[AW] turn the key
When the borders rose up before him, he felt himself hesitate.

Kings were not meant to wander on their own. They were met with delegations and soldiers, subtle displays of dominance and wealth. He traveled in his thickest cloak; the fur collar rolled so that it exposed the light layer of leather that sat atop his tunic. His garments were meant to protect him from the elements and allow him to move somewhat easily if he was forced to abandon his horse. It was an outfit inspired by the Pathfinders of old, and Iomair found himself thinking of Tamlin as he pushed Bryony further along what he would learn was the Pictou River. 

His horse made a low sound, stamping his feet against the snow. The feathering on his feet was clumped with snow, the tips of his whiskers dotted in frost. Bryony had carried him South with ease, the large horse forcing his way through snowbanks and winding trails with the sort of confidence that only came with experience. He was not a war horse as evidenced by his occasional lack of focus when he thought he sped a blade of fresh grass hidden amongst the snow – this would launch the pair into an epic battle of wills as Iomair coaxed him back towards their path.

Iomair had taken care to roll fabrics from the dye studio into a canvas bag which lay strapped firmly to the animals saddle. There was an assortment of colors, and a set of tassels that Pippa had insisted that he take with him ’just in case.’ Another bundle lay strapped against the flat of Bryony’s back, a collection of dried meats and furs packaged carefully for the road.

His sword hung from his hip, and a small dagger was hidden from view against his ribs.

The river gurgled and burbled beside them. It was cast in a wintry glow, twists of ice protecting the rushing water as it passed smoothly beneath. Boughs of pine tickled the water, dripping melodically as snow melted in the morning sun. A heavy bough snapped upright suddenly, a clump of snow tumbling into the water with a splash. Bryony bellowed with surprise, nervously stamping his feet as Iomair slid from the saddle and made for his head.

”Now now, old boy, you’re quite alright.” The horse blew air through his nostrils loudly, but finally allowed his head to rest atop the Kings shoulder begrudgingly.

Iomair patted the animals muscular neck before choosing to lead him on foot.

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I'm imagining something like this as the scene! Iomair is travelling alone with his horse, close to the borders of SL :)

Open for 1!

OOC: Lupus. Feel free to PP the outcome of his attempt at the bag.


Though he'd been fortunate enough to find enough food to get him through the worst of the winter, it had still been days since the heavyset and tall black wolf had last eaten. So much so that Wrath had reverted to Lupus form to conserve energy while he slept.

He woke in an undercut beneath a large tree. A peculiar noise had stirred him from sleep, and his eyes opened suddenly. He couldn't recall it, and the only sound to reach his senses was the dulcet burble of the river close by, somewhat calming. Then a murmur, a voice. Wrath sighed. He was tired and warm, and beyond his small shelter was only freezing wetness and the requirement to rob, fight or eat someone. 

He needed to find something interesting, as well. Though he was not exactly resolute in his decision to join Salsola, another long winter, and an increasing need to be needed, were weighing on his mind. However, it did require the loss of his unlimited freedom. That independence that he had clung to for the majority of his life. Now, middle-aged, his mantra of born-alone, live-alone, die-alone was starting to skip, as if the record was marred by either time or carelessness.

Begrudgingly he rose and nosed his way through the snowdrift that sealed him in. Though he was low on energy, he felt surprisingly nimble. He was not used to choosing Lupus form, and the novelty of agility and speed was—could he ever admit—somewhat... fun. He paused, a frown gracing his horribly mangled facial features, and contemplated that. How long had it been since he last felt happy? Years. Over half of his existence, at least.

Nevertheless, the day had to be business as usual. He picked up the scent of a horse and followed the trail it had laid in the snow. Even in Lupus form, Wrath was still big, but he felt less confident about making a full-blown attack than he would have in the larger canine form, but he could not risk losing the last of his energy on shifting. So, remaining downwind, he stalked closer to his new target. A cloaked man stood consoling his horse for a moment before commencing to lead it on foot.

Wrath was off to their right and behind, halfway up the riverbank. His black fur was an inconvenient attire while hunting in the bright white setting, so he approached with haste. Descending the riverbank on agile, fleeting strides, he scrambled up one side of a large boulder before leaping from the opposite edge with the firm intention of sinking his claws into the horse's side and his teeth into the strapping that secured the canvas bag to the saddle, far enough to the side to avoid a potentially lethal kick from the horse, and on the opposite side from where the man was leading from.

He hung on until either he himself or the bag was broken free from the horse.

Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
Silence before violence.

It was as if the woods around him took a great breath, the stillness of the snow muffling the approach of the dark stranger until it was too late. Iomair felt Bryony stiffen his neck as the reigns went taught, and the King spun on his heels as the wolf threw himself towards the bags which hung from his horses saddle. He had leapt from a nearby boulder, teeth bared and claws outstretched. Iomair frantically wondered how long they had been followed, and whether or not the would-be thief was from Salsola.

There was a furious stamping of hooves as Bryony struggled to detach himself from the hold Iomair had on him, rearing and tossing his head at the new weight which hung from his side. Iomair dropped the reigns and shouted at the attacker as Bryony began to spin frantically, the horse's teeth snapping at Wrath with everything it had. 

The animal was no war horse, though he did attempt a few kicks of his feathered hooves before fear took over and gave way to flight. The wolf hung on for dear life, and Iomair was forced to step away from the wild animal, though his hand had dropped to his dagger to slowly gather it in his hands.

There was a great tearing sound as the seams on his bags finally gave way. The horse trumpeted with triump and attempted the delivery of a final kick before twisting to run off in the direction that they had come.

Iomair was left to battle the beast on his own. The bag hung limp in his teeth, and Iomair took a step towards him with his own teeth bared - his eyes lit with a confident fury. If the wolf chose to run off on four legs the bag was surely lost, for Iomair would not be able to transform quickly enough to catch up. The rest of his goods still lay firmly attached to the back of his fleeing mount.

The King growled, "Choose your next action quickly, thief."

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The horse managed to clip Wrath with one hoof during its escape, shoving the hefty wolf into a deep snowbank.

Two weeks ago, he'd taken an accidental dip into Loch Fundy and emerged with an injured right shoulder. Once again, as he emanated from the snowbank like a black demon from a dense mist, his limp was perceptible, though not quite as debilitating as it had been.

With the new injury, he had no chance of catching up with the horse, and whatever bag he'd torn free certainly did not smell like it contained food. It hung from his deformed mouth, in the grip of wickedly long and curved fangs, swaying tauntingly at its rightful owner. Wrath was grinning; a possessed glaze over his one working eye. He uttered an impatient profanity—describing a crude and unhelpful solution to the man's offer of the next move. It rhymed with duck few.

He glanced in the direction of the departing horse. There was nothing for it. He couldn't run, and yet he could not bring himself to hand over the goods. As he saw it, there were two remaining options.

"The resht are coming. If they find you sho close to our borders, you'll be killed." He assured, glancing in the direction of Salsola's borders—of which he was very familiar.

This was a risky tactic. If it went South, he had to ensure that his claim never made it to the ears of his prospective pack. That would mean silencing this man. Equally, he couldn't be sure this wasn't a Salsolan standing before him.

"Besht for you to leave. Or, you could try and pull that shord on me; watch me rip off your arm!"

The black wolf was riddled with old injuries: Blind in one eye, a horribly scarred mouth, torn ear. Yet, still alive. Did the stranger want to test the limits of the black wolf's fortitude and resilience? How much energy could Wrath muster after having not eaten for so long? How much damage could he do in his Lupus form?

His muzzle folded up with a resonating snarl, baring his long, sharp teeth, saliva running in an elasticated strand from his torn muzzle down to the frozen ground. Fixated on this new enemy. For once he didn't attack first, instead he held his ground, and waited for the other man. 

"Maybe you can shtill catch your ride." He grinned around the bag's strap.

Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
His words sent prickles up Iomairs arms. There was something about him that seemed unhinged. Iomair was used to seeing the feral froth that came about during peaks of adrenaline – soldiers sometimes relied on it to get out of their altercations alive. Wrath was stone-cold. Calm. His one blind eye seared through the King with ease, vacant and unaffected. Iomair bared his teeth, hissing – his fur bristled around his nape in the instinctual way that was meant to have him appear larger than life.

The dagger was light in his hands and he found himself wishing again for the comfort of his sword.

When Wrath spoke Iomair had trouble looking away from the gruesome way his teeth stuck out beneath his scar. It curved like a scythe towards his blank eye, fleshy and pink against the dark cast of his fur. Iomair took a step towards him as if to test the space between them, his eyes narrowed as he glanced first at the bag and then back towards the mans teeth.

”The rest of you?” He snapped his jaws, ”What do you mean, the rest of you?”

His ears swivelled automatically, scanning the area in case the wolfs words were true. All he could smell was the river water and the many trails that criss-crossed its banks – a border that hung like a gossamer veil over sections of the land which they traipsed through.

Was he from Salsola?

Iomair flared his nostrils beseechingly, a final effort to ascertain where the thief was from. It was hopeless. He smelled like a stranger; he may as well have been a ghost.

"Maybe you can shtill catch your ride."

This forced something in him. He felt it snap. Anger. Frustration. Was this how the gods sought to beseech him?

"You insolent fool-"

Iomair sprang forward suddenly, dagger thrust out before him. The wolf would have to choose between the goods or using his teeth to defend himself. Rage surged through the King of New Caledonia, and for a moment he was thrust back in time and attacking a foe from a different time.

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Wrath was silent, that creeping grin exposing his entire array of pointed teeth. He knew enough of Salsola not to reveal any more information about pack members. He also couldn't risk being caught in this fabrication by the Salsolans, either. Not if he hoped to become one.

Though the large, sable wolf expressed little but a snarling indifference across his visage, internally, he was on the back foot. The stranger wasn't buying his ruse and instead appeared to be standing his ground. In that brief moment, Wrath considered whether the man would have chosen this same course if Wrath was in Secui form and injury-free.

The attack was completely unexpected, however, and the minacious, black wolf couldn't recall a time where someone had been audacious or confident enough to throw themselves at him, knife or no knife.

Due to this, he was slow off the mark; the blade sliced the strap, and the bag teetered to the ground, one corner digging into the deep snow. A snarl ripped from his throat as he released it and began his own attack. He followed the blade's movement, lunging after the first swipe, intending to clamp his teeth down onto the man's forearm or wrist to disarm him and follow up with his promise of amputation by force by a rough shake of his head and twist of his powerful neck.

He moved very quickly for such an enormous wolf; it was almost eerie. But he was hungry, injured and unarmed. The longer the fight went on, the more the odd's were leaning away from him. Desperation was his only weapon, and that could have been lethal to either combatant.

"You're going to shtay and fight to the death?" He said, his chest heaving as he aimed to put a little distance between them, thick clouds of condensation billowing from his mouth. Still confused by this other man's motive to take such a risk. "I guarantee you have a lot more to lose than me."

He began to circle the man, keeping him to his right, prowling. "Take your bag; there's nothing in there that I need."

His breathing slowed, calming quickly. He locked his stare upon the stranger's movements, a thunderous snarl providing a constant, threatening backing track to the conversation.

Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
In another world he would have run. He would have remembered that chaos and violence brought nothing good with it, that he lead an entire land that would be forced to move on from his potential loss. Iomair bared his teeth and took another step forward, lashing his tail as the secui man spoke. Had he known that the mans name was Wrath he would have thought it a fitting name – one made for the sort of story that played out across his features.

”You may be correct,” Iomair flattened his ears, ”If you would have simply asked -”

Perhaps life would have different than. He was reminded of the abrasive Twelve, of the way she had put up walls and forced him from her company. Wrath's blind eye saw straight through him, and Iomair growled softly with frustration.

He took a step back and hissed, twisting the dagger on the air as a warning. The bag dropped between them, and as Wrath turned his head his scar gleamed wetly.

He scrabbled forward to gather the bag and managed, ”Who are you?”

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