Silvertip Mountain I wonder if I've been changed in the night
Ursus

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#1
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for @Merrick
set a few hours after this thread


The night had turned chilly, and Arielle paced among her plants, worrying over the bear king and his family. She hadn't known Merrick or Aves long, and she didn't know the princess at all, but seeing their despair affected her more than she could have anticipated. Still, the dread sat in her stomach, more like a stone now that had no intention of leaving any time soon. 

When she could no longer take it, she scooped up one of her herbs and trotted from her den, stopping only to grab some food from one of the caches on the way. 

She went back to where they had all gathered before. She had a feeling she would find the king there, still mourning over his queen. And so she wasn't surprised to see she was right.

She walked quietly over to Merrick and sat the food and plant near his feet. You should eat something. she said softly. And this is lavender; it will soothe you. She had no idea if he wanted company or to be taken care of, but she was here anyway.
Ursus

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#2
the life force of the blackbird was gone.
merrick wished very much that he might pull himself from her side now and disappear into the night. there was no appeal now in the thought of breath or life or continuing.
i will build you a tomb upon their crushed bodies
arielle's presence went unheeded, save for a single shake of the bearwitch's head. "she will never eat again. why should i?"
but it was clear that merrick did not seek an answer.
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Ursus

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#3
Because Ursus needs you, she said softly, unsure how he would react. He had never been unkind to her, but she knew the ability existed within the bear king. Still, he needed to hear it. It was easy to get lost in grief and forget the world around you, but it was not healthy, nor would it aid them in their war against the Saints. It was unfair that he hardly had time to grieve the loss of his queen, but their war wouldn't allow him that time, hard and unforgiving as it was. Of course, he probably knew that far better than Arielle, but it didn't mean he didn't need the reminder. Boldly and perhaps stupidly, she reached over and touched her nose to his shoulder. It was a brief touch, but one she hoped would bring him some comfort if it was at all possible.
Ursus

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i know them all
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#4
"ursus has me until dawn." he did not shrug away her touch but neither did merrick show that he had recognized it. his gaze was only for what had been their queen and his lover, fierce blackbird who had drawn him from the forests and made of him a powerful god.
merrick wept instead, a breaking and choking sound that he did not hide from arielle. the hatred bittered the salt, and he bent his head lower and lower until he touched the now-rigid flesh of his beloved.
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Ursus

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#5
She had a reply for his answer—that Ursus would need him even after that, but the words fell away in his moment of shared vulnerability, a sobbing sound that gripped her heart.

She watched him slide lower down towards Astara until his face pressed into her lifeless body. Arielle lowered herself next to him, slowly and gently resting her head across his trembling shoulders. There were no words to offer because no words would help; right now, they were useless. All she could offer was herself. And she would stay there for as long as he would allow.
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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#6
merrick allowed arielle to hold him.
he breathed a shuddering breath and then blinked, nodded, pulled back from the blackbird's body. 
he did not want to move. he did not want to hunt.
"are you staying or will you go?" his voice was hushed, garbled with grief.
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Ursus

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#7
She was happy he seemed to at least not mind her embrace. She stayed in that spot as he grieved, moving only when he did.

He asked if she would leave or stay. I will stay here as long as you want me to, she promised softly. She couldn't leave him alone like this even if she wanted to. It's not like she could sleep anyway, not with the impending war and all of it's uncertainty.
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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#8
merrick nodded silently. his words had been in regard to the coming dawn, but arielle's answer was fit for both. her kind heart and sharp jaws were not things he would deny ursus. they would need her skill in the times to arrive.
he chose to assume that she would depart with him at first light, and was heartened. "she would have seen your loyalty as i do," the bearwolf said quietly of astara.
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Ursus

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#9
Arielle wasn't at all aware of her misunderstanding of his question because she thought it was obvious she would chose to go to war with Ursus; she was loyal in good times and in hard times. Nothing could sway her.

It was as if the bear king has been reading her thoughts when he spoke next. I wish I had known her more, Arielle answered softly. 

Another thought came to mind, and she looked to Merrick. I have never fought in a war before, she stated calmly. I don't know what to expect.
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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#10
merrick at last turned around. his chuckle was the rustle of dried leaves. "expect to die. expect pain. expect to shed blood. expect victory, arielle. it takes many forms. who knows which one it will assume when we stand against the saints."
the bear had always been coldly pragmatic.
merrick would be the same.
Ursus

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#11
I'm not afraid to die, she assured him. But— she paused, unsure if she should speak her fear out loud. It might tempt fate and bring about what she prayed wouldn't happen. She had already started speaking, though, and she didn't like to keep things from the bear king. I'm afraid of you or Ave's dying, she said quietly, as if it would keep the words from fate's ears. What would become of Ursus then?
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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merrick breathed. "death is an inevitability. it is part of life. it is our natural end. whether it comes with age or at the teeth of another, it will come. do not fear death, arielle. dance with it. invite it close. learn that death is only frightening when we do not understand it."
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Ursus

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#13
She deeply considered the bear king's words. If she didn't fear death for herself, then she shouldn't fear it for others. And Merrick was right: death was inevitable. When they would die was beyond their control, and it wouldn't do her any good to waste time fretting about losing the ones she cared about. But knowing these things intellectually wouldn't always be enough to squash the fear in her heart; that would take time and practice. I guess I'll have to learn that it is beyond my control, Arielle told him after of few moments of serious thinking. Fear is difficult to ignore. It came from a place of self-preservation, but she knew she couldn't let it overcome logic and the belief that the bear always had a plan.
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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#14
"it is healthy to fear. it is unhealthy to be ruled by it. and death in the service of the bear is an honor."
she had seen many times and in this moment the way his face was riddled with scars. "each time i was marked, i embraced the pain. i laughed. i did not allow it to touch me. and now when i walk into war, i feel nothing but excitement."
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Ursus

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#15
He made a distinction between feeling fear and allowing it to make your decisions, one she hadn't made herself. It seemed it wasn't so black and white, which only added another layer to a subject she was only starting to understand. But one thing she could understand without doubt was that it would be an honor to die for the bear. Yes, she agreed out allowed. It would be.

Her eyes roamed over his scars as he told her how he had embraced the pain, laughed about it even. She decided it must feel very freeing to walk into war without fear, but with excitement. She felt some level of excitement, but mostly she had just been worried. How do you allow it not to touch you? she asked. It was hard to separate the mind from the body when in pain, and she was eager to learn his ways—to be better.
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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#16
"you must undergo a good deal of hurt. when your flesh is cut, you do not at first feel it. there is only you and the battle. it is not until after that the agony comes and you realize you are bleeding."
his single eye roved over arielle's attentive young face. "you learn to hold that moment and expand it until you are numb."
he could explain it in no other way. a bear-warrior, beserking for the blood of those who did not honor ursus.
Ursus

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#17
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Arielle nodded as the bear king explained how he had become so skilled at ignoring pain. She was lost in deep thought for a few moments, but then Merrick's words often sent her into this state. He challenged the naive thoughts of her young mind and forced her to see life through his wise and weathered perspective. This lesson was not one she could learn just by listening; she would only gain his ability by living through the pain he described. A determined expression hardened the lines of her face and she nodded, looking to Merrick. She knew what she needed to do.

She looked over at the queen's body then, her face softening again. So this was the bear's will? she asked quietly. Was the bear king proud then? Or was this beyond the control of the bear? She hadn't thought that was even a possibility.
Ursus

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and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
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#18
it hurt!
he wanted to say no! it had not, to round upon arielle. but he could not. her question was just. merrick calmed to an empty shore of salt. "yes."
in the way that evien had been as well.
merrick was wearied, and lay down against the remaining physical aspects of his mate. he would not speak again.
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Ursus

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#19
She felt a shift in the air and knew instantly she should not have asked this question so soon. She did not shy away from the bear king, though, because she was not afraid of him. She was loyal to him, and cared for him as if he were her own family; she knew he would not harm her for seeking to understand the will of the bear. 

Yes, he answered as the air calmed around them. Still, she hoped she had not caused him any harm. There had been enough questions for tonight. Arielle silently settled beside the grieving king, offering her presence only now, in the hope of soothing whatever her question had stirred within him.