Big Salmon Lake I saw fireworks from the freeway
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#1
All Welcome 
The young medic’s search brought her to the eastern shores of Big Salmon Lake, and she lifted her nose to the air one last time. Even so, Lane knew the attempt would be in vain; the herb she sought wouldn’t grow in soil this damp.

She’d had some hope of locating a patch of wild catmint when she was crossing the much-dryer meadow to the east. Lane had searched all afternoon, and the grasses underfoot had eventually given way to... this mess. She lifted a paw, and the earth squelched, sodden with snowmelt from the western mountain range. 

Lane’s trained nose pulled a tangy scent from the air, and she perked up. It wasn’t catmint, but if it was what she thought it was, she might have something to show for her efforts this afternoon after all. Nose in the air, she moved forward slowly, starting and stopping, slowly zeroing in on the source of the scent.
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#2
Perhaps part of Toad's new idea of branching out was also heading out to areas that surrounded the Glen. Even though she had been living in Firefly Glen for over a month, she hadn't really left the area much. There was always so much to do. Most of her focus had been on making sure the caches were filled, but when she started to realize that those caches were also underused and began to fill with rotting food, it seemed obvious that a break was in order.

She had been so used to trying to make sure puppies and mothers were well-fed when she joined Moonspear. Now, those pups were largely grown to the point where they had started to do their own hunting. The Glen didn't really have any puppies, except for perhaps Meerkat, who hardly counted as such.

Being less needed, Toad realized, meant she had the freedom to head out wherever she wanted. To start, she went to the big lake. When she arrived, she saw a young woman with her nose trained on something. The girl was focused, purposeful. Even from a distance, Toad was intrigued. She headed toward the woman, moving diagonally to make it obvious she was hardly a threat. When she was close enough, she chuffed in greeting. What are you tracking? she wondered. The huntress in her tried to focus on the scent she followed, but nothing obvious came to her.
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Lane noted the presence of the other wolf in the distance, but she paid no mind as the stranger did not seem to be coming for her. Eventually their paths did intersect, and the other woman chuffed a greeting. Lane waved her tail, nose lingering in the air a moment longer before she tore her attention from her search.

Lane’s gaze landed on the woman. She had a round, sweet face, and kind eyes. “Comfrey,” she answered, “A healing herb. It has a um… like kind of a tangy sme--” A gust of wind interrupted Lane’s train of thought. Her nose went into overdrive, and after a moment she had her bearing. 

Lane turned to the other woman. ”Come with? Your pack’s healer will thank you.” Digging up roots was tough work, and it would go much faster with two sets of paws on the task. Lane also appreciated good company, and this woman looked to be exactly that.
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Comfrey. Toad had never head of that animal before. The girl quickly explained that it was in fact an herb. Toad wondered what it was used for, looking curiously at the woman, but didn't bother to ask. She seemed distracted as the wind blew toward them, and Toad smiled calmly, knowing what it was like to be on the trail of something good. While she didn't really understand the interest in plants, she knew a thing a two about tracking.

The girl asked her to come with, and Toad nodded agreeably. Sure! Perhaps @Dhalia would appreciate it if she brought her such a gift. @Meerkat had mentioned offhand that the young woman was a healer. As far as Toad knew, she was the only one left in the pack that would appreciate such things. Fennec seemed long gone.

Toad assumed a position beside the girl, sniffing at the air even though she couldn't possibly have been able to pick out a smell of a thing she wasn't familiar with. She glanced in her direction, rather excitedly. I'm Toad Amelia! I'm just from Firefly Glen over there, she said, throwing her nose toward her home for a moment.
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The other woman agreed, and Lane smiled. "It's like a zesty scent.. it stands out.." Lane attempted to explain, once she saw the other woman begin to sample the air. 

The wind shifted slightly. "It-- there! That's it! Did you get it?" Lane threw an excited look over her shoulder before setting off at a trot. Toad was not the only one that enjoyed tracking. 

"I'm Lane," she answered finally, recalling that the woman had introduced herself a moment ago. She neglected to give her surname. This far west, it was unlikely the Vitale name would be recognized, but still. This was part of starting over. 

"Firefly Glen.. bet that's pretty on summer nights," Lane mused, still halfway distracted by her search. The young medic would likely have more questions about the pack, once the comfrey was located.
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Zesty? Hmm. Toad imagined a raspberry. Those seemed pretty zesty. She continued to sniff, but whatever type of zesty she was looking for was not anything she could really pick out. She realized then that people who specialized in herbs and finding them and doing things with them were in many ways far more talented than she. Animals were obvious. They were big, and stinky, and they left behind obvious signs of their existence. For some reason, Toad had sort of always assumed that collecting herbs was an easy job because herbs didn't run away.

That's it! Toad inhaled. Ooh, maybe! She could smell mud, and flowers, and leaf litter, and rain, and.. nope.
She was immediately impressed.

Lane seemed nice, though focused on her task. Toad did her best to continue sniffing at the air, trying to pinpoint the source of the comf...comfra. Comfrey! Oooh, yes it is. It has its charm all year round, but the fireflies really do make it special on warm summer nights, she echoed, following alongside Lane like an apprentice of herbology.
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Lane nodded. She had seen her share of beautiful places, but no doubt Firefly Glen held extra charm for Toad Amelia on account of it being her home. Lane had never known a real home. She supposed, if it was up to her, she wouldn't give up her childhood full of travels and adventures... but it sure would be nice to have somewhere with familiar faces to visit when she felt like it. Somewhere she belonged. 

"Were you born there?" Lane had been within the borders of a pack, as most puppies were. Her family had left shortly thereafter... Lane didn't even remember the name of the place. And even if she could find the place again, they certainly wouldn't remember her.

"This is it," Lane said, stopping suddenly in front of a small seedling. She looked dubiously at the tiny plant, giving it a small sniff. "But for harvesting, we need a lot more than this." The scent that Lane was tracking came from a much bigger patch, she was sure. Since they were finding seedlings, it was likely that they were close to the main source. With a small shake of her head, Lane left the seedling alone and pressed forward.
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No, no, Toad quickly clarified, I'm from just outside of the Wilds. But I might has well have been because I have all this extended family here! This was relatively new information for Toad, and she was quick to share it with anyone who might be willing to listen.

At last, the young woman declared that they were here. Toad looked about, and then eyed the little plant sitting in front of Lane. It was itty bitty, and to Toad, seemed like no more than a bit of weird grass. She remained entirely impressed that Lane could figure out it was indeed comfrey. Is it like with deer? Where if there's one, there are more close by? Toad didn't know how plants worked. She followed the woman, hoping, if nothing else, to learn.
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"Oh. Yeah, me too," Lane replied, confirming that she too was from outside Teekon. "Except all my family's back there." As far as she knew, there were no Vitales this far west... but just in case, Lane made sure not to share her surname. 

"Yep, just like animals," Lane confirmed, "There's places that certain plants live, but others don't. The better a location is for a species, the more you'll find there." The young woman continued forward, tasting the air periodically. 

"So are you a hunter, then? Is that what you do for Firefly Glen?" Lane was curious about Toad Amelia's home in general; she would be looking for a place to winter soon herself, after all.  

The scent of comfrey hung heavy in the air now. Lane beelined for a patch of vegetation that looked promising.
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Toad felt quite lucky to have been able to find quite a lot of extended family out here, so far from her homeland. Lane seemed unperturbed by her lack of relations, but Toad wondered if she might be lonely. She looked a bit thin, like she didn't have a place to call home. Perhaps that was something she was hoping to find.

It is! Toad happily confirmed. Though she had been going back and forth between feeling rather unappreciated and out of place, she knew that her skillset had helped the pack to grow strong. She was constantly refilling caches with small prey, and Bronco had always been willing to help out in the scouting and tackling of larger prey. It's a pack mostly full of young people — I think I might be the oldest of the bunch, she remarked off hand. Just as she finished though, Lane seemed to have found something.

Toad took off after her, eying the patch like a lost cabbage patch kid.
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"Really?" Lane responded, surprised to hear Toad Amelia was the oldest of her pack. She really didn't seem all that old. Lane wondered if that was a lonely feeling. She had never considered that you could join a pack but still feel lonely. 

Lane began scratching at the edge of the comfrey patch, pulling away the dirt and dryed, browning stems to unearth the roots beneath. The roots were set aside carefully. 

"I guess Firefly Glen is a pretty new pack then. Sounds like a refuge for people who just left home for the first time." Or maybe Lane was just hearing what she wanted to hear? "I met some people like that, people my age who are making a pack called Ivory Rose in those spooky woods over there." Lane nodded toward a dark spot on the horizon, across the meadow.

"I.. I might help them, if I can get over the creepiness of the woods. I dunno." Lane hadn't yet admitted out loud (or even really to herself) that she was thinking about joining Zephyr's crew. She almost surprised herself, hearing the words come out of her own mouth.
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Toad nodded. Indeed, she was the oldest of the pile of wolves that had come to the Glen. Every week it seemed like there was a new face, and almost always it was some young thing running off from their pack for one reason or another. Sometimes the reasons were good, other times not.

Yeah pretty much, she answered easily to the fact that it was a pretty new pack. A refuse for the green. Yet, right after she said it, she felt she was mildly mistaken. Really, the Glen was an extension of Moonspear. It just felt like this strange pack for youths because of Toad's perspective, maybe? But then Lane mentioned some new pack, some people called 'Ivory Rose', and immediately, Toad was curious. Mostly about the part she shouldn't have cared about.

What makes them so creepy? Spooky? she asked, tail wiggling at the idea there could be some good story material behind it. As usual, she was interested for all the wrong reasons.
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"Well..." Lane started, feeling a little put on the spot. Out here at the wide-open lakeside, under the sunny sky, her "creepy feeling" felt almost silly. Childish. 

"It's like.. first of all there are these black birds, right? Crows? They watch you. Follow you all around the woods. And according to the leaders, you have to respect them."

Lane swallowed. 

"And then there are the.. ah.. the sacred places. Um, I'm not certain what happens there really, but I think the woods, uh, talk to some people." Lane shook her head, signalling her disbelief. Actually, she didn't really know what to believe. 

"Have you heard of anything like that?" The only thing the Lane could think of was that there could be some kind of toxin around the "sacred places." Something with psychoactive properties, maybe? Honestly, she hadn't stuck around long enough to investigate. The whole thing gave her the shivers.
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-pulls slow ass out of a drain-

They... watch? Toad whispered, adding the rhetorical question onto what Lane told her. Toad knew well that strange, odd, bold stare of the birds. All birds seemed to have it, from the tiniest songbird to the biggest birds of prey, they all had that weird, unnerving stare. Coupled with the third eyelid, birds were overall a totally creepy critter, and Toad realized immediately what Lane meant (so she figured).

Then there were the talking woods, at which Toad made a weird frowning face and pulled her head back. It gave her a second, maybe even third chin. No, I've never heard of that. Talking woods? Do they like... Toad paused and looked around for a moment, as though afraid someone would hear them, walk?
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Editing this with a conclusion, so it can be a trade thread. RIP Toad Amelia 
"Yeah," Lane confirmed, encouraged by Toad Amelia's reaction to the creepy birds. She dropped her voice too, to match the other woman's whisper. "Yeah.. I think they're spies." Spies for who, Lane didn't know. The trees, perhaps?

Toad Amelia was immediately taken aback by the mention of talking woods, which was the approproprate response in Lane's opinion. Talking trees should equal a mandatory additional chin or two. 

Lane leaned closer as Toad began a question, then paused. She also tossed a concerned glance over her shoulder. 

Walk?! Do the trees walk?! Lane stepped backwards in fear, her mouth hanging open. "Is that a thing?!" she squeaked, "Walking trees?" Was Toad Amelia just messing with her now?

....

Telling tall tales and cutting up made the work go by swiftly. Before she knew it, Lane had a towering pile of comfrey roots. She divided the pile down the middle reluctantly. It wasn't that she didn't want to share with Toad Amelia-- far from it!-- it was just that she was really enjoying herself and sad bid her new friend goodbye. 

After promising to meet up again soon, the pair parted ways.  The time spent with Toad Amelia this afternoon had lifted Lane's spirits, and she looked forward eagerly to the next time she would visit with the storyteller from Firefly Glen.