Dragoncrest Cliffs planet's mad
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#1
All Welcome 
Ever since discovering them via @Valravn, Haunt found herself drawn to the caves hidden beneath the cliffs. And with the snowstorm still blowing, it was easy to escape into the earth. It was chilly, dark and stuffy, yet it was still a reprieve from the cutting January wind and the deep snow piling everywhere.

Just now, she slunk into one of the main chambers and began nosing the walls, wondering if she might find prey down here. As she moseyed along, carefully sniffing, her mind wandered a bit. She thought of @Arbiter and even @Royal. She found she missed them more than she'd anticipated.

Finding nothing after a while, she crawled closer to the cave's mouth again simply for some of the weak light it offered. She then lay like a sphinx, her thoughts moving on to Artemis. Had the goddess led her here, to her father, only for Sos to tear him apart before she could ever get answers? Or, more likely, were all the visions nothing more than a symptom of brain damage?

Those were frightening words to think. Haunt let out a breath. She hadn't had any visions or dreams since awaking here in Sapphique. Maybe that meant she was finally healed from her head injury? She had no real way of knowing and pushed these thoughts aside too, bending to run a warm tongue over her freezing cold toes.
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#2
When Merlin was not hanging out with Njord and suffering from debilitating headaches, he chose to explore the territory he lived in on his own. Often he would return down to the shores and thing pleasant thoughts about Erzulie. The femme fatale had cast a spell on him without realizing it herself. Or the fact that she knew exactly, what kind of effect she had on young men, made it all the more difficult for him to seek her out and have a conversation with her. But, where he was too shy to to talk in person, there his imagination provided plenty of scenarios, where he felt absolutely confident in her presence and did not feel embarrassed the least. There he was elqouent with words, charming and witty.

He thought of her the most, when he happened to walk down to the shores. Few times he had mustered up to venture in the water, but just as it is with a food you do not like, even several tries won't convince it's tasty. And now with the snow storms setting in and temperatures dropping, the available part of the water had frozen over and thus had effectively eliminated a possibility for him to loose more pride than he already had. Merlin would have gone off daydreaming about the crush of his, had it not been a familiar scent he came across. Could it be? It could. There at the end of the scent crumb trail, hidden in a cavern, lied Coon Assbite, whose real name he had totally forgotten, but did it matter, if you had the best nickname in the world? 

"Watching for more butts to sink your teeth in?" he asked casually, striding up to her cavern and looking down at her, smiling, eyes twinkling in good humour.
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As she groomed herself, something came to partially block the dim light, moving about in the cave's entrance. Haunt froze, tongue pressed between two toes and yellow eyes lifting to behold the apparition. All she could make out, at first, was a silhouette framed by the pale winter sunlight. Then the figure moved further into the cave and his features developed slowly, like a Polaroid: lean build, red fur, familiar face...

Her head snapped upward in recognition. "Hey, Assbutt!" she blurted right at the same time he spoke. Haunt snorted, rewinding his words in her head before replying to them. "I could just bite your face," she offered, pushing upright into a sit, then a stand. There was a good-humored twinkle in his eye, which she met with an impish look of her own. "What're you doing here—you're part of Sapphique?"
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"Well, Coon Assbite your mouth is as lovely and filthy as ever," Merlin commented on her choice of nickname for him. He noted that he felt at a perfect ease in the girl's company and, though he knew that such crude humour would never impress Erzulie, he did wonder, how could it be that he could be his confident self with this girl and be a mumbling-fumbling mess in the presence of the leader. 

"No, thanks! I plan on impressing some ladies this season still and having a swollen face with puss running down my cheeks is not exactly, what is considered attractive," he explained. Sometimes the capacity of his brain to come up with elaborate nonesense was truly surprising.

"Looks like it - you can't imagine me being exactly camoflouge material," he made a remark about his firey red pelt that stood out starkly against the white of the snow. "When did your fluffy butt land here? I don't recall you seeing you, when I joined?" he asked.
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It was pretty strange to strike up a camaraderie like this with someone she'd only met once. Haunt didn't have much experience in making friends, though she realized even as she thought it that he was her friend. There were others she could count in there now too, though she and "Assbutt" went back the furthest.

"I've been here a couple of weeks," Haunt replied, "and I've been holed up for most of it." She didn't bother explaining why or mention her connection to Kaertok. Anyway, the snowstorm was a perfectly valid explanation. "My brother, Vex, is here too."

She paused, then walked back the conversation a little to query, "Impressing the ladies, huh? With a face like that? I think some scars would improve the situation." Of course, Haunt didn't mean it seriously. If anything, he was quite striking to behold, with his vivid red fur. But bantering was the foundation of their friendship, which she would enjoy fostering now that she was aware of it.
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"No, thank you! I have been making good progress with my face being as handsome as it is," Merlin replied, but he did take a step back, just in case Ass also had a crazy-lady side and he would be in danger of not only his face being ripped off free of charge, but balls too. Obviously that one fateful meetup with the Decorator-lady had traumatized the young lad on some level for life. 

"So, why did you leave your home?" he asked, sitting down. He was still outside the cave that Haunt had made her temporary residence, but at least a nearby rock formation protected him from the cold winds.
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She smirked but made no retort for the moment, especially because he spoke again, questioning her. "Oh, I didn't really leave on purpose. I went hunting and got sick. Rosalyn found me and brought me here." Haunt saw no reason to mention Kaertok's role. She still refused to speak of him. "My mom and brother came searching and found me. He decided to stay back with me until I was feeling better. Which, I am. But I also want to repay Rosalyn and Erzulie for taking me in."

Haunt's jaw worked. She didn't usually say so much at once. "What about you? How long have you been part of Sapphique?"
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Although Merlin tried to listen attentively, he soon lost track on the exact details on, how Coon had got here. Therefore he nodded and said all the "ah"s and "mhm"s at the right places, nodded in an understanding manner and, while not looking her directly in the eyes, he kept his gaze from wandering around and focussed on his companion. He thought he had done a good job, because it did not seem that she had the slightest idea that he had got none the wiser after her story had come to an end. 

"For a while," he shrugged. He did not remember, when exactly he had joined, and the more time passed, the more he convinced he grew that he had always been here. It was more convenient for his brain to adjust his biography than to hold onto every fragment of his past. He was aware of this problem to some extent and he could memorize some very particular moments of his life, if he wanted to. But the longer he lived in one place, the less relevant other things became.

"I have a friend here - Njord," he told her. "Maybe you have met him?" he asked, then something else occurred to him. "Oh, do you spar? Me and Njord have some unfinished business with a guy out there, but before we go out and get him, I - at least - need practice," he asked, showing no signs of embarrassment. Some men would feel that way or look down at Coon just because she was a girl. But Merlin reasoned that, if she was good enough to ambush people to punch holes in their butts, she was an opponent worth considering.
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He answered vaguely, not that Haunt minded one bit. He then said a name Haunt knew. She nodded at his query, her head rocking gently backward as he informed her of some sort of rival the two of them were preparing to fight. Merlin wanted to know if she sparred, implying they could practice together.

"My parents insisted on training me some, although I always preferred hunting," Haunt replied. "The skill sets overlap a bunch, so..." In other words: yes, she could partner with him. "I wouldn't mind practicing with you. But first, I have to hear more about this 'guy out there'..."
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"I have not seen him myself, but Njord went on a date with his sister and came back badly beaten," Merlin explained and only then realized that, perhaps, he should have been so truthful about his friend's condition. After all he had some manly pride still, didn't he. But then - what would be the point of telling anyone that they wanted to beat a guy to pulp if nothing of importance had happened in the first place?

"Said that apparently this bro of his beau did not like his looks and just came onto him," he said. These weren't Njord's exact words, but more or less accurate. "I've not seen the guy myself, but I guess he is prety damn serious," he added.
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Haunt's brow furrowed as Merlin told the tale. She thought of the amiable man who'd shared her cave and frowned at the thought of anyone harming Njord. She didn't know him well, yet she was already pretty fond of him. Perhaps because she'd never grown attached to anyone aside from her parents and litter mates back home, she found she formed quick attachments with her pack mates here in Sapphique.

"Some guy just attacked Njord for spending time with his sister?" Haunt clarified, confused. She could see Vex becoming protective of her, should she ever get a suitor, but would he attack someone she liked just for some strange principle? "I love my brother but if Vex attacked a boy I liked, I'd chomp his balls," she decided aloud, wondering what Njord's girlfriend had done in this situation. "Especially if he didn't do anything to deserve it," she added, doubtful that Njord had made a misstep but sure Merlin would fill her in.
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"I doubt she did that," Merlin shook her head, remembering, how Valmua had been all a over him and Njord, the latte especially and wondered, whether she had anything to do with this incident too. Was she truly an innocent bystander? Or was she into this with her brother and they just went around the wilds, leaving a trail of beaten up love-sick dudes in their wake?

"But that's something to consider though. Balls are kind of big deal to dudes, right?" he asked her, though he should have known this better, based on first-hand experience. For him at least at the moment his pair was not a source of confidence. They were just in the same category as first toes on his forepaws. "We could ambush him and just rip them off," he mused. "Though that guy sounded kind of big, I doubt it would be enough having just me and Njord tackling him."
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"Mm," Haunt hummed in agreement, "I guess they're usually pretty attached. I—" She was about to regale him with the tale of a time she'd accidentally hit her brother in the nuts and how he'd acted like it was the worst pain imaginable. But Merlin suggested using this tactic on their adversary, up to and including their removal.

"And what?" she said shortly after making a rude noise with her lips. "You want me to practice on you?" Haunt quipped, eyes dancing in the dark.
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"That would make no sense, because you won't be the one to rip them off from that dude," Merlin missed the nasty joke and focused on the details. He noted to himself that for a very bright person Coon had proven herself to be, this suggestion seemed quite illogical. "Ideally I could practice on you, but you do not have any," he added with a straight face. He considered asking her, where she had left her pair, but decided that it would not be polite. Just in case that story was tragic and she would need a shoulder to weep on. He did not have time for this now.

"Okay, I will figure this out with Njord. A friendly spar then?" he asked her.
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She made another, softer sound through her nose this time. Merlin repeated his formal invitation to spar and Haunt nodded, saying, "Sure. But after we're done, you have to help me find something to eat. Deal?" She thrust out a forepaw so he could bump or shake it if he agreed to her terms.
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"As long as it's not me you are having for lunch," Merlin replied, then looked down at Coon's lifted forepaw, admired it for a curious and puzzled moment, then looked up her as if asking "What?". But he decided not to ask in the end, being sure that he would embarrass himself in a far worse way than this - figuratively speaking, he did not want to offer the girl appetizers before the main course. So that she did not get too excited. 

"Okay - maybe we head back to the forest - there's more space. Here... feels kind of cramped," he suggested, glancing around apprehensively. Those rocks did not make him feel one bit safe, neither did he fancy to tumble down to the ocean. Though that was also an idea to store for later. Might come useful in the future.
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Merlin only looked at her paw with a puzzled expression. When he didn't acknowledge it any further, Haunt chuckled under her breath and batted it against his elbow. He suggested they leave the cave and head up to the forest, which Haunt only now realized was probably directly above them. That was a curious thought.

"Seriously?" she quipped incredulously, looking around the roomy cavern. "You wanna try to spar in the blizzard?"
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"It's not that bad in the forest. There are trees to stop the wind and keep the snowfall at a decent level," Merlin explained, not seeing any problem with his suggestion. The roomy cavern behind Coon did not seem as appealing. For some reason, caverns in cliffs gave him creeps. He reasoned that it was the knowledge that all this giant slab of rock could come down on his head suddenly. And he wished to live many good years. So - no, thank you!

"Unless you are afraid of blizzards," he added and you could not guess this time, whether it was again his general ignorance to customs and people or whether he was implying that Coon was a coward. More likely first, but, who said that guys that are not right in the head cannot be a bit of jerks?
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Merlin insisted the conditions weren't that bad. Haunt quirked an eyebrow as if to rejoin, If you say so. When he suggested she was afraid of blizzards, it arched even more and she huffed out a dry laugh.

"I'm not afraid, I'm just not a dumbass," she replied. "But if you insist," Haunt added in the very next breath, motioning for him to lead the way out of the cave and up into the exposed expanses of forest overhead.
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"You don't have to be rude," Merlin remarked simply and went past Coon to lead her up to the forest. While they were walking between the walls of cliffs on both sides, the wind was easy to weather, however, this changed, when they got out in the open. It felt as if the ice-cold gusts of wind tried to pull his skin off his bones and just shoot it in the ocean. At times he stopped to check the trajectory and then continued to walk on resiliently towards his goal. Now and then he would look over his shoulder to see, if his sparring buddy was still with him. 

Finally the reached the forest and, while the treetops swayed to the winds and the trunks creaked ominously, it was as Merlin had declared earlier: while it was snowing, the storm had run out of steam here. "Here we are," he told, turning around to face Coon. "Are you okay?"
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Haunt snorted at Merlin's retort, giving herself a little shake as she followed him out of the cave. As they climbed to higher and more open ground, the wind sank its teeth into her, chilling her to the very marrow of her bones. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at her friend's back, wondering why she'd let him convince her to leave the shelter of the cavern.

He led her to a copse of trees, their upper boughs shaking in the strong winds. But closer to the forest floor, it wasn't too terrible. The windchill still gnawed at her, yet Haunt hoped that if they kept moving, they might not get frostbite or simply die of exposure.

As she squared off with him, prepared to get right on with it, his question caught her off guard. Her head rocked back a little as she blinked at him. "Yeah," Haunt said, "are you?" But she didn't give him a chance to answer before adding, "We doing this or what? Let's go before we freeze to death." She clapped her forepaws for emphasis.
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"You are awfully sensitive to cold," Merlin remarked, wondering, whether this was just a girl thing or people thing in general. Good thing he did not ask it out loud, otherwise he might have got a good bashing on his ear. He was also eager to go for actions than for words, now that they were out in the open. He responded to her invitation for the spar with a playbow of his and after some half-zoomies and mock attacks, he leapt to tackle the girl.

I am not particularly good at fight descriptions, therefore we could play it out in dice-rolls and write a summary here?
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Meanwhile, I'm bad at dice! I totally welcome you to narrate a summary. Please feel free to power-play Haunt however you wish (I'm absolutely fine with her getting her butt kicked)! :D

"Well," Haunt riposted, "I wasn't lucky enough to be born with a fiery pelt like yours." And the conversation ended there, at least verbally, as their spar commenced.

Merlin went through some preliminaries before coming at her with his first real attack. Haunt had two options: defend or dodge. Keeping in mind why they were doing this, she went with the former option. She reared onto her hind legs, kicking her forelegs at him and trying to keep her entirely fictional balls out of reach.
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I kept things vague. You can fade this out in our next post and we could have another one?

They sparred and play-fought in the blizzard for a long time after that. Both eager to shove the other's face in the heap of snow, both succeeding at it at various points during the intercourse. There were moments of glory, followed by stupid mishaps, losing balance, slipping and falling rather ungracefully, only to get back on the feet again and have another go at the game. Eventually they had tired each other out. Merlin sprawled out in the snow on his belly to cool off, rubbing the sides of his face against the snow to get rid of any saliva left there by Haunt's failed attempts to fully decapitate him.

"We should do this again sometime," he told her shaking snow out of his ears. "You're tough."
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!

She lost track of time as they sparred. Haunt even stopped noticing the weather. All the movement kept her warm, plus both offense and defense occupied all of her attention. By the time they tired out and called a truce, she actually flopped down in the snow, body hot, muscles ticking like a cooling engine as her tongue lolled forth in a pant.

"I started thinking of your feet as rats," Haunt quipped. That made her think of his end of their deal. "I'm famished now but too tired to hunt. Ugh." She paused, licking the slaver from her chops. "Let's rest a while, then try to find something to eat. Fresh is best, though I'm not above scavenging." With a shrug, she then relaxed back into a snowdrift to chill for a bit.