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"Widesky's song"   |   First Healing   |   "Little Ones"   |   The Birth of Widesky   |   "Musings"   |   From Burr to Widesky   |   Otter and Splitspear's Recogntion   |   Daybreak's T.V. Drama
By Kelly

    Two cubs, Brownpool thought idly, a faint smile playing across his face as he drew a scraping rock back across the hide he was working on.  Two more cubs, he corrected himself, the smile growing wider.  Although Rain couldn't rightly be called a cub any longer, Brownpool reserved the right of a proud parent to think of him that way.  

     Still, even though it had been several moons since his and Foxfire's second Recognition and the conception of the twins, the tanner quite often found himself unable to believe, really, that he was truly going to be the father to two more.  Sometimes it was even harder to believe that fortune had favored him enough to Recognize Foxfire yet again.  He was used to her being his soulmate, to her being the mother of his cub.  He would really rather not get used to anyone else doing the same, although sometimes he wondered if she shared that sentiment.  

     Shaking his head to keep his thoughts from going down that particular path, Brownpool bent back over his work.  Foxfire had been spending more time with Splitspear as of late, and it seemed that his initial suspicions had been confirmed - that what had passed between them the night the twins were conceived was due only to the Recognition.  Not that he was objecting.  That night had been one of the sweetest of his life, and he knew Foxfire as well as he knew himself.  Despite her general lack of wolf blood, she tended to live for the moment and the pleasures the moment could bring.  It was unfair of him to expect more from her.  Brownpool just wished that he would stop expecting more from her.  

     If only she wasn't so incredibly confusing in her actions, then things would be easier for him.  One moment she was acting as if she and Brownpool had been lifemated for years, and the next she was running off with Splitspear like an overgrown cub.  She rarely spent time with anyone else as far as potential mates went, and that only served to confuse him more.  Foxie was a flirt through and through, and to stick to only two males seemed to go against her nature.  Then again, Brownpool had also noticed that Splitspear's extracurricular activities had dropped off since the conception of the twins, so who knew?  The trader was even more of a flirt than the lorekeeper, and it seemed to go against his very nature for him to spend so much time with one female.  It was indeed a puzzle, and not one Brownpool expected to solve anytime soon, if ever.

     With a sigh, the tanner set down his scraping rock and stretched, all too aware of the soreness and muscle aches that would result if he didn't take more care in keeping his muscles limber.  A wistful glance at the entrance to the den was all he allowed himself.  He had a tribe to clothe and several new cubs on the way; he didn't have the luxury of breaks from work like the one he was considering now.  Of course, he had to admit that part of the reason he wanted to leave the den was because he hadn't seen Foxfire since that morning, and he wanted to make sure she was all right.  It had been a turn since the Recognition, and she was at the point where the cubs' presence was becoming obvious in a physical way, but already she was quite large and he was worried that she wouldn't be able to keep them in there as long as they needed to be kept in there.  Her inability to make the transition from perfectly active tribemember to practical invalid was not exactly something he blamed her for, but it would have been easier on his nerves if she'd been able to just calm down and spend the next turn relaxing.  There were times when Brownpool very much envied Blade for the mother of his children; Shineshade wouldn't run around like crazy if she was three lives instead of just the one.  Actually, Shineshade wouldn't run around like crazy for much of anything.

     Once again taking up his scraping rock, Brownpool tightened the frame around the piece of leather he was working on and got back to into it.  As was quite common when his body found a working rhythm, the tanner's mind began to wander.  He was undeniably Wolfrider, one who followed the Way with his entire being, but sometimes, and even more often of late, he allowed himself to wonder what the future would bring.  For the simple reason that the only thing he ever really thought about in that direction was what these two new cubs would be like, he dismissed it as eagerness to be a father to small children again.  

     One of the cubs, he hoped, would have the storytelling talent like Foxfire did.  Brownpool knew that it bothered her sometimes that she had been around for so long and had no one to teach her stories to.  Her lesser amount of wolf blood guaranteed a longer life than most Wolfriders, but it also guaranteed that she would feel the press of time more keenly.  Brownpool wasn't sure that it was an equal trade.

     Perhaps one of the cubs would be interested in learning his craft as well.  He didn't foresee the end of his life anytime soon, but no cub born since he'd been alive had shown any interest in or afinity for tanning.  Not that he blamed any of them, exactly, it wasn't easy and no one ever told stories about how great tanners were.  It was easy for young cubs to be taken in by stories of hunters and warriors and set their sights on a life that involved things more exciting than leathers.  Brownpool understood that; at one point he'd thought to be a hunter as well until he'd discovered that he wasn't any good at it.  Somehow, he'd always assumed that one of his progeny would take over his tribal duty.  He'd known right away that Rain wasn't the tanning type, but that hadn't bothered him.  Rain was what he was, and regardless of that, or perhaps because of it, Brownpool was proud of him.  The same would hold true for the twins, but for now, before they were born, before they were defined personalities with faces and tribe names, he was free to dream of what they could be.

     In his mind's eye, he saw two small children, male and female, standing side by side.  They would look alike, he thought, but also very different.  Perhaps he would be a male version of his mother's looks, while she would take after her father.  Their personalities might be switched as well; he the outspoken flirt and she the quiet loner.  Or it could go the other way around, or they could be something completely different.  Brownpool didn't really care.  It was just nice to know that regardless of what they looked like or who they acted like, they would still both be his children and he would love them for that reason alone.

     A far-off sound caught his attention and he paused, set the rock aside and leaned over to look out through the entrance of the den.  Foxfire was out there, just entering his field of view, and she had Splitspear in tow.  They were both laughing, and from the rather unsteady way that the trader was walking Brownpool was willing to bet that they had been in the dreamberries again.  He would have to talk to her about that; to the best of his knowledge dreamberries couldn't harm unborn cubs but the lack of coordination that accompanied the intoxicating berries most definitely could.  If she was going to get herself drunk, better to do it sitting down and with someone keeping an eye on her than wandering around most of the night.  A half-smile crossed his face, and Brownpool wondered if perhaps he could talk young Arrowmoss into convincing Foxfire that she needed to slow down.  He didn't think she would take him seriously enough to stop if he were the one asking.

     He sat back a bit to return to his leathers, but only a bit.  It wasn't really conscious, but whenever Foxfire was around Brownpool found himself with the odd tendency to stare regardless of what she was doing.  It was probably just concern for her safety and for the safety of their cubs, he'd told himself on occasion, but somehow that didn't seem like the right answer.  While definitely a part of it, this odd feeling went a lot deeper, so deep that he couldn't find its roots.  Once he'd thought perhaps it was jealousy, or envy over how much time she spent with Splitspear, but he felt no animosity towards the trader and the tendency to stare at her was constant, there whether Splitspear was or not.  Anyway, it felt almost closer to loneliness, and that was simply ridiculous.  He had a brother, a sister, a son, and a soulmate who happened to be a very good friend and occasional furmate as well as two cubs on the way.  Of all elves in the tribe he was the least alone, so loneliness as an answer for this was absurd.  But he didn't know how else to describe it.  

     Not that it mattered.  He and Foxfire were good friends; they had been even before the Recognition that had brought about Rain's existence and had only grown closer after that.  Their differences, which they had mutually decided would be nearly disastrous for a long-term relationship, served them well in the capacity of friends and Brownpool was comfortable with that.  Mostly.  Sometimes there were moments of awkwardness that were very nearly unbearable for either of them, and during those times Brownpool found himself wishing wholeheartedly that they had either never Recognized or that they had decided to take a chance on becoming more than just friends.  Anything but that in-between place they had lodged themselves into so tightly it was very hard to move one way or the other.  

     Of course, Brownpool suspected that he was the only one of the two of them who felt this way.  Foxfire, for all her higher concentration of elfin blood, seemed more carefree than he had felt in a long time, as if she hadn't a care in the world and concerns such as what the twins would become or strange unidentifiable emotions never even considered touching her.  On some level he very much envied her for that, even as a different level told him that there was no need to envy someone for having something that was within his reach.  

     An ironic smile graced his features for a moment, and he sighed.  And here he'd thought that pregnancies played havoc with the mother's emotions, not with the father's.  He really should have known better.
     Laughter drifted to his ears on the wind, and he found himself leaning forward to look out at his soulmate and Splitspear again.  They were sitting on the grass not far away, their words beyond his hearing but their postures telling him just about all he needed to know.  Foxfire, having had a great deal more practice, could hold her dreamberries better and so she was sitting up straighter than the much younger Splitspear, but even so she looked a little wobbly.  Brownpool would wager that they were at least three sheets to the wind and at the point where everything was funny.  Sometimes he wished that he could do that to himself with the ease and clear conscience they did, but with a few notable exceptions he liked being able to think straight all the time.  

     Perhaps that was his real problem right now.  Foxfire was largely hedonistic, and so was Splitspear.  They had fun because they did things that were fun, and didn't feel guilty for doing them.  To some extent, that was true for Brownpool as well but he was by nature far more cautious than either of them.  Perhaps what he was feeling was envy for how much fun they had, for how easily they could throw anything aside and do something fun on the spur of the moment just because they could.  Except his feelings really didn't include Splitspear, and even just for Foxfire that didn't sound like the correct explanation either.  Brownpool was very used to being left out of things; it was part of his life.  He wasn't a very good hunter, so he hadn't been included in hunts for a very long time.  He wasn't the type to cut loose at celebrations, so he tended to stay on the sidelines of those as well.  Even though there was no hostility in his general feelings of being left out, perhaps that was the best explanation.  It occured to him that the only time he ever felt really in his element was when he was fitting tribemates for new leathers, and when he was with Foxfire or their cubs.  Brownpool was a tanner and a father, that much he knew.  He also knew that he wanted more than to be just a friend on top of that.  He had always thought that he would lifemate the elf he Recognized, simply because that was the way it was usually done.  Disappointment wasn't a common emotion for him, but he remembered feeling it keenly when he'd first felt Foxfire's soul name echo throughout his being.  Not because he didn't want Foxfire, but because he knew that it was highly unlikely for them to become lifemates, and it was always a disappointing moment when long-held assumptions were shattered so callously.  Maybe...that was what he felt now.


     The send drew him out of his musings so quickly that for a moment he was disoriented and unsure of where exactly he was.  Foxfire's waves from where she stood drew his attention, though, and grounded him firmly in the Now.  Splitspear was nowhere to be seen.  **Foxfire?** he sent back, her name a question.

     Even from here, he could see her smile, as brilliant as the sun and so infectious it was hard not to smile back.  **I seem to have lost my companion to tribal duties, beloved one.  I don't suppose I might find a replacement in you?**

     Brownpool wondered idly what Splitspear would say to that if their roles were reversed.  From what he'd observed of the trader lately, he probably would have gotten upset at being referred to as a replacement for another male.  Splitspear didn't share a sense with her, though, a sense deeper than any send and more accurate than any expression that told him clearer than words that she hadn't meant it the way it sounded.  **I'm afraid I wouldn't be very good company either, my friend,** he sent back, brandishing his scraping rock for effect.  **I swear, this tribe wears out leathers faster than it has any right to, and there's entirely too much procreation going on for one poor tanner to keep up with everyone.**

     Musical laughter drifted to his ears, and Foxfire placed one hand on her hip as she glared at him in mock-reproach.  **Are you kidding?  You work harder than any tanner has a right to!  We have furs and leathers for twenty cubs, and unless you know something I don't, we don't need that many.  Besides, they're newborns, and ours, at least, will be born during the warm season.  No one will mind if they go without leathers for a while for the sake of giving their poor father a break from work so he could keep their poor mother company.**

     Brownpool was about to refuse again when his entire train of thought came back to him in one flash of revelation.  Living in the Now, for the moment is all that makes me happy, and for the moment she wants my company.  Might as well savor that, and hold the memory when she doesn't want it anymore.  Tossing aside his scraping rock, Brownpool left his den and trotted across the holt to join his soulmate for a moment of pure contentment.