[P] The pencil and the knife
Wrath | Aelcrest Shore
#1
[Image: salsola.gif] Cartografo Prompt [ 496 / 1,200 ] It’s hard to make a map of something if you haven’t seen it firsthand! Go out into the field and make your notes (be they written or crudely drawn) for when you return home to finalize them onto your map!
(+496)
Optime | Aelcrest Shore; late afternoon | NPC: Foma

Grisha’s scent is disguised.
It’d become clear to him that, if he wanted to make a name for himself in the Thistle Kingdom, he needed to do more. He’d made quite a few detailed maps of the various areas within the territory itself, but, useful as they might have been, they were still maps of a territory that most Salsolans already knew quite well. They paled in comparison to those of areas beyond the borders. So, he’d packed up a few supplies, covered up his scent, and took his horse out for a short trip. A week, maybe more, he intended to stay away, enough that he could thoroughly adventure and explore the neutral lands.

He'd chosen a random direction and set out. As an Associate and Family member, Grisha had spent most of his time within Salsola to properly educate and assimilate to their culture. His trip with the caravan had been the first time he’d, truly, ventured since joining the pack. As such, there were plenty of places left uncharted for Grisha in this side of the realm, and he was determined to map as much as he could.

The horse and rider hugged the perimeter of the Halcyon Mountains, following it around until, to Grisha’s surprise, he saw a distant shoreline. Higher up in the altitudes, he managed to find a spot unblocked by the towering pine trees. A great expanse of blue stretched out between the far-off shore and another landmass in the distance. It stretched quite some ways in both directions, and it made him wonder if it was the island of Prince Edward that he’d seen notated in his browsing of older maps made by those before him. If it were so, that meant that the waterway was the Northumberland Strait.

Grisha hummed with interest before dismounting from his horse. He procured his journal and a piece of charcoal from one of Foma’s saddlebags and flipped to a new page. The Confidant jotted down a few notes, detailing the path he’d been traversing down before glancing up. Squinting, he tried to judge the distance from the shore. He was far enough inland that he couldn’t really smell the ocean on the passing breeze. And, while not necessarily up in the mountains, he was certainly high enough in elevation that he had a descent view of the world below.

Or, at least, of what he could see when his path wasn’t blocked by trees.

A note was scribbled that the path might be beneficial for scouts or a stealth party when a soft noise reached his ear. He instantly paused in his work and glanced over his shoulder. Beside him, Foma shuffled his feet anxiously. Subtly as he could, Grisha shifted the items in his hand as he took a sniff at the air. Slowly, he let a hand reach for his knife just in case.

“Come out,” He demanded, his voice frigid.

Grisha Darkleaf
— The Scholar —
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#2

Form: Secui


While Wrath was still attempting to organise a way to meet his potential offspring, he felt like enough progress had been made through Syrus's compliant companion, Indigo, that he could afford himself a break from all the necessary talking and socialising and not biting pack mates; all those ridiculous restrictions and requirements that seemed to be expected at all times.

Wrath, therefore, was content to regress to simpler times. Just himself, the mountains, and the sea. He'd been travelling a few days, with no particular direction, just enjoying the freedom to be himself, but at the same time, he felt as though something was missing. He was happy, but his mind wandered to the new people in his life. He missed Aani; that much had become apparent since she was murdered. He wondered why she'd been the only connection he could muster in the pack and then considered how she was treated by Salsola. He thought about what she had done to warrant such a grisly demise. Nothing he wouldn't have, so there was the answer. He was just too different.

In the midst of such edifying contemplations, while sitting atop the smooth, tabled surface of a large rock, Wrath noticed a fastidious-looking wanderer. He was downwind, so Wrath took in what he could through sight rather than smell. Well-groomed, neat and tidy, and alert.

Wrath watched him turn his nose to the wind coming from behind, no doubt picking up Wrath's scent. He'd done little to mask it, and the stranger wouldn't have too much trouble deciphering the black wolf's origin if he tried hard enough.

Wrath smirked as the short order was uttered. Out of curiosity rather than compliance, Wrath stood up, his hulking frame visible above the various shrubbery, before it disappeared as he leapt to the ground, landing silently. He emerged a moment later from behind the dense foliage, now on the same level as the stranger who, as it turned out, was no stranger at all. 

"I've sheen you before." 

He stated, his agile and powerful gait carrying Wrath right up to the man.

"Who are you travelling with, ashide from that thing?Gesturing with a sneer towards the horse.

-----

WC: 300+
[Image: body-2.png]


Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
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#3
[Image: salsola.gif] Cartografo Prompt [ 980 / 1,200 ]
(+484)
NPC: Foma
At his command, the source of his horse’s nervousness revealed itself. The action, even if he had demanded it, might have sent a lesser Luperci or creature screaming and running for safety. The large, darkly furred predator that stared back at him was easily the stuff of nightmares. Alone, and miles upon miles away from likely any other Luperci, instinct would have been to get as far away from the beast as possible. And, beside, him, Grisha was sure Foma might have done just that had he not placed a soothing hand on the creature’s muscled shoulder. The horse rumbled, snorted, and pawed anxiously at the dirt as it shuffled its feet as it warily watched the wolf.

The Confidant stood his ground, however. The terrible scarring on the other’s face marked him as a familiar. Grisha had seen the Luperci in Salsola, he was sure. He’d seen a fellow with similar looks at a few of the pack gatherings. While black wolves were certainly commonplace, facial scars, such as the one this male had, were much more identifiable and unique.

And, while they hadn’t formally been introduced to one another, it seemed the Secui male recognized him well enough too. It was fortunate, as the encounter could have quickly gone south otherwise.

The black wolf spoke with a lisp that was, no doubt, caused by the extensive damage to his flesh.

“A small world this must be that, even when we leave the Kingdom, we still find our own,” Grisha agreed as he let his hand fall away from his knife. “Confidant Grisha Darkleaf,” he introduced, if only to get it out of the way. He saw little need in keeping it a secret from a packmate, especially when there was no one else around.

His eyes flicked to his horse when the other Salsolan gestured to the gelding. “It’s just the horse and I. I’m making a new map in an effort to help the Shield, Ranger, and Merchant factions with their various endeavors. Mostly, I’m interested in highlighting secretive paths and areas that can be used to our advantage while on the road.”

Turning his sharp gaze back onto the muscular male, he tilted his head slightly. “What brings you out here? Haunting the territories to keep us safe? Taking care of riff-raff?” He was genuinely curious, though, he did well to keep his tone even so as to not make himself sound like some nosy pup. Unfortunately, Grisha still hadn’t acquainted himself with a large number of the pack, so, he was still a bit behind on everyone’s role in their society. However, judging by the fierce-looking visage that the man before him had, he felt it safe to assume that the Secui male likely played a part in the…darker duties and tasks associated with the Kingdom.

Grisha Darkleaf
— The Scholar —
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#4

Everything about this man appeared straightforward. That wasn't a negative observation; Wrath found the other confidant rather intriguing. Plus, he enjoyed the simplicity in all things. Politics, for example, was far too convoluted, whereas violence was very black and white. 

The man had his hand on his knife, but it didn't stop Wrath's approach. With a knowing arrogance, the hulking wolf walked well within the man's reach. It wasn't so much the notable size difference between the two that secured Wrath's confidence more than his intuition.

Wrath was silent for a while, his gaze at a slight angle upwards, being in his four-legged form but still not so different in overall height. He grinned at the man's remark about it being such a small world.

"Indeed . . . Lucky you." Replied Wrath before circumventing convention with his reply.

"Wrath." 

He scorned many of his pack's traits and protocols, and advertising his current role in the Kingdom, despite his inherent ability, was a constant irritation. Not many bothered to question this, however, probably due to his surly disposition. 

"Maps." Wrath shook his head. "Where I'm from, you learn the land yourshelf before looking for trouble there." He glanced around the immediate area. It was the third time he'd ventured upon this specific route. 

All of his spare time was consumed by exploring. He circumnavigated the Salsolan borders for over a year before actually joining the pack, and lately, he'd been tackling those routes again, driven by nostalgia from his former, limitless life.

"I could shpare you a lot of washted time. Ahead two cattle trails lead to nothing, but between those is a fashter route down to a bay that at first seems unreachable, but is peaceful and spectacular. There is a narrow tunnel that leadsh to a deep cave. On the other shide of this waterlogged and impossibly dark cavern, there is an exit to the bay. Shome troubleshome type has disposed of three corpses within, but I'm sure shomething sho benign will be of no trouble to a brave wanderer as yourshelf, Grisha."

Map making was not the brute's idea of fun, but Wrath had grown more accustomed to having others around and found himself stimulated by the interaction. 

Grisha also bolstered Wrath's ego by suggesting he may be out here, lurking on behalf of the pack, and Wrath's pessimism over his worth to Salsola was momentarily lightened.

"I'm jusht here for anyone that happensh to be losht in the wild." A wicked and tilted grin crept across his mouth, bearing a substantial and yellow-hued array of teeth

"It is unlikely you will find the entrance to this cave. It is well hidden and difficult to accessh." He said, watching Grisha with that same wicked grin.

-----

WC: 460+
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Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
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#5
[Image: salsola.gif] Cartografo Prompt [ 1,601 / 1,200 ]
(+621)
NPC: Foma
To another, the words might have rung with a more threatening tune. And, perhaps, they should have. Alone, miles upon miles from their Kingdom, what was to stop this monstrous packmate of his from attempting to murder him in cold blood? While he had some basic talents with a blade, Grisha was no Shield soldier. Such thoughts were far and fleeting in the Scholar’s mind though. Fear was not something a predator should entertain often, much less, show.

When his packmate offered his name, Grisha hummed. How fitting. He certainly looked like a “Wrath,” or something similarly rugged and harsh. Idly though, Grisha wondered if it was the man’s real name or if it was simply his alias, as he failed to provide a rank with it. It took only a brief moment to decide that it mattered not. If Wrath had wanted to be called by his rank or something more formal, surely, he would have led with as much.

Grisha let out a sharp exhale in both agreement and amusement to Wrath’s comment about maps and their usage. “A map is but a tool,” he concurred. However, not everyone had the time or the luxury to make such extensive trips. It made things easier to have a reference point to start and build plans from, and it was that need that Grisha happened to have a certain talent and eye for. From merchant routes to missions to hunts or scavenging ventures, his drawn out overviews could benefit a wide range of individuals and job fields.

His ears twitched when Wrath imparted some of his knowledge of the land to him. Two dead-end roads? That was certainly important to know, particularly when cattle trails, often times, might have spoken of great use and promise with their wider pathways. Traders could have been lured down the path, only to realize that there was no way off the mountain. Such things could have made for easy ambush points by highway bandits, or, wasted valuable time on an important shipment of goods.

There was a secret path though that led true despite its deceptive front. The only catch was that it apparently made for a good dumping ground. It was, indeed, of no trouble to Grisha though. He’d seen his fair share of corpses in his journeys.

Just as Grisha thought to ask after the hidden pathway, Wrath concluded his bit of advice with a nightmarish grin. “I see,” Grisha hummed. It seemed Salsola was well protected with someone like this Wrath individual prowling about and stopping trouble before it could reach their borders.

He shifted his weight, eyeing Wrath as he considered a thought. “If you have the time to spare, do you think you could direct me to this cave? Knowing of its existence could help our own in a number of ways.”

The secret pathway didn’t sound like it would be of much use to a merchant, and certainly not so to a traveler by horse or cart, but, perhaps it could help a member of the Shield, or, maybe even a Salsolan in need of losing a pursuer. The path could also maybe be used to cut off someone further down by the bay, to add to the number of corpses, or even set up an ambush from the sound of it.

Grisha was interested in documenting its secretive existence, as both a Salsolan, a cartographer, and an adventurer.

“If you wish, I can mention your assistance when I finish the map.” Grisha didn’t know Wrath very well, but, he knew the idea would likely be more appealing if the dark wolf had something to gain from offering his time and guidance.

Grisha Darkleaf
— The Scholar —
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#6

"A map is but a tool." 

A crooked and cynical smile played over Wrath's maw, not willing to let the matter drop so quickly. 

"Intereshting. I find a dependency on toolsh shows that you're simply not good enough to do whatever you're trying to do." 

However, he did not mention the bloody and marred club he carried in Optime form. But his justification was that he considered Optime an inferior state to Secui. In a pack which demanded he spent at least some time in the irritating bipedal form, he needed to ensure, at least physically, he would remain unassailable.

He exhaled with a half growl, half sigh at the request to help him locate the cave. Did Grisha consider that he was not busy at work already? The doubts crept back in, and Wrath snarled. "am busy." He stated, almost defensively.

At that point, Grisha offered to mention Wrath. He failed to keep an edge of interest and excitement from his tone, so he righted himself with a frown. 

"To whom?"

Regardless of what the reply was, Wrath nodded just once. He didn't offer a direct invitation but assumed that Grisha would follow as he began walking the reverse of Grisha's spoor. 

"You already passed it." Pashed it.

As they trekked, the coastal wind licked at the shoreline and made the day feel colder than it was. Patches of cloud occasionally blocked the sun, but his broad black back was warmed by the fleeting rays every so often.

Wrath kept glancing seaward until a slight rise in the ground interested him. Opposite this weed-covered hill was an almost indiscernible disturbance to the impenetrable-looking wild hedges that bordered this part of the trail. He slipped his great form roughly through the gap onto another subtle pathway, his fur now covered in leaves, seeds and all kinds of sticky weeds.

Wrath waited for Grisha to follow him through the hedge, which would be no graceful event, what with the low and tight opening through the brambles. He turned and stood close enough that Grisha would not be able to raise to full height after crawling through, intending to keep him at eye-level while he asked a nagging question.

"Were you born in the Thishtle Kingdom? Who is your family there?"

-----

WC:300+
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Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
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#7
[Image: salsola.gif] Cartografo Prompt [ 2,170 / 1,200 ]
(+569)
NPC: Foma

Foma has “left” the thread.
He blinked, offering a noncommittal tilt of his head in the same motion to express a neutral opinion to Wrath’s comment. “Not everyone can be good at everything,” he replied. It was why the Kingdom had Factions and why certain individuals were awarded their titles; because they excelled at what they did. After a beat though, the edge of his own lips curled into a subtle, confident smile. “Besides, why make things unnecessarily harder on yourself if you don’t have to?”

Work smarter, not harder, as the saying went.

At his initial request, it appeared as if he had annoyed the scarred beast. Thankfully, his suggestion to give the other man credit seemed to coax him into being more accepting of the idea. Grisha’s eyes sharpened, as did his subtle smile. “I meet with the Emissary often, and I do believe that she has some sway with the Erilaz.” It went without saying that rumor and word of mouth would eventually reach the Queen, and such commendable notes were bound to get Wrath recognized in the end.

It was enough to convince Wrath, and Grisha followed after the Secui male as he, presumably, meant to show him this secret pathway that he’d found. Grisha led Foma by his reins until the terrain grew too treacherous to take the horse. Tying the gelding off to a nearby tree and well off the main path, Grisha took what he needed for his map-making and continued onward.

As they walked, he took notes of more the permanent landmarks, knowing they were less likely to change in location or appearance. Such things were important to ensure that the map remained relevant. Otherwise, he would have to constantly update his maps, which were already time consuming to make as it was.

He dodged below low-hanging branches, and paused every so often to maneuver over or around obstacles that were not so easy in Optime as they were in a four-legged form. He jotted down estimated distances, knowing such things would play a key part in deciding how large he should make the point of interest according to his map’s final scale. As well, he marked other key things that would make finding the hidden trail easier, such as a sharp bend in the road or steep terrain.

When they came to a hedge, Grisha was forced to squat and make use of the slightly-enlarged hole thanks to his companion going first. He had to keep low, and it was somewhat of a bother with his mapping utensils and journal in hand. His thoughts went to Kamari though, considering how she might have been much more graceful slipping through the secret passage way.

As he came out on the other side of the hedge, however, he blinked as he came face to face with the scarred Salsolan, who seemed determined to not let him continue forward without paying a toll first.

Forced to remain in his crouch and just inside the hedge, Grisha felt almost as if Wrath meant to keep him hostage. “I was not,” he answered with a sigh, “If I had been, I’d like to think I’d have been of higher rank by now.” It was a sardonic joke, and was spoken rather dryly. “I was recruited by Arbiter Argive after he and the Emissary saw my skills in map-making.”

Grisha Darkleaf
— The Scholar —
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#8

Overtly satisfied that such information may reach O'Riley by way of a Shield member, Wrath was appeased. This was now a priority encounter that meant Wrath would have to hold back his inclination for intimidation.

Wrath grinned while face-to-face with Grisha.

"I have no doubt." He stated, referring to the man's ability to ascend the hierarchy. Wrath was impressed with the cartographer's blatant cynicism regarding his rank, and he could sympathise with his frustration.

A soft exhale was laced with a customary growl before Wrath turned his massive frame around and carried on down the trail. The trail inclined gently, and the dense foliage gave way to jagged outcrops. As the course began to widen into a path, the brute took a left turn into a small gorge. Once upon a time, water had carved its way through this channel, and it was only during immense rain, as they had recently experienced, that a stream would run along the bare path to a river and further on to the sea.

There was no wind, and the sides of the small cliffs radiated the heat down upon them. 

Upon the left-hand wall, he began to climb a steep ledge. It wasn't long before they were 20 feet above the ground, walking on the treacherously narrow ledge, where Wrath stopped. 

"If I can fit, you can, too." 

Deftly for such a large beast, he edged his way around a severe abutment and out of sight.

By the time Grisha navigated the obstacle, Wrath had disappeared into a cave on the side of the cliff. The entrance area was a rough dome carved over millennia, and a colony of dark, bulbous shapes hung from the high ceiling. As Wrath's long claws rattled on the hard floor, half of these hanging objects unfolded and took flight. The bats shrieked and frenzied above them. 

Wrath moved to the end of the domed area, towards the entrance of a small tunnel. "Careful." He warned. The tunnel had to be crawled down, and Wrath wasn't interested in Grisha sliding face first into his back end.

Wrath went first. It was pitch black, and the further they walked, the more steep the descent. Although Wrath was walking blind, nothing in his demeanour changed, not even when the rancid smell of stagnant water and rotting flesh drifted up the tunnel to greet them. Dried blood smeared the length of the slick shaft, but this would have gone unnoticed in the darkness, as the pair relied on their noses, ears and whiskers to find their way.

The stone floor could not dry quickly at this depth and became slick underfoot, as the damp stone was coated with slippery mould. Even Wrath's footfalls became more cautious. 

"I hope you don't mind getting wet, Grisha." He stated with a wry smile that would never be seen.

Just as the tunnel levelled out, it came to an abrupt end. Finally, a chink in the far wall of this new cave allowed in a sliver of light. It was impossible to determine the depth of the water that covered the floor until Wrath leapt in. The water rose to just below his withers, and he could easily walk through the stinking liquid. In doing so, he disturbed what appeared in the very dim light to be nothing more than a rock or boulder, but as it tumbled and rolled face-up, the grey mass became the battered remains of a Luperci's corpse. His eyes were open, but only the black staring remains of his eye sockets remained. Both eyeballs had been removed, his throat had been torn open, and the side of his neck bulged with the incorrect angle of a severed spine.

The grey-furred cadaver floated around close to where Grisha could jump in, just as Wrath began to climb onto a low shelf at the other side. More light illuminated his shimmering black coat.

"Almosht there."

Not waiting to watch Grisha wade through the water (should he choose to), Wrath turned and moved around the corner, disappearing.

He emerged on a small, secluded bay, with the sea patiently stroking the damp sand. Wrath moved to the water, paddling through it with all four paws while glancing to the entrance and waiting for his new acquaintance.

-----

WC:700+
OOC: Hope this is okay, didn't have time to go through it much, and it's a bit of an info dump. Anything you need me to change or that doesn't make sense just let me know :)
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Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here...
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