Larksong Grotto Sangilak
Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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All Welcome 

A fawn, nearly a year old by the look of it, struggled up the rise. There was a hitch to its steps as if it couldn't entirely command itself, and far behind it lurked Kigipigak.

There was no point in being cautious because it had become separated from any other caribou; Kigipigak had made certain of this as he tracked after it, and would now bide his time, studying its behavior.

Hunting it was the end goal but Kigipigak was confident that he would be successful against something so young and clearly weak from illness.

As the fawn trailed deep within the grotto the namesake birds went quiet; but that was for the sake of the white wolf that came swiftly after it, step for step.
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hi :D diesel is hiding, so unless either character spots her she is free to be skipped

The hunger had gotten unbearable. Sure, she had her various wounds to occasionally distract her with their oozing and hurting, but now it felt like her gut was gonna collapse into itself.

The dog had somehow managed to climb up to this place without breaking her neck, so now she was deserving of rest. She found a comfortable patch of soil just behind a felled, rotten tree and its low branches, where she let herself doze off, as to avoid spending any more time thinking about her impending doom.

[...]

The fawn wasn't exactly loud, neither was the pursuer, so it must've been coincidence that Diesel awoke just as the juvenile passed by her.

Unfortunately, she was devoid of hunting instincts, and merely raised her head to watch the little animal run on. She blinked, thinking that perhaps this was a case of God sending help and the believer thinking it too mundane to be divine, but soon concluded that she was just aching and tired as shit. The dog lowered her head to the ground again and tried to get back to the great dream she was having, in which she was swallowing whole mouthfuls of wet kibble bits.

Then the hunter - large, wolfish and pale - startled her, and she froze in place, eyes tracking its silhouette trough the needles of the branches which obstructed her from view. She thought it was Scarface, come looking to kick her ass to kingdom come, and this assumption lasted until the canine passed her.

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Erzulie’s blessing made Njord’s heart heavy. Though the seafarer knew he had to let those feelings go, and peruse what his heart deserved, it did not make the process any easier. There was a duality within him that battled – grief and optimism for the future fought for occupancy – but a small, guiding light managed to act as his Northstar: the thought of @Meerkat.

After his conversation with the goldspun captain, Njord sat alone on the cold beach for many hours to untangle the knot in his mind. At the end of it, he decided to explore the fondness which had begun to germinate for the young woman. The seafarer picked along the beach to find a treasure for her and settled on a pale pink shell filled with shimmering opalescence. 

He set off for the glacier, parcel in his mouth, after taking a fresh dip in the Glintwater lake to clean his fur (he wanted to look proper, after all). He passed through the Tangle and then headed up the rise, when a familiar shape nearly blended in with the snow.

Kigipigak?


It felt like the floor fell away as a a sudden rush of anxiety froze Njord’s heart. What the heck was he doing here? And of all days… why today? A flashback of  the fight for Valmua was like lightening through his brain. They had hunted together once, yes, but time had not smoothed the rivalry and animosity he felt towards the Northerner. He clutched the shell a little tighter.

There was an odor on the wind as well. Injury? Kigipigak appeared in good health. It didn’t add up. He was stalking something. Njord did not see the dog.

His pace slowed, blue eyes attempting to catch the other man’s gaze to ask him: why are you here?
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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#4
You have no idea how hyped I am for this thread.

A strong smell met his nose almost immediately after crossing in to the grotto, ducking beneath a heavy bough of pine. It sparked an alarm in the back of his mind - and saliva to flow across his tongue - because it was the smell of meat, blood, and wolf.

For that split-second the caribou fawn was forgotten. As Kigipigak cleared the copse of trees he found himself on a decline across exposed shale, his claws gripping granite, and he nearly bailed in to the trunk of another tree. He slowed enough and pivoted in time not to hurt himself too badly.

As he came striding from the fernbed after, a canine shape crossed his vision. It was dusky brown with a crimson tail — staring at him, as if expecting something. Kigipigak froze when he remembered the other man: Njord, Valmua's plaything.

Between them was an expanse of forest and, unknown to Kigipigak, the injured dog. Blood was in the air and drew Kigipigak forward until he was facing Njord, smirking to himself, as if they weren't rivals at all.

The little hunter man! How surprising it is to see you here. You did not follow Valmua then. A pity. He puffed up a bit, carrying himself with pride. It felt good to know he was not the only one to be tricked and used by that woman.
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The two men met eyes. Little hunter man, he was called. Njord could almost see Kigipigak’s confidence take a physical form and ooze from him. The red-tail was belittled and nettled by it. His posture stiffened, ears pinned back against his skull, as the skin atop his muzzle began to wrinkle in ire. He carefully set Meerkat’s gift in the snow.

Naive to Valmua’s true nature, Njord recalled their last encounter vividly. How tired and sickly she looked. How tenderly they shared affections. The fur along Njord’s spine began to spike.You abandoned ‘er,” Njord spat in disgust, feeling the sting of his old wounds. “You are a dishonorable man.”

Njord held his ground, thinking his accusation might incite the other man to advance, and did not move an inch.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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Kigipigak was sizing up the other man at the same time, seeing that he had fared well wherever he had been living, that he was healthy and strong as a rival should be. He refused to let himself be impressed by Njord for long — and when the man accused Kigipigak of abandonment, the white wolf audibly snorted.

The Watch fell. I had no part in that. Valmua and her brothers heard the call and left to pursue it. Kigipigak knew it was pointless to defend himself to such a stupid lie, but he was speaking before he could think, and then began to chuckle lowly.

You miss her. It is too bad she did not take you along! Perhaps these wilds do not have the right calibre of man. He had been distracted by the firebrand woman also; tricked, used, put aside, in much the same manner as Njord. They were kin in that way, but did not know it.

He looked away from Njord then, over his shoulder and towards the glacier in the distance, shrouded as it was by thick, low clouds. What business do you have so close to village Duskfire? A glance back again, amber eyes aglow.
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The Northerner refuted Njord’s challenge with a snort. As Kigipigak approached, he could see the imposing man had gained a few new scars – yet he was no worse for wear because of them. The past year had hardened him in a rugged way. Like a finely-sharpened sword.

The seafarer’s blue eyes narrowed, unconvinced. Kigipigak was a liar. He had seen Valmua, in her ruined state, without her brothers. They, too, had abandoned the fiery beauty. Why, oh why, hadn't he stayed with her? Njord’s heart cramped as guilt washed over him – and knew he was no better than the man he accused.

The taunting continued, and Njord’s anger was easily inflamed by his words, but he managed to hold his tongue behind clenched teeth. “M’visitin’ a friend. What’s it to ya?” Njord replied brusquely. Suddenly, the thought occurred that Kigipigak could be Meerkat’s packmate – a member of Duskfire. The corners of his mouth frowned, hoping it wasn’t so.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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The man huffed, taking on an expression of incredulity.

A man such as yourself, claiming to be a hunter, and you do not chase the caribou? When I saw you I thought, 'Ah! He must be here because of the illness!' But I see I was wrong.

Kigipigak watched his rival's face to see how he would react to this. Did he know of the illness sweeping across the taiga? Between the hunting camps of Moonglow and the heart of Duskfire, the caribou had been well contained and managed so far, but an errant thing could have branched out, found the coast and the red-tail there.

Once more the man of Tartok felt superior.

Even weak as they are, I doubt a man who lives off fish alone could do much to such beasts! And there it was again, that laughter: rolling and crackling from his chest.
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The cockiness in Kigipigak’s voice got right under Njord’s skin. In that moment the seafarer could hear Merlin’s braw voice in his ear. Kick his ass! The redhead would have said. Together, they were supposed to have made Kigipigak pay for what he had done… but Merlin was dead, now, and a bit of Njord’s fire had gone with him.

"Pog ma mahon,” Njord sputtered. “Ya run yer mouth like a gomeral. Jus’ as I would expect of such a thick-headed boy.” The words illness and caribou were lost on him, overshadowed by his animosity towards the other man. There would be no recognition in his expression. “Say another foul thing and I’ll sink my teeth into ya,” Njord warned. The taiga would be better off without Kigipigak stinking it up.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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Kigipigak could not stop the laughter as it came; it boomed from his chest and filled the space, dwarfing all other sounds. He did not hear the disquiet in the man's voice until confronted with a glare, watching as the red of the little man's tail lashed and puffed.

Say another foul thing and I'll sink my teeth into ya, warned the hunter, which would have earned a quick quip from Kigipigak had he not been needed for the shared hunt between Moonglow and Duskfire; aware of this, he had to hold his tongue.

It was difficult, being the gregarious sort of fellow that he was. Besides, he did not speak ill of the man — only the obvious truths that he saw! This thought threatened more laughter which Kigipigak bit back.

Sink your teeth in to me, and you wound two hearths. He cautioned. While mirth filled his eyes the rest of him became hard and cold, head rising defiantly before the whining man.

I hunt for Moonglow and for Duskfire. I am welcome in both villages. A gloat. You could not catch me if you wanted to, and even if you did, little hunter man, you would bring the anger of both places down upon your head!

It was a bit of a stretch, but Kigipigak wanted to warn the man away from an attack without losing face himself. He was a warrior of Tartok and they were not known to back down from a challenge.
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Njord was not a hot-headed man. Nor was he a violent man. He was a kind and gentle soul. A romantic. A singer. A father. A friend.

But something about the past year had whittled his spirit down to a sharp point. There had been a bear. Many deaths. Rejections. Defeats. Children who weren’t really his.

And here he was, on the trail to nurture a budding light in his life, only to find the man who had bloodied him, full of contempt, in his path. Each successive laugh unstitched a new thread from Njord’s tenuous composer and he met Kigipigak’s defiant look with a flash of fangs.

“Ye disgrace yer clans with yer words!” Njord boomed, sick of the other man’s gloating. “‘Tis not me they’d angry at… knowin’ one of their own were hootin’ and hollerin’ and insultin’ tha locals like some damn fool.” His posture stiffened and he advanced onto Kigipigak with a few square steps, red tail rigid behind him. “M’given ya one last chance, Kigi,” he growled, eyes devoid of any humor.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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This time laughter did not ring true from him.

He had seen this look on men before; he had been the root cause plenty of times, all in good fun. This time was different in that Njord looked serious. Angry, yes. But his threat was real and Kigipigak could no longer avoid it.

A fight with a fool? I think I'll live; Tartok demands it. He invoked the name of his forebears to see if it meant anything to this man, or if his anger clouded all sense. Did he think it wise to fight someone bred for war? Someone who had killed his own father, no less.

And what of your clan? Does anyone even know you've come here, or are you as forgettable to the sea as you are to everyone else! Kigipigak's head lowered as he spun his insult, his teeth ready to emerge if the man made any move against him.

He knew better than to make the first strike.

Turn that red tail around now, before you hurt yourself! If only your true colors could shine: I would call you yellow-belly, were it not taken by someone of actual importance!
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Njord gnashed his fangs as words continued to tumble from the pale man’s mouth. The redtail leaned into his forward stance as his narrowed eyes bored into Kigipigak, patience waned.

“Tartok!” he guffawed, incredulous. Njord knew of that clan – a small part of it was woven into his own DNA. He had committed Maera’s stories to heart… and the strong, proud image of Kaertok sat in his mind’s eye. “You canna hold a candle to tha wolves of Tartok. They wouldna want anythin’ ta do with a prick like you!” he spat.

Does anyone even know you've come here, or are you as forgettable to the sea as you are to everyone else! his rival crowed. The words pierced Njord’s heart. Erzulie flashed in his mind. His paws slapped the ground as he rushed forward a few feet in a snarling bluff to test the ground Kigipigak held.

Turn that red tail around now, before you hurt yourself! If only your true colors could shine: I would call you yellow-belly, were it not taken by someone of actual importance! Njord was suddenly transported back to Maeres Island. He was a young wolf, beachcombing with his father, aunt, and brother. Aegir pushed him down into the sand.

Don’t worry, Valtyr had told him, your brother loves you. He just doesn’t know how to show it. Father turned to Maera. Remember how we used to call Larus Yellow-Belly? The adults laughed, but then they looked sad. Among the seafaring Cortens, the Sveijarns stole precious moments to remember and regret their past. Larus, known as Yellow-Belly, was often a tragic figurehead of these tales.

He was shook. Njord had barely spoken of the Sveijarns and their claim of Duskfire to anyone. Had Meerkat told this wolf his heritage? Why would she hurt him like that? Was this a coincidence?

Paranoia made his chest tighten, and the seafarer’s wrinkled face twisted on his high head. “My true colors are tha Sveijarn red in m’coat an’ m’heart!" he said, dashing forward with a swift lunge to either bite or ward off his arrogant rival.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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The time for words was at an end. The redtail gave one last cry, sounding more like the pitiful child Kigipigak thought he was, less the warrior, the father; the fact that Njord knew of the bloodline that Kigipigak came from was curious to him, but he had little time to react in any way.

The other wolf rushed him. Thrusting his fangs towards Kigipigak and snarling, using his seafaring body to the best of his ability. It was impressive to watch that tight muscle shift across his rival's body — and Kigipigak moved swiftly also, doing his part in this dance between men.

In the next moment Njord was striding confidently after Kigipigak, his head up. He called out, My true colors are tha Sveijarn red—! and Kigipigak saw his chance. Having been the one to gloat when faced with an enemy in his earlier brawls, he now read this pause as an opening.

Njord lunged and nearly clipped Kigipigak. It was a swift movement with enough momentum to worry the pale warrior, and yet he spun in retaliation as soon as the other man was outstretched beside him. While the rival's teeth scissored at air Kigipigak aimed a blunt strike to Njord's hip with the bulk of his own chest, and swung through the motion to reach further, to grab at the man's shoulder or brown scruff.

His goal was to grab, overpower, and pin the little hunter before this could escalate further. Kigipigak could not know if Njord was a true warrior or merely incensed by the bickering back and forth, but in the end it would not matter.

Sveijarn the man had called himself.

Kigipigak knew this word, but he could not speak for his mouth was full of fur.
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Schwff. Njord’s fangs closed together on nothing but a few strands of white hair. In the next moment, Kigipigak was on him. The warrior’s teeth roughly grabbed his nape and pressed him down to the earth. It felt like the weight of the world was upon him, but Njord managed to jack his legs beneath himself, as to not be entirely overcome. He thought of Rosencrantz and Merlin. The training they had done – but there had been no follow-through, and so history was sure to repeat itself.

His jaw clenched. Njord’s corded legs trembled beneath Kigipigak’s force, pushing up with great effort. A river could not erode a mountain without time. His head swung around with his jaw aimed at one of Kipigak’s ankles to bite, cripple, and force him away.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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The man was crafty! He bent beneath Kigipigak's might but did not break. His teeth came to grip at the pale man's ankle and score the flesh there. A lesser man might have given in to the sudden pain of it — but that was not Kigipigak!

Having survived the onslaught of a giant cat in the past, now the feeling of the teeth against his ankle was startling, but also something he could endure. He had been through worse; what was one ankle-biter to him now? Soon his foot was streaked with blood and as he continued to leverage against Njord's strong back, Kigipigak felt himself slip against the snow by a fraction.

With a rumble in his belly Kigipigak lifted up, releasing some of the pressure placed across Njord, and slammed down again, intent on bruising, or worrying at the skin that was held between his own teeth. He could be patient and he could wield his body as it was meant to be used: as a great ram, to flatten this man and hold him contemptuously against the ice.
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Njord seized the leg! And with his piercing bite, supposed Kigipigak would rear up and release him. Yet, there was nary an ounce of reprieve as the great man crushed him into the frozen ground. Njord bit harder into flesh and tissue. There was blood on his tongue and still the Tartok warrior did not relent. Njord snarled in frustration, rear legs grappling for purchase as they kicked up snow. His red tail lashed like a pinned snake's with twice the fury of a caged tiger.

Suddenly, the weight shifted off of him and Njord thought, wrongly, that he had an opportunity to reposition himself. As he picked one foot up, Kigipigak fell onto him like a freefalling elevator. Njord’s other paw slipped out and his head hit the ground with a sharp crack.

Njord’s body went limp as he slipped into the void, unconscious.
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Natigvik
Sangilak*

“We are all eaters of souls.”


Dan Simmons, 'The Terror'

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Well.

There was winning, and then there was — whatever this was. The crack of something and the ensuing limp reaction of the rival's body told Kigipigak all he needed to know; he went down alongside Njord and pinned him where he lay for a moment, to make certain he would not rise.

When he did release the man's nape he did it tentitavely, and then hastily moved off of him and away, in case there came a surprise retaliation. Before when Kigipigak had fought others, he'd left them at least awake.

He stood, watchful and cautious, to make sure the other man's ribs were shifting with his breath, and they were. A look to the sky came next - to check if there was snow on the way or if it would be safe to leave this man where he was. Kigipigak could not tell, and cursed under his breath.

It was not the style of success he was used to. This felt less like a proper end to a spar and more, ah... More like he'd just killed a man. Less than satisfying, somewhat numbing. Kigipigak ventured close enough to give Njord a once-over quickly, and saw no blood had been shed except the mess that seeped from his own ankle.

Cursing again, as the warmth reminded Kigipigak of his own injury and the tenderness of the flesh there. He sank to his haunches as he deliberated what to do about all of this. While thinking things over, he saw something pale and pink gleaming in the snow, some distance back; intrigued, he sulked over and found the shell that Njord had carried with him, oblivious to its significance.

At least the other man still lived, he thought, and grimaced down at his ankle which would need something to staunch the bleeding, flowing with his steps and marking his trail to where the shell sat upon the snow. With a sigh he grabbed for it, and continued on his way.
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A while later, Njord’s eyes slowly peeled open. His head throbbed, bell rung, and he turned over onto his opposite side with a groan, stiff from his brawl and the sudden end of it. He laid there for a while longer, steeped in the sour drink of defeat.

Twice, now, he had been bested by Kigipigak and knew he was less of a man for it. Slowly, and painfully, he hobbled to his feet, swaying from a concussion. Eventually, he found his footing and deliriously searched for the shell Kigpigak had taken.

With no luck, Njord retreated towards Sapphique to hide from the world so he may seethe.
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As a housepet and pup, Diesel would sometimes be held in the lap of her she-owner as the woman watched convoluted soap operas on the TV. The mastiff pup comprehended nothing of the plot, but the intensity of the acting made her watch intently, meaty tail wagging with each twist and dramatic exchange of words.

This was roughly the same experience.

Had anyone watched her as the two wolves argued and fought, they'd have witnessed the full scope of her facial anatomy, intense expressions and full-blown grimaces going one after the other. It was a good thing her kind had no lips, for at a few points she would have vocalised by whistling, although a gruff huff did escape her once or thrice.

After everything had settled (Diesel poked her head out her cover to observe the fight) she waited for the sound of pawsteps to fade away before standing up and stretching, every joint popping from the prolonged stillness. She padded out the thicket to look at what she presumed would be the body of the loser. Intently watching his ribs told her he was still living, and the female nodded to no-one but herself.

"Good fight, buddy." The dog said, passing by the unconscious wolf, not wishing to test her luck by sticking around him.

"You'll get 'im next time."

She trotted on, thinking it was about time to head where the salty winds were coming from, her miserable mood considerably elevated.

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