[AW] [M] rapacity, tenacity, capacity for more
Halcyon Mountains

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: potential gore, animal death.
Bleating in terror, the goat scrambled up the narrow trail with the wolfdog in close pursuit. The chase had begun only moments ago, when O'Riley sprung from his hiding place among the rocky crags and launched himself towards his intended prey. He familiar with the terrain and knew how to maneuver well enough, but loose soil and stones had cost him precious seconds and allowed his target a chance to escape.

Despite this, O'Riley was not willing to give up the opportunity quite so easily. He flung himself after the shaggy animal, making use of footholds that could support his weight. Each time he thought he got close enough to strike the goat would manage to slip just out of reach, leaving his teeth snapping shut in the air. Once he got close enough to batter it with one of his heavy paws, but this was not enough to fully bring the goat down, and it slipped out of his grasp.

More irritated than hungry, the wolfdog continued to run after his prey. Goats were easy enough to come by – he could have gone back to Salsola and demanded his followers go out and trade for one, had he desired it enough – but he enjoyed hunting. Even now, annoyed as he was by the errors which had made the kill go from easy to a challenge, he knew that the reward would be worthwhile. The strong taste of goat was offset by that of blood, and if he caught the damned thing he wouldn't bother carrying it back home.

Set in the early morning, somewhere in the middle portion of the mountain range. O'Riley is in his Secui form -- his scent is disguised.
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I hope you don't mind me joining! This looked kinda lonely. I also hope I got the setting correct. Let me know if anything wouldn't work with what you had intended. :)

Being alone was somehow simultaneously better and worse than she had anticipated. There was no one to tell her what to do or give her the cold shoulder for not contributing enough. No one was going to berate her for her mistakes or halve her portion of food because she was "done growin' and lookin' a little plump 'round the middle" (while the rest of the group ate and drank heartily).

On the other paw, she was the only one contributing. Failures and successes were all hers. No one else had things to contribute to a stew or a fire or a location for resting. No one else took a turn to watch when she rested. Her safety was constantly at risk from other loners with nefarious motives. Everything she owned was constantly at risk of being taken. Her body was at risk of being harmed at all times. Her paranoia increased the longer she was alone. Sometimes, she missed having a half portion in the corner of the campsite over sleeping with an empty belly in an area that was dubiously safe.

Today she had awoken with a grumble in her stomach that she had grown accustomed to feeling. While she was a fair hunter, a solo hunter was still rarely as successful as one in a group. She had left her pack, bow, and dagger hidden somewhere because she wanted to try to hunt on four legs. The day before, her bow had been unsuccessful in its yield. Despite having been very young before she was driven from home, she still felt most at ease on four legs in the mountains. The trading group hadn't gone into them all that often, so most of her experience was in this form.

She was crouched and listening when a sound drew her attention and her ears swiveled that way. Bat raised her head and saw a goat trying to get away from a wolf. A rather big wolf. Her heart thundered into her throat as she realized the hooved prey animal was headed her direction. This was exactly the kind of situation she did her best to avoid. Much larger canine following their prey were not the kind of animals she wanted to interact with generally. However, she didn't have much choice. An interaction was happening, it was just a matter of what she contributed to it.

The goat hadn't seen her yet, so she made sure that it did, standing to her full height (admittedly nowhere near as intimidating as the wolf chasing it) and snarling at it. Her hope was that it would feel trapped between the two and lose its footing or it would have to slow to choose a new direction away from both threatening predators. At the very least she couldn't make it worse for the hunter... she hoped. Dear gods above she didn't want to get killed because she had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time when a hungry wolf was chasing a goat.
Ahead of his prey, a shape emerged from the stone. It was an earthy color marred by darker shadow, but one whose sharp teeth and ferocious voice announced predator. Started, the goat bleated and scrambled to find a new route of escape. This delay cost it dearly.

Seconds later O'Riley was upon it. He struck with tremendous speed and force, barreling into the animal. In his large Secui form he was heavy with muscle and made quick work of rending through the short fur and soft skin of the goat. There was brutal efficiency in the way he killed – once the goat was pinned, he shook it's head until there was an audible crunch of bones breaking. The body spasmed beneath his grasp and went silent.

The movement stopped all at once. Only the wind stirred, ruffling the thick fur of the gray wolfdog as he waited to ensure that his quarry was dead.

When he was satisfied this was the case, O'Riley let go of the animal and turned his attention to the Outsider. He faced her fully, standing over the corpse of the goat. The stranger was of a prime age, he thought – she looked older than a yearling but without any traces of age, and like most people, was smaller than him. Downwind as she was, he could not identify if she was with a group.

Cautious but not terribly concerned, he stared her down.

“Your assistance was helpful,” he told her plainly. The adrenaline from his chase was still thick in his blood and made it more difficult to put on a pretense, so he did not. “I don't usually see others up here.”

Thanks for your patience!
Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.
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It worked as she hoped. The flash of teeth and roar of noise had been enough to send the goat off of its rhythm. This was how predators worked in conjunction in a pack hunt, too. Not in precisely these positions, but in tandem with one another. One to scare and chase, one to lie in wait, others to surround... she missed it, sometimes. Though she had never really participated since she had been a cub when she was a part of a conventional pack, the joy of pack hunts was still something that thrilled through her blood. An echo of which erupted at the success of this kill.

Bat did not, however, make the assumption that in any way the kill was also hers. She watched as he brutally killed the goat with impassivity. There was a small part inside her that clenched in awareness of the fact that just as easily as he had slaughtered the goat, he could probably slaughter her. It wasn't exactly fear. He had not advanced on her in aggression... yet. Still, the wolf was aware. It was always good to be aware of the risks of another predator in one's vicinity.

When he dropped the goat and turned to look toward her, her gaze dropped instantly. She had been watching him as she considered whether she should just leave (would that be perceived poorly?) or stay (that could also be perceived poorly). Usually she assessed faces quickly before looking away but she did not even do that with him. His scent was enough for her to remember if she needed to remember him later, she thought. There was no way she was chancing a slight against the burly canine, so she would not even chance her glance touching his in a way he took as a challenge. Especially when he had fresh prey in front of him. Her tail remained neutral behind her, her shoulders slightly lowered. It was not cowering or submission exactly, but it was definitely deference.

"You would've had it on your own. I merely made my presence an asset instead of a liability." she replied. Tali tipped her head very slightly at the fact that her presence was unusual up here. "I'm new to the area. I was raised on a mountain, so it seemed a good place to start my exploration."

The smell of blood made her stomach clench with hunger but she ignored it. She was grateful to it that it didn't grumble. Even a hint of her body's desire for food could anger him if he thought it would mean she'd make an attempt on his meal. Perhaps she was overly paranoid about the reactions of others, but she really liked to stay alive. Better safe than sorry when it came to her life.
Every single time he encountered a stranger, the thought of killing them crossed his mind.

It was an intrusive thought which always lingered. He knew himself more than capable of this – he had killed many people over his lifetime. They almost always deserved it. The act of killing did not bother O'Riley, whose sense of morality was warped from his perception of the world and his place within it. There was no place for weakness in Salsola, least of all in its leadership.

Despite this, the woman did not strike him as a true threat. She had minded her manners and recognized his superiority, which appeased his sense of self-worth. If it was an act, it was a very good one. There were plenty of talented liars in the world, himself included.

“That was smart,” he commented. It would have been worse for her if she had gotten in his way and ended up beneath his fangs. Certain the she-wolf was aware of this, O'Riley believed her decision had been one of self-preservation as well.

“Where did you come from?” O'Riley asked. She did not have the look of a Khalif wolf, if only due to the color of her eyes. There were other mountains in the world, of course. “I'm Elhaz,” he lied. “I live here. There usually aren't many travelers this way, unless they're crossing. Seems most folk stick to the lowlands.”
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Battalion remained still. Just because things were calm now didn't mean they couldn't escalate. She was all too aware of how a hungry stomach could turn even the most mild mannered wolf into a slavering maniac. Something told her that this was not the kind of canine that could ever be considered mild mannered on his most mild of days. Perhaps she was stereotyping, but again, if it kept her alive...

When he said her decision was smart, she smiled very slightly in acceptance of the statement. Though she didn't consider herself overly smart - just very interested in self preservation - she was glad it was perceived that way. If he considered her intelligent, he wasn't likely to eat her. Maybe. Maybe he liked to eat the brains of smart wolves to gain their powers. There were weirder things that wolves had done to imbibe the skills of their foes or even their allies in the right circumstances. The stories she had heard... Bat didn't want to dwell on that now, though. Needless to say she didn't want him to want to eat her. That was still priority one.

"Silver Falls. I'm not entirely sure where it is in relation to here. It's been a long time since I was a resident." she replied, stopping there because she didn't want to expand too much or start talking about herself. He didn't seem the type to be interested in mindless nattering.

He introduced himself and she noted the name in case it became important later. She considered what to give in return. Aliases were common on the road. She herself often chose only a shortening of her name instead of the whole thing. Not that her full name meant anything to anyone. And no one even knew her birth name anymore. She doubted even the traders remembered. "I'm Bat." she settled on that nickname this time. "The lowlands are probably easier for living, but the mountains are in my blood. I had to come to them first." she replied. Though she wasn't sure if she would actually stay on the mountain. Probably not. She was sure she'd continue to visit, though. It had been a long time since she could just choose to breathe mountain air whenever she wanted.

"I don't mean to keep you from your meal. I still have much to see in this range, if you'd prefer to be left on your own." she was trying to be polite, mostly because she wasn't sure if he would even want to talk more. Besides, his meat was cooling every moment she was there. All food was better fresh. Of course he could just eat in front of her - it would not be new to her to have someone do that - but there were social norms that some held which wouldn't allow it. Bat wouldn't presume to know him anywhere near well enough to know if he was one of those or not.

While he did not recognize the name, information was still information. There was always the possibility that one day the name Silver Falls might be of use, even if it was a far-flung, forgotten place. It seemed unlikely that the woman – Bat, she gave her name as – had any real attachment to where she had been born. Had this been the case she would not be here, traipsing around the Halcyon Mountains with (what seemed to be) nothing to her name.

This was, generally, what O'Riley wanted Outsiders to think of his alias. Elhaz did not look like a proper loner: he was too big, too filled out and healthy for this to be the case. The scars he bore suggested a lifetime of conflict, though even the freshest ones had begun to lose their pinkish hue and gray like the rest of his exposed skin. He looked fit and rugged, but not in the way a man who had spent his life scraping by on a mountainside might. The deception was obvious in some ways, but generally, most people didn't think about it all too much. Spying didn't always mean his alias needed to be airtight.

The big wolfdog flashed his bloodied teeth in a pleased manner at her words. As a man who reveled in such territory, he understood what had called her back to such a place. The forests and flatlands were fine, but up here, the air was different. One could look down on the world.

Her manners helped convince him she was not looking for trouble, and now that his desire to kill had be sated the presence of food was of less interest than that of the stranger. O'Riley did not like Outsiders, of course, but he was obligated to learn about them. Whether or not Bat of Silver Falls was a person of interest had yet to be determined.

“You helped,” he reminded her. “Even if it was just to ensure you weren't a liability.” A coy smirk passed his dark face. He placed his heavy paws on the prone corpse beneath him to hold it still, bent his head, and with tremendous force wrenched at a hindquarter. It took several moments for him to tear it loose: there was a horrible squelching of muscle and blood, the tearing of flesh, and a few muffled cracks and crunches from where the bone and joint separated. Without the option to shift (he would never have done so before a stranger) O'Riley used his strong jaw and powerful muscles to remove the leg entirely.

The heart was no longer pumping, but blood oozed from the new wound. When O'Riley tossed the haunch at the she-wolf, it landed unceremoniously between them. He shook his neck to loosen it. Pieces of fur, freed by the motion, caught the wind and were blown away.

Satisfied that his act of presumed charity would be taken well, O'Riley began to question the woman more directly.

“Which direction are you going?”

[+ 5]
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Bat felt the other wolf's presence quite pressingly. It was actually something she hadn't experienced before. Someone who had weight behind them just existing. Taking up extra space with their personality or their power. It was unsettling to her. Perhaps it was all in her head - her paranoia spun its own stories quite regularly - but she felt very certain that she was lucky she had met him in the circumstances she did. There were some places where she wouldn't have wanted to meet this wolf. It would've ended for her as it had for the goat. A fate she hoped to avoid indefinitely.

She wasn't going to protest his assessment of the fact that she had technically helped. Especially not when it was followed by the rending of flesh that signaled the removal of a goat's limb from its body. The sounds didn't disturb her for what they were, only for the implication of what they could be. Her mind was still stuck on the fact that he could kill and eat her, too, if he really wanted. As much as Tali liked to believe she was self-sufficient, she knew when she was outmatched. She was heavily outmuscled by this burly stranger on the mountain, and she would respect that.

The torn piece landed between them with a wet plop and the fresh scent of blood. Her stomach finally took its cue to growl and she was glad it had waited. Now, at least, the food was on offer and her stomach's growl wasn't one that seemed to ask for what had not been given. Though she didn't assume that the gesture had been made generously. As with all things, she assumed there was a cost to be paid. Clearly he didn't have a strong desire for her to leave, at least. He was rather sociable for a loner who chose a mountain for a home. Not that he was bursting with conversation, but she would've thought he'd want her to leave once she offered.

She cautiously walked to the meat he had tossed. It didn't seem like a lure to get her nearer, but one could never be too sure. Right now she didn't have the luxury of ignoring an offer of meat, though. Especially meat she genuinely hadn't needed to expend much energy to gain. It was a boon, whether he gave it freely or not.

When he asked where she was headed, she gestured toward the west. "I was heading that way, although I don't have a destination in mind so it's really just wander until there's something of value to see or do. Are there areas you'd recommend avoiding?" if he was a local, his information in that regard could be invaluable. He could also spin her a whole web of falsehoods. Still, she could hear what he had to say and decide what to do with the information later.
As the sun broke through the cloud cover, it illuminated his guard hairs and highlighted the silver pieces of his fur. The sections that were tan had a tendency to become washed out by the surrounding gray. They only really became clear when the light struck them, though even then it was a subtle change from his lower half. His Helsi blood had thrown the strongest colors when it came to his coat and his eyes, and indeed if not for his dark mask one might not know he was an Eternity at all. Even then, this was hardly a call-sign: he was not green-eyed, nor did he reflect the golden hues of the Tigress, who had brought far more honor to the House than any who came before or after.

If there was one thing he had kept (and he would not so freely accept that this was inherited) it was his cunning. Had he been born a woman, he might have ruled instead of his wife. The Law dictated his position clearly, however, and ingrained within him an understanding that he was by sex alone a lesser being.

Out here, though, he could be whoever he wanted.

As he turned his head to follow the direction she indicated, he realized quickly that the mountain would feed into Salsola's claim. The garrison did not cover the rocky highlands, and while patrols frequented the area and traps lay in wait, the risk of someone getting too close for comfort remained.

He played off his concern for something more genuine. “Well that way, for one,” he said.

O'Riley glanced around with suspicion, almost as if they were being watched, and lowered his gravely voice to stress the serious nature of what he told her next. “If you do go that way, keep to the north. The people who live down there aren't to be trifled with. They're said to keep witches in their company – the sort of women who can do real magic. I've heard talk that they lure unsuspecting folk in and do terrible things to them: unnatural things. Their fighters are supposed to be strong too – not the sort of men you'd want to tangle with.”

Almost as abruptly, the wolfdog raised his voice. “Besides that, there's some nasty coyotes further north. They don't take kindly to our kind. Might smile in your face before they stab you in the back,” he sneered. “Untrustworthy vermin, they are.”

We can probably work on wrapping this up soon! This thread was fun, thanks for joining. :>
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Thanks for the thread! Was definitely fun. Figure we can wrap it here unless you want to reply once more or O'Riley wants to try and eat Bat. >___>

Later, when she learned more about the area, the places that Elhaz warned her about would coalesce with the information she was given later. A pack to avoid with witches and fighters, bristling with secrets and unnatural habits. Another group to avoid, coyotes who hated their kind which she assumed meant wolf. This information was just the beginning of what she'd learn later, so for now she merely nodded her appreciation. Certainly they felt weighty with how carefully he had said them. Almost as if the rocks could hear. If there were witches, perhaps the rocks could hear...

"My thanks, then, for the warnings. I don't think I want to go anywhere near either of those groups." she twitched her ears. "I'll leave you to your meal." it felt like she should say something more in farewell - wasn't it customary to wish someone well or something when parting ways? - but she had never really known what to say that was just a fluffy way of saying goodbye. Usually if she was trading, "happy trading" or "see you next time" sufficed. She doubted she'd see Elhaz again and if she did, it would likely be random happenstance not intentional.

Battalion nodded and picked up the goat leg, carefully making her way back to where she had been. She was far enough away from him still that she didn't feel an immediate threat from the fact that she had to turn away from him to leave. Though she knew that there was still an inherent risk in showing anyone your back, her hackles didn't bristle in warning. Her head sang with it but she ignored it. There was no other way about it unless she let him leave first, but she didn't want to gape at him while he ate. She wanted to eat alone and let him do the same.

Hopefully Elhaz was at least amenable to that. He had a goat to eat, she had helped (even if mostly just by not being a liability), and now they could part ways peaceably. She'd listen well for him to become unpeacable as long as she was within earshot of the burly wolf, though.

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