Slowly, Catti-brie chipped away at the uneven piece of wood in her hand. A face was beginning to form, and she wanted to get the nose before she tried for the features on lower planes. She had the curve of it, but it was a touch too thick. She dropped the knife she held in favor of a smaller blade, better suited for paring details. Steadily, she pared down the carving until—

"Augh!" Catti-brie threw her hands up into the air and let out a grumble of annoyance. A flaw in the wood cracked away, leaving the nose much more slender than before.

"An' who could concentrate on anything, the season being as it is?" she asked the ceiling rhetorically. She stood and craned her head around to relieve the cramps in her neck. She dropped the half-carved wood on her bed absent-mindedly, and headed toward the front entrance of the caverns to watch the snow.

Something is bothering me, but I'll be a dwarf if I know what it is , she thought to herself, amused. Then she reached the doorway, and stood enchanted by the ceaseless fall of the snow. The winds hadn't picked up yet, and the flakes were huge, twinkling and sparkling in the sun as they fell, only to become part of an ever-changing white carpet when they landed on the ground.

"Late in comin', but hard when it gets here," a voice grouched behind her. Catti-brie grinned evilly, an idea surfacing in her mind. "Suren to be a hard season, as are all in this place for white lions!"

She straightened her face, and replied, "Oh, me Daddy! Stop yer whining! Suren 'tis a beautiful fall, and harmless enough without the wind to drive it." And soon enough I'll be playing in it, she thought to herself gleefully. There really was no reason for Bruenor to object. Practiced soulful looks notwithstanding.

Mere minutes later, Catti-brie skipped joyfully across the untouched blanket of snow. She laughed loudly and happily, rolling around and pelting her surroundings with snowballs.

Then her gaze turned up toward Kelvin's Cairn, and another mischievous smile crossed her face. What her adopted father didn't know wouldn't hurt him. And the slopes were so perfect for sliding.

Several joyous slippery sliding exploits later, Catti-brie had no regrets. Until she heard a feline growl above her. Could Daddy have been right about the white lion? she thought, searching for the source of the sounds.

Almost. A large black panther gazed down at her from above. She pulled her knife from her belt, and pushed aside the beginnings of fear. It's a wild animal; fear will only goad it. The panther flopped to it's stomach and let out an ear-splitting roar. But then, perhaps it's too late for that.

Catti-brie looked around her surreptitiously for a clean way out, but there was no cover she could possibly reach before the panther caught up to her. Just when the first hint of vulnerability reached her mind, though, another shout drew both her and the panther's attention. A slender figure in a cloak climbed down toward them.

"Guenhwyvar!" He said something to the panther, and it leapt lightly away, climbing easily out of sight. Catti-brie smiled slightly as she admired the panther's natural grace, not noticing the figure again until he was right behind her. She spun around, knife at the ready, but also a bit curious. If he wanted her dead, she probably would be.

Her curiosity turned to simple shock when she saw the figure's face, and she dropped the knife and all other thoughts in wonder bordering on awe. Such beauty, she marveled. He stands out against the snow like that panther, black on white like obsidian and pearl. And his hair, too.

There was something about him, his face or his odd, light purple eyes, that Catti-brie liked. She couldn't put her finger on it, but seeing his face, now so clearly involved in some inner train of thought, was not frightening or threatening. Almost the opposite, she mused. As if suddenly something that was going to happen has happened . She shook her head, smiling at the sentimentality.

But it was clear to Catti-brie that if seeing him turned her thoughts inward, seeing her had sidetracked the mysterious figure even more. She picked up her knife and crept away, back to her home, before he left his thoughts.

She regretted her shyness later, when the winter winds began in full. She knew it would be a while before she saw the dark elf again. She hoped that she would get another chance.