Otatso Wetlands I'm getting Hickeys from my Bedbugs
June 27, 2020, 03:15 AM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I

The ground, still a soupy marshy mess,. Was at least a bit more dry here. It was actually quite beautiful, the dense trees shading and providing an almost mystical atmosphere. She turned to make sure the Male was beside her, grateful that now there was no Swarm of biting flies to contend with. Although the dark and the mist was only considerably better. Still it was a welcome reprieve and she wouldn't make the mistake of returning to the hellscape east of them again. 
She settled for a moment on a patch of waterlogged grass, shaking the remaining mosquitoes from her pelt. 
"Well. Never making that mistake Again." She remarked, laughter in her voice. "I think I'm going to need about Twelve baths in the river before I get this stench out." She grimaced, looking at the filmy scum all over her legs and rump.
June 27, 2020, 05:36 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        The two strangers had high tailed it out of the Marsh to the Wetlands, which, though still soggy, was a much needed improvement. Mosquitos and other insects still flew about, but in far fewer numbers due in part to the birds. There were many kinds of feathered pest-control all around them. Taikon could hear calls from them among the strange, low canopy overhead. A heron poked through the reeds, hunting for small fish.
        The greenery reflected wonderfully on the surface of the water. Taikon nodded as the female spoke of their unfortunate mistake. He laughed at her joke, nodding profusely. Yeah, no kidding, he agreed, looking down at his own legs that had been stained an unpleasant brown colour by the mud. At least the mud will keep us cool for a while, he said, looking only for a bright side to things. He looked at her more closely now that there was less distance between them and he wasn't stuck behind her. She was of a different build than other wolves he had known. Her eyes were like gems, fierce and calming at once with their blue colour. Her copper-tinged face was hardly unpleasant. I'm Taikon, he introduced himself at last.
June 27, 2020, 06:50 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
An older man. Old enough to be her father really. 
Her mind flitted briefly to Surya. She loved him, but it was not in her heart to only love one. She craved adventure and Surya's caution, although endearing, was taxing. Would an older wolf be more experienced, more confident? 
His laugh brought a smile to her and she looked almost radiant- well at least as radiant as you can be in such low light. His eyes slid over her frame and she welcomed the attention. He introduced himself and she savored the sound. 
"Hopefully the mud keeps us from getting Green Fever. " She remarked. The illness, what humans called Encephalitis, was deadly...and spread by mosquitoes. "I'm Aphrodite." She offered pleasantly, smiling up at him. "So what brings you around here for?"
June 27, 2020, 11:45 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Aphrodite, he parroted back to her, the name of a Goddess. He thought it interesting, and wondered if her parents had chosen that name for their daughter, or if she had selected it herself. Names fascinated him, although his own he had no knowledge of where it came from. Her smile was luscious, and infectious. He beamed back as she asked him why he'd been farting around the area.
        Taikon paused, unsure how to answer. He rubbed at the moist ground with a paw, playing with bits of leaf litter and mud that surfaced with its disturbance. I was trying to see if there was a better path toward the sea, but obviously that was a bad idea. It was a partial lie — in reality he had never set foot anywhere near the sea, but he couldn't think of what else to say. If you mean in general, I'm just a traveller; I move from place to place is all, he explained, though it sounded quite dull in the air. The white male decided to turn the question back to her. And you?
June 28, 2020, 12:16 AM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
"The name of a goddess." 
She gasped, eyes wide. No one here knew of her home, of her Culture. Of the pantheon that she devoted her heart to. "Yes! Yes it is!" Her tail did its telltale flutter that it did when she was happy or excited. Her mouth shaped around the words, testing. "xéreis tin paliá glóssa?" She uttered, watching him, hopeful. She felt like such a stranger in these lands...and to meet someone who somehow knew of her home...
He mentioned the sea and she Smiled. I have friends by the sea. I...I don't think I can take you there, Though... It's.." Its where Donovan was. She highly doubted Yüelong was able to kill him, or drive him off. She would spend the rest of her life terrified, looking over her shoulder, Wondering if he would find her to finish his torment. Gratefully he changed the subject and she beamed proudly. "I'm healer and caretaker for Whitebark Stream. I was hoping to find some new medicine. Clearly that was a mistake." She laughed softly, her eyes meeting his. "If...If you want...I wouldn't mind you staying with us. I'm sure Artyom would be happy to see a new face..." And I want to get to know you better. She didn't say. He looked at her like he felt the same way and it made her heart beat faster.
June 28, 2020, 12:53 AM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Aphrodite was very excited when he mentioned her name being the same as a Goddess, and spoke to him in some otherwordly language. He made a face and frowned, shaking his head. He had no idea what she said. He had heard things about Gods and Goddesses from the Faruka, who were collectors of religious mythos but themselves atheists. He, too, had no belief in higher powers, and felt weird for mentioning it at all.
        The lovely she-wolf spoke of friends by the sea, and he listened closely to her, unsure of why she faltered so. She didn't even bother to finish what she'd started to say, and he ended it with, That's okay, though I'm sure they're nice.
        The blue-eyed creature continued, speaking of her current role and pack. She'd been hunting for new medicine. That whole world was alien to Taikon; he'd been injured or ill only a handful of times in his five years, and it had almost always been his home Farukan healers who took care of him. The last time he had been seriously injured was when they had driven him out.
        Then, she made a strange offer. Though he was almost entirely a stranger to her, she invited him to stay with her at Whitebark Stream. He hesitated, I-I, um... She was very pretty, and the sweet tonality of her voice made him feel absurdly awkward as he tried to find a way to reject the offer. It's hard to explain, but I don't do packs, he attempted. He had learned his lesson after Spook had been terrified by him ranting about packs being fascist regimes. I'm happy to walk you home, if you'd like; it's very nice out today. Taikon offered her a genuine smile. He figured they could talk more on the way. It was likely far.
June 28, 2020, 05:29 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
Her face fell as he was unable to answer her question. 
"Oh. Sorry. I've never met anyone who knew my gods...I thought maybe you knew my language, too." It was a mistake. A mistake that left her feeling ever more alone. 
He tried to reassure her, and she smiled weakly. "They are. My friend Aiolos saved my life. But there is a wolf there... Donovan. Please if you ever meet him...run.The last word was urgent. No one should suffer the same fate she did. 
As he rejected her offer her eyes grew downcast and she fidgeted slightly, and ear flicking in the direction of a Frog plopping into a pool of water nearby. 
"That's unfortunate." She says softly, before turning her eyes up flirtatiously. "I was hoping to get to know you better. But good luck, I suppose." 
June 28, 2020, 06:17 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Donovan, thought Taikon, filing away the name for later. Part of him wondered what this stranger had done to deserve the poor reputation, but Taikon was not one to pry in this way. He had lots of things he didn't like talking about, and respected her short advice. He nodded, deciding to that he would indeed run if he had the chance.
        Taikon felt very much like he had let her down. She didn't like his lack of knowledge about her native language, and she didn't like his rejection of her invitation. Aphrodite seemed even to ignore his counter-offer, instead looking at him with a sly glint in her gorgeous eyes.
        He felt odd. I would also like to get to know you better; where I sleep won't stop me from that, he grinned, equally flirtatious. It had been a long time since Taikon had received any signals from a woman. He, like many men, had been trained that he should never say no to women if it implied a lack of sexual interest. This Whitebark place. What's it like? Taikon was genuinely curious. Having never stayed in one place for long since his younger years, he wondered what it might be like to have that sense of family and safety again.
June 28, 2020, 07:33 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
His flirting back with her brought a smile to her lips. For a brief moment she thought of Surya, Wondering if he would understand. She was not the type of wolf to stay with one partner. She had said she loved him, and had meant it, Just as she wished she could have loved Santiago. She wondered, briefly, where he was, and if he was happy. If he had ever found a pack to lead. She still had the sulfur stone in her den. 
her attention snapped back to the older male in front of her. "Well you're welcome to sleep beside me...I've never been with an older man before." She winked, her ocean eyes twinkling with mischievous notions. 
He asked about Whitebark and she smiled. "It's small, and quiet. We live by the stream near the glacier. We're a family, all looking out for each other. Artyom and Dawn are our leaders." 
It was the only proper pack she had ever known, and she wouldn't give it up for anything.
June 28, 2020, 11:38 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Aphrodite's reply sent an exciting tingle down from his spine to his loins; it was an infrequent and interesting sensation, and a weird glimmering smile washed over his features. Though the male did not think of himself as "an older man," he supposed to a young lady he might be. Taikon had never met a she-wolf so... free-spirited and sexually open as this one. She knew almost nothing about him, yet was willing so easily to practically invite him to... well...
        Perhaps she was toying with him. Now her name seemed even more fitting. He hazarded to meet her gaze, and when he did he practically drowned in it. She knew exactly how to get what she wanted. Taikon said nothing.
        When she spoke of her pack, she seemed fond of it indeed. There was a part of him that missed the sense of belonging and comradery that came with pack life, but he knew that he simply did not belong anywhere. Though talk of packs usually left him feeling defensive and annoyed, as he felt that all packs were essentially dictatorships, her soft attitude left him with an open mind.
        By this time, he had sat just beside her, turned toward her to listen. I see. Artyom and Dawn. And you're a healer for the Whitebarks then? The question was simple, but he wanted to know more. What got you into that? Taikon had no special talents to his knowledge. He had never wished to know them and never had reason to continue growth toward such a specialty.
June 29, 2020, 06:33 AM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
She had always been open. Always been a flirt. 
of course, she knew well the difference between love and lust, and Love was what she craved more than anything in the world. Something to love her forever. It's why she wanted children so badly- They HAD to love her. 
She thought it funny how many males claimed to "not be interested in packs" and yet listen raptly when she spoke of the love of her Whitebark family. 
"Yes, I patch up everyone's wounds...both literally and figuratively." She laughed softly. She was the shoulder to cry on. She was the voice of comfort and reason. And somehow, by the grace of Hestia, always knew what to say. 
"My mama taught me, and...I like making people happy. Everyone deserves a chance for love, and happiness. And there's something fullfilling about it." Her words were honest. She loved everything about healing- the learning, the love of her patients.
June 29, 2020, 04:30 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Aphrodite seemed... genuine. It was clear to Taikon that she had a naturally soft heart. Her playful nature coloured her words with a lightness that made him smile. That makes sense, he said, I can imagine why that would be fulfilling. He wasn't sure that everyone deserved chances for love and happiness.  He could think of several people that he wished nothing short of misery for.
        What about people who just prevent others from being happy? Do they deserve a chance to be happy, too? Taikon was curious what she would say. Like this..Donovan person. He said it without meaning to upset her. It was the best example of something that might give her pause that he could think of.
June 29, 2020, 05:58 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
His words of doubt made her pin her ears, and she remembers the words she had spat at Donovan in the river. 
She thought over her words, very carefully. 
"People hurt others," She answered softly, "Because they themselves are hurting. It doesn't make it right, and you shouldn't break yourself trying to heal them, But...they cant love themselves. They can't care about themselves. And if you can't do that, if you don't know what love is, or are so lost with pain and anger you can't see it....How are you supposed to love someone else?" Her words were so simple, yet so deep. At times when she spoke it was as though the goddess herself was speaking through her, and this was one of those times. "And besides," she continues with a gentle smile. "If you wish pain on someone who hurts you, you are no better than them. Angry, blind, and hateful. What Donovan did to me was unspeakable. But he regrets it, because he was forced to see what he had done. And so...I wish him love. I wish him change. I wish him...." She trailed off, blinking rapidly. Her breath grew short and the familiar creeping ice cold sensation in her limbs that foretold a panic attack. She took several deep breaths to steady herself, the only outward sign of anything wrong being a slight trembling and a few sharp breaths. Finally, after a moment, she stilled, and gave him a weak smile. "Sorry..." 
June 29, 2020, 11:40 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Aphrodite answered his loaded question with something that sounded like what mothers might tell their children when they were being bullied. There was certainly wisdom in her words. They can't love themselves. Taikon wasn't sure he "loved" himself, or ever could or would. To him, loving yourself was nothing short of vanity. He struggled here to understand her, but thought carefully about how one who was lost might be unable, incapable, of loving another person.
        His brow furrowed and he looked at a nearby tree while she paused between sentences. He knew that though he was for the most part a kind person, he was lost, and had been for a long time. He wondered, then, if he had grown unable to love another. Because Cella's memory poisoned his existence, he could not find real joy in life anymore.
        Taikon wondered silently if he would be like this forever. It had been years, yet the pain seemed to be the only friend he had.
        As the blue-eyed creature spoke of Donovan, she became flustered. Her breathing quickened and Taikon's challenged expression changed to worry. He stood up as she took several deep breaths, stepping closer to her. Then, she painted a fragile smile on her lips, and he frowned. No, I apologize, I did not mean for that to upset you; I wasn't thinking, he said. He, too, suffered from similar attacks, only he usually was not able to calm himself as she did.
        He stared at the ground for a moment, and sat slowly back down. How did.. Taikon struggled with the words, refusing to look her in the eye. He did not want her, or anyone, to know of his own pain. You controlled it. How?
June 29, 2020, 11:58 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
His astonishment brings her pause. 
She doesn't know how she learned to control them. The episode after she had returned home, when Surya rescued her, was terrifying. She couldn't imagine experiencing that every day. 
Almost shamefully she turns her paw over, revealing the red, irritated flesh around her Dewclaws. 
"The pain helps. I chew until I bleed, and then take care of it. It...it stops the thoughts. Then if I press my paw hard enough it makes it hurt again. Sometimes if the marks are too obvious I chew on thorns." Her eyes are downcast. No one else knew how much she tried to numb herself. About the herbs she had to take to keep the nightmares at Bay. About the fermented berries she ate till she vomited everything in her system and could barely walk. About how every waking moment away from the pack territories terrified her. And how she hid all of this behind a wink and a smile. "I can't...I can't fall apart. I have duties, and I can't go make a fool of myself in front of people. So I make it go away. I force myself to be in control... because if I don't...I'll go mad." 
June 30, 2020, 11:41 AM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        He stared, eyes wide. He didn't mean to. He couldn't help it. Her paw was a disaster, raw flesh exposed toward the side where her dewclaw sat. Taikon's lips parted as though to say something, but no words came. It looked almost like an injury she had sustained by accidentally running her paw over a rough piece of sandstone, but Aphrodite revealed that she had done this herself.
        Taikon had never seen any form of self harm before, save for a suicide that had occurred with the Faruka when he was a child. He was told by his mother that the act of suicide was selfish and cruel. Aphrodite seemed the opposite of selfish. She did this to cope.
        Agh.. he said, the sound slipping out as the young woman spoke of chewing on thorns. She explained further, that she couldn't let others down, that she did this because she had to. I.. He wanted to say he understood, but the truth was he didn't. He didn't have responsibilities other than keeping himself alive. He didn't need to say sane, and so, he wasn't. That's... it's hard. He didn't know what had happened to her. He was shooting in the dark. He thought of his own experience, and to think she had gone through anything like that wounded him deeply, infuriated him even. It's impossible, he said.
        Holding yourself to such a high standard when you're in pain, it's... I think I understand. Taikon was fortunate to not have anxious tics or habits of self-harm, but he had many other problems that were related. If I had a way I could make it stop, I would do it too. Instead, he didn't sleep. When he did, he had nightmares, so he avoided sleeping at all cost. He frowned, wishing that there was something he could do for her. Taikon felt very out of his element here. There seemed nothing he could say to help.
June 30, 2020, 06:51 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
The wide stare made her head hang even lower with shame, and she quickly tucked her paw tightly back against herself. 
But rather than shun her, he comforted her. 
His words were gentle, understanding. He spoke like he understood, and so for the first time, she spoke the words that not even Surya or Artyom knew. 
"He....raped....me." she uttered quietly, barely above a whisper. "He raped me, and tried to force me to carry pups for him next season. I bled...for weeks. I don't even know if I can carry pups now. The one thing that I want more than anything and he may have robbed me of it." Her shoulders trembled and she stifled a choked sob. "There's  herbs for the nightmares. But I can't make the Memories go away." 
She took a deep breath, trying her best to collect herself. She dumped her trauma all over a total stranger, and felt terrible for it. 
"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have been so open. " 
July 01, 2020, 12:08 AM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        This woman seemed so caring, so selfless. Clearly she was struggling with something, and had been for a while. In her, Taikon saw himself. A disturbing image looked back at him as she poured herself out to him, though he had done nothing to deserve her trust. She confided in him.
        He raped me. He stood there, stunned. It was as if she had hit him with a brick to the head, only there was no physical force to make him fall over. He was dumbfounded. His blood ran cold. He stopped breathing. His toes grew numb. He opened his mouth, but said nothing. He listened, not realizing that a small muscle in his foot was spasming harmlessly, thumping.
        He didn't feel right moving closer to her, but he wanted to be somehow...smaller. So he lay down, dazed. He wanted to be angry, and slowly it came; his ears heated up like he had pressed them against hot sand. Oh my god, was all he could say, furious, disturbed, and clueless how to comfort her. How could.. he stopped himself from speaking further, trying to collect himself. What she did not need was him imploding on her. He didn't know what she needed, but it wasn't that. His breath was quick, but he pushed out an exhale, blinking a few times and looking at her, forlorn.
        I can't believe you've gone through this. You're.. He looked at her paw, for though she had hidden it, he knew that this was her pain. She had realized it from her trauma. He wanted to tell her she was incredible, that she was a fierce warrior for fielding this. Her tears kept him from it. They weakened his resolve. What can I do? He was looking up at her from his lowered position, his ears flat with her anguish. She was a new person. She was a person worth more than what had been done to her. He wanted to help, wanted to fix it.
July 01, 2020, 05:24 PM
Aphrodite
Whitebark Stream
I
The shock on his face makes her want to curl up, to run away. To regret even saying it. She forces herself to smile, a thin lipped grimace that doesn't meet her eyes. 
She didn't want pity. It was her fault. If she hadn't been so naieve, if she had just run away, if she wasn't on that beach in the first place, if she had tried harder to fight him off, If she had said no more clearly...
And then he spoke, and the pain turned to misdirected anger. "I'm what?" She asked tensly. "Im so sweet? So pretty? So innocent and naieve? I'm an idiot with no one to blame but myself. So I bottle it up, because if I don't, I let my pack down, and possibly put them in danger. I learned the hard way I can't save Everyone and that monsters aren't just in myths." She winces, not meaning to snap at him. "I'm sorry. I'll be ok. Eventually. I think. I just need time." 
She stands on shaking legs, turning towards home. "Are you sure you don't want to give Whitebark a try? We could use another face around. And...it's not a bad looking face." She forces a laugh and a wink, this time more convincing. Put the mask back on.
July 01, 2020, 11:42 PM
Taikon
Lone Wolves

        Taikon listened while she chastised him, shrinking back as though she were threatening to hit him. He opened his mouth for a moment to speak, but nothing came out, and she wasn't done in any case. Berating herself, overflowing with emotion, she went on. She spoke of her responsibilities again, and he blinked many times, taking in her words.
        Then she apologized, and he wet his lips, hoping that the saliva would magically bring the right words to him. Like many men, he was not used to dealing with emotions. This was bigger than that. This was a disclosure, a secret that he dared not repeat.
        While Taikon sat silent, the copper-faced Aphrodite asked again if he would join her at her pack. Then, strangely, she flirted with him once more, which stunned him. I was going to say... He began, still laying down. Very slowly, he rose as she did and moved close, but not too close to her. You're strong, he finished. Poking at the muddy ground once more, he began to walk forward toward her gesture. He turned to look at her, making sure she would walk with him. I will walk there with you, but I'm sure you'll be tired of my face by the time we get there. He smiled very weakly. His mind was swimming with feelings and thoughts that he didn't know what to do with. He felt a terrible, new urge to hurt something, someone. His heartbeat raced, but he forced a shield of calm like she did.