Vindico

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Evike rejected fear as she had bondage, travelling north past the spent scent markings she'd discovered in days prior, passing through the morning mists and shadows like a phantom. She searched for Lux here, seeking out the witch's scent when she lost track of her pupil's, leading her to a since abandoned den that, left her questioning if Newt truly <i>could</i> be trusted with the knowledge she afforded her - she had only beer or wine 2 following the witch's instructions, what ability did she have to do otherwise?


Dancing orbs of light supplemented the morning sun, skating about the dug out chamber, casting all in stark shadows and blue glow, though nothing jumped out at her immediately that brooked any interest. With a sigh, she turned from the mouth of the hide, breathing in deep to collect her thoughts, only to catch a scent that was decidedly fresh for the forest being evidently abandoned. Freezing, the mage reached out into the woods, clutching temporary weapons with invisible magic, her breath catching as she waited to see what might come of the intrusion, the reach only evident by the vibrant light that cut through her fur and feathers like webbing veins. Unwilling to sacrifice her sight in the face of a a great unknown, Quernus' shadows remained flat and still. The uncertainty thrilled her, her wings reaching out at half furled not to appear more threatening, for she assumed no defenses, but perhaps not quite so easy a target should the evergreen forest prove a magnet for more like the former blood king.
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<center><font color="#5527CC"><b>"Speaking"</b></font></center><br />

<p>Ouroborus felt as though he had been wandering for days.

In reality, however, only a few hours had passed since the wolf had decided to begin his travels. Unwilling as he'd been to let himself sleep for too long—oversleeping tended to make one's mind fuzzy—he had woken up particularly early, this morning, eager to continue exploring the new land that he had stumbled upon. His time in Vindico had been short, and there was very little that he had seen, save for the mountain that rested in the center of the land with its peak that seemed to pierce the sky. The forests and fields that surrounded it, however, were mysteries to him, and he didn't want them to remain as such for long.

And so Ouroborus had gone through his usual, waking routine; he picked the leaves and twigs out of his fur, enjoyed a light meal of a rabbit that he'd found, and had a drink from a nearby stream. Then, feeling refreshed and ready, he'd started to walk.

The journey had been a quiet one, making it no different from the other journies that he had embarked on within the last week or so, and it was becoming more and more of an oddity to him. One would assume that a land this big would be near-bursting with life, but Ouroborus had yet to meet a single, sentient soul. Aside from the surprisingly-abundant prey animals, there weren't any other wolves around.

At least, that was what it seemed like. Ouroborus wasn't one to let his guard down, however, and kept each and every one of his senses alert as he travelled. Even now, as he made his way through the thick undergrowth of Quernus, he kept his head held high and his ears perked, poised to catch whatever stray sound would be able to reach him. This place looked as empty as the others had looked, but there were traces of life, here and there; old markers, mainly, and the occasional, unmistakable scent of wolf. A pack had lived here and, judging by the strength of the scents, it was possible that they still did.

And yet all was quiet...were they out on a hunt? Or perhaps they had moved...?

Whatever the case, the place was abandoned, now.

Unconsciously, Ouroborus swept his tongue across his lips. I could stay here and wait for them to return. What reasons would they have to turn away a loner? And a curious one, at that?

Curious, indeed. A pack was guaranteed to know a great deal more about the land than he did, and if he asked a few questions he was bound to get a few useful answers. As long as he made it look as though he wasn't trespassing, everything would turn out fine.

Pleased with this pseudo-plan, the banished prince prepared to head back to where he had first discovered the markers, only to take a step and let his single paw hover in the air, for a moment.

Someone was nearby.

Their scent was weak, yes, but he was certain that he was no longer alone. Then again, as far as he knew, he had never been alone to begin with. Whoever this stranger was could have been tailing him for the last couple of miles.

Ourborus frowned and inspected the space around him, letting his emerald gaze sweep across the many trees and patches of growing, Summer grass. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"I know you're there,"</b></font> he said a moment later, raising his voice so that the stranger could hear him. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"Come out of hiding and spare me the effort of looking for you. I won't repeat myself."</b></font></p>

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Such strength in that command, as if the speaker were entitled to the obedience of those that heard him! And yet Evike had never scented him before and was quite confident that he was an usurper in these chilly woods. Her head lifted, turning toward the source of the voice as her lips curled, pulling the scar up over her left-most canines to reveal a sliver of ivory fang. Was this a joke?

Her assumption that he held no authority eased the tension from her wings and shoulders, smoothing her hackles back against her spine, dimming the glow that cut through her coat as she released the threads of mysticism that energized the air around her. A small voice warned her not to be too presumptuous with her relaxation, only to quashed by the reasoning that he was likely just as leery of her as she was of him, for he hadn't come looking for her, choosing instead to demand that she come to <i>him</i>, a tactic that struck her as defensive, albeit immensely prideful.

If anything, the call had stirred her curiosity - royalty was not an alien concept on Vindico, though the families were few and far between. Certainly everyone could claim they had an ancestral history, but few names were actually all that relevant when discussing the political arena. In fact, the Volfglanz and the Madar family names were the only ones she actually knew to still be active, having met both more than a season ago now. Evike wondered if the nameless voice could be assigned to either group, if it belonged to a new group of "powers that be", or if the male was instead a simply bossy nobody, not unlike herself. Such a thought was enough to tickle her amusement, turning her lips up in a rather cheeky grin.

She would ultimately refuse the order, remaining stuck to the spot outside of the den, her gaze attempting to pierce the fog and shadows, searching for any visual on the speaker. An audible breath of laughter crossed her lips as she jerked her muzzle up in an unseen gesture to "come closer", pitching her voice as to be heard without shouting. "And if I refuse?" Her wings hunched about her shoulders not as a gesture of anxiety, this time, but rather giddy excitement that she couldn't quite explain. 
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<center><font color="#5527CC"><b>"Speaking"</b></font></center><br />

<p>Ouroborus stood and awaited the stranger's answer, though he was sure that they would do what he had said without causing any unnecessary trouble. After all, he had been firm and demanding with his words, and it was clear to him that this other creature, this wolf, was alone. And even if they belonged to the pack that had claimed this place as their home, some time ago, they had chosen to approach him without others to rely on. A bold move, as far as he was concerned, and boldness came with consequences.

Eventually, a response came in the form of a female voice.

"And if I refuse?"

Refuse...? Just who did this whelp think that she was, to refuse him?! And that slight lilt in her voice made it sound as though she was teasing him. Him. A total stranger who had wandered into the heart of her homeland and, for all she knew, meant to find and kill her leader. Not that the thought hadn't crossed his mind at least once within the last few minutes...because, admittedly, it had.

Frustration was welling up inside of him, seeming centered in his chest, but Ouroborus willed himself to calm a little before he spoke, again. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"You can't refuse. It was a demand, not a request,"</b></font> the wolf said, the annoyance evident in his voice. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"Now come out, this instant!"</b></font>

He was then quiet for a moment, mulling over things in his head.

<font color="#5527CC"><b>"Better yet, you can choose to come out, now, or I'll end up dragging you from the bush you've buried yourself in."</b></font></p>

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Further demands only brooked more laughter, her head lowering so it aligned with her shoulders as she moved toward the voice in complete silence. He certainly was demanding, his tone was wrought with irritation, however, and did not convey the cool confidence that she suspected he hoped to impart... and yet he hadn't come crashing after her, relying still on verbal threats though they'd done a fat lot of good the first time around. Either he was trying out patience for a change, or he didn't really have the balls to come in after her as he suggested.

Either possibility amused her, really.

It was her burning curiosity, she would remind anyone observing, and not his overwhelming power of command, that caused her to ease through the brush like a ghost, peeking through the leaves as she slunk through what shade the morning light cast, prowling like some mighty hunter for just a glimpse of this <i>fiend</i> that thought he could make <i>demands</i> of <i>her</i>. She was startled to find that he was neither glorious and glowing, as the Volfglanz, nor feathered like the Madars, but instead a gorgeous collection of violet fur and fickle larkspurs that bloomed from his monochromatic coat. Pallid antlers branched from his crown, studded with fat, dark berries, causing her to think more "tree" than "stag".

At first, Eve was convinced that he was a nymph of some sort, a nature spirit, and therefore well within his rights to be demanding, but then a more reasonable voice spoke in her mind, reminding her that it was much more likely for him to be a fantastic anomaly of a stranger, rather than her luck for experiencing the supernatural to be so grand. One did not climb to the peaks of Rogo and flee from Emortuus only to be harassed by cheeky dryads. If he were truly a mythical being, then she was just one unicorn short of writing her own children's story, and nobody wanted that.

The forest moved in a subtle way around her so that her movement was inaudible, allowing her to skirt about him for a better look without clumping around like a damned oaf, but even then she could not resist the game that they'd begun to play (though she quite imagined that he wasn't quite appreciative of "cat and mouse" as she was, judging by his frustration). "<i>Oh is it</i>?" Voice hardly a whisper, the mage's croon came as a more obvious taunt. She moved on, skirting deeper into trees without abandoning her sight on him as not to make herself an easy target to follow. "Why should I listen to <i>you</i>? You can't even come to say hello." She moved again, prowling easily through banks of fog, allowing him to slip from her sight now as she eased further away from him. "<i>Please</i>," the word came heavy with sarcasm, exaggerated and drawn out in a way that exponentially improved the sassfactor. "Please come drag me out... <i>if you can find me</i>."
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<center><font color="#5527CC"><b>"Speaking"</b></font></center><br />

<p>Suddenly something moved amidst the underbrush, and Ouroborus turned his head, hoping to catch a glimpse of what he assumed was the cocky stranger. But there was nothing there, and he frowned, wondering whether or not he had imagined it.

Damn this woman...I've no time for pointless arguments, he mused, narrowing his eyes. And if she thinks that I'm bluffing about having to drag her out, she's got quite the surprise waiting for her...

With that same, teasing lilt in her voice, the she-wolf spoke up, again, and asked what reasons she had for needing to listen to him. It was a question that seemed ridiculous to Ouroborus, and he was tempted to tell her as much, but opted to hold his tongue for the moment. Why should she listen to him? Simple. Because he had told her to. He may have been stripped of what power he had possessed back home, and not a soul in this seemingly-endless assemblage of forests and plains knew of his name, nor the imposing reputation that his family held, but none of that mattered. No matter where he went, his birthright stayed with him, existing in the very blood that flowed through his veins; the blood of his father, and his father's father, and his grandfather's father...their legacy was his to continue, now, and he planned on doing so with the utmost pride.

And yet here this stranger was, questioning his authority. Furthermore, it sounded as though she was challenging him; she wouldn't reveal herself unless he managed to find her, so until then they would be playing an impromptu game of cat-and-mouse.

The banished prince was in no mood for games, but guessed that he would have to go along with it, seeing as though this wolf insisted on being difficult.

<font color="#5527CC"><b>"Fine. I will. But when I find you, this nonsense will end,"</b></font> Ouroborus announced, wholeheartedly accepting her challenge. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"I've questions for you, and I doubt that the rest of your number will be as tolerant as you seem to be of my blatant disregard for your borders. Not enough to offer me the answers that I need, at least."</b></font>

The wolf then started toward where he had last heard the woman's voice, and crept his way into the undergrowth, ducking a little so that his gnarled antlers wouldn't get caught on a low-hanging tree branch. At times, they made it hard to navigate, but he was a fairly flexible individual, and didn't have much trouble with weaving his way through the trees, trotting from root to root in an effort to keep from snagging his paws on anything. The stranger's scent wasn't very strong, but it lingered on the plants and in the air itself, so much so that he could taste it by parting his lips. She went this way, Ouroborus mused, steering himself in what he felt was the right direction.

A few minutes went by, and with every passing second the male's impatience seemed to grow. By now, he should have found her...and yet he hadn't. Was she that skilled at hiding herself, or was he blind?

<font color="#5527CC"><b>"I am Ouroborus O' Cuilinn,"</b></font> he announced, wanting to fill the silence as he scanned potential hiding spots amidst the undergrowth. She hadn't asked him for his name, but he figured that he might as well introduce himself; it was important to familiarize her with it, now, so that she would remember it later. Some day, the whole lot of the land would know his name. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"A newcomer to these lands. Surely you would be willing to give me some information? Moreso than the absent soul who claims to be your leader?"</b></font>

His speech was neither friendly, nor derisive. Ouroborus spoke casually, though it was clear from his words that he felt as though his presence was important.</p>

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"You promise?" She asked, almost charming as he began to crunch through the brush, his paw steps graceful for the average mortal, perhaps, though they couldn't hold a candle to her own feather-light movements. As he drew closer, she doubled back, laying a false trail before slipping into the niche formed by some ancient roots, pulling the shadows about her to further conceal her starling-wing iridescence as he strode past. The world blinked back as his steps drew further away, and she stepped out behind him with a teasing grin before flitting off into the underbrush again so she could walk parallel to, and slightly behind him.

<i>Ouroborus O' Cuilinn</i> spoke of questions and numbers and leaders, in a fashion that intrigued her, introducing himself as if the name would mean anything to her. She studied him as he searched and searched, pushing through the bushes and brambles, attempting to ferret her out from the likely hiding spots. As he did so, she'd note that his tone had lost its edge that had riled her so, slipping neatly into the realm of casual conversation. She allowed him to waste his efforts for a time, letting the silence build and overflow the space between them, letting him possibly think that she'd gotten away, only to begin, very softly, dissecting all of his various prompts.


"I have no numbers," she explained first, abandoning the crass, teasing edge she'd played him with for one verging on demure, as if they were broaching some immensely sensitive or important topic, one that had to be handled like a baby bird, or the most fragile blown glass lest it shatter. "I had no leader. That my jailer, my would-be king is not here to greet the either of us tells me that he is more of a has been and poses neither of us any threat." 


Evike moved again, branching off from the path he'd chosen with an intentional rustle of branches, heading deeper into the woods at a pace that was neither too fast nor too slow. She did not raise her voice to accommodate for the growing distance between them, but instead allowed her voice to grow faint if he did not follow. "I've never heard the name O' Cuilinn," the mage mused to the birds and the shadows. She would mount the fallen tree that acted as some baleful landmark, knowing that the magic-cancelling pool was somewhere very close by. "Perhaps we can trade, questions for questions, answers for answers? When we meet, Ouroborus, we'll be fine friends indeed." Lazily, she stepped down, meandering into the trees, clearly not dodging him quite so thoroughly as one that wanted to win the game of cat-and-mouse should have been.
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<center><font color="#5527CC"><b>"Speaking"</b></font></center><br />

<p>Promise...feh. Just because it was taking a bit longer than he had anticipated it would, didn't mean that he was doomed not to find her. She probably moved whenever she sensed that he was drawing closer, the scheming whelp, but at some point or another Ouroborus felt that he was sure to catch up to her before she could slink off, again.

Her scent, however, seemed to be everywhere. It was as if she had taken the time to rub herself on every living (and non-living) thing, from the rocks and grass to the bark of the thick, evergreen trees that surrounded him. And the confusion that it brought on was beyond aggravating for the flower-adorned wolf, who was quickly growing tired of the dead ends that he was being met with. He would follow her scent along one trail and find himself in an empty ditch, or behind a bush; more than once he had even been forced to retrace his steps, as she seemed to have slipped behind him and gone in the opposite direction.

This is ridiculous! Ouroborus inwardly exclaimed, only to let out an involuntary yelp as he felt one of his antlers snag on something, stopping him in his tracks. A branch, undoubtedly. Grimacing, he yanked and yanked until he could free himself, then went back to searching. Just how long does she intend on keeping this up, anyway...?

After some time, her voice reached him, sounding a bit further away than it had been the last time she'd spoken. Oddly enough, the teasing lilt was gone. Ouroborus listened, and was mildly surprise to hear her refer to her leader as a "jailer", as well as a has-been who was nowhere near being a threat. Interesting...so she admitted to having been involved with the pack, in some way, but perhaps the rank that she carried was a poor one...a laborer? A slave? Had this so-called leader held her captive?

Ouroborus was silent as he continued to weave through the trees, mulling over the new information that he had been given. It was strange for a slave, if the strange wolf was one, to be wandering around on her own...and in the territory of the same pack that had claimed her, of all places. Unless, of course, she was escaping. Then again, he knew nothing about the strange laws and customs of the wolves of this land, so there was no use in applying his logic to the situation. Yet another thing that he would have to ask her about.

"Perhaps we can trade, questions for questions, answers for answers? When we meet, Ouroborus, we'll be fine friends indeed," the stranger said a while later, her voice growing ever distant. He couldn't help the smirk that came to his face. Friends...? You'd hope so.

Catching a hint of her scent and a tell-tale rustling of branches, the wolf turned and headed toward it, somewhat aware that she seemed to be leading him into the depths of the forest. And though her pace was even, his was quickening, as he had no intentions of letting himself fall behind. The trees were thickening in number and closeness, but he found that he could still make his way through without much trouble, able to nimbly bound over the creeping roots and underbrush. Before long he came upon a fallen tree, but wasted no time in jumping over it. She had come this way, and her scent was growing stronger by the second...

In his rushing, Ouroborus managed to overcome her at some point, dashing right by her without knowing it. It was then that he half-sprinted, half-stumbled into a small clearing. Certain that this was where she had been heading, he whipped around and faced the dense undergrowth, emerald eyes just able to catch a dark, moving figure that looked as though it was immersed in the greenery. Here, he would cut her off, and their little game would come to an end.

<font color="#5527CC"><b>"Ha!"</b></font> the banished prince shouted, unable to help himself, nor the tiny sliver of triumph that had added some volume to his voice. And he stood proudly before her, his chest visibly rising and falling as his breathing calmed itself. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"Just as I told you. Now, reveal yourself, so that we may begin this trade of questions."</b></font></p>

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In his excitement, the violet wolf crashed past her, causing her to step nimbly to the side as not to trip him or be crashed into as he charged. Instinctively, she pulled the shadows up around her, shielding her head with a raised wing as the brush enveloped her stumbling sidestep. Pushing deeper into the brush, she evaded him largely due to instinct, ashamed by the brief pang of terror that gripped her, sparked by his fervor. The shadows dropped like water all around her, pooling at her feet as she turned to look at him over her shoulder through the branches, pale eyes burning with mild irritation as he, again, ordered her to come out.

Her expression was easily slated as a "pout", an only child with no concept of grace in the face of losing she " hrumphed" and pushed away from him, directly ignoring his demands, leaving him huffing and puffing, coming down from the thrill of excitement. Tossing her delicately formed head, she allowed her long ears to tip back against her skull, though did not wander far. Not a body length away, she drew to a halt, mulling her thoughts over before turning about in a tight, strangely elegant circle. With her head high, tail level and stride purposeful, she cut through the brush, shouldering grasping brambles and vines out of the way, coming face to face with him.

Abandoning any pretense of cowardice, she left the partial cover the forest provided, confident movements devouring the short distance between them until she was close enough that his harried breath could very nearly be felt. Snapping a wing out and toward him, she made a motion as if she meant to grasp him by the left shoulder with the appendage, staring flatly into emerald green eyes. "I come of my own accord, O'Cuilinn." A dangerous edge existed in her voice, the words naught but a low thrum. "I answer your questions, <i>of my own accord</i>." Taking a step back, her chin dipped down toward her throat, expression blank, devoid of the hostility that her words suggested, merely sizing him up as she eased back into a more casual stance. "You played my game, Ouroborus. Remember that." And with that, her lips curled in a smile, tail wagging slightly behind her as she dropped into a sit, her wings partially furled about her. "But you may ask your questions."
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<center><font color="#5527CC"><b>"Speaking"</b></font></center><br />

<p>The underbrush was silent, and Ouroborus couldn't help but wonder if the strange wolf had decided to sneak off, again, in an effort to extend their little "game." Despite how little he knew about her, it seemed to him like a thing that she would do; she acted like the type that enjoyed playing tricks on others and being an all-around nuisance.

Then there was a sudden rustling, and the creature whose voice he had been unable to put a face to finally emerged. Mildly surprised, the banished prince raised a single brow and looked her over; she was a bit smaller than he had expected, and boasted a pelt that was an iridescent medley of dark hues, ranging from an ink-black to odd blues and greens. It reminded him of a fish's scales, in a way, if said fish had spent its entire life in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean. Thin, white lines crept along her face, forming intricate patterns that seemed to create a mask, and a pair of wings sat upon the small of her back.

All in all, she was certainly different from the wolves that he had seen throughout his life. Ealith were notorious for their eye-burning palettes, and while some (such as himself) were able to pull it off, others weren't. It was a welcome relief to find someone who was on other end of the spectrum, with colors that were neither too bright nor too dull and lifeless.

The wolf stretched a wing out toward him, but Ouroborus kept his eyes on her own, assuming that she wouldn't be foolish enough to try and knock him over. With her head held high, she informed him that she had revealed herself of her own accord, as if to assure him that she was in no way following his orders, and that the game had been hers and hers alone. He had merely participated. Then she took a seat and, losing the bout of seriousness that had overtaken her, said that he could go ahead and ask what he wanted.

Ouroborus was silent for all of a few seconds, unable to do much but continue to stare at her, his expression blank. And then his lips seemed to tremble, gradually curving into a smirk that revealed a few bone-white teeth before he started to laugh. Perhaps it was impolite, but he simply couldn't help himself. Her tone of voice, her words, the way that she was carrying herself...it was all so damned funny. And yet he found that he could respect it, if only a little. It seemed as though being a lowly underling in her pack hadn't destroyed her sense of self-worth. She saw herself as being her own authority; a trait that they both shared, though Ourborous felt as though he was entitled to being in charge of others.

<font color="#5527CC"><b>"Well, well, well. You're no meek whelp, I'll give you that much,"</b></font> the violet wolf said when his laughter had died down, leaving only a toothless smirk. <font color="#5527CC"><b>"And I've introduced myself, so it only seems fair that you would do the same. Unless you'd rather me make up a name for you...?"</b></font>

He paused, taking in the look upon her face before he continued, the smirk beginning to fade.

<font color="#5527CC"><b>"Anyway, I wasn't wrong about a pack living here. Do you know where they are, now? I'd be quite interested in meeting that 'has-been jailer' of yours."</b></font></p>

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