[P] [CtC] tonight I will return the fame and riches earned
#1
wc: 229
The night wore on and noise filled the air. Music and song came from the entertainers from New Caledonia, and women in colorful garments danced. That was one thing he came to realize was newly changed about them – there was more color in this place than most. Even Portland, with its great access to the world beyond, often seemed to enforced a dark and dull color from its citizens.

Part of it was practicality, of course. Drawing attention to oneself, especially when brigands and thieves roamed the highways, was risky business. Within their packlands and especially during such an important gathering, the people of New Caledonia were free to be as bright and gaudy as they wished. Some of them had gone opposite routes – in sturdy looking armor, or nothing at all.

Grievous was mingling with the crowd, attempting to keep an eye on Azalea from a distance. She had found the other children, which meant she was on her own. While the rules of engagement with adults were cut and dry, the Equinest was not keen on overstepping when it came to some New Caledonian youths and their parents. His attentiveness was explained away easily by Azalea's presence – though she was as mottled in breeding as many of the Luperci in New Caledonia, her distinct appearance and similarity to his own betrayed them as relatives.
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
#2
[322]
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA
She had warned her children to avoid the alcohol, so she knew that at least one or two were going to test that particular rule and just how much she meant it. Kalypso did keep an eye to the refreshment table and the copious amount of alcohol available there. Now and again, she lay her motherly gaze upon one of her children and narrowed those eyes just enough to warn them away. It was only a matter of time before it happened, but at least she was trying. That counted for something, right? Eulalie was out on the prowl, too, to keep an eye on them and enjoy herself at the same time. Good. Her children - all of them - deserved some fun.

There were teenaged children all over the place. There were pups nearly old enough to be yearlings. There were kids whose ages were between her six and her half-sister's daughters. It was such a beautiful picture to see, considering that the previous year there were barely any little children running about. They had a shocking abundance of them.

Kalypso turned from the table, her back to any mischief the adventurous among the young might cause for a brief moment. She scanned the crowd and saw a man who towered over many around him, too bulky to be anything but wolf. If he had any other blood, it was impossible to tell. He was gazing at a young Salsolan girl roughly the age of her younger children, some of whom had met her and were clearly engaged in their discussion with an agemate.

She approached him with a cup in hand and smiled. "That one yours? Looks an awful lot like you," she asked lightly, seeing Dorian in the small collective. She was very much of a similar size to most of the other kids her age, so it seemed so likely they were all nearly the same age.
#3
wc: 252
A woman approached him from among the crowd. Grievous recognized her from the previous year – she had been the sun, then. Now her garments were a deep, dark scarlet, and a black sash made of wooden beads cinched her waist. Jewelry adorned the rusty-brown she-wolf, who carried herself with an air of regalia that suggested a position of authority.

Grievous followed her gaze to where Azalea and the little group had gathered.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “My eldest. I'm glad there are other children here for her to speak with,” the wolf went on. He turned back towards the woman, trying to recall her name. They had announced it before her duel, but that had been an age ago. Undoubtedly, he decided, she was of some importance here.

My name is Grievous Eternity. I am the Equinest of Salsola,” he told her, but did not further explain his rank. “I recall you from the duel held at the first of these gatherings. You handled yourself well.” She had been humiliated for a Lord's pleasure, though the joke had flown over Grievous' head at the time. He was not a man prone to practical jokes or humor. Ceremonial displays deserved respect, he thought. The ones practiced in Salsola were far more serious, bloody affairs, however. That was the price of faith.

Grievous wasn't sure what these New Caledonians believed at all. This year's duel had lacked interruptions and seemed far more straightforward, suggesting it was supposed to be handled in such a manner.
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
#4
[283]
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The man's eldest daughter? She was a pretty little thing if Kalypso had to say anything about her. She certainly seemed more than capable of dealing with any of the six of her own offspring. They needed a good challenge, though she hoped that none of them opened their mouths and gave away too much. The girl may have been young, but she was still a daughter of Salsola and that made Kalypso somewhat wary.

She looked at him and wondered if he had been there the year prior. Had he seen her humiliation at the hands of that asshole Lord-Regent? If so, what had he thought of the decidedly more straightforward duel that year? It had been a nice bit of minor theatrics, but she did have to admit the practical joke had differentiated the otherwise simple ceremony.

Still, she smiled at Grievous. A horse man of Salsola, but what did that mean? Did he trade them? Raise them? Was it a stablemaster? She felt like she knew too little about the mysterious pack veiled in secrecy and misdirection.

"Kalypso Savoy. High Lady of the Dawn here. Obviously," she added with a slightly laugh. Obviously, indeed. "I'm glad you thought so. I thought I had as well as I could considering. Fennore is not one to show such disrespect as the Lord-Regent had, thankfully," she said with visible gratitude. Fennore would be better than Athras. Much better.

Kaly took a sip of her drink, finding it a good moment to eye the girl talking to her youngest son and their awkward exchanges. Teenagers. "Your eldest you said? Do you have more at home?" she asked, gesturing to Azalea.
#5
wc: 230
He thought it curious and telling that Kalypso framed her words about the absentee man with such a straightforward, negative tone. It was understandable, of course – she had been performing a ceremonial duty and made the butt of a joke that Grievous had not understood.

The wolf smiled in response to her question. “I do. We have three, all from the same litter. She came first,” he further clarified. “Her sisters and mother did not join us here, but she was...eager to attend.” It had been a decision he had not formally objected to, especially now that Azalea had earned her autonomy within the pack. She was still afforded the benefits of youth, as she lived at home with them and did not need to fend for herself, but boundaries were being torn down with each upward step she climbed.

“And how about you, Lady Kalypso of the Dawn?” There were several young Luperci who resembled the woman, but adults who looked like her as well. A dark-haired woman dressed in blue, and younger females who seemed to keep circling back towards the gaggle of youths in a watchful fashion. He did not presume they were servants, as such roles were likely to be looked down upon in places like New Caledonia, and they were far too well dressed for such positions. Relatives, perhaps, if not young mothers themselves.
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
#6
[263]
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA
"Perhaps next time, then," she suggested lightly when the man explained that the rest of them had stayed in Salsola. She wasn't sure who would come next time, especially since it was clear from the assortment that had come for the second Call to Court seemed quite similar to those that came the first time. Were they trying to minimize how many new faces they could identify with the pack? Maybe, if the rumors over true lengths they went to keep secrets had any merit.

A young girl with the eagerness to prove herself on a larger stage. Kalypso had to smile about that, feeling a faint hint of comradery with the girl and the way she developed for her father to witness.

Kaly turned her gaze from Azalea to Grievous, brows raising and a smug grin on her face. "Well, there's the two speaking to your daughter." She looked about and began pointing to the motley crew that were her far too many offspring. "There is my eldest daughter, Eulalie. I don't see her littermates, but I'm sure they're about." Her finger moved on. "And there are three littermates to the two talking to your girl." She paused, eyes squinting as she looked about for the sixth and final child on her extensive list. Kalypso didn't find him but wasn't too worried, shrugging. "Yuki is probably napping somewhere, but that's nine."

She was an old hand, clearly, and though it pained her to be so damn fertile, she also couldn't help being proud.
#7
wc: 302
Grievous nodded, but did not know if his girls would ever make the journey as Azalea had. It would depend upon their paths, he imagined – not that he thought his children, notable and bright as they were, would make very good spies. Whisper in particular would be a miserable choice, being as she was still unable to fully control the volume of her voice (something he imagined and hoped she would grow out of soon). There was something to be said for experiencing another pack's culture, however, and the idea lingered with him.

His expression became a bit more slack-jawed as Kalypso explained that she herself was mother to a veritable horde of children – six that they could see, and yet more they did not. He was more shocked by Kalypso's relatively fit looking figure. Idrieus had gotten much larger in her belly while she carried their girls, but to manage with six seemed remarkable. The demands from a body of a pregnant woman was immense and costly. Some fertility goddess had reached down and touched Kalypso, High Lady of the Dawn, and left her with plenty. Undoubtedly, her position had ensured she wanted for little.

“Then you are truly blessed,” the wolf declared. He did not presume to speak of foreign gods or give power to his own here. His eyes drifted back to the elder girl. She looked like an adult herself, if a young one.

A slow, cautious smile spread across his face. “Do you think they get easier to manage as they get older?” Admitting weakness was not something a man of Salsola ought to be doing, but as his children had started to develop their own personalities so too had come with it new discoveries – stubbornness and strong wills that tried his never-ending patience.
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
#8
[330]
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA
Kalypso was not sure if the man was being genuine or not when he said she was blessed. She had to disagree a little bit about that, but knew that for some it was not a feat they could have managed. Her body had certainly suffered from carrying six; it had been far worse than carrying three. She had felt clunky, chunky, and quite a bit funky. Maybe it hadn't all been that bad and she simply had not found any joy in the burden of pregnancy and delivery. It took a while to recover a semblance of her original shape, but she was decidedly curvier with far less leanness to her. She certainly had no girlish figure, that was for sure.

"In a manner of speaking," she replied, somewhat dryly. Blessed or not, she had managed to get six kids through their first six months. That was accomplishment enough, though she lamented that it was the obvious success of her life. What about the other things?

His gaze shifted to the girl and the grin on his face suggested that his question came from experiencing the joys of raising girls. Kalypso laughed. It really was funny, such a silly question.

"They won't get easy to manage until they move out of your house and they only come to call when they want something." At least, that was how she figured her six would be. The first three had been easy children, but she was not about to tell the Salsolan that their upbringings had been radically different thanks to her rank and location. "Honestly, they're easiest to manage when they're good and busy. Occupied. Give 'em goals, tasks, and make them go do things. Even if they don't have any sort of direction, make them try. That'll usually stick into their head and they'll go on from there, keep out your hair for a while." Geez, children. Worse than managing a pack.
#9
wc: 306
Even within Salsola, they had suffered losses – the Director's daughter, especially. Having other children run off and disappear into the night was more excusable when one saw them by rank and not age alone.

He was unaware New Caledonia had not avoided the touch of death, but was wise enough not to bring up such chatter. Not now, especially, when he was discussing things he truly cared about and valued. His girls were not immune to the dangers of the world, and pretending they were was foolish. Grievous would not risk the wrath of any gods or mortals when it came to his children.

Kalypso's advice was logical enough, and he appreciated the thought. She sounded like a woman capable of organizing plenty – especially if she had managed so many children and such a high ranking position within the pack. Grievous was glad he had spoken to Percival earlier and now understood what their roles meant. Members of their High Courts were not unlike their own Faction, if less defined. He understood there was plenty of talk that needed to occur regarding goods and services, but trade was not his forte. It was Clementine's. Between her and the Queen, such matters would certainly be handled.

The horses were his interest, even though they had not brought any to trade. Azalea deciding to join them and the recent attack on their members made it impossible for his absence among their collective.

“I will be curious to see where they go in life. Have any of yours begun following your work? I'm afraid I don't know what that is, exactly,” Grievous added, and paused to lap at his drink. This sort of open ignorance would not be appropriate within Salsola, but the New Caledonians he had met thus far seemed eager to provide him with information.
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
#10
[247]
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA
Kalypso watched the children and found that she could justify paying them less attention at the party. Any mischief they got up to would be easily discovered and there were plenty of chores she could think of as punishment duties. It would be alright, even if the Salsolans had any sort of ill-intent on them. They seemed unlikely to go after children, but she had been burned by such confidence before.

"Not entirely. I do a multitude of things, and they're all just trying to figure out what all they can do with their hands still." She shook her head a little, thinking quickly of all six children and what aptitudes they had displayed since they were old enough to sputter words at their parents. Of all the children in her collective, she doubted any of them were interested in her trading and organizing work. Some had expressed interest in the rope making, weaving, and beading but otherwise they had been more drawn to their father's more violent talents or to other things entirely.

"Traders and diplomats don't really come into their own until they're older anyway." She eyed him a moment, wondering what he did on the day to day and why he was in the diplomatic collective from Salsola. "You were here last year. Are you a trader?" She doubted he was, but that was more so the fact she hadn't seen him around for those sorts of discussions.
#11
He was unsure if Kalypso was being forthright with him. Her vague answer suggested such a thing was possible – it was what he might have used to explain his own abilities when he did not want to reveal too much. In any case, it seemed that trade was her primary purpose. Given the amount of wealth she displayed on her person, Kalypso certainly looked the part of a merchant.

“I was indeed,” the wolf confirmed. He had come mostly as an observer, in truth. “I oversee our Family's horses. Despite the winter hardships it pleases me to see the horses we brought seem to be doing well.” Grievous had seen the steps the young pack had taken and imagined that their booming numbers would undoubtedly produce more capable hands as the seasons went on.

There was a slower rise among Salsola, which had suffered from a slow bleed ever since the death of their Crone. Curses were hard to break, and the effects of it still lingered. “I have done plenty of trading,” Grievous went on. “Most of it involves horses, but I come across plenty of interesting things. I'm afraid I didn't bring anything this year,” he added. This had not been a trade mission. Between keeping an eye on his daughter and looking into their former animals, Grievous had thought a night of simple relaxation (and freely given food) was rightfully earned.

The wolf glanced over Kalypso's shoulder. So many of the Caledonians were wearing colorful garments and intricate accessories. This sort of excess suggested the pack was not hurting for goods or materials. “New Caledonia seems to be ready for traders, in any case.”
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
#12
[372]
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA
Horses. Kaly did her very best not to make a face at the subject. She was not good with them and had certainly done her best to avoid having to use them. Horses had been less necessary when the best mode of transportation had been boats. They had only been important when on the huge continent with great distances of nothing but land stretching for miles and miles. A necessary evil, she supposed. Tora had Jolie, who had been a mare from the Court. While it was nice she continued to be loving hands, Kaly had no goddamn clue what to do with her and was glad that between Tora and the willing children, she never needed to muck around with the mare.

But the man was not just a trader of horseflesh, even if it seemed that was his focus. Everyone needed that, sure, and Kaly made a mental note to jot down later at the Guild's rooms. Knowing where to go to trade for what was valuable information, after all.

"I'm afraid I'm not an expert at all when it comes to horses, but I do have plenty of experience with trading and deals. Maybe you could point me out to who I should talk to about discussing trade arrangements if it's not you?" she asked mildly, smiling faintly at him. She could not talk horses but she could chat about trade until the sun rose twice over.

Kalypso laughed as she followed his glances at the well-attired nobility of New Caledonia. They were a far-cry better off than they had been the year prior. That it was clear brought some relief to her, especially since the whole deal had been a source of worry. "We have been. I lead our Trading Company so I should hope we're ready to trade. We're very different from last winter, I can tell you that much. Perhaps there are things we can provide Salsola?" Anything to ease the bite of unspoken debt. Then she glanced at the man's daughter. "Maybe clothes and dresses if you've really got girls reaching adulthood? Every growing child needs something nice." And their Studio was ready to oblige.
#13
Gonna end this here!
Not every Luperci was cut own to own a horse. They required plenty of patience, training, and care. It was not without help that Grievous managed for both the pack's communal animals and his family's own. He had already begun planning for how to better wrangle their collective, especially if – as he suspected – Ursula was heavy with foal. While he would have delighted in showing off his snowy white mare, he had not come here for such a purpose.

However, he thought ahead to how it might look, eventually. The appearance of their collective put forth a grand image, and one he wanted to keep illuminated for his daughters.

He liked the idea of them in colorful clothing, riding proud looking horses.

“When they're done growing,” he agreed. In a few months summer would be upon them, and the travel would be easier. “Something then, I think. But yes, let me introduce you to our Partisan...” Grievous trailed off as he sought out Clementine's flaming red hair. She was not the only woman who looked like this here – he caught sight of New Caledonia's own Moon Queen among the Caledonians. There were bursts of color everywhere, as if by their garments alone the pack might shake winter's dreary moments from their collective.

When the tall wolf finally caught sight of Clementine, he indicated her with his chin. “Here,” he said to Kalypso, and lead her through the crowd.
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull


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