Moonspear Work hard and be nice.
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She didn't mind the rain, though it made the already treacherous slopes all the more slippery. Meerkat continued her explorations, though she took them quite a bit slower to avoid twisting an ankle or, worse, breaking her neck. She intended to head back to the copse in a few days to see her mother, she needed to stay alive for that! Besides, Towhee would kill her if she died, a ridiculous thought which made Meerkat giggle despite the soggy gloom.

Today's venture led her to the edge of Silverspine. The stream reminded her of Heron Lake Plateau's waterfall, especially as it rushed down the mountainside, swollen by the recent rains. Meerkat stood well back from it, ears perked curiously toward the gushing current, louder even than the rush of rainfall through the leafy green treetops.
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Bronco hadn't realized, when he'd agreed to move to Moonspear, that it rained so much on mountains. He assumed that the rain came with the territory, and not that this was some sort of wide-spread phenomenon, and that it was likely caused by their proximity to the clouds. It made navigating the slopes even trickier, and made it even more exhausting to have to go back uphill against the pounding rain at the end of a border patrol but at the end of the day, he was still in good spirits despite being quite tired. 

Meerkat, it seemed, had been exploring the higher slopes of the mountain and its internal territories, away from the borders which made him feel a bit more comfortable. He didn't like the idea of her slipping and sliding down the mountainside and preferred the thought of her exploring the safer parts of this treacherous landscape where she could be far away from the hassle of meeting potentially dangerous strangers. He tracked her along a streambed now gushing with water, hastening his pace and huffing slightly as he caught up with her. He rumbled an affectionate growl as he approached, and nipped at her cheek. "-Jeez. These hills,-" He huffed, with a pained smile. "-An' this rain-" He commented, at the very same moment a large drop of water fell from a leaf above and landed squarely on the bridge of his muzzle, sending smaller droplets of water in every direction. He snorted and shook the excess water off his pelt- a seemingly endless task. "-This is nice, though-" He said, gesturing toward the stream.
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When Bronco appeared alongside her, Meerkat didn't even bat an eyelash. He often shadowed her around the mountainside. Another youngster might have found the helicoptering obnoxious but she didn't mind one bit. Actually, she liked having him around constantly. She was adventurous (clearly) and fortunately didn't feel homesick at all (though she did miss her parents, especially Towhee) but knowing she could turn and find her big brother there made her feel grounded in this brand new place.

-"It's kind of, um... oh, what's the word?"- she rejoined, flapping her forelegs uselessly before it hit her. -"Intimidating!"- She huffed a laugh at herself, then turned her face toward Bronco. -"Have you ever seen the waterfall off Heron Lake Plateau? It was so big, it was almost frightening. But I wasn't scared, I was just... it's like it gave me the whelmies, you know?"-

Her chocolate eyes skittered back to the rushing stream and, like the waterfall, she continued giving it a wide berth. She enjoyed swimming but some part of Meerkat intuitively sensed the danger in rapidly moving water like this. And maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her but as the downpour continued, she swore she could see the water rising, getting ready to spill over its banks and begin flooding the mountainside.

Suddenly coveting someplace dry and warm, Meerkat spontaneously suggested, -"We should find a den! Want to?"-
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The sight of Meerkat using her paws to help jog her brain and do a bit of word-searching made him smile. He stretched as she pattered her feet on the ground, making a surprised face for a moment as his feet slipped on the wet rocks along the stream's edge, before he pulled himself back up again. Intimidating was a good way to describe it; part of him wondered if they might be able to catch some fish in the stream, but not when it roared like this. He shook his head in response to her question about Heron Lake Plateau, though the name of the place caused his ear to twitch. The pack had lived there at one point, had they not? That was likely why Meerkat knew about it. 

Seeing the stream like this was definitely impressive, so he nodded. He wasn't sure what the whelmies were, but assumed it meant she felt a bit overwhelmed or awe-struck. "-Samesies,-" He replied, giving the flooded stream an appreciative, yet cautious look. His mind's eye, though, was a worrisome thing- and pictured the sight of his little sister falling in...And in an instant, he remembered the sight of the wave of water that'd rushed the shores of the copse and had engulfed Sugar Glider. Water was beautiful, but it was powerful. So when Meerkat volunteered the idea of finding a den, he nodded, and gently touched his nose to her shoulder- to herd her away from the stream. This place...It wasn't safe. 

"-Sure, there's gotta be lots of caves and things like that on this mountain. Where've you been exploring most?-" He asked, figuring that she might have a better idea of the internal territories, and where they might go to find a den.
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She hadn't lived in a den since she was a baby, yet the idea of keeping one here really appealed to her. If Bronco found the spontaneous suggestion strange, he didn't show it. He seemed enthusiastic, actually. Meerkat wondered if it was all the rain compelling them to seek somewhere cozy and dry. It would be nice to find some respite from the soggy weather!

-"Everywhere!"- she replied with a giggle. -"I haven't checked out any caves yet though. Do you think the mountain's full of them?"- she wondered, casting her eyes over the nearest stretch of mountainside. Meerkat couldn't help but remember digging tunnels with Maia, the memory making her lips twitch fondly.
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Like his mother, Bronco had a fondness for living in a small space, underground. It meant that he wouldn't get rained on while he slept, and that he had a nice warm place to sleep in the winter. It was a creature comfort, and even after he'd moved out of Niamh's whelping den, he'd found one of his own in the Copse- though he'd spent a lot of time at the Rendez-vous site once the chibs had been moved there. The idea of finding some place safe, tight and dry definitely piqued his interest. 

Caves were something new to him, but he figured the mountain would have them; maybe some sort of shelter created by a landslide amongst the rocks, or something created long ago by a course of water that had hollowed out a tunnel. "-I'd figure, yeah,-" He said, "-Though this is the first mountain I've lived on, so I prolly don't know much about where to find caves. Seen some neat rock formations here an' there, though. I wonder if we'll find something near that wooded grove,-" He pondered out loud.
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Bronco mentioned this was his first time living on a mountain and Meerkat couldn't resist saying, -"Hey, me too!"- She gave him the cheeky smile that was becoming a bit of a trademark before adding more seriously, -"What wooded grove? Show me!"-

It was true she'd spent much of these first few days in residence roaming the mountainside and checking out the lay of the land. But she'd hardly seen everything. There was still so much to discover. Her little heart thrilled at the thought. She couldn't say for sure, since the territories were so different, but Moonspear felt a hell of a lot bigger than Sun Mote Copse. It might take her ages to really see everything there was to see, which was fine by her. She wanted this age of discovery to last forever!
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What a ham. Bronco rolled his eyes for what seemed like the tenth time that he'd done so in the past little while, every time Meerkat made one of her little jokes. Maybe she'd gotten some of her sense of humour from Wraen, who also had a similar sense of humour- and the thought of his former Sovereign made his heart ache a bit. They were living a happy, healthy life...But she had not been pleased to see them go- and he hated the thought of disappointing someone he admired so much. 

But the distraction of finding a den offered itself up as a means of taking his mind off the wolves that he missed, and he smiled. "-C'mon. It's this way, not too far.-" He said. Naturally, one of the first places he'd searched for within the pack's territories had been a forest- somewhere that felt like home. The woodlands crept up the sides of the mountain like moss crawling up the side of a rock embedded in a streambed, but there was one place where the woodlands seeped into a wide crevasse, allowing it to grow like a weed up along the mountain's slopes framed by sheer cliffs on either side. Even the tallest trees in the crevasse were not tall enough to reach the top of the cliffs, but still they grew, and the forest floor was padded with a layer of mosses and ferns. The earth smelled warm and inviting- so this was where he would take Meerkat, on their search for a new den.
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As she trundled after Bronco, pondering how long it might take before she knew Moonspear's slopes like the back of her hand, something else occurred to her. She sucked in a gasp, though before she could voice her thought, the two of them approached a stretch of trees that led toward a crevasse. Meerkat had never seen anything like it and quickly became distracted, eyes and nose both combing over everything.

Eventually, her gaze drifted to her older brother's face and she remembered her previous thought. -"Hey, once we get familiar with the territory, can we go exploring outside it? I bet there's so many cool places to see around here!"- In the meantime, there were still many stones unturned here on Moonspear, she mused as her attention strayed back toward the grove.
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As they moved further into the woodlands and into the crevasse, the sheer cliffs climbed higher and higher around them, reaching up beyond the treetops. Mosses and lichens grow all over the stony walls, making the crevasse a verdant paradise, and under the shelter of the trees they were spared some of the misery of the constant rainfalls. Winding its way through the stones was a thin thread of water, not yet engorged from the rain, though no doubt the cause of the crevasse, having eventually worn its way down through the stone creating the canyon through which they now walked. 

"-I don't see why not,-" Bronco said. "-Once this rain eases off I bet we'll get a better view of the surrounding areas. You can pick out wherever you think looks cool, and we can go exploring there someday,-" He volunteered, willing to let Meerkat take control of the steering wheel, so long as she'd allow his company.
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She thrilled when Bronco agreed. He was such a good sport and she felt a rush of affection toward him. If not for him, she wouldn't even be here on this adventure! She'd never even considered inviting him (or anyone) along when she'd first thought of coming here but Meerkat was so glad he'd pitched the idea.

-"There's not much of a view here,"- she segued as they ventured deeper into the canyon. She wasn't complaining though. The walls on either side gave the place a certain ambiance, a coziness. They also provided shelter from the elements. She could hear water dripping but the rain barely touched them here. -"I like it."-

Meerkat padded closer to one of the rock palisades. It was damp and slick to the touch, with patches of green dusting it. The smells in this place were next level too. Her nostrils flared, drinking in all the various odors. Although it wasn't as wet in this gully, the scents were nonetheless amplified. It was almost as overwhelming as the Silverspine.
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She made a point. It was sheltered, but that meant that there wouldn't be much of a view at all for them, which he didn't mind so much. It made him dizzy sometimes, standing on an outcrop and looking down at the valley below. This, tucked safely in the clutches of the mountain, felt closer, like the Nest in the Copse. A safe, small place where the dragonflies danced lazily. Above them, the clouds parted for a moment, allowing a soft shaft of light to filter down through the trees, dappling the sides of the crevasse in golden flecks. He smiled. It was a nice place. 

Meerkat wandered off in one direction while he went in the other, padding along the area where the walls of the mountains rose up from the ground, worn away here and there to create some small, low shelter along its bottom. He nosed around, before he barked excitedly for Meerkat. "C'mere," He shouted, flinching suddenly as he realized just how much his voice was amplified by the caverns he'd found. He gestured toward three dark wells that disappeared into the wall. "One, two or three?" He asked, wondering which one she might pick to explore.
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She dropped her head and sniffed along the base of the rock wall, her nose combing through various detritus gathered there. It was all so rich with smells, she got lost in them. Meerkat flinched a little too when Bronco shouted, though she quickly raised her head and trotted over to join him.

Bronco urged her to choose between three cavities in the stony bulwark. Silently, her gaze jumped from one to the next. Surely they would explore all three of them, eventually, but they needed a place to start. As the scout of the pair, it was her honor to choose.

-"The one on the left!"- she decided, largely arbitrarily.
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"Cave-den number one it is! Let's have a look-see at what you've just chosen!" He said, with all the gusto of a gameshow host. He moved forward, realizing only the closer they got that there was a curtain of vines that hung down across the cave's entrance, which in Bronco's opinion was a major bonus. That way if they waned to sleep in past the morning light, or take a nap through the day, they'd aotumatically have a nice, safe, dark place to nap. "As you can see, we got this hangy bit of plant, which functions perfectly as an- ew- sort of slimy- ugh, slippery-ew- door-cover" He said, doing his best to hide his disgust as he poked his muzzle through the curtain of hanging plants, and nudge them aside. They trailed down his shoulders, leaving behind a kind of greenish slime as he side-stepped, to allow Meerkat to enter. He turned his head to grin at her, and gesture that she should go in first, and be the first one to look around. 

Unbeknowest to him, he'd opened up the curtain just enough, to let a shaft of light in- and within seconds, hundreds of beady little eyes began to sparkle and blink tiredly, as a huge swarm of bats were awakened by the sudden intrusion of light.
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She laughed as her brother began commentating their venture, starting with his observation about the greenery overhanging the doorway. She noticed how it slithered along his back, leaving behind what looked a lot like algae in his fur. Meerkat laughed a little louder at the sight, then turned to face inward as the sound of her own voice echoed back at her.

Between the light and the noise, it wasn't long before the bats came swooping out of the small cave's mouth. Meerkat let out a little scream as they swept past her face, several of them bumping roughly into her. She stumbled backward, knocking into Bronco and slipping on a few wet leaves in the threshold. She lost her footing and sprawled on the ground, which turned out to be a good thing: now the cloud of bats streamed past overhead, scarcely touching her.

It was all over in a minute. The air grew clear and quiet again as the last of the bats evacuated, quickly vanishing above the lip of the gully. Meerkat blinked and pushed herself into a sit, looking down at herself to find a couple gooey white smears in her fur. She bent to sniff at one and recoiled, nose wrinkling. In spite of her discovery and everything else that had just happened, she began to laugh again.

-"Let's try the one on the right next,"- she suggested playfully to Bronco, already wondering what kind of craziness they might find behind door number three.
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"What-the-" Bronco dipped his head as something small and dark swooped toward him, nearly smacking him in the temple as the first bat was frightened from its hideaway. As others followed in pursuit, Bronco realized what they were and stumbled back wards, uttering a stuttered yelp of fear, flinching as they swooped all too close to his head. He was a fair bit taller than Meerkat still- and while she didn't have to worry about getting slapped by their leathery, flapping wings, Bronco winced and dodged unnecessarily as he too scuttled away from the first cave. 

He hadn't noticed that the bats had scattered droppings as they'd left the cave until he saw Meerkat investigate a spot on her fur. She didn't seem phased by the whole ordeal, but Bronco could still feel his heart racing. Bats were gross- dirty, disease-carrying grossness on wings. "Don't touch that!" He blurted, and cringed as he noticed the gooey flecks on his own pelt. "Ahdamn. Ratshit's pois- er, sorry, batshit's poisonous, I think," He said. She wanted to go explore the cave on the farthest right, but he was still stewing over the potential that he and Meerkat were both covered in something that could potentially make them both sick. "Uh- c'n we like...Oh, there- c'mon," He said, gesturing that she follow him to a fairly decent-sized puddle. "You first. Gotta get that batshit offa you- then we can go try cave number three. Mkay?" He asked, hoping she'd hurry- so that he could get this disgusting goop off himself too.
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"Poison?" she echoed, not out of disbelief but genuine surprise. She warily eyeballed the streaks of sticky white goo clinging to her pelt. Meerkat quickly followed Bronco to a nearby pool of water, splashing it over herself and scrubbing at the worst spots. By the time she finished, she was extra damp and starting to feel a bit of a chill.

She trundled back toward the three doorways, sniffing at the one furthest to the right, not sure what to expect. "Hello?" she shouted, scooting backward in case another colony of bats lived inside. But nothing stirred and no cauldron exploded from the dark threshold. Meerkat exchanged a glance with Bronco before deciding to venture forth.

Meerkat made it a few steps inside before stopping, letting her eyes adjust. The air was cooler in here, making her shiver a little. As her vision slowly adapted to the dim lighting, she could make out the dimensions of the chamber. It was a fairly unremarkable hollow in the rockery, with a low ceiling that sloped toward a rear wall. It was certainly large enough to serve as a den, though she turned to see what Bronco made of it.
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It was more likely an old wive's tale than anything, but Bronco wasn't taking any chances with the bat droppings that'd fallen onto them. He watched Meerkat as she flailed around in the puddle, waiting with antsy feet as she did so until he noticed another puddle nearby- and splashed about in it, before rubbing himself against a grassy bank, adding a distinctly greenish hue to the paler furs of his underbelly, but at least he wasn't covered in batshit anymore, and neither was Meerkat. 

He stumbled backwards when Meerkat flinched, half expecting another volley of bats to come streaming out at them. He was still slightly wary of the idea of checking ut caves, and living in them- what if he bats chose to come into this cave at the end of the night-time feeding frenzy? He looked at the ground, and it didn't appear as though bats had been in this cave in a while. There wasn't much t the cave, and while it was a bit rocky, it wasn't horrible. When Meerkat looked to him, and he shrugged. "Iunno," He said. "Wanna try the last one, just in case it's amazing?"
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He didn't look too impressed. Meerkat followed his line of sight toward the floor, though she saw nothing of note there and raised her eyes questioningly even as he suggested they check out the cave in the middle. She smiled and nodded, always up for further exploration. The youth swiveled and exited, miscalculating slightly and hitting her hip against the proverbial door frame roughly enough that she hissed in a breath.

Once outside, she turned to inspect herself. There was no damage that she could see, aside from tousled fur. She nosed it back into place, checking for broken skin. There was none. It still smarted and she wondered if it might bruise. It wasn't anything direly painful though, so she turned around to find Bronco and motioned him for lead the way to the third and final entryway.
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"Ouch!!" Meerkat might've been the one to thump her hip against the cave's wall on the way out, but as soon as Bronco heard the thunk he immediately grimaced and barked his sympathy despite not feeling the pain, physically, himself. He gave the offending wall of stone a seething glance as he moved past it, kicking out with one hind foot to scuff a few rocks at it in an expression of pithy and spiteful revenge. He growled faintly as he moved to Meerkat's side, his gaze following hers to her hip, but in seeing nothing and sensing that she wasn't too badly hurt, he nuzzled her cheek- a bit of reassurance if nothing else- and moved forward to enter the third den. 

Again, it took a moment or two for his eyes to adjust and immediately he looked up, fearing that he might get swooped at by bats again, but he saw nothing. He did hear a soft scuttling noise, though, the sound of tiny claws on stone and he looked down just in time to see the long, skinny tails of two rats scampering further into the darkness. Bronco uttered a soft boof of surprise, and bounded forward, hoping to corner and catch one of them.
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She smiled when Bronco's cool nose touched her cheek, turning into the nuzzle to give him a reassuring lick to the nose. Soon he moved away, toward their final option, and Meerkat padded after him. Her hip smarted a little, though hopefully it would fade soon.

Just as they ducked inside, her older brother pounced on something. Meerkat stopped to watch him, curious what prey he'd managed to stir up in here. She then thought to look around the interior, brown eyes raising to take in the details.

I figured I'd leave the description for this one up to you!
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The rats didn't have anywhere to go, it seemed, so he cornered them and had to do a little dance to avoid getting his toes bitten as he made a few snaps at them, bottlenecked into a tight corner near the back. He felt one's teeth graze his cheek, and it must've bitten him on the shoulder too- those weird, buck-toothed things did have long teeth- but the entire situation was over in a moment or two. He turned, with one of the rats hanging from his jaws an chuckled it over toward Meerkat. Not the best meal in the world, but edible. The other one he picked up for himself. 

It gave quite a twitch, though, which caused him to jerk his head up in surprise, but at least the ceiling was high enough that he didn't have to worry about hitting his head. With his hind end angled toward the back of the cave, he gave another look upwards to notice that something was glittering from above him- but it wasn't eyes. 

"Hey Meerk," He said, dropping the rat. "Come see this," He said, as he sat down. His eyes fully adjusted now, he realized that what little light did come in through the opening of the cave's mouth, it would hit an angled, but very smoothe wall at the back which then directed the light up toward the ceiling- revealing that embedded in the walls, was some kind of mineral that sparkled dimly in the reflected light. When he reaised his head, he saw what he thought might be stalacmites, but stalacmites generally pointed down toward the ground. These were definitely long, pointed shafts of some type of rock, he thought, though they were almost seethrough, and they criss-crossed in a next of crystal above them. "Okay, this is kinda cool," He admitted.
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He tossed a rat toward her and Meerkat jumped a little as it landed at her feet. She looked down and laughed, then up again when he coaxed her closer. She plucked the dead rat off the floor and padded over to him, following his gaze upward. She peered at the formation for a moment before lowering her head and dropping the rat to the cave floor.

-"That's so cool,"- she said right before adding, -"What is it?"- But she didn't give Bronco a chance to answer before declaring, -"There's food and sparkles in here! It's the one."-
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Bronco wasn't sure if the shiny flecks in the wall were actually just litte tiny bits of sparkling dust or actual rocks, so when Meerkat posed the question, he padded toward one of the walls near the entrance, where the light had been best reflected. He crow-hopped sideways in surprise when the gleaming wall seemed to shift- only to realize "Ahuh, just my shadow." He said, tail waving and causing the light to almost ripple across the wall in its shadowy wake. He sniffed, and squinted, but could only see small, itty bitty baby crystals, at best, and small places in the stone where there were indeed nothing more than flecks. He wouldn't know the name for it, but he was looking at stone laden with mica, which made it look as though it was actually made from layers and layers of thin sheets of the stuff. 

"Some kind of like...shiny rock, or mini crystals in the walls," He said, but the ceiling above- that was obviously a slightly dome-shaped mess of criss-crossing crystals. He looked down, noticing some of the soft sand at his feet had a slight shimmer to it too. He pawed at it, noticing how the dust was almost like having a pawful of glitter- and padded back to Meerkat, reaching out to whipe some of the dust off down her shoulder, leaving behind a trail of slightly glittery dust that suited Meerkat's beige fur remarkably well. "Oh yeah, this is the one," He chuckled.
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Meerkat couldn't help but chortle when Bronco spooked at his own shadow. She gazed at him as he inspected the crystalline facets on the cave walls, a smile curling her mouth at his brilliant deduction. It turned into a playfully indignant leer when he touched the stuff and promptly wiped it off on her.

"Hey—oooh," she half-shouted as she saw the streak of glitter in her fur. That was a big improvement over the toxic bat shit from earlier. Looking up at him, she said, "You need some too, it'll go good with the green," and gestured at the ribbons of grassy coloration streaked in his fur from the first cave's hanging vines.

So, this was going to be their home. The sparkly Meerkat stretched out on the floor beside her rat and began to nip at it, even as her eyes continued poring over the cave's interior. It was dark but cozy and dry. It would certainly serve, especially if it was infested with rats. Meerkat could only hope so.