[P] one who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones
Court of Fangs
It was the second truly clear day that week, and Oberyn knew that it was going to be an extraordinary one. The wind was calm, but present. A few fluffy clouds floated in the sky. Sometimes he could smell the ocean, and others nothing but the forest all around them. There were other odors this close to the main site they shared – individuals, meat, wolves, and less and less, the bodily scents of two children learning to excuse themselves to do their business. They began to grow into their bodies, stretching out even as big teeth began to grow in and force the little ones to fall out.

They had learned what it meant to speak without using their voices, and that meant they could better follow along with a proper hunt. There had been smaller things until now: rabbits and squirrels, who were too fast for the puppies to catch but loud enough to make good targets.

Today, though, was a good day. Oberyn could tell by the sky.

He was not the only one who had made such a grand discovery, however.

“The herd is close again,” Makwaikwe announced after everyone had gathered. She was a big wolf, and when she rose her voice most people chose to listen. Their daughter was close by, as if she perceived what the commotion was all about. Oberyn had a fair idea of what the wind had already told him.

“We are going out to hunt, and any who wish to eat may join us,” The she-wolf went on. Her blue eyes turned to their children. “You two may observe,” she told the puppies. “Your task today is to look and learn what we do. Watch, but be quiet, and do not be seen. If you break this rule, you must return home.”  It was a strict punishment, but Oberyn nodded in agreement.

“If being too loud scares the elk, that makes the hunting harder. Stealth is important. Remember this especially at the end, when we get close.” They could afford some error along the way, it if helped to flush out their prey. The tawny-brown wolfdog wagged his tail. Hunting as a group increased their chances of success, and the likelihood of securing at least one kill. Even with puppies who were still learning the ropes, the more hunters who joined them provided more chances to strike. 

Open for all Court of Fangs members! Set in Ethereal Eclipse, afternoon.
Zoltan was growing into his body in what felt like the most awkward of ways. His ears and feet seemed to grow first, then his legs had lengthened. His torso was taking time to fill out and properly suit them, leaving him in that awkward ugly stage of adolescence where everything was still evening out. The boy was on track to grow to the same size as his father, though only time would tell if that held entirely true.

He had been getting new teeth and losing old ones. It meant he always wanted to chew things. Bones, antlers, sticks, his sister's tail... the last one wasn't actually for his teeth, he just liked to do it because it made her yip and they could start up a play brawl. Nimkii would've probably preferred a more polite way of beginning such play, but a streak of mischief ran through Zo and he rather liked the "nip my sister's tail" method.

It was actually kind of hard as he lingered near her waiting to hear what their parents had to say not to bite it. It was right there. The puppy looked sideways at his dad, figuring he'd get a disapproving look because Oberyn always seemed to know when he was about to act up. What Oberyn was talking about was interesting, anyway. A hunt! They had to be quiet, but that was part of hunting. Zoltan knew he could do it.

"I can be quiet, can you be quiet?" he asked his sister, sticking out his tongue in challenge. She probably could be quiet more easily than he could, if he was being fair; he just liked to tease her about anything and everything.

Zo tried to be as still as he could while he waited for the adults to lead the way on the hunt. Despite his best attempts, he couldn't help dancing a bit on his forepaws in his eagerness to be moving. Stealthy, he was going to have to be stealthy so he could watch. And then hopefully get the freshest of meat right from the hunt itself. That was going to be the best part!
Nikamew joined his kith when they gathered, brushing against one of the other wolves in greeting and to reinforce their group scent.

Weeks had passed since his initial trial period, and he was more confident about this sort of intermingling, no longer staying on the outskirts. While he thought Harley still stubbornly hung onto her misgivings, the others seemed to accept him, or at least voiced no complaint when he joined them on patrols or invited them to play. He felt like he had found purpose again, especially watching the pups grow, and as they were invited on this hunt and Zoltan shuffled eagerly, he grinned.

The tawny wolf said nothing, but dropped his forequarters in a luxurious stretch to loosen muscles that began to stir with excitement. With someone like Makwaikwe at the front of the hunting pack, he was content to follow.
Location: Ethereal Eclipse || NPCs: -- || Form: Lupus

The day was a good one and Elkin was glad to spend it on a pack hunt with his fellow Fangs. He shouldered against Vannin, putting his teeth on his brother's ruff and licking at his ears, before surging ahead to the gathering place. Makwaikwe and Oberyn and the puppies — old enough now to be losing their milk teeth and follow the unspoken cues of canines — were there already, reminding him of the season that they had vowed to work together for the good of them all.

He was happy that Harley and Vannin had agreed to it. Theirs was a small band, but he thought it mighty. And growing, too! With the arrival of Zoltan and Nimkii and, later, of Nikamew's acceptance, they were almost starting to feel like a real pack.

Turning his dark head to the touch of someone brushing against him, Elkin discovered it to be Nik and gave his curled tail a rapid wag. He pushed his nose down toward his friend and his tongue hung loose from his mouth. Would Harley and Vannin be joining them? Glancing behind him, keenly aware that he had left them behind in his haste to see what the call was for, he searched the surrounding forest before giving his pelt a shake and mimicking Nik's stretches with his own.

As eager to be moving as Zoltan seemed to be, Elkin then danced on his forepaws to give himself something else to do while they waited.

[WC -- 250]
[Image: r3d6hJb.png]
Wiki Court of Fangs Player

Signature art by Artamp
Wolves found food in a variety of ways, and hunting was equally complicated. When one was alone it was opportunity which could provide a meal. In a group, there was more than luck and chance to it, though both of these factors would weigh heavily upon the Luperci as they set out into the woodland.

“You can hunt big prey like this when you are quiet and remain unseen,” Makwaikwe explained to her children. “When you are bigger, and able to run longer, then you will have more chances to attack. Today we do not, so you must do exactly as you are told.”

Oberyn saw Nimkii look at him and wagged his tail to reassure his daughter. She sometimes seemed as serious as the stormclouds she was named after. Even so, if she was nervous she was doing a good job of hiding this. Having her brother there probably helped – Oberyn had always felt better when his sister was around. The longer her absence, however, the harder it felt to remember everything that had seemed so important back then.

There was little left of his father's family now, but Oberyn had crafted his own. He had Makwaikwe and the kids. He wouldn't have had that without some of these people. Could they build themselves into something better or bigger, if the time came? Nikamew's presence seemed to suggest as much. There were others out there like them was the newcomer's promise.

Right now, though, growth depended upon a successful hunt. Not only would it feed the lot, but it would prove to be a good omen. It could further cement in place the bonds between the group.

His children needed to see that. If they did not fall in love with living in the wilderness, what would stop them from walking other paths?

This risk had haunted them since the beginning, and Oberyn imagined Makwaikwe was equally determined to manifest game being taken down today.

They wove like a snake across the trails, most of which were still the brown-gray color of the bare-bark of winter. A few early flowers, driven by the heat of a sometimes-sun, had rushed to take advantage of the extra light and begun budding. All the new-growth branches on the boughs overhead suggested the same, and little caps that had protected them from the cold rain were now scattered underfoot of the wolves as they walked. Evergreen remained, and the lead animal would often take advantage of this to sniff out clues and provide cover when the wind turned.

Eventually, they found the elk. While it was a small herd Makwaikwe had been following, she guided them elsewhere. Before they began, she explained her plan – far enough from the elk to ensure they were not heard. Her interests were not with the breeding females, who would ensure the population continued to maintain itself, but the young bulls tailing them. Weakness could be culled here, and help ensure that the next generation of animals was stronger still.

Then came the quick divvying of duties, which Oberyn helped explain to Nimkii and Zoltan as the adults discussed.

“...you will see how each person has a job,” he was concluding. “When we work together, it makes it easier to take down our prey.”
His sister was all too serious and was not dancing on her feet. Leave it to Nimkii to take even something as exciting as this and not feel that itch in her paws. The boy couldn't help himself, though. There was so much energy he thought he might howl if he didn't let his paws move a little. Which was why he had to go with the paws, because he had been told to be quiet and that was important for the hunt to be successful. He really badly wanted some meat fresh from a kill, which meant he needed to follow the rules. Also so that his parents wouldn't be mad. Also also so that he would get taken along next time. Also also also...

His mom was talking and he had missed a bit of it, coming in at when you are bigger for what he heard her say. Probably whatever she had said before that wasn't important. Maybe. Definitely he wasn't about to ask her to back up and tell him again. Zo should've been listening the first time and his mother would not be well pleased to learn he had distracted himself with his own brain's ramblings. The core message had been received: you are not hunting today, you are watching. Someday you can hunt with us, today is not that day.

He looked between the gathered Fangs. Who would do what? Was Nikamew likely to chase, to corner, to kill? Would Elkin yip and laugh as he nipped at the flanks of an elk? Who would get the final blow? Who was going to attack? That was the position he wanted someday. He didn't just want to chase, he wanted to sink his fangs in and get a good proper bite. Zoltan wanted to throw his weight into a prey animal and pull it down so that his packmates could feast. When he was as big as his father, he'd do it. All the thinking in the world couldn't make him bigger, though. He just had to wait which was honestly owl pellets (Zoltan's version of cursing) but there was no changing it. He could be impatient or patient; he'd have to wait either way.

Zoltan did as he had been commanded, following quietly and sticking fairly close to his sister. They boy would even try to brush shoulders with her in a reassuring/affectionate manner. It felt good to be near to his family, to his Court, a group gathered together and ready to take down an elk. Every part of it made his heart sing. They were right with the world they lived in and he was as much a part of it as anyone else.

When they found the herd, he hunkered down and watched, his blue gaze following each motion of his mother as she assessed the herd. What was she seeing? How was she picking which to hunt? Why this herd? He had so many questions, but he couldn't ask. She was busy. Later, he was sure she'd give him more information. If he asked her now he would cause problems and probably get sent home. Reluctantly, he stayed where he was and waited.

His father came over to tell them a bit about what was happening and he nodded. Each of them would have a role to play in taking down their prey. Someday, him and Nimkii would have their own roles. He supposed they sort of did right now. They were to watch and learn. That was its own role.
Eager energy rippled through the gathered wolves, warmed by the sun on their pelts and each other’s proximity. The stir was infectious, though the adults would temper this as they snaked through the woodland, close on each other’s heels.

Nikamew let his tongue loll as he trotted alongside the others, occasionally casting a glance over his shoulder at the puppies to see how they fared. As their mother suggested, they did not yet have the endurance that was their kind’s boon, but their bodies were growing lankier by the day, coming into proper lupine shapes. He had to wonder who they might most resemble as adults, what their roles might be.

Accidentally bumping shoulders with Elkin, he apologized with an affectionate nip to the ruff of the younger male’s cheek and slowed when Makwaikwe stopped.

”I’ll help cut them off from the herd,” Nikamew offered. Swifter and more lithe than his bulkier companions, he was suited for that task more than the take-down. He knew these woods well enough by now: knew to herd the elk away from where the trees thinned and they might outpace the wolves in open fields; knew where the woods were thick and slopes and riverbeds might cause them to stumble.

Of course, once a prey animal faltered and the first wolf brought them down, all of them would join in for the often protracted, bloody kill.
[Image: springforth.png] Spring Forth, Words!Ace the Finals Incidental - 17 April

Location: Ethereal Eclipse || NPCs: -- || Form: Lupus

Elkin bounded forward once they started to move, pausing only briefly to look back and offer the puppies encouragement in his a low howl and wagging tail. He could easily remember how it felt to join in on the hunt for the first time. It was more than a milestone; it was like a rite of passage.

Overhead Elkin spotted a few big inky birds and thought that they could be his raven friends. Were ravens always around? Maybe he was just noticing them more after played with them back when Sister Winter still danced strong. Or maybe (and Elkin liked this thought more but it also scared him a little, too) they like his company and had taken to following him around. Regardless, whether their presence was merely incidental or not, the dark wolfdog felt oddly more confident in his own abilities for their presence.

Jostled by his smaller friend, Elkin's thoughts returned to solid ground again. He accepted Nikamew's apology with nose-bump to his face (hoping that it wasn't too rough) before he panted a grin. After they had slowed, Elkin sat and satisfied a particularly irksome itch while he listened to the others. He shook his still-thick (but soon to be shed) pelt when he stood again.

"Yeah, Nik's real fast," he said with a wagging tail. "I think I'd be better at helping to take it down."

[WC -- 238]
[Image: r3d6hJb.png]
Wiki Court of Fangs Player

Signature art by Artamp
As they discussed and made decisions, Oberyn found himself assessing and agreeing with these choices. He knew Nikamew was fast – he didn't choose the name Quickember without cause, after all. With his long legs and fast feet, Nikamew would be an ideal choice when it came to harrying and cutting into the herd.

“I'll go with Nikamew,” Oberyn said when Makwaikwe looked at him. She considered this and nodded.

“Then we are decided,” she announced. “Elkin and I will take the kill. Be swift and safe,” the black she-wolf demanded of her mate, displaying her affection in a rare public display with a nose-bump into his cheek. Delighted by this, Oberyn's fluffy tail began to wag.

When he looked back at his children, Nimkii was making a sour face. He snorted at the display and indicated a high space not far from where they had come to rest. “Go there, quietly, and watch. I'll call for you when you can join us.”

Their division from the hunting party ensured that not only would the children be able to watch safely, but should anything go wrong that they could run for help quickly. There was always a risk in challenging a giant animal like an elk. Panic would divide the herd. Opportunity would engender itself.

After their instructions were given, the Fangs split according to their plan. Oberyn and Nikamew took a more direct route, while Makwaikwe led Elkin towards their point of attack.

When the time was right, Oberyn made the first move. He was fast, charging with big strides that wasted none of his energy – but not as quick as the leaner tawny-copper shape that darted out from similar cover.

Zo hated that he had to just wait. He wanted to rush forward, to be part of what they were doing. His muscles ached for it, his teeth longed for it, his belly growled for it. If they were successful, he'd still get the fruits of the others' labor... but it wasn't the same. There was a bonding to hunting. A force of wolves all rushing together toward one common goal in sync with each other was a beautiful, powerful thing. He wanted to be part of that thing. Not a cub hiding waiting for approval to join them once the deed was done.

At least his sister was with him. He nodded to his dad, briefly moving forward to bump his nose against Oberyn's chin in a childish mimicry of his mother's own affectionate touch. Then he headed up toward where the leader had indicated, crouching low and keeping his eyes on his mother. Along with Elkin, she'd make the kill. He wanted to see the rush, too, but his focus was on the kill. That seemed the most important, exciting, best role to him. That was what he would want to do someday. He licked his lips at the thought, glancing briefly at his sister before returning his gaze to the herd.

The hunt was about to begin.

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