[P] The deeper the grief, the closer is spirit.
The Hushhowl runt had been little more than a wraith at a grave site since her return to the mainland, having failed to announce her return yet making most of the pack aware of her presence with the mournful howling that occasionally swept the chilly kingdom. Barely affording herself time to eat and sleep, the girl grieved beside her parents' final resting place day in and day out for nearly a week since her return. But of course the spirit of the Hushhowl slowly began to return, and be it instinct or just an angry stomach, something within Day began to prod her into action. Though her grief was anything but abated, she finally managed to plod further and further away from the grave each day, until one day, it was out of sight.

She was definitely a sight. With her soil-stained limbs and messy, twig-infested braid she probably didn't look much better than the old bodies lying in the grave themselves. Her eyes were puffy from crying and sleeping too little, and if her pelt wasn't so notoriously fluffy, her ribs would probably poke out from beneath her breast from lack of nutrition. Her prime sustenance over the last few days had been whatever scraps she could find in the area, and whatever few offerings any pitying pack mate had left for her. Now that the grave was out-of-sight, out-of-mind, she felt the weakness of her limbs and the way her head wanted to spin when she moved too fast, and she cursed herself for being so stupid as to letting her sorrow overtake her prime directive; survival.

Still in a bit of a daze, the short Optime woman padded with short strides away from the Silent Meadow, through the dense forestation of the Sugar Woods, and finally ended when she came upon a lake. “Weeping Lake,” she muttered to herself, noting the coincidence between her recent state and the lake's moniker. It was almost enough to draw another tear from her almond eye, though it would be a miracle if she hadn't dried up completely by now.

Speaking of... Day knelt down upon the bank of the placid lake and dipped her hands into the icy water. The cold might have startled her if not for the overwhelming sense of numbness she had since learning of her father's death. As the rings of water rippled away from her hands they carried with it little ribbons of brown, and after blinking in confusion, Day realized it was the soil sloughing off of her dirty fingers. Grave dirt. She forgot to lift the soothing drink to her maw and lap at it. Instead, she stared dazedly into the water as though contemplating whether or not to leap into its frigid embrace.

Around noonish, give or take. At Weeping Lake.
[Image: AtZMOKs.png]
Orion plodded on paws that felt heavy as stone through the woods, he didn't weep or mourn openly about the death of his grandfather as most of his family had. He did cry, for a short few moments on his own, but then he returned, the burden of grief concealed within his large Hushhowl-Knight frame, making his body feel all too heavy to move with the energy that he had prior. But still, he was restless, the promise of a quiet moment with the trees was what prompted him to take a walk, away from his siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, all the people that buzzed around the hive and never let him get a moment's quiet.

Crunching over the cold earth and soft fresh snow as the male made his way down the soft slope towards the lake, he, sticking out like a piece of coal in the snow, almost didn't see her at first. He might not have seen her as soon as he did if it wasn't for the dirt in her fur sticking out against the winter backdrop. "Day.." The wolf spoke. It'd been a while since he'd seen her, but he knew where she'd been. Where she'd seldom strayed from in the past several days. She looked ragged, thinner, as if she hadn't taken care of herself in a while.

He didn't really ask as he walked up to her and crouched at her back. "Your hair is a mess..." He muttered softly, not knowing how else to express his concern or offer any modicum of comfort than to reach out and start gingerly undoing her messy, twig tangled braid and combing her hair out with his claws. "I haven't... seen you in a while."
She should have reacted when an unexpected presence descended upon her. It was stupid to drop her guard and let someone come so close without knowing exactly who was behind her, but her grief left her careless and, in that brief instant, perhaps her unwillingness to look was driven by a desire to be with her parents in the afterlife... But no, Day was not suicidal. Merely mournful, and that intense emotion left her stupidly dependent on the security that Casa afforded. Even though events in years past had proven that not even the land of Knights was immune to espionage and dark dealings. Her own sister...

Finally managing to move, the still woman became animated as she pulled her hands from the icy water, fingers numb and unfeeling. She never did take the drink she so desperately needed, but at least most of the soil had washed from her palms. She continued to stare at them, transfixed, despite the arrival of Orion.

The pale twin of Night winced slightly at the first touch, and ear cropped back to listen to the gentle, familiar voice of her nephew. Funny how fast we Luperci grow... she thought to herself. "Funny how soon we Luperci perish," she mistakenly murmurs the second part of her thought aloud. She remembers Orion as a small pup, but in the span of a year he had grown to be her equal – Day herself not even being three and left with yet some maturing to do.

By the second little tug of her hair, Day managed to let out a long exhale and relax her shoulders, dropping her hands to her side as she sank down onto the snowy earth.

There was something refreshing in Orion's manner, the way he showed concern for her without diving straight into the problem of grief and death. For the last several days while she mourned, nothing had been so ever-present as death. Now, dancing around it seemed so absurd, it made a smile tug at her black lip and a snicker skip from her maw. A low giggle that sounded half-mad thanks to the whirlwind of opposing emotions.

The gentle tugging and picking at her hair as her braid was loosed and cleaned by the shadowy family member felt good. She was desperately in need of a good meal and a thorough grooming, he was right.

Finally finding her voice, she croaked, "I've missed you." A sopping wet hand came up to pat his, before retreating so he could continue his work. "Were you here when it happened? How is the rest of the family?" She had been blind to any visitors in her time of mourning, and prior to that she had been at the Outpost for many moons. She knew little of how the family fared after this tragedy. "How is my sister?"

WC: 400+
[Word Count: 528]

The white woman didn't seem to react to Orion as he approached her, at least she didn't shy away or snap at him as he had feared, but the fact that she had no reaction at all to his presence at first was worrying, to say the least. They may have been around Casa territory, but one thing that the young wolf had learned was to never let your guard down fully, even around family. The young wolf mourned for his grandfather, and he was sure that for his mother, his aunts, his uncles, that pain must have been felt double, he'd seen their grief, their cries of anguish, and now, he just wanted to help them heal. It was cold, the air coming off the lake was even more so, as he knelt behind the pale reflection of his mother.

Golden green eyes took in the scene, she was covered in dirt, though some of it ran off of her hands in the glassy frigid water of the lake. She seemed frozen, transfixed, almost stuck, as she stared down at her own hands and gave no acknowledgement of his presence before he reached out to touch her, untying the strap that held her tangled braid together and working loose the plaits that contained the wavy white locks.

She winced as he touched her, but he continued on with a gentle determination, until her braid, and her frozen countenance both started to come loose. She uttered some words to him, confirming what the boy had suspected, that his aunt was lost in the grief that she felt. He was large, as tall as his grandfather had been now at a year of age, though what muscle he had pulled taut over his frame, and he had yet some growing and filling out to do, but his hands were rough, his ear was torn, and what bulk there was on him was lean and strong, he wasn't the little pup that he had been when last he really saw Day. Still, he felt small in the face of all that had happened recently.

He was glad when he could tell that she was relaxing, her hand went to his, the frigid water sinking into his fur almost immediately, but he didn't shy away, only paused what he was doing until she let him go again. "I worried when you didn't come home..." Was his response to her words, his hands combing through her loose hair, picking out bits of debris and smoothing any tangles and strays. At her next question, the wolf hesitated in his motions, his hands stopping half way down her hair, ears flicking backwards as he thought about it. "They..." He began, his eyes trailing down and to the left of him. "Everything is different now... They miss you too though... Mom misses you, and I'm sure she'd be happy you came back..." he spoke solemnly, before he moved closer to look at her face from the side. "You are, coming back, aren't you?" He asked, draping an arm over her shoulder, but not pulling her in.
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Probably the most soothing thing for the Hushhowl woman was to be groomed. It was likely because of the way the act traced back through their bloodlines to the ancient wolves of old who lived long before they had ever been blessed with the ability to shapeshift. One of the clearest, easiest ways to say I care about you, you’re my Pack, back then was through family grooming. This moment harkened back to those ancient times, and for moment Orion’s thoughtful and loving touch made Day forget about her worries as she closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and enjoyed the feeling.

Everything is different now. It was fascinating how those few, simple words spoke volumes. What also alluded to the seriousness of their situation was the fact that Orion avoided answering the question. In the space of just over a year, the mighty Hushhowl clan had lost both its matriarch and its patriarch, the two figureheads that tied their house together. Though they did not see it now, they were heading into a time of dire uncertainty for the family. Would they maintain their closeness? Their sense of family and community? Or would they fizzle and drift apart now that their beloved parents (grandparents, what have you) were gone?

It seemed Orion was having similar concerns. Day opened her yellow eyes and peered at Orion, who was now leaning around her and peering at her countenance with intensity. The look seemed nearly childlike and, in spite of herself, Day smiled softly. Yes, Orion, she assured him. I will stay. Closing her eyes again, she leaned back against him hoping that he would continue his work. It was not a salve for her exhausted, broken hearted soul, but it was just about the best she had felt in the last several weeks.

The Hushhowl clan needs unity now more than ever, she continued. I think we should all be here now, if we can. We must carry on the heart of our community in their honor, she said, and it needn’t be spoken that ‘their’ referred to Day’s parents. We can’t allow this family to fall apart. Not now. Then all of their love and devotion to this family would be for naught.

They were wise and brave words, and they were much easier to say than the truth; ’I just can’t leave them. I want to be in the grave with them.’ Common sense told her that these feelings would dissipate with time, but the great cosmic joke of it all was that time seemed to stand still in her hour of pain.

It’s going to come down to us, she told Orion after a short pause. It’ll be our job to make sure the greatness of the Hushhowl name doesn’t dissolve.

ooc [wc — 471] template by hilli, edits by Nukiira.
[Image: AtZMOKs.png]
[Word Count: 458]

Orion was not the type of wolf to talk his way through feelings and situations, it was preferable for the young male to express himself through working with his hands, or his paws, whichever state he happened to find himself on any given day, be it training, hunting, whittling, or just going for a run through the forest, these were all ways that he coped with strong emotion. For the time being, however, he knew that his family needed him, and so rather than running as he usually did, he set about busying his hands with grooming and smoothing through the long hair of his heartbroken aunt.

It had been hard, since his grandfather died, but the young wolf didn't know how to seek comfort in others, he didn't know what to do, almost on par with the grief that he felt for the loss of Darkness, was the sense of fear that he felt when he spent time with the remaining members of his family. He saw their grief in a tangible way, and it affected the dark wolf in a more physical sense because he didn't know how to express his emotions. There was a tension in his chest, a sense of foreboding that he couldn't shake, but it was a very physical feeling that squeezed his beating heart when the male found himself face to face with a grieving Hushhowl and not the words with which to comfort them.

Now though, Orion found that he didn't need any words, he didn't need to be afraid, as he sat there close to his family and grooming her gently. There didn't need to be any words spoken, but still, he spoke. he spoke because there was something else that the male was afraid of in this dark time. He didn't want to lose anyone else right now. All his life, Orion had dreamed about the unknown, about setting out on his own adventure all on his own, but right now, his family needed him, and he needed his family.

"Good..." Orion spoke after a short pause, drawing in a deep breath and letting it go as the white furred woman leaned into his tall frame. The adolescent closed his eyes and brought his head forward to nuzzle the side of hers, just the briefest gesture of affection, before withdrawing and continuing to draw locks of her long hair out through his claws gingerly and with an almost absent minded air. "I agree... But everyone will be just fine..." The dark wolf-dog mumbled with a slight hesitation, pausing and not wanting her to take his statement the wrong way. "Because дедушка raised us all to be strong, like he was."
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Luckily, in the state Day was in, she only heard things the way she wanted to and all she wanted for now was for everyone to say things right. That was the exact service Orion was performing for her now. Day’s deepest desire in that moment – other than the impossible resurrection of both of her parents – was to know that the Hushhowl clan would be ok. That they would all recover and remain as strong as they had always been. Nay, stronger now that death had touched them all resulting in the family pulling together. After all, it was death that brought Day back here now, was it not?

Yes, she agreed, her voice invigorated with a new strength she did not have just moments ago. You are right. We all bear his strength. He passed it on to us in our blood, in our spirits. Day turned to face Orion, a desperate vigor in her yellow-moon eyes. She reached out and placed a slender hand on her nephew’s shoulder.

I must learn the latest news about all the family, she began. Already, her idea was too ambitious. But with her grief-clouded mind, she could not see how such an undertaking would surely lead her to a terrible crash in the end. I should go to the family dens. Do you live there now, too? If they see me – if they see us come home stoic and strong, just like father, they will find strength in us. We can be the family’s pillar. They could look to us and know that the Hushhowl line will live on and carry on Darkness and Hartt’s proud legacy!

She was full of bluster, but as soon as the words escaped from her lips her energy faded. White ears tilted back until they nearly disappeared into the messy mane that Orion had just been working on. Her eyes shifted down and she saw the remnants of grave dirt on her body. And then she chuckled.

The chuckle turned into desperate laughter as the absurdity of her words hit her. She could not walk into the Hushhowl camp and step right into Darkness’s paw prints! To even think she could would be an insult to his memory. And here she was making such grand schemes while still sullied in the mud from his grave. It all congealed in her mind, and in that moment she realized how very weird sorrow could make one act.

As she chortled she turned her eyes upon Orion again. She was probably frightening the young man. A look of apology flashed in her yellow gaze as she tried to calm herself down, gulping in air but being overtaken again by fits of giggles. Day could not help herself, she could not fight the fit of hysteria that gripped her.

Finally she managed to swallow her laughter and keep it at bay. She wiped at her eye as her brow furrowed. I am sorry, Orion, she said, honesty dripping from her words. I promise I’m not cracking up on you. I just… it has been a long few weeks. I am tired. Just as I was saying those words I realized how I am the last person to trot around and pretend to be all strong right now. I am a mess and I know it. And, I think, Father would have understood my being a mess just as much as he would have understood me wanting to be the strong beacon of hope for the family.

Day had finally calmed herself, and was beginning to make sense finally. She was processing her grief and at least identifying why she had such complex, warring emotions. Her hand reached up to gently touch Orion’s cheek again and then she said one of the most vulnerable and honest things that had come out of her mouth since her return to Casa di Cavalieri. I think I need a warm cup of tea and someplace soft to sleep tonight…

ooc [wc — 674] template by hilli, edits by Nukiira.

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