sweetwater is a hard ride from here

Word Count → ??? :: This is a special event thread for the Boreas Conflict! Takes place some days after the events of this thread.

They'd weathered their fair share of disconcerted customers; They'd progressed in spite of the efforts of many nameless, faceless foes. It was difficult not to be arrogant about the advancements of their Kingdom, but especially so in the face of the violence just gone.

He was quietly confident that whatever came, they would continue to weather. After all, hadn't Stannis and his entourage all arrived relatively unharmed? Lillith's boy, the pale and withdrawn Wretch, Rafael and his foreign ward; They'd all come safely unscathed, though the trifle itself had been an unforgivable occurrence.

So all of Salsola was wary, certainly. It wasn't every day that archers shot from the trees on a peaceful homebound caravan. But then, there were any number of bandits and scoundrels so desperate for wealth of their own that they would set upon even the semblance of it.

To appease the Queen, and to put in place some action that would settle the civilians, Lokr had ordered all their scouts and hunters to be on guard and do careful reconnaissance of their usual paths. If anything unsettling or strange showed up (he thought about Nicodemus and the seaglass cairns with a wry smile) then it would be dealt with accordingly.

So it was that Lokr had come to Drifter Bay. Borya chuffed, glad to be exercised in the crisp morning air; The giant Siberian beast was well suited to the thick snowdrifts and frosty landscape. As he rode, Lokr kept his longbow at the ready - He was not afraid of an ambush, but looking instead for any little winter-white hares that would make for a tasty supper.

When he came upon the signs of a scuffle in the snow - a number of hoofprints all scattered about - the lord frowned, and turned Borya about in tight circles as he took its measure. The herds that roamed this land belonged by mutual pact to Inferni and Salsola, and were jealously guarded by both. That did not mean that wild predators, or senseless vagabonds, did not often try to take advantage of such a valuable resource.

Curious, and feeling for the first time that morning slightly unsettled, Lokr followed the tracks back to where one of the herds peacefully grazed. The big graceful animals were pawing with their hooves to find what stubborn grasses remained under the frost and the snow. Halting Borya at such a distance as would not spook them, the hunter squinted his eyes, and began to count.

When he realized that it was not one, nor two, nor even three horses missing - but four, he counted, four! Far too many for any lonesome beast to take off with, and not the old, the weak or the young missing among them, but some of the finest stock - Lokr exhaled sharply, and let out an authoritative, echoing cry.

Borya tossed his antlered head. The wild horses in the open field below lifted their heads warily, but did not flee. They were used to being watched.

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~ [ 432 ]

The mustang snorted a jet of steam into the air as a gentle tug on his reins drew him to a halt, his weight shifted across his hoofs restlessly, the stallion eager to continue their patrol. His rider was not so keen on pressing onward just yet and adjusted is own weight against the chilled leather of the saddle, his tail flicking warily behind him as he did so. Ears, just a touch too large for a pure blooded wolf, twitched attentively to the sounds of his immediate surroundings, his nostrils quivering to draw in various scents as piercing glacier blues swept the snowy terrain.

Ever since the small group of their Family returned from the Outpost, only to be set upon by a hailstorm of arrows, it seemed as if the whole pack was on edge. They were fine, all of them, unmarred and unbroken, but the sanctity of Salsola's borders was breached once again. Duncan sighed once more as he recalled the last few times the pack was shaken so deeply; when the bodies appeared upon the periphery of their realm, when the cairns and carvings seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Like so many times before the pack was unsettled but not so easily subdued, and as always the Thistle Kingdom conquered and carried on.

They would do so again in defiance against whatever enemy they faced now. There were too many of them who had pledged their heart and soul to the sovereign and soil and all the gods old and new that their covens and zealots bowed to. This, he felt, was what truly made Salsola great. Not the material wealth of its collective fortune but the immeasurable faith of its Family. He was honored to be a part of that, no matter how small and insignificant, and he was willing to do all he could to protect it.

A call rang out across the open plains of snow blanketed bay lands rolling out into the distance beyond him and snapped Duncan from his momentary daze. Finn snorted again and shook his monochromatic mane fitfully, a hoof stamping at the earth in impatience. Gritting his teeth the young scout spurred his horse onward and the mustang ardently propelled into a run, the duo making haste toward where the unmistakable sound of the Lord Commander erupted from. As much as he wanted to believe the attack had been an isolated incident, this new dismaying summons seemed a harbinger of more hardships to come. Unshaken, the Confidant wore a stern but determined expression once the Underboss came into view.

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