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}}

The young princess fell silent for a moment, as if genuinely contemplating Danger’s words. Of course, she also could be gaping at him with outrage—not like the sooty zombie was able to read her facial expressions. Uncomfortable in the tense quiet, Danger turned his muzzle back toward the flow of water breezing a few feet from his muzzle and tried to concentrate on the minute beads of dew that misted the tips of his midnight fur. Along with finely honed hearing and a spookily acute sense of smell, the dark dog possessed an uncanny ability to feel things, little miniature cues from the environment that no one else had to take into account. He’d discovered at an early age just how sensitive his flesh was beneath its tattered coat . . . how even the smallest breaths of wind against his flanks or the tickle of grass could tell him so much about the world surrounding him. He swore he could feel the heat of Nzingha’s gaze when she brought it back to his level. His hackles prickled, the water droplets caught in their plumage shimmering slightly. Oh shit. Here it comes.

He closed his feline irises against the disconcerted vitriol spewing like dragonfire from her mouth. Most likely not the best choice of reactions, given that Danger looked as if he were intentionally ignoring everything Nzingha said—which was absolutely not true. Had she honestly felt that worried when she saw his terrible appearance? That was new . . . the whole others-showing-concern-for-him thing. Perhaps she was joking. For goodness sake, now the lass was threatening to TACKLE him into the water! Of course she was kidding!

“Please don’t,” Danger responded, monotone, at the girl’s hastily garbled promise. He expected it to end there. Nzingha was just a little angry with him for running off and not telling her; perhaps the responsible option would be socializing more often so she didn’t constantly have to think he was one step away from deserting everyone forever. That had never been his plan. Did he want to live alone? Well, not really . . . Danger just assumed people were better off without his dead weight, and clearly he could take care of himself. Sort of. Gods, he was certainly shit at this whole interaction business, wasn’t he?

Realizing that he needed to produce more words—and dreading the process—Danger grit his teeth and sighed, tail hanging low between his hind legs. Here goes nothing. He would explain to Zing that he never meant to skip out on the pack, that he respected her too much to get “high and mighty” with her, that he might consider actually talking to her like a normal person for once—

But then his ears flicked toward the unmistakable sound of her paws thumping on moss—

He sensed her smaller mass moving into his space—

And in the same instant he heard the slippery slide of her feet losing their purchase and gliding out from under her, the momentum she’d gathered as she ran at him now carrying her off the edge of the stone—

Danger reached out and bit into Nzingha’s scruff with lightning reflexes that rivaled that of a cat, weight shifting onto his haunches to anchor them to land. However, the faeling was no longer the tiny puppy she’d once been; she had grown into her feminine frame and those additional curves proved enough to drag Danger right over the cliff and into the rushing waters with her. Both wolves landed in the river with graceless splashes. The obsidian cur submerged completely, but his long legs guided him toward the current’s bottom almost immediately. He pushed off from the silt and pebbles without a problem, pillars churning to keep him afloat. To look at his face, one would think Danger had jumped in on purpose to enjoy a brisk swim; the bedraggled brute had been in so many ridiculous situations that nothing seemed to panic him anymore. Well, nothing but conversations with members of the opposite sex. And speaking of the opposite sex—

His head whipped toward the source of Zing’s desperate cries. “Nzingha! If you can hear me, just keep pushing off the bottom of the river with your paws! Hop like a rabbit!” He barked out the command like an army officer, utterly cool and in control. He oriented his lithe body to arrow in Zing’s general direction. In the water it was impossible to track her by scent—Danger had to rely on her gasps for air when she struggled to surface. Eventually he noticed the pulses her thrashing motions sent out into the fast current; blindly he extended his neck so that his muzzle might bury itself into her nape, pulling her above the river.

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


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