Archer’s Return

Written by Wordgazer

The storm that had rocked the tree dens and stabbed the air with skyfire had ceased at last. Strongbow, lying quiet under the furs, turned over to gaze out. Moonshade had left him as soon as the rain had slowed to a gentle patter on the leaves above. She needed to bring more food, she had explained, so he could keep growing stronger.

Wyl shook his head at himself, at all he had put Eyrn through. He could hardly believe he and Lashpaw still lived, ravaged by the foaming sickness as they had been. What Old Maggoty had required in payment for her painful cure, Wyl could scarcely imagine. He only knew that as soon as he was strong again, in any way he could he would make it up to his tribe.

And to Eyrn.

There was a rustle in the bushes, and a small, red creature tumbled between the still-dripping trees into the clearing below. A fox cub. It shook itself, then leaped playfully on a pine cone, pouncing and tossing its head to send the thing bouncing across the clearing. The vixen appeared then, grabbed the straying youngster by the back of its neck and carried it off– back to its den and away from the danger of the nearby wolf pack.

Strongbow shook his head again, reminded of his own escapade. A stray cub returned to the den– that’s what he felt like. If he hadn’t felt so warm and peaceful and grateful to be home, he would have felt more embarrassed . . .

Strongbow’s nostrils flared appreciatively at Moonshade’s scent as his keen ears caught her movements up the tree. He smiled to see the dagger she had loaned him glinting again at her slender waist. Of its own accord a hand stole out from under the furs to rest on her hip. She gazed down at him, her lips curving.

*Not yet, lifemate,* she sent. *No play for you till you’re well and strong again.*

He smiled back at her and reached up to trace the twin silver moons hanging at her throat by a slim, delicate cord. He well remembered how much meat the trolls had demanded for that piece of work. Odd how their thick fingers could make a thing like this. . .

Wyl shook himself back into the Now. Lying here with so little to do gave his mind too much time to wander.

Moonshade set aside the leaf-wrapped meat she had brought and unrolled the bundle she had been carrying tucked under her arm. “I have something for you.” She gave the thing a brisk shake and held it up.

*My tunic. Good as new.*

Moonshade laughed. “Hardly! I had to make it all over again after what you did to it.” She sobered suddenly, holding him in the grip of her eyes. *Don’t ever scare me like that again.*

His nod spoke apology, regret and acquiescence all at once. He reached behind him. *I have something for you, too.*

It was a single, white flower, floating in a candle bowl that he had filled with water. The reflected petals glistened in the water like a second, perfect bloom.

*Oh, Wyl!* But Moonshade was suddenly stern. “You didn’t leave your furs to go down the tree and fetch this!”

Strongbow shook his head, a rare, teasing look crinkling the edges of his eyes and mouth. *I wouldn’t dare. But Zhantee wanted to know if I wanted anything. He asked no questions.*

Moonshade’s lips parted as he held the bowl and flower out to her, but she did not speak. Tears shone in her eyes.

*My Eyrn,* Wyl sent. *Thank you.*

And there was no need to say anything more.