Summer has finally arrived! The sun has melted the snows in the north and the southern territories are beginning to grow uncomfortably hot and dry. Pups are being born and life seems to finally be getting back to normal after the cure for the disease was found. But how long will it last?
The cure has been found! Wolves on Anikira are recovering from the disease and life is moving forward with the promise of pups in many packs. And yet darkness looms on the horizon, daring the creatures of Anikira to relax and allow themselves to get comfortable once more.
From the moment he had washed ashore upon Anikira, Shasta had devoted himself to finding those whom had been ripped from him. He had been sickened in those initial days, expelling brine and water from his lungs until he’d hunted down and acquired the appropriate herbs to settle his stomach. From there, he had forced himself to consume less-than-desirable meals, from hares to deer and everything in between, the flesh tough and unsavory but suitable enough to keep him on his paws. Once his strength had been restored, the brute had begun to scour the shores, and when his findings had been fruitless, he had swept inwards.
Somehow hid journey had lead him here, to this dark, dank place that stank terribly of humans. The acidic scent made his nostrils curl, and yet still he pushed forward deeper and deeper into the mines that reeked of intervention. If he truly wished to find those whom had been rent from him, he would need to search every nook and cranny – no matter how the putrid scents of the two-legged lingered, making his temples ache and compelling his body to rebel. Nothing was important enough in that moment to turn him away from his task, and so he steadfastly continued onward, one paw in front of the other as sprinklings of dirt trickled from above, pirouetting in the lowlight where it mingled with his chocolate fur.
”Volatile times, indeed,” Shasta murmured to himself under his breath as he paused for a brief rest, keen emerald eyes flicking up towards the packed earth above him. Wooden beams arched high above his cranium, creaking and groaning occasionally to break the eerie silence of his surroundings. His stomach rumbled audibly, demanding a delectable feast that he could not yet provide. Not until he found Aravis and the others. Then…then he would indulge as they were restored to their former glory. But in the meantime, he would rest – and then he would push onwards, his paws never ceasing until he found what he sought.
[attr="class","pltxt"]She traversed the hilly terrain with steady, calculated strides, tufts of gold and black fur along her shoulder blade pressing against Bolton’s, comforted by his closeness, nostrils flaring every time the air she breathed mingled with his familiar scent. It had taken time, and a considerable amount of it, for Aravis to warm up to him fully, but by now she was confident in their claim to each other – family, bonded. The faces of her former pack mates still haunted her dreams, and they were truly dreams, reminders of who she was and from what she originated. She missed them, but as days turned into weeks, and then into months, it became grief and then cold, aloof acceptance that she needed to move on, forward.
It was because of that grief, that cold and aloof acceptance, that the scent of him made her spine stiffen, her eyes nearly pop out of their sockets, ears erect, almost panicked, for she could not handle it being a lie. She looked to Bolton out of instinct, but their eye contact was brief because he could not provide her with an answer to this. Her mouth fell open only to click shut, the grinding of her teeth forceful like she was ripping meat cleanly off of the bone. Wordlessly, Aravis angled her body towards the mines and then ducked inside, her strides purposeful and quick. She did not wait for Bolton to join her. Bolton would be able to smell him on the air just like she did, but, to him, he would smell like another stranger, another meal. That was certainly not the case. Aravis, in her haste, could not fathom pausing for even another second to attempt to explain the situation. Bolton believed that her family was dead, and up until now she had believed it, too. He would think her crazed, delusional, so she needed to be absolutely sure.
And then she rounded a bend. And then she saw him.
His head was tilted skywards to observe the beams that had been crafted by the hands of mankind. His peculiar appearance was the instantaneous and irrefutable proof that she needed, but her eyes were drawn, instead, to the emerald glint of his, not yet fixated on her as she was on him. “Shasta?” Her voice almost sounded small, disbelieving and hesitant, but it was loud enough for him to easily hear. Emotion was so thick in her face that it was difficult to pinpoint precisely how she was feeling. Overjoyed? Perhaps, for he was part of her family, a part of her, and she could not wait to hold him, feel him, consume him. Shocked? That was also possible, for she had accepted by now that she would never see him again, and if he was alive than it restored her hope that others could be out there, too.
Angry – it hit her violently, suddenly, her lip curling to let loose a foreboding growl that did not suit the gentle, wide-eyed stare with which she took him in. Shasta, of course, would be able to understand in a way that the others, who were still learning, could not. Aravis housed a volatile monster befitting her rank and, therefore, her self-control was frequently put to the test. She had spent several painstaking days searching the land for a trace of her family, believing wholeheartedly that they were waiting somewhere to be found. It had taken so long, so miserably long, that she had been left with no choice but to come to terms with their deaths. That had been one of the hardest things Aravis had ever had to come to terms with, but she had done it; now, it needed to be undone, and for every piece of her that was grateful for Shasta was another piece that was outraged he had taken so long and allowed her to think him dead. It was not his fault, of course, but the monster she lived with did not care.
Her approach was slow and deliberate. Her eyes did not leave his face for a second, not even to blink. Now, she was close enough to touch, and her teeth playfully danced across the tips of fur that enclosed his jugular in greeting. She kept her mouth parted, anticipating the feeling of a part of his body in between her teeth, like the rough skin of an ear or, perhaps, if he was feeling particularly apologetic in the face of her unpredictable wrath, his fleshy shoulder. It was not an abnormal move to make in the presence of the queen. Aravis supposed that their queen could be with him here, somewhere in the mines, but she had not confirmed that with her eyes and, even if she did, she had grown so used to her own authority that it would be difficult to step down from it. “You are real. You are here.” Aravis needed to speak it into existence, to observe the nod of his head, to hear the soothing reassurance in his voice. “Where were you?” She demanded with sudden sharpness, pulling away from him. “I thought you were dead.” The fire in her eyes conveyed that a part of her thought he should be dead for making her wait, for making her needlessly grieve.
[attr="class","post"]Her voice reached him before her scent did.
Perhaps he had grown momentarily lax; any other time, Shasta might have been more attuned to his surroundings, to the sound of swift paws approaching and a breathy exhale. He could have blamed it on his exhaustion from his comprehensive searches, or his unsettled stomach that rebelled with each unsatisfying meal as the days between his last feast and now grew longer and longer. Negligence, carelessness, accident – it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the soft, feminine cadence of a tone so familiar to him that it might have brought him to the ground had his body not reacted of its own accord.
Despite the hammering of his heart, Shasta was as he always had been: as calm and serene as a bubbling brook. His head turned slowly, muzzle pointed towards her as his emerald eyes glittered in the darkness, crawling across her form. There was no mistaking that it was her – of course there wasn’t. Though inside his mind was a whirlwind of disbelief, his heart leaping against his ribcage fiercely with joy and anger and a fierce desire (and oh, how those who were not enlightened struggled to understand that one could desire in other ways beyond sexual, such as for flesh and blood and contact and solidarity), the usual mask he wore remained frozen upon his features for a long moment. A coy smile played at his lips…
And then she moved to him, and he allowed her to see what he did not permit others to.
Others might have taken her curled maw and flashing teeth as a threat, but Shasta knew far better. He recognized what rose within her, and indeed he knew that she must have recognized the very same in him, though fueled by much different reasoning. He did not shy away from her approach, did not twist to avoid her fangs where they grazed the fur and skin of his throat. Instead he leaned into the touch briefly, knowing that if she chose to close her jaws upon him, he would delight in it, be honored by it. There was a change in her that he sensed, a change born of the absence of their queen, whom he had seen neither sight nor scent of in his time searching. His sharp mind worked swiftly, unfailingly, as her low words washed over him.
”At last,” he muttered, soft-spoken as always, though his words carried a weight that tended to cause auds to flick in his direction. ”I have scoured these strange lands from the very moment that I washed ashore of them. Trust in me when I tell you that the only time I was not searching was whilst I slumbered, and even that was very little.”
The scent of her overtook him, blessedly washing out the repulsive smell of the humans that lingered here – though there was another scent that mingled weakly with her, that washed down towards him occasionally, hinting that another was here with her. Not one who was familiar to Shasta; but all the same. His gaze roved over her throat, her muzzle, coming to rest at her eyes. ”No sign of the others?”
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Jaidah is one of the albinos on the site, a brand new character brought to life by a brand new player. It is interesting to see how such a pure looking being could be wrapped up in the angsty claws that is Irkalla! We will definitely be staying in-tune with this character to see just what heights Bird is able to take her!
We would like to offer a large thank you to several members that put significant work into the new design of the forum. Thank you to Zen for the work on images for the skin. Thank you to the stock providers for this skin: AdenarKaren on DeviantArt and Kalliysgraphy on Deviantart. We would also like to thank Tril and Bacon For work on the coding and a big thank you to
Nile for her work on the map and board images!