[P] rivers shift, oceans form and mountains drift
Court of Fangs
#1
At two months old, the puppies were beginning to explore the world beyond their den. That was part of the reason why Oberyn had agreed with the idea of moving their permanent camp elsewhere. He did not recall who had first found it, but the entire band had liked the wooded area just north of the little lake and begun to dig out their claims.

It was outside of one of these that the big wolfdog lounged, though he was only doing so to catch his breath. He had been left behind while his mate set out to hunt, and while she was now at the point where leaving the twins with the group was acceptable, Makwaikwe had privately confided that she wanted one of their parents present at all times. As first-time parents they were exceptionally protective of their offspring. As they lacked blood family to aid them, Oberyn and Makwaikwe had instead chosen to trust their collective – but with their children still so small and vulnerable, they had to be careful.

The two puppies were, at present, entertaining themselves by sniffing and exploring the little section of woodland that the Court of Fangs called their own. It was a tentative claim: they had no true borders, and too few numbers to defend themselves against a larger group. Even so, they were afforded some sense of safety. Part of this came from the knowledge that the only pack close to them (and even closer now that they had resettled) was one dedicated to upholding the ideals of honor and justice. While their meaning of this was perhaps not always the same, Oberyn hoped that they could put some faith in the Cavalieri to keep the worst of trouble off their backs. As he understood things, between themselves and the knights, there were few large predators this far south to worry about. With Parzival present, cougars would be less inclined to test the wilderness – and bears, which favored places where rivers flowed, seemed a rarity.

For now, though, his puppies were thriving. They were healthy looking, with oversized paws, too-large heads, and fat bellies. Their fuzzy coats were not entirely enough to protect them against the true chill of winter, but it was a relatively warm day and the sun was out. Eventually, when they began to tire, Oberyn would wrangle them back into the den. It didn't seem like they were too keen on slowing down just yet, however, and set about play-wrestling with one another yet again.

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#2
Harley's paws had taken her into the forest that morning- it bordered their closer friendly, neighborhood wolves- hunting a few hares and gobbling one down for herself. Harley kept tight-lipped about her doubts when around the others, their proximity near this Casa di Champion pack. It was rather concerning to her, but only because of her past. Most two-legged Lupreci were busy Indulging In alcohol and drugs, and unable to properly decipher what was right or wrong. Many would act on their impulses, and they had children to care for. Perhaps, it was Harley's paranoia that got in the way of her better side.

Never mind that now, because as her paws trailed against the snow covered sod, Harley became aware of the noises of the puppies. Growling and whines and little whimpers, and Harley actually smiled behind the hare she carried in her maw. This was for Mak and Obie, their dedication and strong parental instincts made certain the next generation was thriving. Though, with their few adults, and growing mouths to feed, Harley wondered if they were doing their best at that as well.

Soundlessly, Harley came to a trot, then to a walk, as she gave a gentle woof, her Bob tail wagging behind her. The puppies, ever demanding and aloof, stumbled over one another with tongues lapping their jaws, tails wagging madly, and whimpers and whines thick on their muzzles. Harley gave a awful growl and as they liked and pushed their way upon her narrow chest, Harley awkwardly threw the meat to one side and proceeded to regurgitate what foods she had recently eaten. With a squelch, the piled bile was beginning to be devoured by the two youngsters, and Harley's eyes met Oberyn's, before lowering and she gave a low woof, and brought him the meat, as well.

"For you and Mak." Said around a mouthful of fur, she dropped it to the ground, only to realize the puppies were already finished and they were stumbling over one another in a race to get to her. Part of her wished they would settle down, the other part of her was thankful they were as rambunctious as they were. "I see their appetites never seize." Chuckling, Harley was now met with puppy links from her toes to her cheek, a gentle growl playing in her throat.

OOC: WC 396
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#3
The noise alerted the collective to a new arrival, and familiar with the voice, Oberyn remained where he was while his children abandoned their game to bolt towards the source. They pranced around her paws, wiggling and whining and licking until Harley tossed aside her catch and provided them with what they had demanded. While they devoured the warm, partially-digested meat, it was Oberyn's turn to greet his companion. He did so with a wag of his bushy tail and a smile, which lingered as she presented him with the rabbit.

“If it was up to them all they'd do is eat,” Oberyn laughed. “Thank you, Harley. You should make sure you eat too,” he reminded her. “Makwaikwe went out hunting a while ago, and I'll take a turn when she gets back.” The endless cycle of tracking, following, and killing was a process they had become experts at. Eventually, when the puppies were older, this would be easier. They'd have the numbers to bring down large prey.

Oberyn reached for the rabbit just before his children got close. Though they both sniffed at his prize, when he gave them a warning growl of his own they backed off, deciding Harley was the safer option. Hurriedly, knowing they'd be back before long, Oberyn dug into the kill. It wouldn't be enough for both wolves, but if the puppies were fed they might allow their mother to keep her own meal.

After he swallowed the first few mouthfuls, the wolfdog had to stop to clear the fur from his mouth. Once most of this had been spit out, he turned his attention back to his companion.

“I met another loner who lives like us,” he told her. “Sounds like he wants to stay true to that. I was thinking we could invite him to join us. We can start slow,” Oberyn added, recalling how unfavorable his wife had been to the idea when he initially brought it up. “Take him with us on some hunts, that sort of thing. More numbers would be good, I think.” They were painfully outnumbered. While he avoided getting too close to the Cavalieri's borders, the few times he did made it clear that the pack was more than seventy strong. It was an overwhelming amount for such a small area. Had they the will, they could have crushed the Court of Fangs into nothing.

One more man wouldn't change that, but it was something.

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#4
Every mouth to feed was another cynical joke, to the Lupreci. More mouths equaled double patrols. With only having four able-bodies, including her adopted children, Harley fretted this winter would take its toll on them.

Oftentimes she ran the conversation with Horus through her mind, him explaining the indulgences of the Lupreci world were just simply that, and her explaining why their more primal state was not to be forsaken. Perhaps, though, she was wrong?

That thought, however, lasted only minutes before those pups, growling and licking, were taking her mind off of things. And next; their father.

"I eat plenty," explained Harley, shortly, though not to be mistaken as disgruntled or battered, as a smile made its way onto her thin, black lips. "When she returns, perhaps I could join you, two is better than one, after all." Especially with the fresh meat she just regurgitated for the children, it wasn't like her to expect anything in return. Though, maybe a budding friendship with their alpha would prove doable.

As he spoke about a loner, those blue eyes snapped toward his, taking a brief moment to sit on her haunches and shake out her fur. From the cold, or agitation, one wouldn't be able to tell. "Perhaps a trial. Who is this male?" Pray tell he wasn't some psycho-path who was seeking to harm the children. That was her biggest worry. Agitation flickered in her floppy ears, "More numbers is more mouths," she began slowly at first, though not pressing the irriation into the open, a back paw flickered up toward her neck, itching it. "More mouths could be dangerous with winter. Though," she sucked in a huff of air, and sighed, "It could mean more meals, for these two."

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#5
“I'd be glad for your help,” Oberyn agreed at once. Even if Harley had just returned from a hunt of her own, he didn't disagree with her assessment. Two wolves were more likely to bring down a larger prey animal. Yearlings and spring-born fawns would be weak. Their mothers would abandon them to save themselves – a principle difference between predators and prey, Oberyn thought. Some might put up a fight, but they would always flee at the end.

He supposed that could be true for their own kind too, but it would take a black heart and a wicked spirit to abandon a child.
The young and the weak would be rooted out by predators like the wolves. Those who were swift and strong would endure, and enhance their kind for it. Nature did not allow those who were unfit to survive in its harsh wilderness.

Luperci who had turned their backs on this way of living had forgotten this. They manufactured complications by having too much and drawing the attention of those who coveted these hordes. A blood feud had been what brought Cour des Miracles to its end, but if it had not been La Marea then others would have eventually come. The kingdom of his ancestors had been built upon sandy shores and loose soil. Its fall was inevitable.

Harley's concerns were not the first Oberyn had heard. His mate had been hesitant about the idea, but because she trusted him, she put faith in his perception. While he had not sensed anything inherently bad about Nikamew, that didn't mean he wasn't more than what he seemed.

“It's one more mouth,” he said with a little smile. “And the rules would be the same for him as they are for the rest of us. If he doesn't hunt, he doesn't eat.” That was, ultimately, the only rule they had. Not that it applied to the puppies, who were incapable of assisting. By summer they'd be more useful, though. “And it would be someone else who could help if we run into trouble again.”

The coyote with the knife felt like a long time ago. Any time before the earthquakes and the tearing away of the land felt like another time.

“He said his name is Nikamew,” the wolfdog added as he glanced over to where the puppies were.

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#6
She really did try to be reasonable, understanding, even, but it felt like a disgusting feat to tackle. Especially since her views were hesitant upon letting in outsiders. The more they welcomed the more food they could have, but the added mouths to feed meant less food, and more importantly, outsiders getting close to the cubs.

Maybe it was worry she constantly held- due to her own past of losing her children- but her lips twitched in a small smile back to him. "This is what family is for," she commented on the fact of him being happy for her help. Here, she felt safe, like they were an odd family. One dog. And the rest wolves. Still, a family nonetheless.

Rules would be the same-

She listened, or tried to, but any and all probable help this outsider could have brought was thrown out the window. Any logic was ignored, as he mentioned Nikamew's name and Harley's steel gaze sharply narrowed on the ground before turning toward Oberyn's eyes. "I'm sorry-" Harley took in a breath and stood up on all fours, the children whimpered and followed her, as Harley paved back and forth, an evident worry crossing her face.

"What?" It threw her for a loop, but she tried to not startle the kids. 

"Did you say Nikamew?" Without waiting for further confirmation, she flickered her floppy ears back and forth, "Because if that is what you said," her eyes went back to his green ones openly blinking back her fury, lips curling and unfurling, "I disagree with his presence. I have met him, really scrawny, fawn colored and tawny, thing, extremely long legs for someone of his size..." The children followed her back and forth, as she stopped and twitched in front of him. Her lips peeled back slightly, voice becoming suddenly more serious, "He's bad news. The vibe he gave me. He tried to eat Priscilla. His entire demeanor--" she paused, then looked at the children and sighed, "'--I don't like it Oberyn. But if it is your decision I will simply avoid him."

Another thought occurred and she leaned forwards a bit, saying hushed to him, "I wouldn't trust him around the children. I don't trust him period. He left a bad taste in my mouth." Oberyn, her, mak, and the twins. They had been together for a long time now. Perhaps he would trust her?

OOC: WC 401
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#7
He had gone back to the rabbit and was halfway through his next mouthful when Harley puffed up and rose to her feet. Surprised, Oberyn swallowed. He found himself staring at her with his tongue caught between his teeth, startled by the ferocity of her words and the rank ire rising off of her scent in waves.

Then she went off.

It was not the first time Oberyn had ever seen her in such a state. When the coyote had harassed him, she had come in teeth bared and more than willing to fight. The fact she reacted so poorly to his mention of Nikamew made him wonder if the two had met before. Had he harassed her? If so, when? She had been with them for so long that he couldn't think of time when this would have been possible, unless she knew him from before.

Oberyn didn't really know all that much about her past, he realized. They had all spoken, to some length, about their goals and hopes – but not really about what had driven them here.

His concerns were somewhat abated by the ridiculous way in which she described poor Nikamew. Despite Harley's obvious fury, it was hard not to laugh. He did snort out a giggle before silencing himself and sucking his tongue back into his mouth, though his eyes glinted with merriment.

Even so, he agreed with her alarm about a stranger being around the puppies. That had been Makwaikwe's most vocal apprehension too.

Though the puppies were now watching them with concern, Oberyn wuffed at them and wagged his tail to show everything was fine. This seemed to satisfy the pair and they grew distracted by something or another closer to where their meal had been deposited.

Oberyn flicked his eyes back to Harley. “I didn't tell him about the kids,” he informed her quietly. “He's still a stranger to us, which is why I think a trial period is best for now.”

Though her colorful outburst had amused him, he knew she was speaking from the heart. Wanting to reassure her he was taking this seriously, he stopped devouring the remains of the rabbit.

“When did you meet him, Harley? Did he do something to you, besides trying to eat Priscilla?”

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#8
Obe stared at her as though she had, had two heads. Surely he wasn’t that daft, after all, it wasn’t unlike her to lose her temper periodically. Though the display perhaps caused the children to whimper and whine. Shifting uneasily her own tail wagged from side to side, displaying an emotional response to their feats. An apology of sorts, followed by those orbs snapping towards the brute’s at his obvious snort. Was his entertainment for the day fulfilled with her obvious discontent? Harley almost scoffed— almost.

It wasn’t null, her mood nor actions, a grand gesture on her part given their circumstances. The opinion of their Riverfoot mattered, though to what degree was to be determined by the pseudo-leader.

Perhaps, he was simply tittering at the way her description of Nikamew was hardly inaccurate. His long, lanky legs, matched with his bulky torso, and even smaller head? What a shameful waste of perfectly good hide, his parents should have better bred, or put the poor sucker out of his misery when he was younger. These thoughts though, kept her own smile in place. Oberyn and Mak were an odd couple, though she never thought anything negative of them— each had their own flaws such as too small ears, and eyes far-too-wide spread— but she loved them regardless like a family.

At least their children had inherited their greatest attributes. Though at this stage with their far-too-large paws, and oversized ears they could blame it on pure adolescence. Nikamew wasn’t that lucky.

Good.” Added Harley, perhaps too suddenly and bitterly, but she laid down next to the children, allowing one of them to chew on her ear, “If a trial is what you think,” this was said plainly, without provocation or conviction, “Then I shall agree.

Next was a line of questioning that the spotted hybrid wasn’t prepared for. In fact, her brows drew together upon her forehead as she titled her head to one side, “Shortly after I joined here with the boys,” admitting her faults weren’t that easy, and Obe had a way to provoke her, the irritation didn’t last long as one of the puppies bit onto her thick neck and she looked comical, brows knitted together and mouth in a thin line, “Well...no.” Perhaps she was being racist, or perhaps, her gut instincts were correct, “I just don’t like the vibe he gives me.” It would appear as though she were but a child herself, pouting almost with those thin, pink lips.

Well, whatever,” huffed the dog, pawing with a back paw at the child who hung off her neck, “I will refrain from saying anything harmful or detrimental. I don’t want to make enemies, but I’m telling you.” Controlling her tone was nearly impossible, but these two didn’t seem to mind right now, preoccupied and all with mauling her with their clumsy bodies, “Something ain’t right about this guy, Oberyn.

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#9
Oberyn secretly thought that Harley was very bold to drag a man for his looks when she was such an unusual animal. Her pink skin and dark-ringed eyes gave her an unusual complexion, not to mention her little stub tail. She didn't look like any wolf Oberyn had ever seen, but she wasn't one of those awful dogs that he found to be mean-spirited barbarians. If she hadn't been with the boys, and if she hadn't been so forthright about who she was, Oberyn might not have so easily accepted her – but he had, because despite her looks and her standoffish behavior, she was a good person.

His expression flattened as Harley went on to explain that no, she had just met him, and no, it was just a feeling she had. While he wanted to believe her, Oberyn was uncertain if what she felt was really justified or merely a projection of her own insecurities.

While the puppies set about trying to make her their newest playground, their father watched – until, finally fed up, he issued a warning with a loud growl and flash of his teeth. Rightfully admonished, they shrank back. This was momentary: in the next breath they were making sad little attempts to grovel and get close to the remains of the rabbit. With a huff, Oberyn bent, took this into his mouth, and tossed it into their defined play area. Their wish fulfilled, the puppies rushed to investigate (and shortly thereafter, begin a game of tug-o-war) the carcass.

Oberyn's expression was still stern as he refocused his attention to his companion. “Harley, I understand your concerns – but just because someone doesn't know Priscilla is part of our group doesn't immediately make them our enemy. We won't be able to grow if we turn away other wolves that wish to live like us. He said he grew up wild – he probably didn't have anything like her living with his pack.” Oberyn was careful not to call Priscilla a pet. He didn't think she was. While many Luperci kept other animals in their care, this behavior would not have been common in feral communities. It was not something that the Court of Fangs was likely to practice either, though the fierce fisher was an exception.

“It will be like when we all first met,” he went on. “It took us some time to feel comfortable with each other, and look at how we are now. I'm not asking you to trust him yet, but give him a chance, okay?”

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