Noctisardor Bypass the loxian gate
Rivenwood

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#1
All Welcome 
Druid slunk along the waterline, eyes combing the shallows as she crept. So far, she hadn’t seen much activity, so she stopped and crouched. Perhaps if she waited patiently in one spot, her quarry would come toward her.

Long minutes passed and the pup tried to be patient and still, though her muscles soon began to ache. She shifted her weight and blew out a breath, glancing down at Bracelet for something to do. The little snake appeared to be asleep.

The lanky Sämling flinched at a sudden burst of noise from overhead. Her head reared back and Druid watched as a flock of geese winged past overhead in the distinctive “V” shape. They honked quite loudly as they flew over Rivenwood in the direction of Rising Sun Valley.

Druid abruptly began coughing as a strange taste filled her mouth. As soon as the geese disappeared over the bypass’s southern wall, the weird flavor began to fade. She blinked rapidly for a few minutes, glancing down when she felt Bracelet shifting around her ankle in a fashion that could only be called curious.

Is it just me, Druid whispered to the snake, or did everything just taste purple for a second?
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Rivenwood

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#2
heda dragged a duck leg behind her. it flopped and smeared the ground with blood wherever the girl dropped it. this only persuaded heda to pause and to gnaw.
worripa had not come back. it had been weeks and her brother had not returned. the sharp pierce of loss had faded into a dull ache that only plagued her when the sun was low. curled alone she thought of her mother's face, how it had blurred into paleness, scars, silver eyes.
and how worripa's would do the same.
heda bit hard into the leg, suddenly, filled with a hateful anger, and then flung it into the bushes.
sides heaving, she turned around but found she was not alone, that druid was near. coughing. heda was not close enough to hear what her sister whispered after, but picked her way to the other's side, sitting down with a sigh.
"willam is my great-aunt," she said softly, still unsure of what it meant exactly for her, or for any of them.
Rivenwood

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#3
Bracelet did not respond, not that Druid had expected she would. She forgot all about the strange taste in her mouth a moment later when she caught a whiff of blood. No sooner had she turned than Skaigona—no, she preferred to be called Heda, now—flopped down beside her with a spontaneous declaration.

The gray Sämling took a moment to parse her sister’s words before replying, What’s a great aunt? Had Wylla changed her name too or had Druid simply misheard an “m” tacked onto the end? Maybe her senses were all a little off kilter today.

That made her think again about tasting the color purple. Stranger than the experience itself was her certainty, as if she’d tasted purple before. Druid considered asking Heda about it but caught the scent of blood again, which was very normal but no less intriguing for that.

Are you bleeding? she asked Heda, leaning forward to gently nudge her with concern.
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Rivenwood

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#4
she shook her head. "just hunting." the birds, small animals, and fish of the bypass had by now mostly been noted in her mind. she remembered slugstone, and she knew where the frogs fed. outside noctisardor was where nomi and worripa had gone.
heda was not sure she wanted to leave at all. ever.
she tried to make herself present, smiling at her sister and bracelet. "um ... she said that my ... she said that praimfaya was her daughter's ... no, her brother's daughter. so. we are related."
but it didn't feel quite like anything. surely not like the bond shared between she and witch and druid. and so heda shrugged, smirking, and searched for a new set of words.
"do you wanna go to silencepine? there's a yellow bird there. i wanna see if i can catch him!"
Rivenwood

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#5
Reassured, Druid sat up straighter again and listened as Heda explained that Wylla was a relative. It took her a second to recall who she meant by Praimfaya. She had no memory of the woman—as far as Druid could recollect, Heda and Worripa had always been there along with Witch—but Sequoia had explained it to her once or twice. Although the connection Heda described sounded very convoluted to her young ears, she accepted this information with a nod and twitch of her lips. Heda was fortunate.

Can she be my great aunt too? Druid naturally wanted to know. She liked Wylla and would be happy to count her among her kin.

Although Druid meant to spend her hours fishing today, she didn’t hesitate to accompany Heda at her request. Of course I’ll go with you, Druid purled, pressing to her feet. She would always do what any of her sisters asked of her, within reason, and she was also very curious how one went about capturing something as flighty and swift as a bird.
Rivenwood

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#6
"yeah!" heda exclaimed. "she can be your aunt too. oh, and she can tell us more about winter. when we see her again." heartened by druid, as always, she quick-nipped toward her sister's ear with a playfully controlled gesture, and then set off toward where the edge of the lagoon widened into the rich dark earth of silencepine.
roots here were exposed. the air hung with the scent of earth. the needled trees were quiet, reaching high toward the sky. heda wound between them, hunting for first the scent of birds.
discovering light tracks and tiny droppings, she looked at druid. "this is from quail." the feathers left behind were easily sucked into a nostril if one wasn't careful with their scenting. "too tiny to even eat!" heda exclaimed in a stage whisper, shrugging.
Rivenwood

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#7
Druid fell into step beside her sister, musing about Wylla silently for a few moments before voicing her thoughts aloud: If we catch anything, maybe we could bring it to her. Then she could tell them more about winter while she enjoyed a snack.

They passed into the piney woods and Druid tipped her head to take a deep breath of the fresh air here. It dropped back earthward when Heda spoke, the gray pup stepping softly to flank the other girl and peering down at the quail spoor.

Heda declared quail too small to bother with, so Druid began scanning the jade boughs for signs of other birds to pursue. Heda had mentioned a yellow bird in particular, though her mismatched eyes saw no such sampling of that hue among the quiet pines.

She did spot something else though. Eyes narrowing slightly as if in disbelief, Druid crept toward the heap of brown. She stopped a few feet away, ears fanning backward. The scat was old and didn’t smell very ripe, though the sheer amount and size of the pile defied belief.

What do you think made this? she questioned, eyes seeking Heda to draw her closer.
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Rivenwood

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#8
if heda was being honest, she was not sure such a bird existed. she had seen a fluting of yellow and that was all. but now she believed it had been feathers, and stuck with the assumption. if she was wrong, that was one thing, but she was not willing to simply pass up the opportunity.
"if she is our aunt, then you would also be related to praimfaya, i think." using her mother's full name provided heda with a sense of distance from the woman who had abandoned her. if she ever discovered that the commander had come back but not for her children, there might have been more anger in heda.
it was a credit to sequoia for having kept the girl so safe from a reality that did not yet need to belong to her.
"and then — wylla has phaedra, and she has mahler's eyes."
blissfully unaware of genetics, insulated from fatherhood; the great man had been such to her, and heda knew her eyes did not resemble his at all. 
she stopped babbling when druid turned her attention toward a huge heap of "scheisse!" she laughed out loud. "maybe a ... shark!" wylla had said they couldn't walk on land, but — heda checked her sister's face for a reaction.
Rivenwood

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#9
In the face of her discovery, Druid forgot all about familial contemplation. Perhaps later, she would have to ask Heda about this Phaedra person. Right now, all of her brainpower was dedicated to figuring out what sort of beast might leave such an impressive pile of dung.

Heda suggested it might be a shark, which earned a curious glance from Druid. A shark? she repeated, hoping her sister would elaborate, as she’d never heard of such a thing before.
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Rivenwood

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"willam told me about them. i like to call her willam. i don't know why," she admitted, before getting back to the explanation. "she said sharks can't walk on the ground. they live in the water. they are like ... big giant snakes, with fins. and a big one on top. and teeth. they eat wolves," heda added, eyes widening.
"so! they're really big. i bet one made this," the girl said in conclusion, waving a paw at the dung heap. "maybe sharks can only come out of the water for a little bit."
Rivenwood

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#11
She had spent quite a bit of time near the water lately, so hearing that these sharks lived there instantly hooked Druid’s attention. Heda described them as snakelike, which made her eyes fall to the serpent slumbering around her wrist. She looked up sharply when her sister went on to say they ate wolves, however.

Her lips parted as disquiet threaded through her. Heda was still talking, now about the size of sharks and whether they sometimes came onto dry land, and her uneasiness grew. Druid closed her mouth and swallowed, looking around as if one of these dangerous, finned creatures might suddenly materialize to claim its marked territory.

But the pines were as silent as their name foretold. Druid took a breath. If it’s a snake like Bracelet, maybe it would be our friend, she thought aloud, finding relief in the thought. If it’s big enough, maybe we could even ride it, like the ringsnake clasped about her ankle.

Sharks were momentarily forgotten along with their search for the yellow bird when another noisy flock of geese passed by, prompting Druid’s mouth to flood with purple.
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Rivenwood

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heda's eyes widened. "aunt willam never said if we could ride them or not." but her voice hung suspended. why not? the way the woman had talked about them, it was almost inconceivable. "if it's like bracelet, i bet you could talk to it, druid," she grinned encouragingly.
or bracelet could translate. she glanced fondly at the little snake who had become her sister's constant companion. birds passing overhead brought the girl's muzzle up-tipped to look at them. "wonder where they're all going," she mused aloud, half to herself and half to druid.
Rivenwood

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#13
It was even more distracting the second time. Druid opened and closed her mouth, her tongue scraping over her teeth. It might even look like she was chewing on something, if Heda noticed. It was so queer, because it tasted like nothing she’d ever had in her mouth before, yet her brain simply knew it was purple.

Her sister made a comment about the geese, their silhouettes quickly fading to the south and taking with them the peculiar flavor. Where did birds go, when they winged past overhead? Did they even have destinations or did they fly for the pleasure of it? Druid realized she’d always assumed the latter. She would fly all the time, were she able, simply for the fun of it.

Abruptly, Druid remembered. Maybe they’re looking for the yellow bird too, she mused with a smile, then tipped her head as if to say, Shall we continue?
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Rivenwood

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#14
the mention of the yellow-feathered bird was enough to provoke a nod. but she was watching how druid's mouth was moving, and wondered if her sister meant to guard some morsel for herself. heda was a bit jealous but it passed at once in prospect of a hunt.
she wended between the trees.
"maybe he is their leader. their graf."
heda considered for a moment. "how far do they fly, do you think, druid?" she was fixed on their path across the heavens once more.
Rivenwood

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#15
For a beat, Druid didn’t understand who Heda meant when she said “he,” though she quickly deduced she must be referring to the yellow bird. She didn’t say anything in reply, drifting after her paler sister as she led the way through the trees. Only when she was asked a question did Druid open her mouth again, now entirely devoid of the taste of purple.

Far, she replied simply, limited by her own inability to conceptualize distance due to never setting foot outside Rivenwood. But the heavens seemed rather expansive and she’d watched a bird fly off into the distance, becoming a speck before disappearing entirely, and she sensed the breadth of space involved there.

Bracelet’s grasp on her foot tightened suddenly, causing Druid to grind to a halt. As soon as she stopped, the snake loosened and slithered free, wending through the pine needles and other debris littered on the forest floor. The young wolf’s head cocked, watching her friend, wondering what had prompted her to wake and depart.

She didn’t mind, though. We’ll collect her on our way back, she said for both the snake’s benefit and Heda’s. Her tail flicked as the ringneck snake disappeared into the underbrush, her eyes flicking back to her sister and then drifting upward, looking for any sign of yellow and suddenly curious what it might taste like.
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