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Quote:Hunter Prompt: Discover an animal that often calls New Caledonia home and keep note for future hunts!

+305 words

There was so much to learn that it was making Bat a little... well, batty. She had been spending most of her time getting settled into the humanized way of living that seemed most prevalent in New Caledonia. There were so many horses and other domesticated animals. Four walls are where most wolves seemed to spend most of their days, surrounded by their belongings or their cooking or their sewing or their alcohol or... it made her dizzy to think of all of it. It had made her feel panicky that morning and so she had left the area.

She was still within the territory of New Caledonia - she had no intention of leaving the borders for a while - but wasn't near the heavily populated area. Instead, she had her nose to the ground and was following a trail in the River Valley. Battalion was on four legs and happy for it. It felt right, to be following something through her pack's lands to see where they frequented. There was a water source nearby so there were a lot of animal scents, actually. Of course prey creatures and predators alike came to the river to drink. Water was life. Water sustained them all.

The specific scent that she was following smelled like a bigger deer. Probably elk? She had never tracked an elk. At least, not as an adult. Her parents might have had her follow an elk before, but if so she didn't remember. Certainly Battalion wasn't going to take down an elk by herself, but tracking their movement was something the pack could find useful. If there was one thing she felt she needed to do, it was make sure she was incredibly useful in as many ways as possible. Tali would give them no reason to toss her out on her tail.
[Image: wolfmoon.gif] Heartstring Word of the Day - 5 August 22 noun | the deepest emotions or affections



Location: the River Valley || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime



A soft melody, something that thrummed her heartstrings and which she associated with the quiet, warm, tender days of her puphood, hummed between her closed lips as she stepped through Lebennin  on springy legs. Her song — a simple tune that she thought must have come from her father, though she could not definitively place the memory — was accompanied by the gentle trickling of the river and the occasional chirping of a bird. Cacophonous, perhaps, to the ears of some. Symphonic to those of the Lady of Dawn.

With a woven basket — a crudely-made thing that her father had attempted and looking about ready to unwind at any moment — hanging from the crook of her elbow, its belly lined with emerald witch-hazel leaves, Sólveig skipped over one narrow stream only to step gleefully into the soothing waters of the next. She moved seemingly with neither purpose nor care, but she knew what she was looking for.

"Oh! Sorry, little flutterby," she said sweetly to the handsome swallowtail butterfly she had inadvertently disturbed from its feast. Perhaps Sóli could have taken better care, but she was nothing if not penitent.

Pausing to watch the buttery butterfly flutter by, Sólveig's eyes caught movement in the River Valley beyond it and focused intently on the Lupus-shaped figure that she spied. It was not someone she knew, but perhaps... had she seen them before? They seemed to be making no effort to conceal themself from other Caledonians, but past experiences made her wary. Instantly, Sóli found herself wishing that she had asked Inga or Naomi or Dorian or even Reblin to join her.

Closing her eyes a moment to steel her nerves, the Lady of Dawn scrunched up her face, balled her fists, and stood firm. And then she waved an arm and called out to the figure in the near distance.

"Hello!" she howled, hoping that she didn't look as stilted and anxious as she felt. "Are you tracking something?"



[WC -- 335]

OOC:
+351 words

IC:
Her ears perked when someone called out and she raised her head to look at them. There were scents of wolves all over the place and so she hadn't tried to follow one of those. Nor had she worried about them. They were all packmates now... or should be. Hm, perhaps she shouldn't have been so single-minded in her focus. Perhaps she should've spread her awareness to the wolves that could be nearby, too. Especially since she might need to assess their threat level. Being in pack lands didn't guarantee safety. It just made it far more likely.

The wolf she spotted seemed... sunny. She was lightly hued and looked perhaps a bit stiff in stance? Not uncomfortable, though. Just... perhaps anxious? It was hard to read from a distance like this. Body language was annoying that way. The one area she found words were actually superior to body language. At least across a distance you could speak and clearly understand tone still. Across space like this, her eyes didn't pick up on the subtleties of what the body was saying. Then again, it also made her feel more at ease because the other wolf couldn't clearly see where she was looking, so she didn't have to worry she was being insulting. Though she did make sure her eyes weren't focused on the other's face for long anyway.

"Hullo! Yes, elk, I think. I haven't hunted one before, but it smells like... big deer, so I'm pretty sure that's what it is." she said with a wiggle of her nose as she considered the scent again. "Care to join me?" she asked, waving her tail in a friendly way. Although perhaps it would be awkward, with her on four legs and the other wolf on two? They didn't have to be on the same mission, though, to spend time together. They could talk and walk. That was assuming the other Caledonian wanted to be around Bat. Perhaps she had other plans or simply didn't want company; neither would insult the Commoner, though she was eager to get to know her packmates.
Location: the River Valley || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime



Trying to will the tension out of her limbs, Sóli began to close the distance between them with flowing, fluid steps. The anxiety was still there, though, and present in the way the handle of the basket dug into the meat of her forearm for how tightly she clutched it; in the way the line of her jaw was just a little too pronounced as she clenched her teeth; in the way she held her shoulders subtly, but stiffly, peaked.

Some Luperci seemed to have no trouble at all with deception and dishonesty. Sólveig Dawnrunner was not among them. Try as she might (and try she most certainly did), the High Lady was terrible at keeping her emotions concealed, which was part and parcel with the overall challenge of telling lies and being misleading.

She couldn't tell if the Lupus-shaped woman was convinced by her efforts or not, but as she neared her Sóli finally did begin to relax. Her nose twitched, drawing in the scents of the woman. And in them, she caught subtle scent notes of known packmates and places within the Realm. Surely she belonged here, then. She was maybe just new. Sólveig mirrored the friendly wave of her tail with the same action.

"Elk?" she asked, at once eagerly interested. "Sure! If-if you don't think that I'll be in the way, of course," she replied with a sheepish smile. "I do most of my 'tracking' for plants." A light giggle followed this added explanation. "My name is Sólveig Dawnrunner, High Lady of Dawn and a member of the Circle of Athelas. You're new to the Realm, aren't you?"



[WC -- 284]
OOC: Please lmk if any PPs related to Bat's scent are no bueno! I'm happy to edit!
OOC:
+452 words

IC:
Bat watched the other female come closer with careful eyes. She made sure she wasn't looking near the fair wolf's face, her gaze carefully kept nearer to the Lady's shoulder once she was nearer. There were definite body language signs of apprehension in the other canine. Tali continued lightly wagging her tail, hoping it would show she meant no harm. Though she definitely understood feeling anxious when meeting someone new. She usually felt it, too. Though she had already felt herself becoming more comfortable here than before. Mostly she thought it was having a safe place to land and wolves that (in theory, at least) had her back.

She was glad when she saw the other wolf relax. It was good to know that her efforts were working. Though perhaps it was actually being near and knowing for sure that Battalion had the scents of New Caledonia on her. She hadn't just shown up. She had been here long enough to have met wolves and been around the residential areas. Bat thought that the other wolf's scent seemed familiar, too; it wasn't uncommon in New Caledonia. Obviously someone who had been here a while.

"Oh I am sure you won't be in the way at all! I'm happy for the company." she said. Tracking was often a lonesome thing, but it was easier when she was following a scent trail just for information instead of for hunting. There was no way she - or she and Solveig - would take down an elk all on their own. Unless they had a bow and were a very good aim. Even then, though, it was pretty risky to do with just two.

High Lady of Dawn... ah, a counterpart to Liam's High Lord of Dawn. She wasn't sure what the Circle of Athelas was, though. "Yes, I am very new. Battalion is my name. It is a pleasure to meet you Lady Solveig. If I may ask, what's the Circle of Athelas?" she had been given the initial information about hierarchy and New Caledonia culture, but she would need time before she'd remember all of it. Plus she was pretty sure no one had told her about this Circle.

She kept walking at a fairly leisurely pace along the scent trail, figuring she didn't need to keep up a quick pace now that she was talking while she worked. There was no real rush and they only needed to be quieter when they got really close. Then they wouldn't want to spook the elk or let on that they had followed its trail. Their tracking would be a waste if the elk decided to never go to its current spot again because wolves had found it.
Location: the River Valley || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime



The tempo of Sóli swaying tail picked up speed after the woman — Battalion, she would soon learn — expressed not only reassurance that her presence would not be a hindrance but also enthusiasm for the Dawnrunner's company. With a smile that bunched her cheeks and wrinkled the corners of her eyes, Sólveig regarded the darker woman mirthfully now. Nothing remained of the tension that had, only mere moments before, pinched at her mouth and stiffened her shoulders.

Already, the Dawn Lady thought of Battalion with friendship in mind.

"Oh!" she squeaked, instantly chagrined at being addressed by her title. Just Sólveig, please, Miss Battalion." A short, friendly laugh bubbled up her throat and bounced in the air between them. "Or Sóli, if you like." Canting her head gently to one side, she grinned sweetly through closed eyes.

Modesty, sometimes to degrees that, while not intentional, flirted with self-deprecation, had always been one of the sunny Dawnrunner's pitfalls. Although she was awarded with privileges fit for her elevated status in the Realm, Sólveig preferred to be thought of like all the others below her. She did not think so highly of herself that she felt the need to move into the King's Bastion, for example, and she certainly didn't want anyone to feel as though they had to call her Lady! She was just Sólveig: apprentice healer, keeper of bees, friend to all.

Falling easily in step with Battalion's leisurely pace, Sóli adjusted the basket at her elbow before looking up ahead with bright eyes and a cheery smile.

"Of course you may," she replied warmly, glancing down at the feral-shaped Commoner. "You're welcome to ask me any questions you can think of!" Again, she lifted her head. "The Circle of Athelas is one of the Realm's guilds. We're the healers and caretakers of New Caledonia— Oh!" A thought struck her then. "Has anyone told you about guilds yet?" Maybe that was where she should've started.



[WC -- 342]

OOC:
WC: 450

IC:
The tension seemed to release from the other wolf, which made Battalion feel better herself. There was never a need for someone else to feel nervous on her account. Making others feel comfortable was something she enjoyed doing, when she could. Especially since she herself was always a bundle of anxious feelings. That was her normal, though, and so she worked within it. There wasn't any other real choice when anxiety had such a firm grip on her. Though she had some half-formed hopes that being somewhere she was safe would make it easier to cope and the anxiety would lessen. Time would tell.

Just Sólveig, the High Lady insisted, then added a nickname option as well. Tali was pleased by this. It seemed that the good feeling that they might have a long term friendship forming might be mutual. Battalion was fitting into New Caledonia the way she had hoped, so far. There had been no one she really didn't like. That would definitely change, but she was happy it hadn't changed yet. "Then you'll have to call me by one of my nicknames, too. Bat, Tali, or Leon. Or a mix of the three! I like them all." she replied with a wag of her tail. Though she secretly hoped Soli would pick Leon, just because it was used less often.

It was nice to chat with someone while she tracked, it made the time pass faster and in a nicer way. Being alone was fine most of the time. She had never had company like this, though. In the trading troupe, they might have traveled with her, but they didn't usually talk to her much. Certainly they would've hated to answer questions. Even when she was littler and still learning how to exist among them, they had seemed annoyed at her questions. Slightly more patient than when she had gotten older.

Sólveig was sharing almost enthusiastically. She seemed eager to make sure that Battalion had the information she needed as a pack member to understand their structuring. Bat appreciated that. It was hard to get into a pack with so many layers to it as a newcomer. Though Liam would surely guide her if she asked, it was nice to have more than one wolf that would help her learn these things. "I know that a trading guild was sort of mentioned in passing, but I'll admit I don't know all that much about what it means. Sounds like it's... sort of a group with similar jobs? But not the same as a rank?" that was interesting. She would definitely look into the trading guild once she was allowed to join one; that was entirely her wheelhouse.
Location: the River Valley || NPCs: -- || Form: Optime



A burble of laughter bubbled out of Sólveig's mouth at the conditions that Battalion posed before she would call the Lady by a nickname. Mirth bright in her eyes, which squinted dramatically for the smile that bunched her cheeks, Sóli nodded emphatically.

"Okay!" she chirped. "It's a deal, Taleon— Oh!" Another peal of laughter erupted from her throat. "I meant to say Tali, but... well, I guess I got a little tongue-tied." She wagged her tail low and grinned apologetically at Battalion. "Do you collect nicknames? Because I think I just gave you a new one." Another, smaller, laugh.

With her basket bumping gently against a wide hip as she walked alongside her new friend, Sóli felt delightfully blissful. Was there anything better than meeting friendly new faces and learning about their lives? Well... Actually, there were a lot of wonderful things in the world that measured up to that, she supposed, but that was hardly the point. The point was Sóli was ever so grateful to be sharing this moment in the River Valley with Battalion.

"The New Caledonia Trading Company, yes," she confirmed with a smile, nodding. "There's also a guild of guardians called the Wraith's Teeth. They help to keep the Realm safe."

They hadn't been enough to stop the war, but Sólveig certainly didn't blame them. New Caledonia had been infiltrated and sabotaged from the inside out. Who would ever have suspected that members of their own pack could do something so terrible? As it turned out, none of them had. At least, not until it was too late.

Giving her head a gentle shake to free herself from her darker thoughts, the Lady blinked to clear her focus and looked at Battalion again.

"Similar jobs, yes, and similar interests, all meant to share a particular purpose," she continued. "And anyone can start a guild! You just need enough Caledonians with those specific jobs, and who support the purpose of the guild, in order to form it. And then you get a workshop and renown and a sense of accomplishment, too!" She grinned, clenching a fist at her chest with victorious flair. "Do you enjoy tracking a lot? Because I think that having a hunting or provisions guild would be wonderful for the Realm!"



[WC -- 390]
OOC: So sorry for the delay! D:
OOC:
No worries! ^_^

WC: 452

IC:
Battalion smiled at the Lady's nickname choice, because it was a literal mix of two of her nicknames. It wasn't one she had been called before which made it special between the two of them. Although perhaps it'd catch on. Bat didn't plan to put it "into the rotation" when she gave her nickname, though, so it might just be something between her and Solveig. "I love it. My collection does seem to be growing." she said with a wag of her tail. Taleon was kind of nice. A good mix of Tali and Leon. Okay, maybe she would start using it regularly. Though she also really liked the idea of having a nickname just one wolf called her.

New Caledonia Trading Company... not a super original name, but it certainly made its point. It was probably better to have it less fanciful since it was going to be the most obvious of their guilds outside of the pack. Even if they'd given it a different name, it would probably have defaulted to being called that anyway. At least by outsiders. She thought it would be neat to have a secret name for it inside the pack. It wasn't her call, though. The Wraith's Teeth sounded as fierce as its purpose suggested. Guardians of the pack, she wondered if Tora was one of those. Perhaps that was among the reasons he patrolled the borders.

There was a brief lull and Bat wondered if she should've interjected to ask a question. All that had been said so far seemed straightforward though, and when she looked over at Solveig the other wolf seemed distracted. Something was weighing on her mind. Tali flicked her eras. It wasn't her place to ask what was troubling Solveig. They had only just met. Perhaps someday, they would be close enough that she'd feel fine disrupting the other female's thoughts. For now she stuck to tracking the elk, figuring the High Lady would speak again when she was ready.

The explanation came soon enough of what the guilds did. Though it seemed odd to her that it was the guilds that drove one's purpose - and a desire for renown - over one's rank. New Caledonia was certainly very different from her birth pack. Then again, so were most packs she had experienced in any way. "I love to track and hunt, it's one of my favorite hobbies." she replied. "I also like to trade, though, so I may look at the Trading Company... I'm guessing you're only allowed to be in one guild?" the Commoner asked, since it sounded like it really defined who and what you were, it didn't seem likely you could be part of more than one.