Redtail Rise Deadlatch
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#1
All Welcome 
Some rights had been wronged, though that didn’t mean all was well. Despite his hideous behavior toward them, Masque missed @Ancelin. The rise had lost two undeniably dedicated members, not to mention a pair of adept hunters and guardians. Although the situation wasn’t dire, they knew it put immense pressure on the youngest members of the pack to hone their skills ahead of wintertime.

All four of their younger siblings showed quite a lot of promise, @Saturday’s Sunrise too. Although Masque favorited @Mulherin in many ways, they couldn’t help but think @Watcher in particular had shown incredible prowess at the recent pack hunt. They wanted to find her today and acknowledge this, though they would be just as happy to bump into any of the youths, @Carrion and @Redsky included.

They walked across the rise, long tail flicking as they searched for their kin.
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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#2
In the past days, he's been more reclusive than usual. The tensions in the Rise seem to tire him. His face seems darker, more worn. Conversations seem to slip from his grasp like water.

He feels like a ghost. 

His idling is interrupted once the boy senses Masquerade's presence. They are but a flash of silver amongst the brush ahead as they walked along. He waits for a moment, seeing if they would turn back and notice him. They don't.

Silently, he goes and follows after them, for no reason other than lukewarm curiosity.
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A feeling of disquiet threaded through them as they padded through the forests dappling the rise. Masquerade drew in a steadying breath and tried to focus on the task at hand, though they couldn’t shake their unease. They wondered at it. The dust hadn’t quite settled, of course, but they could think of no cause for this abrupt and poignant apprehension.

And then they thought they heard a noise behind them and whipped their head around, golden eyes catching a glimpse of a dark figure shadowing them. The knot in their chest loosened immediately and Masquerade’s breath whooshed out of their chest, half dry laughter.

You got me good, Mul, they remarked, pivoting to face him properly. I have no doubt you and the others will be master hunters by year’s end, Masque added, padding toward him.

As they came closer, they could better see the look on his face, in his eye. They almost asked him if everything was alright. But of course it wasn’t. The rise had just gone through a reckoning of sorts. The pups had been dragged along for the bumpy ride.

How are you? Talk to me, Masquerade coaxed in their smoky voice.

Thanks for nabbing, bruvver!
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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#4
Masque notices him before he can announce his presence. They startle, but only slightly.

He offers a small smile, butting the crown of his head into their side; an affectionate apology for the scare. Their following praise earns a half-hearted, breathy chuckle.

As for how he was? That was complicated.

Tired. Comes his answer. Succinct, but painfully accurate. Though, his concern is less on himself and more on Masquerade. Playing mediator and facilitating the pack's politics can't be an easy task. He wonders if anyone has checked up on them, rather than the other way around.

How are you? He asks simply, head tilting.
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Let’s sit then, Masquerade suggested, and talk.

They looked around for a good spot, then motioned for Mulherin to follow them toward the base of a Pacific madrone. The weak sunlight filtered down through its spindly, winding limbs, creating a spiderweb of light and shadow in the grass below. They settled there with a small huff, waiting for their brother to join them.

I’m tired too. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, haven’t they? I do feel hopeful that everything will settle down now. I mean, it’s sort of my job now to make that happen.

Their lips curved into a small smile. Masquerade was once more the pack’s caretaker, in a much more powerful capacity. They took their duties more seriously than ever, embracing their role as the pack’s peacemaker.

Don’t worry, the power hasn’t gone to my head, Masque quipped, and I haven’t forgotten any of you. I’m Caru again. More than ever, it’s my job to guide you. But with everything that had happened, they had to wonder, Do you think you’re still interested in being a leader yourself someday?
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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#6
He nods and follows them. It will be good to talk, he thinks, having missed their once more frequent little chats. The boy settles down by their side.

Well, you’re a much more powerful Caru now than before. A Super-Caru, even. It can’t be easy. He teases. It’s been good seeing Masquerade bloom into their new role in leadership—he’s proud that they’ve realized they were meant for a role like this. 

As for him being a leader? Thoughts for the future have left his mind; in fact, he’s chased them out altogether. The hierarchy dilemma has been too exhausting, and just the thought of starting another one seems like too much effort.

He’s begun to succumb to teenage laziness. And perhaps a bit of angst too. In the end, he hopes they’re right—it would be nice for things to settle down.

Maybe, someday. Is his vague answer. He redirects the topic away from himself. Do ya still want to lead a pack on the Ridge?
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They tipped their head at his answer, nodding minutely a moment later. They all needed a bit of a respite after the recent shuffle, Masque thought, their eyes watching the play of sunlight and shadow on the dead grass for a moment.

Maybe, someday, they repeated his own words back to him, eyes raising to catch his as they smiled softly. My biggest goal in life is to help you—and the others too, of course—achieve your fullest potential, whatever that looks like.

There was no need to dig any deeper just now, though. Despite their own invitation to sit and talk just a moment ago, the Caru suddenly snuffled toward Mulherin, nipping at the ruff framing his face. They tugged playfully at the fur there, growling.

There will be plenty of time to chase our dreams later. Right now, let’s keep it light. We could play a game, they suggested, or spar. What sounds good to you?
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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#8
He scoffs lightly as they repeated his words back to him, fair play.

Before he could utter a word of gratitude, The Caru strikes and nips at his face. His answer comes in the form of a playful growl as he pulls away and launches at them, using his forelegs to get them into a wolfy headlock, then seizes their ear.

A spar!
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One day soon, he would be a Bjern, so his choice came as no surprise. Masquerade laughed, the sound turning into a playful snarl as Mulherin’s forelegs wrapped around their neck. They felt his teeth nipping at their ear and flicked it wildly, as if that would do any good.

Without warning, the Caru dropped to the ground, hoping to upset his balance. They broke loose from his grip by wriggling backward, though they didn’t immediately leap upright. Instead, they straightened into a sphinx pose and raised their head, snapping at the air. They would meet Mul’s next move with a jaw spar.
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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A gurgling growl erupts from his throat as Masque's ear evades him. They aren't in his grasp for long, pulling away and shuffling back. 

However, they don't take the initiative in launching another attack. The two square off for a moment, like two cowboys in an old western film. The clack of their teeth as they bite at the air is his sign to strike.

Mulherin then drops into a playbow, letting out a loud bark before rushing the Caru with open jaws.
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Mulherin dipped too, the two of them both flush with the ground momentarily. But then he sprang toward them with a loud bark. Masque stayed low until he was nearly on top of them, trying to find that sweet spot before he lowered his head toward theirs.

In theory, they would grab him by the throat before his muzzle—and all those fangs!—blocked them. But it depended not only on Masque’s timing but Mulherin’s ability to anticipate what was likely a very predictable move. Masquerade fully anticipated failing, with a hopeful gleam in their goldenrod eyes.
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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A predictable counterattack, yes, but what fun was it to brutalize your sibling? 

Actually, that was a lie—that would probably be much more fun.

But the future Bjern needed to hone in his defensive fighting moves too. 

His defiant growl is deadened as Masque intercepts him, seizing his neck. Instead of pulling away, he does the opposite. The boy pushes into their grasp and rolls into them, hoping to bowl the both of them over and cause them to release him in the mess of it.
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Although they wanted to fail, Masquerade still delighted when they managed to execute their move. There was no time to savor their success. They took care to loosen their grip right away, though not before Mulherin used it as leverage to roll the Caru.

They put up no fight against the tri-force of Mulherin’s bulk, gravity and velocity. Masque did try to twist even as they tumbled over backward, just because they hated getting the wind knocked out of them. In this way, the two wolves twisted apart.

They didn’t move fast enough to totally avoid the youth’s weight coming down on their hindquarters, though they dug their forepaws into the ground and pulled themself free. Masquerade leaped to their feet with a shake, bounding clear of a counterattack and then pivoting to face him.

That was only the first round of many, they hoped! Masque flashed a grin at Mulherin, proud of his fighting skills. He was the warrior Avicus had bred him to be, a credit to her and the pack which had helped raise and train them.
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Redtail Rise
Bjern
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#14
thinking we could fade this here or with your next, feel free to make any assumptions

His tactic—albeit a little messy—had worked. In a black blur, he pranced back to his feet. Satisfaction danced in the sway of his tail.

There was no time to celebrate, however. Masquerade was quick to recover and eyed him like a snake in waiting. Their teeth gleam in a grin and he entices them to strike with a playbow, keeping his distance. 

In this moment, all his apprehension is gone. The bitter, wounded feelings toward the two former Rise members seemed to leave his mind. 

Wholly, he remains focused on the Caru's every movement.

The evening would be filled with snapping teeth and lively growls. Their spar would go on until one of them tired.
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