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Geneviève had gotten used to being alone.

When she first came to the Tides, there was nothing and no one to keep her company. There were groups, yes, but she kept her distance from them, wary of the rumors she had heard on the wind. At times, the prospect was alluring, if only because she was not nearly the survivalist that the land demanded. Many a sleepless, hungry night made her acutely aware of this. She grew thin and spindly, a shadow of her former self, of the pampered life she had lived in Portland —

That was long dead and buried, and for good reason, Evie reminded herself.

In her solitude, she grew stronger. Slowly but surely, weak flesh hardened to muscle, dull senses sharpened to instinct. Far from a masterful huntress, she was, at least, self-sufficient.

A rest by a nearby stream gave her a brief glimpse into what she had become. The rippled surface was a glimmering mirror, and she almost recoiled at the sight.

She looked awful.

It was her hair, Evie knew. Stringy and dingy, she looked like an old woman, all gray and shriveled up. Disgusted, she brought the knife from the makeshift garter at her thigh; but when she brought it to her mane, still she hesitated.

I'll just make it worse, she thought. But really, could it get much worse?

Slowly, foolishly, she cut away at her long locks, split ends sawed into an uneven line. The wild flyaways framing her face, pretty in their own way, were sliced straight across into blunt bangs that looked unnatural.

Oh, god, I made it worse.

When she looked back at her reflection, seeing some horrible, gaudy-looking harpy gawking back at her, Evie was ashamed at how her first reaction was to hold back a sob.

Nothing was going right. Nothing had ever gone right since she came here — as if it had even been a choice to begin with.

[+3]
for battalion! :)
Battalion had been having a good day. She had a full belly (courtesy of a few days at New Caledonia), she had slept well (courtesy of same), and she was ready to take on the world (you guessed it: thanks New Caledonia!). The day was already starting out better than most days since she had left the traders. She didn't need to hunt or find a place to sleep right away. There was just... free time to think for a bit. Eventually, she'd need to do something productive, but having the luxury to relax even a little bit was nice. Then something gave her cause to pause.

At first, when she saw the other girl with dagger held in hand, she was a bit worried. There wasn't prey there or anything else obvious for which to draw a dagger. Was the other canine going to harm herself? The concept was not unfamiliar to her, though she thought almost all wolves had a self-preservation instinct that overrode it. Her heart clenched at the thought and she considered whether she should intervene. Before she could even decide whether trying to act would make things better or worse for the other wolf, the dagger moved.

She watched carefully and saw the dagger go to the stranger's disheveled mane. Well, that was reassuring. Bat smiled a bit to herself, feeling her good humor return... but there was still an air of dissatisfaction to the air. Something was wrong. It wasn't as if the bedraggled canine was sitting there happily adjusting her hairstyle. The stranger was... distressed. It was obvious in her body language, in her demeanor, even in the care that she was clearly not giving her body for grooming and food. It wasn't exactly Bat's responsibility to do anything. It felt wrong to just leave, though. Especially when the other female seemed to be of a similar age to her and - if anything - looked even more in need of aid than she did out here in the wilds. They were kindred spirits, the wolf thought, and her plans for the day pivoted.

Tali purposefully made her steps obvious as she walked toward the stranger, not wanting to startle her, especially while the other wolf held a dagger. She didn't want it thrown at her or harming the unknown female on accident. "Hey... do you need help?" she asked. Bat kept her shoulders low, her hands in front of her and well away from her weapon, and her ears back. Her body language was doing its best to say I am no threat.

Sulking had been a mistake — much like everything else she had done on her journey thus far — and left her open and vulnerable. Vultures could smell it in the air, her distress, and could pick at festering wounds like carrion if she wasn't careful; and it did seem as though such a fate befell her when the voice called out, giving themselves away.

Evie's pink gaze, wide, fearful, locked onto the newcomer instantly, and she started, her hands clutching the dagger close.

It was a woman, though this did not give her much comfort. She kept her distance, her stance open and nonthreatening, and the wolfess's ears swiveled forward at her words.

Quickly, as an afterthought, she wiped away the wetness at her eyes.

"I — " Her voice came out like a squeak, and she restarted with some difficulty, "No. I am fine."

It was said with all of the confidence of a girl that was very much not fine. And one that now had a laughable haircut, to boot.

She gave the other female a brief lookover, and she absently wiped her free hand against the dirt, freeing it of the stray bits of hair stuck to her paw pads.

"Who wants to know?"

[+2]
Battalion flicked her ears back once in silent apology as the other girl started. The dagger stayed held near, which the wolf had expected. Actually, if the bedraggled stranger had lowered it, she would've been both confused and concerned. It wasn't wise to drop a weapon when someone approached that you didn't know. A loner who didn't know that was a loner who would die quickly to someone with ill intent. This one was at least interested in staying alive. That was good.

She tipped her head slightly and narrowed one eye in a skeptical way at what the other canine said. Tali was absolutely certain that the other was not fine. Again that moral dilemma that kept creeping up in her: was it her problem? Of course it wasn't. She didn't have to solve anyone else's woes. Hell, she had enough woes that would come jumping back at her soon enough. Bat was aware that she was only buoyed temporarily by New Caledonia's good will. As a loner, one's woes came home to roost far quicker than someone in a pack. There was no one to help buffer them back into oblivion.

"My name's Battalion, although most call me either Bat or Tali. Sometimes Leon, but I feel like it's the least popular nickname for some reason." she shrugged. It was rare she gave her full name when first meeting someone, but she felt a sense of kinship with the bedraggled stranger. This felt like what she could become herself if she was alone longer. Though she had started to make connections in the area, at least, even if she didn't decide to reside in New Caledonia.

The loner figured she should ask: "What do you prefer to be called?" she wasn't really great at leading a conversation, since she hadn't done it much. At the very least she knew it was polite to ask a name, though. She was the one who had initiated contact, anyway, so she should be putting in the effort to make the conversation work.

She gave her name freely — a strong name, militant and powerful, and her inoffensive natural seemed to undermine this in the brief seconds Evie had even known of her existence at all. The contrarian in her wanted to embrace the lesser-used nickname, though she decided against it, just as she decided against giving her full name in kind.

"I am Evie."

Ginny or Vivi had been alternatives once long ago, cute pet names given by her parents in a lifetime far away from this one, and she intended to let those stay back in Portland.

Despite herself, the dutchwoman gave Tali a wry smile.

"You are not here to accost me?" she asked, a rhetorical question.

"Or are you here to point and laugh? It is dreadful." She ran a hand through her mangled hair pitifully to prove her point.

In any other circumstance she would have sought to pull herself up with faux self-assurance, but Evie was far too tired and bereft of any civilized airs to play pretend today.

"There are no good stylists in the wild."

She tried to play it off as a joke, but the reality of it was painfully felt.

[—]
It didn't matter to Bat if Evie was the girl's name, nickname, chosen on the spot alias, or permanent moniker. It was a name and it was what Evie wanted to be called. That was enough for the tall-earred wolf. "Good to meet you." she said with a bob of her head. Not a pleasure because that would imply that hanging out with someone drooping with distress was pleasant. There were certainly canines out there that thought so, she was sure, but she wasn't one of them.

She shook her head in affirmation that she was not there to accost Evie, though she didn't make an actual remark about it. It seemed a toss away comment since it was followed directly by what she thought was really more concerning to the other loner. Obviously she had been trying to do something with her mane and it had gone awry. The blue-eyed wolf assessed what she could see of the other female's tresses with an unskilled eye.

"I can't say I'm an expert on style, I'm rather the opposite actually... but even if I was, I wouldn't point and laugh. What are you trying to get it to look like?" perhaps there was some way she could help. Especially if it was about balancing the way it looked on each side. That was hard to do when you couldn't look straight on at your own face. Water distorted and also one had to lean to look into it. Both things that effected how the style looked.
Surprisingly, Tali was not interested in poking fun at her, even when the opportunity was staring her in the face; Evie was not entirely sure how to approach the other wolf's mild-mannered curiosity, a budding good samaritan in the making, though she had a feeling that between the two of them, neither knew much about taming hair at all.

"Oh, I don't know," she waved her hand dismissively, looking back at the fractured reflection of the stream, pastel eyes hardened with frustration and disgust at what she saw.

Her words were genuine: truly, Evie wasn't sure what her intentions were to begin with, knowing full well that her untrained hand would only cause more damage that fixing much of anything. She had discovered that she became more impulsive when she was on her own, no doubt an an instinct hinging on the innate desire to survive, but this lack of judgement seeped into other areas, too.

Ones that, ultimately, did not matter — it was just hair — but upset her all the same.

"I don't know. I don't know lots of things these days."

What she did know, at least, that waffling around in self-deprecation would not make it any easier for either of them to skirt past her bad hair day and pretend that it wasn't there.

"Are you alone? It is quiet in these parts, by yourself."

[+2]
Battalion probably couldn't have helped style or shape the other girl's mane basically at all. First, she didn't know anything about cutting hair. As her own hair would attest: it was mostly just as nature had intended it with the occasional quick chop off the ends to keep it from getting too long. Perhaps there were those in New Caledonia who could do things with hair. Certainly they were humanized enough for it... she really didn't care about her hair, though. It grew, it was put up if it was in her face, the end. Her looks had never mattered much to her.

Evie's looks seemed to matter a lot to Evie, though. "Well, I think it looks interesting, at least. I can say I've never seen a haircut quite like that, which makes it stand out. Perhaps you'll start a trend." she suggested, though she wasn't sure if it was actually reassuring. Getting others to feel better wasn't exactly in her wheelhouse. The traders never would've even admitted their feelings of sadness to her, much less expected her to help them feel better. She was doing her best and hoping it didn't actually make Evie feel worse somehow.

"You and me both." she said in reply to Evie feeling she didn't know anything at all. That was how she often felt, especially around here where things were... different. Both from where she had been born and where she had been raised. Though there were probably wolves here that were similar to both groups, too. She just hadn't met them yet. Hopefully she could stick to the nicer sorts like New Caledonia.

As to being alone... "Yes, for now. Although I think I'm going to join a pack, soon. Being alone kinda... sucks, a lot of the time. Although it sounds like some of the packs around here might kinda suck sometimes too. Especially avoid... um... something something Gang. They don't like anyone who looks like a wolf." she replied with a twitch of her tail. "What about you, traveling alone?" hopefully that came across as the innocent question it was and not an attempt to pry information that could cause Evie harm. Bat knew her paranoia would have been going off at such a question, but she also knew she was very paranoid. Not everyone was.

A trend, she said. Evie stared at her, deadpan, like it hadn't registered; but then, despite herself, despite her wallowing, she laughed.

"A girl can only hope," she returned easily, choosing to take it in good humor. There was still a pointed discomfort in the way she sat by the stream, cheerless and disheveled as she was, but Evie decided to seize the moment of levity instead of letting it pass her by.

Too many days had passed by in misery, she thought. And though this was, indeed, quite miserable for her, having someone to share in it made the bite not so harsh.

"I always told my mother I was destined for something great. This is my big break."

It was a bitter thought, in hindsight. She put the knife away, slipping it, with some difficulty, back into the sheath at her thigh.

"The Gang — I have heard of them. There are others, too."

The thought of joining up with one of the packs in the area had been a prevailing one. It certainly would've made getting through the winter a much easier endeavor, but there was something that held her back, a hesitation she could not quite place.

"Yes. Sometimes it is easier to not have to deal with others, but... well. Then no one can hold me accountable before I make rash decisions, no?"

With the summer sun beating down on them, Evie swung her legs over the bank of the gurgling stream, slowly dipping her toes into the cool water. As an afterthought, she gestured to the grass next to her, wordlessly offering Battalion a seat if she was so inclined.

"There is a knight pack, to the south, if you are a fighter. I have not seen it myself, but they had members stationed in Portland when I lived there." Although the prospect had not been exactly enticing to Evie herself. She was far from one particularly skilled at combat.

[+3]
Tali was relieved when Evie laughed at her words. She had been afraid it might just remind the stranger of how different it was that it could stand out enough to start a trend. The laughter broke some of the tension that had bound itself around their meeting, though. The female swayed her tail a bit and gave a smile of her own. Though she didn't dwell on the words or say anything further on that matter. It was clear that Evie would prefer to move on from her haircut. Since Battalion wasn't a stylish wolf, she didn't have much else to say anyway.

When she spoke of her mother, the other loner seemed sad. Bat tipped her head slightly. "My mother always told me I would become a rabbit. It's the ears." she said with a gesture at her overlong ears. They weren't actually bunny length, but it had been an affectionate thing to say. Back when her mother loved her. Back when her mother cared. Her gaze drifted upward in sad nostalgia for a brief flicker, then returned to Evie.

There were pros and cons to the loner life. Mostly, she found them to be cons. But she had lived a loner-like lifestyle for a long time. Roaming, always roaming. Trying to find things and trade things and sell things and have just a touch of company before she was on her way again. She was tired of it. The girl no longer wanted to be merely a passing memory for everyone she met. She wanted to be someone they sought out, spent time with, remembered. Battalion had never wanted to be anything important, just someone with enough connections to not be forgotten.

"I fear the winter without shelter from the storms. I figure I'll find a place to live before that." though really, she was rather set on a certain place already, she didn't want to tell Evie about that. Especially since she wasn't sure and they had just met. "I'm not much for rash decisions, though. More the fretting and worrying before making no decision at all type." she said with a self-deprecating laugh.

When offered a spot beside Evie, she gladly took it. It was easier to chat sitting like that than spread out as they had been. She dipped her own toes in the water, enjoying the cool contrast to the sun's warmth. A knight pack. Casa di ... Cabaneri? Something like that. She really wasn't great at remembering the names of places, she needed to work on that if she was staying in one place for a long time. "I've heard of them, a little bit. They sound alright. Although I am definitely not a fighter... I should probably work on that, but I don't think they'd want me to stay there." and she already knew where she wanted to go. The thought wasn't leaving her.

"Portland, huh? Did you like it there?" obviously not well enough to stay, but she did like to hear what others thought of the places they were raised. Mostly because she had so little to say about her own birth pack. Although Evie hadn't said she was born in Portland so it was entirely possible that wasn't where she had lived her whole life before coming here.