When solid ground grows soft with emerald moss and rivulets of black mud, and coffee-colored water pours slowly around the trunks of densely carpeted trees, this marks the beginning of Laod Mor: the swamp of Blossom Forest. Time itself seems to slow to a soporific crawl . . . the humid jungle air grows stagnant, thick with the scent of rich flooded earth and an abundance of green things that can be found nowhere else—except perhaps Caidir Olc. In some areas of the swamp, water rises so high the only way to cross it is to crawl across fallen logs or massive roots arching from their liquid beds; in other places a wolf might wade easily through the mire—or find a fortunate stretch of mostly dry earth. Pieces of the great river, Glaesfaet Sceawere, also slice through from time to time: small falls that feed into surprisingly clear pools, only to terminate into tar-like pits. Of course, Laod Mor’s beauty shines brightest at night. Here, fireflies gather at all times of the year . . . suffusing the shadowy place with millions of twinkling lights.

Those looking to hunt here of course find a myriad of water prey, including caiman, turtles, fish, crayfish, otters, and toads.


a rude awakening

Deep in sleep, Xena was dreaming the most wondrous of dreams. Frolicking through a meadow of sunflowers and poppies, she was consumed with joy as she and her mother loped through field after field on this most glorious of days. The sun and gentle breeze blanketed her with a feeling of contentment and great happiness, and she turned to share her feelings of love with her mother, when…
Suddenly, she was no longer in her wonderful dream, and she quickly became very aware of the crispness of reality – and the presence of another being. Her first inkling was to prepare to defend herself, but she felt no aura of animosity, so instead she laid still and her senses began to collect information on this intruder who had spoiled the time with her memories. Her nostrils flared –mmm, a male – and although she knew that he was a stranger – she did not sense danger. There was no growling nor sounds of challenge, nor did she feel a threat from the paw that had dared to touch her…
Everything she sensed was gathered in the blink of an eye – and as she opened hers, she jumped to her feet and stared into the face of the black, skinny wolf in front of her. Xena’s first impression was that he was weak and miserable, as she both felt and noticed his shaking, and she had no fear of him, so certain was she of her strength and ability of defend herself. She was in her prime, strong and fit, practiced in the ways of survival. While she was waiting for him to speak – in her mind to give her a reason for bothering her – she was already planning her response, ready for anything he offered, good or bad.


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