The caves are where it all started. They allowed the first wandering wolves access to the land of Blossom Forest, and afterward housed the monster that had threatened the earliest of inhabitants. The heroes had slain it, yes, but in doing so had also closed off one of the pathways in the caverns, magic blocking one of the many exits to Blossom Forest. But over the years, the original spell has weakened and now the way is clear. What will not only crawl out of the caverns, but erupt from it? The caves now thrum with the ever growing magic wellspring as it spreads out into the land. It is from here that the first vampire of Blossom Forest was corrupted, and it is here that any subsequent vampire will be born. To traverse its paths is dangerous - there is an almost impenetrable darkness, and in that abyss lays many secrets - hidden holes one could fall through, weakened floors, and then of course there is the labyrinthe itself. No one knows what the deeper levels hold - no one has traveled them and survived to tell tales. Not even those who call this place home dares to test their luck by going in deep, deep, deeper. The magic exuding from this place has rearranged the lands - moving packs, changing the terrain. Here the cave looks the same but it is not - it is more dangerous than ever. In addition, outside the mouth of the cave the sacred stones that once stood erect in another place now stand guard. They are colored the most beautiful arrangement of jewel tones, and almost appear to be made of gems themselves, no longer the dull grey they once were. It is within them that all official fights must take place - at the Blican Orlege. Welcome to Drylic Cofa...

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Filius— in a haze of contentment, of safety from some unnamed danger he’d felt breathing down his neck —settled back down and watched his two companions passively. Unwilling to engage further, at a distance, involved entirely with himself. It wasn’t uncomfortable, mostly because he’d already inflicted enough sentiment on them that saying anything else, especially now that it would be intrusive to their conversation, would be borderline sappy. He could already feel the dregs of manliness going syrupy as the words thank you ricocheted around his memory. He didn’t say them enough, hadn’t ever felt the need to. He’d always been the helper before, the hero, the unyielding pair of claws in a losing battle that flipped the odds around and saved the day. He’d consumed enough gratitude to grow sick of it; to slowly and deliberately revoke the “you’re welcome” and replace it with the bristly glare of someone too full of himself to need commendation and too greedy to share any of it. Thank you was just another, albeit less direct way, of forfeiting a win and admitting you were in need of help to begin with.
He winced, involuntarily embarrassed that not so long ago he’d actually been on that level of uptightness. It was definitely cringe worthy, he decided, to have not used manners in so long that you had to mentally steel yourself before practicing them. Well, he had the rest of his life to redeem himself, if there was any comfort to be found in that.
The sun was well over the horizon now, birds enthusiastically singing their tunes while the forest stirred, faunae of every kind starting to sniff out food and exercise their spirits. The wind sounded like a sated yawn to Filius, soothing his fur and beckoning the traditional morning stretch Mizuki had already dove into earlier. And just like that, just from thinking about it, his muscles leapt and twitched and he couldn’t help but spread his toes and straighten his spine. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he went to investigate his friends’ sunrise plans (or companions, he wasn’t sure whether or not dead men walking were permitted friendship) but ended up distracted halfway there by a fluffy white tail disappearing into the underbrush, and oh, he didn’t even want to try to dissuade himself from giving chase, regardless of the consequences. He was just in too good a mood to be logical. Excitement welled up in his chest, eyes flashing as he took off after it. He would have said something along the lines of Hey, Hestia, I’m going to try to catch this rabbit even though I’m not really hungry and probably shouldn’t because of, you know, the whole dying thing, but he had a nagging feeling she wouldn’t approve. Not of his willingness to supersede his disability alone, she was as thrilled by the taboo and ambitious as he’d once been, but when the chances of this excursion being helpful dipped into negative results, so did the chances of her approving. Anyways, it wasn’t exactly taking it out of her hands. They both knew if she really wanted to, if he managed to piss her off enough that she didn’t feel like humoring his disadvantages, she could have him eating dirt within a matter of seconds.
He was fast, and quiet. The woods embraced him like an old friend, bowing under his skillful maneuvering, unwilling to give him up when he put so much effort into making himself as much a part of it as the trees. Even if it wasn’t like it had been before, when he’d been able to clear miles in minutes and wrestle the tusks from wild pigs while his pack howled encouragement and admiration, even if his legs shook and bones groaned with every step, if his eyes watered and throat stung and lungs burned, it was gratifying in the way chewing the skull of your own kill was. Magnificent, empowering, and wild. It didn’t take long for the hare to disappear down a hole, which Filius almost skidded over before sticking his muzzle down it. He scented for a moment longer, shoveling loose soil between his legs in a last-ditch attempt to get at it, but ended up with nothing but a nose full of soil and roots. Sneezing, he collapsed on his side, winded and trembling and grinning from ear to ear. His ankles felt like they were sprained, every one of them, and his insides were acid, head spinning from the rush of oxygen and blood—which he could taste distinctly on his tongue from where he must have bit it, again. While he waited for the forthcoming arrival of Hestia and licked the red from his teeth, recuperating and enthused, he stared down the rabbit hole from his horizontal outlook. The little brown creature was staring back at him, eyes wide and he swore it was smug because it could have been on the other side of the woodland by now by way of tunnel but here it was, wiggling its little whiskers and nose at him meanly. He couldn’t bring himself to be miffed at it. To be fair, he had tried to eat it, and that put quite the kink in their relationship. So he just watched it watching him watch it, admiring the chub of its chest and growing courage and wondering whether or not it was sentient enough to be resentful.

BECAUSE I AM THE SUN,
AND I AM THE MOON.
I WILL SWALLOW YOU WHOLE,
I WILL SPIT YOU OUT,
I WILL BURN YOUR EYES,
AND I WILL CAST AN EVERLASTING DARKNESS,
OVER THIS BARREN FUTURE,
THAT YOU CALL HOPE.




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