[P] It’s not like this place’s gated off
Dated April 8
For Lukos Greyfire

He had to admit, the day was rather nice. Calm and slow, it allowed him to wander aimlessly as his mind didn't think about anything. It wasn't something he'd particularly enjoy doing all the time, but it was nice once in a while. With a sigh, he let his eyes wander along the treeline as he made plans to stop for the night, unknowingly skirting by claimed territory.

Going a bit farther and with the sun starting to set, he decided to settle down, picking a nearby tree to rest his back against. Pulling off his backpack, he rummaged through it for food, choosing to snack on some strips of jerky. Chewing on the tough meat, he gazed above, just the beginning of reds coloring the blue sky. He decided to get up and move to get a better view, always mystified by how red seems to spring up among all the blue above. Moving the glaive to rest against the back of his neck, he crossed the unseen border, unaware of what he was walking towards.
The swordsman stepped softly, an easy hand resting against the hilt of his sword as he patrolled around the edges of the hill homes.  There wasn’t exactly a border to enforce, but with their growing notoriety, the danger of thieves or brigands grew the same.  For the most part, they’ve been lucky, but no guarantee of that lasting for even the season.

With the evening glow coming through the trees, he trekked carefully and slow, ears pinning and spinning in various directions.  The light left in the day was enough to see between the shadows of mounds, but the nose was still a fairer choice to find any strangers.  As if to prove his point, the wind drifted from its course, and carried with it a stranger’s scent, though familiar in its roots.

Tracing back to where he felt the trail originated, the grizzled male scanned curiously till he found a younger luperci with a strange pole arm over his shoulder.  Raising a hand to hail the stranger, Lukos lifted his muzzle in a nod of acknowledgement and stated “Evening.  You’re close to the Rest Stop, if you’ve come to visit.  Otherwise, may I be so forward to ask of your business in these parts?” He didn’t intend to be overly curt, but if the stranger was friendly or otherwise was somewhat important to establish right away.
The movement of the wolf’s hand caught Wally’s attention, who was quick to raise his own to make his short wave. “Evenin,” he started, looking over the wolf’s form. It seemed he had to deal with his own fair share of hardships. “I jus’ be wanderin’ ‘round. Nah really sure why yet.” His gaze flickered over the wolf’s sword. “Ye say I be near t’a ‘Rest Stop’? T’at be fer any dog t’at walks by, aye?” This was the first time he had heard of such a place, and as welcoming as this wolf seemed to be, he didn’t want to cause any issues if it turned out to be something exclusive or worse, a small pack itself.

The cavalier turned his gaze towards the sky, wondering if the area around the Rest Stop was a bit clearer for a better view. “By t’a way, what can I call ye?” He brought his attention back to the wolf. “Ye can call me Wally.” The shepherd dog paused to adjust his backpack. "If ye don' mind me askin', how long has t'is 'Rest Stop' been around?" He didn't remember hearing any mention of it from anyone he met, but then again, anything north of Mistfell or Casa was something of uncharted territory for him.
The stranger's response was rather casual, but he seemed to be genuine in his words, so there wasn't any cause for alarm at that moment.  He smelled of Casa, a scent which Lukos had gotten quite reacquainted with in recent history, which served to ease his conscious more than anything the dog could or would have said.  It was a little strange to hear that this cavalier hadn't heard of them yet, but the grey swordsman supposed with a wry smile that the others might've kept their existence close to the chest as a personal oasis for themselves to visit.

"Of course, as long as there's no trouble made.  It's something of a trade station, but more often than not people just come for food." he said, sure that the brief explanation would be suffice.  He eyed the younger canine as he glanced at the tree canopy with amber eyes, before the grey wolf was asked for his name and given one in turn.  Making a mental note of many to remind himself to start with introductions more often, he placed a free, scarred hand on his chest and gave a polite bow.  "Forgive the lapse of courtesy, my name is Lukos.  Good to meet you Wally."  Anything else he might've told the young dog would probably be excessive information, considering not many were left that might've known or cared about what came before Bête Noire.

And as for how long they've been there, the wolf had to stop and scratch the back of his head as he pondered.  To be honest, since they left what was the peninsula and came to this region, he hadn't really been keeping track of how long it's been.  Counting off the seasons as he remembered them, Lukos looked down at his fingers which kept the score.  "We've been here about, one, two...  About a full year, maybe longer." he said with some finality, being somewhat of an authority on the foundation of the band due to, you know, having been there.

Rotating his posture halfway back towards the direction he came from, Lukos glanced in the direction past the hill homes where the Rest Stop should be before he said "If you'd like I could show you the way, maybe catch our cook in the process of preparing food."  They didn't make much food in advance as some things didn't preserve well, but dried meat and some edible plants could keep for periods at a time.
“Food?” The word was enough to surprise the shepherd dog. He didn’t want to assume it, but it sounded like he could get free food at such a place. Sure, there had to be a catch, there always was, but it couldn’t be anything drastic, right? “Aye, I don’ like makin’ trouble, all it does is hurt yer health!” He chuckled, hoping the new energy within him didn’t seem too suspicious.

The wolf’s bow was quickly imitated by Wally who, unprepared for any of the circumstances he now found himself in, was a bit sloppy in its execution. “Nah, don’ worry ‘bout it, an’ aye, ye too.” He paused to take in a breath; when did he start to get so excited over food?

The cavalier’s eyes were drawn to Luko’s fingers when he mentioned how long he was here. “A whole year?” He quickly converted it to seasons. “T’at...be...a rather long time..." That was similar to the amount of time he had been in the area. “Have ye been doin’ well? Fer me, everyt’in’s been real harsh since I got here.”

There was no hesitation in the dog’s movements, the only extra motion coming from his nodding head. “Aye, if ye don’ mind it, I be kinda hungry.” That wasn’t entirely a lie; he could always find room for more. He was quick to follow, the subtle movement of his tail showing some excitement. He eyed the wolf’s sword again. “Seems like a nice sword ye got thar’,” he mentioned, though he didn’t have much time to get a good look at it. “Be t’at yer focus, or do ye have somet’in’ else ye like t’a wield?” The shepherd dog himself had an axe hanging off one side and a club on the other, so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume Lukos had something else he favored more underneath. Still, with how versatile swords were in battle, he could see it as a definite favorite.

He glanced again at the sky, noting how it seemed the branches thinned a bit. “By t’a way,” he mentioned, “T’is rest stop, be it in a clearin’? T’a sun’s ‘bout t’a set, an’ I be interested in seein’ it.”
OOC: Sorry about the length! Got carried away ^^'

The cavalier's response to potential nourishment was apparent, as a laugh rumbled heartily. Wally made a clear agreement to his terms, his words conveying some sense about him.  More sense than the swordsman had as a younger wolf, remembering the earlier days in Anathema when he had a more, spurious nature about him.  Nodding in agreement, Lukos moved onto explaining how the basic function of their business worked.  "Ordinarily we ask those who come for food or drink to trade for it, but since you're new to the Rest Stop it can be on me this time." he said plainly.  Typically they would hunt a bit extra and have food available for free during a celebration, so he didn't consider this to be very different.  If anything, it furthered to improve Casa's view of their band, little by little.

A smile crept over his muzzle as he saw the young wolfdog mimic his own gesture, gently inclining his head as the polite ritual came full cycle.  He didn't make an attempt to conceal the raised brow as Wally showed surprise at their tenure in this region, as he wasn't aware that Casa maintained a proper presence on the other side of the loch, not permanently at least.  The smile darkened and faded when asked how they managed in recent times, images of broken ice and an empty space by their hearth.  
"We've been better." the wolf said absently, his eyes clouded for a moment.

Suddenly wanting to redirect the subject from him and his, Lukos looked back at the traveler.  "And you?  You said that life was harsh of late.  I'd think that Casa-" he paused in his words, realizing that he was speaking to Wally based on assumptions based on what he could gather from observations that may be false.  The wolfdog had yet to confirm his suspicions.  Not wanting to cause further rudeness, he bent his head in a small apology.  "Sorry, from your scent  I assumed you came from Casa de Cavalieri.  You could say I'm, acquainted with their usual markers, both recently and in the past."

In an effort to abandon the oversight, Lukos began walking back in the direction he was patrolling from, making somewhat of a beeline for the restaurant.  Leading the way, he was surprised in turn when Wally commented on the katana that laid by his waist, something that he would often forget he carried considering how much it was a part of him now.  Pulling the weapon scabbard and hilt from his side, he admired the battered metal sheathe, though he didn't bother drawing the blade lest he made his new acquaintance nervous.  "I've had this ancient thing for quite a few years.  Some novice mistakes have put worn on it, but for my purposes it's still quite able.  When I can, I prefer not to use the edge of it, but the scabbard." he confided as he angled the metal scabbard, showcasing the many scratches and blemishes along its surface in the failing light.  "It's a surprisingly sturdy blunt weapon, and keeps the sword itself free if needed." the wolf added, before putting his blade back onto the loop on his side.

Lukos gave something of a pleased hum, rarely having been inquired about his weapon of choice.  It's a relic of the past, older than he could possibly imagine.  "We'll be there soon, likely with enough light to see it.  Not entirely inspiring, but it's home." he admitted, the building a little more than a humble hut they had repurposed.  It took a few more moments, as the sun was now on the horizon bleakly casting its rays over the treetops.  But they made it, as the small thatched building with a heavy curtain blocked most of the light from within, save for a warm glow at the bottom.  The sunset gave enough to see the round structure in it's entirety, though shadows of the forest began to stretch nimbly towards it.  

"After you." the wolf offered, a faint grin as he wondered what chaos was inside if any.
Don't worry about it, all it means is it's fair game if I do it! I kinda did a bit of speculation at the end, let me know if it's ok.

So for this one time only, there seemed to not be a catch? The shepherd dog could hardly believe it. In fact, it didn't exactly sit too well, or at least without him offering his own trade. Sure, he didn't have anything valuable he was willing to part with, but... "I be good at stitchin' together clothes, I can work on patchin' up any holes ye might have!" It was anyone's guess if he really did have anything he could stitch together quickly, but it was definitely something he would be willing to do.

"Oh...sorry t'a hear t'at." He didn't pry much further, especially with Lukos changing the subject, but then he mentioned Casa. A spark of concern crossed the shepherd dog's face before Lukos explained himself. It was a bit of a wakeup call to Wally since he rarely thought of his scent being a means of detection, especially now that he didn't find himself running from hostile packs anymore. "Well, aye, I be from Casa. Jus' joined last summer actually." He rubbed his nose. "By t'a way, if ye don' mind me askin', w'at does Casa smell like? Me nose be broken fer a while, so I can't find out me-self." He offered a friendly grin to let him know it wasn't something that bothered him, easily preferring it over talking about the power struggle in Casa or his personal issues afterwards. Even without that, he was rather interested of what parts of Casa rubbed off on him. He'd guess other than that, leather and metals would be the most prevalent, along with a hint of alcohol, if any.

Wally's head was drawn to the weapon, leaning down to get a closer look. He didn't show any emotions on his opinion, listening carefully as he admired such a setup. "Fer somethin' old, it seems t'a be holdin' up real well." He knew of some weapons his father made that broke a few weeks later, and he knew his dad was really good with metalworking. "Or maybe yer real good at takin' care of it. Really interestin' ye'd use t'a scabbard over t'a blade, I've never t'ought 'bout doin' somethin' like t'at." Then again, he didn't have a sword. Maybe he could ask Armani for one? "Reminds me of me old pack, we'd all use sticks an' clubs fer most of our weapons."

Arriving at the hut, the shepherd dog shrugged. "It be not t'at bad, I've lived in much worse. Kinda has a homely feel, aye?" He didn't pay too much attention to the light coming from it, instead glancing at the bits of the sunset he could see. While he wished he got a better view, he was more than happy to wait the next day. Sunsets may only happen once a day, but a free meal was nearly unheard of.

"T'anks." The shepherd dog entered the building and stopped in his tracks, a cold chill running down his spine. He was finally confronted with the sources of all the light within the hut. Even if none of it was particularly close, the fire was enough to make his skin crawl. It seemed there was a catch, even if it wasn't imposed by Lukos.

At the very least, he didn't stay petrified for too long. Taking in a breath, he let it out to try to calm down. No one seemed to be holding any torches, and he wasn't led here by a coyote. Ye'll be fine, jus' t'ink of t'a food. Wally turned his head back, trying to hide his discomfort. "So, where be t'a food?" He really wanted to cover his eyes and hoped he could get so absorbed in dinner that he could relax, even if it was just a bit.
OOC: All good, but I should mention that my other character, Theo Reeves, is inside the Rest Stop as well, sitting at a table.  

The grizzled wolf gave a bark of laughter, the dog offering his skills as recompense even after he said it was okay for Wally to eat for free this once.  "One day I might take your offer, but for now it's fine." he informed the younger lad, a lax wave of his hand to dismiss his concerns.  Even the most impecunious travelers gave them little concern, seeing as someone always had some skill or trade about them.  Or at the very least, they could help in a hunt.  There was always a way for repayment to be made, and for someone who seemed honorable and earnest to earn a free meal meant a return in kindness down the line.

Dwelling on the somber winter somewhat painful, but his guest was gracious enough to apologize, then take up the new direction of conversation.  Pausing for a moment as he tried to assign a thing to each intricate layer of the scents, Lukos said "Foremost would be horses, I think.  Pungent they are, and nearly impossible to stay in Casa for long without the smell rubbing off on you." he said, a small chuckle as he remembered them scrubbing the odor out of the twins, Seira, and Nomos when they picked them up from the cavaliers.

"Other than that, I'd say like a breeze from over the loch, and wood-cutting.  That's the best I've narrowed it down to at least."  He had a long history of encountering the smell, after all.  After establishing the smell and showing off his sword, he smiled as Wally commented on his particular use and maintenance of the weapon.  He wondered if he was trying to ingratiate himself, or if that was just natural to the dog.  As they both admired the metalwork, Wally's emphasis on the age of the blade made Lukos wonder about exactly how old it was himself as well.  It wasn't of Luperci make, at least he didn't believe it was.  The craftmanship was too fine for anything he was accustomed to, and being a product of the ones that came before would explain it's surprising endurance, even if a little TLC had to be given.

"Yeah, sticking the pointy bit into someone makes the conundrum of whether they'll bother you again really simple, but I find the idea of tearing families apart somewhat distasteful when I can help it, especially considering how large mine is."  Lukos had lived to see plenty of blood feuds play out, and they hardly ended well for one or even both sides.  Robbing others of loved ones held as much appeal to him as the potential consequences those vengeful relatives would wreak did.

Letting Wally go through first, the wolf was swift to follow behind, almost bumping into the dog as he lifted the heavy curtain and came nose to back, halted where he stooped.  He was taken a little off guard by the sudden stop from the younger canine, but after a moment things seem to be fine again.  A brow lifted, but he said nothing as he strode with confidence deeper into the building, the crackling fire oddly soothing.

Intent on rummaging around for some dried meat and whatever Mani had heated up, he almost missed the slouched form of their resident lay-about, Theo.  He had come here some moons past, and while he had no interest on becoming an official member he did lounge around their homes a lot.  Particularly, May.  Though, the father had seen his eldest chew the cowboy out something fierce on various occasions, and therefore left him mostly unchallenged, thinking that the uncharacteristic nature he brought out in her might help the hybrid's confidence.  

"Didn't see you there.  What, my daughter send you crawling away again?"  He was reclined in a very comfortable manner it seemed, resting up against the table as he sat on a stool of a stump.  The traveler's poncho was draped over him like a blanket, as the smaller male adjusted his hat, lifting it properly to peer up at the wolf.  "Evenin', boss man.  Forgot your cane in here?"  Lukos bore a twitching smile, knowing the rider's bravado was most likely a front, or at least a game to him.  He'd have words with him, some day soon.
A smirk formed on the cavalier’s face. “Horses, ye say? Funny, I’ve been tryin’ t’a avoid ‘em.” He never did like hanging around an animal that could break his bones with a well-placed kick and tried avoiding the stables, but once in a while he would help someone out there. Though, his first pack never had horses and his sense of smell had gotten too far gone by the time he encountered them, so he had no idea about the scent. At the very least, it seemed like it wasn’t as bad as rotting fish.

The other two scents were things he did have an idea about. Woodcutting was rather common in his first pack and while he wasn’t sure about a loch breeze in particular, he did remember the clean air some breezes smelled of. It was enough for that smirk to mellow as he tried reminiscing those scents.

“Aye, I can agree wit’ t’at. I’d rather not risk it.” As pragmatic as the shepherd dog was, he was well aware such actions had spiraling effects, ones he’d rather avoid. He got a taste of it a while back and wasn’t looking for another anytime soon. With nothing else to add, the shepherd dog decided to steer the conversation to something a bit friendlier. “Yer family, how many be thar’? An’ who be at t’a Rest Stop?”

The cavalier was quick to find a seat a bit distant from the fire, mentioning a simple “Evenin’,” to the coyote as he waited for something to eat. He listened to the pair greet each other as his eyes wandered around the establishment. Ignoring the flames, it was a rather cozy place. His eyes resting on the coyote, Wally wondered about his connection to Lukos. At the very least, the two seemed to be on good enough terms to take jabs at each other.

While he was in no mood to join in, not preferring to anger either Lukos or the coyote, he did mention, “I be guessin’ t’a two of ye’ve known each other fer some time, aye?”
The wolf chuckled as Wally mentioned his attempts to circumvent the beasts, shaking his head as they walked.  "I've never been a fan of them myself, but things like cloth, straw, even other people can rub the scent off onto you if you give it enough time.  It's to be expected though, considering." the swordsman said, with what was either a hint of resignation or pity.  When the discussion turned solemn once more and the cavalier agreed with him, Lukos only nodded in response.  It was somewhat funny to Lukos, that he was leading a cavalier to his home as a guest, considering that once upon a time Anathema, and by extension himself, nearly started a war with Casa.  Strange, how life lead you in revolutions.

When talk turned to his family though, Lukos brightened up a bit as his grey tail began to sway.  "Well, to start with is myself and my mate Nyx, of course." he mused, remembering the times where life was simpler, long ago.  "There's our eldest, May.  The twins, Besekel and Uriah.  The middle litter, Nomos and Seira.  Then Johanna, the luckiest one I think.  And finally our youngest litter, Worick, Nicolas, and Alexandra.  The only ones that aren't at home right now are Seira, who left for New Caledonia, and Johanna, who's off trading and traveling with some," he sniffed, with an indignant air, "young welp."  He could never form a real opinion on Elias, the boy always seemed so, polite, and well-minded.  Even at a younger age, when Lukos would've expected him to be somewhat aloof, or rebellious.  Compared to his brusque, hobbledehoy of a daughter, the Einar child was a model member.

Sighing at a buried, gnawing worry, the father hoped that Johanna didn't devote too much faith in him, at least not that he didn't deserve.  Even if she wasn't a pup struggling to waddle out of the den before someone noticed, he would always be concerned with their welfare.  Seira, he felt more sure about, considering that she went to a pack and knew where to find her if need be.  But the two of them, Johanna and Elias, could be anywhere at all, and he could only wait for them to come back to Bête Noire before he could see her for sure.

But at this point, he found himself sitting at a table in the Rest Stop, his claws lightly rapping the wood surface in a row.  He had begun to ignore Theo's banter by now, who up till then had said a simple "Howdy." with the wave of his hat towards the newcomer.  Catching Wally's insinuation that they knew each other well, Lukos gave a raised brow towards the coyote, mulling over the cavalier's question as Theo raised and gave a wave with the curl of his fingers, smiling smugly.  "Hardly.  He showed up some months back, claiming to be looking for his horse.  After a while, it turned up, but since then he hasn't seen fit to quit his pestering, especially towards May."  The last bit he emphasized with a bit of a hard look and a growl, eyeing the coyote in a way that let him know that Theo's constant flitting around the eldest Greyfire child wasn't unnoticed.  At the very least, he could understand the Reeves man a bit better than Elias, but it hardly made him more trustworthy, if not the opposite.

"Are the twins out for the moment?" he asked Theo, indicating a thumb towards the bar behind where he sat, that made up the front of the kitchen area.  "They jus' stepped 'way.  Said they'd b' back later on."  the coyote muttered, lowering his hat to either avert staring Lukos in the eyes or annoy him further by denying him the courtesy.  Shaking his head in disdain, Lukos stood up, looking to Wally and said "Well, even if they and Mani aren't here, I did say you could have something to eat, so I'll make good on that."  Walking to the side of the bar so he could walk into the other side, the wolf started to rummage around and raising his voice so the cavalier could here.  "We have some dried meat, water, and what looks like edible plants.  If the twins or Mani get back in time, maybe they could make something a bit fancier." he said, before gathering an assortment of jerky, vegetables, and a pitcher of water before bringing it back and placing it before Wally, then walking away again to find a bowl or cup for him to drink from.
When Lukos began naming off his family, Wally pulled up a hand to count on, followed by the other. The more he listed off, the more a sense of bewilderment could be found on his face, finally coming to a head when he got to eleven. “Wow, t’at be lots...much more t’an me own family. We only have four.”

The coyote's howdy brought just the hint of a smile to Wally's face before he buried his muzzle into his arms to hide his smirk from Lukos' denouncement of such a friendship. “Aye, I can ye t’a two of ye are t’a best of buddies.” Maybe one friendly jab wouldn’t get him thrown out. Despite this, even if he was being optimistic, he believed the two weren't on such poor terms as the wolf let on, otherwise the coyote would've been out by then.

He was already licking his lips even before the plate was set in front of him. "Ah, t’anks fer all of t’is! An’ don' worry 'bout it, I don' be too picky.” Maybe there were some benefits from starving for a year straight. Still, the promise of more food was always appealing, especially when the stuff that was "less refined" looked so good to him. Just seeing it in front of him made his tail wag.

If he was being honest, just the sight of something more to eat overwhelmed him. While the food did distract him from the fire, it did screw with his judgement as he was quick to dig in. With how much went down his gullet, he eventually noticed he needed some water to wash it all down and grabbed the pitcher in a mild panic. A few reckless gulps later, he was left with having to cough up some of the water that went down his windpipe. Once he got his sputtering under control, he sighed, a bit embarrassed. “Me apologies.” He averted his gaze, feeling a bit childish from his lack of self control.

It didn’t stop him from returning to his food, albeit with some more restraint and at a calmer pace. Maybe he could use the time to learn more about Lukos' family. “‘Bout Johanna an’ t’a ‘welp’, where t’ey be travelin’? Jus’ ‘round t’a area or a bit outside of t’at?” He wasn’t sure what response he’d get from that, using it little more as a conversation starter now they had a time to talk. He didn’t remain on the subject for too long. “By t’a way, have ye been t’a New Caledonia, or Del Cenere? I be t’inkin’ of lookin’ ‘round t’ose places.”

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