[P] it starts with an earthquake
birds and snakes, an aeroplane
#1
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Board Event: Plague Doctors

Set at the trader's camp in Fort Cumberland.

*

They had been here a few days now. Capricorn wasn't very good when it came to keeping track of these sorts of things, but he was not reliant upon himself entirely. This had been the case for most of his life – though he had left home he had always been with others. At first it had been friends, living as a group, and then bit by bit everyone either broke off or hooked up and he was left in the lurch.

He kept on moving, like he always did, and the more he traveled the more he had seen and learned. All of them had.

It was not quite dawn when the birdsong, shrill and piercing, woke the dog from his sleep. The heat of their bed made him reluctant to rise, and so at first he did not. Sometime during the night Dalibor had wound up in the middle, and his big body was sprawled out beneath the blanket. From the way his chest rose and fell, Capricorn could tell the bird hadn't woke the wolf. He slept like a log sometimes. This habit was both adorable and intolerable, though Capricorn had learned a lot about things like tolerance and the complexities of love throughout all of this.

To survive a plague, one needed to adapt. The most important thing about Luperci was their ability to respond to a changing world. Not everyone would make it, but they could try.

They had to try.


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#2
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It had been five days since their arrival.


She counted the days to their departure, not because she wanted to go, necessarily, but because someone needed to. Fiction liked to think knew she was independent enough to survive on her own, as her mother had, but she wasn't so stubborn that she'd turn away help or companionship or love or belonging where it was offered. She relied on Dalibor and Capricorn for many things, and so if it was down to her to keep the time, then she would keep the time.


That the birdsong began before sunrise was one quirk of spring and summer she wasn't appreciative of, but it was someone else in the nest of furs and blankets shifting slightly that woke her. Fiction opened one bleary eye -- which immediately and accidentally met Capricorn's -- and closed it again, scowling instinctively. She was mad at him about something, but she wasn't awake enough to recall.


"It's too early," she mumbled, by way of greeting.


Between them, Dalibor slept on.

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#3
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A sliver of bright blue told him that Fiction was awake – tough as he slowly came more to his senses he could hear the change in her breathing. He smirked when she pretended to be mad at him (she was good at finding things to get mad about when she wanted to) and slowly stretched his legs out until his fuzzy toes fully extended.

Slowly, casually, he rolled over onto the wolf between them – throwing one leg over his own, moving an arm as if he meant to reach for Fiction. His fingers fell just shy of her face, as if he wasn't sure if she'd let him or not.

The bird says otherwise, love, he said quietly. Coyly, he shoved his fuzzy mass of blonde hair beneath Dalibor's chin. The room was chilly beyond their blankets and body heat and Capricorn was not willing to get up yet either. He was prepared for the work ahead but for the moment, saw no reason to hurry to their long day of gathering and trade. I don't mind staying here a little longer, he murmured. These cold mornings don't do anything for me.


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#4
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"No one asked for the birds' opinion," she sighed.


Truthfully, Fiction liked mornings and sunrise, and even the slight spring chill wasn't the worst. Melting frost and morning dew always looked beautiful under the waking sky, and the lazy quietness of morning (in between the tittering birds) was satisfyingly peaceful. Most of their days began early and ended early. Though were surely capable of blaziing trails in the dark, travel was easier and safer by day, and the long winter had all things yearning for sun.


But she didn't like being woken up, and she didn't like the five or ten seconds or so of discomfort between when she escaped her warm nest and when she adjusted to the weather and being upright and awake again. There wasn't harm in waiting a little longer.


Fiction could not stop herself from smiling. "You're going to suffocate him if he doesn't wake," she said. Reaching up, she grasped Capricorn's outstretched hand and tugged it with a surprising amount of force, though this did nothing to move the red dog. Fiction pulled herself up instead and half-fell, half-rolled into him, making to push him off the wolf. Dalibor, for his part, huffed slightly and groaned, either still asleep or faking it because he didn't want to deal with them just yet.

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#5
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Capricorn liked morning's too – he especially like the times when no one else was awake and the world was still. During those hours he could sit alone and listen to the birds and just be without overthinking all that awaited them now.

The world beyond this small, safe place was out to destroy them. Nature had always intended for it to be this way – for them to die – but he was afraid of what he had seen.

He was afraid of losing these things he put so much into.

The dog smiled at Fiction's comments, and when she took his hand Capricorn was pleasantly surprised. She had been so cross with him for no reason (at least none that he could recall). This was a good sign!

Her trick worked. She wiggled her way atop Dalibor while Capricorn was unseated, left back where he had begun.

Wow, he practically whispered. Thinking quickly, he pouted. Now I'm cold. Not willing to let her dominate their man, Capricorn slowly – though with pointed purpose and dramatic cautiousness – moved until he was able to climb atop both of them. It seemed as if he might have been meaning to move, but instead he settled, dropping his weight down atop the pair. There was an audible grunt from Dalibor even though the wolf stubbornly kept his eyes shut.


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#6
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Dalibor only kept his sleeping facade for a moment longer, but while the wolf was certainly used to his partners' various antics, even he had his limits. "Must you both be like this?" he grumbled in his low bass. To an untrained ear, it might've sounded like a threatening tone.

Opening his golden eyes at last, Dalibor braced one arm on the ground and in a swift movement, toppled the small tower that had been building atop him. Despite having been "asleep" a moment before, the wolf rolled over and rose quickly, gathering the two smaller canines beneath him as he loomed over them, an arm braced on each side.


"It's too early for this," he muttered, volume dropping a bit. He yawned wide at the end of his sentence.


Fiction smiled. "It's always too early."



"I'm not a horse," Dalibor said. "I'll never have been asleep long enough to be climbed all over."



"Maybe," the hybrid said. She reached up to kiss the wolf quickly before glancing over at Capricorn. "Sorry, but you can blame your boy here, as usual. Maybe we should just have him sleep in the cold tonight?"


Dalibor sighed again and yawned.

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#7
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Capricorn let out a bark of surprise as he tumbled back onto the bed. He delighted in moments like these – when for brief respites they were free from the chaos beyond their little room.

It was madness out there, and it was coming for them. Who could blame a dog for seeking comfort in the moment, and in these people who had become so important to him? The teasing and the little fights were all a part of the three of them sorting out this unit they had become.

Feigning shock, Capricorn put a hand on his fluffy chest.

Me!? Oh no no, I was nice and comfortable before someone tried to hog all the heat. You two can't just bully me because I'm—,

Loud? Dalibor offered.

Oh so you are awake, huh?

I am now.

Sprawled on their furs, Capricorn stretched until his limbs shook. Dalibor reached over to rub his exposed belly, and Capricorn made a noise of appreciation. His eyes had closed again, half-hidden beneath his unruly hair.

Mmm maybe we should just stay in bed.


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#8
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With bodies no longer lying against and on top of each other, the cold air moved around and between them. It was not a bad way to dull the shock of a temperature change, as they were still near enough to each other to be warm, and all of the rolling around hadn't hurt.


Fiction was properly awake now. She still couldn't remember what exactly Capricorn had done to annoy her (other than, perhaps, exist), but it was probably something small and stupid as always, and he would probably do something else to annoy her before breakfast was over. It didn't really matter.


"I think being loud is perfectly fine grounds to bully you," the hybrid said matter-of-factly. She rolled and nipped the tawny dog on the ear before getting to her feet and slipping out from under Dalibor's massive arms. "No one else is nearly this loud."


"I don't know about that," Dalibor said, sounding far too amused all of a sudden. The wolf sat back slowly, seeming to contemplate whether he wanted to stand and get up, or collapse back into the nest of furs.


Fiction scowled as heat rose to warm her face. She grabbed her cloak from their pile of things and fastened it loosely. "Travel food for breakfast, or do you think we can find something fresh before anyone shows up here?"

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#9
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Going out meant abandoning this dream of safety. Capricorn wanted nothing more than to stay inside forever, safe and with the people he loved.

They had a duty, that was all. They had to do this because the people out there were in danger. If what they brought could save a few lives, or keep a few people from suffering, wasn't that worth it? Idealism had never been a huge part of his life before they had seen the plague. The vision of his life he had seen himself living was gone now, and never coming back.

He had them, at least.

We just got here, and no one's around. Not like that city we passed, he said, thinking of the ruin of Amherst. They had smelled fire and seen others, but kept their distance.

Be good to run, Dalibor added. He had sat up and was beginning to stretch like he intended to move, though from the sound of it did not intend to stay on two legs for long. We've been on those horses for days.

Left alone on the bed, Capricorn sighed dramatically. He rolled his head towards Fiction, wiggling his shoulders in a display of flirty, fluffy-bellied submission.

What do you think? He asked her. Chase down some small stuff or go for something big?


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#10
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Dried meat wasn't the worst. It had a unique flavour that could be influenced with herbs, and being able to chew and suck on a piece of it for a long time was reasonably enjoyable. But they often needed to make their stash of it last, so it was never filling.


Sometimes, if they crossed paths with a herd or a large warren or a stream full of migrating fish, they'd have fresh meat on their journey. Those were always satisfying days, but the trade-off was a day without putting distance between themselves and what was coming.


Fiction was happy to take advantage of the days they spent camping to hunt, especially if prey seemed in abundance as it did in this early spring. "Big stuff would take longer," she said. "We could get a bunch of rabbits in the time it takes to get a deer." Without warning, she lay down on top of Capricorn and stretched, feral-style, with her arms across his chest. Her shape changed as she did so, and before long she was on four legs standing atop the tawny dog, grinning.


The hybrid, like the wolf, preferred to hunt in this form, as it was the way her mother preferred as well. Their four-legged shape was fast and agile, more able to maneuver around trees and rocks and grasses. Hunting on two legs too often required extra tools or weapons to make up for their bulky size and clumsy limbs.


Larger prey was difficult to manage with just the three of them, but sometimes they were lucky. She'd heard it was easier with bows and arrows, but Fiction had never trained in those things, and they would be more to have to carry with her. She was convinced that smaller prey was easiest to catch with her own jaws anyway, and there was nothing wrong with easy.


The merle hybrid bounced from her companion, tail wagging, suddenly energised by the prospect of a hunt. Beside her, Dalibor, who had also come down on four legs, laughed. The black wolf butted his head gently against their dawdling partner. "Come on, then. Let's run."

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