But before Rayek could cut too deep into the mass of threads, there was a screeching sound that made both elves cringe, and seemingly out of nowhere came a swarm of multi-colored bug-like creatures. They spun around Pike and his wolf, still screeching at different times; it almost sounded like they were”¦ talking, but not all saying the same thing, so it sounded garbled. The Wolfrider tried to ward them off by swinging his spear around, but they were far too quick for him to hit any.
One of the creatures, who had a green body and red and yellow butterfly-like wings, singled out Rayek and flew close in front of his face, looking him in the eyes with a frown. “Highthing no cut out stick-head hoofthing from Wrapstuff!”
Rayek, who was momentarily startled by the noise and the fact that the bug was talking to him, managed to only stare with his mouth wide open. He soon collected himself and was able to sputter a “What?”
The creature continued. “Bad Highthings been cutting up wrapstuff since came. Is bad! This big wrapstuff we do. Highthing no cut up!”
Pike frowned. “You’re not making any sense. Slow down. What’s a”¦ a wrapstuff? And a high thing?”
The bug looked at the Wolfrider and then got a proud look. “Wrapstuff is this.” It pointed at the webbing all around the trees. “We do! Catch fursoft cradlebabies, and flufftails, stickhead hoofthings, we do! You Highthings! Petalwing remembers!”
“Remember?” Rayek seemed more curious than anything. “You remember others like us?”
Petalwing nodded. By this time, the other winged creatures had stopped their swarming and hovered, listening to the green one, who Pike assumed was their leader. “Petalwing remembers other highthings! Long time, we protect highthings and keep safe. Then longsoft hair highthing tell us go away and find food for when highthings come fetch. But highthings never come. We wait long time. We wrapstuff much food. Now you highthings come?” By this point, Petalwing had grabbed a few strands of Rayeks hair, and was holding it as if it were one of Moonshade’s softest leathers.
Pike couldn’t make out much of what the thing was saying, but gathered only that they had been keeping food for other elves a long time ago. Rayek, however, seemed to catch on to the story. “You’ve been trapping these animals for other elves? How long have you been here?”
“Longtime!” Petalwing seemed to strain its thoughts, but it soon passed. “Too long. But now more highthings are here. Petalwing take good care of highthings!”
Suddenly, Pike thought of something. “If you’re keeping the food for high”¦ uh, elves, then why can’t we open the cocoons? It’s for us. We have to open the cocoons to use what’s inside.”
There was a twittering among the other winged creatures, but Petalwing quieted them down. “Is good. Food for highthings, so highthings take. Petalwing say so!” Some of the creatures left then, but a few stayed, and perched themselves on one of the nearby branches.
Rayek, taking that as a cue that he’d won the argument (that Pike didn’t really think was a ”˜win’) finished cutting open the cocoon and from it emerged a buck, not quite full-grown yet, with just the beginning of antlers showing through. Hotburr, greatful for something familiar, launched into action, and Pike followed suit. The deer was slow and still bewildered from its long sleep and so was a fairly easy kill for just one elf and his wolf. The two elves then tied the deer to a long branch and, with Rayek’s lifting abilitied, started to leave.
Petalwing had taken to nest in Rayek’s hair, but wasn’t messing it up any, so all he managed to do was grumble about it. But when they tried to leave, the creature threw a fit. “No can go! We just get highthings back, so no can leave!”
“Relax, bug.” Pike was starting to really hate the thing’s screeching. “We’ll be back. You have more food here than you can do anything with, and we need food for the season.”
That brightened the creature’s mood. “Is so?” But it didn’t wait for an answer before getting exited and digging its claws into Rayek’s scalp. “Petalwing go with softpretty highthings!”
The desert elf finally got angry, and levitated Petalwing out of his hair, holding it still in mid-air in front of him. “You stay here.” He ordered. “You’re more annoying than usefull anyway.” With that being said, he used his magic to toss the creature into a nearby bush, and kept walking.
They made it back to Shenshen and Ekuar around nightfall with little problem, and presented them with the meat, which Shenshen started to cut up, with Pike’s instruction. They had just finished their story to the other two when a familiar screeching noise pierced the air, and Patalwing flew into Shenshen’s hair. “More softpretty highthings for Petalwing to take care of! Keep all safe.” It snuggled into her curls and grinned proudly.
Shenshen was surprised brought Petalwing out of her hair, staring at it in wonder. Ekuar’s eyes were wide as he looked at the creature, but said nothing, seeming a bit confused and trying to wade through memories lost to time. Rayek only huffed at the thing following them, but didn’t try to make it go away. Pike then explained that that was one of the web creatures, and Shenshen took a liking to it rather quickly, even letting it play with her hair. In return, Petalwing dubbed Shenshen its softpretty bubbly highthing.
After knowing they would have plenty of food, Pike and Shenshen worked on how to make decent furs and leathers to keep them all warm. Shenshen knew a little about form and color from a friend back in the Sun Village, Ahnshen, and Pike knew enough from watching Moonshade and from tales of the chief, Tanner, for them to make clothes that, though not fashionable in any sense, would keep them warm and alive for the season of cold. It looked like they would be able to survive the white-cold with no problem at all”¦