Duskfire Glacier Like you imagined
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#1
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his injury is a road rash-like wound that stretches from wrist to elbow on his right front leg


He had considered just leaving the wound be, letting it heal without intervention. It wouldn't be the first time he had done that. But this seemed a little more serious than the injuries he had ignored in the past. Parts of the fur and skin had been ripped away by the frozen ground and what was left behind was angry and raw. The skin that remained was bruised and swollen, and the whole thing pulsated with shooting pain no matter if he rested or not. 

So he reluctantly made his way up to the glacier. He was unsure who their healer was, but he figured they probably had at least a medic in training who could make sure his leg didn't rot off. 

Once inside the territory, he released a call for @Lane. He had no idea of the death that now gripped the lands. Not that it would have stopped him from calling for the leader—there was never rest from ones duties.
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Lane responded to the call dutifully, making her way toward Tuuluuwaq's position. Under normal circumstances, she would have been curious about what brought the hunter back into the packlands, but as it was she didn't even think to wonder until she was standing in front of the man. 

Her eyes cast over him dully. There would be no hint of her usual, humored spark. She would look older, tired, and defeated. 

Her gaze landed on his injury, and she sucked air through her teeth to make a sympathetic noise. "Ouch. You took a spill," she noted. "But I should see the other guy, right?" Ah, there it was-- her apparently indomitable sense of humor. The barest glimmer of amusement flickered across her expression.
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Lane did not keep him waiting very long. She appeared and looked him over. But he could immediately tell that something was off about her; she lacked the brightness she had on the day he had arrived. A frown pulled his eyebrows together, but he didn't say anything about it.

Besides, she was already mentioning his injury and making a joke about the other guy. There was some of the brightness. Tuulu gave a short, deep, huff of laughter. The other guy was a sick caribou I stupidly thought I could take down on my own. He glanced down to his wound. And I paid the price for my impulsivity. He took a seat, gingerly moving the injured leg into a more comfortable position. A moonglow wolf named Kigipigak ended up helping me take the caribou down. 

Does the glacier have a medic? he asked.
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Lane's humored expression quickly sobered, when she learned that Tuuluuwaq had been injured in the course of performing a task that she had requested. Her heart gave a tight squeeze. Responsibility was the price of leadership, and it was a heavy burden. 

Lane was snapped from her tumultuous thoughts by the mention of Kigipigak. Something unreadable would flicker across her expression. 

...

Oh, a medic? Present!

"Several," Lane answered, "But I want you treated by our best one. Come with me, and I'll take you to the medicine den."

After a lengthy walk through the territory, crossing the Polaris Icefield and dipping in and out of Bosk Iana, they would reach their destination by Meltwater Lake. Lane brought Tuuluuwaq to the shore of the lake and materialized a moss ball. She would then proceed to clean his wound of debris and dirt, filling the moss ball with water repeatedly and dabbing his wound deftly, yet gently.  

Had Tuuluuwaq figured out who Duskfire Glacier's best medic was, yet?
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She paused strangely before answering his question, something he couldn't pinpoint crossing her expression. Interesting. He wondered what he had said, but it was soon forgotten as she told him she wanted him treated by their best medic.

You don't need to go through so much trouble, he told her, following her as she led him to the medicine den. His injury was his fault; there was no need for her to go out of her way. 

When it became apparent that Lane was not only an Alpha but also the best medic of the glacier, his guilt multiplied. Her touch was gentle as she cleaned his wound, but nothing could keep the process completely painless. He clenched his teeth as cold water hit angry flesh. I feel guilty pulling you away from your other duties because I was stupid, he told her as she worked. He was not so good at expressing emotions—a family trait. But it flowed easily just now, for some reason. I know you must be busy.
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"You don't need to go through so much trouble."

Lane waved away his words with a swish of her tail. "I could use a distraction," she admitted with a shrug. 

He tried again to voice his thoughts, this time naming a feeling. Guilt. Lane knew that one intimately herself, in fact. 

"I sent you out there to hunt, knowing full well that you were new to the area and on your own, with no backup. And now you're hurt. ..So let me do my thing here, okay?" Lane's tone began matter-of-fact, but softened into a lighthearted plead by the time she was finished speaking. 

As they finished at the lake and moved toward the medicine den, Tuuluuwaq made one more hail-mary pass to try to alleviate his guilt. 

"I know you must be busy."

"Honestly... I've kind of got a big hole in my schedule, now. I was busy night and day taking care of Wintersbane-- he's our former alpha, and my kids' father. But ah.. he's just passed." Lane's caseload was considerably lighter now, and she was looking for something to distract her. 

Lane busied herself mixing an antiseptic poultice. She kept her eyes trained downward, focused on her task and determined not to let her emotions surface.
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She could use the distraction, she told him. A frown returned to his face. He wondered if whatever she needed to be distracted from was also to blame for dulling her light. Did she want to talk about it? He knew he wasn't much for talking about things when they were bothering him, but maybe she was different. Maybe he would ask eventually. 

This time she reacted more sternly to his guilt driven words. Really she had sent him to hunt with Moonglow; he had just been stubborn and stuck in his ways, preferring to be on his own rather than with a bunch of strangers. But he refrained from pointing that out to her, even when her tone became softer. He raised an eyebrow. Yes ma'am, was all he offered.

It turned out he wouldn't need to ask her why she needed a distraction because she told him once they had settled in the medicine den. The former Alpha and father of her children had passed away. It seemed like he had been sick for sometime before his passing. His heart was heavy for her. Losing someone close was one of the worst pains to endure.

Lane turned away and quickly busied herself with her medicine plants. Likely trying to keep him from seeing whatever emotion held her expression then. 

He waited until she returned to apply whatever she made to his wound before speaking. I'm sorry, Lane, he offered gently—well as gently as his gruff voice could sound. That's a heavy thing to carry when you have so much to carry already. His dark gaze studied her face whether she looked up at him or not.
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Lane finished her poultice, chewing a few springs of dried tormentil into her base paste of oak leaves. If Tuuluuwaq allowed it, she would spread it over his wound and allow it to dry. 

Lane nodded, and she met the Tatkret's soulful chocolate eyes. "Thank you for saying so." He didn't know the half of it -- she hadn't even told him about Tzila. She took a deep breath, and let it come out. "His wife, Tzila, followed him to the grave. Poison. Ah.. self-inflicted." She closed her eyes, breathing. "They leave behind two boys, the age of my own children." It was a heavy burden to lay on an acquaintance, but Tuuluuwaq deserved to know what he was signing up for, should he choose to join Duskfire Glacier as a full member upon Issorartuyok's return.
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The poultice felt uncomfortable against his angry skin, but it was soon forgotten as Lane told him of the Alpha's wife and how she had taken her own life. It was tragic to leave behind young children who would now have to grow up without either parent. 

His gaze was still locked on her face. That is awful, was all he could say at first. I'm sure the children are devastated. He was unsure what even to say or do now. He was uncomfortable with such strong emotions; he'd rather avoid them all together. 

But he was overcome with the need to comfort her and ease her burden. But why? Maybe because he wanted to help her get back some of her brightness. It didn't really matter right then, though. He reached forward, and if she allowed the touch, he would brush his nose against her cheek. If you need anything, let me know. I would be happy to lessen your burden in some way.
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"I'm sure the children are devastated." 

"I'm so worried about them," Lane imparted. "Arius has made it pretty clear that the only way I can ease his pain is to hand the pack over to him on a silver platter. I assume he speaks for himself and his brother." The pair were nearly inseparable, after all. "They're not ready. I don't know if they ever will be. Neither seemed to show much interest in leadership, until their parents died. Now I worry that the desire consumes them."

Lane checked the poultice, which was drying nicely. There was still some time, so she continued her impromptu therapy session with her captive audience. 

"Truth be told, I don't want another Wintersbane leading this pack. He was a good man with a strong character, but as a leader he was... aloof. Unreachable. It was like he was a force, not a person. That's not the future I want for those boys, or this pack." 

Lane had more or less told Arius that her designs on leadership were simply to "keep the pack warm" for the Duskfire children until they came of age, but lately Lane had been rethinking that position. What if Lane still had doubts when the Duskfire children came of age? Would it be terribly hypocritical of her, to go back on the unspoken promise she made to a hurting child? ..Probably. Should she go back on that promise, if it was in the best interest of Duskfire Glacier? ...Probably. 

How could Tuuluuwaq help? 

"If you end up staying with us, it would ease my mind to know that you were guiding one of the boys, as a mentor. My boy, Veteran, has been chosen by Issorartuyok to mentor, and Arius has chosen me. I'd like it if you could make a connection with Ensio." Right now, Lane worried that with the amount of time Arius and Ensio spent together, their pain was creating an echo chamber as they went back and forth, round and round. Eventually they would emerge more aligned, more angry, and more radical. They could use some healthy time away from each other, to grow under the influence of well-balanced adults.
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What she expressed about the grieving siblings concerned the northerner. Maybe they will feel differently when their parents' death is not so fresh. Grief clouds judgement and reason. And with their mother leaving them of her own doing, they must be so angry and lost. He could only imagine. If something happened to his parents, he would be swallowed by despair and anger. 

That does not sound like a leader I would respect, he said in response to her wishes for the future. I think with you and my brother leading, things will be much better, especially for the children the former alpha left behind. 

She requested that Tuulu seek out Ensio and offer to mentor him. The Tatkret had never been anyone's mentor before; he had only been the mentee. But he never backed down from a challenge, and he certainly wouldn't refuse to help Lane. She had been dealing with this without Isso, and he wanted to try and be some of what his brother was. I can do that, he told her. I cannot promise I will be successful, but I will try my hardest. He let a smile smile pull up one corner of his lips. But is there anything that you need? What she asked was mostly for Ensio's benefit. He wondered if he could do anything to help the alphess specifically.
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Lane knew that he was right. Of course Tzila's boys could not be judged too harshly by actions and words which were driven by grief. 

"That does not sound like a leader I would respect," Tuuluuwaq noted, and Lane frowned. Even though it was her words that had inspired this conclusion, she was surprised by the defensiveness that welled inside her. Wintersbane had been respected, and he was absolutely worthy of that respect! She hadn't meant to indicate otherwise. Her words were coming out all wrong. They had with Arius, and now they had again with Tuuluuwaq. She was starting to see why Wintersbane had been so taciturn; the more words that were spoken, the more easily they could be twisted and reframed. 

The conversation drifted to more comfortable topics, and Lane was relieved to hear Tuuluuwaq agree to mentor Ensio-- or at least try his hardest to do so. 

He pressed her once more to identify what she needed. It was the first time she'd been asked this question since her packmates' deaths, and the man's sincere smile and soulful, chocolate eyes inspired a stirring in Lane's heart. 

"Oh-- honestly, this," Lane admitted with a small laugh. Tuuluuwaq's poultice had dried satisfactorily upon his wound, and there was really no reason for him to linger, other than to be receptive as Lane unburdened herself. And she appreciated it. "Thanks for listening. You don't have to stay any longer; I didn't mean to hold you captive." The edge of her mouth quirked. 

Even as she dismissed him, some conflicting emotion within her sought to hold him here with her. "You know, you're really different from your brother," she remarked, attempting to keep him engaged in conversation.
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Apparently the fact that he was here, listening to the worries of her mind was what the healer needed. It had been no work at all for him; he was happy to to listen. Tuulu knew she carried much on her shoulders. 

When she said she had been holding him captive, he responded with a small huff of laughter. He didn't budge, though. He hadn't planned on leaving yet; he wanted to spend more time here, learning more about the glacier leader. You have not held me captive, he assured her. She had treated his wound, after all. I do not mind listening. I know it is helpful to get out of your head sometimes. 

Yeah? he said in response to her comment on his brother. How am I different? he asked. He was instantly curious. What had she noticed about him that was different than Isso. In a good way, I hope, he added a little playfully.
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Lane actually had no idea where she was going with that, which was a huge reason it took her roleplayer so long to reply to this thread. She was flying by the seat of her pants, just throwing things against a wall to see what stuck. All she knew was, she was enjoying this. She was enjoying this conversation, this guy, just.. this. She would say whatever it took to keep him here, because it felt like it had been absolutely ages since she actually enjoyed herself. Like offering crack to an addict, the playfulness in his last question stoked her craving. God, she needed this. 

"Of course in a good way," she insisted coyly, laughing. "It's just something about you," she explained, although her statement hadn't really explained much of anything at all. "He's just very... Issorartuyok." Still clear as mud. Why couldn't she find the right word for it? Lane laughed at herself. 

"Like.. --not that I would-- but if I tried to flirt with Issorartuyok, I don't think it would even compute. I think he would just be confused." His way of being, his language, his mannerisms-- all of it was incredibly straightforward, with no room for subtleties. Lane had imagined that this was just the way Issorartuyok was brought up; he seemed to have it in common with other northern men. But Tuuluuwaq seemed to have more dimensions, despite presumably having the same upbringing.

"Somehow, I don't think you would miss it." The flirting, that is. One edge of Lane's mouth quirked in amusement, and her eyes danced impishly.
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Although her explanation really wouldn't clear much up for most others, Tuulu knew what she meant. He and his brother were different in a lot of ways. They had been raised by the same parents but had still had very different upbringings. He had been the only remaining child of his litter, and he felt like that awarded him more freedom than Isso. His parents had been so grateful that he survived that they hadn't placed so much pressure on him. He wasn't even sure they realized it, but Tuulu certainly had. It was why he left home and wandered for months at a time, well one of the reasons. His travels gave him more experience interacting with others. 

He chuckled a little at how she described his brother as very Issorartuyak. Yes, I understand what you mean, Tuulu said first. He is older and so he had more pressure to take over leading the pack one day; there was more pressure for him to marry who they wanted him to marry. Tuulu had told his parents early on that he didn't want an arranged marriage. It was the way of the north, but if he married, he wanted it to be someone he chose and loved. They hadn't exactly been pleased, but neither did they push it much with him. That had not been the case with Isso. When I was a baby, a sickness spread through my litter. Everyone died except for me. Sometimes he wondered what it would have been like to have brothers and sisters his age, but he hadn't ever known them, so he hardly ever grieved them. I think because our parents were so grateful I survived, they were easier on me; they allowed me more freedom. Any pressure he felt from being the only survivor came from himself. 

His heart beat a little faster in chest as she mentioned flirting with him. She said she didn't think he would misread. A playful smirk raised one side of his mouth. I certainly would not misread flirting from you, he told her. His gaze was heated as it captured her own. Her eyes were like honey; the Tatkret thought he could probably stare in their depths for an embarrassing amount of time.
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Tuuluuwaq described Issorartuyok's stricter upbringing as one that had been full of expectation. "But he didn't marry or take over the pack," Lane noted with surprise, "He left home instead." Had Issorartuyok departed his birth pack on bad terms with his parents? Had he left some poor bride-to-be without a husband? This seemed likely, if the expectations placed upon him were as Tuuluuwaq described them. 

"Oh, I'm sorry," Lane emitted, surprised again as Tuuluuwaq's recollections took another twist-- this time, a sadder one. What an awful thing, to lose almost an entire litter! For the first time in a very long while, she thought of the child she had lost in the womb. No one knew that Veteran and Wayfarer should have had sibling; she hadn't told a soul, preferring to shoulder that burden alone. 

Perhaps because so much of what they had discussed had been so heavy, Lane couldn't help but behave a little impishly. Tuuluuwaq's encouraging response and playful smirk only egged her on further, stoking her craving for lighthearted fun. 

He fixed is chocolate eyes upon her, and Lane did not look away. After a momentary pause, she spoke. "Hmm.. so life has granted you some freedom.." she commented, circling back around to their previous topic. She continued to hold fast to his gaze. ".. now what do you plan to do with it?" The question was full of implication, especially with the intensity of their lingering stare and the mischievous spark in Lane's eyes.
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Tuulu nodded. He left and came here. He didn't want to go too in depth on his brother's past simply because it was not his story to tell. He also wasn't sure how much he wished to make common knowledge. Isso had never struck him as a secretive man, but Tuulu still didn't want to tell his story for him. 

The tatkret offered another nod at Lane's apology. I never knew them, but I would have liked to, he told her. He occasionally wondered how different life would have been with littermates. The death of his siblings was certainly not a topic he liked to revisit often, but he didn't mind sharing with the glacier leader. 

Still, he was thankful for the change in subject. He couldn't look away from Lane's gaze; it demanded his full attention, as if she didn't already have it. Her question had playfulness dancing within his already heated eyes and a crooked smile curving one side of his lips. I would like to do many things, he told her. Really, a lot of things crossed his mind in that moment, all having to do with Lane and the spark growing between them. But, his freedom had never excused him from being a gentleman. There was a certain way to go about this; he wanted to learn more about her, bring her gifts, and help give her a comfortable place to go to when she needed a break from being a leader—he wanted to court her. But for now, I will settle for this— Tuulu reached over and gently brushed his nose across her cheek before placing a soft kiss there. When he pulled away, he added: I would like to court you if you would allow it. And I would like to spend more time with you. It was how things were done where he was from.
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Tuuluuwaq did not elaborate any further on Issorartuyok's past, and Lane didn't press, although she was curious. If Tuuluuwaq wasn't inclined to gossip, she supposed that spoke positively of his character. He was loyal to his brother; that was easy to see. Lane wondered if the tragedy with his own littermates had ended up bonding Tuuluuwaq more tightly with the brother he had followed to Duskfire. Loss did seem to have a way of bringing siblings closer-- Lane had witnessed that with her own children recently. 

Lane's very pointed question received an equally insinuative reply, and Lane couldn't suppress any longer the silly little half-smile that pulled at her mouth. He would like to do many things, hmm? Well.. that was something they had in common. 

Before Lane could think of an appropriately coy response, Tuuluuwaq made his move. The kiss surprised her; although she had just gotten finished remarking on how different Tuuluuwaq was from his brother, Lane still hadn't expected a move quite so forward from a Tatkret. She liked it. A lot. Her half-smile morphed into a full-fledged smile, and a surprised laugh tumbled out of her. It was a sound that also might be described as a giggle, if Lane was capable of such a thing. 

Tuuluuwaq pulled away, and Lane wished he hadn't. 

He spoke of courting. Lane drew in a pensive breath, and after she'd let it out slowly, she answered. Still holding his gaze, she said, "You're more than welcome to any of my time." She paused. "As for courting..." Damn, she was tempted. There was nothing she wanted more than to abandon all of this pain, heartbreak, and grief, and pour her emotions into something more vitalizing. More fun

..But was that fair to the friends and family around her who would continue to grieve? What would they think of their leader, caught up in a romance when she ought to be in mourning?

"..Ask me again, after the funeral," Lane requested, hating the answer but knowing it was the right one. It would also give them both some time to clear their heads, to make sure that it was what they really wanted. Lane was no stranger to getting caught up in a moment; it was why her kids existed, truth be told. Perhaps after taking some time to consider his thoughts and getting to know the others around Duskfire Glacier, Tuuluuwaq would rethink his choice in Lane. Perhaps the second asking would never come. 

Lane sighed, and then she drew herself reluctantly to her feet. "Keep an eye on that leg for me?" she requested, nodding down at the injury. The poultice had long since dried upon the wound. Most of the poultice would fall away as soon as he got up and started walking around, but that was okay. If he needed it, Lane could always make him another (he had wanted to spend more time with her, right?). 

The question had a conclusive feel to it, by design. It was time for Lane to go. Lane smiled demurely at Tuuluuwaq, feeling a little shy. Once he had spoken his parting words, she would depart, her steps and bearing visibly lighter than they had been previously.
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Of course, he thought. How insensitive was he? Asking to court her right now when she had so much going on. Her request only made him like her more. She valued her pack and her family over even her own wants, and that was a valuable trait, especially for a leader. And she had given him an invitation to spend more time with her, something he would certainly make good use of. I will, he promised. He would ask her until she said yes. He would not give up easily. And the next time he asked, he would be sure to make it a more special moment. Now it had just been impulsive, although he felt the intense draw to her all the same. 

She ordered him to keep an eye on his wound and he gave her a quick nod in return. Of course, he answered. He would not let her hard work go to waste. 

When she got up to leave, he got to his feet as well. Goodbye, Lane, he said as one side of lips pulled up into a lopsided smile.