“Mother! You’re freezing!” Dreamflight exclaimed as she pulled Honey into the den, hurriedly re-lashing the den door to keep the chill wind out.
“I know! It’s a cold night, and the hunt was long,” Honey offered in explanation, hoping that Dreamflight wouldn’t comment on the state of her winter coat.
Her daughter was not that bubble-headed, though, and as she helped Honey out of the coat, she commented, “Mother! This coat is worn thin. You should have had a new one last winter, or even the one before that! What were you thinking?”
Honey gratefully accepted the fur that Dreamflight was putting around her shoulders and snuggled into her daughter’s bedbowl, waiting for the warmth that would start to fill her. She considered Dreamflight’s question, knowing that there wasn’t really an answer her grown-up daughter would find suitable. Finally, she answered with the simple truth, “It just wasn’t that important, daughter.”
“What?” Dreamflight asked. “How can you say that? Freezing to death is not how I want you, or anyone else in the tribe, to die.”
“How would you prefer that I pass?” Honey asked drily.
“Mo-therrr!” Dreamflight said, exasperated.
Honey laughed, enjoying her daughter’s concern. “Dear daughter, the season this coat was made was the time the Fierce Ones returned. Each winter, we have been on guard, watching and waiting in case they returned. Though we have not been as guarded, I hadn’t really thought to have the coat replaced. Now that you mention it, though, I will. I just hate having to get a new one… I have really enjoyed this coat.”
“You could get Moss or Nightstorm to make you one just like it, you know,” Dreamflight pointed out.
“I could. But… I think I’m ready for a change of color.” Honey could feel the warmth taking over, and she was getting sleepy. “I’ll take a nap first, though, if you don’t mind?” She closed her eyes.
“Sweet dreams, Mother. Enjoy a winter nap. I’ll be back later,” Dreamflight said.
As luck would have it, a few moments later Dreamflight found both Moss and Nightstorm in the craft-dens at the same time.
“Hello you two! I noticed Mother needs a new coat.”
“Desperately,” Nightstorm agreed.
Moss laughed. “Any special requests?” he prodded.
Dreamflight replied, “She adores the old coat so much it took until I noticed how ratty it was before she agreed to getting a new one. ‘A different color’ she mentioned.”
Moss and Nightstorm exchanged glances and perhaps an inspired send.
“We’re on it!” Nightstorm responded. “Want to help?”
“Sure!” Dreamflight said happily. Thinking on it, she admitted, “I don’t know a lot about tanning, or about stitching leathers together, but I could make a new silk lining for whatever you two come up with. And,” she added, “I’ll bring you two the first catch when we start ice fishing again.”
“That sounds like a good deal,” Moss said, then added, “I’ll also need you to catch a few otters or beavers - we’re going to use brown fur, and I expect you to help replace the stash we use.”
Dreamflight blinked, knowing that his request wasn’t unreasonable, but she didn’t know when she would meet that requirement. Thinking on it, though, she realized she might be able to barter with another tribemate if they caught the required catch. She nodded her agreement, then headed toward the silk-making den of the Craft-trees.
Ducking in, she saw Foxtail there, already working with spools of thread, patching Windburn’s shirt. The Chief’s scent caused her heartbeat to flutter for a moment, but Dreamflight took a deep breath and calmed herself. Then Foxtail commented, “It sounds like you have a plan for your mother’s threadbare coat.”
Not surprised Foxtail had overheard, Dreamflight nodded. “While I’m at it, she’ll need new clothing for under the coat as well. We have plenty of cloth, so it shouldn’t take me that long.”
Foxtail smiled at her. It wasn’t condescending as it might have been many seasons ago. The Chief’s daughter seemed to have… softened ever so slightly since her mother’s death. Dreamflight also thought that it might have something to do with getting to know the redhead better due to the time they spent working on silk-making.
“Maybe,” Foxtail suggested, interrupting her thoughts, “You could ask Cinder to help you felt a shirt. He really enjoyed it when we made one for father. He made one for himself last winter. He also seems to have a soft spot for your mother, though who could blame him? Honey was his primary source of milk when he was small.”
Dreamflight smiled at the memory, then nodded. “That’s a great idea! He’s around the Holt somewhere, right?” she asked.
“I believe so. I’ll send for him.”
Dreamflight began sorting through a basket of silk while waiting to see if Cinder would come. She found a batch of white silk cloth that would work for a felted tunic. She thought it would also do for the lining of the coat Moss and Nightstorm were going to make, and she decided to sew the finest down into the lining, so that her mother would be warm and the coat not too heavy.
Moss sent from the next den, **We have plenty of dark brown. Would that do?**
Dreamflight smiled. She could see her mother cloaked in dark browns, and an image of a lighter fur trim came to mind. She sent back to him, including an image of pants and boots to go with it.
Nightstorm called out, “That’s even more work, Dreamflight.”
Foxtail chuckled, then hollered back, “You know you like it. Stop complaining.”
Dreamflight chuckled at the teasing banter between her tribemates while she measured out the silk that would be needed for the projects. She was finishing up when Cinder arrived, a basket of fur in hand. He was panting. “Foxtail said you wanted to make a felt shirt for Honey?” His eyes were bright with excitement.
Dreamflight marveled at the differences between Cinder and his sister — he was so serious, so happy to help. Then again, Foxtail was happy to help, now, but the attitude was newer to the redhead, having only developed in the time since her brother had been born. No matter — Dreamflight was happy for the help.
“Yes,” she answered the expectant youth. “Nightstorm and Moss are working on a new coat, pants and boots for Mother, and I’m going to make a lining for the coat. I’d like her to have a tunic, too, and if it were felted, it would keep her warmer. She’s gone too long without new winter leathers.”
“Could I… make the whole thing?” he asked tentatively. “I know how! I promise I can do a good job.”
Dreamflight smiled at him. “I know you will, and yes, if you want to try making it on your own, I don’t see a reason why you can’t. I have the silk for the tunic measured out. Do you want me to help you with cutting it out?”
He bit his lower lip, thinking it over, then nodded. “I think you probably know how to shape it better than I do, but I’ll watch so that next time, I can do it myself.”
She smiled at him, then proceeded to lay out the silk, being sure to measure extra to account for the felting process. It would serve first as a pattern for the felted portion, then as an underlayer so the shirt wouldn't be scratchy. As she worked, she smiled. Her mother’s new clothing would be ready in a hand of days. And not too soon, either.
A hand of nights later, Honey shivered as she and Mooncrier made their way back from the Great Meadow toward the Holt. She knew others were working on new winter clothes for her; Dreamflight had told her as much. The mother wished her daughter had kept it quieter — then she wouldn’t feel the cold as much this night. If only she had asked for new leathers sooner. Her stomach grumbled as well. Mooncrier had managed to catch a winter hare, but had finished her meal before Honey caught up. Though they were bonded, Mooncrier wasn’t the type to sacrifice such a small meal to another. Honey was hungry, tired, and cold.
When she approached the Dentrees, she headed up the stairs to her den. She knew she’d find more warmth in the Gathering Den, but she wasn’t really in the mood to be around others. She wanted her bedbowl and her furs. After warming up and taking a nap, she’d go to the storage dens for a meal, then head to the Gathering Den.
She entered her den, lashed the door flap tight and snuggled down into her bedbowl. She was asleep in moments.
“Mother!” Dreamflight called, in what felt like only moments later. “Wake up! You’ve been asleep almost half the night. I couldn’t wait any more!”
Honey managed a smile through her groaning. She peeked her head up, peering over the edge of her bed, fur still over her head. Even that small hole caused her to shiver. Then Dreamflight did the unthinkable and pulled the fur off her.
“Dreamflight!” Honey screeched. “Give that back!”
“No,” her daughter refused. “Put these on instead.” Dreamflight smiled as she handed her bewildered, shivering mother a bundle.
Honey took it, teeth chattering, and unrolled it. She saw not only a coat, but a silk undershirt, a felted tunic, leggings, boots, socks, and even fur mittens. Surprise and joy caused her to stop thinking about the cold and to start stripping off the silken leggings and undershirt and to start putting on the new clothing. She could sense Dreamflight moving around her, picking up her old wares, but she didn’t mind. The new base layer and leathers fit perfectly, and she felt warmer than she had in days when out from under the furs. She smiled. The leathers were supple, in rich browns, and the coat had a down lining and fur trim. She put that on, and pulled on the boots, then the mittens. “How does it look?” she asked her daughter.
“So much warmer,” Dreamflight answered, then sent, **You’re beautiful, Mother! As always.**
Honey laughed, her heart warmed by the compliment. Then she asked something that had been on her mind since Dreamflight initially insisted on the new clothes. “What did you have to promise to get these made so fast?”
Dreamflight smiled at her. “I promised Moss and Nightstorm the first catch of fish from ice-fishing, and I let Cinder make the felt tunic by himself -- that was his payment. So I just have to go ice-fishing. I hadn’t done it yet because I was making the lining and the mittens. I’ll go soon, though. I don’t want to keep them waiting too long. Maybe tomorrow.”
“That’s all you owe them?” Honey asked, knowing that the fish couldn’t replace the leather and fur that had been used for material.
“I also have to catch beavers or otters, or both, but that’s harder in winter. They don’t mind if I wait until spring to replace them,” Dreamflight explained.
That made more sense. It still didn’t make sense that Dreamflight wasn’t going to try fishing tonight. The weather was beautiful. “Do you have something keeping you from catching the fish tonight?” Honey asked, interested in her daughter’s plans.
Dreamflight flushed, and Honey wondered what her she wasn’t saying. She looked at her cub, eyebrow raised in questioning.
Dreamflight shrugged, looked thoughtful, and Honey decided it didn’t matter. “What if I went in your place?” she asked, feeling inspired by gratitude, new warmth and by a grumbling stomach.
“Oh, Mother! Would you?” Dreamflight was ecstatic.
“Happily. This time. I’m hungry, so while Moss and Nightstorm will get the first catch, I’m still going to have my meal. Though… I haven’t been ice fishing in a while.”
“You’ll do great, Mother! How hard could it be?”
The hardest part about ice fishing, Honey remembered quickly, was breaking a hole in the ice. She knew antler saws were effective for cutting through the ice, but she hadn’t brought one with her. Stubbornly, she decided to try using the one tool she had on hand — a long knife. Not surprisingly, it shattered when she tried using it. The archer knew she needed a saw, but she wasn’t quite ready to return to the Holt to get one. The night was clear and the air was crisp. The new winter clothing kept her snug and comfortable.
“Are you just going to stand at the river’s edge all night, Honey?” Turnstone asked as he approached from behind, startling Honey out of her thoughts.
She turned and smiled at him. The tall elf was no longer a stranger to her, but there was still much about him she didn’t know. His unwrapping the previous summer, along with Raven, Raindrop and Firecat, had unnerved her in some ways -- and in others, it had been a relief to meet elves who had never known her. She’d enjoyed the freshness of the relationships, and found Turnstone to be particularly easy to be around.
“I was going to ice-fish, but my knife broke when I tried to carve out a hole,” she explained.
His eyes lit up at that. “I did a little bit of ice fishing back in the day,” he explained. “Would you like some help?”
Dewdrop fluttered up from behind Turnstone. It must have been riding in his hair. “Bree-dee deet! Dewdrop help Manytears Sharpthing and Rock-make Highthing! Make splashythings snugsafe.”
Honey cringed at the Preserver’s name for her. No matter how hard she worked, it seemed her past mistakes were still preserved. She could only hope that the name would change… one day.
She only slightly bristled at Turnstone’s implication that she didn’t know what she was doing, or that she would need help. He was right — she hadn’t ice-fished since before her unwrapping, and her attempt this evening had only resulted in a broken knife. Not to mention, she would definitely enjoy his company. “Yes, please,” she responded.
Turnstone leapt onto the ice and slid to a stop. Then, deftly wielding the antler saw like the one she hadn’t thought to bring, he carved a hole in the ice as if he were slicing through leather. He looked up at her, grinning with a smile that lit his eyes. She shook her head at him, laughing as she stepped onto the ice. When he produced a string with a shaped rock hook on the end, Honey chuckled. “You had planned on ice fishing this evening anyway,” she accused.
“Absolutely. On a fine night like tonight, why not?” he asked.
She said, “I need to catch some for Moss and Nightstorm, not to mention for myself.”
“Happy to help,” he said cheerily. “And when we’re through, we can feast, and you can tell the tribe the tale of my prowess on the ice.”
Honey laughed. Turnstone almost always seemed happy. His behavior after being unwrapped seemed a stark contrast to her own. Thankfully, time had healed most of the wounds, and she was happier now, when she cared to admit it, than she had ever been.
“I’ve got one!” Turnstone announced, and Honey looked over. It was the first of several fish who seemed to be magically biting onto the hook and begging to be pulled up.
“How are you doing that?” she asked.
“I honestly don’t know,” he responded, laughing. “It’s never been this easy.”
“Ayooo-ah,” Moss howled, announcing his approach.
Honey and Turnstone howled back, then listened as Windburn added his greeting. She saw Windburn atop Fireweed and Moss astride Weasel. She could tell they had been hunting, and based on the meager rabbit in Windburn’s left hand, she assumed their hunt had been not successful.
At that moment, Turnstone called to her, “I’ve got another, and this one’s huge!”
Honey stepped forward, ready to grab the string and help, should Turnstone need it. She then called to Moss, “Two of these are for you, friend. And one for Nightstorm. Thank you for the leathers.”
Moss smiled in response. Windburn looked puzzled, but said nothing. Honey decided not to worry about it. Instead, when she sensed it was time for Turnstone to pull the last fish out of the water, she readied herself with a rock to knock it out.
“We’ll see you back at the Holt, Turnstone. Honey,” Windburn said.
Honey smiled and waved, then called out, “We’ll be back whenever the fish stop biting.”
“What if they bite all night?” her chief asked.
“We’ll be out all night, then, but you’d better send others out here if they do. Otherwise, we won’t be able to carry them all back to the Holt,” she pointed out.
“Send to us if you need us,” Windburn responded, then rode back toward the Holt with Moss and Weasel beside him.
Six fish later, the fish stopped biting. Honey helped Turnstone clean the fish he had caught, then they headed back to the Holt had to share the catch with the tribe, and to warm up.
|by Linda A. and Mareike H.|
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