[P] Ghosts of the Past
#1
After being blindsided by the attack on Krokar, any news of things out of the ordinary made Norah nervous. Even though they no longer had a pack to defend, they still had their small home and some livestock. It made her want to follow up on things like news of weird, creepy happenings nearby. She did not want to be caught not taking things seriously again.

Others agreed with her, which was how she, Percival, and Willow found themselves in the Serpentine Mountains, looking for anything out of the ordinary. The stories they had heard from a passing loner were somewhat vague. It seemed like he was not entirely sure what it was that he saw, but either way, it needed to be investigated. Norah could not decide whether she wanted to find nothing, or find evidence that something was amiss.

She also figured that a trip away from St. John’s Chokehold could be a good opportunity for a little bit of trade. She did not have much, but she did have the dress that she wore to the ball in Cour des Miracles. It was mostly useless now since she did not wear clothes except for occasions such as that, which were few and far between. She had her spear with her as well even though it was more for show and helping to cover terrain than a weapon.

“See anything weird yet?” Norah asked. She sniffed the air, and every now and then, she would catch a brief, unpleasant scent, though she could not tell what it was.
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#2
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It was nice to get away from their little camp, especially after his father had left again. There was little he could do at home to comfort his mother or siblings, but searching the surrounding areas for signs of unusual activity or nefarious plots felt like he was doing something useful. And, although he was still only a student, with what self-defense he had learned from Keabetswe, Percy also felt confident in his abilities to keep himself and his family safe from harm.


It seemed to him only fitting that he should come with to investigate these strange sightings.


Leaving Pim with Betsy (and managing with some difficulty to ignore the protests from his loyal ox), Percival donned his grey cloak and joined his cousin and sister in the trek north to see if they could discover for themselves if the rumors told from the lips of loners held any weight. Whether they did or not, it seemed a good idea to ensure there was no immediate danger that their family should be aware of. After what had happened to their pack, it seemed to Percy that it wouldn't hurt to be hyperaware of the goings on in the area.


They trekked, the blankets of white stretching out all around and only interrupted by shocks of dead grasses or fingers of skeletal trees. As they passed up into the Serpentine Mountains, the bearded Shoalman scented the crisp air and then glanced at his cousin and shook his head. "But there's somethin' weird on the air, sometimes," he said with a deep frown. Looking from Norah to Willow, he asked, "Anyone else smell it?" It was something he couldn't place, but he was young yet and there were a great many things he had yet to scent.


[WC — 300]


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#3
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🐟

Once upon a time, Willow had wanted to follow the path of Exploration, to document new places she traveled and help sketch new maps for Krokar. In the end, the journey she'd taken from her home was long and fruitful, and she'd been content once she got back to just stay close to her family. However, when strange rumors reached the Shoal, she was quick to volunteer to travel with her cousin; it only seemed right that she do so.

She told stories as they walked, a bag flung over her shoulder, cushioned by the caribou-hide shawl. It was lighter than they'd started out with; salted fish were a tempting snack while on the road, though she'd meant to trade her catch with strangers. The stretch of snow seemed endless around them, though Willow had an appreciation for it following her time in the tundra -- the subject of most of her anecdotes meant to make time pass more quickly while they trekked so far from home.

The mountains loomed ahead when her latest tale ended and silence fell, the Shoalmen keeping an ear and eye out for anything out of the ordinary. Willow squinted and sniffed the air when Percival prompted her, then nodded. Can't place it, she admitted, though it mostly smelled like filth -- and she only caught wiffs beneath the ever-present evergreen aroma of the spruce and fir trees standing around them.

She squinted again. There was a shape at the edge of the wood -- a structure, she realized, a lean-to. Might be somethin' there, she said, moving forward and instinctively positioning herself somewhere in front of Percy. Ya think?


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[Image: kr.png]
I took the time to breathe
among the rootbuds and the weeds
but the peat moss and the leaves took turns with both my feet
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#4
Norah was glad to know that she was not the only one smelling something bad. It was unfamiliar, and that was what kept her attention whenever she caught a whiff of it. She looked ahead towards where Willow was pointing, and it took her a moment to spot the lean-to.

"Ah yeah, maybe," Norah agreed. She found herself uneasy about checking it out, when in the past she would have walked right up and started carefully poking around. Now everything was suspicious, especially with the strange smell. The wind seemed to be swirling a little in the trees, which meant that she could not follow the scent with any sort of consistency.

After a moment of looking, she started heading towards it. They were here; they should probably see if there was anything interesting about it.

"May as well check it out?" She said, glancing at her cousins before trudging through the snow. Pretty soon, she would need to stop and get rid of the clumps of snow that were forming in her fur. They were annoying but not yet painful, so for now she ignored them. If she left them long enough, they would eventually get painful.

The lean-to was even more run down when she got close enough to get a better look at it. It didn't really look like it would provide much shelter anymore, which meant that anything inside was likely useless, if there even was anything to find.
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#5
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He was glad to have Willow's stories to occupy his mind as they pushed further north, through snow and beneath late-winter skies. Left on its own, Percival's young mind had a tendency to wander and to over-analyze. The mantras and the mindfulness that he had learned from Betsy helped, but only when he remembered about them. And when the doubts and the worries and the fears were already running rampant within him, like a dog breaking free of its chain, it could be an uphill battle to get his senses back under control.


Percy shared none of this with his companions, however. This, he kept between his mentor and himself.


When his half-sister's tales had faded with the salted fish and the ambient sounds, however, Percival felt the uncertain thoughts begin to press in. Why did it smell so strange? Where was it coming from? How could he keep his cousin and sister safe? What if he failed? Who would ever forgive him? The young man swallowed and furrowed his dark brows more heavily over his eyes, resolution stern on his face. Stop, he commanded himself. Now was not the time.


He followed his half-sister's squint and considered the little structure with pursed lips until Willow's tall frame blocked his view. Percy looked from his wild-haired sister to his shaggy cousin, acutely aware of how eerie the silence was. "Okay, but we oughta be real careful," he said to Norah's back as she stepped forward, silently annoyed with himself for not taking the lead. "Could be trouble in there." Percival started after his cousin, brushing past his sister in an attempt at confidence and courage.


[WC — 286]


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[Image: character_wiki.png] [Image: optime_preference.png] [Image: character_typical_location.png] [Image: npc_accompaniment.png] [Image: skill_spirituality.png] [Image: skill_hunting.png] [Image: skill_fighting.png]
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#6
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Oooh look we got dirty socks!!

Sorry for the wait, guys! I hope it's okay I jumped ahead to this.

None of the Shoalmen were enthusiastic about investigating the lean-to, but between the three of them, they mumbled enough to convince themselves to approach. There would likely be little inside, and they knew they had to be cautious. Perhaps none of them would have been so nervous a year ago, but the fire had taught them not to trust even something so innocuous.

It didn't smell like anyone was around - just like filth, and pine, and decaying wood.

Norah trudged forward through the snow, gathering clumps on the shaggy hair around her ankles, and Percival brushed past Willow. She frowned as he passed her, her heart thumping in her chest and her ears pinned back, and she glanced at their surroundings before following. She wished she hadn't seen the lean-to in the first place.

The trio walked closer. Willow didn't let Percy out of her sight, which meant she didn't bother looking up.

A deluge of freezing water fell from the trees, splashing all of them. The icy moisture seeped into their fur, but nothing was so cold as the immediate shock of it - enough to startle Willow into inaction, though she let out a high-pitched shriek as her limbs tensed up.


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[Image: kr.png]
I took the time to breathe
among the rootbuds and the weeds
but the peat moss and the leaves took turns with both my feet
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