Dragoncrest Cliffs get haunted
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The weather showed no sign of improving but Haunt couldn't bear it anymore. Driven by hunger—which weakened her even more than the weeks of convalescence preceding her stint here—she pushed through the drifts of snow in search of something, anything, to eat.

Her energy sapped quickly, however, and she was forced to stop and rest. Her legs shook slightly from the effort as her stomach gave an audible growl, pinching painfully. Haunt's head hung low between her slender white shoulder blades as she took stock of herself and came to a reluctant conclusion.

Tipping her snout into the wind in the hopes it would carry her voice, the youth called for @Kaertok.
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quietly slides this in here. tag for reference!

he'd lost the trail in the furious snows that fell from the heavens like divine retribution ...and in the heavy snows he lost @Arbiter. having woken from a nap in white-out conditions with nothing but the roar of snowfall and the crack of treelimbs in his ears he panicked and bolted. at first, he'd tried to find his mother but after coming to the shivering realization that he had to find shelter else he might freeze to death he switched his priorities. surely, they'd reunite and even if they didn't he thought he knew the way home ...it was relative because the conditions messed with his internal compass and whacked out his sense of smell. he was lost.

when it seemed like it'd slowed enough for him to venture out he crawled out into the powdery mess, frowning as it was still snowing heavily with no signs of slowing more than that. he abandons the bowed tree he'd taken shelter in, dispelling a chunk of snow that falls upon his back. he shakes his coat and trudges on to find a new, more durable shelter.

it occurs to vex as he wanders that beneath the snow there is a scent lingering upon the barks of the trees; and he reels back, putting distance so he is not quite so literally stepping on the perimeter of borders. with his back to them and the heavy snowfall clouding much of his vision, vex begins to head south ( though he has no idea that is the way he's heading in this mess ) and freezes when a howl cuts thru the eerie silence of the land awash in white.

for a moment, he thinks he imagined it but no, he couldn't have. it was for kaertok, it was too familiar, too close, too loud, too —

HAUNT!? he shouts, spinning to face the way he'd initially been going. why he doesn't howl for her, he doesn't know but his heart sprints in his chest with the hopes that he wasn't as lost as he'd first feared.
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She still wanted answers from him about everything, though the reason she called him now was because she needed his help, again. Haunt hated to admit it but she was in no condition to procure food for herself. And if she kept trying, she might exhaust herself and end up dying of exposure in these conditions. She drew in a shaky breath, the harsh reality overcoming any qualms she felt about summoning Kaertok for help.

A masculine voice called her name and Haunt sat up straighter, ears pricking. She thought it was her father for a moment, then she saw a dun-colored figure scrambling about in the snow. Her heart leapt into her throat even as her empty stomach flipped. Forgetting how feeble she felt, she pushed to all fours and began loping toward her brother.

By some stroke of fortune, she managed to skim across the snow without sinking into it as she made her way to him with a throaty cry of, "Vex!"
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vex!

his name is heard over the rapid beat of his heart, from fear, from anxiety, from joy — it didn't matter — and he knows that it was not imagined.

haunt! wildly, his gaze scours the snowy terrain for her in what feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. in a startled moment, he laughs, as if he hadn't been wracked with worry for her safety for days ...weeks? it was hard to tell and he'd lost track of time; as if they were playing hide'n'seek. you blend in too well. he snickers, voice high-lilted with the rampage of emotions stewing beneath his breast.

it is her eyes: splicing through the white noise of the world 'round him like the glow of twin lanterns that gives him her location as she draws near him. he barrels towards her without reservation, fighting against the pull of the snow in the areas where it's deeper — the cold pressing against his chest — and has to stop himself from crashing right into her.

haunt! it's really you, it's — he's panting, out of breath — unaware that snow could tire you out as quickly as muck. mom 'n me, we found your trail and it was old and i thought you were hurt or dead 'n... he takes a deep, greedy breath; trying to get ahold of his composure long since lost.
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He must've been looking for her, otherwise why else would he be here, calling her name? Nonetheless, Haunt wasn't sure what Vex would make of her once they reunited. She couldn't be sure how long she'd been gone but with their family history, she'd already resigned herself to the fact her mother and siblings would surely assume her a deserter and traitor like Kaertok.

But Vex made a joke once they neared each other. This gave her hope. Tentatively, she reached out to touch her muzzle to the side of his neck, drawing in his familiar scent. She could feel the harsh breaths tearing in and out of his throat and her own quaking legs gave out again, causing her to press closer against him.

"I'm okay," she reassured, though it wasn't necessarily true. Vex could probably take one look at her and see she was in a bad way, though Haunt rushed to explain, "Artemis led me to Kaertok. And then I got the worst headache of all. He brought me here. I was really out of it until the other day. I wanted to get home but the blizzard..."

She began trembling somewhere in there and, ignoring her own weakness, she slung a foreleg around her brother, tugging the two of them all the closer. "I swear I didn't leave on purpose," Haunt whispered in his ear, the most important words of all.
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his anger that she'd left without him — which had been a wild assumption made with little else to go on — had long since been eaten in his festering worry over her. vex knew that day with the altercation between them, arbiter and those male wolves on the sunspire range had changed her and he faces that blame even now, pressing his muzzle against the plush fur of her neck, looking into the hellish eyes of sos. and while this was not the first time vex's considered sos as his penitence, divine retribution, whatever ...but he tucks it away, closing his eyes against the flurries that cling to his eyelashes.

it didn't matter. the small flame extinguished as quickly as it'd risen when he'd heard arbiter howl for her. vex had to ( try ) to be fair and remind himself that haunt wasn't attached at his hip.

he is quiet as she speaks of artemis leading her to kaertok, of the worst headache she's had yet — which causes him to frown in concern that deepens as she admits that she was out of it until just the other day. he takes a deep breath, of her scent, of the scent of kaertok, of the strangers dwelling in the pack he'd nearly trespassed on, of the harsh frigid bite of snow.

i believe you. vex assures her at her whisper in his ear. i do. he emphasizes. all that matters is you're okay, you're safe and i found you. well, maybe that wasn't all that mattered. i lost mom in the storm. he admits, guiltily. it figured the one time he wasn't trying to sneak away. i tried to find her but it was snowing so hard and so fast. i could barely see, let alone smell of hear. he was lucky he hadn't been buried alive, lucky he hadn't froze to death.

so...you found dad? he's here? at this ... he fumbles for a moment before realizing she'd never told him where 'here' was. pack?
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She sagged, this time in relief, when he said, "I believe you." Her breath rushed from her, ruffling against her brother's brown fur as she listened to him explain his own predicament. It caught in her chest again when he mentioned their mother, then getting lost in the storm. That meant Arbiter was out there somewhere, now looking for two wayward children.

"I think he found me," Haunt corrected softly, "and if we've spoken since, I don't really remember. So I don't have the answers we've been looking for. The answers we deserve. We can call for him now, if you want. I was trying anyway, because..." She hated to admit it out loud, though she huffed a breath and continued, "I'm starving. I haven't eaten in days."

But there was also the matter of the blizzard and their mother's whereabouts. But Haunt knew they could only focus on one task at a time before moving onto the next one. Hopefully they could summon Kaertok, who could provide answers and sustenance, then maybe the three of them could find shelter while they figured out how to locate Arbiter.
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that's okay. vex assures her softly. that's okay, he reiterates. we'll get 'em; we will. we'll ask him and we'll find mom but first, let's get out of this snow, yeah? answers wouldn't do them any good if they froze to death. it strikes him, suddenly ( and rather stupidly ) that while haunt was able to cross in and out of the borders as she willed, he wasn't. worry for her strikes him again, lashing out at him like the crack of a whip. she was safe with him but she hadn't eaten in days. vex frowns so deep he worries for a moment that his face might stay fixed that way ...which might be a sight better than his usual haughty smirk. and then i'll find you something to eat.

it's been half a day, at most, since he'd last eaten. he had enough energy to scrounge up something for her, he tells himself. who knew? maybe he'd get lucky and find a frozen corpse or two of some unfortunate prey animal caught out in the boreal climate.

it might be safer for you to go back into the borders. he points out, loathe as he was to part with her so soon after finding her. i can call for you when i've caught something. though, as he's already admitted to having gotten lost prior he isn't so sure she'll go for his suggestion.
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Rather than call for their father, Vex instead suggested he could get her something to eat. She wanted to argue with him, simply because she would rather Kaertok assume the risk of finding fare in these horrible conditions. Besides, he must know the location of a stockpile or two he could easily raid. Much as she appreciated Vex wanting to take care of her, she couldn't let him go out into the blizzard for her.

"Vex, no, wait," she said before he could move off on his mission. "We should find shelter. I'll take you back to the cave where I've been staying. Then we can call for da—Kaertok. Or even someone else. There's Njord, Erzulie, others... they can help." They'd cared for and fed her before. And though that thought made her feel a little guilty, she knew it was a matter of survival, now more than ever.

"If anyone asks, just tell them the truth: you're another of Kaertok's children," Haunt continued in the next breath, slowly turning to lead the way. She stopped short when that thought suddenly bred another. "What do you think she'll do once she finds out we're here? With him?" She didn't even have to say who she meant; he would know.
Sapphique

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ohai! lurkin for now

The blizzard had nearly caught her in the open.  She'd ghosted near the Sound for a time, but returned just in time to hunker down through the storm's fury.  It had been a quiet family space, but in the pause after, Rosalyn knew she needed to check on the pack.

Wading through it was exhausing, but it happened she was on her way back to the caverns with two frozen rabbits in tow when she passed Haunt.  The girl was nearly invisible against the white of the snow, but her friend wasn't.  The pirate's ears turned with interest, catching only snippets of tone over the wind.

She was glad that she'd survived the storm and seemed to be talking now?  Which was more than she or her wife had managed to elicit these past few days.  She waited in the background, the patient image of a host awaiting an introduction.  She had no issues with dealings on the outside, but she would like to know who this other wolf was, and more about the girl they'd taken in.  Now that she was speaking, perhaps at the very least, a name.
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though vex doesn't overthink it, he considers briefly if his desire to provide food for haunt in the herenow was borne of the fact that he felt he failed to protect her — several times, now. he almost turns to begin the likely unsuccessful hunt, telling himself that while it hadn't necessarily let up, he would be able to find his way back here to this spot at least when haunt beckons him to wait. he hesitates and acknowledges that she's right about the shelter. though his thick winter pelage made him equipped for dealing with the cold he was aware that hypothermia was still a threat. he blanches when she speaks of the cave she'd been staying at, naming a bunch of names beyond kaertok's that he didn't know but assures him that they can help.

while vex was all for rebellion he wasn't sure there was wisdom in what she was suggesting: that he trespass. the wolves that took her into their fold might've taken her in but he isn't so sure that a winterstorm was enough to garner him the same sympathy and kindness. you're sayin' i should trespass? he already knows that if someone trespasses in legion even in the middle of snowstorm, he'd chase them out or attack without asking questions.

haunt, he protests thickly. that could get both of us in trouble. and it was clear that such was something the pair of them were plenty good at doing unintentionally on their own without adding trespassing to it. if it was legion 'n it was me ...i'd give no quarter. but then again, most wolves weren't as cruel as he was; despite that he showed exceptional softness towards haunt, the ramifications of such we shan't look too closely at lest this turn into game of thrones WOLF edition from vex's standpoint.

probably cuff us, vex says. or who knows... maybe she'll just be grateful we're alive... his trails off, looking for a shelter they might be able to claim that wouldn't possibly cost the pair of them their lives ( because he isn't sold on trespassing ) when a dark figure in the distance catches his attention. for a moment, he thinks it is sos until he realizes the proportions are all wrong.

who's there? he calls out into the storm instead of doing the smart thing and asking haunt who might know.
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He countered her in turn and Haunt could feel the cold sapping the last of her energy, though she had enough left to gently roll her eyes at her brother. She didn't interrupt, letting him finish before her own lips parted to tell him she was a member here, so it wasn't trespassing if she invited him. But then she paused, wondering if this information—that she was part of this Sapphique pack now, whether or not she liked it—would bother Vex.

He shifted gears a little, addressing her question without answering it. What she wondered was what would Arbiter do to Kaertok, specifically? Haunt found she could hardly imagine the two of them in the same place. Even if they didn't fight outright, it would be weird as hell, for all of them. It would be one dramatic family reunion, sans Royal, she supposed. Where was their sister, anyway?

They weren't far from the cave she'd shared with Njord when Vex said something that caused her head to snap in his direction, yellow gaze roving beyond him to the dark figure in the snow. "That's—" Haunt recognized her, though she still failed to come up with a name. "She was there the day Kaertok found me," Haunt supplied, squinting against the driving snow.

Raising her paw in a wave and her voice above the wind, she shouted, "This is my brother, Vex!" She didn't realize the she-wolf didn't know her name either. Thinking back on what she'd said only a few minutes ago, she added, "Another one of Kaertok's!" Haunt wondered what the wolves of Sapphique made of Kaertok's abandoned children appearing one after another like this.
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Rosalyn had deliberated on just leaving them there, but Haunt was one of theirs now, for the duration of her stay at least.  She had no way of knowing for sure that this was a friend and if things turned, the girl would need help.  It turns out she needed have worried; when she was spotted, the relationship was clarified.

She came forward, dropping the food and approaching them with a fairly neutral bearing.  And you are feeling better. she stated, her brow lifting slightly.  I'm glad you both weathered the storm.  You were looking for her?  She didn't introduce herself just yet as she was more curious what his intentions were there.  Was he looking for a home as well, or was he there to take Haunt back to her previous one?  Rosalyn had suspected she might have one out there, but since she had been unable to speak, had been forced to assume she was alone.
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to her credit, haunt tries to recall the woman's name but ultimately to no avail. it is understandable, vex tells himself as she has admitted to him already that she was out of it until a day ago. nevertheless, the woman does not give her name even as she draws nearer. vex's gaze zeroes in upon the rabbits she drops, thinking of haunt's hunger and considers asking if they could have one. often ill-mannered and rude vex is surprised by the restraint he exhibits now, keeping himself on his best behavior ( whatever that might be ).

probably because this woman could very well be the difference between life and death for him.

yes, vex answers honestly. me 'n our mom but i lost her in the storm. they could be on opposite ends of the wilds for all vex knew. his sense of direction and internal compass was out of order with the unyielding cold and snow pressing in. for that matter, who even know if arbiter still drew breath? despite how hard it was for vex to imagine his mother being done in by hypothermia ...it was still a possibility and he simply doesn't know.

i heard haunt call for dad. he tells the woman honestly, ears fluttering back against his skull. he looks then to his sister for a moment before looking back at rosalyn. i dunno if you have the power for it or maybe you can call someone who does ...but i'd like to stay with haunt. in whatever capacity that meant, whether temporary or something more permanent.
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The scarred she-wolf approached and Haunt couldn't help but stare hungrily at the meat. Her instincts compelled her to dart forward and snatch what she could. But she overruled this base impulse, even if she couldn't do anything to stop the saliva that pooled in her mouth and began to drip from her jaws. The drool froze even as it dangled from her chops.

While her brother addressed their superior, Haunt did her best to wrench her attention to the conversation rather than the food which tantalized her. "Where is Kaertok?" she demanded suddenly, her voice sharp. He hadn't returned her call just now, much less appeared. And she hadn't seen a sign of him since her revival a few days ago. Had he taken her back home with him only to avoid and ignore her?

Artemis had led her to him but the goddess was gone now. And he might've saved her life, yet that didn't make up for abandoning her, then or now. Haunt suddenly itched for Arbiter to make her way here so she could kick his ass, once and for all. Hopefully she would let the kids get in a few swift kicks too.
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She looked him over.  He appeared sincere and sturdy enough, and with the snows, his intentions were likely.  She didn't have the heart to decline it either, not when Haunt obviously didn't know.  Perhaps having her brother here would provide some measure of comfort.

My name is Rosalyn, and yes, I lead here alongside my wife.  She did not bother to provide him a name yet - he would meet her at length.  You may stay, but the snows will make for difficult hunting.  You'll need to provide for yourselves if possible.  She saw the way they eyed the rabbits and deliberated, then picked them up and tossed them down between the two.  They'd hunt better if they were not distracted by hunger.  She could attempt another catch and, if she failed, there were a few she'd left behind that would serve.

Kaertok is dead.  She turned to Haunt and delivered the news without any real gentling.  Her pain was still raw as well, and while their father ranked far below the blow that had shattered her, it was a heavy loss.  We killed the bear, but not before it took him.  I'm sorry.
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rosalyn. leader.

these are the takeaways along with the affirmation that he can stay, but that they would have to provide for themselves. thank you. vex offers for letting him stay and for the rabbits she tosses their way, the words rarely uttered and feeling strange upon his lips. he does not point out that haunt wasn't exactly in the best condition to hunt for herself but he figures he'll hunt for the two of them until she was well enough. vex didn't mind the extra work. he trudges towards his rabbit and draws it nearer with a large paw before scooping it up betwixt his jaws where he cradles it.

whatever answer he'd been expecting to haunt's question about their father ...that he was dead wasn't it. rosalyn says it simply; like she was stating a statistical fact. somehow, it makes the blow hit harder.

what? vex demands, the word wrenching itself from him as the rabbit flops unceremoniously to the snow underfoot. kaertok was ...dead? he couldn't be. he owed them answers! suddenly, every time he and haunt had gotten into trouble, her injury and her headaches all felt like they were for nothing. was it kaertok he was mourning, vex wonders, as he reels back or was it the lack of answers? he doesn't know. all he knows is that it burns at his chest like an inferno lit within him.

vex looks to haunt, wanting to see how she's dealing with that news bomb.
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Rosalyn! Now she remembered Njord mentioning her name, along with the tidbit about the wives. There could be no mistaking it now, they were a mated pair per one of the women herself. Haunt still didn't understand how that worked, though she hardly lingered on it when Rosalyn accepted Vex and then offered the rabbits in the space of seconds.

She fell eagerly upon the food, tearing into one of the rabbits even as Rosalyn broke the news about Kaertok. A gob of meat stuck in Haunt's throat and she choked it down as she mentioned a bear. She thought of her dream, of Sos, and swallowed again even as Vex hissed, "What?"

Their eyes met even as her mind whispered, Good riddance. Whether or not she meant it, she didn't voice the thought. She took in his expression, saw the anger, and understood why. She felt it too. With Kaertok dead, he was off the hook. He would never have to explain himself to them. And they would never get the answers they'd sought so long, the ones they deserved.

"Thank you for the food," Haunt found herself saying to Rosalyn, making no reply to the news about their sire's death. Maybe she would never speak of him again. "We should get to shelter," she said to Vex. If he wanted to speak, she would of course listen. Haunt gave him a look, Rosalyn a nod, before plucking up the partially eaten hare and turning to trudge through the snow.
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She'd been prepared to need to give them some space for grief, but she knew that look well.  And inversely, it warmed up her stare considerably when she met Haunt's nod.  It was the way she'd felt about her own parents... and it wasn't something she was used to encountering in this world.  There was kinship in the hatred that could be directed towards a parent who disappeared... or one who failed to protect what they should.

If you need anything, come find me.  There is plenty of room in the caves near the cliffs.  The territory was actually well suited to such weather; the complex of caves near the territory's heart was interconnected and larger than even the Sound boasted.  She gave Vex one last departing acknowledgement, then set off in the direction she'd come.  She would hunt a while longer, until the cold was too much to bear, before finally turning around and carrying her findings home.
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thanks. vex parrots to rosalyn. it feels lackluster in the extreme kindness she's shown him in the minutes of their initial meeting. feeding him, granting him shelter within her claim ...and beyond that tending to haunt with the uncertainty that followed finding her in the throes of one of her headaches ( the worst thus far according to her! ). he and his owed rosalyn and her pack a lot he realizes. knowing there wasn't much to do at the moment, with the storms raging, he grabs his own rabbit and trudges after haunt.