by Pook

The forest in Ashenvale was still, quiet. Quiet except for a few sounds, cutting across the air like punctuation. The surface of the large, still lake rippled as a rock was tossed in, water rushing up around it as it hit, making a noise which was quickly followed by a high giggle.

A very small Elven girl crouched by the edge of the water, completely naked and smeared with grime. Her hair was tangled, hanging in her face and full of twigs and mud, almost completely obscuring the few hints of blue that managed to show through. Her wide glowing violet eyes watched the rocks as they plunged in, and then laughed uproariously at the sound.

There was a rustling of brush behind her. She stopped, still, and scented the air, her little nose twitching.

Unseen by her, a large striped Nightsaber fixed her with its gaze, watching her and its surroundings as it drew closer. With a final bound the animal was upon her, its wide, fanged mouth closing around the back of her neck.

The girl went limp without a hint of surprise, her face screwed up into what looked like a frown of regret, or perhaps a pout. "Rrrow..." the girl said as she let herself be dragged away from the lake quickly and placed in a large hollow log. The Saber paced anxiously, looking out into the trees until it caught sight of a flash of movement. It went absolutely still, crouching low and growling. The Elven girl squirmed as far back as she could into the log, blinking widely. A large beetle crawled over her shoulder and she popped it in her mouth, chewing on it thoughtfully.

There was a brown streak and the Saber was suddenly knocked aside, roaring and thrashing against another large Cat of some kind, the girl had never seen one like it. It wasn't striped at all, and all around its head it had long, shaggy fur. As the Saber was occupied fighting the other Cat, a huge, dark hand like hers except it only had a few large fingers as opposed to her...lots... reached into the log, closing around her ankle and swiftly drawing her out. She thrashed and growled, her fingers hooked like claws and flailing as she was lifted high in the air, upside down. Large brown eyes blinked at her incredulously, the brow furrowed.

"Kee?" The furry creature's voice rumbled, lower even than her mother's purr. Even swinging in the air and fighting as fiercely as a small and very much overpowered little Elf girl could fight, all skinny flailing limbs and snarling bravado, she noted that he stood up on two legs like she did. Once in a while she saw other creatures on two legs that looked more like her, but her mother usually dragged her away before she could get a good look. Sometimes they threw fast pointy sticks at her mother. One time her mother had been hit in the leg by a pointy stick and couldn't walk for a week and she'd had to bring her what food she could, mostly bugs. She wasn't fast enough to catch squirrels or rabbits yet like her mother could, but her mother always shared. But the things she saw weren't like this one. This one was furry, and BIG. And up close, and glaring at her.

It took something like a big tangly vine and wrapped it around her ankles, and then around her wrists, and then she was flung over its shoulder and held there with one huge, powerful hand. It lumbered through the forest, coming to a cleared path, and then picked up a set of bags with its other hand. The bags squirmed and made all kinds of strange sounds, mewlings and growls and yip-yip. The creature looked back, and she saw that it had large, pointy horns. It made a high, piercing sound that hurt her ears and the big cat came running through the trees back to his side. She noticed it had long scratches down one hip, and she growled, satisfied that her mother had hurt it, but then started to frown worriedly as the creature that had captured her started to run. It had feet sort of like deer feet on long legs that moved at a ground-eating lope, quickly taking her out of the parts of the forest that she was familiar with. Away from the den and the lake with the pebbles and her mother. She tried hard to bite the creature, but it had some kind of hard shell that tasted like tough, funny skin and her teeth didn't even scratch it. Finally, helplessly, she started to sniffle as large, wet tears dripped down her face and the creature's back.

What seemed like forever later she was jolted awake, having sobbed and thrashed herself to sleep, by being slung off the creature's shoulder and into some kind of hanging...thing, made of thick branches that she couldn't quite get between. There were other creatures like the one who'd taken her, all varying shades of dark, making surprised and interested noises as they gathered around to peer and poke at her. She snapped, trying to bite the huge, thick fingers that came close, and they all made a laughy-sound. Some of the smaller creatures hung back, gathering things or scrubbing things or tossing things into water over the burny heat-thing, and the smallest ones ran around their ankles and tumbled over one another like cubs. One of them picked up a stick and used it to try to poke her, and she caught the stick in her mouth and tugged at it, growling. This drew more laughy-sounds.

After a while the creatures mostly drifted away, and she saw other, smaller closing-branches things below her with a small wolf, a few small Sabers, a bird in them. Many of the large, furry creatures had animals like the brown cat she'd seen before and wolves that stayed near and snapped up bits of things tossed their way. A single, small furred creature sat on the ground, staring up at her as she looked down at it. It was smaller than all the rest, although still quite a bit larger than her. She growled at it, baring her teeth fiercely, but it just made a laughy-sound. After a while it wandered away, and when it came back it put something inside the closed branches with her. It looked like a fish, but was dark and smelled very good. She snapped it up, eating it messily, a process that involved smearing it over her whole face. The small creature watched this, baring its teeth in a gesture that didn't seem very angry, until one of the larger ones yelled something at it and it scurried away.

As the night went on, the largest of the creatures gathered around the glowing burny, the light shining orange off their dark fur and their horns. They made loud noises at each other, some of them growling and angry, others more quietly but with frowning looks. They kept pointing towards her, and out into the night. The one who had brought her had its arms wrapped together, making no noises, just watching the others. As it went on the noises they made got louder, and the swinging of their arms got bigger, and some of them started pushing the others. Finally the one who brought her stepped into the middle of them and swung his arm VERY hard at the face of another one, knocking him to the ground. The noises got a lot quieter after that, and their heads all nodded, and they split off and moved away into the night, to lie on the ground or into flimsy caves around the area.

The Elven girl curled in on herself, staring out into the night. She pulled the end of one of her long ears down and started to gnaw on it fretfully. After a time the smallest of the creatures came out again, barely illuminated by the dying embers of the fire, and settled down to watch her again.

She blinked down at the creature curiously, tilting her head, scenting to see if it had any more fish. "Rrrow?"

The creature blinked, startled, and got up to come closer. "Row?" was the noise it made at her in return.

She blinked a few more times, deliberately, and then tilted her head the other way, a lock of her tangled hair falling into her face. "Rrrow?"

The creature bared its teeth and she scurried back against the far branches, but it didn't seem to notice her alarm. It reached up and started doing something to the front branches, unwrapping thin strips of vines, and then suddenly pulled the branches open. The Elven girl quickly slipped out to freedom, seeing her chance, and then crouched on the ground, watching the creature with darting, glowing eyes. She gnawed on the tip of her ear anxiously, and the creature inched closer until it finally reached out and poked the tip of her other ear.

The Elf wasn't sure how she felt about this. "Prrrow?" She said questioningly, eyeing the creature with suspicion.

Its eyes widened, and then it ran off again. Soon afterwards it returned with another fish, smaller than before, but held out at the end of outstretched fingers. She fell on the fish, chewing it with relish and the creature watched her, making low sounds, its hand patting her head cautiously.

She made a purring noise, butting her head into its hand, and it watched her incredulously. After a time it picked up a branch and tossed it a ways away, and then pointed at it, making a noise. She went and got the stick, holding it out to him with a puzzled expression, and it made a laughy-noise.

The two of them chased around for a while, and sometimes it would send her out after something, pointing to it, and she'd bring it back. At one point it tossed a rock into some water and she was overtaken by a fit of giggles at the sound.

"Pook!" she said, imitating the sound.

"Pook!" the small creature hooted, and they ran around in circles, jumping and playing.

Suddenly there was a deep, roaring shout, and the creature that had captured her came into view, waving his arms angrily. He grabbed the arm of the small creature hard, swinging and hitting it in the face with a resounding smack that made the Elven girl flinch. He left the small creature in a sniffling, bawling heap and took a few long strides towards her, reaching out, making angry noises.

There was a different roar, one much more familiar, and her mother leaped over her head, her long fangs digging into the throat of the large creature. The little Elf cried out happily at seeing her, but there were a lot more voices and noises stirring now from the other creatures, alerted by all the noise. Her mother darted back to her side, leaving the large creature thrashing on the ground and holding its throat, and nudged her with her nose, leaving a bloody smear on her shoulder. The little Elf climbed onto her back, wrapping gangly arms around her neck.

As her mother scrambled off into the night, heading back for the line of trees in the distance, she looked back at the little creature. It was standing, watching them run off into the depth of the dark and the night, holding its face as its shoulders heaved. "Pook," it said mournfully, but it was quickly hauled away by the arm by one of the slighter creatures, back to the flimsy caves.

That season, she and her mother moved their den and their hunting grounds higher into the hills, more towards the white lands. There were less creatures that walked on two legs there, and less troubles.

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