First Steps In New Snow

POSTED: Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:07 pm

Solitude was a sharper blade in the wintertime. In summer, she could hardly feel its edge, merely a dull press into her belly. It could be ignored, written off as a minor nuisance. As the warm green leaves of summer twisted into autumn gold, so too did the knife twist up into her ribs. It hardened and sharpened under a winter moon, and each frozen breeze struck it further between her bones towards her heart until it hurt to take a breath. Each step forth on the fallen snow renewed a fragrant pain—and though Theodora would have liked to write it off per her emotional rumination, the truth was the wound on her flank was not healing quite as well as she would have liked. Never a truly competent huntress, Theodora had been quite proud of herself for managing to procure a hare for herself several days before. She had barely been able to enjoy her meal before being driven off by another wolf, sustaining a laceration to her thigh in the process. Though there were no signs of infection in the wound (the bitter salve she had applied was functional, in the least) her body could only do so much in the absence of nutrition.

“I was unhappy enough without you,” the wolf chastised the opening, as though it may heal out of guilt. Though she angled her head to glare at it, the sinews did not immediately knit together—perhaps they were as stubborn as the she-wolf they rode upon. With a heaving sigh, Theodora turned her eyes back towards the territory in front of her. Fallen trees littered the ground in various stages of decay, though the snow coverage created a peculiar lumpy appearance, like under-mixed dough. Even in the blue moonlight, the evidence of life was tangible; the pawprints of squirrels and rabbits darted across the white canvas, while the deeper hooves of deer left black depressions across the landscape. The smell of it roused her hunger fiercely, but Theodora wasn’t prone to optimism: a talentless hunter such as herself was unlikely to catch anything until her limb was healed. Hunger would keep her company in the meantime.

Shuffling through the trees of the Ethereal Eclipse, the leather cord around her neck bounced her small brown pouch off her chest with each stride. The herbs and trinkets within had been gathered in more bountiful seasons, but the snow did not stop a practiced eye from scanning for anything useful. With the mother moon high in the sky above her, Theodora’s gaze appeared black until lifted, when the light summoned the swirls of purple and navy to the forefront. Perhaps there is nothing left to do but rest, she reckoned, as a relatively snow-free hollow presented itself beneath some large trees that had fallen together. It was as inviting a place as any to be found, and though the wolf could smell that others had used it for that express purpose, none of the scents were so recent as to scare her off. Theodora coiled her body within the recesses of the hovel, snout pointed to the exit. Even as she prayed for a restful night, she would keep watch. You never knew when something unexpected would happen, after all.
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POSTED: Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:58 am

:)

Truth be told, he hadn't meant to stray so far. Though he was still a young man, he remembered when the bay had been impassable. He could see his mother in the curl of the waves, her long hair sprawling like seafoam.

So when he came across miles of land where there should have been water, naturally he had been intrigued. How far did it go, and where would it take him? It didn't abruptly end in a drop as he thought it might. Even when he reached what was undoubtedly the southern belt, he still half expected there to be that open bay, churning ceaselessly into itself.

The cloud cover had dampened the horizon into something gray and unremarkable while the light lasted, but when night fell, he thought the view was extraordinary. He would need to drag Malik out here to inspire him, and Mateo too for that matter. Hell, the whole Troupe could use a bit of beauty after toiling for so long through sleet and cold. He nodded to no one's agreement but his own, and began thinking of the details to this field trip as if he had already received everyone's consent.

He paid no mind to time's progression, though it must have been at least a day he'd spent exploring the way less traveled.

He wandered further, until he could no longer hear the inlet and the hush of a snow-laden forest settled over his passage. It seemed to him like the sky had deepened in color, leading him to believe it was late enough to rest. Arriving at a copse of thick-rooted trees, he chose a welcome looking log on which to roost until the sun came up.

He slung his pack down with as much finesse as he could muster; he could have sworn it felt heavier than it did when he started, but he supposed the travel was finally getting to him. Sifting through its contents, he picked out the stray pieces of jerky they'd traded for some time back in Searsport. It didn't exactly look appetizing, given it had been thrown in loose and jostled around with the other contents, but after a day of hiking, he would eat anything.

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Luperci

POSTED: Sat Feb 02, 2019 1:12 pm

The lullaby of winter’s silence swam in her ears, Theodora’s gentle exhales turning to mist in front of her snout. Without any nocturnal critters afoot, she might actually fall asleep—she was so very close, in fact. Her eyelids drooped ever lower, nearly overtaking the violet beneath. Her thoughts swam away to happier days; she could recall the faces of her siblings, the voice of her father. Maybe she would even have a pleasant dream tonight, rather than her usual repertoire of chanting, faceless Gods. She could thank her mother for those atrocities. A delicate crunch, however, chased even the nightmares away: her eyes opened wider, her ears perking up. There, again—another step, however faint and well-practiced it was, there was certainly another creature outside.

Her fatigue swirled away in the hefty measures of adrenaline released as her ears pivoted madly, focusing in on the sound to pinpoint the location of the danger. As it came closer, she noted the pattern. Two legs. An optime. In some manner, this worked in her favor. Even in her wounded condition, she may be able to outrun the stranger, especially if they were an unpracticed shifter. That extra time might earn her another day to survive. Oddly enough, it also served to make her more anxious. Though she herself was capable of joining this other in bipedal position, it was a skill she had heavily neglected for quite some time. She was familiar with the term, and had been her entire life; in discussing it, her mother had often told her that it wasn’t too long ago that optimes hadn’t existed at all. To encounter one face to face in her own traditional body was a schism that unsettled her, some odd clash of history and modern evolution. Nevertheless, this disquiet was forced down to handle another day—should she survive the encounter, anyway.

The sound of danger wandered ever near. Luckily, it appeared they were approached from behind her hovel. Perhaps in their distraction, they might meander along, never seeing her hiding place. The urge to stay coiled and hidden fought with the desire to run, and ever-so-gently her body unwrapped, positioning for a faster escape if it seemed like it would be necessary. The steps were louder now, just outside where she posed, when they suddenly stopped.

The brief moment that followed seemed to stretch for an eternity. Theodora had stopped breathing, her musculature completely static, a rabbit caught in the eyes of a hawk. Had they discovered her? Were they, at this very moment, plotting how best to kill her? Perhaps it was the wolf who had wounded her, returned for a bigger meal. Unbidden tragedies bolted around her consciousness, suddenly interrupted by what Theodora would claim was a cataclysmic boom.

In truth, poor Calrian had innocently settled his parcel atop one of the logs encompassing Theodora’s hiding place. If Theodora hadn’t been an anxious mess, it would have been very quiet. Interpreting through a brain that was assuming an incoming attack, it signaled devastation, especially as a small bit of snow had fallen on her rump from the above disturbance. In quick succession, the wolf acted. Her fur puffed out, giving her the appearance more of a malignant squirrel than a dangerous predator. She bolted out of her hovel, bounding a few steps forward before the pain in her leg unexpectedly flared. With a quick yip, Theodora’s steps faltered and her chest sunk into the snow. A fresh warmth in the wound let her know it had begun bleeding again, torn by the explosive movement. She would have to deal with it later.

Knowing that any second the stranger’s teeth might be in her neck, she lifted herself up again, her three good legs doing the majority of the work to turn her body to face her foe. For a second, it seemed Theodora might actually bare her teeth, attempting to bluster her way out of combat. However, the weight of the cold, fatigue, and pain coalescing upon her turned those efforts to moot. The wolf sagged, her tail tucked submissively, her wild eyes fixed on what she was sure was a murderous, wild creature.

Instead, what she got was a wolf innocently holding jerky. No axe in hand, no bared teeth, no knives or arrows. Oh, he’s got food.. As if the abject panic on her face was not ugly enough, now her mouth could water. Body frozen in place, belly brought low as possible, Theodora opened and closed her jaws multiple times as though she might speak. What could she even say to apologize for the circus that she had performed for him? She was at least able to stave off the pathetic whimpering in her throat that kept threatening to spill out. He didn’t need to hear that to know she was begging him not to kill her.
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POSTED: Sat Feb 02, 2019 4:58 pm

Not a moment after he'd settled down, the serenity of his evening shattered. Calrian reacted with the speed of a lousy swimmer, which is to say, slowly and with panic. Not knowing what to do in this situation, he froze, the jerky lifted mid-way to his mouth.

It took him a moment longer to realize that the creature that had sprinted out from below (he hadn't even realized there was an area below) was a wolf.

He had heard stories of wild folk like her. His father, once a ranger of the woods, had much to say of the roaming Others when his mother wasn't around to stop him. As a child, he had hoped never to cross paths with one. Even back then, he knew his talents were not in fighting, but in talking his way out of problems. How could he talk himself to safety when his adversary couldn't even speak? The bow slung over his shoulders was hardly a comfort. The most he could do at this distance would be to fumble around and get tangled, and by then she'd have torn him apart.

Though a creature of two-legs, Calrian knew by instinct what it meant when she dipped low and her tail curled down. His pale, half-turned ears (a signal to most that his blood was mixed, and he was not quite dog, or wolf, or coyote) flicked forward to catch the sound that never quite made it past her lips. She was frightened, and by the way she looked at his hands, also hungry.

He glanced at his jerky, and then back to her. Summoning his composure, as it was hard not to laugh at their strange stalemate, he outstretched his hand to her in the universal sign of offering.

It's alright, he said in a gentle, hushed tone, like one would use with a spooked horse. I won't hurt you.

In case she was too uncomfortable to take it from his fingers, he tossed the piece into the snow between them. In Portland, food and drink was a sign of peace; he hoped the forest followed the same laws.

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Luperci

POSTED: Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:45 pm

If Theodora hadn’t been so panicked, she would have laughed at the situation. She was an anxious creature, yes, but she wasn’t completely stupid, and when the shock on the stranger’s countenance was enough to mirror her own she realized with sinking dread that she had utterly misinterpreted everything about the situation. Perhaps there were even flickers of fear in his eyes! The likelihood of anything being afraid of her was laughable in itself! Sometimes she thought she could hear the raccoons mocking her during the hunt, in an odd pidgin between their languages…

The realization that she would indeed be surviving to the morning was a thrill, though it dampened her spirits to feel blood trickling down her thigh. Her misjudgment would set her back several days healing, and there was still the situation at hand to be dealt with. What on earth were they supposed to do now? Theodora was petrified, practically trembling—luckily for her the stranger seemed braver, she could read his eyes assessing the crisis. There didn’t seem a potential in him for violence, but that could always change. Could she have missed some scent markers, stumbling onto his territory without knowing it? She had always thought herself careful in those matters, but it wasn’t a guarantee.

He moved one arm out towards her, soothingly, and she found herself marveling at the colors of it. Was this man full wolf? He looked like nothing she had seen before, both the mixture of his breeding and the adornments upon his fur. Though the optimes in her father’s pack had worn clothing, their definition had always been heavy pelts to protect from Minnesota’s winters. There was detail upon this stranger that was boldly foreign to her existence.

”It’s alright, I won’t hurt you.” Though the instincts of self-preservation demanded she ignore anything he said, she couldn’t help but relax at the sound of it. He spoke well, smoothly and sweetly; perhaps he was a storyteller? It was a skilled cadence nevertheless, and the offering of the jerky was more than enough to bribe Theodora’s cooperation. As the morsel flew through the air, her once-flat ears perked completely forward—she waited a second to ensure he had really meant to give her the gift—and Theodora lurched onto it voraciously. Quick as a wink, the jerky was consumed, and all that was left was a rather un-ladylike display of a violet-eyed wolf licking the remains from her teeth.

It seemed rude to back away from him after accepting his kindness, so Theodora fought the urge to retreat back to her previous position. Emboldened by the welcome sensation of food in her belly, she even managed a slight smile, even if it came off a bit like a grimace. She resisted falling to the ground once more and instead offered her deference with just her tucked tail and only furtive glances towards his face—what sort of wolf had food to give away in the winter time? Much less the motivation to give it to the weak? Maybe I can help him, too.

Though he seemed quite healthy, she didn’t have enough skills to be picky about her gifts. Cautiously she dropped her snout to her leather pouch, untying the cords with her teeth. She had avoided optime form long enough to become adept at the task with her mouth. A good inhale at the opening and she knew where what she wanted lay inside, and so in she went, withdrawing the tip of her jaws with a queer desiccated flower held between her front teeth. Glancing up at Calrian, as though asking for permission, she stepped towards him a few paces and dropped it in the snow, backing up once her treasure had been delivered.

“Castilleja isn’t m-much,” she stated, her voice sounding odd in her ears knowing that there was someone else to hear it. “But I don’t think you have it here… Maybe you could use it.” Compared to his words, hers were a hasty staccato, punctuated by fear.“Thank you, by the way.. your food was lovely. And very appreciated,” It seemed fair to reward his kindness with something she had valued, which was why she had selected one of her favorites from her homeland. That dried red flower had once been quite beautiful, and in some ways it retained some of that beauty even in death.
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POSTED: Wed Feb 06, 2019 7:19 pm

Cal is so ignorant, I'm sorry xD

Calrian teetered between captivation and fear with every movement she made, and yet wore the easy, reassuring smile of a person who had seen many wildlings in his time. He'd spent so long faking confidence in Portland that the facade emerged on its own now.

She leapt upon the morsel with a hunger he had only seen from sailors who had just disembarked after months out at sea. He couldn't help but wonder about her situation, seeing that she was so hungry and alone out here in what he thought was, frankly, the middle of nowhere. Had she been separated from her tribe? Did she break some sacred wildling oath or had she refused to kill and eat the children of the nearby packs? What else did they accuse the Others of again? He couldn't recall now, and when she began rummaging around her belt, he supposed it didn't matter.

He was fascinated by her ability to function without hands more than by what she was retrieving. In his short time alive, he had not seen anything like it. Then, to his great surprise, she laid out a plant and spoke.

Once the shock of it wore off, he bent down to pick up her offering.

Calrian held the desiccated plant up with all the practiced pomp of a connoisseur - of what, exactly, remained to be seen. Castilleja, he repeated with a full Spanish lilt, delighting in the sound of his mother's native tongue. He twirled it in his fingers, sniffed it, gave it a tiny lick, and then almost chomped a piece until he thought better of it. Herbs could be useful to trade, though hers was such a pretty thing. The red reminded him of that farm girl from Portland, with the light shining down on her fiery hair. He wriggled loose a piece of cloth from his bag and wrapped it around the herb before placing it back inside. With any luck, it wouldn't be crushed on the journey back. This was starting to be quite the experience, and he couldn't wait to tell his troupe all about it.

Thank you, he said. You're not like the stories, he told her this because he thought it was a compliment. Maybe they'd tell different stories if they had met you. Do you have a name? He wasn't sure if wildlings had names or if they identified each other by scent alone. He flicked his ears; perhaps he would need to offer an example. I am called Calrian. He placed a hand on his chest for emphasis. Calrian. Or just Cal, if that's easier.

Then, for the first time, he seemed to notice the glistening on her back leg. Oh, you're hurt, he blurted, surprised. Had she been injured this whole time?

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Luperci

POSTED: Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:51 am

ooc: Omg, please don't apologize, because I love this misunderstanding. XD

Theodora allowed herself to sate her curiosity a bit more when her company was distracted by her floral favor. She could’ve wasted hours on the implementation of his fashion, but that she could admire at any time—no, this time she savored for his face. The suspicion earlier witnessed seemed absent now, replaced with a breezy confidence that his counterpart envied. His eyes matched his seemingly sunny disposition; she could see the flares of gold from here. The palette of his fur reminded Theodora of a day’s fortune telling, tossing a variety of leaves and then reading the results; the stranger was a tea of a million leaves, all tossed together in one bowl. She would have been fascinated to hear his heritage, but for now, she would be satisfied that he hadn’t tossed her offering aside with a scoff.

Hearing him repeat the word made her almost gleeful, he seemed so pleased! While her enunciation of the herb’s title had been more or less correct, there was an inflection in his that was far more engaging. Theodora’s first assumption, that he had been familiar with the herb, was quickly set aside when she noted him studying it so carefully. When he went to nibble upon it she almost raised her voice to query his intentions, but with relief she hadn’t needed to say anything at all. After all, nothing she could say would sound as nice as the way he had pronounced Castilleja.

Having secreted the herb away, her companion spoke again. “You’re not like the stories.” Eager to doubt herself rather than the optime, Theodora paused. Had she misheard? No, that was definitely what she had heard him say. Stories? Now the poor girl was out of her depth again. Before she could formulate a response, he was speaking again. “Maybe they’d tell different stories if they had met you.” Her mind was a series of fitful cycles now, quite convinced she had missed something telling in all of this—surely there was an explanation! Unless… unless he had heard stories of her lineage? She had no idea where her mother had traveled before meeting her father, and it was Duenna herself who had instructed her to go this direction. Maybe he’d even met her mother.

Theodora felt a blush of shame sweep across her countenance. She was aware that there were many who did not appreciate some of the rites her kind were known for. While this wolf considered herself more a healer and an herbalist, there were other druids known for things more… extreme. Theodora had heard rumors of even sacrifices of wolves, in hopes of gentler winters or other gains. He probably thinks me a forest hag, or a monster came the glum thought unbidden. But Calrian—and now she knew, indeed, that this was his name, had yet to chase her off. In fact, he hardly seemed offended at all, more concerned that she would mispronounce his name. Really, it seemed quite important to him that she get it right.

With as much precision as she could muster, sensing that he may somehow be upset if she got it wrong, she practiced. “It’s a pleasure, Calrian, she paused, sweeping his countenance with her eyes, hoping that she had performed to his satisfaction. “My mother named me Theodora. Theo, if shorter’s your preference.” She tried her best to replicate his golden smile, but had a feeling she only looked perturbed. The next river she found, maybe she could spend a few minutes exercising her smile—maybe saying Calrian a few more times, to make sure she didn’t do that wrong either.

She had been about to launch into some sort of apology from all druids everywhere when Calrian preempted her with surprise. “Oh, this—it’s not so, it’s not so bad, I think.” Embarrassment stifled what little eloquence she had even further, dreading an explanation. What wolf wants to admit they can’t keep any of their kills? “It’s not infected, at least. And I don’t think he’s following me around, either,” she punctuated that last statement with a glance at their surroundings, as though she might see the aggressor standing there. Brightly, hoping to affect his opinion of her, she also offered: “My kind is actually quite good as healing wounds, normally, I’ve just not been very.. ah, lucky, with my hunting. We’re not all bad.” One last attempt at a smile. A silent prayer to the gods that she may have pulled it off.
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POSTED: Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:33 am

omg I am loving this and Theo, thank you! cracking me up, these guys

He all but clapped as she pronounced his name - in one try, no less! Beaming encouragingly at her, he watched as a strange expression (possibly, a smile) crossed her face. It didn't even dampen his excitement to learn that the wild folk had names too, and that hers was unexpectedly familiar although no less delightful. Theodora, he said with an almost proud intonation, like he had named her himself by saying it. Theo. That's lovely! His tail started going behind him, rousing snow from the ground.

Sometimes, when her eyes flicked up at him, he could catch a little bit of the color out of the dimness of their world. Intrigued, he would look searchingly at her, only to find her gaze elusive as the twinkle of starlight.

It’s not infected, at least. And I don’t think he’s following me around, either,

What? The message was so cryptic that her nonchalant delivery threw him off; Calrian nearly fell from his perch trying to look around the clearing for others. She went on, anyway, tossing in another 'my kind' and 'we' and all the while avoiding any kind of explanation for the someone who may or may not be pursuing her. He considered her strange smile with a grin of his own, hoping to contain the warring sides of his intense curiosity and the need for self-preservation.

Bad? No, no, he laughed, perhaps a little loudly for the two of them. If there were more wildlings somewhere, possibly listening, he wanted to make it very clear where he stood on the matter. I can't imagine your kind are any worse than us two-leggers. Why, down in Portland, between infection or Marilena - er, the healer there - most folks choose the infection. Funny, isn't it? He brushed back his hair with a hand and smiled at her. He had a habit of pushing back his hair the more nervous he got, or at least, that was what Leander told him. Everyone had a tell.

All the signs of the situation seemed obvious to him, or he thought they did. Given what he knew and her fearfulness, he believed the poor Theodora was being stalked. He had seen this a thousand times at least; whenever the courtesans of Portland had needed to escape an uncomfortable situation, Calrian had always been happy to intervene on their behalf. But out there in the wild, what was he to do? He couldn't simply leave her and be on his merry way, but he doubted his usual diplomatic tactics of misdirection and bribery would help against an aggressive wildling.

While he thought about what to do, he mustered a serious face and gave the wound on her leg a good look. She had brushed it off, perhaps not to seem so vulnerable in the face of looming danger, but there was no telling if it was actually OK.

Still, it was amazing to think of what she could accomplish without the use of hands. Even just the way she'd pulled out the herb amazed him, but he supposed it came with its disadvantages too. Maybe the wound would have healed better if she had the ability to stitch it like he'd seen done for others.

I don't have a healer's eye, but I can try to take a look. If you like, he offered. It was hard to tell sometimes, but Calrian had a good head on his shoulders, or if not that, a good heart. He held up his palms and said, You can think of me as your hands!

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Luperci

POSTED: Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:26 pm

Theodora hadn’t even noticed her tail slowly unfurling from its submissive posture, regaining a neutral composition as she found herself more and more relaxed in her company. Her dog ancestry couldn’t even resist a subtle wag of its plumage when he said her name, though Theodora only noticed her own when she saw the action performed by Calrian himself. Gods, how many months has it been since that has happened? Strange though the action was, it was a superior pleasure to anxiety and fear; Theodora would keep that emotion as long as she could.

Limited as she was when it came to social interaction, and perhaps handicapped by her unwillingness to make eye contact and her general malaise, Theodora felt only his confidence. Though one ear pricked upwards at his laugh, she had already made an unconscious decision to trust this fellow. Any undercurrents beneath that mirth were long forgotten when he began to speak again, though his words were a curated mass of familiar and utterly strange. Between Portland and Marilena, Theodora found herself befuddled. In perfect honesty, it appeared that these strange new lands had erupted enough confusion to make it her new baseline. Nevertheless, there was a phrase she could seize upon—“I can’t imagine your kind are any worse than us two-leggers.”

Oh. A flicker of understanding, and Theodora strangled a nervous giggle before it fled her throat. He thinks me captive to my four legs. Oddly enough, acknowledging this misunderstanding made her desire her previous ignorance instead. How on earth could she be expected to correct her current and only benefactor? “I’ve never been to Portland, is it nearby?” As innocent as the question sounded, it hid her true intentions—biding time. Theodora hadn’t a clue how to go about this, as there were two courts of thought holding conflict inside her. There was a desire to let him think what he would without correction (What if it made him angry, and he left her here same as she was? Was there really any harm in thinking her solely lupine?), but an equally forceful part of her nature demanded integrity, as a lie by omission was still a lie.

“I don’t have a healer’s eye, but I can try to take a look. If you like.” His words pulled Theodora from her internal monologue, but his following actions and offering only served as a dagger to her heart. Bother it all! Perhaps this far northeast from her homeland, all the wolves preferred optime? Traveling with her mother, Theodora had seen packs of all varieties. However, it had been a considerable amount of time since she’d been privy to any pack at all—stragglers, loners, the sort who had little need of her services. Calrian had been the first sign of any civilization at all.

Theodora left her gaze upon Cal’s hands, thinking of her own traitorous appendages buried deep within her body. Desperately, she blurted the first thing that came to mind, her hummingbird heartbeat almost drowning out her ability to hear it. “I would welcome any assistance you c-can offer, Calrian. Even without healing, your hands would be superior to my own, so accustomed to dis-use.” Every syllable dripped with apology, her fleeting happy tail reverting down submissively. Calrian may as well have just started referring to himself as the Alpha, with how the pathetic creature succumbed to his imagined authority! Theodora had spent her entire life in deference to others, and old habits die hard. Perhaps if she continued speaking, they could both pretend she hadn’t been so awkward?

The wolf turned her snout back to her wound, glancing over the fresh bleed. “His teeth went deep, tearing through the skin and fascia into the muscle,” Theodora’s words became clinical, laced with her mother’s choices. It gave her a queer confidence that hadn’t yet surfaced in her expression before. “Luckily, no major vessels were involved.” She glanced back to Calrian then, her face becoming more Theodora, less clinician. “I had hoped my body could repair the damage itself… a bit of foolish optimism, clearly.” Self-deprecating humor brought the most legitimate smile to her features yet. Let the two of them focus on Theodora’s mistakes, not Calrian’s.
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POSTED: Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:06 pm

:D

Whether or not they were being surveilled by her assailant, Calrian had to act as he would without suspicion. His stomach fluttered unhappily with what he thought was nervousness, and then he realized that he had forfeited his snack earlier. He glanced around to the darkened woods, and wondered if her stalker was there now and if he knew how hungry he was.

Though divided by his fear of the unknown, his attention never fully left her. It didn't surprise him that she hadn't been to Portland, mostly due to his preconceptions of her kind, but also because Portland was only just beginning to develop into a more significant port for Luperci. It's got to be a few days travel, south he answered, thinking on their journey. It was mostly a blur, since Mondo had delayed them with his enormous laziness. Sure, he was a cow, but that didn't excuse it. Although I might recommend skipping it unless you're looking to catch a boat. This place is much prettier, and smells better too.

This made him think of his mother's home. She had always talked of how beautiful the Amaranthe estate had been, and all the glorious parties they used to host in their gardens.

I would welcome any assistance you c-can offer, Calrian. Even without healing, your hands would be superior to my own, so accustomed to dis-use.

He blinked and looked a little startled by her consent, then a smile slipped over his open mouth. So they could shift, then, but it seemed an uncommon occasion. Maybe they only shifted out of necessity? There had been some folk like that in Krokar, although Calrian had been too self-involved during those days to remember much outside of his adventures. That was childhood for you.

I wouldn't make any bets on that, he laughed kindly, though he was a man of particularly clever hands. Not as clever as O'Brien's, to be sure.

Abandoning his bag, he popped off the ledge made by the tree trunk and landed sure-footed in the snow. A small quiver through his fur expelled any remnant icy flakes that had fallen across him during their conversation, although his cloak of ermine kept most of the winter at bay. He made sure to approach gently, because even though she'd acquiesced, there were such a tremor and fearfulness about her that he wanted to make it clear that he was not going to hurt her. Calrian had never hurt anyone as far as he knew, and he didn't plan on starting now.

He came to a crouch by her leg, and not quite knowing what to look for, he looked at her. This close, he could see the hue of her eyes - it reminded him of that moment of dusk, when all the colors of the world seemed to be bedding down to sleep. It was exquisitely subdued, which was the kind of thing Calrian liked, as a man with an enterprising soul. Rarity, different, unique, these were all good words in his book.

She seemed to change under the mantle of teacher. He found himself smiling at the clinician she'd been hiding - it was different and unexpected, something that he hadn't thought a wildling capable of being, or to be honest, anyone. He could only understand one or two words that she said now, but skilled at pretending he knew what was going on, he nodded along with a hand rubbing at his chin. At the end, as she mentioned her foolish optimism, he couldn't help the cheeky grin that washed over his thoughtful expression. A gambler, are you? he teased, and then just as quickly resumed what he thought was his most comforting look. Well, you're not wrong to bet on what is right half of the time. Sometimes we can fix ourselves, sometimes, we need a little help. There's no shame in either. For Calrian, he had witnessed too many instances when people did all the right things only for it to go wrong. One had to appreciate Lady Luck's deeply ironic sense of humor.

It doesn't seem infected, like you said. Do you think tying it up would help the fas... he cleared his throat, fash...fashion....help it fasten back together? He had no idea what a fascia was, and while he regretted the ugliness of the sentence he just made, he didn't regret trying it.

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