[AW] hand in unloving hand
beep boop Saga is chilling on the coast
In spite of recent events, the dappled woman found herself largely content with life as it currently progressed. The fire, she knew, had been a painful reminder for the Songthorn brothers, and she’d sought to seek out Ierian as soon as she had realised the implications of what had happened. The flame scarred brother seemed to have had less of an adverse response, but Saga knew that Ierian internalised a great deal more than people realised, and she watched his honey coloured eyes closely for those faint signs of distress. She only hoped that their long and sometimes strained talks had had a lasting and remedial effect.

She sought the coast again, more out of habit than anything concrete. The wide expanse of water, stretching out before her, was particularly grounding. So too was the steady lap of the waves, the surf coming up to greet the coarse seafront. Saga thought remotely of Evariste, who’d himself now joined his elder brothers at the Caledonian’s outpost. She wondered if Ierian would, or did, take it somewhat personally, though she knew that he’d sought his pseudo-father out. Her gentle Erynson was too considerate to do anything else.
She carried her sword not because she had a reason to but because she felt like it. It was rapidly becoming a part of her identity now. There goes the Caledonian giant, big and strong and mean. If you try to screw with her she'll lop your head off with a ten pound blade. In the same way her father carried weapons as a sign of his profession and willingness to cross steel so would she. After all, what good was a mercenary if they didn't look the part?

And she very much did look the part. Her height and weight made her imposing, her muscles made capable of delivering on that imposition while her thuggish grin told everyone that she was always at least considering starting trouble. Hardly the look of a model citizen but who in her family was? Well, a few of them actually but the point was that her father was fairly psychotic, her mother was a prideful ex-queen and her sister was a thief. In Hoko's eyes the Tanoy household was a pack within the pack, it's own unit who her loyalties would always lie with. Why would she not want to follow their footsteps?

But their would be no mischief making or fistfight starting today, not from her anyway. Even though she walked with her specially made sword leaded against her should the wolf mutt had no intention of putting it to use. She just wanted to stroll along the beach for a while, enjoy walking while her body was still limber.  Oversized feet left oversized tracks in the sand as she padded up the coastline, only stopping when she came across another person. 

"Howdy Saga! How're things?"

Had they ever talked before? ...Hoko wasn't sure. But whether or not they did made no difference. She greeted the starry-bodied mother with the same cheery carelessness they did pretty much everyone because smiling was how she told the world she was planning on starting shit at some point or another.

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The lumbering thumps of feet upon the bank and the mingled scent of Savoy and Tanaka alerted the once Ursarchon to Hokori's presence before the girl, almost a woman now, announced herself cheerily. Saga saw the passage of time more keenly in Hoko's sooty face than she did in the faces of her own children. Perhaps it was because she ignored the harsh features and coarse fur as it swept across the once sort and round faces of her sons and daughter. That, coupled with that fact she did not see Kalypso's children daily, made their steadily increasing maturity even starker, and once again the dappled woman felt that noticable void in her life. She thought of Ierian then too, in a malestrom of adoration and frustration.

'Morning.' Saga greeted softly, craning her neck to do. Why was everyone in this pack so damn tall..? 'Expecting trouble?' she asked, nodding towards the sword that the young Tanaka was lumbering around with. Saga had never had any taste for weapons. Having shifted so late, she'd grown too accustomed to being on four legs and now, years later, there was still a lingering distaste for being upright and, naturally she'd neglected to develop any affinity for armed combat. Tooth and claw was as good as anything.
Hokori was simply giant. That was kinda her whole deal. But she had forgotten, or rather had never really realized, that Saga was actually kinda puny. Short height, lower than normal body weight, small and no doubt nimble but lacking the pure strength of form that Hoko possessed. Together they were a comedic duo ready to put on a performance, the Big and Small Show. Hopefully Saga knew some good jokes cuz Hokori had never really considered herself funny.

"Not expecting, no. Figured I should get used to carrying it around."

It was a trick she had picked up from her father. Being openly armed made her a much less appealing target and if someone was still stupid enough to throw down then she'd simply lop their head off where they were standing. Carrying around a sword that would be ridiculously oversized for anyone else gave the mutt a boost of pride. Hell yeah she carried a sword and it was absolutely gargantuan too. Got a problem with that? Boom, tell it to the sword.

But she didn't need just that moment. There was a muffled chnk of metal against tiny rocks as Hoko buried the blade in the sand, letting her weapon simply stand upright as she sat down next to Saga. "You ran a pack, right? Did you ever deal with my mom in like a-" 

A massive mitt gestured aimlessly, trying to stir the word she was looking for into existence.

"-in like a Queenly capacity?" 

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Although as a youth her small stature had irked her, the realisation that it hide her tenacity and the surprising punch she was capable of packing. Where she wasn’t large and powerful, she was fast and agile, hardy enough to withstand harsh blows, and this alone made her formidable in her own right.

'You remind me of an old friend.' Saga noted, the thinnest of smiles playing on her lips. It had been a long time since she had last thought of Ragna, the woman who'd once been as close to a sister as she had ever had. There was a deep ache for the world that she once inhabited, a sense of rare regret for her own decisions, and a bitter taste as she remembered seeing Athras' face for the first time. It was not the first time animal instincts had led her down an ill path, but she sorely hoped it would be the last. She was doing everything in her power to remain beside Ierian, whether he appreciated it or not. Though she was sure that now, after almost a year of tense friendship, he would allow such tenderness.

’I did.’ she confirmed. ’The Vale and the Court didn’t have all too much to do with each other, mine you, but we were friendly enough.’
"They must have been a pretty big friend."

Saga was what, two or three years older than her? Definitely not as old as the ancient High Lord and Lady that had spawned her but definitely fitting in that category of Adult. Hokori defined those sad and strange creatures as pretty much anyone older than her with grown-up responsibilities. Saga had children and thus was an Adult, a grim warning of what was to come for the wolf mutt. 

That would be her some time into the future, sitting on the sand reminiscing about old friends that were dead or gone or had just drifted away because old people sucked at keeping in contact. And Hoko would have it worse than most, cursed by her grandfather to suffer through joint pain and muscle aches. She really didn't want to be a Saga type even though she knew it was inevitable, forever doomed to push against the passage of time.

But all that grim rumination on one's mortality crap was super boring and pretty much a total downer. Hokori was able to push it entirely out of her mind by focusing on Saga's confirmations, perking up at the chance to hear all sorts of stories about her mother. "Okay, cool! What was she like? Was she bossy with you like she is everyone or was she like, actually polite?"
'Everyone's pretty big to me...' Saga sighed. 'But, no, I don't think she was particularly tall.' It had been a while since she'd seen the woman that had, for a long time, been the closest thing to a sister she had had. Saga wondered if she was happy somewhere, she'd take just knowing she was safe as a deep comfort. Her children too, the little creatures that had been her own children's playmates. Maybe one day she would find out.

Ragna hadn't been that tall in reality. In fact, the dappled woman was pretty sure that in the grand scheme of things, Ragna was probably quite short. Being incredibly short gave her an oddly skewed view of the world she supposed. Everyone was a giant, even Ramsey who's blood was heavily polluted by coyote genes, and Ierian and those who matched him in stature were nigh on giants of old in her eyes. There should have been something humbling about being the same size as a child, but Saga rarely found anything humbling and instead she greeted it with mild irritation. Occasionally the vision of a future with Ierian blossomed in her mind and as picturesque as it seemed in her head, the idea of trying to scold a puppy that was practically the same size as her threw a slight raincloud over the idea.

Saga couldn't hide a bemused laugh at Hokori's next question. It was exactly the same thing she imagined her own children saying about her. 'Is she this much of a bitch to everyone or does she just have an agenda against her own flesh and blood?' She shook her head, both to answer the girl's question and in bemused disbelief.

'No, she was quite the level-headed Queen on the occasions that I met her when we were both leaders.' Their first meeting still left a bitter taste in her mouth, though not because of anything Kalypso had done. She'd been at her lowest at that point, scared, young, and facing motherhood alone, and she had definitely not wanted to be at some stupid ball when all she'd wanted to do was throw up and sleep. She thought of Honrin too now, a pang of nostalgia hitting her as she pledged that she would visit him when the snow thawed and travelling was easier.

'It's funny...' the dappled woman began, 'I feel like my children must say the same thing about me. I don't think I treated them with the grace usually given to children when I was Ursarchon.' She wanted to lie and say that that had been the reason she'd disbanded Mistfell Vale, but she couldn't quite force herself to do so unprompted. The real reason was embarrassing and stupid and altogether foolish. Just like Athras. She still wondered what had happened to him, why he had left. Was it to do with her? Was the idea of hands-on parenting that unstomachable to him? Either way, as much as his departure had hurt her, she was glad he had left, for she had found a far greater option.
With Saga reminiscing about her younger, spryer, less old and crochety days Hokori had decided to indulge in a little childishness. Still listening to the madam's words she sat back on her haunches and began the process of shifting. Her bones snapped, crackled and popped into place while she made a noise of vague disbelief. "It must have been cuz you were a pack boss. She can be really pushy when she's mad. Or when she's not mad. She's really just kinda pushy."

As compared to her husband who had always been limp-wristed when it came to handling the children but was, as far as Hokori could tell from his stories and his advice on Reaving, kind of a lunatic. Hoko had gotten traits from both sides of the family. She talked down to pretty much everyone she thought she could get away with doing so and then beat the crap out of those who had the gall to mind. The best of both worlds as far as she was concerned, she got be both the velvet glove and the iron fist at the same time. 

"To be fair, I'm pretty sure most people think that their parents suck. Probably just part of raising shithead kids." Her body kept making crunching noises as it shrank down, her thumbs now mere dewclaws as her proper paws scratched the sand under her. The shift came to an end with her the much smaller (but still pretty dang huge) Lupus shape, the now four-legged mutt digging at the ground in the most ancient and cherished ritual of puppies the world over. 

"Why'd you end up coming to NC anyway? Did the Vale get trashed or something? Did people just get bored and leave?" 

She hadn't really been aware of the Vale outside of the fact that it had once existed. Neither of her parents had mentioned any interactions they might have had and it wasn't the sort of thing Hoko would think to look into without reason. But Saga presented that reason by way of existing. She had led the pack, been there for its ruin or dissolution or fizzling out or whatever had happened and would thus have answers to all sorts of inane questions. This was convenient because Hoko lived for inanity in all its varied forms. 

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Saga watched as Hokori shifted, watching as her frame shifted and shrank. It was no small amazement that even in this, the smallest of forms, the Tanaka girl still managed to dwarf her would-be aunt. While she'd long outgrown the bitterness that had come with her petite size, the sheer wonder that she was faced when she actually took a moment to think about it. At this point, it was nothing more than bemusement that these realisations were faced with.

'I can imagine.' she laughed dryly. 'As I've said, I don't think my children's opinions on me would differ. I don't think I was very fair to them in all honestly,' Slowly, she began to admit her faults. For some reason, it was easier to be frank with Hoko despite the fact that there was barely any difference in age between her, Evariste, and Esyllt. She'd never been subjected to Saga's questionable parenting and maybe that was the difference. The Savoy-Tanaka giant was more like a small (in age, certainly not in size) adult with which she was free to talk to without the constraints of a parent-child relationship. Also, Hoko had never done anything to disappoint her which probably helped.

Humming in agreement, she turned her gaze to the vast expanse of water beside them. 'I didn't really know my parents, but- yeah, I guess they sucked...' Ankh had always been a vague ghost and as Saaga aged she realised that she knew very little about him, despite the fact that she was around him daily for almost half a year before she'd left. And Grace... well, that woman truly was a ghost. Saga had seen her only once and even then the tall, pale woman had left a very weak impression on her.

'Well, yes- it did get "trashed" at one point. But that's a story for another day.' If there was ever a topic that Saga didn't want to talk about it was her arrival in New Caledonia, but she realise that there was no delicate way for her to avoid this topic. Biting her lip, the dappled woman took a hesitant inhale and asked, 'I don't suppose you remember Athras?' She supposed if she did, her memories would be faint. Both Saga's and Kalypso's children had only been of a tender age when he'd made his departure and the dappled woman figured her recollections would be vague at best.

Part of her wished that there had been something bombastic that had signaled the end of Mistfell Vale. Her winding it up of her own foolish accord now seemed like an incredibly daft thing to do for the sake of a man. Kind of like not having sex for over a year for the sake of a man. Though at least Ierian had been nothing but a gentleman. He'd stepped up to be the father that Evariste had always wanted and needed, without any need to be asked or to be prompted. No, Saga's decision was one that she didn't regret, even if looking at Lossë and Meril as they aged served as more and more of a sore reminder.

'The reason I disbanded Mistfell was because of him.' Saga admittedly stiffly. There was no point in warning Hoko not to repeat it because of all of New Caledonia had been witness to Saga's foolishness, but it was still painful to remember her own stupidity. 'I loved him. And I had put the pack first ever since I was nothing but a child, I figured I deserved some happiness. Something that was selfish, something that was just for me.' The dappled woman frowned, taking another moment to cast her gaze out over the water. 'And then the bastard left. No idea why, but my running theory is that he was a spineless, gutless, empty shell of a man that didn't have the balls to bow out like a gentleman.'

There was a tension-filled silence next. The sound of the waves hitting the beach filled the space alongside the shrill cry of the gulls the circled overhead. Occasionally one of them swooped down and plucked a fish out of the mirrored sea. In the midst of her musing, she made a mental note to try and catch some fish in the river at some point. 'Anyway.' Saga said, breaking the hush. 'That's the long and short of it and to an extent the story of my life. Men and disappointment.' She turned to Hokori again, waiting for some sort of response to her tales. She half expected ridicule, and in truth, she would take no offense to Hoko's bemusement. She wouldn't be the first and she doubted she would be the last.

'On the bright side, if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have Lossë and Meril. Or all the people I've met here. You, your parents, Ierian. I suppose every cloud has a silver lining, and this is that situation's silver lining.' Saga had to admit, she quite liked living somewhere and not having the responsibility of sole leadership. That being said, she still hoped to find something useful for herself to do. She quite enjoyed writing things down for Bellad and Ierian, so perhaps there was something she could do with that. Surely there was a name for something like that, perhaps it would be a good idea to speak to Iomair or Fennore about her options. Without children to care for or a pack to run, Saga felt that she was running on fumes, idling, wasting her time and her sharp mind. It was the first time in her life that she had ever really had this much free time to herself and the dappled woman wasn't entirely sure what on earth she was supposed to do with it. Idleness was an alien feeling to her and she didn't find that she liked it, nor did it suit her. She pawed the ground before her with a pale claw, mirroring her younger companion. The sand was wet and compact still from when the tide had gone out. Perfect for digging.

Saga was kind of small, a little puny either by way of not getting enough to eat as a child like Aunt Wooders or simply by way of genetics like that weird masked dog that hung around and slept with Aunt Wooders. Hokori on the other hand was just ridiculously huge, cursed to be a friggin' giant by some grandfather she had never met and was thus responsible for her future of joint pains and muscle aches. The two of them side by side would always look funny no matter which forms they happened to occupy. As Hoko's muscled twitched, trembled and truncated into place she entertained the image of herself in Optime scooping up a tiny Lupus Saga.

Now that would be a sight to see. No doubt Saga would have protested it.

"I know Lossë, Meril, Evariste and Esyllt obviously but do you have any others?" 

It wasn't necessarily uncommon. People slept around, got together and broke up before moving on with puppies strewn in their wake. Hoko herself had older half-siblings that she was perfectly happy to hang out with if not exactly closely knit with them. 

As Saga slipped into a story to answer her questions Hokori kept looking off at the horizon, the lapping of white-crested waves against wet sand a pleasant background to the impromptu history lesson. Whether or not Saga had been too hard on her kids, Hoko couldn't say but she appreciated the way the older woman tolerated her incessant badgering. "Uh, very very vaguely yes. I know my Dad hated him and my mom doesn't like him much either, I don't think." She had never thought to pry into the why of her parent's relations with the departed Athras but perhaps she would have to now.

After that the mutt bit her tongue. She was brash to the point of being stupid but even she knew better than to interrupt such an intimate and no doubt painful to relate experience. Leaving the people she led to come to New Caledonia for the man she loved after a life of serving others only to have him creep out and away into the night when puppies got involved. Saga hadn't actually said that but she hadn't needed to. "Damn...if he pulled something like that I guess I can see why my dad hated his guts." 

Had she not just shifted Hokori would have offered her a hug.

"At least they haven't all been bad right? It's like you just said, I see Ierian hanging out with your kids, he seems like a pretty nice guy."

By now she had gotten the beginnings of a hole going, a little pit in the sand that she dug deeper and deeper with scratching nails. Hoko's tail wagged as Saga tested the waters, encouraging the other woman with a bark. Sometimes you just had to put aside everything that happened to you and dig a nice deep pit.

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'Yes, another three.' She wanted to say another four, as she always wanted to say. But Ramsey's littermate had never lived, had never been named, and thus Saga had never afforded herself the luxury of counting that little russet girl in with Esyllt and the multitude of boys she'd produced. 'You won't have met Dan. I haven't seen him in years either at this point...' Another bitter memory. She knew that the snippet she had afforded Hokori would likely prompt more questions on the matter, and she wished it wouldn't for she'd either had to choose between slandering her second eldest and lying about the situation that prompted him to leave. Neither was ideal and the truth was somewhere in the middle, but Saga had these long instances of thought that were as black and white as her pelt. This was one of them.

'Caspar was in New Caledonia for a bit, Ramsey too, but they left for the Citadel some months back.' another testament to her failures as a mother it seemed, though many had attempted to convince her otherwise. The boys had "simply needed their space" and had "grown too big for the nest." She had wanted to scoff in derision every time someone said this to her, but ultimately she had settled for a polite smile, a brief nod, and a swift farewell. 'Though Caspar was always more content indoors with a book and Ramsey was always off...somewhere... So it's no surprise if you don't remember them.' she excused with a dry laugh. 'I think Evariste and Esyllt stayed because New Caledonia was all they'd ever known. Same for the younger boys too, but they have Arran and his family too I suppose.'

She had not had many significant interactions with Tora she didn't think, having only really spoken to Kalypso when it came to the pair. Granted she'd always gotten a more or less solid vibe from him, despite the fact he didn't seem to let on much. She supposed she could see the appeal too, even if he wasn't her type. Or if he didn't seem to be Kalypso's type either. 'Yeah. There's a reason your dad didn't like him. Several, actually, come to think of it.' Though it wasn't Athras' actions that pained her, not really. It was her own naivety and stupidity that stung the most.

'No... Ierian isn't so bad...' she conceded vaguely, though it was the softness of her voice that conveyed everything Hokori needed to know. Conscious of this, the dappled woman looked away once more, focusing her attention on the sea foam as it snaked up the bank and fell away again with the lapping tide. It felt... wrong somehow, to talk about Ierian, about how she felt, without his firm consent. Whether he believed her or not, he knew how she felt and he had still not decided either way. Which was fine, Saga could be patient. But it was getting more and more difficult to shield her feelings from others. The citizens of New Caledonia weren't totally blind after all.

"Goddamn, a whole pile then."

Seven children, an impressive number. Albeit one absolutely dwarfed by her own mother's record. Hokori's litter almost equaled the Sagalings in number and her three older half-siblings pushed the number to nine. As far Hoko knew Kalypso was by far the most prolific of the parents in New Caledonia. An impressive feat, one worthy of a medal. God that'd be something, giving her beloved mama a nice ribbon for Breeding Stock, Best in Show. The conversation would probably end with that ribbon shoved up her ass but honestly, it would be kind of worth it.

An idea to be saved for later then.

The mention of the mysterious Dan piqued the mutt's interest but she managed to rein in the torrent of follow-up questions. She was enjoying their little bull-session far too much to risk putting an end to it so early. She would save that conversation for another, safer time. "Well, hopefully he's safe wherever he is." It was about as nonjudgmental a statement as could be made under the circumstances. "If you want I can keep an ear out? Me and my dad get around cuz Reaver business so there's always a chance we run into him or someone who knows him."

Her hole was coming along rather nicely. Hoko had stepped herself back some so that she could start widening the crevice, intent on making a space big enough for her to settle her bulk inside. It was a simple pleasure that could never be taken away, the ability to move earth as integral to her being as her ability to speak. She was quite capable of continuing her quest while still paying attention, ears set back as she tried to pin faces to the names Saga said.

"I might have seen them around before? I dunno. In any case, I'm sure they're all doing fine." 

Hokori snickered at the confirmation of her suspicions, sure that her dad and the mysterious Athras had probably been the two largest assholes in the pack until Rand came along. "To be fair, Dad doesn't like anyone who doesn't kowtow to him. Mom's made him chill the fuck out some but he was always a little unhinged to hear him describe it." 

She rolled her eyes at the description of the toasted giant as 'not so bad', the way Saga looked away at the mention of him confirmation enough. "Look, whatever your relationship with him is its your guys' business. But I'll say this: there are far worse father figures for your kids than Ierian and Arran." 

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