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Full Version: "Swing for the fences, son." he must have told you once.
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North of the meadow where Illidan had once escorted him there was a forest. Glaucos was a bit more confident about adventures now that he'd passed the first test (venturing beyond the limits of Ursus' border) so on a day that was clear and bright, with no adults in sight, he thought he'd test those limits again. He was quick to scuttle across the border and in to the meadow; tail tucked the entire way, ears flat upon his head, he looked like a slippery little thief trying to escape judgement. From there he moved north towards the forest.

The trees were lovely; he liked the shapes their branches made in the dark, the way the light passed through them, and the layers of wild scent criss-crossing the earth at their bases. He tracked one smell for an hour but his attention waned when the trail led him nowhere, and veered in another direction. Along the eastern edge of the grove was a wolf scent he had never encountered before.

There was an arid quality to it. It wasn't as muddy a scent as those of Ursus, clean and sharp with minerality; not that Glaucos could parse such specifics. It was different, that was what intrigued him. It was also very strong, winding away from the trees and out, to where the afternoon sun touched upon a patch of exposed hill.
Ever since the fight along the borders of Easthollow, Merrit had taken to regular patrols around their perimeter. Securing their fragile remains, thinking, pondering, the future of his family, the threats nearby. Protecting, and guarding. His months outside the wilds had both tamed and tempered him, so that he was neither the soft child his mother had borne, nor the erratic tempest of his youth. He stood somewhere in between, now. Controlled, despite the vexing storm he still quieted every hour, it seemed.

That storm that spiralled and threatened now.

"Hello," he said, stepping from the swath of trees on Easthollow's ground that led towards the hill the stranger stared up and up upon. His nostrils flared; caught the scent. Riddled with darkness, and vile things. He placed it like a nightmare that followed one into the daylight, even upon waking. "You are from Ursus. Welcome to Easthollow," he said. He ought to kill the child, and sever the evil of Ursus' blood. Instead, he paused, and lowered himself to sit.
Having left his caution behind within the meadow, the boy was surprised at the sound of a voice that he did not know. The greeting was met with the curving of his own body, a nervous bowing, tail plastered immediately to his underparts; eyes wide as he looked wildly for the source—and finding a man robed in silver striding from the dark.

You are from Ursus. The stranger said, knowing things that Glaucos had not spoken; how did he know? Nobody had taught him of such things like pack scent, so he was oblivious to the knowledge held within his very coat. Welcome to Easthollow.

A flickering of those worried eyes; Glaucos is afraid to look at this person, afraid to look away as well, and isn't sure what to do. While they sit down the boy backs up a step, stumbling with his too-long legs, and crouches. He wishes Illidan were here with him, or Astyanax—even Aventus, who was probably much braver than himself.

h-hello, squeaks the boy's tiny voice. He knows nothing of propriety and does not introduce himself. I was only 'sploring. Uhm... Whassa... easthollow?
at one point, merrick had thought to give revui's children to his own as servants. it was an amusing thought, avicus dragging one of the boys about, aventus the other. but as the months had worn on, as he had begun to see their worth and the stamp of their father in them, the bearwolf had considered other futures for the pair of children.
not orphans — revui had left ursus and their mother was dead. the raven queen was what they had known, she and the mad prince.
a frown as the boy's trail began to melt from the borders and into the dangerously contested land beyond. skirmishes, battles, wounds, deaths — merrick's scarred face twisted into a scowl. but he must go, must go and fetch the foolish little youngling —
ah —
"he is one of mine," the man grinned, tensing for the active strike of the highstrung wolves who existed here. single eye hard; he sauntered to the child's side, seeking to shove the stoneboy behind him. nothing more said; only the challenging smirk, the gaze that did not leave the male who seemed familiar. but merrick found the inhabitants of the circle unremarkable at best.
The boy was a lamb with a serpent's scent, Merrit decided, and found he reminded him so much of Keen. The way he folded, and staggered back on his spider-like legs. Tucked his tail against his belly, eyes downcast, to watch the ground, as if the very act of looking up to see the world in all its beauty and dread was altogether too much for him.

A strange emotion stirred within him. He had not seen his sister in so long --

He blinked, and shifted a glance into the woods beyond the cursed child. "Easthollow is a family," he said, though so little remained of his family, that he wondered if there would be truth behind his words for very much longer, "a place where mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters all live together, and love each other, and help each other," by birthright the boy was a child of darkness, and darkness was no sower of light. Would he even understand?

But if the boy had chance to respond, Merrit had no time to give any answer to queries, or observations, or ask any questions back. A new wolf melded from the shadows, and trained eyes saw the movement before he slithered into the light.

If the child smelled of vile things, then this man smelt of the devil himself. Shrouded in a veil of shadows, back stained by copper and burnt umber, as if soaked by the blood of the lives he had taken, and now wore as a price upon his neck. A single eye, peering out from that abysmal reach of hell. A demon, consigned to fire, wrapping long fingers around this child whose innocence still seemed to speckle him with glimpses of light, stars suffocated behind an overcast sky. Dragging him into the darkness, down, down with him.

Merrit's eyes flashed with a sense of panic; to his thrumming heart, he whispered mantras, words his sister had given him before he'd departed from her, to return to Easthollow and all this he had found.

"I know," he said. Still sitting, but muscles now taut in case the other moved in to attack. Serpents swayed, they said, peering from their holes, gauging their time to strike. "He seems an adventurous boy."
The man looked as if he were carved of stone. The look on his face (from the glances that the boy managed) was somehow more welcoming than the scowls he was used to, but not exactly warm. There wasn't any fear in that face. Glaucos wondered what that was like, living without fear.

Their description of this Easthollow place was more like a fantasy; he could not fathom such a place, could not piece together the facets that were shared with him. Ursus was a family too, he thought. There were mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles. The sameness ended there. The stranger spoke of love and Glaucos' face crunched with confusion.

My mother is in Ursus. He says, unaware of the lie. My father— left me here, he might have said, except that the slither of movement at his flank came next to distract him. Something tall moved ahead of him and with a shove Glaucos hit the dirt, tumbling roughly. When he looked up at the figure he recognized Merrick immediately and shrank back.
merrick puzzled out a bit of gristle from between his teeth in a relaxed manner when it became apparent that the other was not about to attack. the boy he had pushed perhaps too roughly, but the ursine king saw it as a very generous punishment for straying this far. that the child should have been better tended was a thought he ignored; his own came and went and so he expected the others to safely do the same.
circling around, he nudged the kid, shooting another cool glance at their enemy. "it's something you have to encourage." the modulated voice clashing with the look of him, and my my my 
had he ever held a conversation with an easthollow brute this long? he did not think so; it amused him, curled the edges of his belly into something alluring.
"Indeed," Merrit said, as the serpent herded the young child away. My mother is in Ursus, the boy had said - which meant, to Merrit, that his father was not. That his father, then, could not be this Deceiver -- though, being the offspring of the devil's servant was no better a hand to be dealt, than the son of the devil himself. Merrit had seen how the child's face twisted at the description of Easthollow, and how the snake had shoved him aside. His mother had never dealt so harshly with him, and neither had he seen Keen nor Arlette nor any of her offspring after receive such treatment, either, even when they had disobeyed her.

"It is good to leave home, see the world around you, learn from wolves who are not kin," and though he looked at Merrick, he pointed his words to the child behind him. The snake was beyond saving, and would find his end at the jaws of Moonspear, or Easthollow, or some other beast seeking blood vengeance - but he still had hope for the child. And indeed, the child was his only restraint, for if he crushed the serpent's head now -- well, how would the boy respond to that? Would he himself swear vengeance, and raise an even greater monster in the serpent's stead? No, Merrit could not afford the risk, not only for the Wilds, but also for the sake of this boy's soul. "I often find that seeing... unfamiliar things can help you see what is right and what is wrong about the familiar things you are used to."
Accustomed as he was to violence (either around him or perpetrated upon him), he knew his place, and sank in to himself while the adults dealt with one-another. He did not realize as the sylvan man spoke it was to him until he dared a glance up to his eyes, which were focused upon the boy. Framed by the wiry limbs of Merrick.

Seeing... unfamiliar things can help you see what is right and what is wrong, the man went on to say, striking at the heart of the child; he withdrew further, pivoting his ears as if he were trying to block the hymns of something unholy, unaware that the man was trying to be of help.

Unsure of what to do - and certain he was in deeper trouble than Merrick's chilling smile may have let on - he did not want to interrupt; but he looked shyly to his guardian, watching light catch on the whiskers around his sneer, and then stared down at his feet.
merrick was no fool; he measured the tension in the other's body, grin spreading like wide field of arctic spikes as the circle-wolf went on.
he spoke not to merrick, but to the boy; the bearwitch disentangled the little one from his limbs, pushing revui's son between the pair of them.
his children had been born in blood, both the ones he had sired and the ones he had claimed. how might this hone the child further, the eloquence of right and wrong?
he skimmed his muzzle with a lash of pink.
"how is greyback?" he inquired, delicately dropping the name into the dust with a casual sigh. "these ones, you know," he purred as the cyclopian stare shifted to the shrinking child, "speak of what is just and good, while they kill. only the great bear can decide what is just," merrick added, the coldwater lap of his stare fixed now upon the enemy. "not a wolf."
Apologies for taking so long! <3

He knew the likes of the one he spoke with, the poison on his tongue. Oozing like discharge from the score of an infected wound. His words twisted and bent to his whims, to make his motives seem lofty, to drag Merrit's to a plane as deep as hell.

His eyes shifted from the child the serpent had pushed between them.

He did not humour the first question he posed. He had very little want to humour any of this monster's words at all. To say anything to him, on any matter of goodness and justice and truth -- he'd be throwing pearls before pigs. But the boy had ears and, perhaps, a heart that still had some inkling of light left in him.

"You slaughter with a smile on your face. Do not speak of justice when all you know is cruelty," he remembered Clary, and her soft yet persistent attempt to pull him away from the thin line he balanced on. His eyes hardened on Merrick, "my family does not delight in the death of the wicked, but we will fight for the lives of the innocent," and his gaze slid, for the hairline of a second, from Merrick to the child, "no matter what family they belong to."
The boy suddenly felt pressure from both sides. As if Merrick were a seething shadow filled with frigidity and the other man not dissimilar; righteousness burned in his words as he (more or less) denounced the bruin-witch. All that Karst could think to do was stay still, watching the dirt, trembling in the shadow of his caretaker. He went somewhere else in his head - somewhere comforting - while hunkered there.
oh, the little missionary. the impassioned voice of the pretty paladin. merrick's mouth slowly slipped in a smirk that only grew longer and longer the more he was lectured by the easthollow wolf. revui's son responded in fear, and the coywolf was approving of that.
"i'm his god. i'll always be his god," merrick indicated the child with a dip of his crown, single eye roving back to the stern and beautiful easthollow wolf. "you don't need good or evil when you worship someone," he mumbled softly, affectionately, gaze softening into something as close to affection as he could muster. "and i worship the bears of ursus."
the spell dissolved in the next instant. merrick sighed, gathered himself up. "we should be getting home." his stare had not left the stranger. 
"good looking out." mocking, mocking, for merrick would not have spared a child of easthollow.
weakness in the armor of the holy warrior.