[P] the upside down tower
#1
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Secui form.
210


Shedding season was upon them, and Christ, was he itchy.

The golden wolfdog generally cut a regal figure in his Secui form, leonine mane and deep chest and impressive scars -- but moderately less so with tufts of fur sticking out around his flanks and rump. He looked rumpled and half-molted, and traces of his winter coat decorated nearby brambles or floated on the cool breeze. He could hardly look dignified while fighting the constant urge to turn and nip; chewing at his butt wasn't going to make a good impression on Caledonian scouts.

He might have put off this visit until he looked nice and sleek, but Skoll thought it important to touch base with his former comrades. He was a nice guy; he cared about them and how they were doing, especially Silvano's children. He'd pep-talked Pascal into joining the pack and wanted to see if his advice helped. He wanted to scope out this new "kingdom," too, and see if they lived up to the reputation.

Skoll raised his muzzle toward the treeline and sniffed, then winced as discomfort rippled through his pelt. Spotting nobody yet, he relented at last -- seeking relief as he twisted around and set his teeth into his fur.


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#2
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Kalypso had no real purpose to heading to the borders (and subsequently beyond), but she had taken knives and her satchel so she was somewhat prepared to deal with anything. The intent was to go somewhere and see if she couldn't trade away one of the wooden figurines in that satchel. Otherwise, she would scavenge around for anything interesting in old buildings or berries. Anything to give her day meaning.

Her nose twitched and she saw a faint length of fur fly on the early spring breeze. Her face contorted into a startled questioning expression as she paused. The gold and white clump breezed on by until it landed on the new green foliage of a nearby bush.

She grabbed the clump and looked at the fresh trail laid by the someone shedding their winter coat. Kalypso's pelt was not immune to that terrible time, either, but she was quick to the draw when it came to brushing out the inevitable clumping. The last thing she wanted to deal with was the diseased look coupled with the itching.

She followed the trail and the familiar smell hit her, making her grin broadly.

Oh, my god, you are such a graceful creature, she declared as she came across the source of the flying fluff in the air. Skoll was older than she - her father's friend - and yet she had no problem openly teasing the elder.


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#3
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A familiar voice mocked him, and Skoll lifted his head, a tuft of white butt-fluff held neatly between his big incisors. He grunted and spat this out; it drifted away from him and unceremoniously floated to the ground, not even doing him the justice of flying into the Savoy woman's face. Squinting his disappointment, he gave his whole thick coat a shake then drew himself to his feet with a curl of his tail.

I just had to make the most regal impression, the male agreed, then chuffed, lips drawn back to bare his yellow, worn teeth in a supercilious smile – albeit one tinged with begrudging warmth. Can't believe I'm saying this, but it's good to see you.

He couldn't claim to have been Kalypso's biggest fan, stuck in old ways as he was, but her reign couldn't have been worse than anyone else's. He admired anyone witty and stubborn enough to butt heads with him. And, truth be told, there were few enough people left in Skoll's life that beggars couldn't be choosers.

He approached her, aiming to shove his head against her leg in the only gesture of affection she would get, then pricked his ears toward the territory. How is everyone? he asked, his focused gaze belying his casual tone.

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#4
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Her mouth was a flat line as she watched the man remove his mouth from his ass and spit out soggy tufts of white gold fur. It settled to the ground like a disappointing dandelion seed unable to float away from its parent. More drifted off of his uneven coat as he shook himself; he still looked like a lunatic incapable of self-grooming.

So, pretty much the same as always.

She gave him a dramatic, leg-crossing bow with a wide sweep of her arms. She straightened up at his begrudging greeting, grinning at him with her own crooked smile. He bumped his head against her leg and she grabbed a protruding tuft of uneven fur and pulled it loose. It came away without a fuss and she had it in her hand.

It's good to see you, too. Even if you are looking like a someone's unshorn sheep, she teased with a snicker. She did not have to be nice, but he had been her father's last friend and one of her former councilors. They may have been at odds, but they had been a family of sorts before.

Kalypso's cocky, happy grin faltered visibly as his gaze focused toward the interior of the packlands. We're alright. Gaia is here. Hibiki came with his long-lost lady. Tora, too. Oh, and a high ranking Casa warrior came here, too. Wonder what's going on with those pretentious fuddy-duddies, she tittered, swallowing the painful words for merely a moment.

She raised the hand holding the tuft of hair and opened her fingers. The fur lazily left her palm and billowed away.

Thyri passed away a couple months ago, she added softly, not looking at Skoll.

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#5
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Kalypso bowed theatrically and returned his grin, plucking a tuft of hair from his untidy mane as he rumbled in amusement. It felt good to banter with someone again, the company of Courtiers sorely missed in his solitude. Despite his tendency to push everyone away from him with his uncooperative and self-important nature, he did enjoy and desire to be around people. Sharp self-awareness cautioned him from joining a pack as he might have wished, though; while the Court and its leaders (like Kaly's father) had become accustomed to Skoll, another alpha would have no reason to tolerate the soi-disant prince.

His ears pricked hungrily for news of his former comrades, his green eye studying the woman when her smile faded. His own expression twisted in unconcealed distaste when she mentioned Tora, but he held his tongue in favor of addressing the new acquisition of an apparently highly-ranked Cavalier. And who would that be? He could think of one knight whose departure from the pack had surprised Skoll, though it had been so long he'd lost hope of seeing the man again.

A zephyr blew gently past them, ruffling their manes, chestnut and gold. In the stillness that followed, Kalypso murmured another piece of news. Skoll jerked his head up to look her in the eye.

No, escaped his lips in a forceful but quiet woof, as if his protest might change the reality of things. Pain glittered in his malachite orb – the tempered pain of an older man familiar with grief. He had lost several over the years, though this was unexpected. What happened? He couldn't help but think of Shiloh's violent end; mother and daughter Dawnbringer were together now, he supposed.

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#6
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Teagan. Their former warlord apparently. She did not know the details of the woman's departure and did not bother to ask overly much, despite her absurd desire to know more about it. Maybe one day she would be more inclined to share, but Kalypso was not in the place she wanted to be to even ask such questions.

It didn't feel right to be so stiff, so sad, so heavy with Skoll; he was a man notorious for being a riot of personality and energy. Galilee had inherited much of that from what she knew of them both, even if she was less barbed than her father. Skoll had been a friend to her father (somehow) and so she was happy to ignore his decidedly infamous flaws.

Pain flashed across her eyes and lingered in the way her lips tightened for a moment. She delivered three pups a couple months back. One passed and then Thyri went, too. She was sick and got a fever before.., Kalypso broke off, her throat tightening with a sob. She choked it back and rattled in a deep inhale of air that rumbled with the unshed sorrow. Teagan took the girls to nurse, thankfully. We burned Thyri on birch. It seemed.. relevant.

Kalypso took another deep inhale and sighed, rubbing at her eyes briefly. She sniffed and gave a wobbly smile. How is Galilee?

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#7
“No shit?”

Skoll’s shit-eating grin broadened, though there was some modicum of genuine delight in his eye. He hadn’t known much about the knights’ ranks outside of gossip picked up at their pre-disbandment gatherings. Imagining the serious-faced Stryder as a Warlord amused him, but he felt some vague sense of pride for the girl he’d met but a couple times. Regardless of affiliation, it made him glad to see kids grow up and do great things, even if he was surprised to hear her cast aside that role.

“Tell her I said hi,” he added, wishing he would be able to see her reaction when Kalypso did so.

The mood shifted as they discussed Thyri, and Skoll looked sadly at his friend’s proud daughter as she grieved her half-sister, a sob choked off. Had he known her better, he might have offered her some comfort, even something as simple as leaning against her leg, offering his fur to pet. But he maintained the distance, feeling strange about it.

Shiloh would get to see her daughter and granddaughter in Heaven, or Valhalla, or whatever blessed place the Stormbringers believed in. He kept only one god to their multiple, but such things didn’t matter in the end, he thought. Thyri deserved lasting peace.

“I’m so sorry,” he rumbled quietly. “The children will have their father and you, at least. I know you’ll keep her memory alive — they deserve to know about her, even if it’s painful.” Was that selfish of him, wanting to see his friend’s daughter remembered despite the ache it would bring her family?

He thought about how angry Galilee had been when he’d “moved on” from Aurelya, how much like a betrayal it had felt like to the girl. His face darkened with that pain — an old bruise that was nevertheless tender when pressed. He still missed her, despite everything.

He sighed and let his lips tug into a fond grin. “She’s fine. More than fine. She found a group of other delinquents to run with.” He shook his head lightly. “They seem like good people. I knew Lee wouldn’t really take to being a true loner like some of us can.”

Like he could — if he truly could. Would a man content to be alone come calling at a pack’s borders for the small chance of seeing a familiar face?

He knew there was no alternative, though. Skoll was too set in his ways to learn others’ rules. The youth were more adaptable.
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#8
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The former Reine smiled thinly at the man who had once been a gilded prince. We will not let them grow without knowing who she was. Whether or not Merlin felt the same, it was of no importance to her. She would make sure if he did not. She would fight to keep her memory alive, as was only fair for a sibling that had stuck through with her and had been the first family really to warm up to her - besides the eldest son and daughter of Shiloh's line.

She was heartened to hear that Galilee was doing well. She was headstrong with a high resolve to succeed. She would never have flopped and struggled on her own, so Kalypso was glad that all she had figured had been accurate. That Skoll wandered on his own - presumable - did concern her a little. He was no young man, no spring chicken. Why not settle with others, too?

Kalypso laughed. Are you just running around on your own? Truly? Granted, Skoll did not seem like he fit in anywhere that was not the Court. It had been his birthright, at least. Without its trappings, what was he a golden prince of if not a memory?

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#9
The large wolfdog nodded agreement then averted his gaze with uncharacteristic deference. His thoughts traveled back through dark and overgrown trails in silence, thinking about his own parents and what he did and did not know about them. Then he pushed them aside, not wishing to dwell on mortality.

His rose-hued ears twitched at the woman's laughter. He wasn't certain whether to take it as genuine shock or mockery. "Yes," Skoll replied somewhat stiffly. "What did you think I'd do? Anyone I'd try to live with would run screaming," he added, his wide grin revealing big and yellowed teeth. Despite his arrogance, Skoll simultaneously carried a lot of self-deprecation, enough to spin a joke at his expense whenever needed. If he joked, he would be too busy to wince at the truth of the heart of it.

"Lee said I could stay with her group if needed, but I spent enough of her childhood hovering over her to give her a break," he added. There, did he sound less lonely now?
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#10
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Someone had tried to live with Skoll. At least she had not gone screaming, but she had gone nonetheless. Kalypso did not think it wise to bring it up since it was likely a sore subject. It would have been for her, too.

I don't think I'd manage to set my things down before I left, even, she teased back at him, knowing that she was also a difficult creature to live with. She was particular and liked things a certain way. She was stubborn and incessantly proud. That her children survived into adulthood with all of their limbs unbroken and backs still straight from the weight of her demands was probably a miracle.

Two could play a self-depreciating game.

Lee, at least, sounded like she was doing well. You can come stay here sometimes, if you want. I know my kids would probably be happy to have you around. Gaia, too. Her offer was delicately put, carefully. Skoll was liable to say no on the whole aspect of charity alone.

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