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with some scetchy illustration yes I know I should have used some shading but believe me they would look even worse if I tried..

[b:d6cebbbc08]Chapter Eight: Invitation[/b:d6cebbbc08]

“Lifemate, I want you to meet someone.”
What now, Cutter thought as he rubbed his eyes with his fists, trying to wake himself up. Skywise knew he wanted to sleep during the daytime. High Ones, she should be sleeping too, conserving strength. But no, his lifemate behaved as if she was not with child. True, it hardly showed yet, but surely”¦
“Come on, don’t be afraid.” The words weren’t meant for him. Skywise led a maiden into the sleeping cave. A maiden with auburn hair, serious eyes and a shy smile on her full lips. The way they held hands left no question as to the nature of their relationship. Three so far, Cutter thought, this girl and the youth named Marek, and the weaver Ahnshen who had made Skywise’s new clothes. Three new lovemates that he knew of, and countless playmates Skywise hadn’t bothered to introduce.

Cutter wasn’t jealous. He understood Skywise needed something to pass the time while the tribe hunted ”“ she would not risk this cub the way she had risked the one who should have been their firstborn. Until the cub was born she would not hunt. So Skywise was enjoying her life to the full while her time was still hers. She would be a devoted mother, she would live for their child just as much as her lifemate would, but as long as she was free, she would satisfy her hunger for pleasure-games. If she had neglected him Cutter might have complained, but it seemed for Skywise there was no such thing as ”˜enough’. She would come to him in the early morning, the scents of others on her, and still she would be hungry for his touch. Jealous? No, he was proud of her!

“Beloved? This is Vurdah.”
“She is beautiful.”
“That she is. Beautiful and sweet. She has invited us to live with her, in the village.”
“Live with her?”
“Yes. Vurdah, don’t be shy. Tell him.”
But the girl just looked at him, doe-eyed, then leaned against Skywise, away from him. Skywise spoke for her new lovemate:
“She told me she thinks a cave is not a fit home for us, not with the little one coming. And she would like to help.”

It took Skywise a moment to convince Vurdah she had no reason to fear Cutter. He got the impression the reason of the fear was not, in fact, that Vurdah thought him a cruel barbarian. Ohh no. Vurdah had a crush on him but feared to show her feelings. Skywise encouraged her to speak for herself, and when she shyly asked if he could ever answer her love, he surprised even himself taking her into his arms. Soon the union of the three of them was made real with passionate joinings.

And the very same evening they moved their meagre belongings into Vurdah’s hut. Skywise admitted she preferred a soft bed and a beautiful room to a pile of furs in a coarse cave.

[b:d6cebbbc08]Chapter Nine: Blood of Eleven Chiefs[/b:d6cebbbc08]

Cutter and Nightrunner had had a good hunt, all in all. The rabbits would be enough for the old wolf tonight. Nightrunner lifted his head, sensing a familiar scent. Soon Cutter noticed it too. His daughter was somewhere nearby. He pretended he hadn’t noticed anything and soon Cloud jumped to his back from a rock beside the path.
“Got you, father!”
“Did I really surprise you?” She wrapped her pale arms around him.
“You’ll be a great hunter someday, Cloud! But get down, now, Nightrunner can’t carry us both the way he used to.”


They sat down. Soon they heard the wolves howling for a kill.
“Is your mother hunting with the others?”
The white-haired little girl giggled.
“No. She went bathing.” When had his little Cloud learned that sometimes, bathing wasn’t just bathing? How much did she know of what adults did with each other? Cutter wasn’t sure. maybe she pretended to know more than she did.

“Why doesn’t Nightrunner lead the pack anymore?”
Cutter weighed his words carefully before answering:
“He’s too old. The younger wolves drove him away. if he tried to go back, they’d kill him.”
“That is”¦ that is”¦” Cloud didn’t know what to say.
“That is the way. And it’s a good one. Nightrunner understands. Besides, he has me to care for him now ”“ as long as he lives.”
Cloud patted the wolf gently. She understood, too. She stood up and closed her eyes:
“I can’t wait to have a wolf friend of my own!”

Suddenly Cutter drew his sword, his eyes at his daughter’s feet.
“Hsst! Cloud, don’t move”¦!” He whispered.
The child obeyed, standing motionless as a poisonous sting-tail climbed onto her sandal.
Cutter prepared to slice it away, when a short sword, thrown, pierced the creature to the ground.

“Thank you, mother!”


Skywise just smiled. She was dressed in the clothes Ahnshen had made for her, a short skirt and a skimpy top. They looked at odds somehow with the headpiece and wristguards she would never consider giving up. Maybe she had been absent from hunts as often as present, these days, but lack of practice had not ruined her aim. Cutter handed her sword back to her.

Leaving Nightrunner to gobble his feast of rabbits, the little family made their way home. Home, now, was a hut in the village, where Vurdah slept already. As they walked under the sticker plants Redlance had shaped into beautiful, dancing forms, ShenShen came to meet them half running, worry in her olive-green eyes.
“Cutter! Skywise! Have you seen Firebird? I thought he was with Pike but he just came home and hasn’t seen him either. We tried sending but you know how he is, these days.”
They knew, but Cloud wasn’t interested in magic and had paid little attention to the changes in her friend.
“What do you mean, ShenShen? Firebird was always better than me in sending.”
“Cubling,” Skywise turned to her daughter, “You remember why his name isn’t Redbird anymore. Ever since he found his firestarting magic he’s been turned inwards more and more often, much like his mother when she’s healing someone. Only Savah has the power to reach him then.”
“If we don’t find him soon I’ll have to wake the Mother of Memory.” ShenShen muttered. She was worried for her wayward cub, but also angry about the trouble he was causing. This time, however, Savah was not needed, for Pike’s sending reached them, open to all.
**Found him! On the cliffs. And we found something else, too.** Even before the sending was over the wolves howled, the warning signal that had last been used the night the holt burned.
**Humans. One ill, one cub, two adults.** Pike confirmed the message.

The Wolfriders gathered together. Cutter told them to keep quiet and let the Sun Folk sleep.
**I want to see humans too!** Cloud complained.
**No, cubling.** Skywise held her tight in her arms.
**I won’t put you in danger. We’ll go home and stay safe while your father deals with them.**
Her heart was racing and she knew Cloud noticed it. She had had enough of humans for one lifetime.

(Firebird doesn't appear in the story but here's a picture of him anyway)

[b:d6cebbbc08]Chapter Ten: A Quest Begins[/b:d6cebbbc08]

The humans had been given the small mercy of leaving alone. Strongbow had challenged Cutter because of that, and lost. After a talk with Savah Cutter had considered going out to find other elves. If there were any, together they would stand a better chance.

He sat on the windowsill and watched the children playing together. Newstar, Wing and Firebird were teaching a tame little wolf-like animal to fetch a ball. Dart was showing Cloud how to use the arrow-whip. Inside the hut, Skywise rested half-asleep on the pit-bed. Vurdah came from the well with a jar of water. She started watering the desert-flowers and herbs she grew in little pots all over the upper floor of their hut. Cutter stepped inside and spoke to his lifemate and their lovemate.

“It’s decided.”
Skywise opened her eyes, saw the shadow in his eyes and rose to take him in her arms. Vurdah knelt on the floor beside them.
“You’re going?” She asked.
“Yes, Vurdah. Because I have to.”
**Tam. I’m coming with you.**
**But Fahr”¦**
**But nothing. We both know you can’t find your way around a tree without getting lost.**
**What about Cloud?**
**Vurdah will look after her. Everyone will look after her. A chief’s cubs belong to all his tribe.**
Then she spoke, to the maiden who still hadn’t learned to send.
“Vurdah, I’m going with him. Will you take care of Cloud for us? We’ll be back. I promise we will be back.”
“Of course. She’s like a daughter to me. But I will miss you.” Vurdah wrapped her arms around her lovemates. Tears filled her eyes, but with the sorrow came a new confidence. They trusted her with the child who was dearer to them that anything else in the world. She would be worth that trust. She would not disappoint them.

Cloud took the news surprisingly well. She grinned with anticipation when Cutter told her Strongbow would teach her to hunt, then her eyes went serious again, but she did not cry.

Skywise had some farewells of her own to say. Ahnsen seemed horrified by her decision, but when he saw her in her leather travel clothes he had to admit she seemed more herself, more alive than ever in any fine mothfabric he had dressed her in. Hunter. Warrior.

The tribe took some convincing ”“ Treestump was worried for his nephew, Moonshade and Strongbow would have liked to come with Cutter and Skywise, but the young chief told them he wanted everyone in one place for now.

When they had finished their farewells and led their zwoots towards the Burning Waste, they saw a Sun Village maiden come running after them.
“Wolf-chief! Wait!”
Cutter halted his new mount and Skywise followed his example. They saw the maiden was none other than ShenShen’s sister Leetah, the midwife who had helped with Cloud’s birth.
“What is it?” Skywise asked when she reached them.
“ShenShen told me you would be going tonight. I have a request for you.”
“If you happen to find Rayek, please give him a message from me.” Then she sent, a strong and vivid connection, for she was one of the Sun Folk with a gift of powerful magic. The message was simple. She loved Rayek although she had been too proud to admit it, until it was too late, until he was gone and she realized just how much she missed him.
“We will give your message if we meet him. Maybe we will, since Savah said he took the same path we are taking.” Cutter promised the tearful maiden. Skywise took her hand and smiled to show she thought the proud maiden had made a wise decision.

The wolves following the zwoots on foot, they mounted the huge animals and rode away into the cold desert night. A song of farewell drifted from the village, every voice joined to wish them the blessing of the High Ones. But Cutter and Skywise heard two voices only ”“ Vurdah’s husky voice interrupted by little sobs, and Cloud’s high and clear cub-voice, sad but unfaltering.

Already the chief and his lifemate missed their family.
To be continued...[/i:d6cebbbc08]

Well, what do you think? Like my choices or hate them? About Vurdah - I think having one lifemate already Skywise wouldn't say no to another... but it's been a long time since I've read Heart's Way... what book was that published in btw? And what colour are Vurdah's eyes?