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 Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight

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PostSubject: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:41 pm

My Goal is to have a continuing story based on the monthly Grab-bags. Since I don't know how to link to the various scattered posts, I will collect them here for anyone interested in following along or catching up. What a Face

Collide – March 2009

Bright-metal (steel)
A secret
Doing the impossible
A new life of some kind

In the early years of the High Ones coming, the children of Timmorn were divided in two. There were those in whom the elf-blood was the strongest, those who would become the Wolfriders.

Then there were the others, the hunt, those who were more wolf than elf. These were tightly bound to the world of two moons, born with the strength and instincts of predators. They looked down on what they saw as the weakness of the first comers, and when Timmorn chose Rahnee to lead after him, the hunt left. No more is told of them.

But the world is a strange place, both larger and smaller at times than we believe, and it is possible that there are stories of meetings between the two tribes in times long forgotten. This is one such story of paths crossed and lives changed.
________________________________________________

Wolf and elf did not always rest easily together in the mind. Timmorn was the first to be subject to the effects, pulled sometimes to the here and now of animal thought, others to the far-reaching expanse of the starry heavens. His descendants were, to varying degrees, better off than he was. Or worse.

He was an outcast from his tribe. Though proud of their wolfishness, there was such a thing as being too much of an animal, and he was. For the pack to function there had to be some order, a hierarchy enforced. Those who could not accept the order of the pack were forced out. So he hunted alone.
___________________________________________

*Wait for me!* Twinstar hopped along the forest path, hurriedly pulling on her boot while trying to catch up with her friend and lovemate, Dusk.

The two were going hunting together, the way they had done everything for as long as anyone could remember. In a world where children were few and far between, they shared a special bond of being born near the same time. But what they had was something more than being age-mates.

At first glance, it was their differences that were most striking. She was fair, silver hair and sparkling eyes, a beam of moonlight dancing in the forest, caught in elfin form. Her thoughts were like the moon, too, high up in the sky, shining and shimmering, beyond some of the tribe’s reach. He was brown, the rich, deep brown of the soil that nourished the forest. His eyes black as midnight. He was patient, gentle, and caring, a true brother to all creatures.

But despite their differences, they seemed to be born of one mind. Talking, even sending, was sometimes unnecessary. Yet they could talk for hours, or sit silently, complete in each other’s presence. He tethered her to the world, she freed him of it.

Playmates had slipped easily to lovemates, and would soon be lifemates in the fullness of time. All their tribe-mates assumed Recognition would not be a question of if, but when.

Her foot firmly in her boot now, Twinstar moved quickly and silently through the forest, her silver hair shining in the moonlight like a streak of skyfire. Her eyes glittered in the dark like the celestial bodies that gave her her name.

She was running so hard to catch up that she almost ran right into Dusk. Her complement, his dark eyes and hair were a part of the forest shadows. He gave her a teasing scowl, then broke into an easy smile.

Better organized now, they headed deeper into the forest.
_____________________________________________

*I hope we find something soon.*

Dusk did not answer, but he shared Twinstar’s anxiety. Prey-pacer had only given them an eight-of-days to hunt before the tribe would be on the move once again. They had already used half that time, and the only game they’d found were a few ravvits, just enough to keep up their strength. If they didn’t find some game soon, they would have to return empty-handed and the tribe would be traveling light indeed, on empty bellies.

He was about to suggest looking elsewhere when Twinstar held up a cautioning hand. They stood motionless, then he heard it, the rustling of leaves in the underbrush, then the stomping that told of some larger game. Three scrawny springers were in the clearing, pulling the bark off of the few still tender saplings. It was not game to be proud of, but it was something.

Dusk readied his spear, while Twinstar notched her arrow. Twinstar’s arrow flew true, hitting the springer just behind the shoulder. Dusk was not as lucky, hitting his in the rump. His dazed target began to stumble away. He burst into the clearing after it.

But they were not the only ones watching this game. Something else shot out of the forest too. Twinstar had the impression of fur and fangs, strength and fury. Snarling, it smacked into Dusk with enough force to lift him off his feet and into the brush.

“Mine!”

Twinstar ran to Dusk, stunned by the bare branches that pierced through his body and the unnatural tilt of his head.

*Dusk?*

There was no answer. He was breathing, but his breath sounded wet and rough.

“Mine!”

Twinstar turned her attention now to the creature. There was no doubt that he was elfin, but he was unlike any elf she had seen before. What she had taken for fur was a mass of shaggy hair and a covering of untanned furs. Her eyes lingered on his odd, three-toed feet before coming to rest on his face. Under his heavy brows his eyes were muddy pits.

Cern.

Twinstar shuddered as her world suddenly lurched.

“Mine.” He stood menacingly over the dead springer. His voice, pure aggression before, now held a hint of confusion.

They remained like this for a while, Twinstar sending desperately to Dusk, trying to think through the shock of what to do, he standing over the kill, watching her.

Finally, she could do nothing more than put her head down on Dusk’s chest and weep. The strange elf crouched down and, producing a rough stone knife, began to eat.
___________________________________________

She was dimly aware of passing time, so was startled to hear a rustling close by and a rough hand yanking her shoulder.

“We go.”

The words seemed to make no sense.

He gripped her upper arm more firmly.

“What? No! I’m not going anywhere with you!” Even as she protested she was acutely aware of the effect of his hand upon her body, of the effects of Recognition already at work.

She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, a low growl sounding from deep in his throat. She wasn’t sure how much he understood of what was happening between them, but it was clear he was not letting her get away.

“We go, now!”

She put her arms protectively around Dusk. “We can’t. He can’t be moved, he won’t survive it.”

He stood impassively, his gaze faraway as the futility of her words struck her. Even though she wanted to, there was no way for her to take Dusk with them. He would have to remain here. She knew there was no hope for him, but she couldn’t stand the thought of leaving his body here to slowly starve or freeze.

Reluctantly, she pulled the ancient metal knife from his side. She had always marveled at how smoothly the bright-metal pierced the flesh. Detached, now, she felt the blade slip through the ribs, the quiver as it punctured the heart, beating so weakly now it produced only a weak stream. With sudden, painful awareness of what she’d just done, her hands covered her face, salt tears mingling with warm blood. She did not even see his last breath as she was dragged away.

___________________________________

They spent the next several days traveling, moving slowly, aimlessly during the nights, resting fitfully during the days. He kept her always in front of him, always in sight. She had hoped that she would be able to sneak off while he slept, but instead she found that neither of them was sleeping much. Once or twice, when his eyes were closed she had tried to move away, but at every noise she made his eyes would snap open and with a growl he would move closer.

Because of his need for constant vigilance there had only been a few half-hearted attempts at hunting. Not that it mattered, neither had much of an appetite.

Twinstar knew the elf felt the effects of Recognition as strongly as she did, but so far he hadn’t come any closer to her or touched her anymore than needed to make it clear she couldn’t leave. She had never heard of anyone denying Recognition before. Although she wanted to leave, she was frightened to find out what it would mean if she did.

Finally, she could stand it no longer.

She could see his eyes burning beyond the fire. Unblinking, he watched her every movement, as if not able to make up his mind about something. She made up hers. He had taken Dusk’s knife and her bow had been left behind. She had nothing to fight with, but she could see no other way.

She stood. He rose with her. They faced each other over the embers of the dying fire, then she bolted toward the forest. He was too quick. He caught her and pulled her back to the fire.

“Let me go!” He did. Just as every other time he had touched her he quickly dropped his arms as if unable to deal with the emotions such touches created. Could it be he really didn’t know? Twinstar cackled, a nervous outpouring of the ridiculousness of the situation. “You only have two choices. Mate with me, or kill me. I don’t care. Just get it over with.”

He made no response. She turned away from the fire and suddenly he was upon her. She fell head first to the ground, wincing as her jaw clamped down on dirt and pine-needles. Her thin leathers ripped as he pulled them away. Pinned, she could not move and struggled to gasp for air, sickened by his touch and her own body’s response to it. She had only one comfort, at least she wouldn’t have to see his face.
__________________________________________________

*Twinstar!*

The sending was very faint, but it roused her. The tribe had not moved on, they were out looking for her. She did not answer, but moving as quietly as possible, looked over at where he was. He was crouched a few feet away, not looking at her, but not alerted to anything. He must not have sensed the sending.

If she answered now, they would find both of them. Now that Recognition was satisfied, she had no desire to ever see him again. She knew him, knew what drove him away from the others. Knew the possessiveness he felt, something she and her tribe mates could never understand. He would never fit in with the rest of the tribe.

Where did she fit in now? How could she go back and face the others with what she had done?

*Dusk!*

It was Joygleam, Dusk’s mother. Twinstar’s heart jumped to her throat. They didn’t know that Dusk was dead! Before she knew what she was doing Twinstar had leapt forward and was confused as the ground suddenly came up at her. He had her around the legs. She clawed at the ground, pulling herself forward as he pulled her back.

Her hands found a branch and held on as tightly as she could, the bark breaking away under her fingernails. He pulled harder and she flew backward as the branch cracked.

*Twinstar!*

The sending was getting fainter. They were moving away!

She kicked at him, and managed to get herself turned around to face him. She stopped struggling. She stayed still, pinned under his weight. For a minute she worried, would the taste of one joining bring a hunger for more? She felt his breath coming hard and fast against her stomach, but gradually it began to slow. Sure that he had stopped her, he began to rise. In one movement she brought the branch up against his temple and rolled over to her feet, and was soon running through the forest, sending to her tribe mates.
_______________________________

Joygleam stared at where Twinstar had burst through the foliage, as if another figure might appear by magic.

“I’m sorry. The fang-tooth was just too much for us. If it wasn’t for Dusk I never would have gotten away.” Twinstar’s voice broke as her tears started flowing freely. Joygleam came over and embraced the younger elf. Twinstar nuzzled into the older elf’s neck, grateful that no one could see her face, her voice barely a whisper. “We Recognized. I carry Dusk’s child.”

___________________________________________________
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PostSubject: Re: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:43 pm

May Grab-bag

Elements:
Permission
Eyes meet eyes
A tragedy
A coin
A bug
A flame

Prey-pacer had kept them traveling long and far, but they had finally been rewarded. The hunting was good here. Everyone had eaten tonight.

Stillstep looked around at her blood- and mud-covered companions. Someone had started a fire and now they huddled around its flame, well-fed and weary.

Well, not everyone. Stillstep noted the slim figure sitting a distance from the others. Twinstar, barely recognized and already she had lost her lifemate.

Stillstep was concerned for the young elf. As a life-bearer, Twinstar was offered first pick and the choicest bits from every kill, yet it seemed everyday her skin clung a little more tightly to her bones.

As tribe elder and hunt leader, Stillstep felt responsibility for the whole tribe, but she had watched over Twinstar especially since her father’s death several years ago. Sharpeye had been her second in the hunt, she thought his death would crush the dreamy cub, but Twinstar had proven tougher than Stillstep had imagined. Stillstep had trouble believing Dusk’s death had affected her so much.

Stillstep stopped in front of the youth and held out her offering of a bit of fresh liver. “The hunt was good tonight. Will you eat?”

Twinstar took the meat hesitantly, then took a small bite, chewing slowly.

“May I sit?”

Twinstar continued to stare at the meat she held loosely, as if she’d rather it wasn’t there, but nodded.

“Not agreeing with you?”

Twinstar shook her head.

“Sometimes it’s that way when you’re first with cub. With Latefrost I couldn’t even hunt, the smell of blood turned my stomach so.”

Again, Twinstar just nodded weakly. Stillstep could see her eyes moisten. Twinstar struggled to swallow the meat, her throat suddenly too small. Stillstep gently touched her shoulder. “And sometimes it’s something else.”

Twinstar’s eyes, overflowing with tears, met Stillstep’s and she collapsed into her arms. “It’s terrible!”

Stillstep held Twinstar as she shook with sobs. Then the images came. The strange elf. Dusk’s death. The Recognition. Emotions held in check through a moons’ turn came gushing forth. Finally, there was nothing more. Twinstar pulled away, her head in her hands.

“How can you stand to look at me? The rest of the tribe, they won’t want me around, once they learn what I’ve done.”

“The rest of the tribe wasn’t there. It is not for them to judge what you had to do.” Stillstep’s voice was forceful. “You did what you had to do to survive. What matters now is whether you make that mean something. I can’t believe you fought so hard then, just to let yourself waste away now. It’s not what Dusk would’ve wanted. And it’s not what you want, or you wouldn’t be here!”

Twinstar turned her head, the firelight dancing in her tears.

“What if…” Her voice lowered. “What if I don’t…can’t love this child?”

“Then the tribe will raise it. What happened was a tragedy, but this…” She held her hand to Twinstar’s belly. “This new life is a wonder.”

“Not all Recognitions are those sought after.” Stillstep’s eyes took on a faraway, knowing look. “High Ones know why this one did. But we must accept cubs as we are given them, and do what we can.”

Twinstar nodded gently, her heart already easing from the unburdening. “But what about Joygleam? How can I tell her the truth?”

Stillstep hugged Twinstar. “I’ll tell her. Don’t worry, she’ll understand.”
_________________________________

Joygleam settled in beside Twinstar.

“I understand why you did what you did.”

Twinstar would not meet the elder elf’s eyes, instead staring intently at a small beetle as it made its way over the rocky ground. She felt her hand being lifted gently and something flat and round pressed into her palm. She glanced at Joygleam, then inspected the item in her hand. It was shiny, like Dusk’s blade. Irregular markings ran along the edge and in the center what looked like a flower except it was flat. Yet, when she turned it the light moved around. She rubbed it, feeling the bumps and ridges. It still held Joygleam’s warmth.

“What is it?”

“It’s called a coin. My mother was pure elf, a daughter of first-comers. This is one of the few things they had to give her. For them, it was special.” Joygleam shrugged. “I always thought I would give it to Dusk someday. Or his child.”

Twinstar winced. “But-“

Joygleam silenced her. “I know this is not Dusk’s child, but I know what was in his heart. You were a part of him. Dusk will live on in your child, for he is a part of you.”

Twinstar thought of Dusk, and found that for the first time since his death, she felt something besides pain. It was a beginning. Her heart was opening again to love.

___________________________________________________
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PostSubject: Re: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:45 pm

July 2009 EQ Grab-bag

Elements:
-Jumping up and down
-Jealousy
-Maternal instinct
-A scar (symbolic, physical or psychic)
-The Scroll of Colors
-Moons/moonlight/moon symbols

The lights swirled and snaked in front of her, the patterns ever-changing, bringing to mind strange creatures. Half-remembered, they slipped from her sight when she tried to look closer. Still the images came to her, whispers of her parents’ sendings from long ago. From a time when the elves lived not in caves scraped from the ground, but in a huge dwelling created by their will. A place where smooth surfaces met in corners. Where walls gave protection from the world around.

Yes! She could almost see them now, the visions her parents had shared with her. The places they travelled, their helper companions, the scroll-

Something smacked her leg – hard - and her eyes flew open. The boy lay on his back in the dirt by her feet, his legs still draped across hers. His confused face pointed skyward for a moment before he propped himself up and pushed the unruly mass of shaggy brown hair away from his eyes.

Seeing what he had tripped over, he quickly scrambled upright, mumbling an apology. “Sorry, Rellah.”

The wolf pup the child had been playing with was watching impatiently, its nose pressed to the ground between its outstretched paws, rump lifted skyward ending in a question mark tail, frozen now in consternation. The pup yelped and bounded away. The boy paused for a second, his eyes downcast, as if pondering what to do. At a loss, he met Rellah’s gaze guiltily, fleetingly, then followed his playmate.

Irritated, Rellah rose and began to brush the dirt from her leathers.

“Animals! All of them!” she sniffed.

“Really, Rellah, it’s not like he did it on purpose! They were just absorbed in their play and didn’t see you there.”

Rellah regarded her tribemate coolly. As a whole, she didn’t think much of the younger generations. They were forgetting who they were, where they came from. And for what? Warm furs and a full belly? Raw meat and howling at the moon? But this one she could almost tolerate. This was an elf, with very little of the wolf taint about her.  And only for this reason would Rellah check her anger.

“Twinstar, only because he is your son will I hold my tongue, but you would do well to teach him to control his…lesser instincts.”

With that, Rellah regally pulled herself up to her full height and walked away. Twinstar could only shake her head and try to suppress a smile.

Despite Rellah’s admonishment, Twinstar watched her cub in amazement. It was hard to believe that she’d ever been worried that she might not be able to love him. First in her womb, then watching in wonder as he grew, he was part of her in a way nothing had been before.

There were times she found herself daydreaming about the child he would have been if Dusk had been his father. Quieter, gentler, not quite as reckless. But it was not often, and less as the years went by, and she quickly pulled herself out of it. She had no wish for him to be other than who he was.

It had taken time, but old scars were healing. She had even begun to think of recognition as something less than a curse. She was beginning to acknowledge that there might even be some wisdom behind it.

She turned back to the hide she had stretched across some branches and quickly lost herself in the rhythmic work of cleaning and working the leather. So absorbed was she in her thoughts that it took a minute to register the gentle tugging at her elbow. The cub her son had been playing with was jumping up and down, trying to work loose a small piece of the hide.

“Well, hello, little one.”  Twinstar cut off a small piece of the raw hide and as the pup took hold, shook it fiercely, laughing at the low growls that resulted. She looked around the clearing where most of her tribe mates were gathered, but saw no sign of her son. “Where has your playmate gone?”

The pup whined and glanced toward a dense thicket a small ways off.

“Oh.” Twinstar could guess what had happened. She ruffled the wolf cub’s fur, then walked to the thicket and a well-worn gap in the braches. On her hands and knees she made her way through the tunnel in the dense foliage.

“Lastlight? Are you in here?” She was rewarded with a small sniffle and followed the sound of gasping breaths to where her son lay, a strange animal of browns and blacks dappled by the moonlight. Following her instincts, she stopped a short distance away and waited.

Slowly the breathing evened and Lastlight spoke. “Why does Rellah hate me?”

Twinstar eased closer and smoothed the hair away from his face. “Rellah doesn’t hate you.”

“She does. She called me an animal.”

Twinstar smiled. “She thinks all of us are animals.”

Lightstar’s voice was quiet. “Yeah, but me especially.” He moved closer, resting his head on her thigh. “Why am I so different?”

Twinstar had been softly stroking her son’s back, but slowed now as she thought. He was different, there was no denying it. He was larger than his age-mates. His stocky body could not move with the limberness of the other elves. His sending was rough and indistinct. His aggressive play often went too far.

She sighed. “I don’t know. But I do know that recognition happens for a reason, and that reason is you. You have qualities that are very special. You’re very strong.” She gave his arm a quick squeeze. “You have great tracking abilities.” She gave his nose a tweak. “And you are the best hunter of your age!” She tackled him and tickled him until he laughed in spite of himself. They wrestled until they both lay panting and laughing, staring up at the moonlight.

___________________________________________________
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PostSubject: Re: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:47 pm

September 09 EQ Grab-bag

*SPLAT!!* (whether it's someone jumping into water, a sudden downpour or whatever the imagination can come up with!)
Balance
A New Revelation (this can be about something they have, something they thought they knew, something they find, etc)
Nagging
A First Word - whether it's the first word someone says in the story, or someone's first word in another language/tongue
Trying to Change Habits: The struggle to break a bad habit, or trying to start (and stick with) a good one.


Splat!

The punkin hit the ground with a satisfying explosion, hard shell bursting to yield a rain of soft flesh and seeds.

The evening’s hunt had been a disaster. Still young, Lastlight had only recently been allowed to join the hunt, anxious to prove his worth to his nimbler, more graceful tribemates. So far all he’d proved is how much of a mess he could make of things.

He was fine until they’d get scent of the prey, then instinct would take over, reason drowned out by the frenzy of the chase.

This night he had been the first to find a trail and it was a good one, a big-tusked boar. But in the heat of pursuit he had lost his sense of himself, leaving the rest of the tribe behind. Then, wild with the effort to get ahead of the boar, he had lost his balance, flying off his wolf and rolling straight toward the great tusks. It was only chance that saved him as an arm, raised for protection, connected with the beast just hard enough to make it unsteady on its feet for a moment. Luckily, in that moment someone was able to fire off an arrow, stopping the boar, or Lastlight surely would have been dead.

He looked down from his tree-branch perch to where some squirrels had gathered, feasting on the punkin’s remains. In anger and frustration at the night’s events Lastlight flung another squash in their direction, causing the small animals to disperse and chitter angrily at him from the trees.

“Aw, be quiet!”  He launched another projectile, but this time the brown, furry thing it landed next to didn’t move. A boot?  He followed the boot up to the face of its owner. Sunflower, pale gold ringlets framing her face like the petals of her namesake. A few seasons older than Lastlight, she had been on the hunt tonight, had witnessed his failure, and now his childish sulking. His heart sunk to the pit of his stomach.

“Puckernuts!”

If Sunflower noticed the wreckage strewn about her, she made no sign. “You meet a tribemate in the forest, and this is the first word you offer: Puckernuts?”  She stopped below Lastlight’s perch and looked up at him, her wide, dark eyes like the shadowy depths of the nighttime forest, unfathomable. She turned away. “Although I’m not surprised you wouldn’t be too happy to see me after tonight.”

Lastlight’s face burned with embarrassment.

Still looking away Sunflower continued, her voice casual, as if discussing the weather. “I know you think you’re so much better than the rest of us, but do you really need to show off?”

He sputtered, “Better than-?”

“I mean, you’re always the first to get the scent, and everyone knows you’re one of the strongest in the tribe, but really, wrestling a boar? It’s a bit much! I’m sure you’ll never forgive me for shooting it and taking away your fun.”

Lastlight just stood there, mouth hanging open, wanting to say something, but not knowing where to start. Could she really think that what he did tonight was on purpose? That he thought he was better than everyone? All he wanted was to be good enough!

She glanced at him again before walking away. “If I may say, I have noticed that your aim with a bow could use a little improvement. If you would condescend to some help, I wouldn’t mind giving you some lessons. You might find it more effective than beating the game to death.”

Anger and confusion warring within him, he picked up the last of his vegetable ammunition, intent on making a target of her retreating figure, but as he concentrated on her he noticed the fluid grace with which she moved through the forest shadows. Grace he’d envied, but never really appreciated before.

The arm holding the punkin lowered.

And thinking about it, hadn’t she just called him strong? If she was offering to help him, she couldn’t really be making fun of him. In fact, she’d saved his life. Maybe he could learn something from her, after all.

The punkin plopped to the forest floor with a wet thud.

“Hey, Sunflower! Wait!”

Hurrying to catch up, Lastlight couldn’t see her smile.

___________________________________________________
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PostSubject: Re: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:50 pm

May 2015 Grab-bag
-New Beginnings
-Metamorphosis
-Blooming
-A storm
-Rain

“Come closer.”

Lastlight edged nearer to where Sunflower stood beckoning.

“Now, shoot.”

Lastlight raised the bow, conscious of Sunflower's scrutinizing gaze. He tried to block her out, focusing instead on the striped tail that she had tied around a near-by tree. He aimed and let the arrow fly. It flew past the target, rustling the leaves of the bushes far to the left. Cursing silently, Lastlight began to let the bow drop when he was stopped by a sharp command from Sunflower.

“Hold still.”

She walked slowly around him, eyes critically scanning from head to toe. Abruptly, she dropped to her knees at his side and grabbed a firm hold on his foot. “Turn your toes...umph...this way!” She gave a tug on his boot, but it didn't move. She looked up, her large brown eyes teasing. “Come on now,” she gave his calf a little wiggle, “loosen up!”

He relaxed a little, and she wrenched the offending foot into the proper position. “Now this one...” She shifted so she was directly in front of him, crouched in the space between his feet. He tore his gaze away from the mass of golden curls bouncing near his waist, loose strands blown by the wind to tickle against his bare skin, to focus again at the target and almost jumped when a hand firmly pressed against his other shin. He tried to concentrate on remaining relaxed and pliant as the hand slowly made its way up, curling around the knee and continuing along his thigh, warm gentle pressure turning and adjusting his stance as it went. The sun-gold tendrils rose as she straightened, rising with the flush suddenly blooming on his neck and face. Her eyes met his, a smile quirking at the corner of her mouth. Her hands closed on his hips, pulling them close, aligning them with her own. “There! That's better. Now the arms.”

Lastlight struggled to remain still as she circled around behind him, her hand trailing around his chest to rest lightly on the backs of his arms. Her command was a gentle breath behind his ear. “Lift.” He raised the bow, glancing at her. At her nod, he slowly pulled the string back. Her hands tightened and he froze, muscles taut with the strain of resistance. One hand edged his draw-string elbow up slightly, the other lightly moving down the extended arm until he could feel her body echoing his stance behind him, skin just brushing against his own. So close, her voice was perfectly clear, although only a whisper. “Let go.”

The arrow flew, thudding straight into the target. Lastlight turned to Sunflower in awe, but his amazement at hitting the target was short-lived, replaced by more amazement as her arms tightened, drawing him close, lips meeting his. All thoughts of the shooting lesson feel away like the bow falling quietly to the ground. It was cold drops of rain that finally broke them apart, only to find a close, warm shelter from the rising storm.

------------

Twinstar marveled at her son's metamorphosis. He had gone out that evening mopey and withdrawn, smarting from a hunt gone wrong and returned, hand-in-hand with Sunflower, sodden but smiling, a new-found confidence lighting his face. She felt the worries of motherhood melting away. Her misfit cub was finally finding his place in the tribe.

___________________________________________________
Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight 12010412
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PostSubject: Re: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:52 pm

June 2015

Distraction
A Broken Weapon
A New Home
Confusion
A Thief
schizophrenic

Eyes open...darkness. Cool air, muscles stretching. Stomach aches. Be still! Rustles all around. Scent on the wind. Slowly follow, sounds nearer. There! With young...

Young ones...mother. Never mother! Her way, she said. Never mothers, never more than needed, never in joy. Never joy in killing.

Killing. Hunger. Rustling close by. Scent on the wind. Follow slowly, footsteps silent. Slowly closer. Hands close on warm heart beating, squealing, pulsing against fingers, bones hard underneath. Twist and crack. Silence. Stillness.

Tough skin. Teeth press harder, pushing! -  then not. Gush of blood, overflowing, dribbling down.  Swallow quickly. Scent on the wind. Warm blood...warm skin, soft against his own. His own. One of his own...

Coarse, fur-covered. Jeering, snarling, pushing him away. Blood and howls in the night. His own, but one no more.

Smooth and fair, light in the darkness. Not one of his own, but his own – flesh and blood – drops of blood shimmering in the moonlight. Hair shimmering like starlight. Not one of his own...but one...

One of Her way...never the mothers...mothers...head hurting, ache in the breast...never the mothers...never his own...scent on the wind...child?
_______________________________

It had been good for a long time. Game had been plenty, and Prey-pacer's tribe had been able to stay in the same area for more turns of seasons than any elf could count. But the two-mooned world was not as unchanging as the long-lived elves who inhabited it. Floods and fires scoured the landscape, making what was once lush forest into barren waste. Rivers changed courses. Lakes dried up in one area, new ones formed elsewhere. Migratory paths changed to accommodate the land. What had once been bounty near the elve's home had slowly dwindled until the decision had been made to follow the game to whatever new home it had found.

They moved in small groups, spread out to not over-tax the thin resources, always keeping within sending distance, tethered by that small spark of linked awareness in the back of the mind.

The huntress Twinstar lead her small group at the edge of the tribes awareness, passing in and out of contact as they followed the twists and turns of landscape, watching for the small game that would sustain them in their journey. With her was her son Lastlight and his lovemate Sunflower, he brown and she golden, the two combining like patches of sunlight and shadow dappling the forest floor. Filling out their group was the elder huntress Joygleam.  Not family in blood, she was the mother of Twinstar's lovemate Dusk, killed before Lastlight was born. She served as support and mentor to Twinstar and a second mother to Lastlight.

It was Lastlight who caught first scent, as usual, the casual conversation brought to an abrupt halt by flaring nostrils and his face turned towards the wind. The others knew better than to ask as every muscle froze, only the slight movements of hands tightening on bow and blade as they were slowly made ready hinting at their intentions. The snap of branches, the stamp of small hooves, and the elves silently fanned out, each trying to catch sight of the prey hidden in the bushes. They all heard the shriek as Sunflower’s arrow found its mark, but the crashing din made it clear it was not a fatal shot. Lastlight tore away in the direction of the deer’s noisy flight, the rest following after, pulled by the ruckus as he struggled with the wounded beast, laying in the last merciful cut. They found him, panting over the beast and quickly all knelt down, hands cupping as much of the warm life-blood as they could gather before it poured away into the ground.

Fuller than he had been in days, Lastlight finally fell away from the lessening stream to lie spread out in bliss, only to be brought up again in surprize. “Ouch!”

Twinstar looked at her son with concern. “What is it?”

“I don’t know. Something pricking me…” He reached behind him and pulled up the offending object. About half the length of his forearm and encrusted with dirt, still the moon glinted brightly off the untarnished surfaces. “It’s a knife! A metal knife!”

He brushed away some of the dirt with his shirt, revealing a blunt facet where the tip had broken off. “Too bad it's broken.”

Joygleam rose quickly. “Let me see!”

Lastlight handed the broken weapon over, stunned by the intent look on both Joygleam and his mother’s faces.

“Can it be?” Twinstar whispered.

Slowly, tenderly, Joygleam wiped more of the dirt away, nodding. “It is...this was my parent’s knife. The one I gave to Dusk.”

“Then this…” Twinstar looked around, her eyes misting with tears. “This is where it happened.”

Lastlight and Sunflower could only look on in wonder. The whole tribe knew the story. Twinstar and Dusk’s horrific meeting with one of the long estranged Hunt - the vicious wolf-elves that were the other half of Timmain’s legacy. The encounter had resulted in life for Lastlight, as his mother had found Recognition in the violent stranger, and in death for a gravely injured Dusk - a death given by Twinstar herself as a merciful final gift to her dying lovemate, given with his own metal knife.

Lastlight rose to stand beside his mother, hands resting gently on her shoulders in silent support. “We should rest for the night.”

He body had been shaking with sobs, but now she breathed in deeply and wiped at her eyes. “Yes,” she nodded, “but not here.”

They quickly dressed the deer and were soon moving again, carrying what meat they could, and the knife, with them.
___________________

It wasn’t much later that the storm hit. They had noticed the change in pressure that had told them it was coming and had been wise enough to find a safe shelter, even making time to lay out traps, hoping to catch other beasts that were running from the storm. For days they had holed up, taking refuge from the driving rain, watching through the roots that made up their makeshift den as deer paths became streams and lightning revealed tree tops whipping in the wild wind.

Finally, the storm abated and they had emerged, blinking at the sun's short show between the clouds departure and the growing twilight. Stiff from muscles not used in days, they began walking the trapline, hoping for something to ease thier hunger.

The first trap revealed no luck, still set, undisturbed by the storm. The second trap was not much better. If it had been sprung, it was impossible to tell. Either the storm had destroyed it, or its victim, in its panic, had fought its way out, leaving nothing but a pile of sticks and string to show what had been there. The third trap had done its job, as evidenced by the tufts of fur and drops of blood. But of the unfortunate creature, there was no sign.

"Look at this!" Sunlight knealt by the trap. "The prey is gone, but the trap is undamaged. Whatever was here, something took it!"

Wary, they searched for a familiar mind-touch that would tell them one of thier tribe was nearby. Their minds touched something, faint and strange. Soberly, they moved on.

The sounds told them the last trap had been successful as well, but when they moved into sight they saw not only the sprung trap, but the thief as well.  Looking like nothing more than piles of matted pelts, he started when he saw them. Head down, he began backing away, but not before Lastlight had his knife out and the stranger backed to a tree, stretching his neck away from the flinty point.

He was an elf, but the way he carried himself was more like an animal. Lastlight could see his discomfort at being forced into an upright stance. He whimpered and clawed at the bark behind him looking down, refusing to meet thier eyes. Lastlight's arm was across the stranger's chest. He increased the pressure now, angling the blade so the elf had no choice but to lift his face and look at him with eyes wide with fear. "Who are you?"

Twinstar had come up behind her son, hesitant to come closer but pulled by morbid curiosity. She knew him, knew the pressure of his hands, his body covering hers. Her skin crawled in memory of the pleasure-pain. Revulsion at the first touches, then the quakes that came after, the flush from head to toe, the shuddering of the soul that was Recognition answered. She looked at him, cowering in confusion, and the whispered sensations faded to hollowness. He had no effect on her now. “This is your sire.”

___________________________________________________
Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight 12010412
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PostSubject: Re: Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight   Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight EmptySat Apr 23, 2016 9:56 pm

July 2015 Grab-bag

a cavern/cave
coming of age
a bruise
hope
empathy/compassion
Independence


Lastlight’s grip loosened momentarily with the shock, and in that moment the strange elf twisted away and broke for the cover of the nearest bushes, leaving only the sound of cracking twigs and some slightly swinging branches as evidence of his passing. Lastlight stood for just a moment staring at his still clutched hand, then tore off after him.

“Wait!” Sunflower called but was stilled by Twinstar.

“Let him be.” To her son she sent privately. *Cub! What are you doing?*

The path before him became hazy, blotted out by the undercurrent of emotions revealed by his mother’s sending. Feelings that had been buried so long were now at the surface, raw with the sudden exposure. He felt her anguish at her lovemate’s death, shock at the unexpected, untimely Recognition and underlying all the relentless, undeniable thirst of lust and shame at her own powerlessness in the face of it. “This can only end in pain.”

As she had shown her open wound in her own sending, he did not hold back exposing his. In a close-knit tribe where parents were involved with their offspring regardless of chosen love bonds, he alone was an anomaly. Even those who had lost a parent in childhood still had the memories of the tribe, shared sendings that said this is where you come from. He had nothing. He always felt that missing part. Now was his chance to learn something to fill the void. “I have to speak to him.”

The mental connection was silent. He ran on with the only sound in his head the pounding of his blood keeping time with his pounding feet. Finally, he felt again his mother’s mind touch.

*I don’t approve of  you doing this, but I understand why you must. I won’t risk losing contact of the rest of the tribe while you deal with this, but we will go slowly so you might find us when you can.* One last send of her love and hope for him and his quest, then all was quiet again.

The internal conversation had slowed him in his pursuit. The sounds of the other elf’s passing were getting fainter. Not wanting to get  bogged down in the slower methodical tracking by scent and sound, Lastlight increased his effort but was slowed by one more sending.

*Beloved.*

One word, but infused with Sunflower’s tender patience and acceptance. Lastlight shook off the lure of love and tribe and sped on.

_________________________________

In the end it did take all of his tracking skills to find his father.  The feral elf had eluded him as neatly as a tuft-cat. Several days of chasing his own tail on a trail that criss-crossed and disappeared at times had brought him to a small cave in the eroded cliffside above a small stream.

It may as well have been a tuft-cat den for all the luck he’d had in getting in. Lastlight’s few attempts to get closer had been met with growls and swats from the other elf, leaving Lastlight with nothing but scrapes and bruises for his efforts.  Still, Lastlight found he couldn’t just walk away. He sat down between the den and the stream. Eventually, the other elf would need to come out. Lastlight would wait.

_________________________________________________________________

August 2015 Grab Bag

Fire
A spider
A vision
Spinning
Resentful


Lastlight pulled his vest tighter around himself, cursing the cold night. It wasn’t common for his tribe to have a fire, but some nights, when the weather was bad or the hunting was good, those who had the knowledge would coax flames from the dry heart of the wood and the elves would gather, taking in the warmth of it and each other.

But alone as he was, in strange territory, there was no way he’d risk the attention the light and smoke might bring from whatever might be skulking in the forest nearby. Equally uncertain was the fire’s effect on the creature who dwelt in the cave near the foot of the tree where Lastlight perched. Pushing aside visions of warmer, happier nights, he stared at the dark hole, trying to discern anything in its inky depths.

High above, hidden in his leafy bower, he felt like a spider, senses searching for the fine web tremors alerting him to the movement of his prey and his chance to strike.

But so far, all was quiet.

A stiff breeze blew, requiring him to hunker down tighter against the battering of small branches whipping about him in the wind.

“Why am I here?” he asked himself once again. He could easily walk away. He and the elf in the cave were nothing to each other. Not really. Lastlight had lived all his seasons without a father. He had the whole tribe to protect him, to teach him, to love him.

So why was he here, holed up in the crook of a branch, shivering and restless? Why did this chance encounter send his world spinning? Lastlight didn’t know, and it didn’t look like he would get any answers tonight.

______________________________________________________________

Sept 2015 Grab bag

Blue
A bee
A healing
A surprising bond
A nut


Something had woken him. He was dimly aware of a sensation - something had hit him in the head. Or was it part of his dream? His half-opened eyes closed again and he sank back into cool forest, running. Sunflower in front of him, laughing, golden curls streaming, urging him on. He reached out toward her.

And was struck in the arm.

Struggling toward consciousness his eyes slowly opened and tried to make out dream from reality. A slight red mark and still fading sting proved that the last had not been his imagination. Just beyond his hand a small nut rested in the folds of his pants. He held it in puzzlement, only to have another bounce off his shoulder and roll down his lap to plop on the ground below.

Chi-chi-chi-chi!

Against the harsh light of the darkening blue sky, Lastlight could just make out the silhouette of the chastising squirrell raining its displeasure on him from above.

“Tcha!” He hissed, hurling the nut to bounce off the branch hastily abandoned by the annoying rodent. “Lucky I don’t eat you for breakfast.”

High in the tree now and sure of its safety, the squirrell turned to give one last chirp of admonishment before disappearing altogether.

Lastlight stretched, not too worse for wear for having spent the day in the crook of the tree. He swung down and slowly approached the cave where he had last seen his recently discovered father holed up. It was still quiet and a quick sniff told Lastlight that it was now empty. The scent trail lead to the stream. Down past the range of where Lastlight would have heard him there were impressions in the streamside where the other elf had knelt to drink. A mound of fish bones and entrails a little way off showed that at least his father had had better luck with breakfast than he had.

“Someone’s been a busy bee this evening.” Lastlight chuckled to himself.

After a drink himself he followed the trail of the other elf through the trees. He hadn’t been walking long when he was stopped by the rumble of a low growl answered by a louder angry roar. Lastlight ran toward the sudden explosion of snarls and cracking twigs, slowing as the scent of bear filled his nostrils. He eased forward to find the bear, fangs dripping and snarling, crouched over an injured doe.

Standing just a few feet away, also snarling and posturing and looking not much less ferocious for being much smaller in size, was Lastlight’s sire. Incredulous, Lastlight watched as his sire flung himself into the monster’s paws, arms and teeth fastening around the thick ruff trying to establish a choke hold. Lastlight was casting about for some weapon he could use to break them up without hurting himself when the rustling of branches heralded another combatant into the fray. A single wolf that began to harry the bear, ducking in to nip at arms or heels, preventing it from getting a good strike at the assailant around its neck.

“Snapjaw!” It was Lastlight’s wolf bond, come to look for his friend that had fallen so far away from the rest of the pack. And his timing couldn’t have been better.

It was a small bear, and while it could have easily dealt with either elf or wolf, the two together was more than it was willing to put up with for this meal. As it began to back away, Lastlight’s father loosened his grip and fell into place beside Snapjaw, the two snapping and growling as the bear retreated into the forest.

Lastlight exhaled in relief. What kind of crazy cur challenged a bear for its kill?

With the bear gone, its abandoned prey was now the focus of attention. It was one of the small deer they had seen before in this part of the forest, not much bigger than a wolf cub. This one was swollen with a fawn. No wonder it would be an easy and tempting target for the bear. Lastlight could make out glistening red slashes from the bear’s claws along the deer’s side. It’s glazed eyes and panting breath told him it was in shock. It probably wouldn’t last much longer. Despite the insanity of challenging the bear for even this succulent morsel, Lastlight was grateful now as the other elf stepped forward, expecting that his father would make a quick and clean kill of it.

But instead of the quick snap or bite of the neck that Lastlight was expecting, the other elf carefully placed his hand gingerly on the animal, making low soothing noises as he did so. Lastlight was astounded to see sparks of light rippling over the deer’s body like smalls storms of skyfire. The gashes began to vanish. The panting slowed. Finally, the other elf moved a few steps back. The deer got to its feet, and after a moment’s hesitation, bounded off into the forest.

The eyes that turned to Lastlight were haunted, the voice raspy with disuse. “Never the mothers.”
______________________________________________________

A Frightful/Scary Event
Inverted
Love Interest
Something Odd


Sunflower kept watch from below as Twinstar released her hold on the tree’s trunk and began making her way cautiously along the branch’s length. They had divided into two groups shortly after rising, Joygleam taking the wolves one way in search of a meal, Twinstar and Sunflower the other. Twinstar had spotted the nest in the outer branches, speckled eggs glowing tantalizing in the evening sun. Now she picked her way carefully, toes grasping the ever thinning support that trembled more with each step she took.

“Almost...there…”

Sunflower looked away for a minute, following a dislodged leaf as it made its slow way down the increasingly empty space between Twinstar and the ground. She glanced around, aware that something was odd. A minute before the trees had been alive with birdsong, but now all was eerily quiet.

*Twinstar...do you see anything?”

Twinstar was gently sliding the eggs into her pouch. She rose slowly, balancing while she scanned the forest around. Her eyes opened wide. *Sunflower, get up here! Now!*

Sunflower responded immediately, scrabbling up to the bottom branches just as a bear broke through the bushes. With a roar, it charged at the tree they were in. Sunflower pulled her legs up just in time as the bear swiped a gash in the bark where her foot had just been. With a bellow, it launched itself at the tree, bark splintering beneath its claws.

Sunflower leapt up to the next branch, then the next as the bear made sure and steady progress after her. Seeing that it was slowed by the closer branches as it went higher, she launched herself sideways out of the bear’s direct path. Satisfied she had a moment's lead, she looked frantically for Twinstar. She was still on the same small outer branch, but was now inverted. The bear’s charge had knocked off her balance and she now hung beneath the branch, arms and legs clasped around it. Unfortunately the bear had noticed her too, and now made its way to her as if she was some strange dangling fruit.

“Twinstar! Climb up!” Sunflower shouted.

Twinstar looked around her. Out so far from the center of the tree, there weren’t any branches above that were large enough to provide safe purchase. The only way out was either back along the limb she was on, or to a larger branch a little more than her height down, towards the advancing bear.

She made her decision and dropped down. She pulled one of the eggs from her pouch and punched her thumb through the top. She yelled at the bear. “You want to eat something, mangy beast?!”

She inverted the egg, letting the contents spill down, gossamer and golden in the fading light, releasing a faint yolky scent that drew the bear’s attention. It abandoned its attempt to move through the close branches in favor of the more easily accessed treat down below.

“Of course you do!” Twinstar threw the rest of the eggs in the same direction as far as she could, the bear lumbering after. For a while all was quiet, the elves not daring to move while the bear snuffled and slurped up the slimy golden nectar. It was enough to satisfy it, and soon it wandered away.

It was still some time before Sunflower dared to move to make her way to where Twinstar was now sitting on the branch, legs dangling as she caught her breath. “Wonder what got him all worked up?” Twinstar asked in curiosity.

Sunflower shook her head. Her thoughts turned to her lovemate Lastlight. Wherever he was, she hoped he was having a better time of it than they were.

___________________________________________________
Grab-bag Collection: Twinstar and Lastlight 12010412
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