Hushed Willows Pacific
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All Welcome 
Njord’s patrol took him outside the borders.

A light snow fell. The wind was calm.

Though the weather was placid, Njord’s spirit was not. His nostrils flared, posture agitated. He looked out into the hazy dale and half-expected the brown bear, who had maimed his son, to show its ugly face. Or the dark man who was crass at their borders.

He thought of Sapphique's women. Of Meerkat. The willows reminded him of her.

Njord lifted a leg and marked his spot to leave a message: a man in his prime wandered here.
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Exousia traveled the circumference of the mountain range, taking in an overload of scents and memories as she moved. The silvered arrow moved steadily, every day from sunrise to nightfall, until eventually she arrived midday in the midst of placid winter willow grove.

It was a beautiful scene, and the area was well-secluded, but she was not interested in the visible magnificence this territory had to offer. She only hungered; her nose searched singularly for prey.

However, instead of her typical quarry, she came across the markings of a male. Her appetite shifted on the carnal scale, pursuing the owner of said virile cologne out of curiosity for what opportunity could lie ahead. Thus was the life of a finicky dispersal: desperate for association, too discriminating to settle for just anyone.

When she saw him ahead, she maintained a fair distance and called out. Hail, stranger! She studied his expression, the hale lines of his body, the red tail. Is this your fledgling claim?
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Njord smelled company before he heard her. A vagrant. A pewter woman who practically disappeared into the gray-colored snow cloud. If were it not for her cedar gaze and dark nose, she might have vanished altogether.

Involuntarily, the seawolf’s hackles became erect with anticipation, good ear cupped forward to listen. His red tail was high and moved in short bursts. A confident man. Curious.

She asked: Was this his fledgling claim?

His body vibrated with… something. Everything! A part of him that had been suppressed under the woman-led pack of Sapphique oozed out. He had groveled for two seasons to restore the favor of his daughter, sons, and the other women of the pack. Njord doubted he would ever be permitted into the ranks of the Rosada again. Only in Meerkat’s gaze did he truly shine.

Njord’s tongue rolled over his jowls. Conflicted.

The man and his wife had entertained the idea of spiriting away to settle their own land. For so long this vision was kept small and close to their chests. They had been plagued with concerns  – how, when, why? Now, he commanded the attention of a stranger. Did he feel… liberated? As if, only now, Njord realized he possessed the ability to see this dream to fruition!

The temptation to suddenly let go of all his work was strong.

What would Meerkat think of this woman? Would she chase her off?

The primitive thought made him smirk.

Njord took a few steps toward the stranger, wanting to take her scent. He felt as if she was a wild horse: too much pressure and she might turn tail. “I havenae decided,” he mused in an iconic baritone brogue. It was a small white lie. If he was being truthful, Njord should have never entertained the idea in the first place. "What do ye call yerself, lass?" he asked in succession.
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As Exousia beheld the wolf, she experienced a flush of excitement course through her. His form was dashing in all the right ways, carved solid of lumber and shale. He was scarred but unafraid – as there was little worse in her opinion than a mongrel both maimed and fearful – and his potent scent matched his tall, proud stance. He ventured closer; she did not retreat, but the steel harpy tucked her chin in a guarded motion, observing him thoughtfully.

His accent reached her, the masculine music bringing a faint twitch to her attentive ears. She had never heard such a voice, and her dark eyes flickered with a light of curiosity. Her tail began to wag, inviting him nearer, extending her muzzle inquiringly.

She was careful, ever so careful, to allow herself space to escape his teeth. Her entire body remained tense, wired to flee in the millisecond it would take for him to turn violent, but her nose began to work furiously as she detected the varying scents clinging to his fur: the sea, the salt, the wolves – some stronger than others. There was something else too, something primal and alluring.

She snorted it out, clearing her thoughts.

I am Exousia, she answered readily. What is it you are called, seafarer? She started to circle, stealing more of him as she went, her leonine figure incredibly reactive to his nearness.
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Her demeanor and posture permitted Njord nearer. At this distance, he could better observe the sheen of the stranger’s plush winter pelage and the slim cut of her feminine jaw. An intelligent gaze of acorn brown sat neatly above chiseled cheekbones – features that evoked the memory of Nova Peak’s unforgiving snowcapped spires.

She was wild… like the howling wind or cold seaspray on the cliffs.

Their whiskers barely touched as Njord sidled beside her, his body bowing like a crescent as they transitioned into the typical yin-yang formation of two wolves meeting for the first time.

The man postured, imbued by her scent. His red tail waved stiffly with interest, though the seawolf’s blue eyes remained soft. Respectful.

Exousia.

“Njord,” he responded with a hearty roll of the tongue.

He perceived the tautness of her muscles – and suddenly tested it!

Like a great falling pine, Njord telegraphed his movements with generous anticipation. His lips curled back, gnashing at the air with a low growl, and his broad paws slapped the ground to spook the woman into flight, ready to chase her from this land.

It was a harrowing game.
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Exousia examined him up close; she, the seasoned buyer with an undreamt-of fortune, and he, the prized stallion of an excellent pedigree that spanned generations. Her eyes traveled the length of his trim waist, his strong back, and swimmer’s shoulders. His great-hearted chest, his stonewood fur, and dignified posture. She glanced towards the deep, ultramarine blue of his eyes, calm and focused, filled with an everlasting light.

Njord.

There was stillness. Too much of it. Watching him in this moment, feeling the energy roll off him like heat on desert-baked pavement, her heart began to pound – provoked by his unmistakable virility. That scent, buried deep and nearly lost to his travels, returned to her again. She dared not close her eyes to enjoy it. To inhale him.

That is when she saw the devilish curl of his lip, heard the rev of his growl.

Her body reacted instinctively, flinging herself away from the spot where his paws drummed the earth in a warring song. But rather than flee, she whirled to face him: her teeth bared into a scythe, her forehalf bowed into the position of a spring.

She did not fear him – his flashflood to her vicious windchill – and she was no coward. That being said, a part of her (still claimed by foolish youth) felt hyperaware that this was incredibly dangerous. She should risk no permanent vandalism upon her precious body, for she was alone, and he was not.

Exousia would meet him, toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, teeth-to-teeth, and if he seemed serious about harming her, she would simply fly away.
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This woman’s fortitude was solid like a great ash tree, her mind resilient like the pliable branch of a young willow. Swift steps spirited her silver figure around to face him, the flash of her fangs popping against the outline of her black lips.

Njord stood on his toes, the base of his ears pulled up and tight. He rumbled his approval, appreciating the stranger’s mettle and the soundness of her constitution. Despite the stiffness of his pose, it was evident his spirit was awakened by the tango they danced. His pewter hackles rippled with excitement and the strong pulse of his heart made his jugular jump.

The season fever’s had its teeth deep into Njord. He felt his oats. Passed a coquettish tuck of the chin to her. A meeting of their eyes. He knew this female possessed muliebrity to rival any woman in Teekon – and that fact was a threat. She was competition.

And he was a man already promised. A living fortress meant to protect, provide for, and elevate his budding family. If he ever intended to claim this land, its treasures would be for his mate, Meerkat, and her alone.

Njord’s demeanor changed like the tide. The whites of his eyes flashed as his whole body gathered together, paws digging into the snow for traction to gain momentum. He felt powerful; in control of his strength. Now, Njord meant to drive her away in earnest.

A bellowing snarl boomed from his jaws, teeth poised to nip at her haunch. The dominant display of raucous noise sounded worse than it was. A precursor to true aggression, like thunder to lightning.
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There was first acceptance, an appraising glint of admiration in his royal blue gaze; a look that would have seen her pillared beneath him in exaltation, another time, another place. But then there was refusal, a silent acknowledgement of her threat to his sainthood and a mighty rearing-back to protect it.

Just like that, all of Exousia’s temerity was gone.

It was replaced by a feeling of self-preservation that was more powerful than any of her other feelings because it was also linked to her inexorable pride. A great need to preserve her own perfection. The lizard part of her brain that sensed impending danger – that would detach its own tail if need be – activated and sent her spinning away from the storm that rose up in Njord.

And without looking back, Exousia fled.

ily!!

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