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.

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Olya still wasn’t running away, so that must have been a good sign. Even before the other goddess gave her answer, Camille had a sickening feeling that had been a slave. Surely, she wasn’t still? The nod that confirmed her suspicion was met with only a caring mask, after all the maned wolf probably wasn’t looking for pity. If she had known about the marks that claimed her, Cami would probably lose her temper. Not at the timid creature standing below her, but at the ones who had dared to scar her as property. The very idea was cruel and disgusting.

Her auds pricked forward as words flowed from the red lady’s maw. Ah, she was born into her status. Sadly, it made sense to her as to why she was not picked as a warrior. Her fragile frame didn’t seem fitting for fighting. Her eyes narrowed as she started to speak of her first master, it hadn’t skipped her notice how she paused as if afraid speaking of him would cause him to show up. It sickened her to think of Olya’s job, she had basically been a shield that could be thrown away at any point. Like she was…. nothing. How did you get away?

Camille had made up her mind, right then and there. Olya needed a friend, not a master as she said, someone who would see to her interests when no one else would. How could this delicate looking girl not already have a protector, a companion, or anything? Well anything except for a master that is. Her blue soul gates followed Olya’s movement as she leapt across the water and slowly make her way closer to where she draped across the large pillar. The only reaction she gave was to wag her banner, a sign that was meant to be encouraging. It wasn’t until she was closer that her optics spied the dried blood.

You’re hurt! Her shock and concern was evident as she started to push her black and white form up, as if to approach the other huntress. Camille quickly laid her form back down on the smooth surface, even as she threw a sheepish look in Olya’s direction. I’m sorry Olya, it seems that I am getting ahead of myself. Her concern for the lass was partly due to how fragile Cami had deemed her, but it could also be her old pack instincts kicking in. For her taking care of others was natural, if a member was injured then everyone pitched in to help, and she didn’t question the need to help Olya now. How did you get hurt? The maned wolf before her was the only one to give her a second glance, to stay and talk to her, and it was causing old feelings and memories to resurface. Then she had to ask her about what it was like to grown up here, to grow up free. Camille wasn’t sure that her testament would be the best, but she would tell her since she had asked.

My dear, I did not grow up in Blossom Forest. I have only recently traveled here. The place where I was born and raised for most of my life is north of here. Due to being born into a pack, I’m not sure how free you would consider the start of my life. A grin was given here, after all every pack member had to obey and follow the rules of an alpha and ranked wolves. However, she wasn’t mistreated and was instead given attention, and perhaps even special treatment while being there as a pup and young teen. Maybe because she had been the alpha’s pup? My parents, the alphas, had decided it was time for our first real hunt. My brother and I were so excited, we got to participate like the adult wolves. She paused as her mind brought forth images.

It had been a snowy night when they had gone hunting for elk. Everything had been going great when they had managed to find a herd. Her and another pack member’s job was to guide their target, not only towards the rest of the pack but keep it running out in the open. Her brother’s job was to attack with the remaining pack members. It was what they had always been trained to do. I became a loner after being separated from the pack in the hunt. While searching for them I became loss and couldn’t find my way back home. Being a loner was nice in that I had no orders to obey, even being alone was great at first. It only sucked when you get lonely or go hungry. Still, everything I have done is of my own free will. There was no one to stop me, give me orders, or to punish me for disobeying them. I don’t think I would change any of it. Everything that had happened to her made her what she is today.

The separation was caused because she had protected her brother, but she didn’t want to think about that. Cami had enough of remembering the past. I don’t know if anybody has ever asked this of you before dear, but how do you feel about being a slave? It still bothered her that she didn’t know if her master was still around, still controlling her.

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