Author's notes: Takes place shortly after the events of Wolf Captured. Thanks to Lurkz for getting me into the series and Primavera for beta reading. Written for cmshaw for Yuletide 2007.
Night had long since fallen on the islands of Misheemnekuru, but Firekeeper was still awake. A week had passed since she had informed her companion Derian Carter of her and Blind Seer's decision to stay instead of returning to their homeland, and she still wondered how he was faring on his trip home. While her thoughts kept her from needed sleep, it wasn't unpleasant. She was still adjusting to the not-yet familiar sounds and sensations of the forests here. The air still smelled strange and unfamiliar to her, and she wondered how it seemed to Blind Seer, who made her seem nose-dead by comparison.
Beside her, the
blue-eyed wolf stirred. "Have you slept at all?"
"No," she admitted, running a hand through her messily-cropped hair. "My thoughts would not be silent."
He rolled over to face her, and she could just pick out his eyes catching the starlight. There was a new moon, and the night was darker than usual. "It has been a trying few weeks," he agreed.
Neither of them felt the need to elaborate on all that had occurred; he had been there every step of the way with her. He knew how eager she had been to learn of the maimalodalum, the beast-souled of Liglim, and how crushed and appalled she had been to learn that the sacrifice of a Wise Beast was the only way to even attempt to transform herself from a human into a true wolf. Deep in her heart, she held out hope for a different way, but to have a solution to her imperfect form dangled in front of her and snatched away like that... it had hurt her deeply.
"It has been indeed," she said.
They were both silent for a long while, and she thought that Blind Seer might have dozed off again. But suddenly, he asked, "Have you ever wondered about the nature of the stars?"
The abrupt change of subject took her by surprise. "What?"
"The stars," he repeated, nodding up to where the sky was visible in between the canopy of the trees.
"Sometimes," she admitted. "I've yet to find a good explanation for them. Why do you ask?"
"Idle curiosity. The stars here do not look very much different than how they did back home."
"I suppose they don't." She sat up to attempt a better view. The little patch of sky above them didn't reveal any more of itself. "The major stars are the same, in any case—the one in the north remains where it always does."
"The constellations are in different places," Blind Seer said. "The Rabbit is lower, for one."
"It could be the time of year." She had noticed that before, hadn't she? In all the commotion surrounding their arrival at Liglim, the placement of a few minor constellations might have slipped her notice. They seemed trivial in the larger scheme of things as they had been.
Blind Seer panted good-natured laughter. "For someone so recently a pup, your old age seems to have addled your mind."
Firekeeper aimed a swat back at him and laughed as well. It was sometimes so easy to forget that she was his senior by many years. "Ancient I might be, but I'm not senile yet. I've just been concerned with things other than watching the sky."
"Perhaps you should take some time and consider them. So bright and steady, yet they're outshone by the sun during the day and overlooked in favor of the moon at night."
She gave him a perplexed look. "For a wolf, you're being awfully poetic."
"Perhaps I've learned a few things among the two-legs."
Firekeeper laid back down on her back, hands behind her head, as she looked up at the window of sky. "They're very bright tonight," she said finally.
"Bitter and Loveable would love them."
"Bitter and Loveable would love them more if they could fly up and steal them for their nests," she said, grinning at the thought of their raven friends.
"Do you suppose anyone's tried it before?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. But you would think that if someone had tried to steal a star and done it, the deed would be widely known."
"Perhaps not. It could be that they wanted to keep it to themselves."
Firekeeper snorted derisively. "If I had done something impossible, I would boast of it to everyone I met."
"I know you would. But would you want people flocking to you, demanding to know how you did it, or wanting you to steal stars for them? Your special star wouldn't be so special anymore."
She pondered that for a while. Wolves tended to boast of their accomplishments, and as a human raised by wolves she followed that same example. But there was wisdom in what Blind Seer said. There was a difference between being recognized for her accomplishments and having those talents become a chore.
"You're right," she finally said. And then, impishly, "But you would think that someone would notice a missing star or two."
"Not everyone pays the sky the same attention that we do. It would be a matter of picking one that wouldn't be missed."
"Look!" She pointed upwards, where a falling star streaked its way across their view. "I suppose that I was wrong."
Beside her, Blind Seer's body shook with silent laughter. "There is our answer. Someone is taking stars from the sky under our very noses all the time."
Firekeeper stretched out and closed her eyes. "Perhaps one day, I'll get mine. And I'll get you one, while I'm up there."
"I have no doubt of that. You're too stubborn to do otherwise."
She smiled, then turned to hug Blind Seer's warm furry bulk. "Thank you for your faith in me, dear heart. I don't know what I'd do without you."
"Don't think on it," he replied, yawning. "After all we've been through, how can I think anything less of you? Now get some sleep, or you won't have the wits to catch a rabbit in the morning, much less a star."