your friend and who doesn’t care about whether you’re a wolfrider or not.”

The young cub wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know. But if you’re right, it’ll take forever.”

“Practice makes perfect, dear one. And don’t forget, with your pure blood, you have forever. In the meantime,” Sparrow said, standing up, Arrow following her right away, “I will teach you about wolves and how they act. You are still small enough to ride Arrow. Do you want to try?”

“Really?” Firecat jumped up and nearly bounced up and down with excitement, her frustration nearly forgotten. “I would love that!”

“Yes, really, cubling. And you can ask all the questions you want until you have no more.” Sparrow lifted Firecat onto the wolf’s back.

Arrow was waiting patiently as Firecat cheered when she sat. “Thank you so much, Sparrow. I promise I’ll do my best. And I’ll be the best pureblooded elf in the hunt soon!”

“I am sure you will be,” Sparrow laughed. “Now, look at Arrow’s ears. They are pointing forward, so he is as happy about this as you are. And look, he hears how I talk. His ears turn. That’s how you can see where the sounds are coming from. Even if you don’t hear them yet, he can.”

The voices of the elves left the clearing as they moved along. Soon, nothing was left of the frustration that echoed here before. Birds replaced the sound of elves and chirped and sung. All was well again in the woods.

Collections that include this story:
Flight for Life
Returning Ancestors
Here I Come

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