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kukutux avoided the glen.

whether or not she was aware, the deaths of those she had loved had twisted into a knot of haunting within her breast.

her season had not yet arrived. kukutux blinked through falling snow and inhaled, wandering among the moonstones as she thought of what else moonspear might lose.
Thanks for starting! <3

Merrit spent most of his days around the borders, securing, guarding, protecting, but he felt like he had very little purpose these days, apart from keeping Legion safe, to keep Kallik safe. His arcing hope to care for Easthollow pigeonholed now onto this one last child. And how long until he, too, died just like the rest?

He had decided to visit Hydra. Packs had since settled in the flatlands, and obscured his path to her, elongating his travels and pushing him North. Merrit found himself descending into a peculiar land, with sheer walls and pools he feared to encroach upon. They were still, unfragmented by waves or ripples. Perfect surfaces, to reflect to him a face he did not wish to look upon.

So his eyes stayed on the space before him, where snow fell like fairy dust, and thought, for a moment, he saw a shape through the white. He lent out a chuff, to test himself. To see if she was a mirage, a spectre, or if she were a mortal. Just like him.
of course! <3

no spectre, as would be evinced by the way kukutux looked up, jadestone eyes flying wide as she stepped back. the man that had appeared was young but massive, in variances of grey and with an intelligent look. a young hunter? or perhaps he was trader. "i greet you," the duck said softly, stepping forward.

in this place, she was emissary of moonspear and must be such. "i came to look at the stones," she said gently, though she could hardly keep her curious, wary stare from the great wolf. "have you travelled far?"
She seemed startled when she met him. He supposed he couldn't blame her. "I'm sorry for surprising you," he said, his voice soft, but not a whisper. His dipped his head to her greeting, as he had done countless times before - but there was a weight to the gesture these days that wanted to keep his crown bowed toward the ground.

The stones. His aunt had been fascinated by the earth. Perhaps it was a tradition of the North, to be so. But he did not comment on these; she did not seem interested in the rocks anymore. Her gaze probed him deeply, betraying the depths of understanding that seemed beyond her years. He shifted so that his forelegs rubbed against each other. "That depends," he said. Legion was not so far from here anymore - but they had travelled a long way to make that true, "are you from one of the packs around here?" he asked. He knew that wolves could not be trusted, but if she were from Moonspear, that would, at least, curb his inherent mistrust.
the akkunak was careful. "in moonspear, i am marriage-sister to hydra." she dipped her head to his apology but said nothing more on that, for he had mended it with his politeness.

if the wind changed she would be granted his scent; until then, the duck was only curious. and yet she knew he would not give his origin until he heard hers. some song from the direction of the sea; kukutux glanced that way, wondering if from this distance the salt breeze might carry.

He had never heard the phrase, but it conveyed her meaning and put her in her proper place. Merrit felt his guard lower, and perhaps it showed in the softening of his brow.

"We are allies, then," he said, and took a small step forward. His words suggested a smile, though neutrality maintained his composure. "I am Merrit Stark, of Easthollow. I lived with Moonspear, once," had she been there too, at that time? He studied her as well as she studied him, but any recognition failed. "To Hydra, I am Theseus."

His nostrils flared when a breeze carried over her. Moonspear and brine. How close was he to the sea? The compulsive fret nestled in the back of his mind, but intruded no further.
stark. easthollow. these were not names known to the duck, but he was familiar with the mountain. this lessened her tension further; there was a warmer look that came to play in her gaze. "a traveller with two names. you must have many stories, merrit-theseus," kukutux murmured softly with a curve to her lips.

"i only have possession of one name. kukutux." she was compelled then to let lashes veil her greenstone eyes, to lower herself in the deferential manner of a woman to a man. he could be kin, for all that she knew, for merrit had not elaborated on how he knew hydra — or why the blackbear knew him by a second title.
He felt her smile would have been contagious if he had been any other. As it was her playful warmth ebbed out and froze just before it reached him, and what he offered was something pained and uncertain.

"Kukutux," he repeated. He had heard like syllables from Clary when she had spoken of the wolves she had met in the North. Never the name exactly, but the language was familiar. Perhaps they were kindred, in more ways that one. "I suppose I do have many stories, but I find they make for ballads more than a joyful refrain," and he thought to comment further, perhaps inviting her in to agree that this was the norm for every wolf - but instead he turned his head, and with a softness to his confusion asked, "Why do you submit to me?"
"in my land it is custom to respect hunters. men receive such for the fact that it is men who often die in the hunt." a somber subject to be sure. she looked up, a soft look crossing her countenance.

"what is ballad?" kukutux inquired, lifting her head once more. she wondered if this large warrior held the long tales inside himself, things that were not pleasant but must be handed down all the same.
He bowed his head at her words, a silent show of respect. "I understand," he said, though his upbringing had been far different from hers, "I... suppose I am not used to that way. Where I am from, men and women bowed to my mother, and she would have given her life for us, if such was required to keep us safe." It was why the Mother Stone was most valued of all.

"A ballad?" he repeated, caught of guard by her interest and inquiry. "Well, I - I've never much defined..." he shook his head with the slightest quaver, "they are songs that tell a story, about someone famous, or someone heroic, or some love that has been lost. They are ... mournful. Sad." He thought, perhaps, it might be socially fitting to offer to share one with her - but not even mother had known that side of him, that wrote lines with the stars and the midday wind as he patrolled the boundaries of their home.
"it is same with hydra," kukutux smiled gently. "she is blackbear. fierce in her own right. but i am happy to follow the ways of my first people." there was something inside merrit's voice that called to her; the duck wished to understand it.

"we would call you unikkautte," the duck shared. "one who tells stories. but not every story is a fun tale for children. many of them are sung at the back of the throat and tell of tragedies that shaped the world." she studied him. his great strength was not at odds with this talk of 'ballads;' he was a warrior who carried those memories inside himself.
A shadow of a smile ghosted the man's face. "Indeed," he said, with a fondness he did not conceal. Hydra was a force unto herself, and someone he feared and aspired to be like. Few men had ever managed to reach such a place in his life, and Merrit wondered how strange it must feel to Kukutox to operate beneath a woman of such valour as Hydra, yet remain consigned in mind and spirit to the perception of women as something else, something... well, not lesser, nor weaker, but different. And yet, he also thought she must be quite strong to keep such beliefs about her in a culture that so slapped against them, and Merrit found he admired that.

"Unikkautte."  He tried to repeat, and no doubt butchered. He had never grasped the Northern tongue as well as Nanook or Clary had. But then, mother had never spoken it much around him.

These words Kukutux shared, they resonated with him, and Merrit found that her gentle spirit blossomed a sense of willing vulnerability within himself. "I have found that a great many tragedies seem to have shaped the wolves of these Wilds," he said. She reminded him of his aunt in some ways, of his mother in others. By all of heaven, how he missed them both. "My mother passed, some weeks ago," his voice softened; he had not shared this with many others outside of Legion, and his own. "I have been working on a ballad for her." And this, he had shared with no one.
"you are not so bad," she laughed softly. despite how the clipped tones had not come easily to him, merrit had name a good attempt. maybe it spoke to the source of good things in him. 

he had lost his mother. kukutux softened at once into inviting warmth, expression shifting to one that spoke of her understanding. "my mother has also gone to the dancing lights. the first pain is hardest." her greenstone eyes searched him, then fell away with a gentle comprehension. 

"i would hear your ballad." her turn now to trip over the word, rounder and less pointed than her own; this one rolled roundly beneath the roof of her mouth and stayed frontward. a quick deprecating grin. "if you wish to let me hear." for kukutux sensed such things were close to the silver heart of this merrit, and she would not pull them away unless he wished to give.