The days went slowly for Moon and her wolf friends. Every morning she would work with the shadows, working on the length that she could shape them and what forms they could take and what she could do; and every night the wolfriders would hunt. Yet Moon found Sorrow's End tiring and frustrating, she as well as other wolf riders missed the forest and air that wasn't dry.
Moon and some of the other wolfriders sat in the cool shade of the caves. One-Eye was braiding Clearbrook's silver locks, Moonshade was near the entrance working on some leather and Moon sat propped against a wall turning a shadow into a spear as well as various other objects.
"Cutter's ribs are sticking out like bare branches.. That elf has got him so turned around that he forgets to eat or sleep. I don't like it." One-Eye continued braiding his love's hair as he spoke.
"I know! Cutter told me recognition is like sitting in a thorn bush, gulping over ripe dream berries with a sand flea up your nose!" Scouter leaned back on the rock he was sitting on. "How is it supposed to be good for you? I hope I never have to go through it." His head fell back as he thought about it a slightly horrified look on his face.
"Nor I! Love is much more pleasant. Think of Nightfall and Redlance, they aren't recognized." Dewshine smiled from where she lay, her head rested on he arm at Scouters' feet.
"But all who recognize don't go through all that right? Isn't it only those who deny it?" Moon's eyes looked up from her work to see Clearbrook nod.
"Either way, hopefully Leetah will come to her senses soon. For her and Cutter's sake." Moonshade's voice was soft as spoke laced with worry.
*I say he should just take her. To the human's cook-fires with what she wants.* Strongbow turned to look out the entrance of the cave watching the villagers go about their days work. *Leetah claims she has the right to choice, but recognition is recognition. There is no choice.*
Moon sighed softly. "Moon, what was your life like before joining the wolf riders?" Clearbrook tossed her now completed braid over her shoulder as she turned to face the newest addition to their small tribe. Moon let the shadow melt and rejoin the others as she rested her head against the hard stone with a slight smile.
"Well, when I was a cub, my parents and I lived in a cave. Thistlecreek, my mother, would often work on leathers Scot, my sire, brought home after his hunts. The part of the forest we lived in had huge, tall trees that kept out most of the light. I used to climb them trying to see Scot while he was away, but since the trees were close together I was never able to." Moon sucked in a deep breath as her smile vanished and the happiness that had lit her eyes was snuffed out. The wolf riders surrounding her smiled at the image of the forest and she took in another breath before she continued. "One day, after Scot came home from hunting, a storm started so they went inside the cave. I always liked the rain so I stayed outside."
She looked down, her hair hiding her face as she twirled a finger on the stone at her side, it's shadow coiling around it like a snake. "There was a deafening roar and the ground started shaking tossing me to the ground. When I was able to stand I started to the cave to see that it had collapsed. I sent until night the next day with no reply and I finally left. A moon or two later I was tracking a boar only to run into Shadowbringer. We haven't left each other's side since then. We went wherever we wanted, hunted, and a turn of the seasons ago he and Starchaser mated. The three of us were a pack. It was Dreamer's first time allowed on a hunt when I was captured, And well you know the rest from that point on." She chuckled softly with a shrug as she looked up at the other elves.
"Wow." Dewshine sat up looking at her with wide eyes. As soon as the words left her lips a booming rumble echoed throughout the valley. Almost hidden from the roar was a wolf riders howl calling for a certain elf. Dewshine turned to her love. "Skywise wants you."
Scouter raced out of the cave gleefully, rushing to answer the call that he hasn't heard in days. Moon ran beside him wanting to learn what made the earth shake so fiercely.
"Sun-toucher, I still don't understand why the noise from the mountain worries you so. It can't hurt us." Skywise scanned the horizon unable to see what could worry his mentor as Scouter and Moon climbed up to the bridge panting.
"Where I come from you could see one just like it from the tree tops. All it ever did was belch up a few clouds now and again."
"The danger is not in the noise Skywise. But the effect it may have. Scouter you must be the eyes for our village since Rayek is not here. At the base of the mountain there is a shallow canyon, tell me if you see any movement there."
"I'll try." He scoured the view before him. "I see white rocks, bushes and a scavenger bird. There's dust." He squinted his eyes and Moon moved to stand beside him.
"Zwoots are running for the exit to the canyon Sun-toucher." Two of the three elves looked at her in shock.
"Moon how-" Skywise started before he was cut off.
"The shadows. I can hear them whispering. Sun-Toucher asked a question and they were answering."
"She's right. A large horde of them are heading this way! Moon that's amazing!" Scouter turned to the elder elf who looked back sadly. The mountain roared once more and the earth shook making Moon nearly fall off the edge of the cliff before Skywise pulled her back keeping an arm wrapped securely wrapped around her waist.
"Come, we must make sure everyone makes it into the caves safely. The zwoots are headed to the village and I want to make sure no one gets hurt." The village leader made his way down towards the village and made his way to walk with Toorah.
The wolfriders ran down after him headed to their chief as Scouter yelled excitedly. "Cutter! I saw them and their big! Bigger than that one!" The capped elf pointed to a zwoot that stood next to a hut. "They're headed straight for the village!"
Cutter finally made his way to the gasping trio gripping Scouter's arms tightly. "Easy, now, what are you yipping about?"
"Cutter, a whole herd of zwoots are headed straight towards the village." Moon tied her hair up as she spoke before tightening her necklace.
"The noise must have scared them from their home at the base of the mountain." One-Eye joined the group and stood next to his son.
"That doesn't mean we're in danger. It's a long way for the beasts to run under the hot sun. Maybe they'll get tired before they get here." ShenShen giggled stopping to stand by Skywise. "What's so funny?
"You don't know how strong zwoots are."
"Or how stupid! They will get here." Another village girl spoke up also standing by Skywise.
" Nothing stops them unless they plow head on into something they can't knock over." A farmer calmed a zwoot he was holding onto.
"Indeed, you should have seen my garden after the last time they came."
"Ah!" Moon had been accidently pushed into the wall of a hut by a rushed villager causing her to fall backward as her shadow reached up to catch her. Her blue eyes were wide in shock, still not believing that she could perform such magic. "Oh um thank you." The black figured nodded before sinking back into the copy-cat form it always takes when not needed. A few of the sun folk stared in wide eyed amazement as Moon quickly behind her friends hiding herself from the stares.
It had been the same with some of the wolfriders as well. Strongbow mostly. He still didn't trust her, and made sure to keep an eye on her when he was near. She closed her eyes, a delicate hand over her racing heart as she tried to calm it. She had no idea why it was pounding but it raced wildly like the beating of prey as it tries to out run its attacker.
After Skywise made sure she was alright Cutter looked at the villagers in shock. "What? You mean this has happened before?"
" Once in a great while. It was Rayek who first journeyed to the canyon, alone, and on foot. And only he, with his powers has been able to capture and tame the few beasts you see hear." Sun-Toucher stood behind the elves speaking to Cutter. "They have proved to be very useful, but when the entire herd is driven to flee, there is nothing we can do but to get out of there way."
"So you're going to let them come in and destroy your houses and tear up your food plants, and you won't try to stop them?"
"What do you suggest wolf rider? A net?" Leetah stood on an out cropping of rock at the entrance of the cave, her voice almost affectionate and Cutter looked at her in wonder.
"Sun-Toucher, Leetah, I might be able to keep them out. The shadows can become solid. I could place one in the place where the zwoots would be coming in." Moon stepped forward while biting her lip.
Skywise placed a hand on her shoulder speaking softly. "Moon, you just learned you can even shape the shadows. We don't know how long you can even hold their shape. We can't just rely on a barrier."
"Skywise is right, Moon." He noticed the pink tinge on her cheeks from her embarrassment. "Sorrow's-End is our home too. We wolf riders fight to protect our territory! We'll turn the herd before it reaches the village, and have fresh meat tonight as well!" The wolfriders howled calling their wolves.
"Here they come!" Pike pointed at a cliff face were the pack was making their way to their companions. Among them were Starchaser and Dreamer which caused Moon to shake her head when she saw them.
"I'm sorry my friends, but you will not be joining us on this hunt." Dreamer whined loudly as Starchaser stared into her friend's eyes. "Starchaser head into the caves, protect your pup. He can join us on the next hunt." Dreamer's ears and tail dropped as his mother led him away as the sun folk quickened their retreat into the caves.
"Look! I found ropes in one of the huts! Now we can catch the beasts as well as turn them!" Dewshine ran towards the wolfriders excitedly.
"Dewshine, you're not going with them, are you?" Leetah watched the young elf in shock and horror as the blonde stared at her.
"But it's not a maiden's place to-"
"What? Why not?" Dewshine watched her over her shoulder as she slowly walked away listening for the other's answer and hearing her stutter. Dewshine shook her head. "Shame on you Leetah. Don't you known your own mind about anything?" She quickly made her way back to her tribe handing out the ropes.
Before the riders left they received colorful head wrappings from the villagers and ShenShen spoke to Dart.
"Here you must put this on." Skywise handed a blue scarf to Cutter. "It's from Leetah. She said you're hot-headed enough as it is." He winked before walking away wrapping a red scarf around his own head.
The sounds of pounding hooves grew louder as the wolfrider's positioned themselves in the shadows of a gigantic mass of rock known as the bridge of memory. "Lets run at them now cousin!" Dewshine whispered eagerly.
"No, the wolves aren't made to run far in this heat. We will let them come to us." It wasn't long until the zwoots were able to be seen, their eyes wild and mouths practically frothing.
"Ready, go!" They rushed forward spears, swords, and bows at the ready while others were twirling ropes in the air waiting for the right moment to throw them. The wolves scattered at the last moment to run alongside the charging beasts. The wolfriders stabbed the beasts and the stampede turned. All care left Moon as she raced beside a zwoot as large as a hut, completely consumed in the thrill of the hunt and riding Shadowbringer once again. She and her friend dodged the pounding hooves as they ran laughing in joy.
*Come on! We'll drive them through the gap in the rocks up ahead. It leads to a dead end.*
*We saved the village now the hunt can begin* Strongbow smirk could be heard through his sending. The sun folk watched astonished to see that the zwoots passed by the village as they learned that certain events need not always been accepted.
Cutter, Pike, and Skywise left the pack to bring a large zwoot back to the village so Savah could tame him. Moon raced underneath a zwoot slashing at its underbelly as the zwoot kicked out in retaliation sending her and Shadowbringer flying as her sword flew out of her grasp.
"Moon!" Skywise rushed forward.
"I'm fine!" Starchaser appeared rushing past the startled wolves trying to drag her mate out of the way of the enraged zwoot. The beast rushed towards Moon as Skywise ran forward with wide eyes. Moon growled loudly as she threw her arm out and a shadow jumped up forming a large spear in her grasp. She propped it against a rock behind her and the zwoot ran into it, stabbing itself on the point and falling over. Skywise jumped off Starjumper as he reached where Moon had just been standing.
"Moon!" The dust in the air clouded his vision and he made his way forward by listening to Moon coughing. "Are you ok?" He grabbed her arm and pulled her off of the ground as the shadow melted back onto the ground.
"I'm fine" Moon made out between coughs. "Where's Shadowbringer?" She looked around as Skywise pulled her out of the dust so they could see any oncoming beasts.
"He's fine, Starchaser dragged him to the village. Moon that was amazing!" He pulled her into a tight hug burying his nose in her hair. "Don't worry me like that again." He whispered so softly that Moon almost didn't hear him and she hugged him back.
"Scouter!" They both turned to Dewshine's cry to see her jumping off her mount to cut the ropes that held Scouter. The zwoot batted her away and she landed her head hitting a rock.
"No, Skywise. She'll be killed! Do you trust me?" At Skywise's nod she bolted towards the fallen elf seeing Leetah farther away doing the same. They shared a look before she returned her gaze on her friend. She dove covering Dewshine's body as the beast stood on it's hind legs getting ready to fall on them.
*Moon are you insane?* He watched running with Starjumper as Moon and Dewshine disappeared into a shadow as the beast stomped where they had been just moments before. An arrow embedded itself into it's skull and it collapsed onto it's side as Moon reappeared with Dewshine in her arms as she handed her to Leetah as Cutter walked over.
"Little cousin." Leetah turned accusing eyes on Treestump and Cutter before marching back into the village to heal the girl in her arms. Cutter and Treestump both looked at Moon in relief, Treestump close to tears.
"I'm not sure how you did it, but thank you."
Moon smiled at the two wolfriders before her as Skywise jumped off of his wolf. "She could die from a blow like that. Leetah please help her. I know I've disappointed you in many ways.. But I'll do anything even go far away forever if you'll-"
"I don't care what you do! Just let me do my work." Leetah snapped as she made her way to her hut.
"I thought you said you'd never worry me like that again." Skywise looked at Moon, his gray eyes filled with worry and fear.
"You said you trusted me. I wasn't sure if Leetah would make it, we were closer. I'm sorry for making you worry." She smiled at him softly before making her way to Shadowbringer and Starchaser. Shadowbringer wheezed as he breathed and he stood shakily. She wrapped a long strip of cloth tightly around his ribs and looked at him sternly. *You will not hunt for a few moons my friend.* The black wolf licked her cheek before walking back into the caves with his mate.
"Where'd the sky go?" Dewshine looked up to see her father and Scouter.
"You're in Leetah's hut, pretty cub. She healed you."
"How can we thank you?" Scouter turned to the tired healer.
"No need. Her hurt was not as great as I had feared thank the high ones." Leetah gazed at the two lover's longingly. "Where is Cutter?"
"He's gone." Skywise stood at the entrance, arms crossed as he glared at the healer.
"What?" Leetah ran to the entrance pushing the beaded curtain aside. "Oh that foolish, infuriating, barbarian! He misunderstands everything!"
"Does he? You've pretty much made it clear you don't care if he stays or goes."
"You star-gazing oaf!" Moon covered her mouth to hide her laughs from where she sat. "You're just as thick witted as he is! Out of my way!" She shoved Skywise aside as she made her way to Cutter leaving Skywise behind smiling knowingly.
The next night the two tribes celebrate Cutter's and Leetah's union. For once Moon doesn't shy away from the activities and is instead dancing with some others, her silver hair swirling about her.
Once the moons were finally in the sky Moon walked out of the dancing area and Nightfall, Dewshine, and Dart grabbed Cutter and Leetah to show them their surprise. "Here they are!" Dart called out pulling on Leetah's dress. All the of the wolfriders stood closely together hiding what was behind them.
"What do you think it is?"
"I'm almost afraid to guess." Cutter chuckled.
"Well don't just stand there cubs, Show 'em!" Treestump called out as all the wolfriders smiled. They moved aside and Cutter howled in delight.
"Dreamberries! How did you ever?"
"It's all Redlance's doing."
"You grand son of a tree shaper! I knew your powers would show up someday! But I thought they didn't grow in the desert."
"They don't. But Pike stuck some seeds in his belt pouch." Redlance laughed.
"Pike with the forest burning down around his ears, he couldn't forget his one true love. Where is he anyway?"
"He's just making sure the berries are ripe enough." Moon laughed looking at the dream berry bush.
The celebration finally ended Moon stood on the bridge of memory letting the wind play with her hair. Moonshade and Strongbow sat together with Dart on a hill that over looked the wolves, Pike was still under the dream berry bush, Cutter and Leetah slept in their hut, Skywise was with some girls on a hill feeding them dreamberries on a branch and the rest of the wolfriders slept in the caves.
Moon sighed softly as she gazed at the stars overhead. 'It seems like the next few moons will be interesting.'