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.


my body tells me no

{{live life on the edge}}

Danger had not expected the Bright Moon princess’s ferocious attack. He was used to snide comments and harsh stage whispers that hissed into his sensitive ears like snake venom; he’d hardened himself to those “accidental” shoves and nudges that had him tripping gracelessly over his paws; neglect was simultaneously the easiest and most painful sort of torture to endure, because although cold silences seemed to scoop out his guts like an ice pick he could at least continue doing his own thing. The black brute had never experienced any such petty bullying while under Summer’s noble rule—but it hatred was such an intimate part of his backstory that preparing himself for the worst in others came second nature. If the wolves of Munashii Gekko had fallen over themselves laughing at Danger’s rumpled and skeletal appearance, he wouldn’t have blinked a sightless eye. In fact, he probably would have preferred that. He would have preferred ANYTHING over the unforeseen actions of little Nzhingha.

It was bad enough that she saw fit to verbally flay him in public. That Danger could handle. The dark dragon had been vaguely aware of the fact that Nzingha possessed a rather fiery vocabulary; she’d used her shrilly bossy tone to abuse the bears back at their abandoned territory. During their travels to find a suitable sanctuary, Danger noticed that the young girl walked with a characteristic stomp—nothing so heavy that others would notice, but to his ears she walked with a definite march, a purposeful, aggressive stride that meant she probably had excellent posture and a scorching temper. All of these he was willing to quietly accept. Until the tackling. The all-out, no-holds-barred, honest-to-Fenris tackling. Danger had fallen to the earth, helpless beneath the passionate strength of her savage grooming and blazing tirade. Outwardly he looked about as entertained as someone watching grass grow; inwardly his heart had been slamming against his ribs like a hammer, clenching painfully each time her fangs pulled another clump out of his fur. Why me? he’d thought, dazed, as she fell upon him like a rabid harpy. What did I do to deserve this?

After what felt like an eternity, Nzingha decided he passed for presentable and allowed him to stand—which Danger accomplished with some difficulty, seeing as he felt sure he was about to faint. Females terrified him as a rule, though none had been quite as cruel as those from his original pack. He couldn’t understand them worth shit. And now here was this wolfess, barely more than a whelp, who’d apparently made it her duty to babysit him. Watching him, constantly. With her judging eyes that could see all the things wrong with him that Danger couldn’t.

The sooty soldier was agonizingly aware of her trailing him within Munashii’s walls. He’d carried on in his usual zombielike fashion, shuffling here and there through the woods to gain his bearings . . . but the whole time he felt as if he’d swallowed a colony of fire ants. The gentleman couldn’t figure out whether he should call her on her stalkerish behavior or continue enduring it. Eventually he arrived at an entirely different decision: sneaking out.

Danger rationalized his desperate measures by mentally telling himself he just “needed air.” He totally planned on returning once his pulse had settled back to normal. Totally. Not running away at all. Moving with surprising surety and grace for a useless blind creature, Danger slipped from Munashii’s gates and headed toward the music of Staircase Falls. He hoped the rhythmic crash of water on stone would drown out the confusion and anxiety wrenching at his brain like two predators fighting over a carcass . . .

And that’s when he heard her voice. Clear and confident and demanding an answer. Right behind him.

Danger had paused so that he stood beneath a heavy curtain of mist, paws standing firmly on a carpet of lush emerald moss with a backdrop of shimmering stone to his back. One of the falls arched over the ledge of rock to spill forward into the next pool, creating a window of moving glass that flowed unseen a few feet from his muzzle. He did not turn his skull to face her general direction, and thus cut a rather imposing, brooding figure as he spoke. “Didn’t know taking a fieldtrip was the same as abandonment. My bad.” He tilted his cranium slightly, ears turned to better hear the sheila’s breathing. “Did you really think I’d just . . . leave? Ouch.”

.:.Bright Moon soldier – solitary heart – without a tie – LSVK.:.


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