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This is entirely a work fiction. All characters and events portrayed here are entirely fictitious. All resemblance to factual people or events is purely coincidental.

Sweet Sorrow
Elfquest fan-fiction, Copyright © 1994 Mikko Koivunalho, Internet:

Elfquest ®, its characters, situations, logos, and their distinctive likenesses are trademarks and © of WaRP Graphics, Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

This story is inspired by Elfquest. I am highly grateful to Wendy and Richard Pini, the creators of Elfquest.
Elfquest, The Blood of Ten Chiefs story

Sweet Sorrow

It was a cool spring morning during the peaceful days of Freefoot's chieftainship. The holt Halfhill, the elves home, had just lost its cover of ice and snow. They melted and flowed into the nearby running stream, which here and there on the edges still had some ice cover.

Someway up the stream, in a quiet place under yet leafless trees, there was young Shortpine sitting on a fallen tree trunk. The stream flowed slowly a few hand spans under his feet. The creek was wider and deeper in this place so there was very little current.

Shortpine was using his magic to create a hair slide out of a few pieces of bone, dry wood and flowers and some pretty sparkling stones. The magic was his special gift; he could attach small things together so that they stuck against each other and held fast. With his magic he could create beautiful small things out of, for instance, left over pieces from making of weapons or other tools.

He lifted the finished work up between his fingers to examine it closely. The edges were carefully sharpened to ease the pushing into thick hair; the top was decorated with four gleaming pebbles. They all held firmly together by the strength of his magic. But it was worth all the trouble because it was the best he had created, he thought proudly. All the different pieces and materials were sitting on correct places, exactly as he had thought of. But it had to be the best he had ever done, for it was not just any hair slide, but a hair slide made especially for a certain girl.

He pictured her in his mind. He imagined himself combing her brown hair, maybe setting that hair slide between her curls. He fancied the thought.

Then suddenly, as if feeling regret for what he had dreamt, he jumped up from the tree trunk and pulled off his boots and clothes. He placed the hair slide carefully on top of the pile of clothes. With one long leap he jumped to the ice cold water. The stream was just barely deep enough for him to swim in.

Swimming was one of Shortpine's favourite hobbies. Most wolfrider cubs learnt to swim when playing in the shallow stream. It was fortunate for him that most of his friends and playmates also liked swimming, so on summer time trips were occasionally arranged to the nearby lakes. Best were those times when some adults came with for they hunted while the juveniles played and later they could all eat fresh meat instead of having to take provisions with.

The water in the stream was even colder than he had thought. He only swam a few strokes and then quickly climbed up to the bank. He ran a few circles about to make the water swiftly drop away from his skin. He felt cold throughout and sat down on the fallen tree and envisioned himself being warmed by her, in her arms.

Just as quickly as he had sunk in his thoughts he stood up, pulled on his clothes and started back to Halfhill carrying carefully the gift he had made.

There was the familiar, every morning bustle in the holt: a few wolfriders were hurrying from one den to another, waking up cubs, trying to be everywhere at once; others were sitting lazily outside, talking to each other, planning what they will do or where they will go hunting. Some had already begun their chores. Shortpine saw a couple of elves working with hides spread on the ground or on some tree-made stands and others carving wood or making arrows or arrow-heads. Chief Freefoot was standing in the centre of the commonyard, trying to converse with his son Fangslayer who, in turn, tried to prepare his equipment and gather his hunting party by bellowing around.

The dens were dug on the side of the hill. Walking past the first ones he could make out some snoring and other sounds, resembling growling, that clearly indicated waking up. There had been those times in the tribe's history when the elves had been mainly night prowlers but here, at Halfhill, the elves enjoyed daylight and unconcern of the humans who had plagued them so many times in the past; not that the present life would have hindered them from arranging refreshing night hunts once in a while.

Shortpine walked to his own den; actually he shared it with two other cubs. Before there had been four of them in all but one had moved out to another den. She had been many turns of the seasons older than Shortpine or his two friends.

Youngsters were often granted their own dens when they were considered to be mature enough. Shortpine and his friends had moved into their den after its previous inhabitant, an old hunter, had died in a hunting accident.

He stepped quietly from the warm sunshine into the coolness and dampness of the den. His eyes adjusted in no time at all to the dimness and he continued deeper expecting to find his friends still sleeping between furs.

"Cone, is it you?" came the voice full of anticipation. It surprised him. She was sitting on a chair binding the laces of her footwear and clothes, her back turned towards him.

Shortpine would've wanted to walk away; now that the time to give his gift had come, he didn't know how to do it. He took a few steps and said nervously, "It's me, Shortpine."

She turned around and looked at him. Then she said, "You woke earlier this morning? Were you swimming?" She had noticed his wet hair and smiled at him. He stood ill at ease and answered, "Yes, I had a short swim in the stream. It's still too cold for that, really." He looked at her grace and took heart. "Warmstone, I... I made something for you." He showed her the hair slide he had created. She picked it up from his palm and admired it. Of course she had seen his results of his powers before but never anything this elaborate.

She stepped pass him and walked to the outside to take a better look at the hair slide in the sunlight. Shortpine followed her and then she turned to him. "You made this for me? It's beautiful. You must have worked hard for this?"

Shortpine looked to his feet and mumbled, "Well, oh, it was nothing... and didn't take long to make."

"But it's wondrous! Thank you so much." She snatched the leather thong away from her hair and placed the slide in its place.

Shortpine stared open-mouthed at her. Here, in bright daylight she looked beautiful, ravishingly beautiful, lovelier than in any of his dreams; her hair waving by the sudden wind, her red cheeks, calm, blue eyes and delicate hands moving through the air.

Then she turned to him again. "Cone went to ask from Hornbird if we could forget about today's chores and go to the Glen Pond instead. It's such a lovely weather. Do you want to come with? I think the water should be warmer there." She knew him well, as they all knew each other.

She smiled at him and whispered to his ear, "Actually, Cone and I are going to have a secret hunt of our own. We're going to see if there are yet any beavers or otters there. Would you like to come with? You can stay at the pond while we hunt."

It always took some time before youngsters were granted permission to hunt on their own. Of course Shortpine knew some, older than he though, who had disobeyed that rule and gone hunting alone. Some cubs broke deliberately that rule which was only made to protect them from the hazards of a serious hunt for deer or other strong and dangerous animals. The line between adulthood and cubhood was, in this case too, very difficult to draw.

Most of those cubs who had secretly arranged hunting trips didn't bother to hunt again without their parents' permission, for one time was enough to show them that there really was nothing so special about it. When elders by chance learnt of those hunts, cubs were mostly corrected and scolded; but there were also those adults who were willing to understand and remember what it had been like in their youth, how similar they had been. It sometimes happened that such adults followed carefully and in hiding the reckless cubs and took care that they didn't get into trouble, for misfortune was always near when excited cubs were on their own, especially when without permission.

Shortpine had once been with such a group. Later he had learnt by chance that they, too, had been guarded by an elder and he had felt very relieved. He had even gone to talk about it with that same elder. On the hunting trip he had also learnt that he, actually, didn't care for hunting as much as he had thought he would. It didn't excite him so much to run after his prey with the smell of blood in his nostrils; not that it disgusted him, he just didn't enjoy it as much as was common among young wolfriders.

Of course he would have liked to go with Warmstone and Cone but he had chores to do as well; so he could hide under that pretext. He explained, "I'd love to come but I promised Graywing to make her four eights of arrows and she, in turn, to put aside for me the picks of today's evening meal, depending, of course, what Fangslayer and his party will bring back." He pointed to the middle of the common yard where the hunting party was prepared and already leaving towards the forest. Some other parties were slowly preparing, too, though for many days' hunting trips.

Then, suddenly, Cone appeared behind Warmstone. He wrapped his hands around her and quickly kissed her on her cheek. "Hornbird gave us permission. Not that we would have cared. Wouldn't we have gone anyway?"

He grinned broadly and laughed; joking and jesting, that was his way. Nothing was serious for Cone, at least, nothing that they had experienced so far in their short lives.

Then he turned to Shortpine. "Did Warmstone tell you? We're going to the Glen Pond. But we'll take spears, bow and arrows with us just for safety's sake." He grinned again, and, if possible, even more widely.

Shortpine was just about answer when Warmstone put her fingers around Cone's chin and turned his head toward her. "Lovemate, he already explained to me that he can't come with us."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Cone said swiftly and disappeared in to the den behind. He went to collect their weapons. He really was sorry for Shortpine though he didn't show it, and he would have liked him to go with. Shortpine had been alone and very reticent terribly often during the past few days, and it was not like him at all. Cone didn't know why but, since shortpine was his friend and playmate, he would have wanted to know, and to help, if his help was needed. He had thought that a day spent with him and Warmstone away from the tiresome chores would cheer up his friend. But, for some reason, Shortpine had refused and that, too, worried him for it was not at all like Shortpine to turn down fun like that.

Cone quickly picked up two spears, his and Warmstone's, and one bow and a quiver full of arrows. He rushed out of the cave and soon he was on his way with his lovemate. Warmstone exclaimed to Shortpine, "Don't wait us back before sundown", and Shortpine smiled and waved his hand at his dear friends when they walked away side by side, hand in hand. He looked at them a long time until they disappeared in to the woods.

Even after they had gone he just stood there, looking at the trees behind of which they had gone. It was all quiet for him. He didn't notice the familiar everyday voices all around him; nor did it bother him that once in a while a few wolfriders going by blocked his view.

"Lovemate," she had said! It was that single word which hurt him most. He had heard it eights and eights of times before. Why did it distress him now?

It was only a few days ago when he had found a name for what he felt. Before that his thoughts and feelings had confused him but now he knew what it was; and it only made things worse. It was love. He simply loved her! He knew love from dreamberry stories and elders' conversations and recognized it now within himself.

He was in love with Warmstone, his friend, his playmate. How long had it been this way? The wolfsong's timelessness could not offer him answer. It was his elfin self which told him that sometime during the just passed whitecold he had first caught himself gazing intensively at her. Ever since then had it been like this.

He would've wanted to tell her how he felt. And then ask her to be his lovemate for among wolfriders such things were discussed freely when needed. Shortpine had, actually, once witnessed an occasion when a young wolfrider girl had simply walked to an elder, unpledged male and asked. Without any profound reason one would not refuse from helping or favouring another, naturally not less if it was a pleasant favour that was asked.

But Warmstone already had a lovemate, Cone, and Cone was his friend as well, furthermore, his best friend. How could he ever explain to his best friend? How could he say that he needed to touch, to be with the one whom he also loved, had loved long before he had learnt that he also did?

Suddenly he arose from his reverie and looked around. Had someone noticed him standing and staring there unnaturally? His behaviour might expose his feelings and he was afraid of that.

He stepped away to do the work he had promised to do. But his behaviour did not go unnoticed from the eyes of those who noticed things and understood the reasons behind them. Since this had not even been the first time, it caused discussion among few wolfriders busy with their chores but none of it ever reached his ears.

The next day Shortpine shared with Cone and Warmstone the meat he had gotten on the evening meal. He would've liked her to have it all but of course he couldn't offer it specially for her for that would've seemed odd.

Later on he always gave her when he had anything extra. And every time she took what he offered but never noticed what it was that troubled him. He looked at her smiling, beautiful face and ached to touch her. Many times he did; he pulled a few strokes through her hair or patted her back but never did he sit next to her for long or hold her hand in his own.

And never when he was alone with her could he bring himself to talk to her, to say those simple things. He could only look at her wanting to say. Only a couple of times did he manage to force himself in whispering a few words, and when she asked him what he had said, for she hadn't heard him well, he just denied saying anything.

And yet it would have been so simple, just a few words, "Would you be my lovemate?" But Shortpine was afraid, afraid of hurting her or Cone, afraid of her saying no, afraid of everything.

Later it got worse for him. He didn't eat much and spent more and more time alone with himself. Always he looked sad and often he, under some poor pretext, slipped away from his friends. Sometimes, when Cone and Warmstone were fondling and kissing each other at night, Shortpine couldn't sleep or stay next to them. Never before had his friends' loveplay bothered him; on the contrary, he sometimes joined their amusement by tickling or touching; but now he was annoyed when their dark den was filled with giggle and words of love. He sneaked away from their shared bed and disappeared into the night to find a quiet place where he could wallow in self-pity and dream of walking hand in hand with Warmstone.

It took some time before Cone changed from worried to nervous. He tried to ask from his friend what was the matter with him, but Shortpine never answered him. Warmstone also tried but in vain, as well. Two times she pulled Shortpine aside to sit in silence next to her to ask if she could help him in any way but he merely shook his head and turned his face away to hide the tears that he was afraid might fall from his eyes. But, since Cone and Warmstone were so close to him and so young and inexperienced, they could not judge correctly.

Spring changed to summer, leaves appeared on the trees and the world became green again. The days grew warmer and longer; at least to everyone else but Shortpine. To him every day was darker than the previous.

It was Shortpine's mother who came to Cone one day to discuss in privacy about her cub. She hinted carefully to Cone since she knew that he could not have perceived it himself. When Cone started to understand the matter, he was first confused, then shocked. He had to ask Shortpine's mother again and again until he became convinced.

When the elder had gone away, he thought of himself and his beloved and the one whom he also loved very much but didn't any more know what to think of. It was his remarkable sense of humor and special gift to find something funny in everything that saved him from jealousy which might have overcome many other elves in the same situation. He simply came to think of the matter from a totally other point of view: if he could fall in love with Warmstone and think of her as the most beautiful maiden in the world, then why wouldn't someone else as well. He laughed at his thoughts in a way only he could.

Later that night, when he lay together with Warmstone in their bed and Shortpine was away again, he carefully started to tell her.

"In love with me? But, why in Timmorn's name hasn't he said anything?" Warmstone exclaimed.

"All this time he has been afraid of hurting us. And now he has withdrawn to himself because he wants to do as he feels but he has denied it from himself. From his own choice he has been protecting us, beloved." Saying things with serious tone really took a little effort from Cone.

Then their den was suddenly quiet until Cone tried to reach for Warmstone. She asked abruptly, "Well, what do you think?"

He couldn't resist the temptation to say something funny; it really seemed to be in his blood as one tribemate had once proposed, "I think... that looking from here you look irresistibly tempting."

Abruptly she stood up on the side of the bed clearly fuming. Pointing at him she exclaimed, "Can't you quit that for one moment? Or is it so that you can not control yourself that much!" She looked fierce and turned her back on him as if preparing to leave the den.

Cone blushed. He was ashamed, somehow he had thought that it would be funny and relieving but...

"I'm sorry... I really am. Please, come back." She was still angry but slowly a smile formed on her face. She crawled back to bed and pulled a fur from the foot of the bed over herself and Cone. Nevertheless, she turned her back on him and murmured, "Well, what do think about Shortpine?"

He concentrated on not joking, "Do you love him? If you do, then why should you say no."

"But what about you? What would you feel? We are lovemates, are we not!"

He thought about a while, "Shortpine is feeling miserable. If it only takes your touch to make him happy, how could I forbid that. Even if you two were to become... lovemates, what reason would I have to try to prevent that. My sympathy and compassion on him are as great as yours. He is my friend and I love him very much."

"What if we would become lovemates? Have you nothing at all to say to that?"

"Beloved, is there any reason why we still couldn't be lovemates?"

She turned slowly towards him and smiled. She sent, **Somehow you make it seem so easy, as you always make everything seem so easy.**

"It is the Way," he answered. "What is needed, should be freely given if possible." He continued sending, **Then you will be kind to him? And give him your love, the same way that you have given me?**

**Yes, I will, but he will have to ask me first. That, too, is the Way.**

Now it was Cone's turn to be shocked. "But, but... You know he can't do that! Otherwise he would have already! You can't demand that?"

"It is the Way," she repeated slowly, "but I will make it easier for him. If it's true, what you said about him being afraid to say it, to say those few words, then we must help him conquer his fear."

He thought awhile; it was his friend, his best friend, they were talking about. And Warmstone, however cruel she had sounded, had spoken the words of truth. Shortpine needed encouragement, so they would give it to him.

Warmstone, on the other hand, was thinking more about herself. What was it that she had promised to do? To love Shortpine? To be his lovemate? It was not that she disliked him; no, they had been playmates and friends but to be lovemate was different. Or was it so different after all?

Cone's words had proved no jealousy and she was happy about it though, somehow, she would have liked him to act a bit more possessively... She did not doubt Cone's love towards her but for all that she asked with serious face, as if instinctively, "Do you love me?"

He looked at her in amazement and grinned. "Do I love you? With all my heart, with all my soul I love you, with all my body as well."

With that she pulled him closer to her so that their noses touched, kissed his cheek and nuzzled softly against him.

Shortpine was sitting on the edge of a cliff. He looked down to the bottom of the cleft and dreamed he would somehow Recognize Warmstone. For a while it seemed fairly possible. But he was not stupid, though desperate and gloomy, and he understood that his dream was impossible.

Then he hoped he would have had Stringsong's ability to make beautiful rhymes, and with them he could win Warmstone's love. Similar thoughts came to him. Though he would have liked to indulge them, he knew they all were futile and absurd.

He would've so much wanted to tell someone how he felt. He knew it would have soothed his pain and made him feel easier but there was no one for his dear friends could not be told of these things and even his own mother and father seemed to be too far for him now.

So he looked down and thought if there was any reason for him to suffer any more. It wasn't very long a fall but long enough anyhow for him to die in an instant if he should fall his head first...

But the wolf within could not think such thoughts. It only knew how to survive one day at a time. Without Shortpine knowing it, he had unconsciously left the edge of the cliff.

He found himself shuffling along aimlessly and lay down on the roots of a maple tree his face on the ground. And he wept over his sad fate, that he had to fall in love with Warmstone. The Holt was full of beautiful maidens, then why it had to be her. His tears moistened the earth and his fingers and face got all dirty. He fell in sleep on the ground in the middle of a bright and warm summer night.

Warmstone and Cone tried to talk to Shortpine, though evasively circling round the subject. Especially Warmstone attempted to hint carefully but this only made Shortpine feel even more miserable. When Warmstone approached him and sat near him, he became afraid of her. He feared that his hands or eyes might betray him. He felt that he was doing wrong to Cone by touching her or letting her touch him or even by merely looking at her.

So he ran away, cursing himself and mocking his own feelings. He sobbed alone in darkness and silence saying to himself that he would become crazy like a lone wolf, that he would become like Two-Spear, the ill-fated chief of the Wolfriders who had been banished from the tribe because of his madness (whom he actually had secretly admired a little at the howls and dreamberry nights, when stories were told, because of his determination and will to actively oppose the humans who had threatened the elves).

Fewer became those times when he was with his wolf-friend. They no longer played together, nor ran or practiced hunting or anything. Somehow, the wolf, too, could sense the great sorrow in his mind and tried, in his way, to console the elf. But Shortpine only got worse, so the wolf turned away from him, thinking that there was something wrong with him, that he was sick or something.

Even the Sun seemed to taunt him when it shone brightly upon Halfhill and gave warmth and light to those Wolfriders who enjoyed the opportunity to inactivity and leisure. The hunting was good so none really had to work hard. It should have been a pleasurable summer in all ways.

It became clear to many that Shortpine was bothered by something and many of those learned what it was. So they too tried to help him, his own mother foremost, not knowing that their comforting words and hands only made him more miserable. Every time he merely shook his head and turned away.

And yet, he just couldn't stay away from Warmstone. Every time when he looked at her and draw her scent in his nostrils, felt her closeness, it was as if the whole world had been dark, except that small area on which she stood under the shining sun.

He walked his head and shoulders down with only one thought in his mind. And that thought burned him from inside. Yet he never left his chores undone and always followed elders' orders. Apart from sleeping, those were the only times when his thoughts could clear a little because he had to concentrate on his doings.

It didn't take a long time before Warmstone realized that she had actually grown quite attached to Shortpine. In a way, this scared her. She found him rather handsome and attractive; perhaps even a match for Cone. This thought she wanted to discard but realized that she really couldn't. And, then again, why should she have; isn't that exactly what Cone had said?

Yet, she couldn't be sure of what will happen. Or how will Cone react? Would she have to choose? These thoughts bothered her but she kept them to herself.

The summer was changing to autumn. The time of berries and mushrooms came. Very slowly the trees started to change the colour of their leaves.

Shortpine began to spy on Warmstone and Cone. Without them knowing he watched and followed them. He didn't anymore know what he did, or bother to think about it; he only told himself that he loved her as if that could be an excuse for everything.

He had lost some weight. Others could see from his face that he had been crying. But then, one day, all came to change in an instant.

One afternoon Shortpine followed Warmstone and Cone to the forest. While wandering aimlessly they didn't know that their poor friend was tracking them and watched them from the foliage or undergrowth as he had done a few times before.

They sat on a tree trunk holding each other's hand. Shortpine couldn't hear what they conversed but he saw when they hugged each other and kissed. He watched as Cone leant to Warmstone's embrace; and she caressed and tickled him and he laughed and did the same to her.

This was too much for Shortpine. He turned his head away and wiped tears from his eyes. He lifted his head and stared at them for it was just as painful to look at them as it was not to look.

And then he saw the snake wriggling from behind the tree trunk on which his friends were sitting. The elf didn't have time to reach but the wolf within him acted swiftly. Shortpine sprang up from the bushes and run towards Cone and Warmstone screaming warnings to them. They barely had time to start and they didn't notice the danger before Shortpine snatched the snake up from the ground holding it from its tale. Without even stopping his hand's movent he tossed it softly away from them to the shadows of the forest knowing it would survive the fall and could easily wriggle away.

He stood there panting and couldn't say a word. Cone and Warmstone gasped and stepped to him.

She stood right before him and said, "You saved us."

But he shook his head and turned away. The lovemates could feel his shame as it seeped out from his unguarded mind. Soon they will ask, why I was here, he thought.

"You saved our lives," she repeated and caught hold of his hands and held them gently.

"It was nothing," he whispered and pulled his hands away from her reach.

"Nothing? It was nothing?" she yelled. Her face got red and she took a step towards him. Her eyes got wider and suddenly they were filled with fire and anger.

She stopped for awhile as if to calm herself. And then an idea quickly formed in her mind. This was a chance... the chance, the only one, to make Shortpine trust in himself, to give him strength to do, and especially say, what he wanted.

Then she raged again. "Nothing!" she screamed at his face and clutched his clothes and pulled him closer to her. "Does that mean that I mean nothing to you, as well? Answer me!" Her voice was hard.

She glanced quickly behind her to see Cone but Cone no longer was there. He had disappeared and left her alone with Shortpine; perhaps it was better this way, perhaps Cone had thought the same as she had.

But Shortpine couldn't answer her. He looked to his feet and sobbed. She pulled the hair slide from her hair and forced him to look at it. Shortpine recognized his handiwork and Warmstone quietly thanked the High Ones that she had been wearing it today.

"Does this mean anything to you?"

"I... I'm..." But he couldn't continue.

She took his hand and this time he was too weak to resist. She pulled him to the tree trunk and they both sat on it.

"You made this for me, remember? Why did you do it?" Shortpine tried to turn away but Warmstone forced him to look at her. She demanded an answer but, once again, as many times before, he just couldn't say it.

Warmstone stared at the poor wretched sobbing elf. The way he looked so helpless made her really angry. She grabbed his shoulders and forced him to look at her, and she screamed at him again, "Why don't you say it? Say that you want to be my lovemate! Why can't you just say it?" There were tears in her eyes, too.

Shortpine looked at her in bewilderment. She wanted him to ask? But he couldn't, he just couldn't say it. He looked at her with watering eyes and felt her compassion.

She pulled him closer to her and embraced him; and hold him softly in her arms. He seemed to her so fragile that she might easily break him. It felt good to him and to her as well, like the world had stopped between one heartbeat and the next, and everything was incredibly right at that moment. She stroked his hair and ears. And after an endless moment she whispered to his left ear, "I want to be your lovemate. Would you be mine?" It was a confirmation to her, much more than to him; and something that she needed, not he.

Shortpine raised his head and looked at her with his large eyes. But no longer were they full of sadness and pain. He smiled gently and wiped the tears from his eyes to his sleeve and answered her; not by whispering words but sending feelings. It was a flood of joy which entered her mind. He was about to tell her his soulname but she gently placed her finger on his lips and told him to keep it to himself, at least, for now.

It was far from being the first time they had embraced each other, but it was different this moment. There was much more than mere liking between them. They pulled apart and gazed at each other and shared their agonies, for one was afraid of loosing a friend and the other of loosing a lovemate. They tried together to send to Cone but they couldn't reach him for he was out of sending range. "I... I was afraid to tell you... to ask you," Shortpine began but Warmstone gestured him to stop and whispered, "Shh, I understand. Don't think of it any more! All is well now." She, too, told Shortpine how it had been with her.

They sat against each other holding hands together. And they could've gone on doing it forever for it felt good and they loved each other.

Before they stood up, Shortpine picked up the hair slide, which had dropped to the ground, and cleaned it and placed it carefully to Warmstone's hair.

They left holding each other's hands and walked back to Halfhill. The elders were preparing the meal. They were happy when they saw Shortpine and Warmstone coming together. The most delicious pieces were offered to the lovemates. They hardly noticed them, as they hardly noticed anything around them. But some elders noticed that Cone didn't show up and were uneasy because of that.

After the meal Warmstone and Shortpine went away again. Warmstone guided her lovemate through the woods to the top of a slope which faced the setting sun. Was this a place where she and Cone had been together, Shortpine wondered but dared not ask in fear of breaking the enchantment which surrounded them when they watched the beautiful sun.

They lay together on a bed of moss. Warmstone rubbed her other cheek against Shortpine's. Their bodies twined and the air was filled with gentle words.

Suddenly a dark figure appeared from the bushes and crawled next to them. They didn't notice him until he hugged them both. He kissed them and held them in his hands.

"Cone!" they both exclaimed.

"You didn't expect for Freefoot, did you". And he grinned widely.

Together they fell on the moss with a joyous laughter.

A terrible summer was changing into a wonderful autumn. The two moons rose and shone upon the three young elves who were celebrating their lovemating. Little did they know that they were also celebrating their lifemating.