[P] sooner or later God will cut you down
Del Cenere Foundation
#1
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my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

This had to end.

Nazario combed the edge of his thumb over the frayed end of Riselka's lead, as he hitched her to a more secure spot. The Cartel's camp had suffered mild burns. The Posse's had been trampled - but the coyotes were growing wiser. It certainly didn't help that the del Bosque thought himself steeled to the concept of psychological warfare, the attempts obviously meant to confuse, the threats to make them scatter, to make them easier targets.

These wolves had another thing coming, if they expected that.

His call went up, and it was solid, and it was sure - the characteristic yip of coyote, if not a little deeper; if the threat were to be nullified, they needed plans, strategy. Rio had had enough of the heckling. He'd devise as he went - but first he needed support.

Patting Riselka's shoulder, Malchior echoed his cry with one of those long, gawky wails, before the great bird descended the canopy, and came to harass Nazario for feed, craning up to press the pointed end of his bill against an empty palm, before attempting to suss out those pockets, while Rio simply waited for the others to arrive.

Slowly, the crowd filtered in, trickling to the call, where he wet his lips, and steeled his expression.

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I DON'T WANT TO BE A PROUD MAN, JUST WANT TO BE A MAN
a little less like my father, and more like my dad

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#2
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And the stars will be your eyes, And the wind will be my hands

The crowd had dissipated, though Santiago still remained there, staring to the little wooden cross he'd buried into the dirt, hammered in place with a rock.

The crude marking did not suit the injustice, did not suit the man who lay beneath it. For all the things the Drygrass Posse had done, the trio from Rattler's Gulch carried the brunt of the sins that their past thrust upon them. He had realized this, now - there was no luck in escape, nothing to barter there; even if Evelyn and himself gathered up, fled north even further, how far would they get?

The space at his side felt definitively empty without the golden Reverend to keep him company.

Sometimes, Santiago still started a sentence, a thought, a statement - and would turn to look for his friend, only to find the space empty, and he'd hurt all over again. Fishing was quieter. Brushing out the horses was, too. It all was. And it was certainly no mystery that he'd withdrawn in on himself somewhat in Calhoun's absence.

It had been his fault, after all.

If they'd kept moving, if he'd heeded Calhoun's concern, Evelyn's intuition, he'd still have his damn head, he'd still be around to croak out awful ditties at the campfire. His jaw tightened, and he swallowed the lump in his throat, when the call rang out sharp through the cool morning that was burning off in the sun's gaze. He abandoned the hunt through his traps to heed it.

"¿Qué tal, las brasas?" Santiago murmured once he neared the Cartel's camp, and spotted Rio with his ridiculous bird, his expression confused.

"I think I know how we can run 'em off," Nazario started flatly, and Santiago watched that nose twitch.


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#3
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yeeeeeeeeeee



The yipping howl lifted Clover's head, sending a twinge of fiery pain down her neck as it stratched the inflammed scab. One eye still squinted from beneath a swollen lid, but the other chestnut orb flicked around with dull confusion before she remembered where she was. Some part of her instinctively knew that she was safe (or safer than they'd been on the road alone)—otherwise the howl might have jolted her to her feet—but it still seemed so surreal to be among others again.

The dog got to her feet and pushed her head through a tent-flap, frowning. With low, limping movement she skulked out toward the meeting place.

She lingered at the edges of the slowly gathering band, feeling self-conscious. She scratched at a matted ear with her hind paw, staring forward, until she heard a creaky yap and noticed Vesper trotting toward the group. The old coywolf brandished her bushy tail in an encouraging wag toward her adopted grandson, then came to sit beside Clover, reaching up with a small paw and pressing it against her shoulder.

When her paw pulled back, a smudged print lingered. Clover blinked, then smiled in gratitude, and Vesper offered her a wink back.


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[html]<div class="clovSig"><div class="text">I can feel the thunder that's breaking in your heart<br/>
I can see through the scars inside you</div></div>

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#4
Zsorthia had been just rising when the yipping call rose into the morning air. Ears swiveled in the direction of the sound and quickly she grabbed up her knives, adjusting her hat upon her head before hurrying out of her freshly re-sewn tent, the flaps of the canvas fluttering in the cool breeze off the lake. As she made her way to answer the summons, she found herself among other members of the Posse and Cartel also making their way to the call.

It wasn't long before the red coydog stood among her fellows. Many of which she was slowly starting to feel comradery with. After all the hell they'd been through, she couldn't help but feel a certain loyalty to those around her. They'd taken her in and fought alongside her when there was nothing but darkness, death and uncertainty that lie out in the wilderness for a loner like her. Zsorthia remained passively curious and focused up on the two males who seemed to have called the meeting in the first place. It was Santiago and Nazario. She knew that if those two were putting their heads together, this was definitely important and she didn't want to miss anything.
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#5
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All things truly wicked start from Innocence




Everyone had been put on edge with all the recent events, especially Dahlia. The fire that had plagued the camp had taken her's and Boone's tent.. along with anything that was left inside of it. It was a shame that she had lost the only set of clothing she had, leaving her with nothing, but maybe this was some form of karma coming back to bite her in the ass.

She had to tass aside the things that were her's in the past and move forward with her new life. Inferni was no more, Faith was dead, her niece and nephew had their own home, and she was free to have her own life.

She should be enoying it if nothing else. The shackles were gone, yet she felt like she was still being held back by them.

When the call had gone out, Dahlia raised her tired head, sister at her side. It seemed hard to get sleep with what was going on around here. Thank goodness for her sister and Boone. Lately, the older sibling had been giving her things to help her sleep more soundly at night, and being next to Boone always seemed to help.

Both females made their way up onto their feet, padding over to meet with Nazario. There were others gathered when they arrived, and the rest were not too long to follow along after them. The two sisters stood together, giving their full attention to the one-eyed man, waiting to here what it was he had to say.

+200 words.

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[html]<div id="sig279311" class="signature"> <style> @import url('/images/icons/postsig/signature-icons.css'); #sig279311 { display:flex; }.DahliaSiggy {width:500px; text-align:center; margin:0 auto; padding-bottom:35px;} .DahliaName {font:20px georgia; font-weight:bold; color:#000; letter-spacing:2px; word-spacing:2px; text-transform:uppercase; text-align:right; text-shadow:#fff 0 0 1px;  text-align:center; padding-bottom:3px;}  .DahliaInfo {margin-right:-90px;}  #DahliaPP a {background-repeat: no-repeat; display:inline-block; position:relative; margin:0; opacity:.35; filter:alpha(opacity=35%); transition:200ms linear all; -moz-transition:200ms linear all;}  .DahliaSiggy #signature-icons a {background-repeat: no-repeat; display:inline-block; position:relative; margin:0; opacity:.35; filter:alpha(opacity=35%); transition:200ms linear all; -moz-transition:200ms linear all; border-bottom: 3px solid transparent; } .DahliaSiggy #signature-icons a:hover, .DahliaSiggy #signature-icons a:focus, .DahliaSiggy #signature-icons a:active {opacity:1; filter:alpha(opacity=100%); border-bottom: 4px solid #ca8b8f;  box-shadow: 0px 0px 2px #000;}  .DahliaInfo #DahliaPP a:hover, .DahliaSiggy #SilasPP a:focus, .DahliaSiggy #DahliaPP a:active {opacity:1; filter:alpha(opacity=100%);} </style>  <div class="DahliaSiggy"> <img src="https://i.imgur.com/L85CsAz.png" style="margin-bottom:-150px;  margin-left:-220px;">  <div class="DahliaInfo"> <div class="DahliaName">Dahlia Winthrop</div>  <div id="signature-icons"> <a href="#!" title="I prefer if you do NOT use graphical tables in our threads. Thanks!" class="no-tables"></a> <a href="http://wiki.soulsrpg.com/index.php?n=Players.Salena" target="_blank" title="PLAYER WIKI" class="player-wiki"></a> <a href="https://wiki.soulsrpg.com/index.php?n=Characters.DahliaDeLePoer" target="_blank" title="CHARACTER WIKI" class="character-wiki"></a> <a href="http://wiki.soulsrpg.com/index.php?n=Players.Salena" class="reply-medium" title="REPLY SPEED: MEDIUM"></a> <a href="#!" title="I will roleplay mature material." class="will-mature"></a> <a href="#!" title="I will roleplay LASKY." class="will-lasky"></a> <a href="https://wiki.soulsrpg.com/index.php?n=Players.SalenaAdoptions" class="adoptables-available" title="ADOPTABLES available!"></a> <br> <a href="#!" class="optime-preference" title="OPTIME unless otherwise stated."></a>  <a href="#!" class="strong-prejudice" title="Dahlia has a strong prejudice against God, throwing away the de le Poer religion."></a> <a href="#!" class="skill-hunting" title="Dahlia is a skilled hunter, especially when hunting in her lupus form."></a> <a href="#!" class="skill-generic" title="Dahlia has grown an interesting in cooking the food that she hunts."></a> <a href="#!" class="accompaniment" title="Dahlia is typically accompanied by her sister, Hope Lykoi."></a> <a href="#!" class="character-typical-location" title="Dahlia is typically found at the Ugly Coyote in Charmingtown."></a>
</div> <div id="DahliaPP"><a href="https://wiki.soulsrpg.com/index.php?n=Packs.DelCenereGangJoining" title="Become a Del Ceneren!"><img src="https://dcg.soulsrpg.com/pride/songbirdButton.png"></a></div> </div> </div> </div>[/html]
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#6
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This place – this bitter and unsavory place – was awash in a golden light that faked sweet innocence with all the craft of a wolf in sheep's clothing. It had warmed, finally, but there remained a chill deep within the Vicar's being that could not be eased. Tugging her shawl tight around her shoulders, the marred coyote was always disappointed – despite her understanding of such things – when the thin fabric did nothing for her soul.


No physical comfort could warm the biting grief that languished there.


"Hey."


Evelyn blinked and shifted her eyes to the small dark coydog, not bothering to do anything to soften the heavy brows or the pursed lips that had formed on her ruined face. Paninya, though, didn't seem intimidated. "Whatcha doin'?"


"Thinkin'," she replied dully, her tone thick with annoyance. The younger woman didn't seem to care.


"Sounds boring. You wanna help me with somethin'?"


Evelyn stared, her expression flat and still, and considered all the things she would rather do than help Paninya in this very moment. But before she could say as much (and say as much she definitely would have), a call – that of a coyote if not marginally deeper – sliced through their individual thoughts. Both women turned toward the sound, their large ears perked, and listened.


Sharing a silent glance, the two Posse members gathered their wits and moved toward the cry.


There was already a gathering of coyotes when they approached. Her singular eye flitting restlessly within its socket, Evelyn sought out Santiago's familiar shape and, finding it, abruptly abandoned Paninya to seek him out. "What's this about?" she asked him quietly, slipping in beside him like a wraith as she glanced around at the growing crowd.


[WC — 292]


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#7
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Can't go back, never go back - forward into the rust and dust

Twelve stuck the mouth of chipped bottle to her lips, only to find the gulp dry. Empty.

Damn. She said, throwing the bottle to go rolling onto the dirt and into the grass, never to be seen again.

This whole place was a mess of late, no worries with adding to it with a little refuse. Twelve was starting to think she had somehow cursed these once virgin lands with her presence; things had been so good we she first arrived. Now it was fires, stampedes, wolves out for blood. Typical, just typical.

The gray coyote woman almost didn’t respond when Santiago’s yipping call had gone up. She would have been more than happy just to continue sitting by her tiny fire, enjoying her buzz. But she found herself standing, and grunting, and scratching her backside as she made her way at a brisk pace to meet him. What had she gotten herself into? She cared too much for these wild folk.

Twelve followed up behind some others who gathered; like moths to a flame they seemed to filter out of the woods as if with wings. She hung back, always the outcast, always the outsider, and by choice. Still, close enough to hear what Santiago had to say.

There were Posse and Cartel members alike here; all of them shared common anxiety, common rage, about what had befallen them; maybe the One Eyed Pirate had called them to do something about it. Twelve crossed her skinny arms over her chest, slate eyes watching; she tried to stand as still as possible, despite the drink effecting her sense of balance.


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#8
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(000)

ooc





"Sumthin' sprung one of the traps." He muttered angrily, "Ronnie found wolf hairs, didn't match them fuckers we lookin' for though.." Whoever they'd caught had obviously escaped, though from the blood trail, John didn't think they'd survive long. The voice that spoke of innocents was slowly dying the longer he ignored it.

He half listened to Boone's response, re-wrapping a clean bandage around his burned hand with a scowl. He flexed the stiff fingers, glad at least that they could still be moved. Rio's call cut the two's conversation short, both heads turning towards him with the swiftness of those ambushed already.

John had already been a hard man, and now it felt as if the last softness within him was drying up, leaving behind a cracked, broken lake-bed. He needed rest, he needed to drown himself in his vices until the world faded away. He needed to be able to sleep more than once every three or four days.

Together the two approached, the gathering crowd navigated through. John peered around at them, the numbers swelling with each passing moon it felt like. They were many now. Again, 'Them' and 'Us' burst into life.

Vesper and Clover caught his eye, still looking wretched but less so. He didn't smile, but there was a lessening about the severe lines of his face. John clapped Boone on the shoulder,

"Sumthin' new?" He muttered, exhaustion coloring his voice.


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〈 J⌑O⌑H⌑N⌑A⌑T⌑H⌑A⌑N 〉
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#9
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(+200)

OOC text

Larka wanted to run, but something nameless stopped her. Whether asleep or in her waking hours she was assailed by memories. Ash and flame, broken bodies and headless corpses. The Cartel had been her sanctuary, the second chance at life the former slave didn not realise she had. Their little group were not alone in suffering; the Drygrass Posse had been targeted.

The girl’s breath hitched in her throat at the howl. Larka pushed a hand through the tangled mess of her hair, wondering how long she had sat alone, in silence. She pushed herself to her feet, and tidied her bedding out of habit. Copper-tipped ears perked at the sound of the camp coming into life, yet she lingered.

The darkness of the tent afforded protection from the anger and despondency that lay over the group like gathering storm clouds. Larka was perceptive of the weight that dragged at her body, and made every movement clumsy or sluggish. She needed a moment to think, to breathe before she could face the others.

When she was ready, the girl padded towards the gathered. Ears folded against her skull, spine curved and tail tucked between her legs. A furtive glance told her there were new faces amongst their number. A large doggish woman bearing fresh wounds, a scarred elder with a quiet fire kindling in her eyes and a younger female with unusual markings. Amber eyes held John’s briefly, before flicking to Nazario.

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Avatar by the lovely Despi! <3

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#10
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my heart was flawed, i knew my weakness

This had to end.

Tired eyes turned to him, less for guidance, more questioning - and Nazario felt his nerves fray and send their electrifying shocks through his belly. His gold eye shifted a moment to Vesper - once proud Aquila - and he steeled himself with a tiny twitch of his lips. He could do this, address everyone as a group. How hard could it possibly be?

"Everyone," he addressed, his voice solid, but perhaps a little too hard, and he cleared his throat. "I know things have been rough goin' lately. Uncertain. Frightenin'."

He wet his lips, averted his eyes a moment to his palms, pressed against one another and fingers folding before he stretched his fingers and looked back up.

"But we gotta have faith. This - this hiccup, is not how we end. This ain't the story of us. An' it's important to remember, now more than ever, what we have, and each other.

"That bein' said, I believe it's in everyone's best interest that we come together, Cartel an' Posse, and drive off those that threaten us. We are strong, and we are stronger together, than apart."

His jaw felt tight as he drifted his gaze over those gathered, and he tightened the grip on his own hands to keep them steady as he pulled rank, and stepped outside his boundaries. He spotted Briarblack, cutting her own eyes over the group much as he did - gauging them to test her own certainty.

"As for this group targeting us - it's gone well beyond bein' tolerated. They've dallied here long enough, as we all can agree. It's high time we bring their fight to them, and cut that schemin' short. Those who can make traps, we're going to need 'em - this land ain't gonna be hospitable for 'em any more."

There was another pause, and he squared his stance further.

"Who's with me?"

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I DON'T WANT TO BE A PROUD MAN, JUST WANT TO BE A MAN
a little less like my father, and more like my dad

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#11
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Do not cry out or hit the alarm
You know we're friends till we die


Something eventually had to give. They'd lost so much when the camp went up in flames. All of is belongings, Boone's last shreds of sentimentality, were gone in a puff of smoke. The loss of his father's bow was perhaps the hardest thing to bear. His last tie to Redtooth had been taken away. John had given him his -- seeing as he wasn't in any state to fight no more, but it weren't the same.

Nothing would ever be the same.

The call rose and Boone and his ragged uncle made their way toward the meeting. They spoke of increased patrols, of security, as they walked. The lengths Boone would go to protect his people were extreme. Any wolf -- every wolf -- was to be killed on sight, even the innocents. Such was the curse of their heritage. There was no other way.

As the gathering commenced, Boone listened in contemplative silence while his adoptive brother rallied the troops. It was time to take back what was lost; to fight savagery with savagery. Boone had faith that they would prevail, but beneath the veneer of composure, a pool of hatred bubbled and boiled.

"Hyup!" Boone exclaimed. He raised his bow and loosed a coyote yap. "Let's kill 'em all." Violence was their answer.


OOC text here.

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#12
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Outside the dawn is breaking, But inside in the dark I'm aching to be free


Lyssa had been tending to Bella when she heard the cry. She made sure to secure her firmly before making her way to the others. They stood around Nazario, his expression hard. She waited along with the others, some in sadness, some in fear, some in anger. The fiery coyote stood at attention, her mouth drawn tight. She was ready for whatever would come next.

The last few weeks had drained her emotionally. The death of the Reverend brought back her fear with new fervor. Wolves were hunting her, again. Her nightmares, which had finally begun to fade with her new friends, had come back to haunt her in real life. They might not be the same ones as from Gatineau, but they were the same vicious monsters. The same spiteful creatures that like to rip the happiness away from her, from everyone she loved.

The fire was next. Luckily she wasn't tented up at the Cartel when it happened. She remained one of the few that still had her belongings; The few that she did have anyways. But the stampede... that had made her snap. Her Bella had got caught up in the whole mess, her sweet gentle horse. Then, she had watched as the Posse had gotten torn up, including the garden that she had been working tirelessly on. Rage and hatred pushed out all the fear she had felt previously. How dare they take away the things she had worked so hard for. How dare they rip up the lives of all the canines she cared for. She would no longer stand by waiting for the next attack.

Nazario finally spoke when enough had gathered around. He spoke loud and true of the terrors they had faced. He spoke of forming together to keep each other safe. To take care of the problem at hand. When the one-eyed coyote asked who was with him, Lyssa did not hesitate. It was clear what must be done for the safety of everyone.

"I'm with you" Lyssa called loud above the crowd. Nazario turned his gaze on her as she spoke, and she nodded in support. They would be stronger together.


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#13
“Come on,” Auger said, ushering Notch forward with a hand on his lower back. Notch had been practically glued to his side as of late, and Auger couldn’t blame him. It meant the nudge wasn’t really necessary; Notch would have kept up with Auger when he moved towards the sound of the call. It wasn’t a member of the Posse, but he knew it was meant for everyone.

He and Notch made their way through the gathered crowd, far enough forward so that Notch would be able to see. He had learned that it was important for him, so he tried to make it happen when he could. Notch stood at his side, saying nothing and they both looked towards Santiago as he began to speak.

Auger was definitely ready to be finished with these wolves. He hadn’t ever seen something like this before happening, although he had heard of it. Notch’s hand went to his arm, tightening as it became clear what the plan was. Auger didn’t want Notch anywhere near any fighting, but he also knew that he would be hard pressed to keep him away.

“We are!” Notch added his voice along with the others. Auger merely nodded. Months ago, he and Notch may have just moved on from this sort of trouble. They were used to being on the move, after all. But he’d come to like the group, despite the varying personalities involved, and he didn’t want to turn his back on them now.
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#14
It seemed as though Skeleton was late to join the call, approaching just after Jonathan made it. He spoke to another coyote, one Skeleton had seen around, but hadn’t yet talked to. That was something Skeleton needed to do more of—talk to his fellow comrades in arms—but he’d been in such a state of panic that he hadn’t made it yet. Still, he was too embarrassed to say anything to Jonathan either, not after the fire, so he just followed in quietly. A girl, too, joined the group and Skeleton was taken aback for a moment at the fiery colour of her hair. He felt something inside him whisper that she was beautiful, but that thought was not permitted just yet—not now—and so he ignored it.

Once he found a spot to sit, back legs splayed out and pushing all his weight on his front legs, Nazario began to speak. Skeleton watched as Nazario sought the gaze of a much older and heavily scarred coyote and he realized that he had not yet seen this woman around. His train of thought ended as Nazario began to speak.

Skeleton wanted to believe so bad; leaving Carnivore couldn’t have been for nothing and he couldn’t go slinking back to her—not now and not ever again. He had to fight for himself and for their group. He might not believe in anything, but he could have faith.

It wasn’t the first time he found something stir inside himself. It was a feeling that he had seen his sister unleash, and something he’d never dared: it was anger. He yipped in reply and joined with a voice, too.

“I’m in,” he replied, adding his voice to the growing chorus.

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#15
As she listened to Nazario speak, Zsorthia's face went from passive to an all out sadistic grin, her eyes alight with a fire and a drive those around her may have missed in all the chaos off the past few weeks. Only a plan she agreed with and agreed with quite aptly would bring on such a deadly look from the crimson woman. At last a chance to fight back, drive off their enemies and take a stand once and for all. He called for traps, she was good at making those, she was also good at fighting too. Whatever they needed, she was their girl. She'd make sure she was found useful and was good on her word to protect this rag tag bunch of yotes she'd come to find kinship with.

Masked gaze scanned those gathered seeing similar emboldened faces around her as voices rose up to meet their leader's call to arms. "Who's with me? He said and various voices, some she knew, some she didn't went up, and with a deep growl and a yap of her own she followed up behind Skeleton. "You bet I'm in. Let's get 'em!" Lashing her tail she smirked and crossed her arms over her chest, fingers itching to draw her blades and go hunt down some wolves...
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#16
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Can't go back, never go back - forward into the rust and dust

She hadn’t interacted with Nazario too much, but had heard enough gossip about him that she had decided he wasn’t anyone to worry about. But watching the boy, barely even out of pup-hood in her opinion, stand up in front of all these rough-and-tumble folk and put himself up on the pedestal of leadership was hard to watch, if not outright laughable.

But she couldn’t judge too harshly; Twelve had never had any delusions of grandeur, she would never want to have any kind of crown pressed upon her head; let the kid be at the forefront, he’d be the first to get spit in the face.

His speech was hardly rousing, but it seemed to speak deep to those gathered. Yelps and hollers rang out, offers of loyalty, the lust for blood. Twelve couldn’t help but smirk; these ‘yotes were sure an interesting bunch. They knew little of the world outside this small patch of land they had claimed, and they were willing to fight for it.

Good on them, who was she to spoil the fun?

Twelve brought curved fingers to her mouth and whistled shrilly and loudly over the din of the others, that was all she gave as a response, though did throw One Eye a wink.


OOC | [wc — 211] template by hilli, image from Bryan Mullennix
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#17
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A crowd gathered, many of the faces unfamiliar, but narrow-muzzled and hardened with experience and scars, like-minded folk. It should have comforted Clover, but she lowered her head in an attempt to make herself smaller, less visible. It wasn't until she spotted a couple of other women, one with a horribly burned face, another disfigured with as many scars as Vesper, that she stared with interest.

Then Nazario began to speak.

His voice carried over the crowd of hybrids, urging the two groups (Cartel and Posse, a distinction Clover hadn't learned yet) to band together against their threat. He rallied them like past Aquilas rallied Inferni to fight, and Clover instinctively found herself glancing toward Vesper, almost startled by this development.

The old coywolf did not look surprised at all. Her chin was lifted, her pale blue eyes zeroed in on her adoptive grandson, a characteristic half-smile slanted on her muzzle.

Vesper joined her harsh voice to the others'. After some hesitation, Clover barked: a deep woof that cut through the yapping cries. Her brown eyes were steely, her expression dark, but she was loyal to Vesper no matter what.


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[html]<div class="clovSig"><div class="text">I can feel the thunder that's breaking in your heart<br/>
I can see through the scars inside you</div></div>

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#18
Wayne pushed Cochise with all the horse could muster.

The call had rung out loud and true, straight into Wayne's tawny ears. He'd shot up from his camp, taking only what he could carry. With all that's been going on, he couldn't risk taking a few minutes to pack his make-shift tent. There could be lives on the line.

Pulling into the site, he found the two family's he'd grown to love, and to fight for, gathered around Nazario. The small chattering of curiosity were around, but no one looked desperate. Slowing Cochise and taking a breath of relief, he brought the horse to a slow saunter as he came near. It seemed he'd come just in time. Nazario's mouth just parted, to inform everyone of why they'd come.

Wayne's hardened gaze swept about the Cartel and Posse's people as he denoted those who were, and weren't there. This was a meeting long coming. At the word 'faith', Wayne's eyes snapped to Nazario.

There was so much there Wayne wanted to believe, and fight to prove. They'd come so far, and Wayne had only found them in the middle of it all. Even he'd felt he'd been through hell and high water, that is, if there was snow in hell. The only thing that had kept him alive was these two bands that had become more family than anything else. A nod tipped Wayne's gambler as Rio spoke of their strength together. He knew by experience that was nothing but the truth.

When the question rang true, Wayne's eyes narrowed on Nazario for just a moment. While others might have looked toward their kin and kind to answer their own hearts, Wayne knew exactly what he wanted.

“Through Thick'n Thin,” A pride rose in his voice that hadn't been there for a long, long time. Something to really fight for, more that just survival. He'd never been so sure of anything since Cuero.

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#19
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Santiago's solid frame and familiar musk tempered the disquiet and the ambivalence rising within her as Nazario addressed them – all of them, Cartel and Posse alike – as though they were one cohesive unit. Silent and motionless as a mantis, the Vicar watched and listened and wondered.


Us. The story of us.


When they had agreed to accept the help that the Cartel coyotes had offered them, and later set up camp within close vicinity to their own, it had been us and them. With a flare of surprise that she scarcely felt much these day, it dawned on Evelyn how much that line separating their two factions had become blurred. Its edge, once deep and bold and plain, was now so thin and so worn that it had become nothing more than a fading memory of a fleeting past.


Shifting her hand discreetly from beneath her layers, Evelyn found Santiago's rough hand and wrapped her bandaged fingers around it. She did not speak, nor did she turn to look into his dumb, broken, handsome face. Instead, she let the magic of touch convey everything he needed to know.


We are them. This is us. Our story is here.


While the chorus of supporters lifted up around them, Paninya's yapping yowl along with them, the Vicar set her remaining fiery eye burning in Nazario's direction and, soundlessly, dipped her head once, quickly. You're goddamned straight we're with you.


[WC — 243]


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