[AW] sowing discord without satisfaction
#1
Fort Cumberland, midday. Open for one.

Of all the memories she cherished, it was the silly, unremarkable moments with Tiamat's brood that kept her moving forward, away from what she'd come to consider a permanent place of safety.

She’d waited as long as she possibly could, holding out some vain hope that others would succeed long before her attempt became necessary.

This had proven troublesome in its own way; while cold enough to freeze both Halla and herself in their sleep, the northerly rivers rushed on, heedless of her need to cross. Some of the bridges were stable enough to carry a horse and rider, but others had long-since rusted or otherwise corroded. Some, licked by the flames of old fires or damaged by some unearthly shihab.

One such river snaked so far north that she’d been forced to double back and wait out the false-Spring. Venturing once a day for seven days to examine the riverbank and the bridge that forded it, Rahab, her horse, and her lynx were once more faced with elements outside of their control. During much of this time they hunted or explored what few stable buildings still existed, with tedium now becoming a more pressing danger than tangible, physical threats.

The hybrid’s imagination ran amok, conjuring a thousand ways in which her friends may have perished, none of them particularly pleasant.



In the end, the river proved the least of her problems.

With no way to tell where they’d gone, Rahab visited all the places she thought likeliest, with Krokar’s final resting place and the site of their abandoned ambitions being highest among those locations she considered most possible.

Their scents were old and faded, and Tiamat’s older than Lotan’s.

Traversing the literal and geopolitical landscape proved more difficult than it had two years ago. There were more packs to avoid in the north than she remembered, and while avoiding their scouting parties wasn’t terribly difficult, she wondered if there was some worth in discussing the siblings with strangers on the off chance they’d seen them.

Erring on the side of caution, she avoided inhabited lands, and in doing so found herself wedged against a mountain. Unwilling as of yet to take Halla up and over it, and wary of leaving the akhal teke behind, Rahab found herself spending time in an abandoned fort wishing it was the sort of place one of them might inhabit, even temporarily. With Nur off hunting, she pried open what few doors hadn't rusted shut with her staff and banged on the others, frustrated at her lack of progress and the likelihood that this was as close as she'd get to finding the wayward Amaranthe siblings.
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#2
He was restless again and wished for a destination that was far away enough that he could pretend he really cared to reach it without truly committing to anything.

There was land across the sea, an island he'd never visited. Someone had said that it was no longer an island and that you could walk there now. Kyrios was almost curious enough to try and find out, but it was too close. If it was true, he'd reach the piece of land in a month, if he took his time. And then what? There used to be a pack on the island -- what happened to them? They'd been gone before he left though; he just never cared to find out.

Zaku began to veer away from the coast, eagerly following the fresh green away from the soft sand. Kyrios lazed on her back and gave no instruction or direction. There used to be a pack on the riverlands there, too. They had been around in his youth and he had passed by their borders many times without visiting. If not for the history book, he'd have forgotten entirely. There were a lot of packs like that. And it seemed that Inferni had already joined their ranks in most people's memories.

When the stone walls appeared in the distance, Kyrios straightened back into a proper sitting position and cupped his eyes against the sun. Taking the reins lightly, he nudged his mare in the direction of the fort. She tossed her head in annoyance, but complied all the same, moving at a brisk trot until they reached the nearest collapsed pile of wood: the remains of some building.

Both Kyrios and his horse perked their ears at the sound of banging nearby. The hybrid paused a moment, then continued forward, letting Zaku move at a cautious pace as they approached the source. His bow hung from his back and there was no arrow in his hand, for the moment, but his quiver hung from his hip, always ready.
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#3
Now and then she looked in on Halla, who—even while grazing—had grown wary of strangers. There was little enough to eat, and even less color in what vegetation did exist, but a few green shoots promised the return of spring.

When the mare lifted her head to trumpet a warning and trotted off along the stone embankments, Rahab lifted her head with concern. With the advantage of height and what she could only assume was a long-range weapon (a bow, she thought), she was sorely underprepared for a negative encounter. Using her bō staff as a walking stick, the de le Poer hoped it didn’t look like the weapon it was, but assumed he would know.

Drawing closer, the coyote was older than she’d previously assumed. Some age-old longing surfaced again, that closeted, private desire to be with her people… and other memories of the time where she’d almost done as much and then thought better of it.

He reminded her a little of that woman whose name was long forgotten.

“Was I bothering you?” Rahab asked, her ears fanning back slightly. The white-haired man didn’t exactly look aggressive or angry, but she knew better than to assume. Onubans had polite to her face and rude once out of earshot.

The irony.

Tiamat, one of their own, was the true northern wildling, uncultured and uncaring.

With her staff as an aid, she began to climb the steep sides of the fort, throwing the weapon-turned-percussive instrument over the top when she neared it.
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#4
"No, love," he said, smiling gently as a default. Then he laughed, "Though I suppose it might if you kept it up a while."

The woman was a light-colored mongrel with a staff too long to be a simple walking stick, though Kyrios thought it more reassuring when strangers had their weapons in plain sight. It was hard to hide a bow, so he liked when others were in similar predicaments.

He was more wary of loners who liked to appear unarmed, but had enough clothing or other worn materials and bags to conceal the possibility. Life was simpler when people were straightforward. It was dangerous to be alone in the wild. Everyone was armed, even if sometimes with just their teeth. He had long viewed those weapons as a very last resort though. Wasn't he a coward in the end? He'd rather flee than use his teeth. That was just far too messy.

Kyrios kept a respectable distance from the woman and glanced briefly towards her horse, who was now hovering along the far side of the crumbling stone enclosure.

"Are you looking for something?" he asked, watching her pull herself up on the crumbling ledge.
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#5
“My friends,” Rahab confessed readily, and then appeared to reconsider. “well — they’re — my family.”

When had that happened?

In the desert, maybe, or afterward in Onuba when they’d arrived and slaughtered like conquerors but called themselves saviors. That was when it had really begun, when their course had become murky and uncertain, their morally golden paths turning tarnished and dirty.

She’d been at the forefront then, a staunch believer than what they were doing was right, was just… but Tiamat’s new campaign reeked of self-righteousness; while she risked her neck, her children wondered when or if their mother was going to come home.

And the rest of them were swept up in it, cursed by the extent to which they cared.

Inferni had promised her family, extended relations she would never otherwise meet, but she’d found their laws too restricting; Armand, the kindest person she’d ever met, would have been considered a second-class citizen if she’d brought him with her. At the time, she’d felt responsible for his well-being, and turned her nose up at the prospect.

Her mobile facial expressions seemed to suggest that the stranger would know what this was like, taking a group of misfits and has-beens and turning it into something more through camaraderie.

Leaning on the too-long staff, she too looked at the horse, who was in turn looking at the man’s horse.

“What about you, habibi?” She pointed her nose toward his blankets and bags, sniffing. “Are you a trader or something? Meet a lot of people?”
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