[P] We've got our minds all set on guarding
p. Naomi
Quote:Herdsman III: [313/1,500]
Remove something from a pasture that could be dangerous for the animals.

Gwaun yawned into his open hand, his breath ghosting out into the cold night air. His life had been… Unexpectedly calm since the meeting. Normal wasn’t the right word, because normalcy seemed completely out of reach to the shepherd; all he could hope for was some peace and quiet, a break in the storm that had consumed New Caledonia for moons.

At least Rhovanion was predictable, if spirited at times. That was a good word for it.

The shepherd scratched his chin and watched the sleeping flock, a tired smile on his muzzle. Morchant had been their latest escapee, and he was thankful that Hokori had captured him quickly; Gwaun certainly wouldn’t have been able to, not with his arm still healing. The goats had gotten in less trouble than usual, at least by comparison, but he knew it was only a matter of time until they started testing boundaries again.

Especially with the growing lambs consuming so much of his attention. They stayed close to their mothers’ sides in the cold, their coats less dense than their thick-wooled parents, but Gwaun still kept a close eye on them; any sign of illness or injury was cause for alarm, and would need to be tended to quickly.

The crunch of footsteps in the icy grass drew Gwaun’s attention away from the sheep, and the lack of tension in his shoulders surprised him. ”I promise I’m being responsible for once,” he assured Naomi, her figure clear in the near-full moonlight. ”See?” He leaned his crook against his body, rolled up the sleeve of his poncho, and moved his injured arm slowly and carefully to prove his good behavior. He even had clean, well-secured bandages!

Distracted by his friend’s surprise visit, Gwaun didn’t see the low, dark shape moving along the far edge of the pasture.
Optime | New Caledonia (Rhovanion) | Dated: Mid-December
The night’s patrol turned up nothing…again. The task had been long, and the snow had steadily started to grow deeper in places. She’d sniffed and searched, and trailed after promising tracks, but, revealed nothing, nothing, and nothing more. She was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of clues and evidence to be found. Someone was still attacking and targeting the pack, and it was all the Caledonians could do to keep up with the onslaught of blows that they kept being driven.

Needless to say, she was tired—emotionally and physically—when she came to the end of her patrol. Her path home was slow, and her thoughts were comfortably blank as her body moved on autopilot across the familiar pathways. Before she knew it, she’d reached the open, snow-covered fields of Rhovanion. The late hour made the meadowlands largely vacant. Most of the animals had been tucked away into the warmth of the stables, or, had otherwise navigated to the convenient lean-tos that her parents and Merlin had built during the Kingdom’s first year.

She had nearly made it to the Fort when her glacier eyes spotted a Luperci figure amongst a herd of sheep. At first, she’d paused, suspicious and questioning their being there at such an hour. It was a testament to how drained she was that she belatedly realized that the figure was only Gwaun. For a beat, she had wondered if she should continue home or if she should check up on him. He’d been one of the youths abducted by the strangers, but, more importantly, he had been injured. Part of her wondered if he should really be watching the sheep by his lonesome…especially when there were nefarious Luperci lurking in their midst.

Changing course, she made her way over to the Distinguished member. With the frost and snow, there was no hiding her approach, not when the night around them was as silent as it was. Gwaun greeted her casually, and Naomi answered with a humored scoff. “When that’s the first thing you have to say, understand that I may be a little skeptical.”

Naomi moved to stand beside her friend, crossing her arms beneath her fur-lined cloak that shielded her leather armor and weaponry from the cold. “How have you been since…”

Her brows furrowed as her eyes caught movement beyond Gwaun. She blinked tiredly, staring at the edge of the pasture where she’d sworn that she’d seen something move. For a beat, she waited, watching and questioning whether she’d actually seen something or if the long day was finally getting to her.

When nothing moved, she turned her attention back to the dog hybrid. “…the meeting?”

There! Again, her attention shifted away from him. The shadows had moved again! Naomi frowned, squinting suspiciously as her hands dropped to the belt that carried her knife and sword.

“Gwaun, do you see something over there?” She asked suddenly, jutting with her chin. She wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just her imagination and her nerves getting the better of her.

Naomi Stryder
— The Roquen —
Quote: Herdsman III: [1,377/3,000]
Remove something from a pasture that could be dangerous for the animals.

Gwaun waved off her concerns with his good arm before taking up his crook again, a handful of intricately-carved bone beads hanging from its handle. A small part of him wished to hang the medallion from it as well, the terrible object having first become something to ground him, then to fidget with, but he didn’t want to be on the receiving end of an interrogation for displaying it so openly; letting it weigh a hole in his pocket would have to do.

The shepherd raised an eyebrow at her long, furrowed brow pause, and it was only then that he noticed how exhausted she looked. He hadn’t seen Naomi since that morning, but she couldn’t possibly have been patrolling all that time, could she? ”No worse than before,” Gwaun said, scratching beneath the edge of his bandages. ”My arm is healed enough for training, and as long as I don’t let Mister Toraberā take me out reaving again, I’m sure I’ll be fine.” While Gwaun was more than happy to defend a member of the Realm when called upon, he’d have oved to know the High Lord had intended to get in a fight before agreeing to join him.

Before Gwaun could ask how Naomi was doing, and maybe suggest he walk her back to Fort Louisbourg, she asked him a question that made his blood run as cold as the wind blowing off the coast. The shepherd’s cloudy sky eyes snapped to her sky blue before following her gaze across the pasture, though nothing seemed amiss at first glance. All Gwaun could see was swaying grass, sleeping sheep, and a tilted fence post he’d been ignoring in favor of his other responsibilities.

Like making and mending garments for the Call to Court, which had resulted in many a pin-pricked finger and staying out far too late tending to the herds, just in case the Realm's mysterious assailants targeted them next. And that wasn’t even counting his plans to move out of his family home and into Celaeno’s, or his training with Mister Toraberā so he could join the City Watch, or keeping an eye on his little brother who’d disappeared just like him, but was insistent nothing had happened whenever anyone asked. His flower crown? What flower crown? Losse had never owned a flower crown in his life, what was Gwaun talking about?

And then he saw it.

The bobcat stalked the herd in the shadows of the fence, its gray-brown fur just visible through the tall, snow-dusted grass. Every mouse-quiet movement seemed as carefully calculated as a four-legged luperci hunter’s would be, and one day Gwaun might admire the skill that went into trying to steal a sheep out from under their noses. For now, his mind was taking in every detail of the big cat that lurked across the pasture, from where its gaze seemed to be — moving from goat to sheep to helpless lamb as it picked out the best target — to its size, which was more than large enough to injure him and Naomi if they weren’t careful.

But there was little time to act, and when the bobcat sped up, Gwaun decided he’d looked just enough to leap.

”Hey! Don’t touch him!” Gwaun shouted, kicking up clouds of freshly fallen snow in his haste to make it to the lamb’s side before the big cat could. The commotion woke the nearest sheep, whose terrified bleating sent the whole herd sprinting across the pasture toward Gwaun and Naomi. It was unlike anything Gwaun had ever heard before, the noise so much louder than the day he’d met Altuan out in the Silver Strip, and his determination increased tenfold accordingly.

Even if the bobcat did manage to catch and kill the lamb, it was not escaping Rhovanion without a fight; all that would do was teach it that their sheep made for an easy meal, and the animals were much too precious to Gwaun for that.

The shepherd had no reason to believe that Naomi wasn’t following him, and even if he did, he didn’t have time to look back and make sure. The lamb lagged behind its mother in the snow, struggling to leap through the icy powder while the bobcat’s only hurdle was distance from its prey. Gwaun was closer, but the cat was faster. ”I said don’t touch him!” Gwaun barked, almost close enough to dive at the lamb and grab a limb, a tuft of wool, anything to pull the small animal to him and out of harm’s way.

The lamb tripped, and the herdsman leaped second. Slamming into the icy ground, he broke his fall with his good arm and grabbed the lamb’s ankle with the other. The bobcat slammed into his side with a startled snarl before bouncing off, which only made Gwaun curl tighter around the screaming, struggling lamb in his arms. He prayed that if it went after another sheep that Naomi could fend it off, because the shepherd was in no condition to; his body ached despite the adrenaline coursing through him, and he was sure his cut had split somewhere beneath the tightly-wrapped bandages that protected it.

But instead of targeting an errant sheep or goat that hadn’t made it to the far side of the pasture, Gwaun heard a blood curdling, snarling yowl mere feet from his head. He squeezed the lamb to his chest and rolled out of the way just in time to avoid its teeth sinking into the back of his neck, or whatever other terrible thing the bobcat had in store for him. ”Naomi!” he shouted, scrambling to his feet with a shuddering gasp and a wince. ”Help!”

He had no hope of holding onto the struggling lamb with his bad arm, forcing him to brandish his crook with it to try and keep the big cat at bay. It was larger than it had looked at a distance, and seemed convinced that it could fight a luperci for a large, well-fed lamb and win. All the more reason not to let it bite him, Gwaun decided; the last thing he needed was to get attacked by a rabid bobcat.
Sorry about the wait on this! Dx Wasn’t 100% sure if you meant the bobcat was actually rabid or just meant it as an expression? Either way, made the fight last a bit longer so you could get some more words in towards your WC goal!

Also, my brain is currently failing at what to call specific cat noises other than the bare basic sounds xD
Gwaun reassured her, though, he misinterpreted her concern to be more about his arm and less about his mental state. Perhaps it was for the best though. Naomi wasn’t the best when it came to comfort and opening up to others, as well, she wasn’t sure he would have felt comfortable talking to her about such things anyways. She was not close to Gwaun, not like the others were, as well, she had not shared his trauma either. And, with her tired state, she likely would not have been much help to him anyways. If anything, she might have made things worse.

Thankfully, the universe had other things in store that night that would make use of both of their talents and strengths.

They both trained their gaze upon the suspicious area of shadows. It was subtle, but, the longer she watched and studied the area, the more Naomi was sure that she saw something moving. It was slow-moving, and hard to make out at first as it kept stopping, but the Stryder recognized a predator’s stalk when she saw it. The tall, dried grasses swayed only slightly as it moved, before they suddenly parted altogether as the creature—a bobcat!—charged out of them and towards the flock of sheep.

The shepherd moved first, a true testament of just how tired she was. She drew her sword and, belatedly, charged after Gwaun as he raced to save the little lamb that the oversized housecat had set its sights on. The cat must have been desperate, young, or absurdly arrogant, as not even the Fir-Chlis’ barked words stopped it from its pursuit. Had Naomi not been so determined to chase after her friend, she might have taken more time to contemplate the way the bobcat had refused to flee upon being alerted to their presence.

Snow slowed their charge, and it was nerve wracking to see the sheep flee towards them and the lamb struggling to keep up as the predator quickly gained ground behind it. When it tumbled, Gwaun leapt to protect it despite his injured arm. It was by sheer luck that he managed to pull the lamb just out of reach of the cat’s pounce, and another that the feline didn’t shred him with its claws at his audacity to steal its meal out from beneath it.

Desperate to protect the struggling, frightened lamb at all costs, Gwaun curled protectively around it, using his body as a shield as the bobcat turned its enraged sights onto him. The shepherd screamed for her as he brandished his crook to defend himself.

Naomi arrived seconds later with a snarl and swing of her sword. “Back off, cat!”

The bobcat leapt to avoid her, but wasn’t fast enough to completely evade the tip of her sword though. It let out an angry, startled yowl when the blade’s edge bit into its shoulder. Turning sharply, it let out a vicious hiss as it lunged and swatted at Naomi’s legs. The Watchman leapt backwards to avoid the enraged creature, swinging down again with her sword to keep the furious animal at bay.

She cut it across its flat face, and the cat let out a cat-equivalent to a yelp before it darted away. It didn’t go far though before it turned around and made a loud, angry sound that was distinctly feline. Its tipped ears pinned back against its skull and its bobbed tail twitched behind its hunched form. The cat narrowed its eyes on the Luperci pair, and it was clear that it had no intention to leave without hurting someone or running off with its original prey.

Naomi Stryder
— The Roquen —

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