Speaks-softly Story: Part Three

                          By Sharon, 2002



The small hunting party had left their Holt a moon ago to follow a herd of branch horns. They’d had to leave the herd four times to avoid groups of Humans.
Now they were lost. Truepath’s sense of direction was confused and their bonds had been swallowed by a crack that had opened up in the ground. The dust stirred up by thee stampeding herd, and the shaking ground blocked their sense of smell.
The five of them walked for a day before they came upon the carcasses of branch horns and wolves. Silentvoice found the footprints of one wolf mingled with those of a people with a short stride. Moonmoss looked around, “looks like the elves of another Holt.”
Truepath the hunt leader said, “it’s getting late. Let’s camp tonight and try to catch up with them tomorrow. We’ll need to find food. We lost a lot of our supplies.”
The next morning they came across a limping branch horn. Arrowquick brought it down with a few well-placed shots. They stayed three days to dry the meat.
They set off with Sterneyes tracking. They came upon the abandoned Holt. They were shocked and saddened by the devastation they saw. They salvaged what little they could find in the ruins. Sterneyes led them at a good pace.
**Do you think we will catch them today?** Silentvoice sent.
**Perhaps if we travel late we’ll be able to catch them after they stop for the night,** Sterneyes answered.

The refugees of the Branch horn Holt were traveling slowly. Besides being heavily loaded, Nightdew was still in shock. Straightspear dropped back to consult with Coolhands and Speaks-softly. He locksent, **How is Nightdew? I’m worried about her and the cubs.**
Coolhands locksent back, **there is nothing I can do for Nightdew. I think the cubs will be all right.**
Speaks-softly answered, **only time can heal the emptiness Nightdew is feeling. To the cubs, this is a grand adventure. Their grief will pass.**
Straightspear nodded and moved back into the lead.
**Still worried about Nightdew, Sorn?** Lightwind sent.
The Chief looked at his mate, “Gyne, you know me so well.”
The cubs were clustered around Boastsloud begging for a story. He smiled at them and sent, **This is the story of a cub who got lost. He was around 15 season cycles. He was allowed to go on his first hunting trip. He was separated from the hunters by the herd. Flatfoot didn’t have a bond to get him out of trouble, and he was inexperienced. So he wandered into a wooded area. He heard something, a song that echoed in his head. At first he ignored the song, then felt drawn by It.. As he stepped into a clearing, he found a young wolf. Instead of being afraid, he slowly approached her. She stood there studying Flatfoot with calm silver eyes. **Brighteyes** echoed in his mind.
**Flatfoot,** he sent as he laid a gentle hand on the she-wolf’s head. She nudged him toward her back and he climbed on. With the Brighteyes’ help, he found his way back to the hunting party and even managed to make his first kill. **
Firefoot asked, “is that what it’s like when you find your bond?”
Boastsloud answered him, “Not always, sometimes a wolf loses his bond and takes another wolfrider as his or her bond. Special bonds like Flatfoot and Brighteyes usually happen at least once in an elf’s life.”
Behind the cubs, Nightdew leaned on Strongarm as they walked. Stonehand and his lifemate, Icewind brought up the rear. The four remaining wolf bonds were scouting ahead of the small party.
Straightspear called a stop as the daystar was setting. Coolhands made a soothing tea while Speaks-softly coaxed Nightdew to eat a few more bites.
Stonehand and Icewind went to their Chief and asked to speak to him. **We would like to adopt the three cubs,** Stonehand locksent.
**I think that is a very good idea. Shall we go tell them?**
The lifemates nodded and followed to where the three cubs were sitting. Straightspear smiled gently and knelt down, “I’ve some good news for you. Stonehand and Icewind are adopting the all three of you.”
Softfurs knew that someone would have to take them inn, but she’d hoped that Strongarm would speak for her. She nodded and smiled shyly at Stonehand and Icewind.
Firefoot rather liked the idea of having two such fine hunters to teach him to hunt. “Yes, Chief.”
Taleweaver, on the other hand was upset. She wanted to be a storyteller like Boastsloud. Wisely she had noted that Straightspear had said ‘Stonehand and Icewind are adopting’. There was no choice in the matter, and she did like both Stonehand and Icewind. She smiled sadly and said, “Yes, Straightspear.”

The hunting party was still following the survivor’s trail. Ahead in the distance, they could see the glow of a small fire. They hoped it was the elves they were tracking. They traveled late into the night, drawing nearer to the dying fire.
Truepath raised his head, “Ayooh-ah!” He wanted to greet the refugees and let them know they were in the area.
Back at the campsite Boastsloud was stirring the embers of the fire. Straightspear and Coolhands were speaking quietly. Everyone else had fallen into an exhausted sleep. The three of them froze as they heard the howl. Straightspear answered, “Ayooh-ah!” The chief sent for his bond, Highback.
Coolhands said, “I’d come along. Let me grab my spear and bow.” **Thinlegs, we scout,” he sent to his bond.
The two males mounted their bonds and headed in the direction of the howl. Straightspear howled, “Ayooah,” and waited for an answer. The answering howl was close. Soon they rode up to a party of three males and two female hunters. 
Truepath stepped forward, “I am Truepath, hunt leader of the Cool Springs Holt.”
Straightspear replied, “I am Straightspear, Chief of the Branch Horn Holt, and this is Coolhands.”
A red headed male stepped forward, “I am Arrowquick.”
A brown-haired female stepped up, “I am Moonmoss.”
A black-haired, violet-eyed female sent, **Silentvoice.**
“I’m Sterneyes, tribal tracker,” said the bond male.
We were far from home when the ground shook. We lost our bonds. A glancing blow by a branch horn hoof has confused my direction sense. We are lost,” Truepath explained.
Straightspear thought for a moment, “we could use more hunters. Would you like to join us in our search for a new home?”