[AW] Seeking the questing beast.
set in Ethereal Eclipse
His search on land was proving as fruitless as his search at sea had been. Polliwog had been aware that the likelihood was that he'd never find his sister. Who was to say she'd have ended up anywhere near here? Who was to say she was still alive? Even when he'd decided to leave sailing for the mainland, he had known his chances remained slim to none. It was hard to give up a quest that had been the cornerstone of his life, though. Who was he if not the seeker of his sister's fate?

This wooded area was harder to ride through than some of the other ones. There were areas where trees had fallen and left poor pathways for hooved animals. At least, hooved animals carrying a rider. He found plenty of sign that ungulates lived here. They were fleeter of foot without a wolf on their back. Avarice didn't like being here. Theodora followed placidly, as she usually did, but they had to pick their way across the land very carefully to make sure that none of the party got injured. It was slow moving and he didn't like the way it made him feel. Trapped, almost, though there were of course many actual avenues to escape the damp forest.

He came across a stream that seemed like it was promising for fishing. His copper-toned eyes looked up the stream toward where it was fed by a spring. This seemed like a promising place to set up camp for the evening. It was still midday but he needed to catch more food and let his animals graze. He dismounted and started walking back toward the spring to look for a decent camping spot. It would be easier to feel whether the ground was level enough for a decent fire if he was walking rather than riding.
The Court of Fangs welcomed his children into their number, and with the aid of the group, food was plentiful. Even so, Oberyn felt obligated to pull his weight. He left his mate and children at the densite, certain someone else would be along soon, and set out on a long patrol. While they did not claim any territory proper, nor defend many miles as a pack might have done, the band was well aware that they had a duty to ensure the land they lived on was protected.

He smelled the horses first. They had a strong, recognizable odor. When he found one of their droppings Oberyn confirmed his suspicions and followed after the trail. While elk and deer were plentiful in the southern reach of the Pennisula, they were hard pressed to find horses, who preferred the wide open plains like the Waste and its northwestern sprawl. There was a Luperci with the animals too. The closer he got, the more apparent other smells became: leather, distant woodland, a man – and there he was.

A black wolf of tremendous size was guiding the animals through the woodland. He was bigger even than Oberyn, and carrying weapons. He looked like a fighter, but lacked the recognizable scent of the Cavalieri. Worried that this was an errant warrior or something worse, Oberyn decided a direct approach was the proper method. If this man was a ne'er-do-well, he'd reveal his intentions soon enough.

Oberyn slipped out of the underbrush and stood a comfortable distance away from the stranger and his animals. The horses looked healthy. Both looked liked they'd be keen to kick him to death if he got too close.

“Hello there,” he woofed. “Are you looking for Oglethorpe?”
There was a lot to pick over as he walked. Polliwog could only think about his destination and the alcohol he still had with him. Although he couldn't drink to excess. A wolf on his own couldn't be foolish about that kind of thing. There was no one here who had his back and there were plenty that would take all he had. No, the alcohol was better left for another time. A time when he was somewhere at least somewhat safe. Perhaps he'd find a pack to winter with if he didn't find his sister. At the very least it would keep him - and his animals - safe until he could travel again. He had enough skills that he was sure he could make his stay mutually beneficial to whoever would have him.

Avarice snorted and that was the first thing to alert him to someone else approaching. The horse was more aware of predators than he was, given that he was the one more at risk. His gaze shifted to where the other male wolf appeared out of the underbrush. There was a polite distance maintained, which was wise; no one knew how another would react to their approach. The stranger had a pretty facial marking, yellowish around the eyes and muzzle. It reminded him a bit of his sister; the marking, not the coloration. That was the only similarity between this wolf and his sister, though. The stranger appeared to be male and was larger than Polli would've assumed his sister to be. There was also a lot of white in the stranger's coat. Polliwog's sister hadn't had any white on her at all. None of the siblings had, they'd all been darker of coat like their parents.

The stranger asked a question, seeming to wonder his purpose. The word he asked about was one Polli recognized, in a vague ah, I think someone mentioned that place before way. Probably a group of traders, then. The sailors he had been with most recently could've mentioned it. "No." he said first. "I'm actually looking for a wolf... smaller than me, blue eyes, sort of masked marking around her eyes, larger ears than most. Any chance you've seen her?" it was worth a shot. Hell, for all he knew his sister had retained affection for the four-legged way and was with this... guy... maybe. Every shot was a long shot when you had the whole world as your potential target range.
Though the initial answer made Oberyn's ears twitch, he relaxed a little when the man explained his true purpose for being in the area. He was looking for someone, he said. To some extend, this story was less promising than the first: the man looked rough around the edges, and he had two horses. Was he a bounty hunter sent to find someone who did not want to be discovered? A jealous mate or would-be mate who came to capture a prize? Perhaps they were after a criminal, and Oberyn might be the key to the discovery of such a fiend (he thought back to the coyote with the knife, and frowned).

Except it was a woman the man was looking for. A blue-eyed wolf with a mask and big ears...

Recalling the late summer, weeks before the Court had properly formalized itself, Oberyn found the memory of a hunt came to mind. He and Makwaikwe had been hunting elk, going after late-season calves. A she-wolf exploring the area had come across them. Recognizing her as a member of New Caledonia, Oberyn had been friendly with the woman. She had joined their hunt, ensuring its success, and they had shared a meal. Her eyes were blue, even lighter than his mate's, and she had a dark mask around her eyes.

“Big ears, you said? Like a bat?” He asked, testing. It would be easy to determine if the man was friendly or not soon enough – and Oberyn, ever-cautious, already thought ahead towards what he might do if that turned out to be the case.

“How long have you been looking around here? There's not a lot down this way besides the traders,” the wolfdog explained. “Did you ask the Cavalieri?” A bandit would not have tried their luck with the pack. Older than all but the shadowy entity that lurked on the far side of the Loch, the warriors of Casa di Cavalieri had developed a reputation in the area for their unwavering devotion to peace by any means necessary: those who disrupted this seemed destined to die. It was part of the reason Oberyn was comfortable living in the wilderness beyond the Fort: who would cause trouble so close to such a formidable threat?

And now, he knew the cougar.

Confident, Oberyn remained standing where he was. He didn't need to fight the man, if it came to that.

Still, something about the stranger – appearances aside – felt earnest enough.

Happy birthday to us!!  Regparty
Regking 34 is looking pretty good so far!

He crinkled his nose slightly in thought at the question about his sister's ears. Unaware as he was of the way that his sister had changed her name, he didn't understand the double meaning of Oberyn's question. "I suppose they could be considered... batlike, yes." certainly he had laughed at her ears when they were littler and the ears had been really oversized. Everyone had big ears when they were little. "We used to call her little rabbit." he said it out loud as he reminisced, not really realizing he had said it until after it was already done.

At the very least there was a slim possibility here that the reason a followup question was asked was because the stranger did know the whereabouts of his sister. Polliwog wasn't holding out hope, though. There had been a lot of false leads in his past, both intentional and unintentional. "I checked with the Cavaliers, no news there." at least no one he had talked with that direction had known about a girl like he had mentioned. "The traders might know, though..." he tapped his fingers thoughtfully against his side. Ports were known for gathering a lot of rumors; it was one of the reason he had chosen the sea when he first started searching.

"I'm not encroaching on your own land, am I?" he asked, since the other male seemed well versed in the area's residents. Which meant he probably was one and he didn't look like a Cavalier. Nor had he said my pack when referring to Casa di Cavalieri. Polli had not noticed strictly marked borders anywhere, but there were plenty of wolf-scents around. Some of them more frequent than others. Loners found their own little small groups and huddled together for warmth, especially in the winter. It was possible he was pressing into land that was claimed informally and should be avoided. Much as he itched for a good fight, he didn't invite fights for no purpose.

Avarice lowered his head and Polliwog allowed it, loosening his grip on the reins and holding them lower so that the stallion could reach the ground and graze. They were clearly at a pause for at least a little bit longer, no reason to keep the horse from eating while he could. Although there was a lot more wood around than good fodder, there was some peeking through that the horse could surely get. Theodora would have to wait, though, since he didn't want to work to detach her from Avarice until he was camped somewhere.
Maybe she had looked like a rabbit as a puppy. His own children were strange shapes. Each day they changed, and little by little grew more recognizable features. Two was a small number, he thought, but it was nearly winter, and it was her first litter. He and his sister had only been two. Galilee had no other siblings, he recalled. Two was a manageable number for now, as the band settled in and learned how to function as a proper unit.

“They might,” he offered, not knowing the answer. While he was familiar with the Oglethorpe collective, he had no reason to see them quite so often. Winter might keep them closer to their little buildings and lonely dock, though.

“And no, you're not,” Oberyn went on. To show he meant peace, he wagged his tail and made friendly signs. His final act of reclining onto his haunches proved that his intentions were good. He couldn't easily attack if he was sitting down, and the horses were right there. It would be a fools errand to risk the trio. “We don't own the land, just live on it – me and my people, that is,” he explained.

“Proper wild living,” Oberyn clarified. “And you know, the thing is, I think I might have ran into your friend a while back. Blue eyes, yes? Very light, I think, like winter snow.” He was testing still, wanting to see if what this man said lined up with Battalion's story. Though they were practically strangers, he felt more loyalty to the woman of New Caledonia than the nameless stranger looking for her.

Indeed indeed~  Reghowl
The stranger wolf sat and seemed to put himself in an easygoing position. It displayed friendliness and innocence, things that should help put Polliwog at ease. It actually made the fighter more suspicious, though. He'd been listening for anyone else to approach - it could very well be a trap - and would continue to do so as they chatted. One could never trust a friendly face. Too often it prepared one's back to receive a knife.

"Good. I do not intend trespass." the wolf said, his lips curving slightly into a smile to indicate his own good intent. There was no reason for Oberyn to fear him. At least... not as long as they remained in accord with one another. "Ah, a wild life. I grew up like that." he remarked. Although usually he avoided those who did. It was a life he had completely rejected when he left Silver Falls of his own accord. He rarely went anywhere on four legs now, finding that two legs suited him just fine for everything he needed to do. Although he supposed now that he was on land maybe he'd need to learn to use his four legged form more again. For hunting purposes, at least. Unless he could find a situation where he could get food in exchange for what services he could offer...

The stranger had said something else that gave Polli pause in his thoughts, though. He gave Oberyn a deeper look, trying to assess if he was merely yanking Polliwog's chain with the further questions. Perhaps the four-legged male was just trying to get something out of the fighter. There had been some grifting attempts in the past where canines had tried to take him for a ride. There was a delicate balance in his mind between hope and caution. He cooled them both so that he was merely passive at the moment; a bit more fishing was necessary to see what exactly this wolf might know or if this was all just a ruse to obtain something.

"I'd say that's a fair assessment of my sister's eyes, yes." he said, thoughtfully dropping the information about their relationship into the conversation. Hopefully it impressed upon the stranger how important this quest was to him. He would not deal kindly with someone who lied to him about this again. It hadn't ended well for those who had lied to him in the past, either. "Where did you see her?"
A wild life, the man said, and from his tone Oberyn presumed that it was a fond memory. He smiled and regarded the man again – he was of such a size that had he remained on four legs he would have been equally intimidating. The fact he was here with pack animals and weapons meant that despite his upbringing, he had chosen a life like all the rest.

It could have been his life, he supposed, but the Court was gone and he could not stand the thought of bowing his head ever again.

The caution Oberyn had for his acquaintance evaporated when the man explained their relation. Wanting to confirm this for himself, Oberyn rose and cautiously moved closer, so he could get a proper sniff of the man. Though faint and difficult to determine, he thought there was a subtle trade of something that might have belonged to Bat. The man looked like her, in any case. Besides, he reasoned, she was part of New Caledonia. If this stranger was lying, he would answer to their Teeth.

“Here,” he admitted, then quickly clarified. “But not with us. She was in these parts during the summer. From what she told us, she's settled in the area. I could get you headed in the right direction – but it's a way from where we are,” Oberyn further explained. “Not a journey you can make before nightfall.”

I am terrrrible sorry for the huge delay ;-;
The stranger walked a bit closer and Polli remained still. There had been no aggression at all in what had happened during their interaction, so he assumed the other wolf was confirming something. Perhaps whether or not Polli's scent and sight lined up with what he said. It was lucky, perhaps, that they looked fairly alike if one knew their relationship. If she had kept to what she was like as a kid, then they were not of the same size and their eyes were different, but there were other visible similarities for those who looked.

"I have been waiting years. A few more days or weeks will not be much in the grand scheme of things." he said with a slight wag of his tail. Polliwog felt... hopeful, for the first time in a long time. This male had been cautious to share the information so it wasn't likely he was lying. What did he have to gain by sending Polli on a wild goose chase? If anything he had seemed to hold information tight to the chest because he wasn't sure he wanted Polliwog to know. That was a good sign. It was a better sign than any he had heard so far.

His gaze flickered out to the forest. "I plan to fish and settle in for the night, then I can head off in the morning to wherever it is my sister lives. I'm happy to share of whatever food I catch, in appreciation for the information you've offered. If you or some of yours like fish, anyway." it was the least he could offer in exchange for learning something of actual value from the loner. Even if he gave up all the fish he caught today, he had some smoked in his packs that would last him a couple of days until he (hopefully) found his sister's pack. He could also always hunt or fish again between now and finding her.
That he did not demand, threaten, or immediately set off boded well for the stranger. Pleased that his instincts had proven correct, Oberyn mirrored the man and wagged his tail in a show of peace. It was good, too, that he had met him now. If they had discovered a hulking, battle-scarred man lurking in the wood at nightfall, they might not have been so keen to approach him.

“I won't say no to a fish,” Oberyn said. He had puppies to care for, after all, and any food was welcomed. Not wanting to reveal this bit of information quite yet, however, he kept it to himself.

His gaze trailed away from the man and to his animals, which seemed well-cared for and docile enough. How a Luperci treated the beasts that served them spoke volumes to their character. Beyond that, though, he was wary of the big animals. By choosing to live as they did, the Court of Fangs and those like them had to be all the more cautious of the larger herbivores. A horse was dangerous. All prey animals could be dangerous when threatened.

The wolfdog fixed his attention back on the man. “I'm Oberyn,” he introduced himself without fanfare. His surname and title were meaningless to a traveler. “I'll give you directions – there's two ways you can go, but if I were you, I'd take the long route.” Though he had dared to explore the land bridge to the north, it was surrounded by water on both sides and slick in some places. Beyond that, he did not think he could accurately describe a route he had not taken himself.
It still felt... surreal, to consider a chance encounter in the woods might lead to the conclusion of something he had sought most of his life. Polli wasn't ready to hang all his hopes on it. There had been leads before that turned out to be nothing. Not as promising as this one. Just that summer... if he missed her, it'd be his own fault. A result of taking that last trip before taking to land.

The stranger accepted his offer of fish. He had assumed that it would be accepted. Fishing was... harder on four legs, though not impossible, and any food was good food when you were hungry. "Good." he said simply in response. He'd see how many he could get and then give at least half to the stranger. Hell, if he found his sister, he might need to come back with more than that in appreciation. This wolf might never know just how appreciated the information was. His life would never be the same.

"I'm Polliwog. Well met, Oberyn." he said, the truest time he had ever said those words. No one had been better met than the wolf that might have helped him end his quest to find his sister. "Would you like to walk with me to where I plan to make camp? You can tell me the directions and I can show you where I'll be. So that later, you can come collect on my promise of fish. Or one of yours, if you tell me who to expect." presumably the male might not be the chosen messenger to come gather food. Maybe multiples would come for it. Polli just wanted to make sure the fish went to who they were supposed to, not some random wolf that came over and went "FISH!?" like that strange coyote fellow he had met. He'd be glad to not have that encounter again.
The man's name seemed so unfit for him that Oberyn almost laughed. He held this back but wagged his tail with mirth. It was a curious thing that names did not always match the people who carried them. Then again, he supposed, names didn't have to mean much of anything.

“I'll come back,” he told his new companion. If, for whatever reason, this turned out to be an elaborate ruse, it would be better for them all if Oberyn handled things. He could at least keep the wolf away from the den site, and from his vulnerable children and mate. (This was a laughable idea in itself, given how ferocious Makwaikwe could be.) “But I'll tell them about you anyway, so you don't have to worry about us.”

They were not hostile people as whole (though on her bad days Harley reminded him of an angry badger) but he wanted to make it clear to Polliwog that the Court of Fangs did not mean to make quarrel with him. He could not speak for the others in the area.

“I'm sorry to say you'll have quite a trek ahead of you,” the tawny-brown wolf went on. He made certain to give Polliwog's animals a wide berth, though he kept pace with the man as he followed him towards the campsite. “You'll have to head back towards the Cavalieri and then northward, up towards the mountains.”
Polliwog had often considered the way in which his parents named the children at birth and wondered what about him had said wiggly spawn of a frog. Had he moved his legs in a jerky fashion? Had he laid in a way that his forelegs were obscured and they thought him to only have hindlegs for a moment? One of his sisters was named Amble and she certainly hadn't been ambling from the womb, so who was to say what they had been thinking? Oberyn was not the first one to seem slightly amused at the name.

Oberyn said he was the one who would return for the fish and Polliwog nodded. It would make things simpler if it was the same wolf he had already met from whatever group was gathering here. He did not want to cause any problems for them or for himself. Despite feeling fairly confident in his abilities as a warrior, the wolf wasn't interested in taking on a fight for no reason. Unless it was a friendly brawl. Sometimes he missed the friendly wrestling that occurred in ports and (sometimes) on ships just for the sake of burning energy. So far he hadn't found a place like that here. Maybe there wasn't one.

Quite a trek, he smiled at the thought. It had been quite a trek most of his life to try and find his sister. If she was within range of visiting this place, she was practically next door by his standards. "Ah, the direction I chose not to travel in favor of coming this way. Seems the mountains call me whether I want them to or not." he remarked with a shake of his head. He had never been fond of them since being born on one and then leaving it. His sister might not have that same hangup.
“Well, you've got to see some sights,” Oberyn offered with a slow wag of his tail. He had enjoyed traveling well enough – it had been less purposeful with his sister. They had not intended to ever settle, not really. Even when they had, Issola had not remained very long. Her quest was not the same as his own. While he would have liked for the two of them to carry on together, the differences between their paths had become more obvious in the west. Perhaps his romance with Makwaikwe had pushed her further away. Perhaps something had happened with the Tesák Clan that Oberyn had been ignorant of.

Unless she returned (as he hoped she might), he would never know.

Feeling a kinship with Polliwog and his own determination to find his relative, Oberyn was glad for their meeting. It felt fated, in some way. God-willed.

“I'll let you get situated,” the wolfdog said. “You should be safe enough here. There is a cougar who roams these parts, but if you've stayed with the Cavalieri you might have met him already.” A knowing smirk crossed his face. While Parzival had been a surprise, now that the men had gotten properly acquainted, Oberyn had developed a respect for the big cat. He certainly didn't want to take his chances making an enemy of the mountain lion, in any case.

“Best of luck with your fishing, Polliwog,” he woofed. Without a further word, Oberyn turned and loped back off into the brush. He figured that the loner had plenty to set up and wouldn't want to be stared at while he worked, and that his absence would be more comfortable for the man and his animals.

Besides, he wanted to tell the others – especially Mawkwaikwe – about his fated encounter.

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