[M] Two steps back

POSTED: Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:50 pm

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.

Secui --> Optime | Winterwynd (Ragna’s house) | Foredated: May 5th
yNPCs: Skadi, Sindri, & Steinarr
NPCs: Glade, Brimstone, & Jack (+4,569)

tNPC: Mathis
tNPC’s animal companions – American Crows: Eeny, Miny, & Moe

Related to these threads: [M] 1, 2

M-tag for graphic animal death

“Be good for Glade,” she told them sternly. Her glacier eyes moved up and down the line, making sure that each one of her children understood that they would feel the consequences if they misbehaved. At eight weeks, they had all outgrown their marten companion in size, and they were becoming more and more adventurous and daring with each passing day. They were also beginning to test limits more and more, much to the mother’s frustration. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Mommy,” they all chimed, wagging their tails.

This earned them a soft smile from her. “I’ll try to bring back something good.”

“Deer! Deer, please!” Skadi suggested.

“I like duck,” Sindri murmured.

“Pigs are yummy,” Steinarr added to the list of requests, licking his lips.

Ragna scoffed, shaking her head at her children while still maintaining her smile. “I’ll see what I can manage.” She turned to head out of the house, making sure to touch her nose briefly to Glade’s head on the way out. “Bite their ears if they misbehave.”

The marten laughed, “They good! Ragna babies always good! Best hunting, Ragna!”

She nodded, and pushed her way out the back door, padding out to the distant fence line before leaping over the waist-high, wooden barrier. Her large paws landed amongst the leaflitter and new greenery on the other side, and the mother loped off into the woods with her nose to the ground.




“Boss! Boss!” Miny cawed as she swooped up to land on a branch above where the coyote laid in the dappled sunlight.

Mathis peaked an eye open and glared up at the bird who had disturbed his nap. What?” He growled grumpily. Whatever the bird had disturbed him for, it better have been good.

The crow shuffled her feet on the branch at his tone. “Wolf left! Look hunting,” she reported.

He perked up at this, his golden eyes squinting dangerously up at the bird. “Are you sure?”

Miny bobbed her head. “Yes, Boss, yes! Take ground form. Not two legs. Nose ground! Sniffing!”

Mathis got up, alerting the other two crows to pay attention if they hadn’t been before. “How long ago?” He shook out his fur of whatever leaflitter or dirt might have collected on it.

The crow paused, seeming to struggle with the consideration of her next answer. “…twenty minutes?” Time was hard, especially when one wasn’t keeping count. Miny flapped her wings nervously before pulling them close to her body once more. “Many paces away. Us here. Wolf go across river.” The crow added quickly, nervously.

It meant that she had moved in the direction opposite of where they would be coming from.

He nodded as he digested the broken report, considering his options. “And the pups?”

“Stay home.”

“Good, good,” he nodded once more. Glancing back to Eeny and Moe, he yapped, “You two, with me. I’ll need you two to make sure I make it to this town of theirs without being seen and to be my lookouts.” His golden eyes shifted back to Miny. “Miny, you keep track of where that wolf goes. I can’t be discovered.”

“Yes, Boss!” The birds cawed in chorus.

Miny hopped off her branch and climbed up and out of the canopy overhead. Meanwhile, Eeny flew on ahead down below, leading the way. Moe followed after him, ready to swing out in a wide, surveying pattern once they breached the borders.

Mathis shifted up into his Optime form and retrieved his belt with its knife. He cinched it a little tighter before looping it over his head. Wearing it like a collar now, he shifted back down to Secui. He broke into a trot as he wove through the forested terrain below the birds. He still favored his one leg, but, at the very least, he could still move around easily enough—even run if he had to—with three legs.

Today, the wolf that had maimed him would feel the consequences of her actions.




There were many different scents to choose from as the mother wove her way through the forest. She could pick out the trails of the deer that had migrated through, the family of pigs that had dug around in the softened earth for roots and tubers, rabbits that had raced through the undergrowth, squirrels that had quarreled and scurried from tree to tree. As a skilled archer, she would have had better luck taking down any one of these with her bow rather than using her teeth. However, for whatever reason that day, she’d wanted to hunt in a more traditional way.

Her paws carried her steadily towards the Ruined Vasts. She lifted her head, her glacier eyes searching the nearby wood for any signs of viable prey for her family to eat. The pups had started to eat meat more than they did drink from her teats. It was for the best too, because their puppy teeth were not kind to them, especially if they were excited.

The scout spotted signs of uprooting and digging around as she paced a little further. Pig sounded good, she decided. It was Steinarr’s turn anyways to choose what Ragna caught. They were still too young to realize or understand it now, but, the Eklund figured it’d be a good way to keep the peace amongst the three of them in regards to food. It would be a good lesson for when they got a little older, that they couldn’t always get what they wanted.

She veered off to follow the scent trail left by the pigs, her dark, earthen pelt allowing her some semblance of camouflage amongst the forested terrain as she stalked ever steadily towards her quarry. It was just as she had managed to catch sight of the gluttonous hogs that she heard wingbeats. She might have dismissed the sound had it not been so close, and not sounded like a larger bird.

Ragna paused, her sharp eyes glancing back and upward to find a crow sitting on a tree limb. It stared down at her with those dark, beady eyes. Under her intense stare, it adjusted its wings and shuffled its feet. A bit of color on its dark visage caught her eye from the movement; a yellow piece of plastic that tied around one ankle.

Glacier eyes squinted by a fraction at the sight.

Slowly, she looked away. The pigs were still in the distance rooting around. Ragna dropped into a low stance and stalked wide around them.

In her wake, she heard the wingbeats follow.

Slowly, slowly, her large paws crossed over the forest floor, soundless, like a cougar closing in on an ambush. Closer and closer she stalked. Louder and louder the pigs’ gorging squeals and grunts were.

Again and again, those wingbeats followed.

At last, Ragna came within range. There was a patch of thick greenery that separated them, but, in her Secui form, she could easily bulldoze through. The pig wouldn’t even know what hit them until she had sunk her claws in and had her teeth cutting through its throat. The other pigs would easily scatter in fright. This would be easy.

With a burst of energy she bolted towards the vegetation.

The wingbeats followed, not wanting to lose their target.

Ragna’s snarling bark sent the hogs squealing and running in every direction, and crow was left trying to figure out which direction the wolfdog would go. Using the cover of the forest flora though, Ragna chose a direction that was not towards the pigs at all, but, back towards Winterwynd. The confusion and chaos of the scene allowed her the head start she needed.

She recognized that scavenger. She had seen that plastic band on a crow that had been around the territory a lot in recent weeks. Curious how the bird had only shown up after she’d shot that damn coyote.

She recognized a tail when she saw it. Her memories from her days in Boreas had her heart pounding wildly in her chest as she raced through the wood at breakneck speed. She was being followed by someone’s pet, and her children were at home…completely vulnerable to an attack.




Mathis watched the dark horse with a leery eye. The thing’s attention was fixated in his direction, and the coyote feared what it might do if he slipped beneath the fence. He had never particularly cared for horses, and with good reason. They could kill a Luperci with their hooves, and he had heard of horror stories of what they could do if agitated.

His golden eyes shifted elsewhere in the yard. Two puppies tussled in the grass, barking and squealing as they fought with one another. One was a dark grey, the other, a lighter, more silver-like hue in comparison. They were nearly even in size, and they were both utterly oblivious to the coyote that watched them from the forest that was nestled up against their property line. Supposedly, there were three pups, but, perhaps his birds had miscounted.

Moe perched on the wolf’s home, watching the front of the house. Eeny was perched somewhere in the trees behind him, watching for any signs of a Valer—or whatever they called themselves—there. With Miny keeping tabs on the wolf, Mithas felt it was safe for him to act. Just…if only that damn horse wasn’t watching him so intently!

The Loner dipped back and looped wide, falling out of range and detection of the watchdog of a stallion. When he came back, he came at the side of the house, and he crept where the horse could not see him. His large ears flickered when he heard the children’s laughter and growls as they played. The man shifted to his Optime form, adopting a crouch as he peaked around the corner of the house. The wolf children were still wrestling with one another. Mathis took off his belt and readjusted it so that he could fit it around his waist again.

If he could just lure them over to him—!

“Who are you?”

Mathis jerked with surprise, his head snapping back to look behind him. A large pup of warm, grey and tawny hues looked up at him with an intense stare. The kid—a boy—had his tail raised high and stiff, and he had a scowl that looked misplaced on his young face. This had to have been the third pup. “I,” he stumbled to make up a quick and convincing lie, “I-I’m a friend of your mother’s.”

He was going to kill them! He wasn’t sure which one, but, one of them would feel his wrath! What good were having the crows if they let a puppy get by their guard?!

The boy looked unconvinced. “Mommy’s friends don’ look like you.” His golden eyes stared almost rudely at the coyote’s large ears and thinner snout. “I never seent you b’fore.”

Mathis could feel his heart beginning to pound in his ears. He turned to fully face the child, his mind racing on how he should continue out with his plan. “I’m a uh…old friend of hers, son.” The word tasted like bile on his tongue. “I was hoping to surprise her. Do you…uh…know where she’s at?”

Silence was his answer for a beat, as if the child were considering the question. “Getting food,” the boy finally answered. He sniffed at him, his little nose crinkling as he snorted. “You smell funny.”

He tried to ignore the comment. “Do you want to surprise her with me?” Mathis asked, holding out a hand invitingly.

The boy stared at his hand. “I don’ know you.”

Mathis laughed nervously. “I’m a friend of your mother’s.”

The pup backed away slowly. “You have big ears.”

“Why, yes. Yes, I do.” Mathis’s teeth clenched and his ears fell back, suddenly very aware of his species. “Why don’t you come with me? We can do something fun while we think of things that will surprise your mother?”

The pup backed away even more. “Mommy says coyotes have big ears.”

“Ahah—yes, some do—” Mathis could feel his control over the situation quickly unraveling.

“Mommy says coyotes are bad.”

Mathis’ eyes sharpened, and his lips curled to reveal slender teeth. He lunged at the puppy, but the boy evaded him. “Come with me, I won’t hurt you,” Mathis said through ground teeth.

Tail tucked, the child barked aggressively. “No!”

“Be quiet, boy,” Mathis lunged again, and the boy turned to bolt. He managed to snatch the stout thing by one of his oversized feet, however.

“No! No! Lemme go!” The child continued to bark as he was dragged towards the coyote. He bared his puppy teeth, snapping at the hands that moved end over end across his little body to get a proper grip on him. “Glade!” He screamed. “Glade, help me!”

Mathis snarled as he wrapped a hand around the child’s snout, forcing it closed. “I said be quie—”

The sound of angry chattering was the only warning he had before Mathis felt a sharp pain shoot down from his ear. Claws raked the side of his face, scraped the inside of his ear. Mathis yelped and snarled, his hands releasing his hold on the pup. With claws out, he tried to grab the thing that had attacked his ear. It evaded him, but, after another swipe, he managed to catch it.

He yanked the dark, earthy mass of fur from his ear, tearing out one of his feathered earrings in the process. Mathis yelped, once from the pain that shot from his ripped ear, twice when he felt needle-like teeth sink into his thumb. He instinctively let go of the vermin—a marten or weasel of some sort!—and it leapt at his face. It clawed at him, bit down on his nose, his lips, his brows, somehow evading his snapping teeth and clawed hands.

Caw! Caw!

Feathers and claws buffeted his face, but, so too did they attack his aggressor. With a snap of his head, his teeth managed to latch onto the mustelid. It squeaked, but it turned on itself and one of its claws cut him in the eye lid. With a snarling shake, he sent the thing flying. Mathis could feel blood trickling from his ear and where the marten’s teeth had broken skin. He squinted with one eye, the other throbbing painfully.

Nooooo!” Before Mathis could determine where the marten had landed, his hand was crunched between another set of needle-sharp teeth. He snarled, eyes blazing as they found the boy growling and glaring at him as he tugged and shook as viciously as a puppy could.

“Let go!” He snarled, swiping his claws at the boy. The puppy yelped and shrank back from being struck.

“Boss! Boss! Boss, Wolf! Wolf!” One of the crows shrilled.

Mathis’s body stiffened, his eyes wide as he searched around wildly. No! His plan! His plan…it was ruined!

Teeth latched onto his fingers, causing him to turn and snarl. It was the boy again! The child growled and tugged, digging his teeth in and shaking with more aggression than he had ever had on one of his siblings.

“Boss! Hurry! Wolf! Wolf coming!” A crow called, circling before banking sharply towards the far side of the house.

His heart was pounding wildly in his chest, quickening with every passing second. Mathis’ hand reached for his knife, unsheathing it. “Let go of me!” He screamed, slashing out.




Caw! Caw!

Ragna’s lips curled as she glanced upward. The crow had caught up with her, and it had been calling out like a noisy beacon as it pumped its wings wildly to keep pace with the Luperci. It was warning someone, it had to be. Why else would the damn bird be so persistent with following her and making such a ruckus?

It was only when her home came in sight did the thing decide to become physically aggressive with her. It dived at her, claws raking her across the ears, wings hitting her face. She’d snap and snarl, but she didn’t stop. She couldn’t. Whoever’s bird it was, it was deliberately trying to stall her from reaching her home.

An angry, protective panic swelled in her chest.

Her puppies…

All at once, she was swarmed by three crows, and the Eklund had no choice but to stop. The black birds mobbed her, cawing and squawking loudly as they flew at her face. She twisted and snapped, snarled and lunged. They evaded her though, or one would buffet her with its wings to keep its companion safe from her jaws.

She didn’t have time for this!

One flew at her, and Ragna lunged and snapped, catching it by one of its scaly feet. The bird squawked and cried out, flapping and slapping her with its wings. Its companions, realizing one of them had been caught, flew at her, cawing and pecking at her face and ears. Ragna didn’t care though. She shook, viciously. When she let the scavenger go, it tumbled on the ground away from her. Dazed, it flapped pathetically as it tried to stand on one leg. The other leg was badly mangled and limp.

Ragna pounced on the crow, her teeth closing down on its body. Again she shook, again she was mobbed. She could feel those fragile, bird bones crunching beneath the pressure of her rage and desperate need to get to her children. With another hard shake, she threw the bird into the splintered concrete of the street.

It did not get up or flap this time.

Another crow flew at her, and her jaws caught it by the tip of its wing. She yanked and shook, letting it fly one last time before it the pavement in a flapping mess. It cawed in a frightened sort of way as she charged it with open jaws. It flapped as best as it could, but, its wing was broken, and it couldn’t fly away. Her teeth came down on its neck, snapping it with one bite. Still, she shook until it was rid of it.

The third bird, wisely, did not continue to try to mob her.

Ragna spat out the crow’s head, her glacier eyes watching the one that fled the scene. It flew back towards her home, cawing frantically. The Wolverthorne clenched her teeth, panting to catch her breath before she put her paws into motion once more.

Its master. Whoever was trying to keep her from her house…they had to be…

She heard the horses cry out.

Ragna rounded the corner of her fence to see Brimstone and Jack pacing aggressively around a particular part of the yard. Their ears were pinned, and their heads were focused on a particular spot in the woodland beyond. She raced towards the source.




“Boss! Boss, hurry! Wolf kill! Wolf kill brothers!” Miny cawed, sweeping past the coyote.

Mathis’ heart was pounding in his chest, his body in a state of panic as he felt danger closing in on him. He needed to get out there! If he couldn’t make it to the open field, he didn’t stand a chance! If the she-wolf didn’t get him, surely one of her pack would have! He needed to leave, and he needed to do so quickly!

But, damnit, shifting was so slow!

He only stood a chance if he could run, and he couldn’t do that in Optime! His bones popped and remolded as he stumbled through the undergrowth. He couldn’t afford the time to stop and wait for the process to finish. He had to keep moving! He had to—!

Snarrrl!

Dread shot through him.

The coyote barely had time to turn his head before he was tackled sideways. Teeth tore into his shoulder, and their momentum sent them both tumbling in the leaflitter. The force at which they met the ground caused them to separate.

He turned, his golden eyes wide as furious, glacier ones glared back at him.

Ragna rolled onto her feet, snarling before she charged him. Mathis let out a yapping yelp as he tried to fight her off, his body still in the midst of changing form. He snapped at her face and she snapped right back. His ears pinned back and tail tucked. The coyote tried to push her away, but his legs and feet were still shifting.

She threw her weight down into him, her large paws pinning him down as her teeth latched onto his shoulder once more. He yelped and cried, his teeth catching onto the thick fur that protected her neck. Ragna shook, making sure her teeth dug in, cut, tore, hurt.

His hands finally finished their transformation into paws, and he tried to rake her chest with his claws. Ragna let go of his shoulder when she felt his claws dig into her. She leapt backwards, and he turned to try to run. She was upon him again within seconds, using her larger body to bulldoze the coyote over, causing him to curl in on himself and let out another series of panicked yelps and cries. He snapped at her, but she shot through his defenses, her teeth latching onto one of his large ears.

The ex-soldier put as much pressure into her bite as she could, and she shook. Mathis let out that yapping yelp of his, twisting and turning desperately beneath her to be free of her grasp. He could hear the flesh of his own ear tearing through the deafening rumble of her snarls.

A lucky kick with one of his reformed back paws made her let go of him again. He managed to get a few paces in before Ragna caught up. She bit down into the base of his tail, and he whirled back on her, crying out as he bit at her face. She let go, snarling as she managed to grab a mouthful of his neck. He yelped and kicked as she shook.

“Ragna!” Cried a familiar voice through the snarls and yelps. “Ragna baby!”

Glade?! The tone of his voice—cracked and desperate—cut through her rage in an instant.

Her grip on the coyote intruder slackened, and, with a desperate twist, Mathis scrambled away from her and bolted with his tail tucked between his legs as he ran. Ragna was torn, her instincts told her to give chase—he was running on three legs, it wouldn’t have been hard to catch him—but her heart told her to find her marten. Panting, her glacier eyes scoured over the wooded terrain, searching for the mustelid. “Glade?!” She called out, pacing back quickly towards where she had heard his voice before.

Rustling in the leaflitter told her his direction before she saw him. “Ragna!” He chattered sadly, brokenly. The marten limped towards her, and it wasn’t until she had come over to him that she understood why. There was a gash in his side that made his normal locomotion difficult, no doubt.

As quickly as she could, Ragna shifted up to Optime. “Glade, what happened?” She panted, her voice filled with uncharacteristic worry as she looked over his roughed up form. The smell of iron was thick, and she licked her lips to cleanse the coyote’s blood from her maw. Looking over Glade though, his whole front—from his face down to his hand-paws—was slick and dark with…blood.

When her paws had formed into hands, she gently picked the marten up. Why was there so much? She lifted his chin, ran the back of her finger over his throat and chest, feeling for cuts—something to justify why he was covered in blood.

Glade pushed her worried hand away, a shuttering chatter escaping his throat that Ragna recognized as the marten’s way of crying. “Ragna, no,” he cried. “Ragna baby. Sorry. So sorry, Ragna.” He curled into her as she held him to her chest. He shuddered and sobbed into her fur. “Too late. Tried. But too late.”

Deep within her chest, something—a weight—tightened and sank.

As her back legs completed their transition, Ragna rose to her feet. She held Glade tightly to her chest as she walked, jogged, ran back towards her home. The closer she got, the heavier that weight sank in her.

No.

The trees eventually parted to the back of her house. She saw the fence line. She saw the horses, both standing silently on one side of the house with their heads leaned over as far as they could reach. She saw Skadi and Sindri…and then she saw…

“Steinarr?” Sindri whined, nosing the larger sibling’s cheek.

Skadi nosed her brother from the back of his neck. “No time for sleeping!”

“Come on,” Sindri insisted, “We gotta go!”

“We gotta help Mommy an’ Glade!”

Both of them jumped as Ragna knelt down beside them. They didn’t move from where they’d stood around their brother, the confusion written clearly in their eyes as they picked up their mother’s energy and saw her hollow stare on Steinarr. Slowly, she put down Glade, and the marten moved over to Steinarr’s still form, his whiskers quivering as he laid his head on the pup’s body. “So sorry, Ragna baby,” he chattered softly.

Skadi was the first to speak up. “Steinarr won’t wake up,” she said. Her dark ears were pulled back, and her tail was tucked beneath her.

Her brother mirrored her expression. “We talk-ed to him like Glade said.”

“I pulleded on his ears too.” Skadi’s eyes turned to the larger brother once more. “He not wake up.”

“…he won’t...” Ragna whispered. She reached out slowly with a hand, her fingers becoming coated in crimson as they touched the large gash in his neck.

Her son.

He had taken her son.

She should have never let that coyote go free.

She should have killed him. She should have killed him the first time she caught him trespassing into Vale territory.

But she hadn’t.

She had done what the Mistwalkers would have wanted. She had tried to not let her past, her prejudice, her old anger and hatred fuel her actions.

She had tried to let go of the darkness in her heart, and she had lost her son.

She had lost Steinarr Niequist to a coyote, just as she had lost Snorri, just as she had her older brother, just as she had lost so many of her family, her friends, her comrades.

She should have never let go.

Her bloodied fingers curled, and her claws dug into the pads of her hand.

She should have never forsaken who she was.

“Mommy?”

She was Ragna Eklund, last-born and only surviving daughter of Lára Eklund and Brynjar Berg, born and raised in the war-torn lands of Zion, wolf and soldier of Boreas…

…Killer of coyotes and an absolver of their sins.

And this one had just committed a grave one.

Ragna Eklund

Mistfell Vale
Whalstray (NPC)
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Songbird
Luperci Scout II
Do not go gentle
into that good night

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