Barrow Fields ukiu-pak
Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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#1
All Welcome 
The northernmost point of Barrow Fields, in the forest overlooking Ankyra Sound / the map's edge. Maybe... @Njord?


Kigipigak had noticed the brief flurries of light snow as he'd lumbered down the mountainside and by the time he got to the lowlands, with their eerie undulations, there was a fresh layer of sticky snow draped across them. He thought to range north to try and scout for a meal; then, thinking it would be better for everyone if he could track down a proper herd, he set off in pursuit of a larger game trail. The snow had not yet piled enough to make travel difficult; he was mindful of the barrows all the same, and then the ravine as he came upon the chasm in the earth.

By the time he thought to stop and observe his surroundings again, there was a forest on the edge of his vision. If he continued to head north he would find shelter there — and perhaps the roaming herds had the same idea. As Kigipigak made his way the wind grew stronger, saltier. He found himself distracted by the familiar combination of sheer-cold and brine; before long the weathered trees were standing as pale spires before him, but as far as Kigipigak could discern, he was alone.
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Sapphique endured highs and lows. Recovering Valravn. Losing Raleska and Kaertok. The violent battle with Shardik, the Ursus. The pack splintered to nurse wounds and to grieve. Njord did not know how best to console Erzulie and Rosalyn… and so he defaulted to the familiar pattern of patrolling borders and hunting.

Overhead, the sky began to spew fat flakes as the winds howled. Njord followed the tracks of snowshoe hares, as @Kaertok had taught him, and soon found himself outside the territory. The islander moved with a stiff gait – Shardik’s claws made three parallel gashes on his left haunch, but it was not enough to immobilize him.

The thick conifers thinned into frozen obelisks as the rabbit’s tracks converged onto a main trail. There, a familiar white wolf  with a smiling scar lingered. Njord stopped, blue eyes narrowing as his guard hairs stood on end (though you probably couldn’t tell – the wind was whipping something fierce). His red tail lashed from the gale, chest growing hot from the recent memory of their fight. He didn’t move forward, and he didn’t retreat… how could he run away again after his embarrassing loss?
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

844 Posts
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#3
The sapphire was distant as far as Kigipigak was concerned, coming up behind him in a flanking path, no doubt following the same game trail but from a different angle; Kigipigak was focused on the trees and did not turn to meet the figure until he had already been spotted himself, and even then Kigipigak was not sure who he was looking at. Only that they were wolf and a few shades darker than the billowing snow.

Kigipigak's mind was focused on a potential hunt and so he did not think twice about his next choice: he closed the distance with a plunge across the snowscape, only halting once he was close enough to make out the blue-eyed stare set in a young, familiar face. Kigipigak made no attempt to intimidate him and was not about to leave the area; he was indifferent to the boy, and seeing as he had already bested him in combat, there was no reason to be worried.

He did call out to him, breaking the disquiet that spanned between them: I am hunting. Are you a better chaser than you are a warrior? You may join me if so. The insult was obvious, but so was the game trail and the worsening conditions. Even with the bad blood between the two of them they were two wolves in their prime (mostly). It would benefit us both to work together.
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Okay…. hopefully no one else in Sapphique is gonna die ;__;

Njord steeled himself against the male as inner-conflict constricted his heart. On one hand, scorn burned in his chest. A raw anger begged the Sapphiquian to re-challenge for @Valmúaa‘s hand. Nature deemed Kigipigak a rival in all manners: he was an enemy to be bested, to be struck down when the time was right. And now, Kigipigak stood across from him with a smug look and a lashing tongue, negging Njord and knowing that the fire-tail could not usurp him in that moment.

He had half a mind to spit in Kigipigak’s face and turn around… but matters of the heart were dwarfed by the recent violence in Dragoncrest. Sapphique had lost not one, but two members of it’s innermost circle - the Rosada - to the Ursus: The sly Raleska and the mighty Kaertok. Most in their ranks were not yet yearlings, which left only the wives, Rosencrantz, Merlin and Njord to provide.  But with a wicked storm brewing and the pack splintered by grief, how could Njord be so selfish as to turn away from this opportunity? Kigipigak was a deft creature, no doubt an able hunter. Together they could bring down something bigger than if they were alone.

Njord thought to himself WWRD (What would @Rosencrantz do?). The two-face mentor was objective beyond belief and always put logic ahead of emotions. Swallowing his pride and ego, Njord took a few paces forward in the snow, drawing closer to Kigipigak, and said “’aight. I’ll hunt with ya.”
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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#5
Whatever the wolf chooses, Kigipigak finds himself plotting different things during the wait. He could launch an attack upon Njord and properly thrash him — teach him to never come near the Watch or Valmua again. He could journey on without him, leaving him unharmed, and take his chances with small game before the worst of the snow hits. 

They are both better off working together. Stowing their rivalry and animosity for the greater good. It is not a long wait to hear his decision and Kigipigak nods once it is voiced. He takes the lead, silently prowling ahead while searching for signs of life among the trees and the frost-heavy grass.

He pays little to no heed to the wolf lurking behind him. Kigipigak has already bested Njord once, and if he should go back on his word and challenge him with his back turned, he knows he can take care of it. They hunt now or they fight and Njord dies - either way, the Watch will eat.
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Sorry for my delay!

Njord could not read his rival’s mind… see the plotting in his head. Once surrendered to hunting alongside his frenemy, Njord acquiesced and fell in line behind the pale Kigipigak. The burden of providing for his family outpaced his grievances with the man. Besides, Njord was of an honest, genuine breed. Once his mind was made there would be no further dark schemes to plot a surprise attack on his rival. He could only pray that Kigipigak would share their kill.

However, The decision was not without some internal pain. Some feeling of impotence. But these emotions would have to be pushed aside. Kaertok and Raleska were dead. Rosencrantz was gravely injured, and Erzulie was busy taking care of him. If Sapphique was to survive they would need fresh food.

Njord tasted the air for prey. Looked at the foliage and snow for signs of tracks or a broken trail (just as Kaertok had taught him). He moves in tense silence. Though Kigipigak leads, Njord is the first to spot signs of prey. “Here,” he signals to his company in a hushed voice, pointing to a procession of deer tracks in the snow. A few does. They usually stuck together this time of year. This would be a fawn’s first big storm. They would be weak. Easy to catch.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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#7
Sorry if mine doesn't make sense, what with the brain melt...


Soon the pair are moving in tandem, scouring one side of the path or the other, venturing through the snow and around the base of trees; Kigipigak is studying the tree-line for signs it has been picked at when he hears the hushed prompt, Here, from his temporary companion.

The young man turns and looks at the tracks. There are more than one set, with an irregularity to them that makes him wonder. The scent lingering in them is like water in a well; female deer, healthy. Kigipigak raises his head and nods once to confirm.

Do you want to flush them out of hiding, or do you want me to? One of us can intercept after. He gave the other boy a choice, then wondered to himself if Njord was bright enough to make such decisions for himself. If no plan came quickly then Kigipigak would make the decision for them.
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Kigipigak joins him to inspect the tracks and Njord moved aside, not wanting to be explicably close to the man and his fangs. Though his tracking and scouting skills had markedly improved thanks to Kaertok’s tutelage, his large-game hunting prowess left much to be desired. Thanks to island life, he was inexperienced when it came to hunting deer, elk, or bison. Njord knew this weakness of his… though the desperation to provide for the wives and their children made him overcome any doubt in himself.

Still, there was hesitation when Kigipigak prompted the question of role. He did not want to be the lame duck in this hunting party. “Erm-,” Njord mumbled, audibly and visibly glitching as he tried to quickly weigh the pros and cons of either position. The hunt would fail if he did not flush their quarry in the right direction. It would also fail if he could not sink his teeth into the fast-moving target. The gravity of Sapphique’s situation weighed heavy on him.

He was loathe to admit weakness to Kigipigak, especially after the Northerner’s scathing comments, but felt the stakes were too high to be anything less than honest. “I’m a better fisherman than hunter,” he told the other wolf, “What do you think? You choose.”
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

844 Posts
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#9
The boy revealed how inept he truly was, stating he could not hunt but only fish. Kigipigak could not fault him for having a preference — he was a coastal beast from the look and smell of him — but he chose to be offended by the offered information. 

Kigipigak had come from a village with a similar make-up; his people were fishermen primarily, with chance encounters granting them the fatty meats of seals or the occasional ungulate. He chose to see himself as superior, which was easy, and huffed as he moved away from Njord's company.

As Kigipigak stalked along he commented lowly, It is a wonder you survived this long. Can't fight, can't hunt... but he did not finish the thought. Better to focus on the task before them than the faults in their pairing. 

Kigipigak would take the lead; he had to presume Njord would follow him and be quick enough should they find prey. He spoke of nothing from that point on and picked up his pace, following the path left behind by the doe's trail and then stopped short as he rounded a pile of snow. 

There was only one — and no fawn. If the two wolves waited here maybe the other one would make an appearance, but if they waited too long it was likely their presence would be discovered.
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He shouldn’t have been surprised when Kigipigak spat a belittling comment, but the venomous critique managed to get right under his skin. The northerner’s words were thickly smeared with contempt and disrespect. It was a routine Njord was accustomed to from his younger days, but it vexed him all the same.  Instead of retorting, the seafarer remained silent, biting his tongue, and merely steeled himself like he had done with Aegir. Perhaps, in time, he would learn to rise above games some wolves played, but for now he let himself steep in animosity. The only thing keeping him there was the promise of food for his family - and this invisible tether was tenuous at best.

He turned to follow Kigipigak along the prey trail, rounding a drift until the silhouette of a doe broke from the winter shrubbery. Njord froze in his tracks, almost like a pointer, as the hunting party assessed their position. He, too, could see their window of opportunity and knew if they lingered too long the doe would spook and make a run. She appeared to be in good health. Could two wolves, with all this snow, bring her down? Njord wagered they would not be able to outpace her, and felt they should wait for a better opportunity. But… prey had been scarce since the storms started. This might be their only chance.

Knowing this, Njord slipped away to better position himself… like a trap waiting to be sprung. It was a tactic that worked on sealions, so why wouldn't it work for a deer?
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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Kigipigak watched the doe a moment. When he turned to give instruction to Njord, he saw the boy's brackish figure retreating; he followed the ember of his tail with his eyes and sneered, presuming the other wolf was trying to circle around for a better look or perhaps to abandon the hunt altogether. Kigipigak did not know if he could trust Njord and had shown a disdain for his hunting partner so far, making it difficult for him to change his view.

Being left to his own devices in the snow, with the doe standing not so far off and unearthing frozen shafts of grass with her snout as a shovel, there was a small window within which the pair could take advantage. Kigipigak did not know where Njord was going. He decided to creep closer, lurking within the snow and pausing - ducking his snout in to the embankment to hide his dark nose on occasion - and hoped he could creep close enough before the doe could react.

He had to be very careful. The slightest shift of the wind could spoil his efforts. The sound of his steps might alert her. If his body became too cold his muscles might cramp, leading to a spoiled hunt if she should bolt and leave him struggling to follow.
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So sorry for my delay! My muse has been absent recently. Rolled the doe to spook. Poor Njord lol!

Njord rounded their quarry downwind in his best attempt to quarter their prey. He slunk low to the ground as he crept through the drifts of snow, flattening himself against the winter backdrop. Across the way he spotted Kigipigak on the move, as well. His rival expertly navigated the terrain without a sound or smell to disclose his position. Njord could feel his ears grow how as his adrenaline began to pump – pressured to not lose the precious food at stake.

Unfortunately, Njord was mis-positioned. The doe’s head shot up as she sprung into the air, spooked. Njord’s teeth grit together as he launched his befuddled trap, knowing that the moment was slipping away. He charged through the snow to try to save the hunt and attempted to direct the deer towards Kigipigak’s waiting teeth.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

844 Posts
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#13
Off the boy went, straight at the doe. The creature must have noticed the flash of spontaneous red; or it was the movement of the wolf, the scent of it, that drove her off-course. Kigipigak was already pushing himself in to a run in order to chase after the deer so there was no time to react to the blunder; he pushed himself pell-mell over snow, skidding at a patch of ice and scrambling as he found purchase on the hard-packed earth again. It was now or never — Kigipigak was hot on it's heels but it would be up to Njord to do the rest.
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The dice gods are cruel

The deer balked when a white wolf sprung from its starboard side. With both exits cut off, the doe forged ahead. Unfortunately, the terrain proved more difficult for wolf than deer. With it’s long legs, the whitetail effortlessly sprang across the deep drifts. Kigipigak hit a patch of ice, but recovered, while Njord did his best to freight-train through the snow.

Njord managed to get close enough to snap at the deer’s haunch, but his body was already running at full capacity. Heat from the effort made his body boil, muscles quickly exhausting their reserves. His great effort was only rewarded with a few strands of hair caught in his incisors before he was forced to pull back. Their quarry had outpaced them.

Njord barely had the strength to curse as he watched the deer’s outline quickly shrink, and his heart sunk knowing he had failed Sapphique.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

844 Posts
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As the deer evaded them Kigipigak wanted to curse aloud and turn upon the red-tailed boy, but he could not. He cantered after the leaping doe until it had far outpaced the pair of wolves, then rebounded so that he could seek out Njord; his breathing laborious and body beginning to feel the after-effects of strenuous activity. He leveled a sharp look at the boy which became a frown, a groan, a shake of the head.

When Kigipigak did eventually have his breathing under control and he had squelched the taste of copper at the back of his throat, the burn there from the intensity of the hunt, he was lacking enough fire to snap at anyone.

Besides, did Kigipigak need to spell it out for the other boy? They had both failed their people this day. Perhaps another time, Kigipigak murmurs, we can hunt by the ocean and see what comes of it.
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Last for me!

The pair reconnected, both breathing heavily from the effort of their pursuit. Njord half-expected Kigipigak to rain down more harsh criticism, but only a glaring look of disappointment was needed to make his feelings clear. They shared this defeat, no matter who was more negligent, and biting words could not rub salt any deeper into the wound. Njord’s knitted brows shrouded his eyes from Kigipigak’s foiled gaze, feeling the pressure of his rival’s leer upon him. Eventually, the tension dulled into a blunt dissatisfaction and Njord shook his silver pelt as if to rid himself of the heebie jeebies.

Despite their fact their quarry escaped, Njord respected Kigipigak’s strength and stalking prowess. They had both moved like clippers in the snow… if they could sharpen up their teamwork (and if Njord could improve his skills) they stood to become a formidable team. Still, an undercurrent of rivalry from their fight persisted. Could Njord grow to overcome that?

Despite the dour mood, Kigipigak entertained the prospect of hunting together again. “Aye,” Njord agreed. “I’ll keep watch for prey ‘round these parts. An’ if ya return, I’ll be ready.” Dragoncrest was nearby, and it afforded Njord the advantage of closely monitoring how game, big and small, navigated the seaside terrain. For now, he turned away to head back to Sapphique empty handed, limping slightly as the wound, from Shardik, on his haunch flared up angrily.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

844 Posts
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Master Ranger
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#17
With the hunt a failure Kigipigak could have turned his last bit of energy and malice upon his partner, but that was not the way his world worked. They had tried. He should have known better than to rely on a young man with an injury such as the one Njord carried; he watched as the boy limped away in silence. Then, taking a deep breath of cold air to steady himself, he headed on his way.
Inupiaq. · Common.