[LCSS] watching every step I take before I die
Azalea was feeling amazing. Not only had she won the fight in the fight club, she’d also gotten treatment from Sóli afterwards. They’d been able to spend so much time together since arriving here, Azalea was so glad that she’d come, even if it had been a horrendous amount of effort. She rocked her cup in a tight circle, hanging it from her fingers, watching the liquor spin in a circle as she listened absently to the conversations around her. Not necessarily because she wanted to, but rather because she couldn’t tune them out. Sólveig had already left some time ago and though Azalea wanted to go with her, she also felt wary of spending all her time with one canine. Especially someone from New Caledonia.

Azalea knew that there were Salsolans in the crowd, and she didn’t want to risk the chance that one of them might recognize Sóli and think that the two of them were a little bit too close. If Sólveig thought Azalea was being too cautious, paranoid, even, she didn’t say so. At least, not yet. Azalea was sure that they would have a conversation about this entire experience at some point. Perhaps after the Stockshow, before they part ways. She wasn't prepared for the show to end and for Sólveig to leave, though she supposed that they were both leaving each other. She would just have to plan to meet her soon, at their new meeting spot. The idea gave her shivers. That place was theirs, their secret place, and the romantic allure of that enchanted her. 

Pulling herself out of her daydream, she glanced around for someone to talk to, and Azalea felt a ball of lead form in her gut when green eyes landed on familiar cornflower blue. There, across the bar, was an incredibly familiar figure, someone she knew very well. Well, she didn’t know her very well, but she’d grown up with the woman around. Azalea felt the way that all young adults felt around the friends of their parents that they knew from being around them often, but also didn’t know because they were kids. In this exact moment, she couldn’t help but picture all the times that she’d held Sóli’s hand in the more quiet-but not entirely private-places, and concern seeped through her body as if someone had cracked a massive egg on her head and now the egg was creeping down her neck and back and arms and all over her.

She looked away, not wanting to make anyone think that they knew one another, seeing as Azalea was currently Elowyn the wine trader and Kamari was presumably some loner as well. The Gang would never allow Salsola’s top spy into their borders willingly, and Kamari would never expose herself on purpose. Letting a bored expression creep onto her face, she returned to her glass, lapping at the mead in it without actually trying to drink it. If Kamari wanted to speak to her, she would have to come up to Azalea. There was no way that Azalea was going to speak to Kamari right now, not while she was worried about all the things Kamari could have seen her doing with Sólveig.
(558) | NPCs: | Optime | For Songbird/Kamari! <3
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Optime | Del Cenere Gang (Charmingtown - Ugly Coyote) | Dated: August 24th

Related to [DCG+] Lancaster Stockshow 2021.

Kamari’s scent is disguised.

Thanks for starting!
Kamari would have made for a terrible Emissary if she had not noticed the familiar faces of her own people hidden in plain sight at the Stockshow. She’d purposely chosen not to engage with any of them though by conveniently putting herself in places and situations that ensured that they would not come into contact unless she wanted it. After all, her interest was in gathering intel on other packs, loner bands, and loners, not her packmates’ aliases. As well, it mitigated the threat of her cover being blown by someone less skilled in deception as she.

There was a reason why Kamari was rather selective in who she worked with beyond the borders of the Kingdom. As Salsola’s top spy, she couldn’t risk exposure.

However, the young Azalea Eternity had recently been granted the title of Informatore by the Mafiosi, which meant that the daughter of Idrieus and Grievous had proven herself to be trustworthy enough to maintain her alias and tell a convincing lie. It also meant that she’d learned how to gain worthwhile intel without revealing her allegiance to the Thistle Crown. As the Spymaster, this, of course, made the Arbiter an interest to be looked into further. While she had been good enough to impress the Mafiosi, Kamari had always been one to make her own judgments, particularly when it involved her field of expertise.

That night in the Ugly Coyote, Kamari had spied Azalea nursing a drink, and, curiously, didn't seem to have her pretty friend with her for once. The detail had caused the Shadow to linger in the gambler's den and bide her time for the perfect opportunity to catch the younger Salsolan alone. She didn't want to rouse suspicion by acting too quickly, and had to find a way to organically cause two Loners to casually meet. So, for a short while, Kamari had sifted through the saloon's patrons, gathering bits of gossip and otherwise useless intel. When Azalea had inevitably caught her gaze and hastily looked away though, the Shadow had found her opportunity to test the new Informatore's talents for herself.

She lazily made her way over to the bar and tapped the counter top next to Azalea to grab the younger woman's attention. With her hand, she gestured to the empty seat next to the Arbiter once their eyes met once more. "This seat taken? I couldn't help but notice that you were sitting by yourself over here," Kamari greeted in a friendly tone before continuing, "I thought I might try my luck at being a bit more social tonight." She glanced over her shoulder to pointedly look at the rest of the crowded saloon. "Seems like I'm a bit late to join in on any games though unless you count seeing who can get blackout drunk faster."

Kamari chuckled before turning her attention back to Azalea. "I'm Birch Kaid, unaffiliated," she introduced with a smile and shine to her cornflower blue eyes that were uncharacteristically bright for the Kingdom’s Shadow.

Kamari Kaiser
— The Shadow —
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Avatar art by Alaine · Sig art by Despi
For several long seconds Azalea thought that Kamari was going to leave her well enough alone and that they would go their separate ways, as Azalea stared with a bored expression into her glass and Kamari did who knows what behind her, but didn’t approach. Then she picked up footsteps behind her and she was forced to accept that this was happening, that they were going to talk, that there was nothing she could do about the situation except approach it head-on. Closing her eyes as the other woman came up behind her, she let them flicker open in surprise when thin fingers knocked on the table. Glancing up at her, Azalea let a friendly smile creep across her face and gestured towards the empty seat, ”Help yourself.”

She leaned back in her stool, turning to Kamari and letting her body display loose, though not quite comfortable, body language. Too-bright eyes met her own, and Azalea felt slightly uncomfortable as she took in this new and strange Kamari, and perhaps Kamari was feeling uncomfortable as she took in this new and strange Azalea. Today, after all, Azalea was not Azalea, but rather Elowyn. Elowyn was not confident in a lot except, perhaps, her trading and her ability to defend herself. Social interactions were a little strange for Elowyn, whose ears were, even now as Kamari introduced herself, creeping down against her head submissively. Licking her lips in a show of anxiety, Azalea perked her brows up in recognition. ”No way! You’re the one who won the barrel racing competition, aren’t you? Congratulations!”

"I wasn't able to see the competition, I was watching the ram roping competition, but a friend of mine was there and told me all about it." She said, thinking of young Zasha and her newfound obsession with the sport. Azalea smiled broadly, letting her body relax, and wondered if Kamari understood that Azalea had been keeping tabs on the winners and losers of the competitions, like she'd done at the Olympics. Her words weren't necessarily coded, but rather veiled, the message hidden by a perfectly inconspicuous comment. Still, Azalea wasn't sure whether her point would get across, and wasn't sure whether it truly mattered. "It sounded like an amazing competition."

She smiled submissively, trying a small joke. ”Fortunately for me, folks competing to see who can get blackout drunk the fastest is exactly what keeps me afloat.” She glanced around and made her smile widen and her tail wag before introducing herself. ”My name is Elowyn, I’m a wine trader.” She’d learned from the last time she said that she was ‘from nowhere in particular’ that that wasn’t the best statement to make. It had caught unwelcome attention, made Lukos particularly interested in where she was from, and she really didn’t have answers for him. Azalea was going to try very, very hard to ensure that Kamari wouldn’t find holes in her story.
(501) | NPCs: | Optime |
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I’m sorry if this post is super disjointed @___@
The Eternity daughter did well to pretend that their meeting there that night was their first. However, Kamari could still sense a nervous edge to the yearling. To another that might have saw it too though, the tense, anxious feeling could have been easily explained by a number of things. And, as Kamari took her seat beside Azalea, part of her wondered if it might have been part of Azalea’s alias when the girl’s nervous body language intensified up until she made a show of recognizing Birch’s name.

“Thanks. Or…gracias as I think they say here? My horse really did all the work,” she said modestly. Kamari had been an audience at the ram roping competition as well thanks to the differing time slots of the two events. Given Azalea’s information though, the Kaiser suspected that she’d likely stuck around long after Kamari had left for her own event to participate in. It wasn’t a bad thing. After all, the more spread out the Salsolan spies were, the more intel they could gather at the same time.

Kamari was curious, however, about this “friend” Azalea had mentioned though, whether it was the red-furred she-wolf she’d seen her constantly with or, perhaps, another Luperci with whom Azalea’s alias had befriended beyond the Kingdom. Regardless, the more oblivious allies Azalea had, the easier it would be to gain intel in other parts of the realm.

Shrugging nonchalantly to Azalea’s gushing, Kamari looked over her shoulder as a loud shout was heard from elsewhere in the bar. “It was pretty fun so long as you and your horse have a close bond with one another,” she chuckled dismissively.

When it was clear that the noise was just an over exuberant patron, Kamari turned her eyes back to the Salsolan beside her when she volunteered information about herself. “Is that so? Did you supply anything that’s being served tonight?” The Shadow leaned casually against the bar and smirked good-naturedly. “Because I bet you jump at huge events like this. I heard that those knights down south had something big a few months back. Were you able to get in on any of that too?”

Kamari Kaiser
— The Shadow —
[Image: k4f73A1.png]
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Avatar art by Alaine · Sig art by Despi
Azalea watched Kamari closely as she spoke, though she hid it by pretending to nurse her glass. In reality, she was trying to figure out what exactly it was that Kamari wanted. Just a conversation with a friendly face? Or did she perhaps have deeper meaning behind this? She couldn’t help but sweat when she thought about the fight club. . . and what happened after. . . and perhaps Kamari had seen all of that unfold. . . . That would be the worst case scenario. Then again, there was absolutely no way. They’d been careful.

Licking her lips, she put on another anxious expression, as if the thought of participating in such an activity was alarming. ”I could never. It’s all I can do to sit on a horse while it’s walking, let alone running, let alone racing and weaving through all kinds of obstacles.” She shuddered at the thought. This lie was based in some truth. It was true that she was not exactly a good rider. It was a lie that the thought of doing anything more than sitting on a horse while it placidly walks a trail gave her anxiety.

She had been telling these half-truths half-lies for a long time now, and they came as naturally as breathing.

Her eyes followed Kamari’s to a drunk man yell-laughing at a friend, and she smiled at the sight. ”Somebody’s toeing the line between having fun and waking up in the bog tomorrow with no shirt or pants.” She joked light-heartedly before turning her attention back to Kamari. She let her ears perk up immediately, and she smiled broadly, allowing all her anxiety to fade away as she put on her trading face. ”Tonight? No, unfortunately not. Well, maybe! I did trade some wine to the Gang once I’d arrived. But these kinds of events need planning months in advance so you can bring enough booze and sort out all the details for bulk deals.”

She was bullshitting, but it was working. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t thought about it before, what it would take to set up an event like this. Now she was just taking the conclusions she’d come to in her mind and giving them voice. ”No, I only heard about this event recently and joined as a participant. But I’ve been selling well, anyhow! Got myself a little goat kid. I was down at Casa a couple months ago, but I’m really not in the loop with events around here, it seems. I only heard of it by chance and it was too late to pick up more wine to sell.”

Azalea leaned under the bar and grabbed her bag, pulling a bottle of wine out. ”Speaking of which, I’ve got two more bottles left, besides this one. Here, why don’t you have a taste?” Azalea showed Kamari one of the wine bottles that she’d traded for from Avery. She’d already opened it by the time she realized she could be trading, and since then had been using it to prove the quality of her goods. ”Barkeep! Can I get a glass? Empty!”

The barkeeper handed her a small glass, and Azalea poured Kamari a taster. ”Go on! Try it!” She said, pushing the glass onto her expectantly.
(559) | NPCs: | Optime |
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Modest, Kamari offered a half-shrug. “It was certainly not an event for everyone, no,” she agreed diplomatically. She’d never thought to race Cedar around barrels before arriving in Charmingtown, but, it’d proved rather fun, and with much less danger than with chasing down enemies of the Crown. There was, too, a certain amusement to be had at this Elowyn character. Azalea certainly had the alias’ nervous personality down pat, what with her way of speaking and her continuous lick of her lips.

Kamari smirked at Azalea’s observation of the saloon’s patron, but offered nothing else as the yearling’s demeanor changed like Larunda’s might have at the sight of a good trade deal. “I see,” she hummed. Part of her wondered if the leathers that Azalea had traded her earlier that month had specifically been to bolster her alias’ stores to trade with, as well as if she’d done so in preparation of the Lancaster Stockshow, or, if her being there had simply been her taking advantage of an opportunity.

Either way, it seemed Elowyn was heavily invested in the trade of beverages, though, in the back of Kamari’s mind, she wondered how Azalea carried it around or explained herself to potential clients. Unless she borrowed a communal horse or one of her parents’ for these lengthy trips beyond the Kingdom, she likely wouldn’t be able to carry very much at a time. That went to question as well why a Loner on foot might carry only a few, fragile wine bottles great distances. They were details to sort out back in the Kingdom though. Kamari had little interest in picking apart and questioning a fellow spy’s story in foreign territory. Azalea was still new, after all. To most, such details wouldn’t have mattered anyways. It was for the sharper minds that Kamari felt all Salsolan spies should be prepared for though.

Onward, Azalea spoke, and Kamari thought her to be quite a chatty thing. “Looking to delve into a future of goat cheese or something to go with your wine trade?” Kamari chuckled as she leaned against the bar. “Or just wanting company for the road?” Her questions were her way of pointing out the problem she saw with Azalea mentioning her recent trade for the goat. Most Loners wouldn’t have had much use for a baby animal, particularly not a goat. If it was anything like Pita’s baby, they were noisy and full of mischief. Too noisy for a Loner with goods that could easily be stolen. With how Kamari worded her seemingly harmless questions though, she hoped Azalea caught on and figured out an easy explanation to brush off any further prodding from “Birch.”

The Shadow’s eyes flicked as Azalea shifted and brought up a bag she’d had stashed by her feet. A bottle was procured, and Kamari looked it over with only mild interest. She wasn’t a large fan of alcohol, often finding the flavor unagreeable with her unless greatly watered down. Before she could stop Azalea though, the eager yearling had hailed the barkeep and she’d poured out a small sample for Kamari to taste.

It wasn’t something Kamari faulted her for, as it did well to help support Elowyn’s interests. Alcohol was also an easy way to entice others, and, if she got them drunk enough on samples, it’d be easier to fish for information. As well, her eagerness to show off her wares played well to her alias’ trader background.

Kamari accepted the glass to be polite, though, it was clear that she lacked the enthusiasm one of the bar’s other patrons might have had. “Thanks, but, just to warn you, I have a…” She paused as she pretended to search for the right word. “…let’s say, a picky palate.” She brought the glass up to her nose and took a tentative sniff at it before she drank the sample in a single gulp.

Her tongue twisted and slipped between her lips as the aftertaste lingered in her mouth. “It’s not bad,” she said after a beat. Her eyes were apologetic though as she put the empty glass down onto the bar. “I’m afraid that it’s not my style, but, it’s not a bad mixture. Where’d you get it from?”

The question would have likely been a common one if Elowyn was to be a wine trader.

Kamari Kaiser
— The Shadow —
[Image: k4f73A1.png]
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Avatar art by Alaine · Sig art by Despi
Azalea, or rather, Elowyn, laughed a little at Kamari's questions. "No, silly! The goat isn't for me. What am I going to do with a baby goat? She's going to stay with my family. Besides, I'm a horrible cook, any cheese I'd make, even if I stayed in one place long enough to make it, would surely be terrible." She giggled the nervous and jittery giggle that Elowyn possessed around clients. It was very much unlike her own, which was often loud and unreserved. "She'd be much too slow, unfortunately. She's very cute, though, I wish I could bring her with me everywhere." She added with a sigh, which wasn't really a lie.

The young goat was incredibly adorable, after all.

She could see Kamari's lack of interest in the alcohol, and thought this was just as well. Best to save the stuff for her trips. That being said, it would be nice to trade within the pack. Azalea almost twisted her face in displeasure at the way Kamari downed the sample in one go. This was not a piss-poor beverage that one drank for the express purpose of getting drunk. This was a sipping beverage. Even she couldn't help but stiffen, a smile pinned onto her face unnaturally, as she watched the other woman get over the shot. It seemed that Kamari would not be the kind of person to gift booze to or offer to drink with. She would remember that.

"Well, it's too bad it isn't to your taste. I can see that you aren't one for drinking." She commented, expression finally relaxing as she finished processing what had happened and began to put her bottle back away. "This is my own family's vintage. We've been growing grapes for generations, so our wines are among the best in the area." She added proudly, though some of the excitement had been knocked out of her after her failed attempt at selling a bottle. "How about yourself? What do you do?"
(348) | NPCs: | Optime |
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XDD LMFAO @ Azalea’s reaction to Kamari basically taking a shot of wine

We could probably start to wrap this up? :O
While the explanation Azalea gave made sense on its own, it felt almost forced with the nervous laughter she’d followed it by, even if it was within her alias’ character. Had Kamari been a stranger with as sharp of wits as she had, she would have suspected Elowyn to be trying to poorly conceal something. Voluntarily bringing her family into the conversation, too, opened up the possibility of being questioned further about it. They were notes that the Emissary mentally made to speak with the Informatore about at a later time to help the younger spy avoid a possible, future blunder.

“Could be part of your gig; the wine girl with her pet goat,” Kamari smirked, grinning and maintaining the friendly conversation between their two aliases. “I’m sure it could probably help with getting your name out there and expanding your customer base by giving them something memorable and unique to remember you by.” The suggestion was only from Birch to Elowyn, however, and not from Kamari herself. There were a variety of different things to seriously consider with bringing a non-labor animal around with her alias.

At Azalea’s observation of how Kamari had “tasted” the sample, Kamari let out a nervous chuckle as if embarrassed to have been caught, “Was I that obvious?” Her apologetic expression remained. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, but, yes, it’s not really my cup of tea, so to say.” She pushed the empty glass away from her in wordless indication for the barkeep to take it whenever they came back around.

“So, family business, huh? I guess you must live locally around here if you’re able to hear and jump on these big social events?” Kamari asked, no longer able to ignore the possible vulnerabilities that Azalea had opened herself up to. Her question was a casual one that any Other might have asked, and she hoped that the Eternity daughter had a believable way to either persuade her audience or otherwise redirect or downplay the question.

When the conversation shifted back to her, Kamari offered a nonchalant shrug. “Hunter,” she answered simply while pointing to herself. “It’s not as fancy as wine, I’m afraid, but, people will trade all sorts of things for a well-made pelt or pair of antlers if it means they don’t have to collect them themselves. Meat too, when it’s fresh.”

Kamari Kaiser
— The Shadow —
[Image: k4f73A1.png]
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Avatar art by Alaine · Sig art by Despi
Azalea felt a laugh bubble up within her at Birch’s joke and she let it run free. ”That would certainly be a sight to see!” Azalea tittered, internally cursing herself. This nervous bit of hers was annoying. Perhaps she had to revisit her alias. Fortunately she hadn’t established herself yet. ”But, truly, no. She’s been a terror already, no matter how cute she is. Jumping all over the place. . .” She sighed, eyes drifting away from Birch.

That is, until the offensive incident with her hard-earned wine. Azalea would have teased Kamari, at least a little bit, in a friendly sort of way. Elowyn smiled shyly and pushed her hair out of her face, chuckling under her breath in the way that suggested she didn’t want to offend this cool stranger. ”Well, a little. That’s alright, though, I understand it’s not for everyone. Though I can’t imagine why. I suppose I’m biased, though.” She joked, eyes taking on a sparkle, a tiny bit of Azalea shining from beneath the timid Elowyn.

”Well, um, no. I guess we don’t really live near here. But there aren’t a lot of big buyers near us, so me and a couple others do a lot of travelling, sometimes alone and sometimes together—for the bigger orders, you see—to bring the wine to our customers.” Elowyn scratched behind her ear, a nervous habit of hers, and hugged herself. ”Haven’t been back for a while, at least, not long enough to see everyone properly. It’ll be nice to relax again once this event is over. I expect I’ll be able to stay put for at least a little bit.”

Azalea made it seem as though Elowyn had just realized what she was saying, and smiled apologetically. ”But what am I saying? Surely I’m boring you, sorry.” Falling silent, she listened closely to Birch, noting how brief it was. Acting as though she didn’t notice or care, Elowyn smiled. ”Wow! That’s so cool how you can make cool things. I’m not really involved with the wine-making process, they say I’m ‘too silly’ for such things and I’m best on the road.” Mouth twisting in displeasure, Azalea made it sure her discontent was known. ”I wish I’d paid more attention to them while they were trying to teach me as a pup, instead of always running off to play. Now I’m always gone all the time and I’ve missed my opportunity to learn it properly. I couldn’t even explain to you how they make it, except the basics.” The basic speech she’d stolen from the wine makers who she was pretending to live with (though she’d never disclose their location, for fear of anyone actually seeking her out there).

”Oh! I’m sorry, I’ve let my mouth run without thinking!” She gasped, looking apologetic once more. There, she had an excuse for why she couldn’t tell Kamari the details about the wine-making process. It was flimsy, she thought, but it would do for now. Nobody had asked for more information about the wine, after all. Standing suddenly, she fumbled for her things and gathered them up. ”It was so very nice meeting you Birch, sorry for bleating my worries like that. You have a great night!” And, the very picture of a terribly embarrassed youth, she fled the scene.
(581) | NPCs: | Optime | And done! Thanks for the great thread!
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