Redhawk Caldera are you discussing or fussing or simply dreaming?
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#1
Limit Two 
Ruenna had fallen into the routine of spending the hottest part of the day at the caldera's lake, performing her physical therapy routine. As the sun sank behind the western mountain chain, Ruenna limped up toward the Hobbit Hole, feeling spent after completing her various exercises. 

She ought to find @Towhee and get an official update. News had reached Ruenna of the shouting match that had occurred at the border between her and Reyes. The children were babbling about "seeing dad again," so Ruenna imagined that amid the shouting some sort of agreement must have been reached. 

There was also the matter of Fennec. The young Redhawk had been a fairly constant presence at the border up until recently, and now it seemed she had retreated into hermitage with her pup. Come to think of it, where was that kid's father? 

The only reason that Ruenna hadn't brought her concerns to Towhee yet was that the Sovereign always seemed exhausted. If she wasn't back to herself soon, Ruenna might have to get Bridget involved once more if the Caldera's own healer refused to come out of hiding.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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Caracal had come home smelling like his father the other day, which turned her stomach. Out of her three children, it bothered her deeply that he would actually seek out Reyes, and so soon. It kind of undermined her entire stance on this situation, leaving Towhee feeling weirdly betrayed. She was so internally distraught about it, she forgot to demand reassurance that he'd taken an escort and remained none the wiser about that particular detail.

Presently, she roamed the caldera with a rather distant look in her eye. She only surfaced from her funk when she spotted Rue down by the caldera's shore. Drawing in a breath, Towhee climbed down to join her Regent, not particularly eager to update her but certainly of the mind that Ruenna should be brought up to speed on matters.

"Hey, Rue," the Sovereign greeted dully.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Ruenna saw Towhee making her way down to the shore, and so she paused, grateful for the break in her climb. Water had begun dripping from her pelt once more, and she shook herself before Towhee came in range. 

Although Ruenna herself was the one weighed down by a soaked pelt, she couldn't help but notice that everything about Towhee's movements seemed heavy and labored. Her brow knit in concern. There had been a week or two in which the Sovereign appeared to be fully recovered, but now her recovery seemed to be rewinding before Ruenna's eyes. The Redhawk was usually so chipper when they crossed paths; it hurt Rue's heart to see her eyes glazed over and hear her voice so flat. 

"Towhee," Ruenna said softly, unable (but also not really trying) to hide her concern. "Should I send for Bridget?" she offered, although something about the Sovereign's demeanor hinted that this was not just a physical malady.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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The way Rue looked at her made Towhee feel self-conscious suddenly, a sense of shame burning low and slow beneath her skin. "What? No," she answered the Regent's question perhaps a bit too quickly, shaking her head. "I'm—I'll be fine. I just..." She paused and huffed a world-weary breath, not saying anything for a long moment.

When she was ready, she broke the silence to say, "It's just a lot, lately. Reyes pissed all over our offer. He would rather live apart from his kids than accept our terms. He seemed really hung up on his rank. I tried to explain it was about giving him a chance to rehabilitate himself and regain the pack's trust. But his tiny dick couldn't handle it." Towhee knew that was extremely petty but she was so galled by Reyes's behavior, she couldn't quite contain her angry indignation.

She took another breath to steady herself before saying, "Despite his complete lack of remorse or self-awareness, we did end up striking a compromise. The kids can go see him, as long as they're escorted the entire time. I don't like it but I'm not out to destroy his relationship with them, whatever that asshat thinks. I want them to know their dad, I just want them to be safe too."

Towhee licked her lips, feeling like a wrung-out dishrag as she added, "Oh, and Fennec rage-quit as Regent." And stabbed her mother a few times on her way out too, though that was too painful and didn't bear thinking about right now. "It's just you and me, Rue," the Sovereign finished with a mockery of a smile, right before it fell away with a long sigh.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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#5
Snooped on @Aliana's pawprints and noticed that she was about to earn her merc trade. :DD

Towhee reacted to Ruenna's expression of sympathy in pretty much the most Towhee-way possible, brushing off Rue's concerns and denying that there was anything the matter that might warrant a medic. 

..And then she spilled. Ruenna wasn't at all surprised to hear that Reyes had declined their offer with very little grace. That chafed, admittedly. Try as she might to do the opposite, Rue couldn't help but take it personally. The whole thing had been her idea, but even more than that-- she had based it on the sort of deal that she herself would have given a limb to receive back in Red Fern Grove. If only she'd been allowed a single chance to redeem herself...!

At least Reyes had done her the favor of stomping out the very last remaining bit of sympathy Ruenna had for him. Matters would be simpler moving forward, with Ruenna free to dislike him as much as the given situation called for. 

Rue was not entirely content with the solution Towhee described. She sighed, knowing it was not ideal for the Sovereign either. "Each visit will be safer than the last, with the children growing as quickly as they are." The children would be safe, Ruenna felt fairly confident-- particularly if they were accompanied by a Caldera guardian. "As they get older, they will see everything more and more clearly. In time, they will see Reyes's true nature--" Whatever it was, at that point. "--And they will see that you have done your best to give them both a mother and a father." She paused. 

"He is going to remain with Brecheliant, I'm assuming?" Ruenna's confidence in their relationship with Brecheliant was far more tenuous. Ruenna couldn't help but notice that they kept taking in wolves that had beef with the Caldera. Three guesses where that was going to lead, if it continued. 

The news about Fennec was also unsurprising. Her time as Regent had not buffed out the scuffs in her character; it had made them appear more pronounced, if anything, and she came across as even more rough around the edges. Ruenna only nodded, thinking it best not to comment one way or the other. Towhee seemed a little raw right now, and speaking critically of her child might not be well received. 

"You and me will do just fine," she reassured Towhee. "And some of the new recruits seem promising. Aliana keeps a sharp eye on the border. I'd like to offer her the Tradesman rank to make it official." There was some good news, although it did seem rather adrift in a sea of bad.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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#6
Great idea! \o/

To Towhee's horror, she was suddenly hit with an overwhelming urge to cry. Her throat tightened and tears sprung to her eyes, prickling. She wanted to turn away but she didn't want to miss anything Rue said. She knew the Regent wouldn't hold it against her, or judge her, but all the same, she felt embarrassed as she furiously swiped at the tears tracking down her cheeks.

She couldn't speak. Towhee appreciated Rue's take on the situation. In fact, it made the tears fall faster as she felt a wave of gratitude toward the woman. Towhee had lost so many wolves to one thing or another this year, but Ruenna had been solid as a rock. The Sovereign hoped Rue knew she didn't take any of it for granted and wondered if she was doing a good enough job demonstrating that.

Towhee nodded haltingly at the question about Reyes's whereabouts. She didn't actually know that for a fact, though she simply assumed he'd gone there and intended to stay there so he could be close to the kids. She felt a burst of anger flash through her, fiery hot, when she was reminded that his title there meant more to him than actually being close to Caracal and the twins. He had chosen pride over progeny.

The heat of her fury at least dried her tears. She was better able to focus her orange gaze on Rue as she assured her they would make it work. Towhee noted the lack of commentary about Fennec and wondered what Rue was thinking. She didn't dare ask. And she appreciated Rue's reticence. Towhee knew she couldn't handle it right now. The way Fen had treated her that day had cut her much more deeply than she'd realized at the time. In time, it would hopefully heal, but until then, Towhee didn't even want to think about it, much less discuss it.

The remark about Aliana was met with a quizzical look. Who? She felt another lick of shame and pushed it down, placing complete faith in Ruenna's judgment. "Of course. That's good," she acknowledged a bit lamely, making a mental note to seek out this Aliana sometime. Now that she thought about it, the name was vaguely familiar but the fact stood: Towhee had never met the woman. That needed to change.

At last, Towhee opened her mouth to say something when her face contorted suddenly. It felt like something was inside her, gnawing on her belly. It was so sharp, she let out a quiet gasp. It faded quickly, leaving mild nausea in its wake. Towhee swallowed a mouthful of sour saliva and let out another shaky breath. It felt like everything she'd been through lately had manifested itself in the world's worst stomachache. She wondered if that could possibly be true.

Once recovered from the brief spell of pain, she said gruffly, "You really are the best, Rue. I wish I could think of some way to show you how much I appreciate you. I guess I could try to find your favorite food or give you a spa day or something but..." Towhee laughed a bit dryly. But she was a terrible hunter and there was definitely no way either of them could kick back, relax and take time off during times like these.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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The more Ruenna tried to reassure Towhee, the more her tears flowed. That was the way with expressions of sympathy, as the experieinced counselor had come to understand. If Towhee was crying, that might not actually be such a terrible thing-- it might indicate that Ruenna's words were getting through, which was not always a given with Towhee.

While the tears did not worry Rue overmuch, the Sovereign's sudden expression of pain was very concerning. Ruenna fought her urge to step toward Towhee, recognizing that telltale look of nausea and reluctant to put herself in the line of fire. When it seemed as if the danger had passed, Rue leaned in to offer her a gentle nudge of support. 

Towhee tried to brush off the episode by showering praise upon Rue, but the Regent would not be distracted so easily. "Thank you. The appreciation is more than enough." She smiled in gratitude, although the expression was somewhat tight. She was still worried. "Towhee, if you're having, ah, spells of pain or anything of the sort, I want that to be first priority." After a short pause, she added, "I couldn't do all this without.. without you. I wouldn't want to." She swallowed heavily. That was enough of that, or else they would become a pair of blubbering leaders.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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Surely there was something she could do to express her gratitude. Maybe Rue herself had some idea of what Towhee could offer, something she wanted that the Sovereign could give her? Towhee's eyes trailed thoughtfully over her familiar face when suddenly her own countenance shifted quite dramatically. For an instant, it lit up almost in wonder, only for her brow to quickly furrow. That was certainly one idea to acknowledge everything Ruenna had done and recognize her value to the caldera. However, was it really a reward... or more of a punishment?

She supposed that would be up to the Regent to decide. But before she could even pitch it, Rue said her appreciation was more than enough. Towhee knew she genuinely meant that, though all the same, she wanted to ask her. Then came a confession edged in a concern the Sovereign knew all too well. It was valid, this worry of being left. A shiver of pain ached through her stomach at the thought of losing Rue too.

"I'm not going anywhere," Towhee promised vehemently, "and I couldn't do it without you either. Actually, Rue, what if... you were a second Sovereign?" The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea. They would balance each other, make quite the complementary pair, and she said as much. "No homo," she finished dryly, with a faint twitch of her lips.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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When Towhee's expression shifted suddenly, Ruenna leaned forward in concern, worrying that Towhee was experiencing another spell of pain. But no. Her face did not contort in pain, rather it lifted before drawing tight. As if Towhee had thought up some idea. Ruenna waited, assuming that she was about to hear Towhee elaborate on what she thought might be the source of her sickness. 

However, Towhee only brushed over Rue's concern once more. Rue opened her mouth to argue, but before she could speak Towhee delivered her very unexpected offer. 

Ruenna was taken aback. "I.. would like that, I guess," was her initial reaction. Her brow knit thoughtfully, mirroring Towhee's expression. Rue had been a beta so many times and for so long now that it was second nature for her to serve a leader. She had given little thought to what it might be like to lead in her own right, but it seemed like a natural enough next step. 

"My only hesitation is.. well, Phox. It wouldn't feel right to me to be ranked above him." Ruenna had told as much to Towhee before, so it likely wouldn't come as a surprise. "Unless you're suggesting we have three Sovereigns, when he returns..?" Wouldn't that be a little crowded? 

Come to think of it, wouldn't Towhee want to save a Sovereign position for her future mate? The next one would have stronger leadership qualities than Reyes, Ruenna dearly hoped. Was that what this whole "no homo" thing was about? The phrase was utterly foreign to Ruenna, although Towhee seemed to speak it whenever she offered Ruenna an assignment that would traditionally belong to a mate.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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Towhee really didn't know what Rue might say, no matter how convincing her pitch. She could see her declining out of humility. That didn't happen, exactly. Her initial words made something loosen inside the Sovereign, a sensation which provided immense psychic relief and even made her stomach feel a little less sour. But then she brought up Phox, insisting she couldn't outrank him, which made Towhee's lips press together.

She shook her head. "No, I think having three would defeat the purpose of the role. Might as well just all assume Regent titles and operate as an equal Council." Now that idea might have merit, but Towhee continued, "Which is not something I want to do right now. I want you to have this opportunity, Rue. And as for my brother..."

Towhee remembered when Rue had asked her if Phox would be having more children. She'd told her she couldn't speak for him. She couldn't be sure how he'd feel about this subject, either, though she hazarded a guess and said, "I somehow doubt Phox will want to assume leadership right away, if at all. He needs time to rest and recover from everything he's been through. And we don't even know when he'll be returning. It could be some time yet."

She paused to let the mild ache of that reality pass, realizing she had another point she wanted to make. "Why wouldn't it feel right, Rue? I don't hold it against him at all, but he hasn't been here. You have. You've been here for all of us, but especially me. You've helped me raise my kids, run this pack. Now I want you to rule it with me. I can't think of anyone worthier, Rue."

She thought of mentioning what this meant for breeding rights, knowing what it meant to Rue. Now she wouldn't even need Towhee's blessings, even though she already had them. Towhee decided she would bring it up to sweeten the deal if Rue still showed hesitation. But hopefully she'd made a strong enough case. Though Phox would've been a wonderful candidate were the circumstances different, she stood by everything she'd said.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Rue thought that the idea of a Council of Regents had merit, although it was clear from the tight-mouthed way Towhee discussed it that the Sovereign was not thrilled with the prospect. Almost as soon as she suggested it, she tabled the idea, saying it wasn't the right time. 

It was Ruenna's time, according to Towhee. She thought Phox would need the time to recover, which might be true. Ruenna also imagined that he would need some time to gain the trust of the pack; he'd been gone long enough that their membership base had changed, and several might not even have met Phox. 

Conceptualizing the promotion as a temporary position while Phox convalesced weakened Ruenna's resolve to resist the suggestion. But Towhee was not satisfied with a hesitant receptiveness, even if it might eventually transform into compliance. She forged ahead, seemingly determined to destroy Ruenna's resolve entirely. She recounted Ruenna's service and accomplishments, but what changed Ruenna's mind ultimately was Towhee's assertion that she wanted Ruenna to rule with her

Ruenna had never denied Towhee anything that she wanted, and she wasn't likely to start now. 

"Okay! Okay, I'll do it," Ruenna said at last, with the air of a wolf being tortured into submission. Truly, all of the compliments were a little much for the humble Redfern, but she smiled even so. To answer Towhee's question, she explained, "I guess.. it will just be very new to me. All my life I've been bound to others in service, which I have liked just fine. I never sought out anything different. I don't even know what it will feel like to live in a different way, to.. navigate the new dynamic. With Phox, the situation seems even more delicate, because he was once a wolf that I served, and this promotion would technically reverse the roles." 

Ruenna paused for a long moment. It would be clear that she was not finished speaking, merely struggling for her next words. 

"The very last thing I want is for Phox to view me as a rival or with any bitterness at all. I had hoped that.. well, since Niamh.. he might- ..oh, I dunno," Ruenna finished with a faltering voice. She shook out her damp pelt vigorously, looking for all the world like she was trying to fling away her own awkwardness.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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The way Rue eventually relented suddenly reminded Towhee of the day she'd more or less strong-armed the pregnant Raven into taking the Alpha female rank from her. What really brought the comparison home was the way she falteringly spoke of Phox. Towhee stared, wondering if history could be about to repeat itself.

Could Rue really be saying what Towhee thought she meant, though? Towhee had thought about the pairing too, though she hadn't dared mention it. But Rue herself had just brought it up—again, assuming they were on the same page here—and here was a platform to voice her own thoughts on the matter. She couldn't miss this opportunity.

"He might...?" Towhee coaxed, though she wasn't really the patient sort, so she didn't even give Rue chance to reply before saying, "I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: I can't speak for my brother. But I don't think the rank thing matters that much to him. And I'm not sure this is what you were hinting at but I've actually thought you two might make a good pair, someday. You know, I once stepped aside so my older sister, Raven, could become the Alpha pair with her mate. I'd be happy to do the same for you and Phox, should that day come and the three of us discuss and decide among ourselves."

But that day was a long ways off, if it ever came at all, and none of them could predict the future. They only had the here and now to work with, so Towhee resisted the urge to speculate any further and instead circled back to today's promotion. "If you find the role doesn't suit you, you're always welcome to resume the Regency. But I really think you'll be great," she finished, "Queen Rue."
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Well, it was all out there now. But was that really such a bad thing? Rue had previously enlisted Towhee's assistance in finding a mate, so the would-be matchmaker might as well know Rue's preference... especially since her first instinct had been to pair Rue with Figment.  

Rue's brow creased as Towhee mentioned the possibility of stepping aside for Ruenna, someday. Nope, nope, nope, that would only ever happen over Rue's dead body. As uncomfortable as she was being ranked above Phox, it would be ten times worse being ranked above Towhee. It would be a huge upheaval in the natural order of things, on scale with the landslide that had left Ruenna permanently disabled.  

But Ruenna didn't argue. It seemed like such a remote possibility anyway, and it wasn't like anything ever worked out exactly the way it was planned. 

Ruenna shook her head. "It's too much, trying to predict what the future will hold. But I agree with you, I think this is a good step for us, where we are right now." She repeated, "I'll do it," and after a moment she added, "..on one condition: that's the first and last time I'm ever called that. 'Auntie Rue' has a much better ring to it, I think." Ruenna laughed. Queen Rue. Ridiculous.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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"It's too much, trying to predict what the future will hold," Rue said and Towhee snorted in agreement, saying, "Truer words have never been spoken." She fell silent, holding her breath, when her cohort mentioned one last condition. Once it was given, she exhaled on another dry laugh.

Towhee pondered on it a moment and suggested, "What about Soverue?" She shook her head, then smiled. She repeated back the words Ruenna had said only moments before, "Yeah, you and me will do just fine."

This turn of events was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak time in her life. Towhee was grateful and relieved in equal measure, though she still felt a great weight on her shoulders. Having a partner in rank would definitely help with some of the strain, though much of what ailed her was more personal.

"Let's announce it," Towhee suggested, "and then I'm gonna leave you in charge and take a very, very long nap."

Congratulations!!!
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Ruenna pretended to ponder the suggestion for a moment before countering facetiously with, "Soverenna?" She laughed along with Towhee. 

"Alright," Ruenna agreed to Towhee's suggested course of action, although she did throw a sideways look at the mention of the "very, very long nap." Towhee was not off the hook with this illness business, not by a long shot. Even if Fennec was no longer a Regent, she was still the pack's only medic. Ruenna would have to see that Fennec checked in on Towhee... as long as Ruenna could find her. Fennec could be a difficult wolf to track down, when she didn't want to be bothered. Which was just about all the time, actually...

:DD


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.
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Granted, she couldn't hear, but there was something rather lyrical about "Soverenna." Towhee made a note to use both terms interchangeably in the future, particularly if she ever needed to tease her co-leader. Her stomach did a strange little leap as she thought that word, though for once it wasn't an unpleasant feeling.

Wondering just what everyone might think of this development—not that she would hear any responses, should there be any—Towhee lifted her head and howled the news to the entirety of the caldera and surrounding lands. Her voice was as grating as ever, utterly devoid of any sense of pitch. Hopefully Rue would join in and help save the song before everybody's ears started to bleed.

Wanna wrap and 'chive it, m'dear? :)
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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After a few moments, Ruenna joined Towhee song, wrapping her voice around Towhee's, softening her grating tones. With luck, their co-leadership would unfold the same way. They would carry the pack in the same direction, with the same goals, and as they went along Ruenna would smooth out any bumps created by the strength of Towhee's will.


Ruenna experiences chronic lower back pain as a result of an accident from over a year ago. She moves with a very obvious, heavy limp.