Ankyra Sound thunderbird
Sapphique
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All Welcome 
She meant to head back and touch base with @Lane every few days, though Meerkat just kept scouting further and further from the glacier without turning back. She knew she must head back soon, lest they think she'd absconded or something. The last thing she wanted to do was abandon her pack in its time of need. With that said, the yearling struggled with the idea of going home, because it wasn't home anymore, was it? Everything about her once wonderful life with Duskfire Glacier was in uncertain turmoil.

The yearling let out a lusty sigh as she flopped to the ground near the edge of a sharp bluff, her forepaws just barely dangling over the edge. She watched the waves crashing against the base of the cliff for a while, the rhythmic pounding apparently lulling her to sleep. The next thing she knew, she started awake in the darkness, a waning crescent moon palely lighting the cold December night.

She stood there for a few minutes, waiting to wake up fully, and finally turned her toes back east. Meerkat began walking toward the distant glacier, headed in a straight line that led her from Blackbeak Bluff and along the edge of the sequoia forests wreathing the near side of Ankyra Sound. As she approached the river that snaked into Firefly Ravine, she glanced north toward Sapphique, which triggered a sudden recollection of the dream she'd had about @Njord earlier tonight.
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by day, duty kept her bound to blackwater, yet at night the listener roamed. her wanderings brought her across the bridge of souls and to the sound which had served as a beacon to the druids on their pilgrimage. she looked upon the sands fondly, and roamed the forest, and soon discovered a stranger lurking near; a pale earthy woman with fur like the sands that covered the shoreline.

the listener met this discovery with silence and a calculating mind. she took to the shadows, following carefully, as close as she dared.
Mereo
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im still totally fine with Njord joining in too :D I just felt like this would be fun!

The ocean made it so easy to navigate but sand was hell. Fennec was finally getting the hang of it but she let out a frustrated scoff as she, for what felt like the hundredth time, stumbled when the ground unexpectedly shifted out from under her front paws.

She'd wandered a ways off from the rest of the group and along northwards up the coast. So far it had come up (estimateably) empty for places she'd like to settle, but it was nice to walk on. There was a constant noise from the water that made for good backing, and while it made it hard to focus sometimes on the things around her, she felt less like she needed to.

So she didn't hear Meerkat and obviously didn't see her, though Fennec herself cut a pretty stark and easy-to-spot sight against the expanse of the ocean. She let her steps drift towards the water and felt the cold deep into her paws as the waves lapped up over them.
Fenn is blind, and as she's older, will take all of her character insight from tone.  If you are ever uncomfortable with an assumption she makes, please let me know!
Fig is always welcome (as if she has a choice <3)
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Her lips curved, a dry laugh escaping her as the dream replayed in her mind's eye. Njord had come to Duskfire Glacier, demanding Meerkat give him back his land. At first, she'd thought he meant the glacier itself, until she remembered: she had somehow stolen his beach. Ah, the absurdity of dreams! She'd convinced him to join her pack instead, though—now her lips drooped into a frown—before they could even shake on their truce, the glacier had crumbled underfoot, destroying the thieved beach and everything else.

Sighing, Meerkat stood still for a few moments longer. When she began walking again, she altered her course ever so slightly. She knew it was an excuse, yet the yearling couldn't help herself. She would make her way home, eventually, but right now she would seize the distraction at hand. She only wondered if she would be disturbing Njord greatly if she came calling for him this late at night.

Feeling indecisive, Meerkat found herself milling toward the interior sands of the sound, where a second and much more imminent distraction presented itself. From atop a grassy hillock that gave way to sand dunes below, the yearling squinted at a pale figure walking along the waterside below. It was hard to make out details from a distance, especially in the dark, yet she stiffened suddenly as she thought she recognized Fennec.

She should've called out to her older sister, to make sure it was Fennec and then, of course, play a little catch-up. Instead, Meerkat began slinking backward, in the general direction of The Tangle. She was absolutely not in the right mindset to talk to Fennec about her life with Bronco and Killdeer, even after all this time.
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the wolf's path led further into the sound, until another figure appeared in the distance. the listener watched in careful silence as the sandy stranger seemed to contemplate this, then turned away. the prophet followed, still keeping some small distance.

skippable until/unless she's noticed!
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this can be her last post <3

Over the sounds and the scents of the ocean, Fennec had no idea that there were two wolves lurking inland. She wasn't a hard wolf to avoid, and especially not in this setting. In a forest, maybe Meerkat would have had a bit of a harder time slipping off.

She probably shouldn't go too far if she wanted to make it back to meet the others. She would wander a little further up the coast, enjoying the feel of the water at her paws, before turning and traveling, only a bit faster, back directly the way she'd come.
Fenn is blind, and as she's older, will take all of her character insight from tone.  If you are ever uncomfortable with an assumption she makes, please let me know!
Fig is always welcome (as if she has a choice <3)
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No one called after her and by the time Meerkat reached The Tangle, she was wondering if it had really been Fennec at all. She took comfort in her denial, though she put it from her mind as she began navigating through the brambly wood, a particularly challenging task in the dark.

Relying on her scouting instincts, she headed the direction she thought to be north and eventually reemerged quite close to Sapphique's borders. Meerkat let out a sigh of relief and bent to lick at a few superficial scratches.

Straightening, she glanced down the coastline. If it was Fennec, her sister might overhear her if she howled for @Njord. She considered this for a moment or two and decided she would call but keep her voice down to avoid disturbing anyone else in earshot.

Meerkat howled so quietly, in fact, her voice could almost be mistaken for the wind creaking through the sequoias next door. She then folded to her haunches, trying to ignore the lingering guilt she felt over just about everything lately.
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#8
A terrible lightening storm of sleet has torn through Dragoncrest like a hurricane. Trees bent, heavy with ice, and litter of debris strewn across their territory like flotsam on the beach.  In the havoc, one of Sapphique’s own had gone missing, and so the rest of the pack had scattered to find her. @Erzulie took to the Taiga while Njord ventured out into the southern marsh.

He searched and searched, but the storm had wiped any scents clean from the land and, with each passing minute, he grew more frantic. The islander recalled the day he had comforted Erzulie on the beach, how she had said it was difficult when the sea calls them away.  He vividly remembered the sad and distant look in her eye… and now knew the misery of a parent who had lost their child. Mireille was neither his by blood nor by name, but he saw her as his daughter all the same.

It was late. His search fruitless, Njord began to turn back. He had just passed across the borders when a quiet and weak howl called from the Tangle. With the girl on his mind, he did not immediately recognize it to be Meerkat. Despite his fatigue, Njord sprang into a run. “Mireille?!” he called back, doing his best to cut a straight line in the thick undergrowth. "Mireille!" He moved so quickly, that when he turned a corner the redtail almost ran straight into Meerkat. He skidded to a halt, almost atop her, out of breath.
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Someone came running toward her from a different direction than expected, prompting her to get back on her feet. Even in the darkness, Meerkat could make out that familiar red tail if she squinted. His voice confirmed his identity as he called out someone's name. Mireille? Who's Mireille? she wondered, the question accompanied by a jab of annoyance that made absolutely no sense.

Her emotions rarely did these days. In any case, she didn't have long to dwell on it before Njord crashed into her. It was a gentle impact, but it was enough to cause Meerkat to stumble a bit. She managed to remain on all fours, with Njord's head draped over the slope of her neck and shoulders and his chest pressing into her flank with surprising heat. She could feel the thrum of his heartbeat.

She felt herself flushing with pleasure at finding a sturdy man pressed into her, which made Meerkat's cheeks heat. Despite her embarrassment at her own reaction, she couldn't bring herself to pull away. He was warm and he smelled nice. She felt secure in Njord's embrace, however accidental. Despite propriety telling her she should sidestep to give them each room, she instead found herself nuzzling toward him.

"It's pronounced Meerkat," she quipped weakly, directly into his ear.
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Njord held his breath and strung every muscle taught to prevent himself from collapsing right atop Meerkat. He did, however, find himself bent across her like a leaning willow – and not innocently, either. Meerkat pressed herself firmly into the crook on his chest. A rush of heat in warms his cheeks. If Njord had no fur, the seafarer’s face would have been just as red as his tail. 

Immediately, he felt conflicted. Mireille was still lost, but here was all he wanted: the target of his affections on his doorstep in the middle of the night. Yet this encounter was colored by the ill-timing. Concern for Mireille stole his ability to fully engage, or even enjoy, the moment. As Njord was processing this, the sandy woman reached up and whispered into his ear, which nearly rendered the seafarer’s brain catatonic.

He lingered for a minute in an attempt to salvage, and savor, their first embrace. “Hmm,” he hummed as a cat purred contentedly. A weak, crooked smile stretched across his tired face as he looked at her endearingly. There were so many things to say, or explain… where could he begin?

“Meerkat,” he said gently, and found himself folding around her, reciprocating her touch and finding security in her presence. “Am I dreamin?” he wondered aloud, legitimately questioning reality in his state. “I am so happy to see you…” Njord's voice trailed and then became low. “Somethin’ terrible ‘as happened. There was a storm and Erzulie’s daughter,” my daughter, he wanted to say, “Mireille canna be found. I fear she…“ A flash image of her sire’s, Merlin’s, dead and sea-bloated body on the beach raked his mind and he fell quiet and solemn.
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He didn't seem to mind, which didn't surprise her, actually. Although she hadn't thought about it much since, she hadn't forgotten the small spark of potential chemistry between them last time. She hadn't been ready to consider it then and she wouldn't say she was in a much better mindset now, to be honest. But as they lingered there, pressed together in the dark, neither one of them stepped away. And Meerkat couldn't deny that the spark quickly caught, bursting into flame.

It was a small fire, though bright and warm, especially when Njord suddenly turned the incidental closeness into something a little more intentional. Her skin tingled as he wrapped her even more tightly, little fireworks going off in her belly and sending sizzling pops through her veins. Her toes in particular felt like they were full of shooting stars.

She had to laugh at his question, because it was a downright cheesy thing to say, but also because of the coincidence of her own dream. "I'm so happy to see you." Meerkat's breath caught in her throat and she began to lean her head back to get a better look at his face.

As she gazed at him from up close, a powerful urge overcame her. Meerkat tugged her foreleg free of their loose embrace and raised it toward the place where he'd been bruised before. Even in the dark, she could see that it was looking much better. And he was so handsome. She wanted to touch. Her toes just barely brushed against his cheek when Njord's next few words registered.

Meerkat blinked and froze, the news throwing a bucket of ice water over their little bonfire. "Oh," she said softly, "fuck." Her paw hung suspended about an inch from his face for a long moment as she tried to think of what to say, her brown eyes full of world-weary empathy.

She wished she could come up with some profound words of comfort, yet her own tired brain gave her nothing. In lieu of words, she cupped her paw against his cheek very gently, then let it drift down his jawline to his neck, then around it, as she pulled herself against him in a proper bear hug.
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#12
on and on she trailed her quarry, until the wolf stopped and called for another. the listener crept closer, ears perked, and hid herself as she listened. many things were said. she strained to hear the words that passed between them, the last of them lost to her in their softness. but she had heard enough. seen enough. the listener felt she would glean no more from their interaction, quiet as their voices had gone, and so she took her leave. there was power in this knowledge. it had been a fruitful night.

i figured since no one stopped me or her before now that this is fine but let me know if it isn't <3
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#13
All good @ Listener! :D

Meerkat pulled back to lock eyes which, sadly, allowed Njord to watch the spark of attraction fade into melancholy sympathy. She reached out. Njord tilted his crown and leaned his face into her paw, thankful for her touch as his eyes shut, comforted. One by one his muscles unwound, hugged close and tight by Meerkat, and relaxed from the stress of his days-long search. His lungs pressed out a great sigh and expelled negative thoughts from his mind.

It was like a small bubble formed around them. The Tangle, Dragoncrest, the Taiga… they all fell away. Njord was quiet against her, reflecting on just how thankful he was that Meerkat was here – even if, coincidentally – and that she knew exactly what he needed at the time. Meerkat was easy to be around, and Njord felt he could share his heart openly with her.

“I’m scairt for her,” Njord said, “she’s like a daughter ta me.” Sapphique had a difficult year, and grief struck differently when it affected one’s kin. Despite his somber emotions, Njord found solace and safekeeping in their embrace. Some wolves needed to be alone when they felt lost, but not Njord. Connectedness healed him… which explained the deep, self-inflicted wound created when Njord had to take steps to separate himself from Erzulie.

It felt like curtain between them had been drawn. The Tourmaline’s muzzle buried itself into Meerkat’s buff-colored mane and he breathed deeply. She smelled divine. Small sparkler-size lights tickled his chest like fireflies in a dark and windy storm. “There’s nothin’ more that can be done tonight,” he admitted, which made his train of thought change course. Njord moved an inch back to regard her, but not fully separate. “What’re doin’ in tha Tangle this late, anyway? Is er’thin’ okay?” he asked her, concerned with Meerkat's wellbeing.
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She felt it when he sighed, his lungs a billows and his warm breath tickling the fur on the back of her neck as they clutched one another. Meerkat's cheek rested in the crook between his own neck and shoulder, snout pointed at the surrounding darkness. As she felt the tension leaving him, she smiled and turned her face into that selfsame curve. She breathed in his smell, his fur and masculine scent both tickling her nose.

It tickled, too, when he spoke. Meerkat didn't move, though she gave him a squeeze when he whispered about Mireille being like a daughter to him. It immediately reminded her of all those months searching for Phox, then his kids. She couldn't imagine what it was like, losing your kids (or the closest thing to them). But she could relate to the awful, wretched feeling of searching for someone to no avail.

Njord nuzzled her more and said he couldn't do much else tonight. The yearling didn't even have to think before saying, "You're beat. Me too. We should find somewhere to rest." He leaned back a little and so did she, allowing them to gaze into each other's eyes from only inches away. "I'll stay with you."

Despite her suggestion, Meerkat did not budge an inch. She didn't want to end this embrace. It was exactly what she'd needed all this time, without ever really realizing it. It was so nice, being held so snugly. It was more than that. Meerkat couldn't be entirely certain of Njord's feelings without actually discussing them, though even if he only held her as a friend, she felt cherished. That was all she'd ever wanted.

His question drew a quiet sigh from Meerkat and she reluctantly let go of him in increments. She didn't go far, pressing her right side to his left, so they touched from shoulder to hip. She wondered if they could walk like this. They would make it work, she decided with a wan smile. Her eyes caught his and she jerked her head in no particular direction, inviting him to lead them somewhere they could bundle together for the night.

As they walked, she said, "I've been out scouting for days. The glacier's leaders have decided we have to move due to the disease ravaging the local herds. I should've reported back days ago but I've had a hard time bringing myself to go home, because it's not really going to be home anymore, is it? We just lost the pack's founders too and I've been dealing with some personal stuff. It's been a lot." She exhaled with force.

Meerkat didn't say anything for a moment, though she turned to gaze at the side of Njord's face. "It's nice, being here with you, despite the world's complete fuckery. Pardon my language." She laughed, eyes twinkling as she deliberated before saying, "And my forwardness. But you—you feel it too, right?"
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I'll stay with you. Those words caused Njord’s heart to beat in overtime. The tha-thumping percussion was so loud, it practically made the tips of his ears vibrate. Any tension left in his face melted away as their eyes, colored sea-blue and warm whiskey, searched and admired one another.

Njord’s chin rose as he looked around the dark Tangle to get his bearings. “I ken a place,” he said, familiar with the area. “Thisaway.” They untangled, but remained side by side like two magnets. If Meerkat leaned in a little, he would press back – wanting, but polite. It felt like walking on a frozen lake and not knowing the thickness of the ice. It made his blood run fast with the rush of infatuation – a crush realized.

As they waltzed, Njord couldn’t help but swish his red tail to brush Meerkat’s hocks – as if one put their arm around the other. Meerkat explained her predicament and Duskfire’s troubles. He knew Mireille had travelled with her friends to hunt caribou and recalled Kigipigak mentioning something about an illness, but it was Meerkat’s explanation that finally connected the pieces with red string (Wintersbane and Tzila… those must have been the founders, he assumed). Not only was the glacier’s stunning land a terrible thing to lose, but to have a whole pack uprooted in the winter was unheard of. Njord’s brows knitted, understanding Meerkat’s tribulations. He and Sapphique had plenty troubles of their own… and it fatigued him. If there was any wolf who could commiserate, it was him.

There was one shinning light among the chaos: their new connection. Njord’s sobered expression brightened as the corners of his lips twitched, fighting a dumb-love-smile that felt too big for the moment. Meerkat put words to the sensation. You—you feel it too, right? she asked, voice filled with optimistic caution.

“Aye, I feel it too,” Njord replied, almost breathless. “S’like someone put a hundred tiny jumpin’ fish inside my heart,” he reflected aloud with a quiet laugh. Walking together made it easier to speak his mind. The words just seemed to flow. “Meerkat… I fancy ya somethin’ fierce,” he explained as his eyes watched her in their peripheral. “You are bold yet grounded. Tenderhearted…an’ verra beautiful. I want to ken ya better,” he said, more adrenaline than blood in his veins by now.

He stopped walking and they stood before a wide, underground burrow beneath a large dogwood shrub: an old station wolves used to rest between hunts. He had been here before with Haunt. He turned to his companion, ears cupped forward as he searched her face to understand any answer that may come.
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Not too long ago, Meerkat had told Lane she would never put herself out there exactly like she was doing now. But with the way Njord looked at her, touched her, treated her, the question was almost rhetorical. It was still really lovely hearing him say it out loud. He didn't simply agree either. He tried to describe what he was feeling, then went on to tell her in no uncertain terms how he felt about her. Meerkat's insides went molten around the time of the silly metaphor, her own stomach feeling like she'd swallowed a whole swarm of star bugs that were now making her glow from the inside out.

He drew to a stop and she did too, like the conclusion of a dance. She didn't notice the dogwood shrub, nor the burrow beneath it. Meerkat just gazed at him in amazement for a long moment. It was a bit of an errant thought, but she suddenly felt absurdly grateful that things hadn't worked out with Issorartuyok—that she hadn't settled for a man who couldn't meet her needs—and even Atlas. She still cared for each of them, but this was something on another level altogether. It was indescribable in its wonder.

Realizing where they were standing, Meerkat blinked and grinned sheepishly. "Ope." Touching her muzzle to his in apology, she slipped into the the little dugout. The instant he followed her inside, Meerkat didn't just press closer to him. Actually, she squeezed off to one side and motioned for him to settle. When he did, she flopped down beside him, wriggled closer, pushed her head up under his nearer foreleg and shamelessly snuggled into the crook of his neck. Her head rested just beneath his chin, her cheek cushioned by his chest.

"Yeah, I can definitely hear those fish," she quipped quietly, so happy to be smashed up against him. "I fancy you too, Njord," Meerkat added a bit cheekily, just in case it wasn't obvious. "Life's been throwing so much shit at me—and you too—so it's kinda nice that it threw us at each other." She sought out his paw with her own, clasped it. "You're such a sweetheart. A looker too. And then there's the accent. Shew..." Honestly, how hadn't she fallen for him sooner?

She fell silent for a moment, enjoying the simple but overwhelming pleasure of cuddling someone and being cuddled in return, before saying, "I don't know what's going to happen with everything. But if I can maybe just have this," Meerkat continued, squeezing his toes again, "then I think everything will be okay."
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Was there anything better in life than having feelings reciprocated? Njord could see the clarity in Meerkat’s eyes as they reflected the winter moonlight. She did not scoff, play coy, or shy away… but regarded him with true, genuine warmth. Now, he knew the metaphorical ice was thick beneath their feet and that they could journey across the frozen lake together.

He followed Meerkat as she slipped into the chamber. It was a many degrees warmer down there, but the dirt walls were frozen solid. She made way for him and, at first, Njord thought she might feel more comfortable sleeping adjacent. He was pleasantly surprised when this was not the case. Like two squirrels in a warm nest, Meerkat wormed her way into his arms and they became intertwined once more. Njord happily wrapped around her, spooning the length of her back as her crown laid by his heart, and loosed a low, husky croon in approval.

As she talked, he began to preen the top of her head with affectionate nibbles and licks. He laughed together as she joked (and offered an “Och!” when she mentioned his accent). Meerkat’s paw found his, and Njord curled his toes against the pad of her foot. “I like that ya speak from tha heart,” the redtail said in admiration as they slipped into silence together.

He listened as she punctuated the moment with a thoughtful reflection. “I ‘av nev’r heard truer words spoken,” Njord replied in agreement, looking down at how neatly her paw fit into his. "You bring me peace." Suddenly, the world felt more solid beneath his feet – chaos turned into order. Tomorrow he would continue his search for Mireille but, for now, the panic had subsided. With Meerkat curled besides him, the world seemed a less bleak and uncertain.

On any other day, the promise of a new relationship would have kept Njord wide awake into the dawn. But, as the adrenaline left his bloodstream and his body grew warm, his lids began to sandbag. Njord nosed the bulb of Meerkat’s ear. “Sleep well, mo leannan,” he managed to mumble as his tail curled around them both. His body became heavy as his breathing slowed, until he was whisked away into perfect slumber.
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He whispered sweet nothings into her ear. Meerkat was glad she could turn and hide her face against his chest, because the endearment made tears prick at her eyes. They were the happy sort, yet she didn't want to alarm him. She grinned and sniffled against the rise and fall of his chest. She could tell when he fell asleep; his breaths deepened, his heartbeat slowed and all the tension melted from his muscles. He draped around her like heavy blanket and Meerkat couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so content and safe.

Sleep did not find her as easily. She had napped late into the night and now her mind spun with all the possibility and potential. Meerkat had learned the hard way not to be too hasty with these things, but she didn't see the harm in letting her imagination run a little wild. While she indulged herself, picturing a future with Njord that spanned all the way to their great, great, great grandchildren, she gently peppered his sleeping face with butterfly kisses and murmured sweet nothings into his ear.