there is a sickness in the roses

POSTED: Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:16 pm

A mass exodus had not gone unnoticed by Inferni. Ezekiel had seen several strange figures climbing the mountain, which would not be so odd if not for the fact that they traveled in groups. Ibsen had been sent to scout, and his report was unwelcomed; wolves moving to live across the mountain. He had roughly tried to explain their colors and shapes, but Ezekiel had little knowledge of the wolves and recognized only one description—a white wolf spotted with black.

So he had gone south, traveling with the horse. What he had found both pleased and worried him. Dahlia was gone. While their scents remained strong, no one had stopped the coyote from encroaching into the land. No one had come when he had wandered through empty land and found nothing. So Dahlia had gone, it seemed. His father would certainly be pleased. The Aquila had found little of interest in the abandoned forest, and so he had returned to the Waste.

Now, though, he had begun riding west. He intended to scout this unfamiliar pack, for while he was now certain Dahlia de Mai made up its heart, other scents were mingled in with it. Viggo’s pace was easy, for Ezekiel was eyeballing the mountain as he went. Ibsen had been sent ahead to listen, but he was given strict orders not to come to Ezekiel until they returned to Inferni. Armed as always, Ezekiel was certain his presence (if spotted) would be seen as threatening. With any luck, he would go unnoticed.

POSTED: Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:08 pm

Word Count » 3+

Near the marshes, heat hung in the air heavily, thick and moisture laden as it coated the lungs. For that reason, Sirius avoided the center of Salsola and lingered for a time closer to the coastal edges. Morning dragged on without end, and restlessness overtook the Boss.

The warm air brought with it scents of change. His spies spoke of new happenings, and as it was Salsola's business to know everybody else's business, such happenings had been swiftly prioritized. There were many who would take the opportunity to serve the Thistle King by infiltrating the new pack, but few of yet who had the talent to do so without being killed. With skillful administration, some would surely rise - He had high hopes for his niece, and perchance the silent brother of hers that Eris so adored.

For the moment, though, his unrest manifested itself into an intense desire to investigate. This was also the perfect opportunity to explore another new facet of his life, for the Revlis man was now in possession of a fine beast. The stallion had been gifted to him by a newcomer that had his Auxiliary's favor, a man by the name of Jeremiah, and vain Sirius had been rather please by the handsome beast presented to him. The creature had had a name, but names seemed unnecessary to the Boss - It was his now, another possession of the Thistle Kingdom, and it needed no name but to brand it as his own.

Larkspur had tended the stables well, but the ebony and ivory stallion grazed in the plush grasses with the Arbiter's own mare. Having ridden briefly in London, Sirius possessed the mediocre skills required to saddle the beast up and mount. By now midday had sweltered past, and afternoon coolness was again claiming the wild land known as Salsola.

Initially, the man guided his mount North-East, clinging roughly to the bayline. It had been some time since he had sat in the saddle, and the leather was uncomfortable. The horse seemed to pick up on the lacking skills of its new owner - Perhaps it had been attached to the man who owned it prior, a more skilled equestrian than the Revlis man. Filled with nervous energy, the stallion tossed its beautiful head, and the King was forced to ride at a slow pace so as to remain in control.

Soon, both males seemed to settle into the short journey. Sitting with more ease now that he had become adjusted to the swaying motion of the beast, Sirius guided the pair up to the Pictou River Delta. The water there was churning and deep, and he was forced to turn sharply North and follow its bends up out of Salsola, until it grew shallow enough for a feasible crossing. Plunging into the cool water, the ebony horse continued valiantly onward, taking easily to the treacherous land with the sure footing of one of Larkspur's beloved rams.

Having cleared Salsola, Sirius headed East, taking a path he most commonly used to skirt Inferni. The clan's borders seemed shifting and unstable, and since his run-in with the red-eyed woman, the Thistle King had been cautiously judging its volatility. Although the whisperings of this new pack foundation were alarming, the coyote clan was still their nearest neighbor, and in possession of the most dangerous reputation. Sirius would decide for himself if the new pack posed a threat - Until such a determination, it would surely be under much surveillance and scrutiny.

As they reached more mountainous terrain, he allowed the stallion its head, trusting the beast's sure-footedness. The handsome animal proved to be well adjusted to the rocky land about the base of Halcyon, and rusty as he was at horsemanship, Sirius was pleased by its capabilities. He was just making a mental note to reward Jeremiah in some manner for this steed when the stallion drew up short, tossing his dished head high. The horse's nostrils flared, ears pricked sharply as it scented the air. In that moment, Sirius too paused as his own nose detected the newcomer. They were downwind and had not been detected, but whoever approached was doing so fast, and there was little time to adjust to the situation. Taking one firm hand of the leather reins, Sirius wheeled the black beast about to face the oncoming stranger, his other hand lingering above the hunting knife strapped to his thigh.

The horse, scenting the approaching stallion before it came into view, screamed a shrill challenge and lifted in a slight rear, its hooves clattering against the somewhat stony ground.

POSTED: Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:19 pm

The discovery came not from the pack to the north, as Ezekiel had feared, by from a stranger on a stallion. A challenging bellow rose from ahead of the pair, and it brought Viggo’s blood to a boil. Though calmer by nature due to his breed, Ezekiel had quickly learned that Viggo was young for a horse and arrogant. The heavy animal tossed his head and began stomping over the rocky ground below them, walking now only because Ezekiel’s body commanded such a thing. Low orders were issued in a deep rumble, and while the chestnut beast paraded towards the stranger, he did not charge and did not lose his head. Ezekiel refused to allow it.

What they were met with was a pretty black and white horse ridden by a man with an obvious coyote bloodline within him. Ezekiel saw the stallion’s eyes roll at the sight of his own mount. The man on its back yanked roughly on the reigns, which only caused the riled stallion to rear up. Viggo snorted loudly, prancing sideways at the display. The Aquila gritted his teeth and shifted his weight back, forcing the horse to remain still.

It was then he called out to the stranger, amber eyes flashing gold with fury. “Control that damn thing!” He barked, knowing that no amount of low-speech reasoning would settle a stallion’s hot blood.

POSTED: Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:26 pm

Word Count » 3+

He was only privy to a glimpse of the pair that broke through the brush and into view before the horse reared. But what a glimpse it was - Golden man on golden beast, each lined with righteous rage. Oh, how magnificent! What he wouldn't give for the both of them, sculpted in gold as all fine art was, a decorating his throne-room!

This moment of apparent surprise was all the heated stallion needed; taking the bit between its teeth, it reared, lifting forelegs to lash grey hooves toward the massive beast that had burst into view. Having little ability to read the equine signs, Sirius could do little but grit his teeth and tug harshly at the reigns, sawing the beast's mouth as he struggled again for control. Angry words came from the stranger, and they were stored in the Boss' mind as his steed's front hooves clattered back down to earth.

For a long moment, Sirius did not reply. His attention was too focused to summon anger, and it took some manner of thought to get the beast beneath him to stop dancing. When finally the stallion lessened his antics to nervous fidgeting, the Revlis man allowed his eyes to once more grace the newcomer. But when his face rose, it was lined with a deep and poisonous darkness - Pupils dilated, thin needle slits in the mass of venomous olive that radiated with his displeasure. Sensing the change in his rider's emotions, Black became very, very still, dainty ears flattened as the emotions filtered through his equine senses.

Sirius took a deep breath. "Watch your tone with me, stranger," When he spoke, it was with a voice chilling and persuasive, "I am not an enemy you wish to make," Although tenor tones were mild enough, the threat was there, lingering like barbs just beneath the surface. The crocodile smile, so quick to falsely adorn his face, did not come - The Thistle King was, as yet, too angry for that. One palm settled lightly on the hilt of the dagger strapped to his thigh as gaze gave the other rider a quick once-over. The man looked well armed enough, with the strange contraption he wore, and he sat with much more ease on his horse than Sirius did. For these reasons, and for the fact that in spite of his annoyance he was intrigued by the golden pair, he remained still and showed no further aggression.

POSTED: Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:54 pm

Even as he watched the dark hybrid fight for control, Ezekiel forced his own will on the massive horse below him. He lacked the physical power to dominate the massive animal. At nearly a ton, Viggo would have little trouble breaking any canine that crossed him. Six feet of horse was taller than Ezekiel, and the Aquila did not forget that. Still, as long as he remained on Viggo’s back he could keep him under control. Golden-amber eyes narrowed as the black and white stallion finally stilled, though out of fear and not understanding. The venomous tone from the stranger made Ezekiel’s hackles rise against the quiver on his back. Thankfully, this was hidden.

The Aquila’s face remained stony, eyes hawkish. “Then I’d advise you to keep your mount under control,” Ezekiel replied, his voice equally even. He gave his own mount a squeeze, advancing at an even pace despite the massive animal’s unrest. Once he was close enough, he sniffed the air and found that the stranger was a neighbor. His eyes hardened. “You’re from that pack to the west,” the Aquila went on, recognizing the salty tang of Drifter Bay.

POSTED: Tue Jul 05, 2011 3:37 am

Word Count » 3+

The man replied in a waspish enough tone to match Sirius', and it seemed for a moment that the two strangers might truly break into hostilities. But, while the shivering ebony horse remained still, its long, lean legs splayed and ears flattened, the monolithic golden animal opposite was goaded into a forward motion. This time, the Revlis man was prepared for his mount's unease, and although Black tossed his head and rolled his dark eyes such that they were rimmed with bone-white, he kept a tight tension in the leather reigns, holding the handsome beast still.

The Thistle King sat rigid in the saddle as the other brought his animal nearer, keen gaze drinking in all that was to be seen and had about the other male. He was roughly the same age, and was clearly a hybrid in nature, possessing a lean build not unlike the lanky height of his own. But that was where the similarities ended - From there, the two men appeared to each other as different as night and day. Hawkish yellow eyes clashed with bitter, poisonous olive, and where the other man's pelt was shimmering gold in the dappled sunlight, Sirius' coat remained as dark and brooding as ever.

Allowing Black to dance slightly, the Thistle King moved his mount likewise forward, until the two opposing pairs seemed to be circling one another. As yet, his palm continued to tentatively stroke the carved hilt to his hunting dagger, ready to respond to any sign of physical aggression in the other. Sirius Revlis was not a man who sought fights, nor a bully that picked them when in truth he probably could not win. But while he may not have been outstandingly brave, nor was he a coward, and should the other male make the first move he would rise to match the fight.

Letting the man's first comment slide into oblivion, it was only when his second accusation was voiced that the Thistle King's black lip lifted into a sneer. "You know not even their name, Infernian?" It pleased him to think that Inferni's spies had not penetrated his land as yet, but the time for his beloved Family to remain anonymous was passing. They had claimed the land to the West, and in doing so, had become a force of power that needed declaration. While the innermost secrets of the pack were hidden on charge of death, this, at least, could be revealed. "Salsola, pawn of Gabriel. Call it by that, or by nothing at all," By speaking, it seemed he calmed himself - Anger was quick to divulge itself to the bitterly sharp wit of his mind, and the chameleon knew best how to salvage any situation. Perhaps, this meeting could end well for him, after all. "And how is he - Your glorious Aquila? It has been some time since I saw him last, and rumors spread that his hold on the people has grown slack," It was a pretentious barb, but spoken without malice. Dark pupils glinted at the other male curiously, betraying in slight his hunger for such information.

POSTED: Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:18 pm


They were at odds, but only in color—their demeanors reflected one another in stark similarity. Ezekiel was not civilized like the stranger, who wore signs of such manners, but he saw savagery within him as well. No more so was this prominently displayed when the peacock of a wolf (for while he looked hybrid enough, he was far too wolfish to be called coyote) bared his teeth. Salsola. The name of a weed. How appropriate.

A plastic smile flitted across his charming features, but his eyes remained hard. The stranger was mouthy, and his behavior reminded Ezekiel of a wildcat. This kept him all the more alert; wildcats were cruel and had robbed his raven-brother’s family of their offspring. Ibsen and Zola had survived by a superior fate alone. They had a greater destiny than their fallen brood. Yet he had not been able to find the cats, even after so many months. They had come and gone as if they had sensed they were being hunted. This, in part, was why Ezekiel distrusted the stranger even before the insults began to his father. He was, after all, not so savage as to misunderstand tone and slight, subtle signals. He bared his teeth in a smile/snarl.

“Inferni’s people are no longer my father’s—they are mine,” Ezekiel said sharply, though his tone shifted to one of dismissal almost instantly hereafter. “Those that are too weak-hearted to live amongst the clan make their own paths. It’s of no consequence to lose the unworthy.” Spoken like his sister, he reflected. His eyes sharpened, shifting to deep amber as he sought to read the words the stranger’s body might betray. “They must have crossed your borders to speak of such things,” he suggested, turning Viggo to a halt between the strange male and the western expanse between Inferni’s border at his back.

POSTED: Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:55 am

Word Count » 3+

It would have surprised the dark male to know that he was being observed as keenly as he did the other male. While Zeke might have been able to detect the little things, tiny motions of the body that spoke a language the rest of this pitiful world seemed to have forgotten, he also emanated the vile aura of a warrior, a hero tarnished by his own golden blade. Sirius was no such thing - He lived in the shadows of such a golden sun, and his word severed as fast as the blade of any prince. Olive eyes read the language of the body, for the Hunter was keenly attuned to his prey at all times.

The man spoke in sharp reply, quick to challenge the insinuations of Gabriel's weakness. But in doing so, he divulged much of interest to the Thistle King, who allowed the sharp sneer on his maw to shift into a curious Cheshire grin. Yellowed teeth glinted hungrily, as venomous eyes projected a strange delight in observing the man he now knew to be ruler of the Clan. The Aquila spoke powerful words, but they sounded strange coming from a tone that Sirius had assumed would be far nobler than this. Curious... Very curious. "You speak of the condemned as though you did not condemn them yourself, dear Gabrielson. Those who breach the border of Salsola will not emerge again to speak of its secrets," It amused him to speak in such whimsical riddles - He did not wish to goad the other male by informing him that such poorly creatures were fast to be inducted into slavery, but the chance to hint at things of such a sinister nature could not be passed up.

When the giant chestnut beast was pulled to a halt, Sirius did likewise, his black pawing irritably at the ground. Still, the intrigue stirred within him, that strangely growing hunger that could be seen in narrowed pupils, if the man knew to look. "A pleasure it is, being in the company of royalty," The dark purr of his tone was filled with cynical humor, olive eyes laughing at a joke only he could perceive so far. "Tell me, Gabrielson, what is it like to meet a King?" And this time he did laugh, a wondrously sensual sound that set yellowed teeth to glinting. The ebony stallion flattened its ears at the predatory noise, but remained still.

POSTED: Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:16 am

They knew one another, for they were both hunters but of different breeds. A fox and an eagle, perhaps. One cunning, the other knowing only how to destroy. Amber eyes gleamed as he studied the dark stranger, sharpening only at the odd term used for him. Yet there was knowledge gained—Salsola’s borders remained closed. Perhaps Sirius meant death for those who defied him. The coyote smiled savagely.

“Kings are not made, waagosh,” he said carefully. “The right to rule is divine. Of course,” the Aquila added, shrugging lightly and almost dismissively. “These are savage times. Is that what brings you so far from home? Surely even such private people must know what goes on beyond their borders.” A push, a subtle challenge. Perhaps the hybrid knew about the disappearing packs, perhaps not.

POSTED: Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:32 pm

Word Count » 3+

It seemed that the tense aggression between them was over. Sirius was glad of this, for while he would never lose the paranoia that came with being the presence of an Eagle, the Fox was not eager to damage such pretty plumage. His venomous gaze appreciated the hard, handsome lines of the other man with a hungriness that one could have mistaken for desire of the flesh - However, his lusts were still said to lie with the fairer gender. Perhaps it was the power that the Aquila held that enticed the Thistle King so; Regardless, he found himself drawn to the golden youth, a dark shadow pulled closer to dancing firelight.

Ezekiel's pretentious words were dismissed with an ungentlemanly snort. The Revlis man held no favor for the pitiful fools who sought to waste themselves on gods - While he dared not disbelieve, for fear that such could conjure a wrath far greater than that of any mortal being, it suited the devilish ruler to think of Gods as having little time for useless mortals. The power of a deity was surely not wasted on the likes of them; What point then in pining for the power of a guardian that would not care for you? There was simply nothing to be gained. The right to rule came from those who sought to grasp power, and hold it. Sirius knew no other way.

The unfamiliar name he was given made the hybrid's large, coyote ears flicker back in quick annoyance. He had grown tiresome of those who used another language to confuse him, as the Kimaris woman so often did, but there was little effort for such a small retaliation. "Savage times breed savage folk, Gabrielson. I come, as you do, to seek information on those who came through here not long ago," He made a vague gesture North, where the jagged teeth of the mountain bit into the brittle sky. "I hear whispers of a merging of power, the claiming of land not far from here. Such a thing would be foolish to ignore," While he spoke with silver tongue, darker thoughts lingered behind narrowed pupils. It irritated him to know no more than the man before him - It irritated him to be lacking in any sort of knowledge. The sooner this task was completed, the better.

With a jolty tug on the reigns, Sirius jerked his stallion's head North, peeling off from the other male to ride at a sharp trot towards the rocky land of Halcyon. One hand waved to show that the other man might accompany him, if he chose it - It would be unwise for them to both risk danger, when four eyes would serve better than two. For now, at least, perhaps the two men could be allies; For now, until they parted presence. Sirius did not often hold fast to friendships with men the likes of Ezekiel de le Poer.

POSTED: Wed Jul 27, 2011 9:19 pm

Sirius was the antithesis of Ezekiel. They were creatures made from different worlds; one savage and wild, one cunning and street-bred. Perhaps in another lifetime they would have been brothers. The Aquila smiled a plastic thing that could have been charming if not for the nasty twist in his snout. Gabrielson; what a funny way of putting things. The scarred coyote listened to Sirius’ proposal and found they were equal in this. Ibsen could see only so much from the air, and he did not desire to risk the bird and send him to earth.

With a low utterance to the stallion, the golden pair trotted after the darker duo and came to ride at their side. Ezekiel found the use of reigns and a saddle useless when on Viggo, given his ability to control the horse with words and muscle movements, but figured that there were those who still needed such things. “Dahlia de Mai is no more,” he said, looking to the green-eyed man. “I suspect we might find what remains of them across the mountain.” This, too, displeased him. Mountain or not, if they were any closer than they had been they were still dangerous. Ezekiel knew little of Anathema yet, but viewed them with suspicion. It was unnatural to live in a mountain.

POSTED: Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:33 am

Word Count » 3+

There was only a moment's hesitation, before the rumbling of earth told him of the other man's decision. The heavy golden steed he rode was quick to sidle alongside Sirius' black, and while the smaller stallion shied slightly, his initial burst of aggression seemed to be over. Flicking the reigns to keep the beast at a smooth trot, the Thistle King focused half of his attention on the path ahead, and the other half on the man beside him.

Gabrielson's words provoked a grunt of agreement from the dark man. His spies had told of Dahlia's disappearance - A whole pack, gone from beneath the nose of its neighbors. Such a thing was fast to conjure suspicion. Although the flower-named pack had never revealed itself to be a challenge or a threat to the land of the Salsolan, their strange magic act conjured no comradely feelings. "Phoenix Valley, too, has parted ways with their old territory," He spoke in a surprisingly serious tone, oddly brooding without the not of silver, poisonous charm it usually carried, "I assume an alliance, but cannot yet be sure." What this meant for Salsola, he did not know - But such power in the hands of the unknown was never a good thing.

The land grew steeper as they breached the mountains, and once again Sirius was pleasantly surprised at his mount's tenacity. While smaller in size and impressiveness than the Aquila's golden beast, the ebony stallion was as sure-footed in the rocky terrain as it had been the swampy roughness of Salsola. The path grew narrower, and while the Thistle King believed his mount might be able to progress further up the increasingly steep and dangerous trail, he wondered at the abilities of the other's steed. Regardless, horses were not an appropriate method of stealth, and if they were to be unseen and unheard, the beasts would have to be left behind.

Pulling his stallion aside, Sirius dismounted smoothly. "I know this land, Gabrielson. It will be best to travel North from here on foot." As he spoke, he tied the leather reigns about a nearby stump, believing the horse would wander otherwise. Removing another hunting dagger from the saddle, the Thistle King strapped it to his thigh, where it glinted beneath the cured leather. Dull olive eyes, rimmed with sparks of feverishly intelligent sparks, lifted to the Eagle's sharp gold. "I seem to have forgotten my manners - If we are to be together in this, then it is fitting you know my name. I am Sirius Revlis, Boss of Salsola, King to the land of thistles," He smiled sharply again, the wicked grin handsome on dark features.

POSTED: Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:09 pm

Things seemed to make much more sense knowing that two packs had vanished. It was likely they had formed an alliance, but to abandon territory still prime was odd. Then again, the cow-spotted woman who had been leading Dahlia seemed odd to Ezekiel. She had sought to make amends for things that could not be forgiven—rape was something Ezekiel would never allow to pass with anything less than a death sentence. He knew little of the Valley, and so accepted what the dark man told him.

Though Viggo was used to the wide and rocky terrain of the Waste, he balked at the narrowing path. Even before the stranger had suggested it, Ezekiel was preparing to dismount. He did so almost in-time with his companion, offering the earth-colored man a nod in agreement. Several low noises were made to the horse, who turned and trotted back down the mountain.

Hawkish eyes observed the dagger with wariness. Ezekiel was not the type to use such tools, so those who were capable with them were considered dangerous. Still, they seemed to have passed their need for violence in order to supplant information. Sirius. He felt like he might have known that name, once before. “Ezekiel,” he returned, showing the hint of his teeth in a plastic smile.

POSTED: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:51 pm

Word Count » 3+

For a moment it appeared that the two might smile at each other forever - Fake, glinting smiles that spoke nothing of true endearment or happiness. These expressions were as honed as Sirius' hunting blade, and while he was unsurprised to discover such falseness in the Aquila, it did serve to found his belief that the other man was not so foolish as the Boss might have liked. They were too similar, in some ways, for Sirius to be at ease - Each too sinuous in their movements, a little too keen with sharp eyes and fangs; A little feral, enough that the land seemed to accept them both, one gold and one shadow, as it might have accepted the dangerous rush of river rapids or the razor-sharp edge of broken stone.

It was enough to keep Sirius' peripherals focused on the other man, in any case. While they may have been under the pretext of temporary alignment, there could be no trust between two such predators, not yet. Perhaps not ever. But Sirius could not deny himself the bizarre attraction he held for the golden ruler. Ezekiel.

Breaking the strange lingering sensation between them, Sirius turned his divided attention to the mountain. He had conquered its peaks many times before, and knew the rises and the gullies well enough. With a final pat to the stallion's glossy flank, he headed up the path, cautious to remain wary of the golden male. He walked with silent steps - The easy, lanky, effortless pace of the Hunter. For that was what the mortal-thing, known as Sirius, known as Boss and Thistle King, was; Not a Warrior and a Fighter like the eagle, but a Hunter, a shadow-stalker and a canny thinker. His mind was a wicked thing, moving always, never stilling. Even in sleep came dreams, remnants of the thoughts always traveling through subconscious.

They came on new land. "I have never been beyond this point," He was uneasy, but kept such a thing easily from silver tongue. "I know not where their border is, nor how well it is protected," It irritated him to speak of things he didn't know, and a frown flickered across handsome features. Olive eyes slid to the portrait of the other, waiting to hear how Ezekiel proposed they approach the foreign pack.

POSTED: Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:00 am


As two canines, and men at that, it was not unnatural for them to feel the constant rise of conflict between them. Heredity and instinct made them this way, competitive for land, for dominance. If they had shared a home, they would have come to blows. Blood would be drawn, and one of them would be defeated by the other. Separation meant they could withstand the static that grew between every brushed hair, every step that caused Ezekiel’s nose and mouth to fill with the heavy musk of Sirius’ dark body.

Sirius’ pace was met with one forged through the forest, a wolfish thing that was swift and well-placed. Ezekiel had spent so long carving out a living in this manner that it showed in every movement; he was a true ranger, raised by the wilderness. This was what allowed him to move so easily up and across the rocky face in a way that his charger could not. Yet his body was different than Sirius own; they were warped reflections still.

The admission of ignorance drew no arrogant smile to Ezekiel’s face. He was young, yes, but he had no desire to push the Hunter away. They, for the time being, needed each other. Two sets of eyes and ears would best keep them hidden from any patrols. “They mark it with stones,” the Aquila said, recalling what Ibsen had seen. “We should keep north; I don’t believe they have much in the way of patrols—it’s too soon, for them to be so settled.” With that, Ezekiel took the lead. His red feet moved across the rocks without pain. The pads had long since formed into thick, leathery things that could withstand the sharp beaches of Inferni’s coast. He paused, here and there, to scent the air. Occasional glances to the sky were made, as if by thought alone he might summon his scount.

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