Where once the southern border of Blossom Forest was made by Leisure Lake, the magical rearrangement of the lands has laid there instead a vast, uncrossable ocean. The shore differs as you travel along it. Tall mountainous cliffs arise on the western part and at one point, the large river that runs through Blossom Forest opens up at its tributary into a well sheltered cove. As you come more eastward, the towering peaks shorten into rocky foothills. A large section of the shore is inaccessible to most, as Uyaraut has claimed it as their own. But if you skirt around their territory, the hills disappear, swallowed up into the land until it is as flat as the eye can see. The vibrant greens dull into short and dry browns and tans, and the land dries and cracks apart until it melds into The Waste - the desert that forms Blossom Forest’s easternmost border.

For those looking to hunt here, there are of course the fish within the ocean, along with crabs, seals and urchins. For on the shore, there are seagulls, herons, and ospreys.




Burning russet brushed against gleaming snow, a close exchange of totally unique scents. Flowers and grass and the spice of cinnamon. Cold stone and old blood and amber. This swap marked the two wolves as belonging to one another—foremost as packmembers, and perhaps . . . something else. Something more. Or not. Neither of them could possibly guess until one of them walked away from this game a winner. In Kershov’s mind, there didn’t necessarily have to be a loser in this delectable fencing of wits, yet if either of the vargs were to possess ultimate control, it had to be him. To give Frekari a sense of equality with himself—her Alpha, her dominant—was tantamount to handing her the first-place trophy on one knee. He refused to make things that easy for her. Ker needed to rock the foundations upon which she stood, push her always into a sense of disorientation, right up to the moment they reached a mutual understanding and trust.

His uncharacteristically tender tone had the kalak’s ears twitching like that of a nervous doe’s, posture alert with amusement or confusion. A miniature grin tugged fleetingly at the handsome half of Kershov’s ruined muzzle; he had surprised her, and now the fox-colored woman had to decide whether to call him out on what she correctly perceived as bullshit or continue on this same baited hook.

Little did the winter dragon realize Kari was about to astonish him.

She drew away, breaking their contact, their mutual trading of cologne . . . and plopped her haunches down in the shallows, splashing Ker’s tall pillars with cold lake water, a soft incredulous chuckle rolling from her smiling maw. She might as well have transformed into a rabbit right in front of him—that’s how unexpected this reaction was. The alabaster gangster could only blink at her. Aghast. Was she . . . was she ending the fun so soon?! Was Frekari seriously about to turn a mirror to his face and blow the whistle, halting their play mid-move? His brow tightened with the beginnings of a frown, disappointment cooling his features like a delicate layer of frost. Oh, damn. I was so hoping she had something else hiding behind her tail. He cleared his throat, preparing to call a truce—only for Frekari to widen those lovely café au lait eyes at him, arranging her veneer into a look of wide-eyed wounded wonder.

“What else could you think of me as?” Inside the poltergeist was scrambling for the cards he’d almost folded, positioning them back in spots where they’d be most devastating; on the outside his head was tilted quizzically, obsidian lanterns glimmering with hidden danger, his tail rising proudly over his back as if to challenge Kari’s innocent words. When she stood, water streaming smoothly down her slender hips and thighs, he took a minute step back to maintain some distance between them—playing the anxious beast all too aware of how he might accidentally harm the delicate maiden. And Frekari’s lyrics . . . they were too clever. Too perfect. Shock brightened into a clinical sort of appreciation, Kershov silently applauding the maned wolfess for her choice of conversation, for the way she expertly layered their game with honest curiosity. It was as if she wore a mask . . . and her face underneath wore the same expression, only faintly different, just changed enough for Kershov to wonder how much of her real self he glimpsed anyway. “Soft?” The adjective dropped from his knives in a quiet scoff. He leered at her, raising his head. Kari creeped ever nearer: fearless and femininely sweet.

She was within striking distance once again. They stood face to face. Ker still felt the water she’d splashed him with dribbling slowly down his columns, stirring the fine hairs of his pelt. “You think I’m the way I am because someone hurt me, Madame Frekari?” He allowed bitterness to tighten his façade into a grimace, teeth bared on full display. “What’s more—you think I’d tell you? Is that the secret you wanted to hear that I’ve never told anyone before? Such greed. And such arrogance, to think I would trust you simply because we both happen to want one another’s bodies so very badly.

Ferocious onyx pools dared her to refute him. Deny me. Tell me you don’t want me, Kari. He ran his tongue languidly over the shredded half of his muzzle, making the scars and exposed cutlery glisten. Abruptly his thunderous countenance shifted—a wicked grin and glittering black diamonds for eyes. “Here’s an idea: instead of me telling you what happened to me . . . why don’t I just show you?”

And he lunged—forelegs outstretched to catch Frekari around her neck and about her shoulders, aiming to push them both into the deeper lake water just beyond where she stood. If she dodged, he would attempt to throw his weight into her side and knock her over, anything to tangle their bodies into a knot the kalak would not soon escape.


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


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