April snowdrop, Indian pipe

POSTED: Wed May 23, 2018 9:56 am

You’re the first to see them, Skoll whispered to her as they crept down into the cave. Besides, uh, us of course.

Galilee brushed her cheek against his shoulder as her paws found a worn track down the grassy hill. The caverns were more like a valley with archways of stone for all the light that filtered down; flowers even grew in places, tea and moss and other interesting-smelling flora. It was an almost idyllic place, but it served to make Lee feel more ill at ease.

She would be meeting her half-siblings for the first time.

She didn’t know what to think. Despite her heartfelt talk with Skoll about her feelings and his, she was still afraid that the children she found would change everything too much. They would look too different from her, maybe. Or perhaps Dreyma, despite Skoll’s claims, would snarl over them possessively and dash any hopes of the Haskel family settling again.

Just don’t expect much, Skoll was going on with a chuckle. They’re a few weeks old. Their eyes opened some days ago, though, so they can see you and hear you. Sometimes they try to walk. It’s been a time hiding them away.

She smiled slightly, but wondered why the pair had wanted to hide them away in the first place.

A stream trickled through the caves, while light trickled down. A smaller alcove in the limestone smelled of milk and life, and Lee’s ears pricked at a chorus of little whimpers. She swallowed and looked to her father.

He winked. Or tried, like he always did.

Daaaadddyyyy’s hoooome, he sang as he stuffed his broad body into the den, and yaps followed, barely louder than the disgusted grumblings of Dreyma. There was shuffling around in the den, and the black she-wolf emerged, shaking out her coat and looking annoyed.

She spotted Lee, and her ears twitched back. She frowned a moment, then sighed and came over.

I can’t wait until they’re out of my hair, Dreyma said, sounding very hard like she was trying to be convincing. She sat down beside Lee, who shifted slightly, but then the female added: I’m sorry for all this mess, Lee. I promise I didn’t want anything to come between you and your dad – or you and me.

Thanks, Dreyma. I’m sorry I’ve been kind of a bitch about it.

I would've been too. She smiled broader.

Meanwhile Skoll’s voice boomed around in the cavern. Introducing, he said with great flubdub, the newest Haskels: Oberyn and Issola! He jumped out of the cave, took a bow, looked over his shoulder, scowled.

Drey hid a snort behind her paw. Lee grinned.

Pssst, Oby, Issy, outside, the father appealed in a whine.

And then: there they were.

A pudgy golden-brown puppy tumbled from the cavern first, moseying around on stout wobbly legs. He spotted a tuft of grass on the earthy floor and attacked it at once, grimacing and lashing his tongue when the green stuff stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Behind him, a little more coordinated but smaller, a fuzzy blackish cub followed. She stuck close to Skoll’s ankles, sniffing the air and peering around, then caught the light from the ceiling and magnetically walked toward the warm patch.

Skoll plopped his ass down and grinned proudly. Whatcha think, cute huh, they take after me right?

Galilee did not answer him at first. She stared at the puppies uncomfortably as they pattered into each other and sniffed and growled. She supposed the boy looked like a small Skoll, but the female puppy reminded her of Dreyma. Either way, they didn’t look very much like her.

“Yeah, cute,” she tried. Skoll’s ears drooped, but then he leaned down and nudged one of the cubs, whispering and motioning with his muzzle. At once, their heads came up, and they noticed their big sister for the first time.

They came charging.

Lee yelped and started to back up, but her rump fell into the little stream and then she was coming back up to make sure they didn’t tumble into the water (even if they were tall enough not to drown in it). She fell down onto her belly and used her forelegs to keep them at bay, her eyes wide.

“Hi–ii,” she greeted, but the puppies were babbling and whimpering and licking her, standing on their hind legs and eager to greet this new, familiar-smelling beast.

Galilee began to giggle, and then laugh, and snuggled her face into her siblings’ pudgy, fluffy bodies while they yapped.

You do like them, right? Skoll asked.

Shut up, whispered Dreyma, her features soft. Look at her.

He smiled and relaxed when he did. Lee had tumbled onto her side to let the pups climb on her, and she snuck them kisses and twitched her ears at their baby-talk. They were probably the cutest things she’d ever laid eyes on.

Issola settled against her side, wiggling and occasionally casting her an adoring look, while Oberyn was licking her. He started just nibbling and slurping on her legs, but soon he made a beeline for her mouth and started licking her chin and mouth in a particular way that –

Her stomach spasmed. Lee spat up half-digested meat, and both puppies bounced up and went to wolf it down, whimpering and wagging their short tails.

All right big sis! shouted Skoll, and she coughed and laughed.


The Troupe
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