©2018 Sharon Darby
Published on stormrise.com on January 5, 2005
Part 1

'Why?' The cub rose sputtering to the surface of the water. 'Why me? What have I done to deserve this?' Young Clay coughed to clear his airway and clawed at the silver locks plastered to his face. You were born. The cold voice of reason whispered the unwanted answer. Tears stung his eyes as he looked down at his reflection. The image rippled slowly as he treaded water to stay afloat. Did the truth always have to hurt?

* * *

Glade was sitting outside her family's den lost in thought when small hands thrust a piece of earthenware under her nose. "Momma! Look what I made! All by myself!" Clay flushed with pride as he presented his mother with the misshapen bowl. The elfess arched an eyebrow as she took the piece and inspected the cub's handiwork. Even though she was biased in her opinion, it was obvious that her son's skills were improving.

"Really? All by yourself, hmm?" Clay nodded fiercely, and Glade smiled. Thornbriar had begun teaching his son his craft as soon as the cub was able to walk. "Well, then, young potter, I'd say your masterpieces are going to be famous one day." She ruffled her cub's unruly silver hair as she rose to place the new item amongst her growing collection.

Clay looked after his mother in awe. "Do you really think so?" The moment passed and he clapped his mud caked hands together in glee. Papa had showed him which clay to use, and gave some advice, but he had made this one without his father's helping hands. And Momma liked it! The cub rushed off to make another one, vowing to make it better than the last.

Amber eyes narrowed in anger as the scene played out before them. Thistle watched unseen as his mother bestowed yet another token of fondness to his poor excuse of a brother. It was painfully clear which of her children Glade favored. It wasn't fair! That whelp ruined everything! Thistle snarled as he recalled the days before his mother Recognized for the second time. His family life had been safe, secure, and full of love. Now, that love was divided.

His father had never fully reclaimed his mother's love once she had joined with another. Neither had he. Thistle had had enough of being second-best in his mother's heart. It was time he did something about that Clay. A wicked grin twisted his features as he plotted his revenge. The young elf slipped from his hiding spot and followed his half-brother to the banks of the Lifegiver.

Clay hummed happily to himself as he collected the materials for his next project. He knelt at the edge of the river, digging up the soft clay that lay beneath the water's edge. Once he was satisfied with the lump he had gathered, he retreated to the dry shore. "This one's gonna be the best ever!" he said softly as he began to mold the wet earth.

"Well, well, well. If it isn't my baby brother." Thistle kept the sneer out of his greeting – barely. No use scaring the brat yet. He strolled confidently towards the unsuspecting pup.

"Thistle! Look! I'm making a jar for Momma!" Clay held up the half-formed mass for his brother to see. He cocked his head thoughtfully when he caught the glimpse of…something...veiled in the amber gaze. "Do you want me to make you one too?" The question was cautious, but full of hope.

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