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One of the bonuses of living in the Bypass now was that surrounding territories were, well, the only way she could find to describe them was 'sweet'. Laurel had checked out some of the Bypass territories in her first time living with the Rivenwood wolves, and she decided to check out some of its surrounding territories too. Laurel had always enjoyed a bit of exploration, even though she'd never labelled herself as a scout.

As she stepped outside of the Rivenwood borders she recognised the Grove. These lands — the east — had been her home for a long time. She didn't quite realise how close the home was that she had lived in with Reek, or she might realise it was a lot longer than even she thought.

Bearclaw Valley was where it had all begun, and though Laurel sometimes longed to be away from it, perhaps accepting that it was here and that things were the way they were was easier in some ways. Perhaps here, with Mahler and his wolves, she could truly find a new beginning. Xan's ongoing absence worried her, though she couldn't fathom where he would've gone. Maybe he'd come back. If not, then who would she make her family with? A family with not complete without a father. They'd both needed that second chance. Now, though...

These worries were set aside for later thought as Laurel walked through the grove. A light snow accompanied her as her paws crunched through the existing snow on the flat lands. Her eyes were on the floor, watching out for any of the Grove's creeks that might've gotten covered by the snow.
praimfaya was becoming acutely aware of the changes happening to her body; sinking its claws into her without much forewarning aside from her own inkling that she would have her first heat this year — and truthfully she could've been wrong. she hadn't been wrong and though her instinct presently was to sequester herself away from the attention of males she has duties as newly promoted graf. she spent the last handful of hours patrolling though she did not think it wise to add her scent to them beyond what would linger from her patrol.

mahler's instructions had been clear: find a partner far away from rivenwood — not attract them to the pack.

it was only praimfaya's confidence in her own abilities to protect herself and chase off any unwanted suitors that lulled her to venture outside of the wood. initially, her decision was to check on the herds nearby; take stock of if they had grown or dwindled and of their general health. the scent of rivenwood — though the woman that holds it is unfamiliar to her — distracts her and instead she finds herself idly following her scent trail instead.

frostbound gaze falls upon the woman cloaked in agouti of neutral and earthen toned tans and the worheda lets out a low chuff of greeting to announce her presence.
Laurel was surprised to find the scent of pack wolves where she was exploring. She turned her head to see a wolf; a woman, who looked strong and confident by her set of scars alone. Laurel knew that didn't always prove anything, but there was something about her that made Laurel feel that she knew what she was doing, and wouldn't take shit from anyone.

Well, good for her.

Laurel looked at the other when she let out a chuff. What had Sequoia said? Everyone here was stuffy and boring? Laurel smiled at the Rivenwood wolf, her smile much less bubbly and out there than with Sequoia, with that knowledge in mind. She said, Hiya, her tone friendly but even, and her tail waved a few beats. Don't think we've properly met yet. I'm Laurel.
the other woman offers her a soft smile and praimfaya feels her lips twitching to mirror the action. hello, praimfaya parrots, wishing with a sudden ache to her chest that she could speak trigedasleng — and then considering quickly that she would teach her children ( providing everything worked out ) so she might have someone to converse in it with. it is nice to meet you, laurel. praimfaya says with a dip of her head.

really, she should make more of an effort to get to know all of rivenwood now that she was graf alongside mahler.

i am praimfaya. she offers her own name, for now leaving her new promotion off — but mostly so she does not sound arrogant. surely, all of rivenwood knew by now. you're relatively new to rivenwood, yes? praimfaya inquires. if you don't mind me asking, where did you come to us from? she wasn't trying to pry; instead, trying to get to know the other woman better by inviting conversation, though it was a softly asked question and if laurel didn't feel comfortable was under no pressure.

it wasn't something she, too young, had done in roangeda and now with age and experience in her belt, the commander sees the numerous mistakes she's made in the past and how to keep herself from repeating them.
She seemed friendly enough, and since she was a woman Laurel felt at ease enough. She'd learned throughout her life that men could not be trusted, but women were usually trustworthy enough. They might attack, but not so often unprecedented, and at least they would only take your skin and blood if they did attack; not your dignity. Now now, don't forget we are good at taking sanity as well, my love, hissed his voice in her head to prove a point.

Praimfaya was quite a mouthful. Laurel could not help but wonder if Sequoia was just a party animal that she thought the other wolves around Rivenwood were sticks in the mud, or that she and this Praimfaya had had a negative encounter of sorts. Either way, Laurel set Sequoia aside for now and focused on the conversation. She nodded when Praimfaya asked her if she was new to Rivenwood.

The next question was just as easy to answer. I've lived in Easthollow for some time before this, said Laurel, and she watched her pack mate's face to see if she recognised the name. When its leader Valette died, there were not enough wolves left for us to stick together. I came here with Xan, my... Yes, what exactly had they been? Mate? The father of her children? The future father of her children? Laurel's expression dropped a little, sorrowfully. We planned to start a family here, in Rivenwood. I was looking forward to watching my children grow up in the beautiful Bypass... But it seems he left around the same time that we moved there. Laurel looked down at the ground as she thought of it. She looked sad, mostly, even though her blood boiled with anger for him. Understandable, dearest. You're not getting any younger. Next year might be too late for a new start, for another chance at being a good mother — and we both know you need it so desperately.
the name 'easthollow' brings with it some sort recognition; snippets of hazy memories of her youth when roangeda was more than memory and dacio was still alive. she'd been there; once, at least. i was there once on a diplomatic mission, praimfaya mentions; finding that the memory brings a small smile to her lips that is tainted with heavy sadness. at the reason for the visit, for that it was one of the few moments with dacio she had left without realizing it. i'm sorry to hear it, praimfaya offers her sympathy softly, perhaps tentatively. it was the nature of a pack, though. she knows that well enough.

laurel then mentions someone named xan, though seems unable to place an exact title upon their relationship and mentions they had hoped to start a family. if the idea of having another woman to raise children with ( including sequoia ) warms praimfaya it is quickly dashed and tempered down when laurel continues on to mention that he disappeared.

a frown tugs the corners of the commander's lips downwards.

then he's a branwoda, praimfaya supplies in an effort to embody the 'woman should stick together' movement that she could definitely get behind. it means 'fool'. she offers the translation and gives her opinion based upon her limited third-party view despite that the other woman hadn't asked for it. and while praimfaya didn't wish to step on mahler's toes, she also didn't want laurel to feel like she was stuck without this mysterious xan. if you really want children ...perhaps speak to mahler about seeking a sire elsewhere as he has allowed sequoia and myself to do, though praimfaya didn't wish to be insensitive, especially if there were feelings involved; still it seems worth offering her support. you may tell him that you have my permission, if you decide to approach him about it. after all, they were a team, mahler and her; were they not? her support only tipped half the scale.
Praimfaya seemed to know of Easthollow. It'd been her home for a long time, yet she had never felt at home. Even Rivenwood so far exuded more warmth than the circle of stones ever had. Not by any fault of Valette's; her leader had tried hard, but Easthollow was full of painful memories. Valette was very kind, she said, remembering how the leader had taken her and her unborn children in. But even so, the stones were covered in blood -- the blood of Iliksis, the blood of Indra, the blood of her own children, by her own hands... No. Easthollow had been doomed for a long time. She should have realised it herself before she let fate dictate her path. Rivenwood felt like a chance at redeeming the bad memories of Easthollow rather than being pushed into them face first every single day.

A fresh start, she hoped.

A what? Laurel asked, blinking, when she mentioned branwoda. A fool? Laurel had never heard the word before, and it showed on her face. However, when 'fool' was mentioned, Laurel grinned in agreement. He'd had his second chance and he'd ruined it. She'd be bulletproof from heron out. She wouldn't give her heart away so easily again. She smiled, the first genuine smile she offered. Thank you, she said, finding herself a little bashful at the words; an unusual emotion for the tan woman. They had only just met, so to have the man who left her called a fool meant something to Laurel. More than she could describe in words.

The next thing Praimfaya offered meant a lot to her, too. Really? she queried, clearly taken aback by the offer and the immediate consent. They'd only just met; this was since Valette level kindness. It felt like a lot. Just like how Mahler had offered them a spot in his pack. How Sequoia had felt almost like a lost sister. Perhaps Rivenwood truly could mend some of the pain inflicted in the past. Thank you so much, Praimfaya, Laurel said, clearly not sure how to express herself. I'm going to give it some thought. I'll let you know, too, what I decide. To be a mother... It's a wonderful thing, beyond words. I would like to experience it again, though I had hoped to have a mate by my side this time. Laurel looked away ruefully. She did not think the children would be any less off for it, but it would have been good to have had some help. She wasn't getting any younger.
though praimfaya's single interaction with valette is restricted to that brief meeting she recalls that she thought of easthollow as pacifists; and while she reasons that's not entirely a bad thing she also holds fast to the belief instilled into her down the generations of her family that there was no such thing as remaining neutral. eventually, trouble and war would find their way to your door ...and you had to make a stand. she was the commander of war; she was a fighter since birth and while she was not unwilling to compromise, to try for peace she knew that it was not always an option.

she'd seen it too many times firsthand.

briefly, the saints flash to the forefront of her mind.

she lets go of those thoughts then as laurel speaks; letting the four winds carry them away like a feather helplessly caught and carried away by the breeze.

praimfaya is glad that laurel does not take offense to her calling xan a branwoda; though really it had a fifty, fifty chance of backfiring on her. bran-wo-da, praimfaya repeats, slower; making it sound more like it's root words 'brown water'. it was the language my mother and my blidakru ...my family spoke. i like to use it now and then so i don't forget it. though she doubts that could ever happen; with how tightly she clung to her people's culture that was unlikely to occur. i could teach you more words, if you'd like. praimfaya makes the offer, a soft smile tugging at the edges of her lips as she notes the older woman's almost bashful smile.

a sage nod is given to affirm that she meant what she said to laurel, followed by a soft of course. praimfaya understood that it was something to consider but at least half the proverbial battle was won, with her support. perhaps her co-leader would not agree ( she rather thought he might not since he was firmly set on marriage at the beginning ).

a soft pang of sadness resounds in the commander's chest as she notes the other woman's rueful expression, caught briefly in the seconds before she turned her face away. praimfaya, like her mother before her, had never wanted a mate — had never felt that particular desire but couldn't say that she would ever rule it out ...if it was practical, if she fell in love. to be commander is to be alone was their way for so long; but it was a lonely existence: she, too knows this from experience.

i like to believe that none of us know what it's in store for us, praimfaya speaks softly on the subject. you never know, laurel. you could find someone.
Branwoda, Laurel repeated, though it sounded a lot more like 'brown water' from her own tongue than Praimfaya's. Laurel knew nothing of this language, and though curious for it, she was uncertain if she had the energy to learn words from it. Perhaps in time, when she was a bit more settled in the Bypass. Laurel felt a bit nervous to say no to the offer — something she never would otherwise — so she said a little shyly, Perhaps when I'm a bit more settled in Rivenwood.

It made thoughts go around in her head thinking of becoming a mother alone. Though the thought of not having a man around soothed her anxious heart, it also made Laurel feel like it must be a lot to handle to be a mother alone.

As Praimfaya said that she liked to think that nobody knows what's coming for them, Laurel scoffed. A flash of indignation and hurt passed her face before she managed to wrangle her face back into a polite, though wry smile. She might find someone... His cold words were in her ears. Someone... Like me, dearest. She could feel his hot breath in her neck, even though she knew that it couldn't be true.

Yeah. She didn't want to find someone. Maybe. But she doubted she would ever find someone who had proven themselves so trustworthy as Xan had last season. Men were all pigs, and though Xan had left her, at least he hadn't...

Oh, come on, dearest, you loved your time with me.

It took all of Laurel's willpower to not scream 'no' at him. The only thing that stopped her was Praimfaya's presence, but her teeth were grit and it was clear that she was distressed.

How will you and Sequoia do it? she asked Praimfaya. The question came rushed and stunted. She had to say something, get herself back into the moment, into the here and now. Alone, I mean. I suppose the pack will help? Laurel had raised her previous set of children all alone. Maybe that was what she was in part, afraid of. That she'd repeat the sins she unleashed upon Riley, Louie and Charles if she didn't have a partner who would stay her hand and mind. Or, no, it wasn't that — it was that they'd turn out wrong because they didn't have a father.
there's no obligation, of course. i just thought i'd offer. the commander is quick to assure the other woman. if things went well she would soon be with children that she would speak to in trigedasleng exclusively; figuring that they would learn common from the rest of rivenwood. this was what blodreina did for her and in praimfaya's experience it was a good tactic. at laurel's obvious distress, praimfaya feels guilt swell beneath her breast and the scarred heda shifts her weight. i'm sorry if i overstepped. i didn't mean to. the last thing she needed as the second graf was to be on bad terms with her packmates.

i'm not sure, praimfaya admits, relieved at the change of the subject though it was clear laurel was in a hurry to get it out. praimfaya admits, a bit sheepishly: it will be my first time being a mother. and without her own mother to turn to for advice praimfaya must do the best she can. rivenwood will help when the cubs are old enough. the cubs benefited rivenwood as a whole. their survival and successes were rivenwood's survival and success.
The thought of learning the other language was daunting, but maybe it would be nice. Maybe it was time that Laurel tried to confide in other women, where she could not confide in anyone but Indra before. It was too late to truly make friends with a man — they're all the same, anyway, aren't they, my dearest? — but maybe with Praimfaya and Sequoia, she could... Maybe.

It was rather an uncommon thing for anyone to apologise to Laurel for overstepping. In her experience, everyone usually just traipsed all over her and didn't really care what she felt. It was rather strange to hear someone offer their sincere apologies like that. Laurel blinked, looking caught off-guard by it. Oh, ah... She looked as confused as all of the mixed feelings in her gut that entangled with the confusion about motherhood. .. It's okay. There was something uncomfortable about the way that she said it.

Praimfaya admitted it would be her first time being a mother. Ah, what a blessing it was, to have the chance to be a mother for the first time. If she could go back, Laurel would wish that she could be a mother again for the first time. Maybe she could make Lucas stay. Maybe she could do better. Maybe she could love them all equally. Maybe...

But as it were, for her there were only third chances at this. And oh, how desperately she needed that third chance. hmm-mm, she said with a nod in return to Praimfaya mentioning Rivenwood's help. It would not be truly alone, but the first months must be hard. Who would hunt for them? Laurel noted that she should make sure to bring them food when the pups were still too little to be alone long. She wasn't sure how she would've made it without Indra's help through both her motherhoods. Are you afraid? Laurel asked out of the blue, wondering if the thought of becoming a mother was daunting.
there is a moments breadth of awkwardness, as praimfaya remains hung up on the notion that she'd overstepped despite the other woman's reassurance. even so, the commander makes a mental note to be more mindful in the future. she no longer has the excuse of being young and knows that she must curb her more brash tendencies. rivenwood was her geda, it's wolves her kru but she worries that her devotion might be more a lot more of a 'harsh' love than they are used to given the culture she was born into and raised around with the assurances of both blodreina and dacio.

the question comes, then, on whether she was afraid. afraid of what? praimfaya almost asks but bites her tongue last second and in stead considers it; letting her thoughts play across her scarred visage. initially, her reaction is no. what was there to be afraid of? she did not fear going into battle ...was motherhood so different? little does she know, it is very different. having tiny lives dependent upon her for at least the first handful of months. truly, she naïve to what it entails. should i be? she asks then, voice quiet.
For Laurel, the question had some deeper meanings. Afraid... of having to get with a man in order to accomplish her goals. Afraid... of being a terrible mother. Afraid... of not loving all of them equally. Afraid...

She was afraid, even though she still wanted to be a mother again. Perhaps because she knew she had many amends to make. If she didn't try again, start over, she'd always have the bad memories and the fears. But if she did better this time, then she could erase them, paint them over with better memories and courage.

The question seemed to be a sensitive one to Praimfaya, too, for she asked then, quiet, if she should be. Laurel smiled reassuringly, unwanting to bring her own fears onto her leader, and shook her head. There are many things daunting about motherhood, but I'm sure you'll do fine. And you have experienced wolves like myself and Mahler to help you.
i see, praimfaya responds; considering. in the end, though, despite whether it was daunting or not, her mind was made up. she would learn and the only way she could learn was through experience. she had a duty to her people, to her parents to continue on the line of commanders, their legacies for with their deaths she was their only child. things are best learned through experience, right? she gives voice to her line of thoughts with a soft hum that tugs the edges of her lips into a smile. thank you, laurel.

a pause is given before the clicking of joints in the distance as the deer herd begins to meander further draws praimfaya's attention. i'm going to observe the herd for a bit, she gestures in it's direction. it's mind-numbingly boring, admittedly; but a necessary evil. care to join me? she extends the offer to laurel, knowing that she would not be upset if refused.
Sequoia and Praimfaya definitely seemed different; two different sides of a coin. Whereas Laurel initially set in her less bubbly side as a tactic, knowing that Praimfaya was not as bubbly as Sequoia — and didn't do well with wolves such as Sequoia — now it felt a comfortable place to be. There was less pretending involved, even though it was more dangerous to slip and fall, too.

That's right, Laurel said with a soft smile that was almost genuine when Praimfaya suggested that things were best learned through experience. It gave Laurel some hope that maybe, the third time would be the charm in her own case, knowing that things were best learned through experience. She'd messed up a lot in her life. And I mean, a LOT, dearest. ... But there was always a future, always a chance to do better, always a chance she'd have learned from her experience.

She could not help but smile at the seemingly heartfelt thank-you that Praimfaya offered her. Laurel glanced in the direction of the herd when Praimfaya mentioned she'd watch it for a bit. An offer to join was extended, and Laurel visibly hesitated while she considered this. Being alone would be more relaxing, but being away from Iliksis — well, a bit more away than when she was alone, anyway — would do her well. And of all the wolves, Praimfaya's presence seemed to be one of the ones that was relatively, well, alright to be in.

Yeah, sure, Laurel said after contemplation, a small, demure smile on her face.
though praimfaya applies no pressure for laurel to join her — she is nevertheless happy when the other woman accepts. they did not have to spent the observation time with chatter, but praimfaya wouldn't turn it down, either. she is used to working her small routine alone: but finds that she enjoys company and specifically the other woman's. praimfaya knows she can be a bit intense to those who do not know her or her ways.

she leads the way towards the general direction of the herd, keeping a careful and calculated distance so as not to spook them while they found a good place to continue grazing and when they settled, so too did she, finding a place among the forest bracken to lay low — though it does little to camouflage her — quietly inviting laurel to join her at her observation spot.