This is a story that used to be on an old geocities site that became defunct several years ago – I rediscovered it, did some minimal editing, and decided to re-post it onto .
This is a story that was written for my ElfQuest roleplaying chat group. All of the characters belong to myself or Irrydanni (from the chat) and should not be used without express permission from either of us. The premise was a joint one on both our parts though ElfQuest belongs to Richard and Wendi Pini.
In order to really understand this story, you must realize that Eclipse is allergic to dreamberries. They cause him to be able to feel and sense everyone's emotions, thoughts, and sends, all at once, and at about 20 times their normal intensity. Needless to say, it is quite a painful and frightening experience for him. Also, needless to say (though I'm gonna say it anyhow), he has sworn off dreamberries and has not had a single one in over ten years. This little story is about what happens when a new variety of dreamberry is discovered and the reaction Eclipse gets when Ripple and Stillpool innocently give him some. The story takes place during the ten year jump, about a year before the saga continues. Let me know what you think of it.
(~) denote twin mindspeak (*) denote open sends (i.e. telepathic communication) (**) denote closed sends (that send is only heard by the people it is expressly sent to).
Never Judge a Berry by it's Sweetness
Ripple and Stillpool were playing with their mother's wolf-friend, when Shycloud came rushing into the camp. She was carrying a small plant with purplish-blue berries.
"Do you know where your mom is?" Stillpool nodded solemnly, but it was Ripple who replied, "She's mending daddy's leathers in the clearing with the old oak."
"Thank you." Shycloud rushed out of camp, leaving behind two bewildered cubs.
Ripple stood and started after Shycloud. Stillpool called to him using twin-speech, ~Where are you going?~
"To find out what's going on, silly. You coming?"
~I don't think...~ Stillpool sighed as Ripple walked away. She motioned for the wolf to follow her as she went after her brother to make sure he didn't get into any trouble.
Ripple was in a tree overlooking the clearing, near enough to hear what was going on, but far enough away not to be detected, he hoped. He made room for his sister when she arrived. "About time. Thought you were never gonna show up."
Stillpool shimmied up beside him, ignoring his comments. ~Find out anything?~
"No, Shycloud just got there. They haven't said anything important yet."
~I still don't think this is a good idea, Ripple. What if we're caught?"~
"So what? We aren't doing anything. Now be quiet, I can't hear what they are saying."
Stillpool settled herself more comfortably on the branch. She didn't like it when Ripple ordered her about, but she had to admit that he always had interesting ideas. Nightfire was sitting against a tree, mending a pair of leather breeches. "Hello, Shycloud. How are you today?"
"Great. I found something that I think the entire tribe will love." Shycloud rocked back and forth on her heels, her hands behind her back, and a large grin on her face.
Nightfire's brow furrowed in a frown. "What is it?" she asked curiously.
Shycloud brought her hands forward, displaying the small plant. "A dreamberry plant. Honest-to-High Ones dreamberries!" She laughed delightedly.
Nightfire carefully took the bush from Shycloud and examined it. "Dreamberries? I didn't think any grew on this island. How can you tell that that's what they are, the berries and leaves look a lot different from our regular dreamberry plants."
"They may look odd, but I can guarantee that they are dreamberries. Stone and I have been testing the plants in the area to find out which are edible and which are not. He ate a berry, and the reaction he got was exactly like that of our own dreamberries."
Nightfire looked up, eyes wide. "He ate one? High Ones! What if it had been poisonous? He could have been killed!"
Shycloud looked indignant. "We were careful. We have only tested those plants that other warm-bloods have eaten. And if Stone had gotten sick from it, I was there to cure him. We aren't stupid, you know."
Nightfire grimaced and nodded. "I know. I'm sorry. I just hate it when elves needlessly endanger themselves. I trust you and Stone to make the right decisions, but I still worry."
Shycloud relaxed a bit. "Well, it wasn't needlessly. Stone and I have already found several plants that can be beneficial to the tribe. And I'm sure that everyone will like having dreamberries again."
Nightfire leaned against the tree, a smile forming on her face. "It would be nice to have dreamberries again. Where did you find them?"
"There's a large patch of the bushes about a day's journey sun-rise from here. It shouldn't be too hard to bring a few plants to the holt so that everyone can enjoy them."
"I like that idea." She thought for a moment, "Perhaps we could have a howl to celebrate their discovery. How long will it take you to harvest enough for a decent howl?"
"With a bit of help, we could have the howl in three days' time."
"Sounds good. Ask around, I'm sure you'll have no end of volunteers for berry picking duty."
Shycloud laughed and reclaimed the berry bush. "You can say that again. I'll get on that right away." She started out of the clearing.
"Shycloud?" Nightfire called. "When will Eclipse return from his hunting trip?"
"Uh..." she stopped and bit her lip in thought. "He should be back in time for the howl, though he sometimes stays away longer."
"He may show up in the middle of the howl." Nightfire said, "Better let the others know not to let him have any of the berries." Shycloud nodded in understanding and left Nightfire to her mending.
Ripple waited until Shycloud was long gone before nudging his sister. The two quietly climbed down from the tree and headed in another direction. Once they were out of ear-shot, Ripple started jumping about, excitedly. "Wow, a new kind of dreamberry. I wonder what they taste like."
Stillpool shrugged, ~We won't know until mother gives us permission to have some. You remember what she said about them? They're real powerful, cubs don't usually get to have them until they are a lot older than we are now.~
Ripple nodded, "True." He pulled a branch from a passing tree and whipped it back and forth, slaying invisible foes. "But just think, there's gonna be a howl in a few days. It'll be a blast!"
Stillpool walked in silence for a while, ~I wonder why they won't let Uncle Eclipse have any dreamberries?~
Ripple stopped for a moment, his brow furrowed. "Why _won't_ they let him have any?"
~I dunno, but I'm sure they have a good reason.~
Ripple slowed down, one hand absently petting the wolf. "It's not very fair. Everyone else is going to get some, why shouldn't he?"
~Well, he won't even be at the howl, that's why.~
Ripple shook his head. "No, he _might_ not be at the howl. You heard mother, even if he does show up, he isn't to have any."
~Oh, well. It's not our problem. Come on. I want to get back to the holt. Maybe, Shycloud will let us go with her to pick the berries.~
Ripple brightened, a gleam coming to his eye. "Yeah, that sounds good. Race you!" The young cub took off running, the wolf at this heels.
Stillpool sprinted after him, ~No fair, you had a head start.~
"Can't catch me! Ha ha hahaha."
After begging Nightfire with all of their considerable charm, Ripple and Stillpool found themselves with permission to help Shycloud with the berry picking. The two cubs worked side by side pulling the tiny berries from the plants and into their baskets. "Now, remember. Don't take all the berries from one bush. We have to leave some behind if we are to make sure that there will be more bushes next year." Shycloud carefully uprooted two of the plants and packed them carefully to bring them back to the holt with her. Soon, Shycloud deemed that they had enough berries for the howl and the small berry picking force picked up their things to leave. No one noticed as Ripple put a handful of berries into his pocket.
Two days later, the tribe held its first howl using the new dreamberries. The howl was a roaring success and most, if not all, of the dreamberries were consumed. The only down side to the night was that Eclipse had not yet returned from his trip. Otherwise, everyone agreed that it had been one of the best howls the tribe had had in some time. Most of the tribe nursed massive hang-overs the next night. Only those few elves who hadn't over-indulged, Nightfire (whom everyone knows never got hangovers from dreamberries), and the cubs were up and about. Ripple and Stillpool were playing a game of tag when they heard the send. *Nightfire, Ripple, Stillpool, Brindlefur, Shycloud, I'm back. Anyone around?*
The two cubs looked at one another and shouted. "Uncle Eclipse!" They concentrated and sent to him
**Welcome home! ::warm hug::**
**::grin:: Glad someone's about.**
**Where are you now?**
**::image of a small brook with stepping stones across:: It's about three hours away from the holt.**
**How was your trip?**
**::contentment:: Terrific. I brought back a deer, some long-ears, and a surprise.**
Ripple's send was bright with excitement. **For us?**
**::chuckle:: Maybe. If I find out you've been good.**
**Are you heading right for the holt, uncle?** Stillpool asked.
**No, I've been traveling all day. Moontouched and I could use a rest. We're going to camp here for a few hours and we'll see you later in the evening. Thought I'd let everyone know I was safe.**
Ripple flashed a smile at his sister. "Let's go meet him."
~Maybe we should let mother know he's home.~
"Nah, Uncle Eclipse sent to her, too. She already knows if she's been paying attention. Sides, I want to be the first to see him."
Stillpool shrugged, ~I guess.~
"Great." **Uncle Eclipse, want any company? Stillpool and I can be there in an hour and a half, riding mom's wolf-friend.**
**That would be nice, I haven't spoken to anyone in...**
**::surprise:: That long? Well, if it's all right with Nightfire, I'd love the company.**
Ripple clapped his hands in delight. **We'll go ask right now and get back to you.** The two cubs broke contact and rushed to find their mother. They found Nightfire in their den, cradling Beartooth's head in her lap as he moaned in pain. Ripple stifled a giggle.
Ripple crept forward quietly, "Mother? Uncle Eclipse is nearby. May Stillpool and I go meet him? He's by the stepping stones. Please? It's not too far away, Stillpool and I have been there before by ourselves." Stillpool looked on, pleadingly.
Nightfire looked up in surprise. "He is? I didn't hear him send." She was silent for a moment, sending to Eclipse. After a moment's thought, she nodded her head. "Yes, you may go. Be careful and don't hesitate to call for help, alright?"
The two cubs nodded and scurried out of the den. Ripple leapt upon the wolf's back and helped his sister on. They raced through the forest, arriving by the stepping stones an hour later. They threw themselves at Eclipse, who just managed to catch them and keep his balance. "Whoof, you two have definitely grown. How did you manage to get here so fast?"
"Mom's wolf is the fastest wolf in the whole world." Ripple exclaimed proudly.
Eclipse looked over where Moontouched was getting greeted. "I think I would have to agree with that." He turned to his pack and pulled out two small packages. "I have something for everyone in the tribe, these are yours." Exchanging excited glances, the two cubs quickly opened their presents.
Ripple had received a small leather pouch that was decorated with small stones that glittered in the light and bits of wood that had been smoothed down to a satiny finish. The leather itself was engraved with a picture of a mighty waterfall. "It's beautiful."
"It's a picture of the falls that used to rush past where we lived, long before you were born. With luck, you'll be able to see them for yourself."
Stillpool opened her gift. She had also recieved a small leather pouch, but it was decorated with different types of feathers and weaved strips of leather. The pouch was engraved with the image of a flower in full bloom. "Oh, what is it?" she asked softly.
"That was one of my favorite flowers back at Grey Falls holt. A friend of mine called it a rose. They don't grow here, but I hope you'll be able to pick them for yourself one day."
*Thank you, uncle.* She wrapped her arms around his waist and gave him a hug. **::joy::**
"You're welcome, cub." **::warm embrace::** They all sat down and Eclipse broke out some fruit and meat for the three of them, the two wolves having left to hunt for themselves. "What had been going on while I was away?" The twins spent the next hour telling their uncle the tribal news, ending with the howl the night before. "Ah, I wish I could have been there. Was it fun?"
Ripple nodded, "It was terrific. There was story-tellin, and singin, and dancin, and lots of stuff."
Stillpool agreed, "Everyone had a great time, uncle. I wish you hadn't missed it."
"Me too. Well, I'll be there for the next on." Ripple had been digging into one of his pockets, "Hey, I almost forgot. Shycloud found a new type of berry. We all had them during the howl. They're real good. Here, I saved some for you." He pulled out a handful of dreamberries and handed them to his uncle.
Eclipse took the berries, "A new type of berry?"
"They're good. Mother even let us taste them. They're real sweet, try some." Stillpool nodded her agreement.
Eclipse smiled and popped a few into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed, "These do taste good. Real sweet." He ate a few more, then glanced at the sky. "We should get going, it's getting late." As he stood to repack his gear, a wave of dizziness caught him. He put a hand out to catch his balance. "Whoa." He shook his head to clear it.
Stillpool looked concerned, "Are you all right, uncle Eclipse?"
The blood slowly drained out of Eclipse's face and his heart pounded in his chest. "No, I don't feel all right, not at all." He sat down, head between his knees.
"Uncle?" Ripple's voice rose in fear.
An ugly suspicion entered Eclipse's mind. "What... did they.. call those... berries?" he asked, his breathing short and rapid.
Ripple and Stillpool exchanged uneasy glances. "Um... dreamberries?" Ripple cautiously replied.
"Never... felt this bad... before. Call.. Shy... or Stone...quickly!"
Ripple was about to ask another question when Eclipse's eyes rolled to the back of his head and he passed out. By now, a wheezing sound could be heard whenever Eclipse was breathed.
Stillpool rushed to her uncle's side. ~His skin feels all yucky. Ripple, call Shycloud.~ But Ripple couldn't. He had never seen anyone this sick before, and to know that it was his fault froze him in terror. A small moan escaped his lips. Stillpool glanced up and immediately strode over to her brother, **Don't you dare! I need you to call Shycloud, you have a longer sending distance. I'm out of range, so it's up to you.** She could feel Ripple try to back away from her. She grabbed him by the front of his tunic and shook him slightly.
**Ripple, please! If you don't, Uncle could die! Please!** she sent strong feelings of support to him, and finally felt him respond. She returned to Eclipse's side as Ripple called back to the holt. *Shycloud! Come quick! Uncle Eclipse is sick!*
Shycloud responded immediately. *What happened? Where are you?*
*Eclipse is having some sort of seizure. We're by the brook, at the stepping stones.*
*I'm on my way, tell me exactly what happened. Are you and Stillpool alright?*
*We're fine. Uncle Eclipse ate some berries and got real sick.*
*Ate some... What kind of berries, Ripple?* apprehension tinged her send.
Ripple swallowed heavily. *::tiny voice:: Dreamberries.*
*I was afraid of that. How did he get them, as far as I know, they only grow in one place, and he wasn't anywhere near it.* She was talking to herself, but accidently sent it as well.
Stillpool, having heard it all, glanced up at her brother and gave in a significant look. Ripple sighed. *::even tinier voice:: I gave them to him.*
*What? I couldn't hear you, Ripple, think louder.* Ripple cleared his throat nervously. *I gave them to him. I didn't know he would get sick, honest. I just... I just thought that it was unfair that everyone was allowed to have some but him.*
*Allowed...? ::revelation:: You overheard Nightfire and myself talking, didn't you?*
*Yes. I didn't know he'd get sick.*
*::soothing:: I know. We never told you that he was allergic to them. How is he doing now? What are his symptoms?*
Ripple glanced over at his uncle. *He's real pale, and he's breathing funny. He's not awake either. Stillpool says his skin feels yucky and his heart is beating real hard.*
Shycloud was silent a moment. *Those aren't his usual symptoms. I think it may have to do with the fact that this is a different kind of dreamberry. Look, hang on, I'll be there as soon as I can.*
Ripple and Stillpool kept a worried vigil over their uncle as they waited for Shycloud to arrive. "We're gonna get into so much trouble."
Stillpool shook her head, ~No we won't. It wasn't our fault. Shycloud even said it, no one told us he was allergic to them, we couldn't have known.~
"I guess." He took up one of Eclipse's hands. "I'm sorry, uncle. Please get better."
*I'm almost there, cubs. Show me where you are.* Stillpool sent her an image of the brook and the stepping stones, as well as the route they had taken to get there.
As she finished, Ripple gave a cry of alarm. "He's stopped breathing. Stillpool, he's not breathing!" He sent the information to Shycloud, panic clouding his send. Stillpool shook her uncle's shoulder, trying to get a response out of him, but was unsuccessful. The two cubs stared at each other, helplessly.
Shycloud appeared a few seconds later, her wolf-friend covered in sweat, her own long hair tangled and knotted with leaves and twigs. As she leapt off the wolf and ran to Eclipse, the twins scurried out of her way, huddled next to each other, and watched in silence. Shycloud quickly went into a healing trance, her hands over Eclipse's body. She muttered a feverent prayer. "High Ones, help me. Don't you dare die on me, Eclipse." A few tense moments later, Eclipse drew in a shuddering breath and started coughing. Shycloud pulled him onto his side and held him until his breathing eased. A couple of minutes later, he opened his and blurrily looked around. "Shy? What are you doing here?"
Shycloud laughed unsteadily, "Saving your hide, love. Saving your hide."
He brushed a hand gently against her cheek, "Thank you," he whispered and drew her down for a kiss.
Shycloud wiped tears from her eyes. "Just don't do that again, you scared me half to death."
After a while, Eclipse felt strong enough to push himself into a sitting position, with Shycloud holding him from behind. "Ripple? Stillpool?" The two cubs were a few feet away, staring at him with eyes full of tears. He opened his arms and gestured. They glanced at each other uncertainly then came forward slowly. He smiled at them, "Come on." With a hitching sob, Stillpool leapt into Eclipse's embrace, Ripple followed a second later. He held them close, rocking them. "Shh, it's okay. Everything's fine. Shh." *::understanding and love::* "Everything is all right."
"We're so sorry..." Ripple said, his voice muffled as he buried his face in his uncle's chest. "...we didn't mean it." Stillpool finished, her arms wrapped tightly around him.
"I know, I know." Eclipse looked up at Shycloud helplessly. How could he make them understand that it wasn't their fault? She shook her head, this was something the cubs would have to work out for themselves.
Ripple raised his head. "Do you want your pouches back?"
Eclipse, confused, frowned, "Why would I want them back?"
Stillpool tightened her grip. "We weren't very good," she whispered.
Eclipse gave a short laugh, understanding, "No, I don't want the pouches back. They belong to you." The two cubs shook their heads. Eclipse drew back a bit in order to look them both in the face. "I want you both to listen very carefully to me. If the two of you had not been here, I would have died."
"But if we hadn't of been here, you wouldn't have gotten sick,"
Ripple said, miserably. "That's not true." The twins exchanged glances. "Huh?" Even Shycloud looked perplexed.
"Hand me my bag," he pointed to his pack. Ripple dragged the pack over and Eclipse rummaged through it. "You see, I also found some berries on my trip." He pulled out a small plant, it was a dreamberry bush. "I was planning on trying one before I got back to the holt, using the technique Stone taught me for identifying plants. If I had eaten one, I would not have been able to call for help. I probably would have died. So you see, you being here saved my life. It is not your fault that I got sick, I would have regardlessly. Understand?"
Stillpool and Ripple looked at one another, then stared at their uncle, judging his sincerity. "You're sure? You're not mad? It wasn't our fault?"
"I swear to you that it was not your fault and that I am not mad at you." As one, they grinned at him, hugging Eclipse so hard he was afraid they'd break a rib. After Shycloud insured that all traces of the berry had been removed from Eclipse's system, the four of them packed up the gear and made their way back to the holt. Eclipse told the three of them of what he had seen and done while he was away, trying to put some "distance" between the cubs and what had happened. He knew that they would probably still feel guilty for a while, but, hopefully, the incident wouldn't scar them. Shycloud asked the twins that the next time they heard something they didn't fully understand, or if they had any questions about anything, that they ask someone. She got a solemn promise from them both.