The caves are where it all started. They allowed the first wandering wolves access to the land of Blossom Forest, and afterward housed the monster that had threatened the earliest of inhabitants. The heroes had slain it, yes, but in doing so had also closed off one of the pathways in the caverns, magic blocking one of the many exits to Blossom Forest. But over the years, the original spell has weakened and now the way is clear. What will not only crawl out of the caverns, but erupt from it? The caves now thrum with the ever growing magic wellspring as it spreads out into the land. It is from here that the first vampire of Blossom Forest was corrupted, and it is here that any subsequent vampire will be born. To traverse its paths is dangerous - there is an almost impenetrable darkness, and in that abyss lays many secrets - hidden holes one could fall through, weakened floors, and then of course there is the labyrinthe itself. No one knows what the deeper levels hold - no one has traveled them and survived to tell tales. Not even those who call this place home dares to test their luck by going in deep, deep, deeper. The magic exuding from this place has rearranged the lands - moving packs, changing the terrain. Here the cave looks the same but it is not - it is more dangerous than ever. In addition, outside the mouth of the cave the sacred stones that once stood erect in another place now stand guard. They are colored the most beautiful arrangement of jewel tones, and almost appear to be made of gems themselves, no longer the dull grey they once were. It is within them that all official fights must take place - at the Blican Orlege. Welcome to Drylic Cofa...

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A tight sigh of tentative relief breezed through Thackery’s lungs as he pushed through an opening slightly snugger than the original one he’d entered from. Sight at the cavern’s opening hadn’t been too bad . . . but wandering deeper into the underground system rapidly swallowed any light that might bounce back into the varg’s sensitive retina, until even his predatory night vision no longer helped. The darkness that consumed him now pressed in on all sides like a heavy velvet blanket—a dark weight on his lungs, draped over his face, laying across his spine. Only his auds, twitching this way and that, were of any help; he relied solely on the echoes of his rapid breathing as they slipped back to him. If the sunlit prince had felt panicked and paranoid before, that frantically mixed emotion failed to hold a candle to what anxiety gripped him now. “At least if any of those bastards make it here, they’ll be just as blind . . . stupid shits.” Of course, hopefully his hunters would be trapped chasing their own tails in confusion through the complex labyrinth Thacks had expertly woven in the forest: scent trails doubling back on themselves and certain branches or leaves disturbed just enough to suggest his passing. If they managed to track him this far, then he had only the cavern’s intimidating atmosphere to protect him. If they managed to track him this far . . . well. Then the blue-eyed monster had quite a few more things to worry about than stumbling around and stubbing his toe on an invisible stalagmite.

After a few minutes of blind shuffling and shallow breathing, Thackery sensed he had entered a much larger chamber of the caverns—somewhere with vaulted ceilings and quietly trickling water, a space with so much air and volume it felt as if the earth had taken a gigantic breath. He instantly paused, attempting to reorient himself without use of his blinking azure eyes. It was too open here—he might as well have been shaken loose from his very body and had his essence dumped into a void without any boundaries to tell him where he ended and the darkness began. His tail swished nervously, stirring the dusty air—

A voice. From nowhere. Deep and commanding and larger than life. Thackery swallowed the yelp that wanted to explode from his chest so hard the force of its capture physically strained his vocal cords. He dropped into a crouch, lanterns searching the fathomless space with useless intensity. “What . . . the actual fuck? The words escaped him in an incredulous, terrified, angry gasp, the start of a growl rumbling to life. He went to back up and froze when his hindquarters met with the solid expanse of a wall. Your home? Yeah, sure, nice try. Where are your scent markers then? You couldn’t have bothered to piss at the entrance and warn a guy?”

Thackery lifted his muzzle and drank in the dank, cool air of the cavern . . . but while the chill of damp stone and minerals reached its fingers far back in his throat, he could detect no scent of a stranger. None. Anywhere. In a space like this, he should have been able to glean something from his surroundings . . .

This abrupt and dreadful realization of weakness and disadvantage made the golden hackles on Thackery’s nape lift like needles. Claws clenched reflexively, scraping against smooth rock, and his features instinctively rearranged themselves into a defiant snarl—blue eyes blazing uselessly into the smothering blackness of the cavern. “We’re both blind in here, buddy, so cut the bullshit. I don’t belong to anyone, least of all some egomaniac pervert hiding in a cave.”


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