Vindico

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The sea broke upon the northernmost shore and rimed the trees in thick layers of white salt. Dense fog rolled in off the chilly waters as the sun began to rise, casting all but the most immediate features of the area in anonymity. Evike toyed with her powers in the blue dawn, populating the air around her with fist-sized motes of light that swam like fish through the air, shimmering in ever color of the spectrum before winking out until only the soft glow that cut through her dense, soft coat remained, turning her into a sort of beacon among the mists.

It was a mild drop from where Evike lay, her forepaws overhanging the edge of the cliff as she stared out into the unknown, looking without really searching for anything in particular. Beneath her stretched a sloping, rocky shore with narrow paths that only the most mindful and resourceful would find, though there was little of interest beyond the stony cliffs for the average wolf. Even Evike found the water somewhat boring, unable to get a read on the element, unable to tug at the strings that bound it to reality and make it perform at her beck and call. Of course, she'd abandoned the project of acquiring a new element in her spellbook a short while ago, finding more pressing matters in the present state of affairs. What she needed now was strength, not some new novelty. Command of the sea could wait until the issue of Odysseus had been squared away.
The sea always welcomed her with open arms, its salty waves consuming her in a long embrace. When she left it and her pelt began to dry, she felt alone and the memories of the past would rush her, something she did everything to avoid. Besides, she had no real reason to venture onto land, food and shelter were in the coral reefs not far from the shore and her gills allowed her to reside their for an indefinite amount of time. Even though this was true, she found herself wandering the beach, up to her hocks in cold, briny water, as to not leave her new home behind completely. It had taken her some time, but she had reached as far north as she believed she could go, other than taking to open ocean. The ocean wind berated her, but her thick fur did her well. Golden eyes scanned her friend, the sea, as it moved endlessly, however most of it was concealed by a shroud of fog which hung heavy over the waters. Things were coming into view that had been imperceptible just moments before as the sun began to rise. Soon she would be able to properly take in her surroundings, something she looked forward to, as she had yet to see what land mirrored this frigid ocean water.

Breaking through the mist and darkness was an unnatural light, something that was not missed by curious eyes. Vesper stopped her rhythmic tread, pausing to question whether she would head towards the light or slip back beneath the waves. The last thing she wanted was trouble or someone else's burdens weighing down on her shoulders. But the thought of speaking with another wolf made her stomach turn in both anticipation and anxiety. Her isolation weighed heavily on her even though she had never been much of an extrovert. Making her decision, she plodded forward, now searching the cliffs carefully for a way to the precipice where the lights originated. At first it seemed her stray from normalcy would end here, but staring a bit longer and looking from a different angle, she found a way. Heedful, she walked the narrow path up the cliff, her large form having to hug the hard rock to keep from slipping. As she climbed, she thought about falling and how inconvenient it would be to have a broken limb. Reaching the top of the bluff, she looked for the source of the light and found only a faint glow much like the many that radiated from her body. Trotting forward, she closed the gap and observed the obsidian wolf with silent judgement and curious eyes. The most notable thing about her, for Vesper at least, were the wings sprouting from her back. A mutation firmly attached to negative memories in Vesper's mind. She refrained from a scowl, keeping her face intentionally blank as she spoke in an even tone. She didn't want to convey her excitement or her adverse reaction to the wolf's avian mutations.

"Were the lights that I saw yours?"

Her head cocked slightly and she waited for an answer as she surreptitiously inspected the wolf, looking for other similarities to the wolves that she had grown up with. The paranoid part of her wondered if this wolf was sent by her home pack to kill her for what she had done to Kane. She knew it was ridiculous, but she couldn't shake the nagging paranoia. After all, every wolf she had met up to this point had been either one of them or her sister and this obviously wasn't her sister.
At the call of a feminine voice, Evike twisted about, peering at the taupe-colored avelorn, face and body devoid of any overt expression of emotion. Strange, that the northern forests seemed alive with Odysseus' leaving, that she'd met more strangers in this one place than she had any other. Stranger still was how odd they all looked, none of them even remotely similar. She reminded her of a fish, after a fashion, thought he mane about her neck was thick and not that dissimilar to the large cats that she'd heard could inhabit vast plains. A thin tendril sprouted from the woman's forehead, bowing under the weight of a peculiarly lit bulb that swelled at its end. An eerie yellow light bedecked the creature, her eyes like vibrant lamps, her features illuminated in a sickly shade by the organ that bobbed before her face. Vaguely, Evike could make out the precise and symmetrical designs that formed lines along her flanks, though did not wish to crane her neck and appear rude just to confirm that the woman's tail was anything but typical.

Very slowly, the mage's eyes would meet that of the siren's own, ears splaying as her wings rose and fell in a shrug. She did not answer with words, but yet the birth of yet another multi-hued mote from naught but damp air that wound lazy circles about the scene, exploring the far edges of where the fog permitted them to see, lighting up the misty walls in shades of green, orange, violet and red. The veins of light pulsed and brightened as she drew on her talent, blue-white and intense against her inky coat. Slowly, carefully, Evike pushed herself up into a seated position, her head held high as she studied the interloper. "You came from the sea." Evike did not so much ask for confirmation as she doled it out, noting the water that still dripped from the dense mane and braids that framed her delicate face. In a pointed fashion, she tilted her head toward the water lapping at the rugged stone shore, maintaining an expressionless mask though her mind hummed with curiosity, wondering what it was like to dive beneath the waves when she couldn't even swim, her wings as lead weights once her paws could no longer touch the bottom of a body of water.

She would take this time to also scan what she could see of the cliffs, searching for trods and paths that lead from the waters to this place, but for a creature blessed with flight, she was not quite so attuned to spotting footholds, especially with her field of vision compromised by the gloom and murk. A wrinkle of frustration formed between her brows as she looked away from the rock face and back at her guest, offering a smile and wings that opened in a gesture of welcome. Tilting to the side, Evike leaned toward the other and spoke in a tone wreathed in mirth and wonder, as if she were in on some grand joke but had yet to find the punchline. "It is not often fish climb onto the shore to converse with birds - was it difficult finding your way here?" Amusement did not naturally exclude sincerity, as the question was asked in a genuine fashion, the mage both delighted and confounded by this anomaly. "Surely you did not come up here just for a bit of light when you have more than enough of your own." A brief nod acted as a broad gesture toward Vesper's <i>everything</i> as the orb skated closer to the stranger, settling as if burdened by a false weight at her paws, competing dimly with the yellow glow in sprays of various color. An offering, one that invited the girl to investigate the object of her query more closely as Evike continued to peer at her. Somewhere between specimen and child, Vesper occupied a mind eager to know more. "What is it you are called?"
The female made no attempt at words and instead presented Vesper with an orb of pure light, shifting colors as it explored the air. Vesper's eyes were immediately drawn to the movement and she admired the orb without words, as she had none for its beauty. She had only heard of this sort of magic, she was quite to pleased to get to see it. She had lights covering her body, but they fixed and she had no control over them. Kane had told her that she was like fish of the deep sea which had similar mutations. He told her that they weren't powered by magic, but by bacteria and chemicals that she produced naturally. After that, she hadn't thought much of it, except for how favorable it was when she was out after dusk as a pup and how terrible it had been when Pender always beat her at hide and seek.

When the stranger spoke, Vesper forced her eyes from the sphere of pulsing light and back to the wolf's ice blue eyes. Her words were less of a question and more of a statement, so Vesper refrained from speaking. The icy gaze shifted from Vesper as the wolf seemed to get distracted with her own thoughts. Her expressions changed quickly and soon her focus was back on Vesper, something that made Vesper slightly uncomfortable. One would expect that after spending most of her life the center of a whole pack's attention, she would be used to it, even like it. But having spent four months in complete solitude, with absolutely no eyes on her, she had grown comfortable. Now it felt that with one look from this onyx fae, all of her secrets would be spilled, thrust upon the ground for this stranger to see. The thought was frightening, but she quickly shut it down, deciding that she didn't care what this female knew. She was only one wolf and a short sprint to the sea could wash away the whole encounter, as if they had never met. The wolf's lips drew back in a smile, revealing fangs in a gesture of warmth rather than hostility, she also motioned with her wings suggesting welcome. Vesper didn't know what to think of such friendly actions, Kane had always talked about outside wolves as something to be avoided, even feared. Of course he had told her many lies and that could have been one, she had to assume that this hospitable greeting could be commonplace. She didn't offer a smile back though, instead just a softening of the features as she tried to relax a bit.

The charred wolf's next words were weaved with amusement as if they were forming a joke, but Vesper didn't see it as so. She didn't particularly like being considered a fish, something she generally saw as food. It was even less enjoyable when the unknown wolf suggested themselves as a bird, which commonly consumed fish. She tried to keep it from affecting her as she answered the questions attached. "Not very, but it would have been easier if I had your wings." Addressing her following question, she loosened herself more, lowering her rump to ground. "My light is nothing like your except in the fact that it brightens the dark. It has no movement or shift in color..." She trailed off as the magical light neared her, again transfixed by its mystical brightness. With the sun slowly cresting the horizon, it was having less effect on the environment. But its shifting colors were still enthralling, especially as it set itself down at her paws. She touched it with her paw, registering its temperature and consistency, then she focused her attention back on the wolf sitting opposite her. "I am Vesper, Vesper Iphegenia." Her words left her lips and she realized her mistake, she had inherited her last name from the man who had lied to her all her life and she ended up killing, why should she keep it? Also, what if this wolf recognized the name, even knew Kane himself? She couldn't help it now and decided that she would keep the name, for convenience and possibly to spite her home pack and all those who had went along with his lies.

"What of yourself? Do you live here?" Quick, polite questions as she wasn't sure how these random meetings might usually proceed. Hopefully she could hand it back over and the stranger could teach her without knowing of Vesper's inexperience. She wished it to work as she didn't want to butcher her first meeting with an outsider, not for the sake of the other wolf so much as that she might never speak to any wolf ever again if it went too poorly.
Odd was an understatement - Evike had to wonder what the taupe wolf's story was, what event had made her so rigid and untrusting. She did not cower like the fawn-colored healer she'd met on the mountaintop, but certainly presented as standoffish, relaxing only slightly as the mage welcomed her with a grin and spread of wings, only to retract again ever so slightly at the joke. Mentally, Evike also withdrew, stifling a flinch and hiss at the realization that the joke very probably had been in poor taste.

Before she could apologize, however, the other spoke, saying that the climb might have been quite a bit easier were she capable of flight - that the path was not so difficult to find, however, was a key bit of information that Eve very much would have liked to explore further at a later date, perhaps when visibility had been resolved by the burning of fog in the morning sun. A beat passed before her haunches dropped to the ground, the tension easing from her shoulders and muscles once again. Again, her jests seemed to sail over the named woman's head, whistling past her ears as she responded quite seriously that the two lights were nothing alike. Exasperation swelled in her breast but did not venture past her thoughts as her face remained a mask of vague contentment. "Perhaps if you wanted to learn I could try to teach you - there is certainly something to be said for natural gifts, like your lights, but we are clever creatures gifted with the ability to learn..." Well, <i>some</i> of them were. Again, Eve pushed the thought from her mind, tilting her head as the girl patted the light. It would give and curl around her toes like smoke, providing just a limited warmth without any real weight or texture. Curiosity was good - the mage could appreciate anyone willing to explore the world so readily.

Vesper spoke in short, concise questions once she introduced herself, though Evike made no question of the girl's uncertainty, instead nodding emphatically along. "Vesper... Meaning... Evening, I believe? I lived here - I live here, I mean. I am Evike Alkot." Again, she nodded as if confirming her own introduction before broaching the topic of habitation. "I <i>will</i> live here-" realizing her explanation had become a three-part train wreck of confusing tense usage, she shook her head and cleared the words away, tucking her wings back as she sought to explain herself. "These woods, Quernus, I wish to settle them. I have... History with this place." Practice made perfect, but expressing such thoughts was still awkward and strange to her - Evike had never intended in her youth to be a lone leader, and yet here she was going against her nature of controlling the spotlight to instead step into its beam. "For now, I see no reason <i>not</i> to live here. These forests have everything a wolf could need... And you? Where do you live?"
Vesper was relieved when the other wolf didn't seem too upset over her response. She even offered words of teaching her of the magic, something Vesper was quite interested in. She had never been particularly gifted and no one had ever offered to teach her, so she never learned. The thought of gaining this new skill ignited an honest interest in this unknown wolf. Previous this verse, she had planned to continue her adventures and never see this wolf again, but sorcery held quite a bit of allure to this talentless wolf. The idea of being a student to this strange wolf made the interest sputter, she didn't want to agree immediately so she spoke of her inability instead. "I doubt I'd be much good at it." Maybe at another time, when she knew more of this strange wolf and wasn't so paranoid that it was an elaborate trap.

The winged wolf made Vesper smile when she stumbled over her words, the mistake made Evike seem more real in a peculiar way. She was becoming less of a stranger with each word spoken and it was becoming more difficult for Vesper to hold her stone-faced appearance. Vesper wasn't sure she wanted any more than an acquaintance though, she didn't want to be relied on as she didn't particularly want to carry any extra weight. It was already difficult enough dealing with her incompetent self, getting dragged in on something that would do nothing to profit her sounded quite miserable.

As Evike explained, Vesper realized the wolf planned to start something here, probably a pack from the way she spoke. She also spoke of some history with this place, Vesper looked at the woods at this point, wondering at all the secrets it hid. She thought of how it would feel to call those tall pines home, it was very different from the warm almost tropical region she had known, but she could admit the evergreens had some charm. Her mind turned to the waters, they were a plentiful fishing grounds, with the natural abundance of the northern sea. Then the question of where she lived touched her mind and she became somewhat saddened as Evike had such a beautiful place to live and she had nothing. "I have lived many places over the past couple seasons, the current one is a rather cozy underwater cave not far from here. It isn't ideal though as it stinks of eel and I have a few rather large sharks as neighbors, I'll probably move on soon. Or at least find a more suitable place around here." She hadn't been planning to stay around, but something made her say the last part, keeping her plans open as they seemed to be shifting with this conversation. Of course after she said it she thought of how she could be asked to keep moving soon if Evike did take over this territory. "May I ask what your history is with Quernus, I mean, I don't want to intrude or anything..." Her words began with confidence, but her curiosity had a habit of messing things up and she didn't want this to be one of them. Unsure of herself, she looked at the ocean, taking comfort in its constant sound and motion. It was similar to the way some wolves took comfort in knowing that the sun would always rise, she had solace that the ocean would never cease its motion.
More and more Evike was becoming convinced that this girl's oddness was the result of youth or some great mistrust and she felt for her, she really, truly did. Her words formed a brief frown to form on the mage's lips with a gentle shake of her head. "I wouldn't say that. You can't know how good you'd be at something until you tried. We can start whenever you like."

It seemed a break in her collected countenance had been what the fish-like Vesper needed to finally crack a smile. It was a small thing, but Evike took it as a success, As she scanned the forests, Eve tipped her head tot he side once more, She spoke of an underwater cave - eels and sharks and more importantly an interest in moving on and out in the world. She confirmed Evike's suspicions that she more than simply swam the ocean, but instead lived there by doing so, and also opened up the possibility of inviting the girl to join her here. There was access to the oceans, and in due time she could provide whatever it was she needed to grow out of that shell - protection would come with followers, compassion with time, and that magic that seemed to interest her so? They could start today!

"This will not be the first pack to settle here." Her answer came automatically, tracking Vesper's gaze to the ocean. Her ears tipped toward it as she explained, keeping the large avelorn at the edge of her sight as she did so. "Only two years old and still living with his mother and he thought that he might make an empire built on fear. <i>Fortunately</i> he failed as I predicted, but not before saturating this place with unpleasant memories." Evike paused briefly, glancing at Vesper as her tone became very serious. "I seek no wars, no enemies, but if he comes back he <i>will</i> be removed. Not only for my safety, but for that of all who gather <i>around</i> me. This place deserves so much better than <i>him</i>."
Vesper was glad she had not came to this land when the male wolf led it. The way Evike described it, even she seemed fearful of him to some extent. She could imagine dragging herself up the cliff and finding the male poised to attack rather than the welcoming wolf she now faced. That would have surely instilled the fear and absolute distrust of all outsiders her false father had tried to seed in her. She tried to imagine starting a pack at the age of two, even a few months later and she doubted she'd be ready to lead her own pack for some time. That probably had a lot to do with her abnormal situation than her age though, it would be difficult to lead a pack when one did not even know how to hunt on land.

Even though she did not live here, Vesper felt glad that the land no longer lived under oppressive rule. Surely the pines had ceased to sag once the cruel ruler had left, the waters become a little less choppy. She would hate to meet him as he probably would remind her of her father, treacherous and crazed. Of course she was assuming quite a bit, she realized he could be a perfectly sane wolf, simply raised in a place where leading with fear was the only way to lead. The only way to really know would be to meet him and she didn't particularly want to do that.

"I'm glad I missed him and found you instead," She spoke with honesty in her tone, turning her eyes to Evike with a facial expression conveying gratitude. "Maybe a few more years and he might know that fear and lies is no way to lead." Her words incidentally suggested of her past as the ebony wolf had mentioned nothing of this alpha lying to his pack. Her thoughts were too busy to notice though as the way Evike spoke of this forest resounded in her. She wanted the sort of pride this female had for her home, even if she didn't say it exactly, Vesper could tell that this place was Evike's home, that it meant something to her. Vesper had had this before and wanted it again, a pride in the place she lived, a fierce protective nature over it. It spoke to what kind of wolf Evike was that she cared, or at least acted like she cared, about the land and her future members. "Can I help?" The Avelorn paused, collecting her thoughts and trying to decipher what she exactly meant by the question that had slipped through her charcoal lips. "I mean, can I help you settle this land?" Her eyes ventured to the tall trees and back to the wolf who sat across her, gaining resolve in what she was saying. "Like you said, the forests have everything a wolf could need and I am tired of traveling the shores as I have been doing. It can be taxing not knowing where you will sleep the night or if where you do decide to sleep is safe." She wanted a home and even if she didn't trust or entirely know this leader, she felt that this avian wolf had a chance to earn it in the future. "I'm not sure how helpful I'll be other than another warm body, but I'll do what you ask me to." She hoped Evike wouldn't ask her to do anything intolerable as she didn't particularly want to go back on her word with this wolf. Vesper enjoyed her company and was willing to help in the hopes of making this place her home, but she had no plans of getting herself hurt or breaking her loose moral rules in the process.
Vesper's gratitude turned her ears back toward the fish-like wolf with a gentle smile. "I am too," conceded the mage, only to shake her head and dismiss the girl's hopeful words. Evike personally doubted a peron's capability to change - hate and force were as much a part of Odysseus as his paws and tails and Evike couldn't imagine that he had much capacity to grow out of it... though there was something in the way that she said it, something in the way she cringed and cowered, that made Evike consider that just maybe, maybe Vesper was not naive to things like this. Perhaps she had some knowledge that Evike could glean from her, and possibly even learn from. At the very least, it didn't hurt to get to know others, especially not when they were so... <i>friendly</i>.

Especially when they wanted to <i>help</i>. Evike's expression went blank as she peered at Vesper, not answering outright for the question seemed one that would answer itself, and just maybe Evike was a bit stunned at how eagerly the girl had placed her interest in her waxing romantic about a bunch of salty trees. The more she spoke and explained herself, the more Eve began to think that even if she wanted to, she wouldn't have been able to reject her. Slowly, the mage rose to all four feet, flapping her wings briefly before slicking them back across her back and flanks. "Of course, Vesper. <i>Of course</i>." A soft chuckle crossed her charcoal lips as she padded toward the woman, slowly as not to startle her, as not to imply any threat in her movements. "If that's truly what you want, I'd be honored for you to align yourself with our cause." Drawing closer, she paused to see if the woman would flee or flinch before deciding this was close enough.

"I won't ask much," she assured carefully, looking to meet Vesper's gaze. "I can teach you what you need to know, or I can find others that can. Perhaps I'm not the best instructor for arts physical, but etiquette, history, sciences, <i>magic</i> - these are things I know very well. Furthermore, any questions, I can answer those if you need." Vague concepts of laws and creeds skated through her mind as she wondered if the other might take it as a prompt and begin grilling her about things. "But we have time until I call everyone together. I'd so like to get to know you better, and you me... perhaps we can learn to trust one another with enough time and understanding, yes?"