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.


h e a r t . t h r o b

you don't have to love me . . . you don't even have to like me . . . but you WILL respect me

He was so . . . cute! Innocent! Darling! Kira giggled—not a sultry, champagne-bubble noise to stir the male’s guts or fizz through his blood, but an honest-to-goodness burst of flustered nerves, sudden unexpected anxiety hopping around in her stomach. Just as she realized how foolish she sounded, the snowbird attempted to curb her inner butterflies, biting her lip and holding her breath. It did no good. Fluttering wings only beat harder, more wildly, tickling her ribs, and she snorted out a more raucous laugh that nearly had her doubling over. Maple eyes watered at the corners, features pinched into an expression of helpless mirth. “I—I—I’m sorry, I just—” Her voice shook, bouncing with hilarity. Drizzt had not reacted aversely to her touch, so she happily draped her neck across his shoulders and leaned into him—needing his support to remain standing rather than rolling on the ground. “It is lovely, you know, to be chased for once. I just . . . this is too good to be true!” She rubbed her face up and down the thick waves of his ruff, smoothing it in one direction with her muzzle before stirring the cream hairs the other way. Her caresses stirred something new into his cologne she had not noticed before—either because his personal scent was so delicious or because his eyes had distracted her so completely. The earthy richness of damp mud. The tang of fallen leaves rotting into the soil. Blossoms that thrive in humidity and densely filtered sunshine. Kirastasia pushed her nose directly into the hollow between his shoulder blades and breathed deeply, nuzzling him. “You . . . smell like home.” Her tongue planted the most chaste of kisses against his parted fur. In a softer voice, giggles now dissolved, she murmured once more: “You smell like my old home . . . where I was born. Malignant Felicity.”

Abruptly the pallid princess drew away, as if withdrawing herself from the burning agony of a white-hot coal. A lopsided smile that could not quite balance itself wobbled on her lips. “What are the odds, right?! What a small world!” Kirastasia could not name what this realization made her feel. She missed her birth pack, surely . . . it was somewhere she might have ruled, had her heart been ambitious enough to seize the crown that awaited her. But her father had chosen to use his little pawn differently, and each time Kira attempted to reintegrate herself back into Malignant’s mysterious woods the fit seemed worse and worse: herself a puzzle piece with warped edges and ever-shifting curves. It was never the same place she remembered wandering in as a young lass. The throne changed ownership so often it made her head spin. Eventually, Kirastasia understood what had happened . . . the territory had rejected her, just as she’d been rejected everywhere else—explicitly or otherwise. She no longer “belonged” there; she had not thought of Malignant Felicity as “home” for moons. And here came sweet, beautiful Drizzt, with his starlight portals and his adorable innocence—wearing the mark of Malignant like a stain upon that flawless eggshell pelt.

She wasn’t . . . angry. Not disgusted, either—not even slightly. Perhaps . . . afraid? Because if Drizzt were a soldier of the kingdom she once danced in at night and hunted during the day, maybe he would come to sense that Kirastasia wasn’t the One for him. She would fail to fit with him as she failed at that pack. Her heart fluttered fearfully. The vacillating grin upon her maw fixed itself stiffly in place. No . . . if that were to happen, Kira would make herself fit. Already her heart reached greedily for the knight it had only just met. Mine. Forever. He said so: SOULMATE.

“So . . . chasing. I might enjoy that.” The fishnet punkette ordered her banner to wag—and found with delight that this did not require much effort. Her body appeared to be just as willing as her mind to push through its unpleasant pall and dive right back into the exciting present. Gazing directly into Drizzt’s glorious lanterns—amazed that their brightness did not blind her—Kirastasia scooted closer . . . until her paws had inched over the cremero’s toes, holding them in place. Her neck arched so that she might position her muzzle directly in front of his, their noses a whisker-length apart. “Give me to the count of five, handsome. Then we’ll see if you can catch me.” And with a saucy yip the ivory damsel pivoted away—her tail swatting playfully against Drizzt’s face as she turned—and darted into the forest.

why? 'cause I'm the boss!

【Heiress of Malignant – pining for Kahlan – daughter of Kershov x Queens – sister to Kavik – LSVK】


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