Perhaps changed most of all out of all of the packs is this place. It was stripped out of its forested home and now instead lays at the edge of an ocean. The vast sparkling eternity of the water lays to the south of the land, while the rest of the land is made of rocky outjuttings. Gone are the trees, and all that remains for greenery are the short shrubs that dot the paths in the rock, and the moss that grows thanks to the spray of the waves. Further toward the shore, barnacles are a plenty, and look to cut the pads of those who slip on the wet surface. These extend out into the water itself, and the tough land has multiple caverns scraped into it, providing ample dens for the wolves that live there. Depending on the tide, however, the lower caverns may flood, and the vicious swirling water may prove to be dangerous as there is a strong undertide ready to pull unsuspecting swimmers to their doom. Even the tide itself is powerful enough to push intruders against one cliff or another. The ocean does provide, however, plenty of food for those who brave the waters - there are many breeds of seals and sea lions, though the males that protect each of these are vicious and territorial. There are also turtles that come ashore to breed and to lay their eggs - both the adults and the eggs themselves can provide sustenance to the wolves. But they must take care - the water is deep enough to allow sharks to come to shore from the depths below. Those unwilling to venture the waves or wet their paws with the moist sand of the shore can find snakes and hares in the rocky outcroppings, but they must beware the Komodo dragon and other monitor lizards that perch upon the shore - they are swift and move in groups, not to mention they carry venom in their bite that causes immense pain, paralysis, and prevents blood clotting. This is not the land for the weak of heart or the weak at all really. This is Uyaraut - ‘The Diamond in the Rough’.


FROZEN MASS GRAVE [claiming post]


He had intended to keep to the shadows, patiently biding his time like a python slowly constricting the heartbeat out of its prey . . . each new secret learned a notch tighter in the noose, until his knowledge of how things had changed in Blossom formed a titanium circle of protection. Information most certainly equated to power. If Kershov memorized the right names, if he plumbed enough hidden truths, he would possess enough ammunition to defend himself against most opportunistic curs that might come slavering at his heels. The frost-born warrior might use valuable intel to force enemies to their knees, or coax potential allies to his paw. Surprises held no punch if their target were incapable of surprise—and Ker understood better than most that being prepared for anything won plenty of battles before they even erupted.

So what brought the winter king toward the scent of crumbling castles and absent soldiers? Even as Kershov strode farther away from the safety and anonymity of No Wolf’s Land he questioned his newly reformed sanity, a warning prickle skittering up the icy hairs of his nape. You ran from this, proud fool. His mind whispered half-hearted admonishments with each steady pawstep, though outwardly the enormous varg maintained the posture and focus of a predator on the hunt. You had an army, and you could not protect them. So you abandoned them. What gives you the right to go sniffing for a crown? Above, an evening gust hissed past scantily leaved branches and made them shiver. Crickets chirped their repetitive night-music, silencing with a sudden hush when giant alabaster columns parted the undergrowth. Kershov tilted his crown, listening for other sounds: the distant howl of a wolf, the treacherous crack of a twig beneath a foot, the garbled nonsense of conversation. Other than the shush of wind and clatter of insects . . . the pharaoh detected nothing. His ears flattened against his skull. Why was the land so disturbingly quiet? He’d expected more activity as he traveled toward the packs—but instead the oppressive emptiness of entire territories deserted seemed to swell from either direction, gaping jaws poised to swallow.

It appears I worried for nothing. Quickening his efficient pace, Kershov angled his path toward the barracks he’d run from: Abendrot. The pack he’d ruled with iron fangs for countless seasons, building the ever-shifting army into something feared and revered by all in Blossom Forest. Adrenalin spiked hot and acidic in his veins as that tantalizingly familiar pack-scent poured into his awareness; shadows already darkened by evening grew darker, painting the forest purple; an arrow struck his breast when he captured the faintest ghost of his own cologne on a border marker—and then his heart clenched hard enough to stop when his obsidian portals saw the border. He halted, ears and tail erect, muscles as tense as the wire of a crossbow. There were the softened edges of claw marks slashed into the trees . . . there the path worn down by hundreds of steps . . . the ivory dragon’s vision contracted, flickers of blood and bone and madness stabbing his mind over and over without mercy. He sensed his muzzle pulling into a snarl without his permission—and then the ganglord was stalking purposefully away, suppressing a shudder, his hackles spiked like white spears.

There was no one there. Not a soul. And though Kershov had absconded months before Abendrot had fallen into this silent ruin, he could not prevent an unwelcome ache from settling hard in his chest.

He had thought, for a moment, that perhaps he could stride back into his old kingdom and rake it back to greatness. He knew Abendrot’s halls so intimately well. He knew where all his soldiers used to sleep . . .

And he also knew, with murderous certainty, where he’d buried his final, shameful sin.

Kershov could not rule in a territory where the poltergeist of his insanity still festered in the earth.

The moon had risen round and pale in the velvet blue sky when the snow-breathing gladiator stopped on the edges of a territory he never thought he’d see again. An ironic smirk completed the permanent half-grin carving his façade, humor melting some of the horror that had frozen him at Abendrot. “Bright Moon. Dead, as usual.” He did not bother sifting through the tapestry of scents clinging weakly to the kingdom’s walls; Bright Moon was as good as abandoned. Unlike his previous sanctuary, this plot of vacant land called to Kershov like a warm den. It practically begged him to sink his talons into its soil and revive it—as if it sensed this previous enemy now stood as its only hope. Ker could stay here, in relative safety, as he plotted his next move. This land would give him more than enough room from which to rebuild his strength away from prying eyes. And if some lost beggar came knocking, searching for a home . . . well, then, he’d decide if they were worth his time.

Growling with dark satisfaction, pitch-glass windows gleaming, Kershov strode forward and rubbed his shoulder roughly against the side of an ancient oak, mashing his scent firmly into the wrinkled wood. “Mine now . . .”


【Free – tied to none – father to Kirastasia and Kavik – LSVK】

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