And now I need to know is this real love
[self thread]
#1
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much plots to self thread. @-@ Dated Jan 15th, afternoon of the ND/VN/CDC party. [418]

Jordheim was most familiar to her when it was blanketed in snow. That was how Florina remembered it best: the countless hours of her childhood spent dashing through snowbanks, chewing on icicles, burrowing for imaginary prey, playing freely with her sisters and cousins until they got too cold and scarpered home without her. It was better with snow.

The Epsilon obediently followed the howl that invited her into the pack, though the Sannindi had not come to greet her in person. Her Frithr pendant should be enough proof to prying eyes that she had permission to be here, though she personally felt unwelcome and wanted to complete her task sooner rather than later. Despite her impatience, Florina lingered near one hill in particular, her silver eyes calm as she studied the landmark that only had meaning to her. The house was still unoccupied, as it had been back then. The wolfdog harbored an odd sense of satisfaction that no one else could lay claim to that place. It was privately hers.

She recalled the afternoon well – she was by herself, her juvenile mind bored and seeking entertainment. (Had she ever outgrown that restlessness? She was still driven by the same urge to keep herself busy.) That particular hill was the one she clambered atop, only to be swept up in a bird’s talons and flown through the sky. Florina stared for a moment longer, pressing her fingers to her chest to try and locate the flutter of thrill. It was only an echo of the glee she’d felt as a pup. Her little body had tumbled and twisted through the air and landed straight into Uncle Saul’s waiting arms. She could scarcely believe she had once been small enough for him to cradle like that. Silver eyes flicked to the colorless winter sky, half-expecting to see the same gyrfalcon wheeling overhead waiting for her. Sometimes she still dreamt of flying.

With a huff, Florina turned and trudged onward through the snow. Nostalgia was pointless. She was here on official New Dawn business: the wolves were opening their borders to Vinátta (as well as Casa di Cavalieri), and she had reluctantly volunteered to escort the Vináttan youths to the party Raeka wanted. Florina was arrogant enough to believe she knew the way better than anyone, and she was stronger than anyone if they needed protection. The lawless territories between them were rife with danger, and she would entrust the safety of those she cared about to no one else.


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#2
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Colibri stood squarely on all fours, her howl dying on her lips. The small wolf stared anxiously at the door as though it were about to open at any second, even though Florina's voice called distantly from the borders. She whined softly, anxious heart jumping and fluttering erratically in her chest. Since Miskunn had passed down the word about New Dawn’s upcoming celebration, Colibri expected to see her wolfdog daughter for the occasion. Flori promised last time that she would meet her half-siblings, and Coli would hold her to it. She stressed over it every day until the party, though. What should she say?

Her bobtail flattened against her haunches, and she paced, nails clicking against the floors. Niernan was thoughtfully out for the day so that she could have her meeting in private, but she would have felt so much braver with him beside her. She realized by the silence that she had an audience, and turned to face them. The trio of puppies stared at her wonderingly with their shining blue eyes – such a soft, infantile hue, the same as all pups their age. Coli contemplated their irises lovingly and whether they would darken to Niernan's cerulean hue, or if they would change to some other color less common in their family tree. It was too soon to tell if they would keep their baby blue permanently.

They were nearing their two-month mark, which would be a large milestone since they should expand their vocabulary dramatically. Russano and Fionna were already speaking in fragments – their clamoring cries for "eat-eat" or "play kitty" rang out frequently enough that Coli never slept for long. Ninian was still soft and quiet, but her reticence was not the same as Fiora’s timidity; the little scrap of white fur followed everyone in her sight, clumsily mimicking their movements and attitudes. Even now she was tilting her head back with her mouth forming an "O", trying to noiselessly imitate Colibri’s howl.

Coli sighed, ears falling back, and padded over to her litter snug in their nest of furs. She lavished them with wolf kisses, and smiled as they squirmed and yelped in their attempts to escape her tongue. It was so easy to love them at this age – they were innocent, dependent, precious. All too quickly they would grow and change, and she feared she could lose them the way she lost her wolfdog daughters. She was selfish to want them all under the same roof forever, but it really was what she wanted. She couldn’t even keep them in the same pack, though.

"You three have to stay in Vinátta forever, okay?" she whispered teasingly to the Stormbringer brood, and smiled helplessly as they crowded around her forelegs and jumped at her. She could see so much of her beloved mate in their faces — to her, they all took after their sire, and it pleased her greatly.

(484)

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#3
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[400]

She thought for a brief moment what it would have been like to have Kerrian tagging along at her side. He surely would have followed if he knew when she was traveling, but she left discreetly to that end. She told him very little about her birthpack, so he would probably try to tease her about the silly little huts and the barn full of pet animals. Imagine the dumb questions he would have as he lumbered along on his hands and knees, peering at the quaint village of hill-houses where Florina had grown up. Better yet, imagine trying to teach the ebony savage to walk on two legs and wear clothing.

The bizarre mental image made the corner of her mouth tug into a shadow of a smile as she strode through the trails cut into the snow by daily foot traffic. Zalen's son would never fit in a pack like this. It would be ludicrous to even show him around; he was wild through and through, and she had left him in ignorance for that simple reason.

She made that mistake once with Auggie, only in reverse – she had displaced him in the wild, when he was clearly more Vináttan than Dawn. (He never did come back to visit, despite their promises to each other. Perhaps his mothers still forbade the Aston male from seeing her.) Displacing Kerrian into civilization would be equally hopeless. Only she could be caught between the two worlds this completely with no way to resolve her attachments. She did not know how to shed one skin and don the other without regrets. If she knew the truth behind her half blood heritage, her conflict would have an added irony.

Florina grumbled under her breath. Her musings had carried her to the house she needed — not the ramshackle hut surrounded by gardens that she had been raised in, but a much larger and unfamiliar house that reeked of cats and puppies. (Niernan's house, although she should probably correct that label to include her mother as well.) At least there was no nostalgia to trap her here; she knew nothing about it. She was simply obligated to visit Colibri since she was present.

Florina grit her teeth and drew a deep breath before pounding on the wooden door with her fist. She gave her word that she would meet the pups once they were born.





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The knock at the door was loud and startling, and Coli flinched despite having expected it. The puppies scrambled toward the noise, as they learned to love visitors and were conditioned to expect their father’s return accompanied with food. The Lupus woofed softly, trying to call them back, though only Russano looked back at her and wagged his tail in placation. Colibri gulped audibly, blue eyes round like saucers, and padded towards the door. "C-come in," she stammered aloud, and rocked back onto her haunches to watch it swing open.

Perhaps she would always be startled by how grownup her runaway girl appeared. Snowflakes swirled in the air around her, as white as the waves of her curly mane that flowed down her back. Just as she had been for the livestock delivery, Florina stood tall in her Optime form, broad shoulders squared with feral strength. She was not as immense as Farina, but the sisters were clearly cut from the same cloth despite their mismatched pelts. It was not their dog blood by her reckoning – the black shepherd had been tall but lithe, and his wiry build would have paled in comparison to the daughters he forcibly sired. Farina and Florina certainly drew little from their dam as well – it was something deeper, older, that made them so impressive. Coli gawped for a brief moment as cold air flooded over the threshold and caused the fireplace to sputter in protest.

Finally she found her voice and spoke first. "Welcome, Florina! I’m so glad you came," Coli yipped, her shorn tail brushing against the floor. Florina grunted in acknowledgment, then her muzzle dropped as she regarded the trio of puppies play-attacking her. Colibri rose to her paws and quickly shepherded the wolf cubs away from gnawing on Flori's white toes, though her attempts at authority were met with resistance. The larger girl would not give up her prize, and Coli nervously lifted her by the scruff to carry her away mid-growl. Florina had agreed to meet them, sure, but that did not mean she would enjoy being their chew toy.

"This scamp is Fionna, and the boy is Russano, and the littlest one is Ninian," the mother mumbled through a mouthful of puppy fur, uplifted gaze searching for any sign of approval.

(382)

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#5
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[371]

At the sound of her mother's stutter, Florina's tall ears flattened back against her mane. She obeyed and pushed the door open in a flurry of snow. Fat puppies were yipping and stumbling over themselves in their eagerness to play with her. Again Florina wondered how she herself had ever been that small. By the scents, she had two more sisters, and her first brother. They did not yet wear Frithr necklaces – they had not been baptized at the Grand Lake by the Godja.

Her tail stirred instinctively, but Florina cocked her head and stared at Colibri instead. She was mildly surprised to see her mother in her feral form, although a vague memory partially resurfaced of Colibri remaining on all fours during her early months. It must be how she chose to handle whelps. New Dawn would approve.

Flori shook her head and sighed, pulling the heavy door shut behind her to block the drafty air. "They seem healthy," she commented impassively as she crossed her legs and sat on the floor, disregarding the nearby chairs and table. It was too strange to tower over everyone when she was shifted, since most days she preferred her four-legger forms anyway. Optime simply seemed most appropriate for escorting the Vináttan contingency.

Colibri gave up on her feeble attempts to stop them, so the enthusiastic children soon swarmed into Florina’s lap, their tiny noses sniffing and nudging her with insatiable curiosity. The Epsilon held very still and permitted them to do whatever they wanted. Even if they needed discipline, she would not risk damaging them when they were so small and frail. Silver eyes scrutinized them, noting similar cream shades in their puppy fur that matched her own. Interesting.

She mostly tuned out her mother’s voice, and leaned over subtly to sniff at the brother and sisters. They smelled heavily of Stormbringer, which elicited a small glimmer of jealousy. She never spent time with Niernan’s kids—the age gap meant they were too small to play rough with, unlike the Virding litter or Leaf. The Virding couple were very influential to her, though. She always privately wanted that name, with all its ancient fury and magick. She knew nothing of the legacy of Soul.


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#6
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Colibri watched on with equal parts hopefulness and anxiety shining bright in her gaze. It was always difficult to read Florina when she was wearing that calm mask of indifference — which for the briefest of moments reminded her of Cercelee, though Cer wore the blankness on purpose; Flori seemed to naturally lack expression. She didn’t smile often, and her cloudy grey eyes were particularly inscrutable now that she was an adult. Coli couldn’t tell if her wolfdog daughter liked having the pups playing in her lap, or if her patience was wearing thin.

She trusted Florina enough to let her handle the two month olds, though. Not everyone would be so forgiving after having their wrist broken, she knew, but she had faith that Florina wanted to prove she had better control over her temper now. So far she had seen a lot of maturity in her daughter that had not been present before her time in New Dawn (although her attitude was sadly the same as ever). Coli had always been lenient with family, most of all her kids. She would absorb all of their mistakes as her own.

"Um, just so y-you know, I’m not sure if F-Fiora and Farina are going with you tonight… I'm sure they'd like it if you invited them personally, and showed them where you’ve been hiding all this time," Coli murmured, though her daughter shrugged a shoulder moodily in wordless response.

"Teagan will be with you for certain, and Lochlan will probably go with her. Those two are rarely apart for long," she added with a crooked smile. Florina snorted in disinterest, and Coli let her stare drop to the floorboards. Maturity or not, the wolfdog had always been impatient with small talk. Coli on the other hand was uncomfortable with long stretches of silence, and fidgeted as her anxiety compounded.

Finally her resolve broke and she blurted, "Wh-what do you have p-planned for the party? I still know so little about New Dawn, so I'm… um… curious myself…" Her voice trailed off awkwardly as Florina's stare locked onto her. Were her questions too personal? Flori could be touchy with those who pried into her business, especially if it was anything that frustrated her. Coli's ears fanned backward in trepidation.



(378)

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#7
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[358]

Florina was not known for being observant or empathetic, but the more she studied, the more Colibri did not seem well. She stared unblinkingly, finding it unsettling to see her parent in such obvious poor health. The earth-tone wolf was small and gaunt, her dull fur hanging in clumps off the visible curves of her bones. She looked so small, glassy eyes impossibly large by comparison. Was she not eating? Or had the puppies sapped her dry? The Epsilon tried to focus harder on that partially forgotten memory of her youth, straining for minutia that would tell her if Colibri had been this weak back then. The only clear detail from the past was her childish frustration that her mom was always too tired to play with them. Perhaps she had been sick then, too.

So why in Freya's benevolent name would Colibri choose to bear more puppies if this was the effect motherhood had on her? Was Niernan okay with this? Florina would never understand parents anyway. She lacked the innate desire to pass on genetic material, and silently mused that if Colibri wanted her line to continue into grandchildren, she would do better to push a different daughter into mating. Florina was already gods-blessed and perfect; no pup would ever surpass her, and she wouldn’t risk her body to prove otherwise.

"You look like crap. How are you still doing Sannindi stuff when you can barely do mom stuff?" she interjected, flatly ignoring the question asked of her.

It was starting to grate on her nerves that New Dawn hierarchy rewarded those who paired up and bred. If she ever wanted to rise to Beta, she would have to shackle herself to a male. Pregnancy was such a repulsive process: just look at the results, long after the whelps clawed out of the womb. She raised a hand and scratched at the back of her neck, trying to offset the sensation of her skin crawling. Perhaps that was the root of her annoyance, but it was also disturbing to her to watch her mother waste away like this. Did she really think it was worth it?



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#8
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Colibri winced at the blunt accusation. She swallowed audibly, though she did not cringe outright. "I… I'm making do, Florina. I can balance everything, I just… it's an adjustment period," she explained weakly. Her body was anemic and recovering very slowly despite her best efforts. Fatigue of the body she could at least handle, though the mental exhaustion was more taxing. Lucidity was fleeting, and most hours of the day were spent in a sleepy fog. It would pass eventually. She shook her head, trying to focus her response plainly and simply for her daughter’s sake.

"If… when… I need help, I have Niernan and Saul and your sisters, so you shouldn’t concern yourself," she added, voice fading. She did not like being such a burden, but she had bounced back after her first birth whilst weathering a severe spell of depression and a hurricane. She was a healer and she knew how to fix herself – she would just keep resting, eating pemmican and other rich foods to try and gain weight, and focusing on one day at a time. The big picture, such as her job and the duties she was shirking, would have to wait for her to catch up. She would wear herself too thin if she didn’t keep her priorities straight, which she had also learned after her first birth.

Florina scowled and looked skeptical, but was distracted when Ninian caught hold of her hair ribbon and began tugging it loose. Coli found herself smiling when she watched Flori pinch the ribbon between fingertips and tug it back and forth for the amusement of her kid sister. The other puppies soon joined in the fun.

"…You'll understand when you become a mother, if that day ever comes. I know I look sick, but I'd gladly trade my health for my kids a thousand times over. Family is more important to me than leadership." She whispered softly, knowing the Epsilon wasn’t paying close attention anyway. Blue eyes were directed down at her paws.


"I… I first asked for the job so… so I could set a better example for you and your sisters, and be someone you would be proud of… it had nothing to do with being in charge of anything, and it still doesn't."

(391)

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#9
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[589]

That was the stupidest thing Florina ever heard. Her hackles bristled, and she unceremoniously dumped the puppies onto the floor as she stood. The pack needed leaders to look out for all of them, not just their relatives. Her hands clenched, and she snorted sharply. Nepotism. Florina always figured that was the reason her mother had risen to council – because Colibri and Lilin were sisters who spent all their time together, and Uncle Saul handled all the heavy duties for them. As a child that was all she perceived. Florina considered her mother weak-willed, cowardly, fragile, pathetic: far too sycophantic and submissive to call herself Sannindi.

It was only driven home when she familiarized herself with the powerful leadership of New Dawn, especially the magnificent queen Raeka. The fact that Colibri was still in charge of things despite being half-dead and addled with 'mommy brain' was inexcusable. Her mother wanted her to be proud, and yet Florina did not think she ever had been. She certainly was not at this moment. Mateship had reduced Colibri into a pitiable state that she might never recover from. Femininity, pregnancy, motherhood, once she gave in it was all linked to weakness. Family should not be more important than leadership. The whole pack should be considered family. Everything here was frustratingly wrong.

Yet despite all her dominance and ambition, Florina thought not of sedition but simply of the immeasurable debt she owed her mother. Her health, her body, that was all she had in this world – Colibri was not gods-blessed nor invincible, and Florina had endangered her and permanently scarred her. By rights, Florina should be outcast; she was a traitor to her kin. Colibri still had the audacity to say she would throw her body away for her offspring; she didn’t seem to care that her daughter had savaged her wrist over nothing but a child’s impatience. Last time she had said outright that there was no blame. Florina still harbored guilt, and it made her hostile and critical because she did not know how to come to terms with her shameful mistake. She needed blame. She needed to redeem herself, or this pack would always elicit emotions that she could not control.

A sea of blue eyes were staring up at her. Colibri and the three puppies were all gaping, and Florina remembered why she stood up. "I should go now," she said simply. If she stayed longer, she might crumble. The wolfdog felt doubt. She had assumed that having Niernan and new children would fill Colibri’s life and make her forget about the daughter who betrayed her. She had not expected that she might be… needed. If she could shoulder some of the burden, carry the weight of that which did not matter as much to her mother as it did Florina, perhaps she could finally rid herself of the hooks of guilt that pulled her back to this place. She couldn’t stay, though. She was not built to be around delicate things.

"If you need me, you know where to find me," she added gruffly. It was the closest she came to offering. Tall ears twitched at the sound of a call at the borders – it sounded suspiciously similar to Kerrian’s voice. The magnetic pull to return to New Dawn was too strong for her to resist, even though she would have to drag a gaggle of Vináttan kids along with her. Her mouth set in a grim line, and she turned to leave as abruptly as she arrived.






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#10
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The bobtail wolf flinched when her daughter stood so suddenly. She busied herself by gathering her three pups close to her on the floor, and avoided looking up for fear of what she would find. She had spoken too personally again, and now Florina was leaving. She was always walking on eggshells, but she would inevitably misstep. She knew she shouldn’t keep bringing up Flori’s childhood since it made the wolfdog uncomfortable, but she just couldn’t seem to help herself. When she got nervous, she rambled to fill the awkward silences, and naturally she jumped to the memories she held dear.

Sure enough, Coli looked up and saw the flatness in the storm cloud grey eyes that signified frustration or turmoil. Florina was much more sensitive than she let on, but Colibri knew better than anyone. She wilted. The reunion was much too brief, and she could not go along to the party as a chaperone when she had her little ones to look after. Perhaps she could ask Lochlan and Teagan for details of Florina’s pack, because gods only knew Florina wouldn’t tell her a thing. At least if their packs stayed on good terms, there could be more events in the future that would bring Florina back to visit.

"W-wait. Promise you’ll come back for their Ausa Vatni?" Coli asked meekly. She nudged the crown of Russano’s head with her nose, seeking comfort to distract her from her daughter leaving. She did not like to make demands, but if she did not, she would never know when Florina might be back. Weariness crept into her, and she knew she would have to rest after the emotions ebbed away. "Your brother and sisters like you, and it’s so nice to have you around…"

Florina hesitated, but silently nodded. Coli sighed in relief, and a small smile curved onto her muzzle. The puppy naming ceremony would be soon, and it gave her a specific day to anticipate having her wayward daughter there. She knew it could only be hopefulness clouding her judgment, but it seemed as though Florina was not as resistant to Vinátta anymore. Perhaps it was finally sinking in that everyone wanted her to return, and that the accident was just that, an accident. New Dawn was a fine pack, she was sure, but it was not the same as where she had been born. For the first time, there was a glimmer of hope that Florina might forgive herself and come home for good.

"H-have fun at the party… you’ll have to tell me all about it next time," Coli called weakly as the door slammed shut.




(440) wow my thread partner sucks. finished!!

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