[AW] flameheart
#1
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He went out into the neutral territories quietly and alone. When he had turned his back on the City Square he had been followed by the echoes of joyous voices and raucous laughter. The square had slowly begun to come alive, with more and more peers eager to join their ranks. With winter on its way Iomair was concerned that the connections that they had bartered for would not be enough to bolster their strength.

He thought often of the kind trader who had given him seeds all that time ago – back when New Caledonia had been nothing more than a collection of tents and sad looking lean-tos.

Meena had disappeared soon after their first meeting, but Iomair had always remembered the moment of kindness that had transpired between them. There were other luperci in the neutral territories who would each have their own specialties; ties to territories that the man had never heard of. The land here was rife with opportunity and it would take a man with charisma to find it and bring it home.

A part of him hoped that he would run into horse traders, or magicians with stories from down south.

Instead all that surrounded him was empty. There was nothing but the gentle breeze and the whistling of birds who went silent as he passed beneath the crooked boughs of trees.





Open for one!


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#2
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397

One step closer to my goal of stealing every Amanda thread!


Oh, how she loathed questions about how her time was spent! It wasn’t so much the nosiness—this was to be expected, of course—or that she couldn’t deflect, but the truth made her feel lazy. It simply wouldn’t do that those higher ups who might one ask to join the faction tiers would think twice and wonder to themselves where does she go.


Despite this, she was heading toward the unexplored North again.


With winter at the fore of everyone’s mind, her concern was by-and-large for the Troupe. Salsola would do as it had always done and thrive. Deep snow and blistering, bone-chilling wind would cull the weak from the strong, but if that raucous group remained out in the open, she feared they’d become victims of their own Darwinism.


Fingal seemed to appreciate her sense of urgency. His time in her grandmother’s program to train warhorses—some of the techniques were actually Onuban, her mothers said—had done him well, desensitizing him from the gorier parts of conflict. Despite this, he would never be strong enough to carry a full-blooded wolf in full armor.


Otherwise, she might’ve gifted him to a soldier worthy of the pure white horse in exchange for an abundance of favors. For all this, he was valuable for his extreme speed. Picking his way through the undergrowth at a steady clip, she felt she was making decent time for all that she’d left later than she desired.


Dressed simply in white, she’d disguised her scent as she normally would when traveling from her homeland’s borders: with lavender procured from the communal garden, lilac found near her grandmother’s home in the early spring, and American gooseberry that grew wild in these areas. Thus far, her meticulousness hadn’t failed. There was something telling, however, in encountering a well-fed individual with an untraceable scent.


Such as the one she found out among the Frost Reaches of the land all of them seemed to call home. Guiding the horse with her thighs, she slowed him only slightly, wary of danger and suddenly aware that all she had to protect herself with was a dainty knife. It was good for little more than making kindling, and barely at that.


When a figure came into view, she checked her horse.


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Note: Clementine disguises her scent beyond Salsola's borders.
#3
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A tree root tugged at his cloak and Iomair was forced to pause and pull it free. The forest went silent as if it were taking a long sigh, and as the King adjusted his tunic and checked the hang of his sword he wondered how far he would wander before he felt like turning back. A part of him felt that this wandering would see him down the trail towards his lost children, but deep down the guilt reminded him that the time for searching was over.

There had been time for that before.

Now there were other things to concentrate on.

Vodeva would have disagreed vehemently, and he knew that if she were well that she would be out there trying to find the children who had been lost for so long. He hummed when he thought of his wife, a sad sound that rang like a drop of rain as he padded further beneath the canopy. The thought of the cold room in the Bastion had him grimacing, one hand tightening upon the hilt of his weapon. The trees were as empty as Vodevas words, as empty as the bed which they were supposed to share.

The sound of anothers approach had his ears pricking forward, the silver in his moustache twitching as he inhaled at the air sharply.

”Who goes there?” Iomair called as the horse appeared through the trees, ”Come out so I can see you.”



OEeee!


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#4
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334

Someone was humming, and it drew her in like so many flickering lights or tantalizing promises.


She couldn’t imagine misplacing a child—losing them, perhaps, for she had witnessed how such a thing could happen—but not the way in which Iomair had, not entirely unlike a child himself. Having taken his eye off the dazzling glint of a spinning top or some other favorite toy, suddenly it was gone. Though she no longer lived with them, she knew where her mothers were and her siblings, and they would always be able to find her no matter where her feet took her.


Whether it was the wilds or deep water.


As the weather cooled, she allowed herself to think of Magnus more, a hurt and a loss that hadn’t lessened with time. As was appropriate, he’d been the best of them; the kindest; the strongest; better. In time she’d learned who she was without his protective presence, but the world wasn’t as bright without him in it, and she had been afraid of the dark.


Salsola stripped this away. Slowly, like so many pieces of bark, their rules and conventions were stripping away what was undesirable and replacing it with something altogether other. This would happen to Baltasar and Lyra, too, when they joined her in the land of thorns. They would be pricked and prodded, goaded to unimaginable ends.


Such were her thoughts when the mustached man called out, demanding she show herself. Clementine wore no weapons, she had little need to. Generally speaking, her silver-tongued nature to get her into and out of most situations. Adjusting the wrap she wore around her chest and torso so it fell just so, she rode forward from the shadows on her white horse with uncertainty writ all over her burnished red-gold face.


There, She said almost conversationally, almost as if she knew him. Eying his sword, she kept her heels close to Fingal’s haunches. I've appeared.


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Note: Clementine disguises her scent beyond Salsola's borders.
#5
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Becoming a King was not something that was taught. Iomair had struggled with it in the beginning, bemoaning his newfound title to those closest to him. His Captain, Inuven Bata, had rumbled his laughter before explaining that no two Kings were alike – and that Iomair had a power that many lacked, for he had been chosen by his own people to lead them.

Now was the time for Diplomacy. Now was the time to build out as many roots as he could to connect them to the network of Nova Scotia. It would be tiring and full of misconception as they attempted to establish themselves, but Iomair felt that he was up to the task. Soon winter would be upon them and by then it would be almost too late.

He sighed softly as the woman appeared upon her horse – the pretty tendrils of her hair twisted behind her ears.

Iomair radiated warmth as he greeted her, offering a subtle cant of his shaggy head. ”And thank the gods for that.”

The horse was wound tightly, and he could see the way the woman sat prepared to run at a moment’s notice. His hand fell from his blade, and he cleared his throat before taking a slow step towards the woman and her mount. ”I thought perhaps you were a Reaver,” He pause and looked at the horse again, ”You can never be too careful.”

He tugged upon his beard, ”I am Iomair Nartholiel.” For some reason he always hesitated before offering his title. "High King of New Caledonia."



OEeee!


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#6
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314

You get my 100th post! ♥


Winter was the true test, or the survival of it. It culled the strong from the wear, whether it be deer or pack. Dealt a crippling wasting wound, Inferni had limped on over the mountains to their death, all the while glancing behind them to see if the Thistle Kingdom would come and finish the job there as they had done to the mansion.


Famine and disease had done what Salsola did not deign to dirty its hands with.


When he spoke in a lightly accented voice of indeterminable, unknown origin, it piqued her interest far beyond anything she was willing to admit. More to the point, he named something she hadn’t heard of before in such a way that it held some importance. Silently, watching him, she filed every syllable away for contemplation at a later date.


A reaver? She questioned faintly, tasting the word. It almost sounded like a title, or something from a tale one might tell small children in order to keep them from straying. In Salsola they spoke of Outsiders in this way, and much of it was true… or, half-true, as so many things were in the world, by virtue of a one-sided perspective.


I don’t know what that is, Explained the Warden, eying him speculatively. therefore, I probably can’t be one.


To her, this was sound logic.


Bowing neatly from the saddle upon hearing a title that was indisputably royal, however, she hid a small smile. Having been waylaid, Clementine doubted now that she’d make it to the truth, but their luck seemed to shine upon her all the same.


Antiope Scali, She introduced herself, regretting that for the moment she couldn’t introduce herself as she truly was, a Warden of Salsola, niece to the queen, a budding merchant of some renown. a wayward merchant’s daughter, if it please.


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Note: Clementine disguises her scent beyond Salsola's borders.
#7
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There was something about her that caught attention and held it - forcing eyes to linger and hands to hang slack. She was young and reminded Iomair of his daughter, Indis, though she had never been so put together. India Nartholiel was a pretty, broken thing - with eyes so wide you could fall into them and a latent weeping that he was sure she inherited from her mother.

Solas had been different. Tall, proud - a man with a hungry ambition that had threatened every bond he'd ever made.

"I've always thought that all merchants were wayward. Something in their hearts calls to the road, as I am called to the sword." He tilted his head again and offered a smile, "Well met indeed."

"A Reaver raids neighboring villages on behalf of their clan," he chuffed softly, "some are even hired for more specialized jobs." The horse snorted warily and he was forced to pause in his approach. "You do not have a face for the battlefield."

"So what do you trade?" He raised a brow, "My realm is always in need as we prepare for winter."



OEeee!


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#8
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371

In many ways it was no accident that Clementine had been born — then guided, molded, and shaped — into the terribly ambitious, viciously hungry young woman that she was. Everything was by design and, in accordance with their Law, she would go as far and as high as she could. Enemies would be made along the way, of course, but this was an unavoidable inevitability.

Some would refuse to be charmed; unlike this High King, Iomair, whose hands were nearly limp at his sides, his eyes drawn like a drowning man. She was used to this; would have to use it in the future, likely, but not yet.


You’re probably right, Agreed the merchant, who had indeed discovered that sometimes her feet wandered. It was a lucky thing that she’d been put on a path that allowed for this. Some few Salsolans never went beyond their borders, doomed to a life surrounded only by thistles and their thorny barbs. This was also by design, though far more nefarious in nature.


She tried not to think on it much.


if you’re born to the sword, it sounds as if a Reaver would be no match for you, Sommo Re Iomair Nartholiel. Her mouth curved this way and that way around the title and his name, her uncertainty about the translation and its pronunciation becoming clearer in every moment that elapsed afterward.


Belatedly, she wanted to ask him what it was she did have a face for but was unsure whether or not she wanted to hear the answer. Knowledge could be a dangerous, double-edged sword. Some things were better left unsaid; as it was, she had a good idea what he’d meant.


Oh, many things, She confirmed nonchalantly. Patting Fingal to calm him, she swung down finally in a single gesture, feeling confident that at the very least, he would not be able to steal her horse. cloaks, animals… sometimes even horses.


Salsola had a surplus of chickens, she knew, and rabbits. With winter coming, his kingdom might desire warm cloaks for smaller or shorter-furred members. Tacitly, she did not mention weapons; likely, her leaders would not turn a kind eye on her arming a foreign pack.


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Note: Clementine disguises her scent beyond Salsola's borders.
#9
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Perhaps the time for being molded had ended for the old King. Iomair had lived a life full of trials and tribulations, and where Clementine stood upon the precipice of her life – a whirling, bounding, magical trail cut through forests and mountains alike - Iomair could feel himself entering the grey shade of his life. As King his decisions were black and white – with Athras on his shoulder whispering darkly of what was to come.

He would need to feed the half-shadow to keep him appeased. He was an ambitious creature with a full life ahead of him, too.

”You would be right.” He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his lips, a toothy expression that was meant for a younger man. ”My sword has seen a great many more battles than any wayward Reaver could ever hope for.” His fingers toyed with the hilt a moment before he was caught again in the amber curls of her hair, ”Horses?" He couldn't help the interest that sprang into his voice.

"You seem well-connected." He scratched his chin, "What would you be looking for in return?"






OEeee!


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#10
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379

If he knew anything about Salsola, he kept it to himself. This was, in the end, a wise decision, for she would have been duty-bound to report any such tattle-tailing to her superiors, and that wouldn’t have boded well for the tentative, careful relationship that was (unbeknownst to her) developing between the two packs.


She watched the way he toyed with the sword at his waist — warily, for she had wandered some distance from Fingal by now — and wondered if he was some Mad King like the tales of old, almost kindly one moment and then nasty and temperamental the next. Such things could happen, she thought, but the mentally ill weren’t typically allowed within her pack. Smoothing out her scarf, she thought on the only obvious deviation from this general rule and nearly frowned.


Her list declared, he picked out one item in particular with the others falling by the wayside. So then, New Caledonia was interested in horses. It was useful information if nothing else. There would be no trade today, no promises even, but understanding what motivated these foreigners, this motley crew of refugees was just as interesting.


Something like suspicion, or its cousin, doubt, sprang to attention.


Iomair was understandably perplexed by the prospect of a single merchant who could apparently conjure that which he desired most for his pack. Such things had happened before, in the time of the Outpost, but the Red Star had demolished the small trade port, leaving the peninsula and the mainland to fend for themselves. Mack, who seemed to survive everything the world could throw at him, was famous for the abuses he brought down upon his defenseless wares.


Do you doubt me, signore? She wondered, arming herself with a disappointed-yet-stern look her mothers had used on their unruly children many, many months ago. Hoping that it worked, she slipped into thought, wondering whether Salsola might consider trading some of their greener yearlings; the Bay horses were another option. The three herds now belonged entirely to them, and their offspring would fetch a decent price.


Tack would be appreciated, if you have leather-workers, They needed proper bridles and saddles, she knew. I might be interested in books, too, depending on their content.


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Note: Clementine disguises her scent beyond Salsola's borders.
#11
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Diplomacy was not something that he specialized in outside of the usual warm charm that Iomair so often exuded. He looked for opportunity when it presented itself, and the well-kept woman who sat on a horse unlike the likes of any he’d seen in months… well, it meant something. The curls of her auburn hair coiled like snakes of silk around her shoulders, caressing the well fitted fur cloak that hung to hide the majority of her from view.

”When you get to my age, you’ve seen everything.” He chuffed softly, allowing the bush of his brows to raise as she spoke what she sought. ”I cannot say that I have any books – what was too heavy we left behind, I’m sure that much was destroyed by fire.” He growled softly, allowing some of the tenseness in his shoulders to droop comfortably as he took a careful step to avoid the stern look of her horse.

”You are in luck then Antiope.” His eyes sparkled with sudden mirth, ”My clan was known for their smithing and their leather work.”



OEeee!


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#12
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330

Last post from me, I think!


Some of the best opportunities were the ones they created; there was a certain level of skill to this, a management of circumstance. More often than not she could make a situation profitable in some sense or another.


This was one of those odd encounters.


Iomair Nartholiel was a relative stranger to her, and yet stumbling upon him in the wilds had led her down a particular path; through word choice she had steered the conversation to trade, sussed out his standing in the world as he saw it, and would walk away with more knowledge than she’d possessed this morning. In this way she could design her own world and exert mastery over it.


At the mention of leather work, her eyes glittered. It would have been better, of course, if Salsola had a craftsman of their own who make and shape saddles of their own, but she understood perfectly well that for everything they exported, something of equal value must be imported, and the Thistle Kingdom was wealthy in a way that many packs could only dream of. There was a balance to be struck.


Leather work it is then. Clementine smiled, thinking about the implications of smithing weapons.


It could be dangerous, or it could be something else.


I will reach out to my benefactor, She explained to him after a moment’s pause, turning to look at her horse. and then we can discuss matters of value and worth.


They were such strange words, and they were different for everyone. New Caledonia had abandoned its books, its knowledge, in a desperate plea to outrace encroaching fires. Clem could not imagine forfeiting a wealth of knowledge under any circumstances, but then again, these were the differences that made the world an interesting place to live in.


Whatever else happened, whether a bargain was struck or not, she had learned something here today, and that was more valuable to her than the beggar king could possibly know.


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Note: Clementine disguises her scent beyond Salsola's borders.


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