[P] If It's Not One Thing...
For Mousely/Kohl
OOC: Evening, Northern Wildwood


Waves crashed on either side, though he was far enough for their roars to be just gentle growls in the distance. Thread stood in still quiet, thankful he had someone to keep his ward safe when he needed to be busy. Marten was way too adventurous for her own good, and it didn’t help that she forgot so many lessons he taught her. The confusion on her face at times was irritating, when he’d tell her about things they had already discussed. He loved the child, but she frustrated him sometimes. The man had brought up children, but none seemed as forgetful as she.

The good times were kept, it seemed, and he was thankful for that. Only the stressful things were lost to her. At best they were foggy, but most of the time the times of duress and danger were lost on her. Any commands or lessons he tried to give her right after were lost. She had even forgotten about meeting Blaise. Something had to be wrong, it couldn’t just be forgetfulness, but Thread was no mind expert. Maybe in time things would finally stay, or perhaps he needed to lecture her nightly on things they’ve encountered and should have learned throughout the day prior.

The runaway leader enjoyed no substances, so meditation was his comfort. To lose one’s self in the world around them. As he stood, with controlled breathing, he tried to picture his infinitesimal existence in the world. He was a speck, a grain of sand on the beach that was the world he had traveled. The lake that surrounded him in his childhood and as he developed into a man was smaller than the land around it. And the land was quite possibly encompassed by the salty, bad water that pulled the rock and sand on either side of the land he stood on. A deep breath took in the scent of the world, and what should have been an exhale of peace and tranquility was held inside, his yellow eyes opened  and his hackles rose.

Something was there. Someone, it smelled like. Someone new, an unknown that crashed through the serenity he had entranced himself in. It shattered, and he was instantly on edge. A hatchet was pulled from his belt, and he gripped it tightly. Should he retreat? No, that could lead the stranger to Blaise and Marten. He was better off standing his ground to figure out who the interloper was, and if there were more than one. If the unknown was aggressive, he could retreat off the peninsula, leading them away from his ward and their companion.

The man continued scenting the air. He was prepared to fight, as he moved through the still-waking foliage. He was careful with his steps as he moved on and tried to make as little noise as possible. Thread was a warrior, a raider. He was used to fast and loud attacks to bewilder the enemy. Here he was implementing his hunting skills, though the optime body was atypical for such an advance. He persisted, however, and continued on slowly. The man stopped every so often to smell and listen. Every time he made a noise, the leader would pause to figure out if his concealment was lost.

Thankfully he was skillful and lucky enough not to tip the newcomer to his position. He spotted her, and remained hidden. What was it with lone women wandering onto him? Well here he found her, but still. The man just wanted to be left alone with those he knew were safe. Marten was, Blaise was still yet to be seen as such, but her presence was growing on him. This one? She was a complete unknown. The endless possibilities of who she was, what she could do, and what her intentions were frightened the battle-worn man. He watched her for a while, and she made no attempts to communicate with anyone or anything. Thread figured she must’ve been alone. A good deal of his conscience screeched as he let his hatchet fall back into his belt. The rest screeched as he stepped out of his concealment, behind the woman. He ignored his instinct, in case this stranger in the vile outer world was a rare, kind creature. “Why’re ya ‘lone out here?” He asked. His accent was very strange, and his speech was relatively fast.

It was dangerous for anyone to be alone. He was alone for many reasons. To clear his mind for one, but now it was filled with every possibility playing out while he tried to parlay with the stranger. She could be armed, she could be dangerous. Yet, he took a chance. Thread was not tall, but he was very strong. He figured he’d be able to survive if a fight ensued. “Ya don’t gotta worry ‘bout me, 'nless yer up ta no good, eh?”
It had been nearly a year since she’d left home and still she hadn’t quite gotten used to the lush green canopy that seemed to coat everything in the north. It was beautiful to be sure, but somehow so alien as well. She could dodge rattlesnakes and cactuses with the best of them but still trundled through the underbrush with all the grace of a water buffalo; Kohl flinched as she stepped on another stick and cracked it loudly. She’d been too lost in thought and not paying enough attention, per usual. With a curse she stopped and gazed upward to catch her bearings again, squinting into the misty dying light to verify that she was heading the right direction. 

The last family she had stayed with had directed her still Northward when it was time for her to move on, citing the island as a remote place that someone in hiding just might flee to. Seeing the area now, Kohl agreed that it would be a great place to disappear and never be found, but somehow couldn’t imagine Jericho in such a green locale. She hadn’t quite made it to the actual island itself but everything still had an extra wild quality to it, every surface coated itself in vines and there was wildlife galore. Although her memories of him were beginning to fade much to her dismay, and so she supposed she shouldn’t be so sure of what he would and wouldn’t do. Frustrated tears pricked her eyes and she took a sharp inhale of breath to hold the emotions back. Papa always chided her on her hot temper as a pup. She could hear him now, “Temper, temper, Baby Bear.” Oh how she missed him.

And even after a year on her own in the wild, Kohl was still no survivalist. When the birds stopped singing around her she didn’t notice, nor did she notice the intense stillness in the air that only occurred when another was lurking. The dog kept plodding noisily through the underbrush, cursing when thorny plants pricked her hands and arms as she pushed them aside, yanking her long braids out of the grasping fingers of nearby pine trees. There was no path forged here and so she was led to believe that she was all but alone on the little land bridge into the beyond, but when a man stepped out of seemingly thin air and addressed her in a fast, lilting tone she was so shocked she fell screaming onto her back. 

“'nless yer up ta no good, eh?”…he trailed off, watching the scene she’d caused as if the reality of it all hadn’t quite registered yet. 

After she’d stopped yelping like a hurt pup, Kohl felt a rush of anger and embarrassment. Why even sneak up on a person?! If he wanted to rob or murder her, she’d have preferred he clubbed her over the back of the head and get the whole thing over with. She flattened her folded ears even lower against her head until they became quite hidden in her wild, curly mane. The stranger was odd looking in a familiar way, one tooth poking just above his lip and a kinky tail that hearkened back to many dogs she’d known and grown up with. Kohl had luckily been spared from many of the deformities she’d seen take hold on her family members, but instantly she felt a certain level of kinship with this fellow despite the very real possibility he still intended to kill her. 

Still, she didn’t want to go down lying on her back and she had been raised with some manners after all. The dog wriggled a bit, having fallen into a bramble bush that now wrapped it’s twiggy branches in her ragged clothes and didn’t want to let go. Setting her odd blue-and-brown eyes upon the murky brown man, she threw her hand out and looked at him expectantly.

“I ain’t up to nothin’, sir, but would you mind helpin’ me outta this bush?” 
He pondered, only briefly, at the woman’s sudden start. He had no seen such a jump of fright since he was still only a scruffy lad, trapped on all fours. He stared down at her, watching her flail, unsure how to move forward. Eyes wide, he waited until she stopped, occasionally glancing up to see if anyone was with her. No one emerged from the foliage in the time she panicked, so Thread was beginning to figure this woman was alone. Why she was on her own was beyond him. Considering he was able to sneak up on her, someone far more nefarious than he would have been able to as well. She was lucky, even though he startled her.

She was mad, and he knew it. There was some remorse in him, but it wasn’t much. The man bridged the distance between them, and moved to her front. The stranger informed him that she was indeed not intending to cause trouble. When she asked for assistance, he offered a hand to help pull her up. His other hand was kept free, in case this was an attempt to bring him close for a strike. Once she grabbed a hold he pulled, lifting her up and out of the bush. Once the victim of fright was standing, Thread grabbed ahold of the twigs that still clung to her clothes and plucked them off.

“Dunno who ya are, so I had ta find out,” he told her, continuing his removal of the brambles. The man did spook her, so he figured it was only right to get the dirt and things off of her. “Lotsa folks out n’ ‘bout got weapons, some of dem are pretty mean, so I had ta be safe wit ya,” the man explained. He was also protecting his friends, both were young, and one had only her teeth to defend herself. Blaise had a bow, so she’d probably be okay if the baddies stayed far.

While Thread helped remove the bits and pieces of plant from the woman’s clothing, he also took the opportunity to scent her. His nostrils flared as he sniffed the woman. Just her clung to the fibers and her fur. Smoke from fires, hints of food, but nothing to suggest a pack or a friend or two. “Ya smell like yer alone, is dat true?”
He leaned forward and plucked twigs and leaves from her clothes, she smiled a little and held her arms out from her sides for him. Suddenly feeling a little silly for having scolded him so harshly, Kohl cocked her head and tried to catch the man’s eye when he straightened back up. “Thank you, and no weapons I promise.” As if to reassure him, she patted her hands down her own hips and ribs lightly. There was almost no room to have a concealed weapon in her thin, hand-me-down skirt and tunic regardless, but she hoped the gesture would provide some goodwill. Kohl straightened and looked up at the man, noticing how wild he looked in comparison to herself. He smelled like a camp, woodsmoke and food and dirt. Not to mention the scent of others on him although none of it was familiar to the dog. 

“It’s just me, unfortunately…” she trailed off, wondering if she should ask about Jericho. The temptation was too much and she wrung her hands for a moment before spilling the beans, “I’m actually looking for someone. His, his name is Jericho. He’s a coyote, brownish red hair and very tall. Have you seen anyone like that?” She tried not to let her hopes rise too much, but it was always like this when she asked someone about his whereabouts no matter how hard she wanted to resist. It would shock her if this man knew anything, but it was best to leave no stone unturned. 

“Oh! I’m sorry, how rude of me. M‘name’s Kohl Breaux. Pleasure to meet ya,” she drawled, her country accent slow and syrupy next to his quick voice. The dog scented the air just as a short breeze swam through the cool spring evening, sending a shiver up her spine. It had certainly warmed up since her arrival in the North but it was still much cooler than she was used to back home. There were no scents of anyone else nearby that she could discern, only the salty scent of the nearby ocean. It made her feel a little less nervous, although her company didn’t seem too terrifying anymore anyways.
He should have patted her down, as the window closed with her own feeling for weapons. It wouls have seemed rude and invasive for him to do it now. The perfect moment to stab him had already passed, so the snaggle-toothed man let it be. Thread had met coyotes, but he never really got to know them. Could one of them have been Jericho? It was a more than zero chance, but was incredibly unlikely. “Sorry Miss Breaux,” he began delivering her the bad news. “Dere’s no Jericho in my group,” the man explained, offering a look of sympathy from his just slightly out-of-proportioned face. The more someone looked at Thread, the less right he seemed.

It wasn’t quite the same feeling that one got from looking at someone with strange dog breed mixes in their blood. No, the man was like a house built with mostly accurate measurements, but not exact ones. Despite the strange appearance, he seemed healthy. “I am… Thread,” he told her, though his speech slowed on his name, as he tried very hard to properly pronounce the th sound. He visibly struggled, his tongue also decided to stick out from where his tooth did. He got it eventually though. “I got some frens, furder sout, so dat’s why I snuck up on ya,” he told her, giving a slightly sheepish smile. “I gotta keep ‘em safe.” He was divulging information, but not enough to jeopardize Blaise and Marten.

Thread was their protector, mostly by choice. He led raids on the pack closest to his own, he fought in battles, killed even. It was a necessity then, now that sort of war seemed very unneeded. Of course there was the rush and thrill of fighting, the splendorous plunder he could obtain, but Kohl had nothing, and he had no want to take from her. Even if he did, the man had no way of keeping any ill-gotten gains safe. “I tink dere’s more folks furder down on da peninsula,” he told her. “Maybe yer yotie is out dat way?” It was a stretch. Thread knew first hand that familiarity was a very, very rare thing out in the lands of hell. Even those kind to him felt and acted alien at times. He hoped Kohl could find her friend, so she didn’t have to feel the pain he did. “I suppose I could take ya to my camp. Ya kinda have ta go by it, if ya wanna look at da rest of da place here,” Thread offered.

He did place the camp where he could observe who came and went. Tactically advantageous, but it did increase the chance of being stumbled upon. Thankfully Blaise and Marten busied themselves with fun, games, and hunting, all distant from where their blankets were laid and fire ring assembled. “We got a river close by, so da water’s good, not salty like da bad water,” he was already speaking like he owned the area. Thread was just ready to have a safe, secluded home, separated from the rest of hell. Perhaps he’d be able to carve out a place of neutrality, like his place of birth.
The hopes that she had promised herself not to rise had suddenly dropped at Thread’s confirmation that her lost love was indeed nowhere to be found. Kohl hid the disappointment from her tricolor face and smiled meekly, hands still wringing together in front of her. “Well, that’s just fine. I’ve just been lookin’ a long time and I had to ask.” He offered a sympathetic look which distorted his off-kilter features just a little bit, but Kohl was entirely too endeared by him to think of much else when looking at him. How many brothers, uncles, cousins did she have that turned out just like this hybrid? The thought made her heart perform a single painful thump in her chest before she pushed the memories away, lest they foul her mood for the rest of the day.

Thread explained that he had some friends nearby, which matched up with the scent of others on him. The more she stood near him, the more undercurrents of some kind of rotten smell had wafted from his coat as well, although she didn’t dare mention it. Living out in the wild was tough, Kohl was certain she didn’t smell entirely like flowers either. Thread then offered to take her back to his camp and she smiled brightly, unable to keep her fluffy tail from wagging. “That’s kind of you to offer! I hate to intrude but I really have nowhere else to go. I promise I won’t linger long,” she said, rapid-fire before he could change his mind. Certainly he knew the area better than she did and if he thought there were more folks further out on the island, she would be stupid to ignore that information and not at least take a quick look around. Maybe it was a little naïve to follow a strange man back to his camp less than an hour after meeting him, but Kohl didn’t place too much stock in the ‘what-ifs’ of this particular situation. Sometimes one had to take risks and she didn’t travel all this way to play it safe now. Plus, it had been a few weeks since she’d left her previous temporary home in the Waste. Some company would be just fine as far as the dog was concerned. Having gone from being surrounded with hundreds of extended family members at all hours of the day to living entirely alone had been a hard transition for Kohl and so she would take what she could get as far as companionship was concerned.

“What are your friends like? Will I get to meet them? Have you lived here long?” She barked, then quickly realized what she was doing and zipped her trap. Even as a puppy Kohl had a bad habit of letting her excitement get away from her and only through much practice had she learned to cool her heels. Mama always said that no one wants a lady around the house to be a yippin’ and a barkin’ at them all day.  "Sorry, don’t mind me. Lead the way!”
Thread knew where his family was, and though the pain of being far from them ached in his heart, he did not exist in worry of where they were. His family were in the good hands of his brother. Less war-inclined, Loops was, so if his birthpack entered an age or isolation again, it would be okay. With all the men and women his pack plucked from their homes since he reigned, Isle Royale’s pups would be healthier and live longer. Thread knew what he did was evil, especially when he saw that the demons they stole from really were that bad. It was necessary though. He couldn’t see his pack lasting, should family pair with family over and over, as they had for generations.

New blood was good for his people, though he still would marry close kin, should love be between them. It was normal to him, but as he found out, not looked on fairly by the demons of the area. Thread smiled at Kohl’s notion of briefly lingering. Blaise had said something similar, and now she was becoming a fixture to Marten’s side. The man began to walk southwards, not nearly as careful with his footfalls as he was when he approached Kohl “Dere’s Marten, n’ Blaise,” he began. “Me and Marten have been traveling fer a while now. Neidter of us are from here, but Marten's a good kid, jus talks lots.” Boy did she talk a lot. Between the two of them, Marten talked enough for five grown wolves. “Blaise I don’t know too well, we ran inta her on da way here. Good wit a bow, I suppose, watches Marten fer me.” He continued. Thread was very thankful for her presence at least. She allowed him to wander away if he needed to, or look for supplies without having to watch out for or worry about Marten.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t do all that with her on her own, it was just that she’d be a worry on his mind. “I guess Marten’s da closest ting ta family I got out here,” he said with a small sigh. “She’s like my own kid ta me,” Thread continued. “Not by blood, but in da way dat I’ve taken care of her, and she’s taken care of me.” She was very special to him, the only demon in the world he’d die for. Right now anyway, chances are that number would grow. He had two people now, two much better than the rest. Perhaps there were good souls who wouldn't mind him and who he was out in the world of demons. A smile remained on his face as he thought about his friends, while bringing someone new to them. Marten would like Kohl, as she liked everyone. Thread didn't know Blaise well enough to gauge what she'd feel. The young lady seemed like a safe sort, though not nearly as stringent as Thread was when it came to caution.
It warmed her heart, the way he spoke of his friends. Especially Marten. She could tell he favored the girl heavily even before he mentioned that he considered her kin, and Kohl betrayed a small smile across her face. “I look forward to meetin’ em, hopefully they’ll feel the same about me,” she said, considering. Surely he wouldn’t bring her back home to meet the others if he thought she’d be unwelcome, but alas worry still crept into Kohl’s mind. She was ever hungry for approval, even if it came from strangers who had yet to even lay eyes on her. In a way she envied the little trio despite knowing almost nothing about them. After having spent so much time on the road, Kohl knew what it was like to feel lonely even when one wasn’t alone. She had drifted from place to place on her journey north, staying with families and earning her keep along the way by helping to rear others’ pups or mending garments, but if anything it only served to make the ‘otherness’ that she felt even more prominent. Being on the fringe of another’s family is a sad thing, she realized, participating in the daily activities of a group of loved ones without actually ever belonging. It may have been her canine pack instincts nagging her, but it also felt like more than just a need to avoid aloneness. 

Shaking the sad thoughts from her head, she flashed a quick smile to Thread as they turned to head further into the mossy forest. “I hope one day I can have something like what you got, a little group of friends or a family or whatever you wanna call it,” her eyes twinkled at the thought, and for a split second her imagination carried her away and she pictured an older version of herself with a graying muzzle and a horde of tiny odd-eyed puppies at her feet. It dismayed her a bit that Jericho wasn’t instantly in her fantasy, but she shrugged it off as a flight of fancy and nothing more. Of course he’d be there, she thought, she hadn’t come all this way and done all this searching just to come up empty handed.
As they walked through the woods, Thread wondered when the little blue flowers with yellow insides would pop up, along with the tasty, odd-looking mushrooms. He loved the unscented yellow-eyed blooms, and the meaty, hollow, sponge-like conical fungus. He knew not what they were called, but they were abundant on his island home. He hoped they would be just the same on this new island, or peninsula, or whatever it was. The man craved so much. Family, familiarity, a sense of belonging. The world of the demons did not look fondly on the man’s beliefs, and living as the odd one out while out and about brought him much stress.

“You'll have da family yer lookin’ fer, it'll have lots of yotiedogs I bet, if we find yer yotie friend,” he told her. She was a beautiful woman, so of course she’d have a family, even if her lover remained lost. Then again, not every woman could have pups, Thread knew that from experience. Pups were a celebrated thing, but even more so should they survive their first and second years. So many of his own children had never taken a breath, and he wondered how many of his entire pack were like that. Even then, whomever Khol wound up with, Thread figured they'd be able to sire pups from someone else, and she could be their mother.

As for his friends? Well, Thread knew one thing was certain. This lone lady he found was going to have to tell her whole story and then some to his adopted child, and then tell her again when she inevitably forgets. Blaise though? He didn't know her long enough to gage what her reaction could be. Perhaps he ought to spend more time with the bow-wielding lass. “I’m sure dey’ll like you, Marten will fer sure. She likes everyone.” So much so that Thread wondered if it’d eventually be the death of him. Him, because he’d throw himself in harm’s way for the girl. Marten was precious, like a daughter, but by the sky she brought him a lot of worry. Most needless, but some of it was placed well.

“Once yer rested up, I can take ya out furder out past my camp,” he told Kohl. “I need ta look at da whole island anyways. While we're out n’ ‘bout we can look fer Jericho.” It was more of a promise. Thread was sympathetic towards the young lady’s plight. He too wanted desperately to have someone familiar to cling to. So much so it hurt. The world was foreign, and it seemed to have a harder time understanding him than he it.
Her cheeks felt warm as Thread assured her she'd have her family one day and she again allowed herself a luxurious moment of picturing a batch of puppies all her own. They'd be a healthy mix of her features and their father's, one or two might have her floppy ears and mismatched eyes and the others might have the stiff, batlike ones that coyotes were so known for. At least, she hoped they would have coyote features. For a moment her heart panged sadly and she brushed a hand over her flat stomach. If Jericho never turned up, who knew how or if she would even have any children? Maybe they'd have a wolf or a dog for a father if the spirits willed it. Feeling a bit of nerves as her own imagination ran away with her, Kohl swallowed roughly and brought her mind back to the present as she plodded after Thread through the brush. "I appreciate the vote of confidence and the hospitality, mister. I sure hope you're right."

He went on to mention his friends again, although this Marten girl had started to sound more like an adopted daughter than a simple travelling companion. "It seems like you care a great deal for Marten, she's lucky to have ya." She said kindly. They walked in companionable silence for a moment, the man clearing a path with skilled hands as she trailed along on his heels. Traversing the wilderness was much easier in the company of another, she realized, and began to wonder if perhaps this pack of strangers would take her in at the end of it all if Jericho wasn't found. The tricolor collie pulled at the end of her braid anxiously as she tried not to think about the fact that there didn't seem to be many more places to look anymore.

"I sure hope he's out here. I would be remiss not to admit that I don't quite know where else to look. It feels like I've turned over every stone by now. And I can't go back home, so I guess that would mean I don't actually have a home. I just- I..." The frog in her throat made her stop, lest tears overflow. In her vast life experience of a couple years and some change, Kohl knew that men didn't normally know what to do when a lady cried near them and it was just best to avoid it. And so she scrubbed her face with her hands to shoo the emotions away and focus on the here and now. She had banked so much on the possibility of a future with the coyote and now it felt farther away than when she had started out, a thousand miles south. Maybe, just maybe it was time to starting thinking of an alternative.
Thread paused, his ears perked slightly at the stop in Khol’s speech. Sadness was something to deal with, not silence and ignore. Where he came from, everyone was family, and most everyone was a friend. There was no shortage of confidants and shoulders to cry on. He had the most tight-knit support group in the world, and now they were miles upon miles, lakes upon lakes, and rivers upon rivers upon rivers away. The distance made him feel so alone. “Dere’ll be anudder one,” he assured her, turning around to face her. It was cultural, but came quick to the male, so quick that it rolled off his tongue and out of his mouth. “If he’s not here, dat is,” Thread added, since Khol had not yet let go of hope of Jericho’s presence on the Island. Or was it a peninsula? There had been conflicting things stated to them. “Dat’s someting we say where I’m from,” he told her. “‘Specially to youngsters, cause dey don’t know da sadness life tends ta bring.”

It was a harsh existence among heavily inbred family. Still births, deformities, and strange diseases that come quick and killed fast. He waited until he was at her side. “See, where I was born, da fact I’m alive today is preddy incredible. Pups hardly ever make it past two years, if dey actually survive being born,” he explained. “Youngsters will have more chances, and den someday dey’ll have pups who’ll live longer dan dem.” It was hellish, only truly celebrating someone’s life after they had spent two years at your side. “Same ting goes wit mates,” he told her. “It might be different out here dough,” he conceded. “But I tink it works for da spot yer in. I guess a better ting to say is dat good tings will happen, and bad ones too, but we gotta remember both when dey happen to us.”

He would have hugged her and held her, if she was family, but everyone off his birth-island was a stranger, he both figured and knew from experience that demons did not like hugs from strangers.
She paused her own fretting to listen to Thread’s words, and he suddenly seemed a bit older and wiser than before. Kohl’s tail wagged gently, a small smile creasing her face. “That’s an awful positive outlook you have. It seems that so many ‘round these parts have lost that if they ever had it at all.” It was a rather hard truth to hear but she reckoned that indeed, there would be ‘anudder’ one if Jericho was truly lost. She worried for him if he wasn’t to be found, but there was nothing to be done with the cold black fear that began to creep up her throat again and so she tamped it down. 

Her ears perked as the man regaled her with a tidbit of information about where he was from, a remote area not unlike her dusty desert home, although his native terrain might have been quite different. Suddenly his strangeness made much more sense as he somewhat confirmed what she’d expected, and even more so when he told her of the mortality rates of the children there. Nodding with understanding, she glanced up at him and felt a rush of kinship with Thread. Never having been one to shield her emotions much, she darted to close the arm’s reach between them and wrapped a quick hug around his midriff. It was awkward and she had a moment of nervousness that he might stab her with some hidden blade out of pure shock, but it was over just as quick as it began and she had survived unscathed. 

Greenery and dead twigs alike crunched under her clumsy feet at they passed between a narrow gap between two trees, the squirrels that lived in their branches chattering at them angrily from above. “I think we-our families- may be alike. I don’t talk much about it because folks tend to become a bit hostile if they know, but I hope you don’t mind my assuming that your er, old home was a bit closed off from the rest of the world? My home was like that. It was only me and my kin until I left to come here.” Kohl crossed her arms over the plain tunic style dress she wore, hoping he’d catch her meaning. And that if she was wrong about the whole thing that he would not do so and they could pretend the conversation never happened. Back home she never felt ashamed of what she was or where she’d been bred from, but the rest of the world seemed to think otherwise.
The hug was a surprise for sure, but a welcome one. Thread wished he could have held her too, melted with Khol in an embrace, but the affection was too brief for him to really return it. Together they walked some more, Thread was filled with odd emotions from the hug. He couldn't just hug her out of the blue, could he? Well she hugged him that way, but still. He wasn't quite sure what to do. He wanted many things, and that spontaneous moment of a hug only gave him a taste.

As he looked up at some complaining squirrels, Khol wondered about his family. Thread pulled his attention from the possible dinner above, and gave it to the woman. "We live on an island," he told her. Closed off was an understatement. Boat travel was the most common way folks wound up on his homeland, and the seldom solid ice bridge brought his raiders to the hell lands. "Nutin' but da sky and da big lake all around," he explained. "No land in site from da shores, cept for one spot where we could see da mainland."

Truly, his home was a sight to awe at. A verdant green dot surrounded by the coldest, bluest, biggest lake in the world! At least Thread thought it to be. Only the oceans dwarfed his lake, but the water they boasted was bad, unlike the pure waves of Lake Superior

"Dere's Lots of us now," he began, a result of his raids that he intended to leave out. "Dere's also stories told of times when we were just one a few. No one knows if dose are true dough," he explained, feeling safe enough with the woman to explain who his people were."We all came from one man, dat much we do know. He came onto our island when all da ice froze solid one win'er long ago, and it's said dat he killed every man, and bred wit every woman." It was a terrible thing, but Thread believed it to be true. "Grey Guy, dat's what he was called, gave us da gift of walking tall, and he made us many after da times of few."

It felt good to regale someone with the history of his people, but Thread was curious about Khol, as she was of him. "Did ya live on an island too?" He asked, hoping they could relate on more than just seclusion. Island life was wonderful, family always close, and moose meat just one migration away.
Listening intently to the lore of his people, Kohl nearly tripped over a rather obvious fallen log; she steadied herself and ignored the stubbed toe the tree gave her. His island sounded foreign and interesting, her mind swept her away with imaginings of lush green forests with heavy moss canopies. Herds of fat, fluffy deer galloped through the fantasy as a pack of primitive, hunched Luperci gazed on with spears and naked bodies. She’d always had a bit of an imagination, but judging from Thread’s wild ways Kohl couldn’t think she was too far from the truth. 

After he’d finished, he asked of her own home. It was nowhere near as exciting as the story of Grey Guy and his many wives, but she smiled fondly at the memory anyways. “Not an island, a desert. It’s far, far south from here; it took a very long time to come all this way,” she paused to push a branch out of her way as songbirds chittered overhead to warn their friends- predators inbound, look out! “Before I came here, I had never even seen snow before, if you can believe it. My coat was used to the warmer weather and I nearly froze at first, even in the springtime! But as for my family, there are lots and lots of us. There always has been as far as I know. We all live on a huge plot of land and our ancestors were born and raised there, and no one is ever allowed to enter or leave aside from folks like myself who are run off for breaking one rule or another. My transgression was my ‘yote, and his babies I once carried,” she swallowed, resisting the urge to rub a hand along her belly. “We all look different, almost like families within the family, some are like me and some even look kind of like you, with pointed ears! I guess it’s like an island in its own way, just without any water and lots more cactuses.” She didn’t suppose he might know what a cactus was and so quickly, Kohl added a short explanation for context’s sake. “Er, a cactus is a plant with sharp spikes on it, if you touch it it will hurt like the devil. There are lots of them where I’m from.”

Feeling braver now that they knew each other’s secrets, or at least some of them, Kohl looked up at Thread in profile and tried to catch his eye. “Do you miss your island? It sounds much nicer than my desert…” and finally, as the scent of other canines and a recently extinguished campfire drifted closer, she ventured farther. “Maybe this peninsula could be your new island if so. A new and improved version even!” Her mismatched eyes glittered with the possibility, although she was trying her hardest not to let her heart run away with her quite yet. The idea of a new, hand-picked family was almost too tempting to consider. A family who would always love her even if she made mistakes, and who she could extend the same kindness to. She pictured the future again as she often did, and it still included lots of youngsters at her heels, although as she glanced at her new traveling partner she realized the kids in her mind’s eye didn’t look quite so coyote-like anymore. The girl reasoned that it had been a long time since she’d seen Jericho, and it was only natural that some of the details would be lost by now, but deep down she cringed at the knowledge that she was telling herself a white lie but was powerless to stop. 

Feeling suddenly uncomfortable with her own brain and thoughts, Kohl cleared her throat and wiped her palms down the front of her skirt. “Looks like introductions will be in order, at least if your friends are around!”

Forum Jump: