[AW] End of the Road
Barrington, All Welcome
Of all the many miles she’d traveled, through all the odd lands and unusual circumstances, Genova gazed around the empty, crumbling road and knew this to be the most surreal walk of her life. Just as the coastal fog had begun winding into view, creeping along in ropes and veins, the drifter had stumbled across the haunting remains of Highway 103. There had been other such roads in her travel, lingering from the human age, but Nova could not remember a single one with such a tangible, aching spirit. Fog pressed in along either side of the eerie lane, reaching out in tendrils to coyly swirl about her bare feet and ankles as if to beckon her into the white. Weeds had thrust their way through the cracks in the stone only to be cropped short and harshly dried by autumn, left to rustle in the misty breeze. There had been the metal skeletons of old age carts at first, so many in some places that she could not walk on the road, but now there were none, and the sense of something looming ahead was enough to send a shiver down the spirited woman’s spine.

You’ve just got yourself worked up, all these thoughts of the end of the line and settling down, she silently advised herself, and to be fair, that was responsible for a large majority of her unease. But there was something about the blankness of the world in this moment, blotted out by the thick, ocean fueled mist. She had grown accustomed to solitude as a girl, but Genova found herself suddenly enveloped in loneliness, her Optime arms reaching up to wrap about her shoulders despite the mildness of the late autumn afternoon. Normally she would travel in her Lupus form, but she was in no hurry today, and this body was more suited to moving with her few possessions. Her sheathed hunting knife bounced rhythmically against her thigh, slung on a black belt around her waist with her drawstring bag to counter its weight on the other side. The dark brown material of her dress felt damp in the dense fog as did her increasingly wavy mane. The only thing that felt solid in this dreamlike march was the spear strapped to her back with strips of hide.

From the fog emerged corners of dilapidated buildings as the forgotten road began to narrow. The dirty windows and unhinged screen doors of the ghost town did nothing to settle Genova’s sense of foreboding, but the survivalist in her shook loose of her childish posture, arms dropping ready to her sides. Normally she would scout through the abandoned buildings, searching for anything that might trade well and travel light, but she could hardly pry her violet eyes from the shore as it emerged through the mist. Blazing a straight line through the weathered town, Nova made her way to the ocean on a gentle, rocky incline.

For a long while, she only stood there, cold water lapping at her clawed toes as she watched the sun slip closer toward the water. A strong wind gusted against her, rippling the fabric of her dress around her knees, combing back the silver highlighted mess of her charcoal mane. It rocked her on her heels, and abruptly, Nova pushed back. She swiped a wave smoothed rock from around her feet and chucked it out into the water harder than she could ever remember throwing her spear. It cut into the oncoming waves with a satisfying splash that had her scooping for more stones to pitch into the water, one by one, harder and harder as she vented to the sea. Unshed tears brightened the somber hue of her eyes, and her lips were pressed into a firm, furious line. On the road she was crafty and mysterious, skilled even, but here, at the edge of the world and at a turning point in her life, she was young and she was terrified.

Beneath that fear of the unknown, however, bubbled up a freedom and clarity that the road had never brought Genova. Here, life wouldn’t be a single line of instincts and reactions. Continued existence couldn’t be the only thing that filled her days. Now that her long journey was over, she could finally start living life instead of just surviving it. One last rock hurled with every lean muscle she had finally unsettled her balance, and Genova fell straight on her behind. The first noise to leave her dark lips was not a sob or whimper or even a frustrated scream. A hoarse laugh broke out of her, clashing with the quiet rhythm of the sea. There would be plenty of tense moments and heavy decisions in the coming days as Genova chose new paths and adjusted her lifestyle, but for now she needed this simple, impractical moment. Panting slightly through her grin, she laid back on the chilling rocks and rested her forearm across her brow, looking every inch like a woman who had just finished a long and troublesome marathon.

(Eh sorry if this seems a bit rambley lol. I haven't written much in the last year, and I lost track of how long this was getting. Replies don't need to be long.)
OOC| Hope you don't mind if I pop in here! Your writing is so lovely. I have been secretly lurking around your posts. This one is so beautiful ahhh


Sometimes when the light was right, when it struck the trees through the cold mist and draped across their branches, he felt his brother. He warmed to the scene like fingers thawing from the cold, delighted as the prickle of each detail meant sensation was slowly returning. He found again the thick scent of bark cutting through the clear northern air, the muted spatter of falling snow and the easy laughter that carried it all to him. There was his brother standing apart, the length of his broad back like the rolling hills of white and knotted in the brief tension. He could see the ligaments of his articulate hands, flexing momentarily as he split the wood. It had seemed like such an innocuous thing at the time. But sometimes when the world turned correctly, when nature realigned itself to the positions of his previous experiences, his brother would be present. All that he had lost of him returned in one small breath.

He turned a smooth stone over in his palm, his fingers idly pondering its scale while his mind drifted aloft. It was strange how unlike a memory that experience was to him. It made him realize that those recycled and time-tested standbys he held of his brother were in some ways farther from the truth. Every repetition returned with dwindling clarity, and they were frequently reinterpreted as time went on. There was too much weight to a memory retrieved by will. Somehow when his brother was just an aggregate of sensations, the rippling light on the water that never perfectly coalesced, it became a clearer reflection of who he had been. In those moments Ciellen lost the gravity of absence that rooted his memories, making them standbys to begin with. Perhaps the impermanence of those moments had something to do with their reality. Perhaps the act of holding them tightly only lengthened the divide between him and his brother, and in the release he was closer to him. Fingers paused around the slender object, and with a deft flick of his wrist the stone was sent to the shore. It skipped across the surface once, twice, three times before finally sliding gracefully into darkness.

Another sound rang stray to his own, and at first he attributed it to an excitable fish. His eyes scanned the calm horizon for its remnant glitter but found nothing. He exhaled deeply and watched the fine mist coil into the deepening sky. He would relish the return of the cool seasons. His build, his hue, his culture had been arranged to harmonize with the winter environment of his home. In the coming month, he expected that those special memories would occur more frequently, and the lonesome search for his brother would seem less like a futile activity and more of a bittersweet journey into the past.

Another sound broke his wall of thought, although this time with more urgency, more irregularity and force than he knew a group of fish would make. He rose from his slick seat among the collection of rocks and timber, careful to grasp their jagged contours in case a wayward wave decided to pull his weight to the sea. The vantage offered him the sight of her figure at a slight distance and the curious ferocity of her actions. He watched the wind make friends with her hair, guiding its reckless curls away from the furls of concentration in her slender visage. There was such an expression in her movement that at once Ciellen felt an ineffable sensation, a visceral snap of tension in his mind and heart that unwound further with each stone released into the ocean. He felt that action. He felt it every day. Not in any meaningful way, but he thought about how many stones he might throw into that large and empty space. About how hard he would squeeze them in his palm, and how he might throw them with his whole body, and how far, as if he were throwing them into the stars. And god he wanted just to know, was his brother somewhere in there? Would the fury, would the force of his stones ever cause a ripple in the vast and unfeeling nothing?

Her movements reeled into itself and suddenly she collapsed to the beach. Although he could see her chest rise and fall, and her body turn with some strain, an uncertainty of her condition alerted him to the present moment. As a medic, he could not in good conscience leave her until he confirmed her well-being, at least this was his justification. Emboldened, he dug his large hands into the rock that was the wall between them, and with practiced ease pulled his enormous frame up onto it. Against the setting sky he stood tall, the wind grasping at the hardened musculature of his figure, carrying only the strands of his white mane into its path.

A moment of silent hesitation, before he called. "Are you alright?"

He listened as the sound dispersed into the ocean's song.
((Thank you! And no worries at all. This fits the sense of the scene so well, it’s wonderful!))

After the day’s particularly long and wearing journey, the cool stones of the rocky beach felt surprisingly wonderful against her tired muscles, and Genova lingered on their uneven bed longer than was perhaps prudent. As she brushed her laughing tears from the corners of her eyes, she focused on the contours beneath her, feeling the point of this rock against her thigh and the curve of that rock against the small of her back. It was no sunny, southern beach, but it was the closest thing she’d had to a moment of relaxation in awhile, and it ended with a jolt as the stranger’s voice reached her over the white noise of the sea.

A shock wave of tension vibrated through her body as Nova realized her spear was pinned awkwardly under her. The momentary panic created a rather comical instance amidst the somber setting in which her feet peddled uselessly, hands scrabbling for purchase at the loose rocks as she tried to right herself. I look like an upended turtle, she realized, stuck somewhere between startled and mortified. It took only a few seconds to right herself, but it seemed like years to Genova when she finally pushed up to a sitting position, dark streaked muzzle turning over her scarred shoulder. A critical bruise colored gaze lighted on the culprit, eyes widening slightly at the very masculine form, hard and white enough to stand out against the lingering fog.

Embarrassment pressed into her chest, an estranged but eager companion. It was easy to dismiss awkwardness on the road. Most people she would never see twice. It seemed her luck that the moment she decided to stay put, she’d forget to make sure she was truly alone before having an entirely silly tantrum by the sea. At least he was at a safe distance, too far to see how the maze of scars across her cheek grew brighter when she blushed. All she could do was lay back against the comforting cold of the rocks again and cover her face in her hands as she laughed at herself. It was a careless noise, surprisingly mirthful given how cautious and guarded the woman could be. The sound of her own laughter, the sensation of the neglected muscles, the healthy gasp of her lungs all stirred memories of home and of laughing in this very way with her brothers. If nothing else came from settling in this land, she hoped it would give her time to dust off the trail dust and uncover more little pieces of her old self like this.

Amidst her self-depreciating amusement, the foreign male’s question registered. One long fingered hand rested on the hilt of her hunting knife, but Genova thought it was very unlike a murderer to question after her health before mauling her. Probably just concerned to see a person come unraveled at the sight of water, she thought and had to chuckle at her foolish self again as she sat up.

“No!” she called back, her usually husky alto still lifted by her laughter. “I can neither breath water nor walk on it!” she explained, pointing accusingly out to sea. “I’m tired of the way I came, but I’m not sure I know how to stop traveling.” As she spoke, she readjusted herself on her rocky seat, pulling her legs closer and tugging her wet dress down over her knees. The damp cold was setting in as the sun bobbed low on the horizon. Her grin diminished to a subtle smile as the sea spray collected in her fur. The set of her expression in the red sunlight turned her into a shipwrecked figurehead, washed ashore and out of her element. “I think I’ll just sit here until my lips are made of sea salt and my fur is a tangle of currents.”
OOC| Oh my god sorry for the delay and sorry for this mess of a post. Auhguhg


For the first time since his youth, he didn't know what to expect. He knew that she wasn't in pain even as the question left him. The concern felt arbitrary, a placeholder for what he couldn't articulate but was compelled to express. There was something about her immersion in the wild activity, with her hair untamed in the restless wind, and the raw emotion embedded in each stone carried out to sea. She embodied a moment that Ciellen had never experienced, but desperately needed. Some latent feeling buried deep beneath the weight of responsibility and duty and obligations had been stirred from its sediment. The composition of his innermost feelings were shaken like sand in the waves of the shore, churning into something new.

Her sudden movements alarmed him, and he thought of diving into the waves to reach her. But like the tide she smoothed into laughter, a liberated gasp of experiences felt too hard and too much to contain. The knots of his concern warmed into a gentle expression, and for a moment he was only aware of her breath between laughs, the slightest hitches and exposure of her purest voice, that bittersweet staccato alive in the cradle of oceanic sound. When she folded forward, he became aware of himself and the constraint of his own breath. He exhaled slow.

"No!" was the beginning of her defiance and the dawn of his understanding. An image came to him of his brother. He was overcome by the sensation of standing at some similar precipice, watching the dark water roil in anguished discord. He thought Relaic must have looked deep into the darkness and tried to find the light of his eyes. He wondered how it must have felt to see his own reflection in the turbulent sea. How it must have been to taste the cold salt on his lips, it must have been the same as kissing away his own tears from Lenore's sweaty brow. He flexed his hands open and close, awakening them from stillness. “I’m tired of the way I came, but I’m not sure I know how to stop traveling.”

What would he find, if he stopped traveling? A better question, what would find him?

For the first time since his youth, he didn't know what to say. A smile parted the pale waves of his muzzle instead. As day withdrew into its deep saturation, he watched her figure shrink into the dying red embers of passing light. “I think I’ll just sit here until my lips are made of sea salt and my fur is a tangle of currents.” She said. Fingers brushed the hide satchel at his side in contemplation.

He removed the satchel and placed it on the sleek platform.

Then he began to climb, carefully at first, mindful of the placement of his large, almost ungainly limbs. But every motion was limited, not only by its environment but by the landscape of his thoughts. How had everything become so entrenched in self-consciousness that even activity was bereft of experience. The monks had always told him to be present, but perhaps only now he began to understand what that meant. The wanderer paused, and slowly turned himself outward, toward the ocean. The wind caught in his throat and carried his gaze out to the vast expanse of water. It was not deep, but it was enough.

Hands flexed, ligaments and tendons flashing in their mechanical deftness and unconscious efficiency, before they relinquished their grip on the stability of his arrangement. Maybe to find his brother, he had to understand what it was to be on the brink. Maybe this would be the only way they could ever connect again. He saw her figure, right where she had left it. And then he dove.

Coldness was the first sensation, though it was not unfamiliar. He thought of his arctic seas and the seal paths, of childhood and blizzards and frosts and first snow. He thought of swimming then, his hands much smaller and better at grabbing the tailfins of partially thawed fish. Then came the second sensation, the confrontation of real solitude. Darkness of ignorance, he had some vague notion of presence and absence but did not comprehend it in totality. Last of all was the absence of air, of wind, of breath, those elements so vital to function and yet when removed, did not seem so necessary.

He stayed beneath the shattered surface, eyes wide and awed at the limited range of his motion. For a moment the only sound was the rush of blood in his ears, and the steady, underlying beat of his heart. But then the water compressed itself around him, rocked his large form, now so small. Above him a wave transpired, and he heard the muted roar of collision. Two worlds, two different states of matter meeting together. He heard another roar, its sound dispersed around him. He turned in the water to see the shadows of rocks and sand, where she must be waiting still for the ocean to curl around her tangled, wild hair. With his remaining time, he moved forward.

A heat bloomed in his chest, urging him upward to the only light he could see. He gasped as the cold air hit him and filled his lungs with shocking rapidity. As the numbness of transition faded, he felt himself become aware again. Around him darkness careened, and through its tenebrous swell he saw the pale ghost of her body, a wavering seaside specter. He pushed forward to her adjacent rock, where the waves roughly deposited him upon its surface. Small stains of red blossomed like ink on the canvas of his body, absorbed by the ripple of fur. The barrel of his chest heaved with exhaustion, his life hovering in visible wisps around his open mouth. It was too cold. Much, much too cold.

"Is that all?" he breathed, and let his head fall back against the certain earth. He closed his eyes, and felt the burn of expense.
(Mess of a post?! It’s fine, sug! He’s a great character. ^^)

Sitting there staring out over the vast and empty sea, facing the end of an era, Genova felt like an unfamiliar storm on the inside. A whirlwind of eagerness and laughter, trepidation and anger filled her up, and yet all it took was the stirring of the stranger to begin smoothing out the emotional ripples. A clever, careful thing crept into the sea maiden’s place, watching the male’s movement through smokescreen lashes. The smile began to trickle from her expression, although it did not disappear entirely but perched secretively in the corners of her eyes and her dark lips. Somewhere in that still swirling emotional hurricane where fear battled loneliness, she’d hoped he’d come a little closer. She was curious of this white beast and his concern, but seasons of homeless wandering had engrained the woman with caution. Even that deeply laid prudence was rattled, however, when the male disappeared into the chilling sea.

With wide, purple eyes she watched the disturbed rings marking his passage as they vanished into the pattern of waves. She certainly hadn’t expected that given the cooling season. Then again he probably hadn’t expected to have his solitude ruined by a girl throwing rocks and rambling about walking on water. “Good job, Nova. You’ve driven the handsome thing to drown himself with your nonsense,” she groused at herself dryly. Time stretched on uncomfortably, and the Mal daughter found herself on her feet, trying to peer more deeply into the dark water. A white capped wave rolled hard across the place she’d last seen him, fanning the worried spark in her chest.

It’s not deep. He could have hit his head. He’s probably drowning, and you’re bumming around on the beach. Genova was reaching to pull the straps of her spear off, ready to dive in when his head broke water and he gasped. She quickly reclaimed her rocky seat, feeling just a bit silly. What, was she going to start this new life off as some kind of do-good hero? The ocean brought him to her, leaving him cast across a nearby rock. Tension edged into her muscles, but she stayed seated, watching white tendrils of heat curl away from his wet body. After all, to live here she was going to have to grow more accustomed to company. You took a chance on Chardonnay, and he turned out to be a good friend, she reminded herself, but it was always the chance that held her back.

White breath puffed from his mouth as his broad chest heaved to recover his breath. The sudden frigidness seemed to have zapped his vigor as the cool evening was more slowly doing to Genova. Is that all? she heard, black rimmed ears tilting forward in surprise. “You’re disappointed too?” she asked, somewhat startled to put her grey feeling to name. “I thought it was going to feel like some kind of monster trapping me here on purpose,” she said waving her hand vaguely at the miles of water before propping her elbow on her knee and her muzzle on the back of her hand. “It’s not though. It’s just…indifferent.”

The cold rocks had begun numbing her backside, and the damp dress felt as if it were sucking the heat right from her bones. She glanced sidelong at his dripping form and knew the stranger must be so much colder. “It was nice of you to come freeze with me, but I think it’s about time we built a fire, hmm?” Despite the cold in her joints she moved fluidly away, leaving him dripping on the rocks. A short way down the beach she’d spotted the damaged remains of a dock, and hidden up under some of the more weathered wood, she found some mostly dry timber and driftwood. Genova began dragging it to a level area where there were fewer rocks and more sand, arranging the salvaged wood for a fire. She would take a chance on him for their shared discontent with the sea.
Even as gravity caught up to him, he could feel himself still careening within the dark waves. After all that, it kept on going. The world continued to spin.

He opened his eyes to the afterglow of dusk. The deep purple of twilight had settled across his view, broken by the smattering of gathered vapor. Though barely visible they caught the tail end of the sun's descent, like embers smoldering quietly in black ash. Beneath the window of his own breath, the fire seemed contained. “You’re disappointed too?” He recalled his own exhale, a mistaken confession of the discontentment looming within. The wanderer drew himself onto his elbows with some difficulty, the ache of travel commanding his muscles to a slow and stiff rise. His gaze reached toward her and was briefly disarmed by their proximity. He could see the tangle of currents in her wild hair, the sea salt of dark wet lips, and the arresting hue of her bright, weary eyes. They flickered behind a veil of curling lashes, their thoughts and feelings lost into the shore. He looked away with measured haste.

“I thought it was going to feel like some kind of monster trapping me here on purpose,” A smile creased his features. He sat up further and slung an elbow around his knee. Even in the dim light he could see the striations of his musculature bound in their tight restraints. But no matter how compounded, how complex, their fragile bodies all unraveled in the ocean’s arms. “It’s not though. It’s just…indifferent.”

The waves crawled at his feet, offering words where there were none. "It always is." He whispered, his voice rough, scratched with its lack of use. His chest hammered with the reluctant truth. He wished it would have been a monster. It would be so easy to live, knowing that a beast had swallowed his brother. Instead, he looked out at the sea and thought, you fed me. You bathed me. You gave so much to me. He was confronted by the knowledge that as much as it gave, it could take away. And if it could do those things so indiscriminately, what did it mean then, to have received anything at all?

“It was nice of you to come freeze with me, but I think it’s about time we built a fire, hmm?” her words summoned him from the depth of thought, and he looked toward her again, the summer blue of his gaze momentarily lost in the waves of her transition. She swept up from the damp earth and swiftly into the evening, tugging forth another smile onto his white visage. He gathered himself and followed her path, only deviating to fetch his abandoned belongings on the rocky outcropping. As he returned to his former vantage, he stole a moment to scan the dark sea. A light glimmered along the horizon, hinting to the moon's appearance that night.

He returned to find that she had already located wood and was in the process of arranging it. Kneeling next to the pile, he settled his satchel and gently rummaged through its contents. He took a moment to relish the normalcy of routine, and how it could unite two strangers in comfortable familiarity. The bag folded as he removed a flint and steel and placed them carefully to the side. Each action was taken with deliberation, as if under the weight of ceremony. A small, private smile creased his muzzle as he recalled the great recklessness of his brother, his hands fumbling in the dark. He had lost his flint twice in their journey, while Ciellen had retained his nearly to its finish. “Dammit, Ciel,” Relaic would laugh, “You and your fucking monks.”

It was by habit and perhaps a bit of precaution that he carried a small amount of tinder. He arranged it within the compact space, ensuring that there was enough of the smaller pieces of drywood packed around to catch on. Then with a practiced efficiency he struck his flint and steel, igniting the tinder. He grew the flames in patient breath, and it was after a few long moments that eventually they had a good fire between them, crackling and popping amidst the salty wood.

The temperatures fell quickly with the absence of sunlight, and he was grateful that she had enlisted him when she had. He would have simply frozen there on that rock. His hands fed another piece to the growing flames, and he watched it consume the wood with bestial urgency. Gaze trained to the fire, he listened only to her movements and wondered where she might settle.

“Forgive my silence,” he spoke, and then paused, uncertain of how else to continue. A gentle laugh emerged instead. “It seems that my mind has yet to thaw.”
Patiently she placed the wood, building it up in the sound manner her father had taught her. Genova could almost see the outline of his large hands beside her own, heavy, work hardened paws that would dwarf her slender hands even now that she was grown. This was a strange place, full of memories and longing. The ghost town and its abandoned beaches seemed to draw its spirits out of her rather than history, and the sense of dreaming she’d felt on Highway 103 returned to her more ardently. Watching her new company approaching across the rocks, pale white against the deepening night, Nova could not be certain he wasn’t a ghost as well.

Silence settled between them as he joined her and folded to his knees. He started on the waiting wood with his flint, and Genova was happy to let him. Her fingers were beginning to feel clumsy as the cold rallied in the dark, and she wondered at his controlled movements. Light bloomed beneath his skilled attention, and her skin prickled at the promise of heat. Shadows swallowed her up as she quietly left him to coax a real fire from the wavering flames. The wind had quieted and the metronome of the lapping waves filled up her absence. A few minutes later, she returned with another arm of wood to keep their fire fed and stacked it close to the flames to dry some of the dampness.

Heat reached her as the fire began to spread, and a gentle, contended sigh joined the crackling of wood and wet sand. On the far side of the fire, she peeled the damp dress off over her head, stretching through the movements as her muscles warmed. The black belt remained fastened around her waist, hanging from the points of her narrow hips. She laid the dress out to dry and stood beside the leaping flames, running her hands across her arms and ruffling the wet fur. Through the smoke, she stole curious glances at the stranger, but he seemed entirely focused on the embers. With his gaze distracted, she took the time to study him up close. His form was quite imposing. Even with him seated, Genova felt small in his company. Where she was made of lean limbs and fleetness, he seemed carved completely from muscle on muscle. With his pure pelt, she was reminded of patient mountains blanketed in snow.

We don’t even belong to the same time, she silently mused. His white body and his clear blue eyes bore winter in early while she was marked by summer with a maze of forking lightning stretched across her skin and warm, electric winds captured in her hair. Every move the male made seemed practiced and planned years ago when Genova seemed to live in heated jolts and wild flashes that shuddered with unknowing. How funny that this place would draw together such opposites.

“I’m not uncomfortable in the quiet,” she reassured evenly when he finally spoke. She moved around the fire, settling a quarter turn from him so that they could see one another better. Nova pulled her knees to her chest and leaned against them, fingers idly twisting the grey and white strands of her tail as it wrapped around beside her. Despite his arctic appearance, there was a warmth in his laughter and his eyes that brought a bemused smile to surface on her lips.

“Who are you?” she insisted, absorbed in their strange little meeting. Faint lines creased the corners of her narrowed eyes and disappeared beneath short fur as she peered at him, invested in more than a name now. She needed to know what could drive other people to the end of the world with her, to the place where solid land ran into the apathetic sea and spirits lingered miles from their resting grounds.
When the fire seemed to have gained momentum and no longer needed his patient oversight, he moved himself and his supplies to a more comfortable position nearer to the perimeter of its light. He met her reassurance with a brief smile, and settled in a cross legged position. The flames were wild and grew bright and hot, though the coastal wind no longer coaxed its rise. They had changed course with the descent of evening, and in the distance he could see the bend of silhouettes, rustled by invisible hands. His own searched the contents of his satchel, and eventually they withdrew a small bundle of cured meat. The foray into the dark water had taken a toll on his system, and the carve of hunger was first apparent once his body heat was restored. It was by luck that Sangi'lak had parted with him some gifts before he was turned back to his vagrant lifestyle. He glanced toward his company and gave a light grin. He removed a piece and then reached over to set the rest between them, indicating with an open palm for her to help herself.

Her inquiry drew his gaze, and in the light he could see the stormy transitions of her pelt, the wild electricity of her watchful eyes. He noticed for the first time the scars along her face and neck, and his eyes followed their winding paths through the gentle waves of fur. His attention shifted to the wandering light, its active body drawing his thoughts into clarity. His shoulders shrugged with a small laugh, its rich sound resonating with the crackle of the fire. He took a bite of his meat. "Isn't that the question." he asked after a moment of contemplative chewing. "I'm not sure I can give a satisfying answer, unless you were looking for a story to put you to sleep." A smile crossed the white plains of his face, and he looked back to her. "I'll offer the abridged version. I am called Ciellen, and I have been wandering the coastline so long that the salt has turned my pelt white."

He took another bite, finishing the rest of his piece. He wasn't much of a cook himself, and perhaps unlike most luperci, preferred to hunt and eat his kills in a more natural state. But when the occasional flavored meal did come his way, he relished its distinguished taste. Another image of his brother surfaced in his thoughts, though this time accompanied by his wife. She had such delicate hands, fingers like slender branches, weaving the braid of her dark, dark hair. And then he had seen them deft, cutting, unfolding, removing the skin of a hare. His expression returned to its former state, burdened by some unknowable truth.

Another light was introduced to their encampment and his attention was carried aloft, where he caught the moon parting through the sea of cloud. The sky had filled quickly with the change of wind, but in the way of the mercurial water it would clear with relative haste. Inland may face a sooner winter, as the brine and breeze of the ocean preserved more than just the meat they ate. His mind returned to earth, renewed. "You carry the storm with you." he said gently, the light blue of his gaze gathering in the path of skin and fur. There was a softness to his expression, a warming to her features. He found her to be very beautiful, and not in spite of the scars but perhaps, because of them. Life inflicted itself upon them, interrupted the landscape of their bodies and minds and made them asymmetrical and strange. But they grew from that wasted soil and all the things they carried. Their beauty was shaped by rough hands in the clay.
Immersed in contrasting moon and fire light, cradled by the coast, the she-wolf sank into conversation as one would a bubbling hot spring. It had been longer than she could recall since she had met someone who did not prickle her suspicions and rouse the yowling urge to escape. It was not comfort necessarily that she felt, but a deep interest in the gentleman ghost of Barrington, enough so that it momentarily overrode all of her learned wariness. Curiosity had always been Genova’s spirit. Her parents had often said that her quiet brother Delmont was the ears of the family, and that Clyde with his big laugh was the mouth, but Genova had always been the eyes, wide and entranced and forever peering into this hole or that hollow. Her heart was mounted in her chest with curiosity, but it was a trait she had to guard herself from on the road where nosy girls would often disappear.

Food was produced from somewhere within his possessions, and Nova found herself wondering even after the satchel. What sort of things must a wolf like he prize? What was important enough for him to carry across the miles? She murmured a quiet but appreciative thank you as he sat the found between them, but did not immediately partake. Hunger was not the same for her since the roiling sky had stretched a hand down to mark her. Most of her sense of taste was gone, and appetite became less demanding when flavor was removed from the equation. Instead she listened to his short explanation, certain that she could have sat until the fire burned to coals to listen to the entire story.

“Was it salt or was it ice from your frigid swimming?” she challenged with the flicker of a teasing smile, but his face was shadowed with the weight of some thought or memory, and she fell quiet in an empathetic ache. She tore a bite from his cured meat and tried it, tongue seeking flavor where it could find none. But she could feel the pull of salt on her lips and the texture of the flesh, and that was satisfying enough. As she chewed, a driftwood branch burned through and one end rolled away from the body of the fire. Gingerly she picked up the unburned end and ground the glowing embers in the damp sand. Her eyes roamed the surface of the warm, soot smudged wood, peering beyond its form to the shape hidden inside. Spinning it in the long fingers of one hand, she inspected it in the firelight until his voice led her back from contemplation.

By habit her free hand reached up to shield the right side of her face when she found his gaze wandering the maze of her scars. Even after all this time, she was still surprised by the smooth interruption of scar tissue amongst the short fur of her cheek, and she gently touched the lines as if they were unfamiliar. Strangers often stared at them, and Genova couldn’t blame them. They were unusual marks to say the least, but she hated the way they stared. Even those who found the woven pink of her scars charming treated them more as an attraction than part of her flesh and body. As she watched him watching her, however, she did not feel that sideshow interest. His eyes were gentle with her, and her hand slowly fell away, revealing the glimmering network of skin to the firelight once more.

“My grandmother always said God was in the rain,” Nova said, nodding to his observation with a wry smile. She slipped the knife from its place on her belt and set it to the bit of salvaged fire wood. “She never mentioned the Devil was in the lightning.” Her tone was untroubled, lightly joking. Although she was acutely aware of how other’s reacted to her scars, she did not brood over the accident itself, seeming instead to shift focus from it whenever she could.

“Are you looking for something, or is it someone?” she asked as she used the knife to peel thin shavings from the wood in her hand.
Her comment teased the dark line of his lips into a smile, and he did not hide the amusement that lifted his brows and creased the corners of his eyes. "You are a stone's throw from the truth of it," he returned with a wry look, but it quickly passed into the shadow of thought. Growing up among a loud, rambunctious group of men had exposed him to the colorful spectrum of insults and rebuttals, though it did not arm him as it did his brothers. It had once been the case that he rarely spoke for fear of revealing his lack of wit. Never the one to engage in the quick exchanges, his family began to think of him as wise rather than simply frightened or shy. It took too long for Ciellen to ease into the comfort of conversation and find his own voice, and for many moons after his family still regarded him as the perceptive, composed one. He wondered how these expectations must have shaped him, guided his adolescence aboard the ship to the West, where brothers wove tales like inscrutable tapestries, telling of something ancient and far beyond his reach.

He watched her hand address the scars in the careful manner that his brother had often touched his own dark markings. He recognized a certain restraint in the action, the hesitation to confirm its physical reality. He wondered of the tales woven into the myriad paths of disrupted fur and flesh, what forgotten truths were shocked into life by touch. It then occurred to him that there was something terrible and cruel about the ability of strangers to pull someone away from themselves, to be a mirror of one’s struggles and hardships. His brother had learned to cast the judgments away, but there was no telling what scars lined the walls of his heart. The wanderer had meant no harm by his observation, but intentions were a pale excuse for thoughtlessness. Ciellen suddenly regretted his comment. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, though she expressed no injury. Rather she made light of his insensitive remark, crafting the event into a palatable one, even for his crude taste. Somber eyes rested on her figure. She was a world away, with hands working into the hard surface of the wood, searching for something pure.

He began to extend a hand to her as an offer of compassion, but her sudden question immediately rerouted his path toward the meat instead. He picked up a slender piece and straightened quickly. Although his hunger had temporarily abated, he appreciated the additional time the act of chewing gave him to think and compose himself.

"My brother," he said after a long moment of consideration. Large hands dusted the remainder of salt into the sand, and he uncurled his stiff legs into a position more receptive to the warmth of the flame. "He carried the Devil within…and without."

One dark claw slowly drew a circle around the sockets of his eyes. "Among a culture that prides itself on purity of fur color, he was born a marked man. Even to an outsider, his likeness demands pause. To look into his face is to gaze into the eternal night." Relaic perhaps would not have appreciated such a remark, but it was the reason above all others that the wolves of Tatkret had kept their distance. Relaic's face resembled the mask of death. It took the arrival of Lenore to make him accessible, and even then the superstitious majority did not abandon their trepidation. In the Loreath clan, it wasn’t as though his brothers did not accept Relaic, but it was certainly the case that Ciellen was the only one to make an effort to connect with him. They were close in many ways. Relaic had been a voice for Ciellen when he could not find his own. He had been the fire to ward away cruelty and derision of others, even if it meant he burned himself as a result.

"I knew him as the man that struggled to show others the light." His chest filled with a great inhale, and he held it for a moment as he cast his gaze far into the impenetrable shadow. They had built a flame to pierce the evening, to bring warmth where there would be none, but like a star their fire was an isolated point in a sea of darkness. Their light did little to bring clarity to the world. If anything, they only made the night darker by contrast. Beyond the warm hued veil, the world was cold and inaccessible.

“But…after some time,” his mind went to Lenore, and the futility of his medicinal practice. His expression creased in pain. “He struggled to know the light himself.”

“Neither salt nor ice can wash these stains away. I think he believed otherwise."
ooc: Your open board where Ciel thinks he found his brother is lovely. :o

In the shadow of his regret, the whispered apology, Genova felt utterly silly. A drifter and a wild thing, she had no business being so concerned with her face, ruined or not. Clyde had enough vanity in him for their entire litter. The mention of her scars should not have troubled her by now, but they lived in a world of broken windows and scarce mirrors. The waters she drank from were swift moving, and the ocean afforded her no still surface to acquaint herself with the marks. They were always new, always fresh when the silky touch of them welcomed back the memory of those first few weeks. It seemed a whirlwind now, a moment of drifting off safely to sleep blurred with waking suddenly and fearfully into tribal insurgency, forced to flee with no inkling of how cruel a world awaited her. She did not feel the loss of her beauty when she touched the scars but the loss of comfort and security from her life. It was easier to put those feelings away in his composed company though, and she offered him a gentle, reassuring smile.

Occasionally her clever eyes flickered from the busy work in her hands to Ciellen as her question hung in the air, observing the contemplation of his blue eyes. For her, wood working had grown from a trade to a hobby to a habit, something to keep her hands preoccupied when her mind was otherwise engaged. As he spoke, however, the fidget of blade on wood stilled, and her skilled hands rested in her lap, body and mind both drawn in by familiar loss. She shook her head slightly at the discrimination his brother had faced, disturbing the dark and messy waves and fly away strands created by the fire drying her hair. She had been fortunately born into a mild and accepting pack, and she held only a few unconscious prejudices formed in her travels. She could not imagine facing inequity at the hands of her own people, and she felt an instant compassion for this missing man.

So rare was it that she found company endurable, let alone as pleasant as she found the intriguing man, but the evening seemed intent on bringing them both unwanted memories and grief. Pain darkened his expression, and Genova felt entirely to blame. “Ciellen..,” she murmured, reaching out uncertainly before drawing her fingers away as if they had wavered too close to the flames. “I’m the one who should be sorry. You would think a woman would outgrow her nosiness,” she said, her apologetic smile half lit in the diminishing flames. “But if there’s anything I can say about these lands so far, they seem to have a way of drawing in all sorts of folk. If anywhere, I think you’ll find him here.” It was not an empty sympathy on her part. As she too searched the clustering shadows around them, Genova knew it to be true. There was some magnetic destiny here, pulling in Luperci from miles and oceans away.

“This is no way for us to get dry,” she decided suddenly, sheathing her knife and hiding the bit of wood within her bag. She tossed two more large pieces of wood onto the fire, sending flames and sparks leaping into the night and diffusing the advancing darkness. Scattering grains of pale sand in her wake, she stood and offered her hand to him. “A little motion should warm the bones and dry our fur.” There was no music, but she was used to that. They were lucky for the rhythm of the sea. It was an innocent offer in some hopes of shaking off the threatening gloom. For some reason the thought of leaving this wolf more troubled than she had found him was distressing.

“I’m Genova, by the way,” she added, flexing her fingers as if to beckon him from his soggy seat to dance. She felt a parallel in his wandering, his searching for lost family, and the crease of guilt that had interrupted his expression, and Nova suspected he could do with a bit of lightheartedness, even if it only ever lasted for a moment.

Word Count: 712
OOC| :) Thank you! I really enjoyed your RO with Nova and her brother. Really lovely character interaction!


He thought it was strange how words aloud could make emotions tangible. They remained unseen to him and yet their echo made the night feel heavy. He regretted releasing them to the wild darkness, where these thoughts and confessions invited the encroaching shadow. There was no telling how long his light would last, and what would happen when his flame grew tired and thin. Within he felt the dual tides of resolute faith and sensible cynicism, clashing roughly as if they weren't two parts of a whole. He rubbed his palms together in a slow and careful rhythm. Beneath the passing light, his expression stayed smooth.

"Ciellen," Memories receded at her beckoning, settled to stir another day when he would be a weaker man. The gentle blue of his gaze found reprieve in her concern and in the sentiments that followed. He shook his head at her apology and gave a light, affirming smile to the opposite. She was no more nosy than he, and it had been his words that summoned a dark shade upon their meeting. It did seem the case that many of their kind inhabited the lands, though he had yet to encounter many of them. He would sometimes find a piece, here and there, that told of a larger story. The warm, charred logs broken in the sand, freshly cut wood, scattered cloth and abandoned tools. He could only wonder at their purpose. On a good night he might envision their relationship to the world, and think of a nameless time and place where people gathered in mirth and touched each other's arms fondly, whispering of better things to come. He wished that these conversations had taken him to his brother's cabin, instead of to the end of the road.

Her movements awoke him from thought once more, and he returned to the sensation of when he first spied her on the shore. She stood against the fire and by its light he could see the fierce resolve, the wild defiance that had so inspired him to jump. Her hand extended toward him and curious, he turned his head and then turned his gaze to her. She extended a name, as well.

"Genova," he smiled, and reached a large hand gently into hers. He rose at her insistence though his grip seemed to bear no weight, wrapped with the measured care and warmth that typified his movement. His height brought him a new vantage, and from it he thought their camp didn't seem too dark, and she didn't seem so far.

"You weren't lying when you said you couldn't stay put," he laughed, "Where will your feet take you now?"
ooc: Aww thanks! If you don’t mind, I thought this would be a good place to close this board, and then they can meet again on the other if that works for you.

The touch of his hand did more to scatter the surreal darkness than any fire ever had for the wandering woman. The subtle calluses of working hands across his pads chased away the haunting atmosphere that had gathered around her. He was not a ghost after all, but a wolf with mortal aches and regrets that seemed so familiar. Closer now, she could see the life in him, feel it spreading up her wrist in his warmth as her smaller paw was enveloped by his large grasp. Following his gaze up as he moved, she could see the snowy lashes around his blue eyes, fine details rarely incorporated by specters. The certainty of his being made the night more real, more manageable to the practical female.

A chuckle escaped her at his question, muzzle turning down demurely as she gathered his other hand. “Sometimes I think it’s more that I forget to stop,” she mused, pulling him gently around the fire, spinning so that the heat of the flames reached her in new angles. Her attention tilted skyward as they went, watching the stars momentarily swirl and still and reverse as she considered the possibilities. “I don’t really know,” she admitted finally, shrugging as she released one of his hands, body furling out toward the flames before she spun back into his gravity, only ever skirting intimate quarters. Never pressed to him, never captured close, she passed by like the curl of smoke in the wind, only present in the comb of fur against fur and fleeting touch.

“I’ve stood by two oceans a continent apart. I don’t suppose a third will change anything,” she reasoned with a grin. “The first was warmer, but this...this one is right.”

When the simple dance had warmed them both, bedding down their troubles for a few hours, Genova would break away and feed the fire. The beach felt comfortable and secure in the large male’s gentle company, and despite her usual lonesome lifestyle, she would stay. Like a cat, she slept curled about her few possessions, from habit rather than any fear of his thieving. Everything that was Genova lay within a few square feet of beach, every physical mark that there had ever been such a creature belong to this world. Her bag was nestled in the crook of one arm, hidden in a tangle of dark hair as she used it for a pillow. Her other hand would fidget with the handle of her knife as she drifted to sleep, her back to the fire. Sleep was never deep for her, though, and well before light broke across the sea again, she would be gone, just another ghost of Barrington.

Word Count: 449
OOC| :) perfect! sorry for the shortness. I'll get a post up in their new board right away!

As he stepped into the material world, she passed into the ether. His eyes searched for reality in the wild tangle of restless locks, in the marks that carved a life and pain truer than the ghosts of memory. But she was a moment, a close and breathless whisper on the wind, her words spiraling away like water through rocks of the shore. He knew only of his hand holding her hand, warmly wondering of its tender anatomy. There was the ocean and the fire, and the quiet of their steps in the sand. There was the unknown of their futures held at bay by the unguided, the deeply insistent present. For a moment, he meant only to see her as she lost herself, to return if she would. She unfolded into the glow, her head craned to the stars. She was there in the skies, drifting through the dust of moonlit valleys. He would smile thinking of her for days to come.

Awake long after, he stared into the flames and listened to its burning hymns. He did not shift to lupus that night. He did not sleep at all. But when she rose that morning, he closed his eyes and listened as she left.

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