it was better to know the worst than to wonder

POSTED: Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:45 pm

It took them nearly a week to make it north. The travel was easier for Hermenegild, who kept to his native form and seemed used to the travel. He was still trying to make sense of his companion, who talked very little. Luckily, Hubert filled the silence between them when he felt it was growing too boring. Mostly he talked about his plans for the future – he felt confident he would be able to help in whatever this conflict was, and that his archery would be useful (even if he had never really killed anyone before).

They had been given directions by the Salsolan women who had seen them off, though not provided with animals to ride. The little wolfdog with the spot on her face had insisted they would want to travel as inconspicuously as possible, and warned them off talking to strangers.

When you get to the borders, tell them who you are and that you were sent, had been their instructions. Someone would send word to the pack, though how they did this was beyond Hubert's knowledge. He had seen the big, ferocious looking eagles and other birds in Fort Preble, but never imagined they would use them as messengers. Most people he had known who hunted with falcons did not give them as much freedom – gulls were vicious and would swarm raptors if they felt threatened, or so the stories had gone.

After they had crossed the river, mountains began to loom in the distance. Hermenegild rerouted them when they came close to a pack's border, though they rested near the lake briefly and quenched their thirst. It was difficult to gauge a proper distance, and they went too far north and hit yet another borderline before turning south. At that point, they had managed to make out blocky, unnatural structures in the distance and used these to guide them.

It was a ruined city, and caution kept them from delving too deep into the place. The pair instead moved along the outskirts, with Hermenegild sniffing for signs of their host.

The mountains had move to the east, and Hubert was looking at them curiously. He was not used to this terrain, and intrigued by it.

Heck, I bet you could see everything from up there, he told Hermenegild, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand. He was carrying his bow – a lone coyote had spooked them near the city, though run off quickly.

Hermenegild lifted his head but did not regard the landmark for very long. The grayish-white wolf trotted forward, pushing wet leaves aside as he sought fresh scents.


POSTED: Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:21 pm

373 words.

Plans had been put into motion; no longer would the Boreas merely test boundaries and try to pick off their foes. Silas found himself watching the sky, tracking the progress of the sun beyond the small city, and tried to find faith. Their plan was a large risk; there would certainly be casualties from attacking their enemies on their home territory.

He'd discussed as such with Amund, quietly, and was assured that he and Zacchaeus would not be part of this dangerous raid.

"You can't protect him forever," the commander added gently, but his eyes were serious behind his sympathetic smile, giving weight to the warning.

Zacchi had been terribly disappointed, but Silas emphasized patience and spoke of one of the lessons he'd taught the children as pups. All of their roles were of great importance to their cause, even that of healers and armorers--and camp guards and scouts, as their roles would be tonight.

He did relent when the yearling insisted they do something in preparation, and so they traveled south toward the city and Salsola--the least known of their enemies. They would attempt to scout the borders, if able, and identify any trails the Boreas could take. Silas secretly thought that much of this work would have already been accomplished in the prior weeks, but he did not discredit this idea.

He made the boy ride his horse, and went on foot. He'd left his halberd at the camp, not wanting to carry weaponry so openly, but Zacchaeus had his sword. He talked of how polished Snorri had made it, while Silas smiled, rolled eyes, and prayed that the blade would stay clean.

They crossed marshy ground near the outskirts of the city; old ruins and roads lay broken under the melted snow. Silas peered into the dirty window of what might have once been a fast food restaurant, but twisted his ears at Zacchaeus' sudden low bark: "Father."

The charcoal-cowled soldier reached his side, staring at the pair of canines ahead: a mottled hybrid and a pale wolf. He reached up and grabbed at the leg of Zacchi's breeches in warning when the boy uttered a suspicious huff, lower jaw thrust out.

POSTED: Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:51 pm

Hermenegild spotted them first – or heard them, from the way his head jerked up. The motion tore Hubert's gaze from the mountains, and he soon found what had disturbed his companion.

There were two of them, both big wolves. A darker shape was half-hidden behind a horse, and the young man riding it was pale like Hermenegild, but touched by hints of a warm color the other wolf lacked. Hubert wondered if they were local, and his cocked ears turned forward with curiosity. From the distance, he could not fully make out their scent.

Our people will smell like other things, Morgana had told him. Salsolans hid their scents, and this might have made it easy to discern who these men were, but the wind was against them.

He noticed that Hermenegild had gotten very still. Taking this show of wariness for what it was, the wolfdog's grip on his bow tightened.

Hey! Hubert called, trying to sound more confident than he felt. Where are you coming from?

It was an innocuous question, in some way. Hubert thought that a Salsolan would lie, or indicate the direction if not name the place. There was a whole lot of secrecy about the thing, but if there was conflict going on that seemed like a good enough reason to adopt it. More than that, the idea of there being enemies of unknown origin seemed like even more reason to be prepared for anything.


POSTED: Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:27 am


See galleries for credit.

The wolfdog called out to them, and Zacchaeus began to move his hand to his sword hilt when his uncle's grasp on his breeches tightened and a warning was shot from the corner of an eye.

West, answered Silas. It was not entirely a lie; Zion was hundreds of miles west from here, and that was where he'd come from. It was where he hoped to return once this holy war ended. If God smiled upon them, it would be sooner rather than later, and they would return without a terrible amount of casualties.

He was not so naive as to believe in this possibility, but he needed to have faith, if only to stay sane.

Who are you? demanded Zacchaeus. There's dangerous folk in these parts, you know.

This earned the fabric another squeeze, but Zacchi glared and brushed his hand away, straightening and attempting to look like a proper adult.

POSTED: Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:47 am

Being as they had just come from the “west”, the pair understood this vague description was odd. There was not much out there beside the ruined city – and they certainly did not look like scavengers or travelers in the same way Hubert and Hermenegild did.

Though the wolfdog had missed the subtle motion the rider made, Hermenegild did not. His yellow eyes continued to stare openly, and the long fur at his hackles prickled. Hubert frowned at the young man's question, but supposed it was commonly known now that violent people were present in the land. Both of them, the rider and the darker male with him, looked ready for such an incident.

Yeah, we heard, Hubert announced. Some crazy freaks runnin' around causin' problems an' attackin' people.

They didn't know a whole lot beyond this. Most of what they had been told was vague, for the Salsolan members of Fort Preble had been left without much communication between their native home and Portland. It was in part why they had been sent with written letters and missives – they were not the only ones who had traveled this way, but they were late to the game and oblivious to the real danger they would be facing.

Had they known, the pair might have fled long before they reached Nova Scotia.


POSTED: Mon Jan 30, 2017 5:46 pm

The mottled wolfdog answered in agreement, and Zacchaeus thrust his jaw out, further emphasizing the bottom fangs that pressed his upper lip in a small grimace. He'd fallen silent, however, as if realizing now that they were treading dangerous ground. He was green still, despite his title as soldier in this war, but he was not so terribly foolish as Silas sometimes thought. His youthful yellow eyes calculated.

Mm, agreed the darker wolf. His hand remained on his nephew's thigh, but his grip had relaxed. You got coyotes 'round these parts that'd kill you soon as look at you. The boy's ma was killed by 'yotes. He paused. They had a chance, but he had to know. Rumors there's slavers here, too, he said.

POSTED: Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:59 pm

There were certain things that Hubert had found himself able to live with. He had encountered cruelty along the span of his life to varying levels. People sometimes used their words, or they hit their horses, or they hit their kids. His mom and dad had hit him before, but only when he really deserved it. It wasn't like this wasn't normal or anything, because reinforcing an idea sometimes needed more than a because I said so.

Once he had left home he had come to recognize very quickly that things were not the same in the world outside of his little town. People stole and lied, and they killed one another. There was unimaginable vice to be found in places that stank like poison fire-water. Hubert had seen shuffling, nervous looking canines that could be traded for, like they were goods too.

No one stays in servitude if they aren't paying for something, was what the little dog with the white patch on her eye had said. She was someone of importance; the name Eternity was meant to carry weight in Salsola. There were all sorts of things he had to remember, like names and titles. There were secret words too. Trell had been one of them.

Hermenegild had not understood what slaves were, but he had simplified the idea in his own way to Hubert. It made it easier to compare a slave to the lowest ranking member of a pack, because they were still part of the group. They were still fed, they still contributed, they still were protected.

If they didn't want to be slaves, Hubert thought, they'd run away. It was as simple as that.

The wolfdog frowned.

Well that's not our problem, his fingers flexed as he spoke. Sorry 'bout your mom, but that's not our problem neither.

The gray and white wolf began to growl. His ears turned back and he showed his teeth.


POSTED: Mon Jan 30, 2017 9:25 pm

Silas smiled.

He was not particularly given to smiles, though he looked like he might have been a handsome man, had war and loss not made him world-weary. It was not the same compassionate but weathered smile that his adopted children saw from him, but something chastising, knowing. It was the small flicker of cruelty or perhaps pride he allowed himself before things went south. He'd ask for forgiveness for this smile later.

It seems to me, he said smoothly, if you do not speak out against injustice and wrongdoing then you are complicit in it.

His lingering hand twitched, and smoothly drew the sword from his nephew's scabbard, tossing it lightly so it fit properly in hand. Zacchaeus startled at this, and the horse blew loudly but did not spook. Silas leveled the sword at the strangers, the growling four-legged man first, and spoke softly to his nephew out of the corner of his mouth.

Ride back. The long way.

I'm not leavin'—

I don't have my weapon. Go.

Zacchaeus hesitated and bared his teeth at the strangers, while the horse pawed the earth.

POSTED: Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:45 pm

The old wolf smiled, but it wasn't friendly – it was callous and hard, and only increased the growing fear in Hermenegild that swelled up at the man's action. Even if these two had not been their enemies, the drawing of a weapon made it so. His growl increased in pitch as he looked between the rider and the man on the ground.

Hubert watched the older man step forward with something like disbelief. He expected there to be opposition here, certainly, but to find it so soon seemed unreal.

His companion, becoming aware of a possibility that the wolfdog had not stumbled upon yet, glanced quickly over his shoulder.

They'll get others! He hissed, and prepared to charge.

Coming to his senses, Hubert yanked an arrow from his quiver. He had been carrying this for a long time – it was leather, soft and worn, across his chest and low near his hip. The arrows were mismatched, though most were fletched with common feathers. The Salsolans had given him more before sending him north, and it was one of their pieces of ammunition he hurriedly set to rest over one spotted finger.

He fired his shot towards the rider, not recognizing the more obvious threat for what it was. Hermenegild's body dropped and he coiled the muscles in his legs, darting to the side to try and get around the sword staring him down. When he thought he was clear of this he made a lunge, only to be driven back by a slash that nearly took off his ear.

Hubert drew another arrow. His fingers had started shaking with adrenaline. This was the first real fight he had been involved in after what seemed like a very long time, and the added pressure of failing before even reaching the place they were after made him anxious. He fired an arrow again, almost without aiming, and reached for another.


POSTED: Tue Jan 31, 2017 2:31 pm

Stubbornly, the silver boy sat the horse and stared at their foes—but he was punished when the bow was lifted at him. An arrow let fly, striking the tough leather of the saddle when Zacchaeus jerked the horse's reins to turn it. The creature reared, then dropped its forehooves on the ground and lurched, nearly knocking Zacchi from its back. He twined hands in the mane at its withers and kicked, and the animal bolted north.

Silas, meanwhile, growled as he slashed at the wolf's head. His movements were not entirely unskilled, but they were unpracticed; he'd not touched the sword since he taught Zacchaeus to wield it. His next thrust missed entirely, but he knocked at the wolf with the flat of the blade rather than let this misstep open him up for attack.

But he could kill a man without weapons or armor if he needed to. He'd gutted coyotes in their monstrous halfling shapes, barely the size of wolves. The archer was the greater danger.

He abandoned the pale wolf and headed toward the mongrel with a wordless cry, swinging.

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