Redtail Rise The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion
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All Welcome 
When Masquerade slunk beneath the pine tree earlier this afternoon, wispy clouds were scudding across a bright blue September sky. When she stirred awake some hours later, it was overcast. She squinted against the pale glare as she pushed onto all fours, stretched and peeked through the green bottlebrushes to check if the coast was clear.

She didn’t see anyone, so she stepped out from the fragrant boughs, needles combing through her fur and leaving bits of sticky sap. Masque immediately felt exposed and turned to quickly melt into the surrunding woods.

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it was her.
ancelin watched with eyes that were heading toward their final deep hue. he was not as good at stalkwork as she, but he had learned to practice.
today he was not trying to hide, however; today ancelin deliberately cracked a twig in her wake and sent ear and tail stiff in her direction. not a threat, necessarily, but a slow posturing.
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The sound of a twig snapping made her freeze, head jerking to the side to glance over one slate shoulder. She inhaled sharply when she saw Ancelin a dozen yards behind and closing. Trepidation swept through her as she did a quick assessment of his posture, her reply rapid as they conversed fluently in body language.

Her tail didn’t quite tuck, though it went limp against her her hocks. Her head lowered slightly, cerise snout pointed at the ground. Masquerade sought to appease, though she couldn’t quite help but hump her shoulders a bit defensively in the manner of a person spreading their hands. I don’t want to fight you.

*provides visual aid*
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<3

ancelin was mollified at once. he advanced on masquerade, limbs still stiff. it appeased a hungry part of him to watch her submit, and he wanted to see how low he could force her.
his ears swept back; he pushed boldly into masquerade's space. "my brother hates you," he growled in a long sound, as close to her ear as possible. 
there was a pause.
"but i don't." ancelin pulled away, relenting, releasing her. but his eyes were still sharp.
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He continued his approach, stiffer than the dead rabbit she’d thieved not so long ago. Masquerade remained tense herself, flinching slightly when he insisted on invading her personal space. She leaned away from him without moving her feet, her face slanting away too until he spoke.

She slowly raised her eyes, never quite meeting his but allowing him to see the  scrunch of her brow. Masque huffed out an unsteady breath, turning Ancelin’s words over and over in her mind. His first sentence made her stomach sink, though it was nothing she didn’t already know. His second caught her a bit more off guard.

Now, her head cocked ever so slightly to the right. You don’t? She continued processing this information, some of the tension slowly leaving her own rigid muscles. She didn’t want either boy to hate her, though she understood why Atreus held a grudge against her. She wanted to make things right. Perhaps there was hope in Ancelin’s overture.

Even as hope bloomed, Masque shifted her weight, a certain wariness about her. Whatever she wished, she didn’t know why he’d approached her today. She pensively waited, wondering if there was anything else he wanted to say.
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ancelin looked hard at her. why didn't she talk? the question in her eyes was clear enough. he sat down where he was and thumped his tail once against the ground. "i don't. don't have a reason to hate you." it was over, wasn't it? they'd both been punished and that was the end.
it was atreus who wanted things to continue. and it was ancelin who would support him, because he wanted his brother back to how things had been.
these concepts were too big for him to explain. "he's upset. maybe more with dad than anything." his ears splayed; his brow furrowed. "you're sorry, right?"
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She felt his stare penetrating her and her eyes slid away, casting down in the direction of her forepaws. Masque’s ears remained pricked to attention when Ancelin did, indeed, have more to say. He made it clear he didn’t share his brother’s grudge, which fed the hope burning brighter in her chest. She sincerely doubted his speculation about the boys’ father, though she forgot about it entirely at his final question.

Masquerade hesitated, then nodded her head once, twice and thrice. Her gaze tentatively raised again, imploring Ancelin to not only believe her but understand. It was an honest mistake! And even as she tried to convey such a complex concept, her tongue moved, pressing against the backs of her clenched teeth, preparing to clarify.

As her lips parted, a memory from that day came rushing back. You bit me, Masquerade thought, mouth clapping shut and head rearing back a little as it hit her. She quickly decided it was better forgiven and forgotten, though the momentary lapse in focus had turned her tongue back to stone.
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for a minute it seemed like masquerade was going to speak. but then the moment passed. he raised a paw to swipe at his nose and nodded. "okay. cool. it's whatever then."
too bad atreus wasn't about to let this go half so easily. "stay away from him," ancelin ordered after a short silence. his eyes bored into her. "like don't even look at him, okay?"
the sense of power thrummed again.
"and if you see he and i leaving the borders, no you didn't. got it?"
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Ancelin’s voice recaptured her attention. Her brow furrowed for a split second before she realized he was acknowledging her apology (of sorts). Just as her face relaxed, he said something else, which made her ears draw back, pulling the skin tight as a drum over her vermilion and cream cheekbones.

She bobbed her head and rolled her shoulders. But I already do that. And so she would continue, heeding the warning in Ancelin’s words even as they snuffed out the flare of hope in her chest.

An idea whispered through Masquerade’s mind when he went on to infer he and Atreus intended to sneak out of the territory. Despite herself, she was immediately tempted to teach Ancelin how to move around the rise without being detected. She licked her lips nervously, mulling.

Maybe there was an ember still burning, after all. If she helped Ancelin and Atreus learn her “ninja ways” (as someone had recently referred to them), then maybe she could get on Atreus’s good side. And she would get to hone her craft further while she was at it. It was what some called a win-win situation.

If ever there was a time to find her voice and make herself crystal clear, it was now. I can show you, Masque said in a surprisingly deep voice, how to sneak out without getting caught.
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aaaaa

"whoa!" the fact he was blown away by masquerade's choice to speak now was clear: he bristled suddenly, not in fright but in surprise, foreclaws gripping the earth. "you can talk!" his purpling eyes were wide; his tail whisked against the earth.
ancelin had to take a moment to process what she had said, so taken aback was he. "yeah. okay. that's good. thanks." and he tried to regain his upper hand of cold nonchalance, but masquerade had effectively shaken it for good.
her voice was so deep! "how do you talk like that?" ancelin asked, fascinated even as he felt the boyish pitch of his own tones pale in comparison. 
maybe she wasn't so bad. she seemed pretty sorry after all, their cousin. and masquerade was willing to help.
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His reaction made her jump a little, particularly when he bristled. Masque’s shoulders came up around her ears, though Ancelin’s exclamation soon relieved the gray Bearn of the anxiety coiling within her. Evidently she had really caught him off guard by speaking aloud.

She didn’t know what he meant by his question—with my lips and tongue…?—so she didn’t answer. Instead, she focused on the fact that Ancelin had effectively agreed to her proposition. He would allow her to teach him her craft of covertly prowling around the rise.

The only question that remained was: when would he like to begin? Masquerade tilted her head inquisitively.

Thank you for the kudos! :)
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ofc! yw <3

as soon as ancelin asked the question, he knew there couldn't accurately be an answer. now that masquerade had spoken, he felt one of the last obstacles between them fall away. the other was how his brother would feel, and he was loyal to it.
"another time. at night." he wanted to go immediately and his eyes flashed with it, but he exercised a large amount of self control. "now. let me walk you home."
it was important that the adults saw them together, most of all his dad and her mom. it was important that atreus saw ancelin make his own choices. but first and foremost it was important that the lie and his brother had laid would be believable.
ancelin liked her. for now, he kept it to himself.
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Whether he understood the question in her eyes or simply thought out loud, it was the answer Masquerade needed. She bobbed her head once in acknowledgement, then stilled in confusion when he insisted on walking her home.

She glanced over her shoulder toward “her” pine tree, mere yards away. Ears twitching, her gaze slid back to Ancelin. Masque didn’t really want to refuse his offer, she just didn’t comprehend it.

She would have to use her words again, she supposed. If talking could smooth out misunderstandings so well, Masquerade would have to make a note to do it more often.

We are home, she stated, hoping Ancelin didn’t think she was being either cheeky or stupid. All of the rise is our home, she added as an afterthought.
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ancelin snorted. "i mean to where you sleep." her deep voice no longer unnerved it; in the way of children, he was becoming quickly acclimated to it. "maybe tomorrow i can show you mine." 
they had to trust each other. he narrowed his eyes at the girl, then rose to his full height, stretching all of his legs one at a time. "could you always talk?" ancelin asked, still deeply curious about why she had chosen this moment of all. 
he blinked, ears sharp.
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I sleep there, Masquerade replied readily, motioning toward the pine tree standing sentinel at the edge of the rendezvous site.

She nodded when he suggested he could show her where he slept. Was it where Atreus slept as well, she wondered? Perhaps the boys preferred their own spaces, like Masque herself did.

Yes, she answered his question this time, but I don’t usually need to.

At least, that had been her experience. But now that she was getting older, she realized life—particularly social life—was full of complexities and nuances. Masquerade imagined she would find more and more occasions to speak even when there were no misapprehensions at hand, although it would never be her first preference.

I just woke up, she said after a beat of quiet, so I don’t want to sleep. I’m going to take a walk.

She eyed him at a slant. He was welcome to join her now, if he liked, otherwise Masquerade would see him tomorrow.

You are more than welcome to infer they meet up and practice behind the scenes!
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ancelin glanced toward the tree with a single nod. he wondered she she didn't sleep near her siblings; he was never far from atreus. just now. just today. and now he wanted to get back.
she explained the talking thing; he figured it meant enough sense for him not to question. "i'll come with you," ancelin said, less forcefully than he had addressed her yet.
she could even decline, despite the fact he moved confidently to flank her like they were hunters on the taiga.
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She didn’t need to verbalize when a nod sufficed. Masque didn’t move, letting him initiate the walk, first by flanking her. Without even thinking, she assumed a slightly lower carriage than his own. He might’ve been younger and a bit smaller, though he was far more assertive, so it came naturally for her to accede to Ancelin.

With that said, Masquerade was never more in her element than when she was skulking about the rise. With quiet confidence, she strode forward, leading the way. Although Ancelin had made it quite clear he didn’t want to practice until another time, aloofness and slyness both came to her so naturally, he would likely learn a thing or two despite himself.
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fade & have another? or another a&a one :D

whether or not he knew it, ancelin deferred to her natural skill, as he had done with redd. their dynamic was a small and pale imitation of the ones the adults shared. on multiple levels had the boy come to learn that his aunt was ultimately in charge; for all his father's ferocity, he was not in leadership.
and his cousins were as fierce as avicus was.
if she let him begin their walk, she would find him following, all but fitting his paws into the light marks she left behind, where they even appeared.