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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The she-wolf had been beautiful . . . a whole month ago, when her doting pack had still been supplying her with three square meals and a warm bed to keep out the chilling frost of late autumn. Margaurite had been treated like a precious princess—royalty too delicate and valuable to toughen the pads of her paws with mundane labor like hunting or patrolling. Contemplating these grueling tasks for more than a few seconds had the grey wolfess shuddering girlishly as she walked, pert snout wrinkling with disgust. She knew all about the hardships of stalking one’s prey for days before finally, finally catching it at just the right moment—that precious window of time in which the animal’s sides heaved with exhaustion and the protection of its herdmates had long since vanished. The rest of your pack would be similarly weary . . . paws aching from miles upon miles of hiking over unforgiving terrain, claws chipped at the tips, tongues lolling from panting mouths, eyes feverishly bright with a hunger that ripped at one’s innards like a second mouth, eating you from the inside out . . . and then the kill. If you were lucky. Because the band of hunters still had to close in on that target and overpower its desperate, dangerous death-throes, and receiving a hoof to the face or an antler to the gut might mean instant death, and THEN—should someone seize the jugular at last—all that meat had to find its way back to base camp somehow. No wonder hunters died so young. No wonder the elders of the pack each sported an old injury from their younger years, whether that be a hideous scar or a malformed limb. Margaurite understood the hardships of putnar quite intimately.

Not because she had ever hunted for herself, mind you. But her siblings did tell the most detailed stories. Too bad she’d probably never hear them again . . .

“Whatever. I don’t need them. Useless bunch of retarded shits. This and several other poisonous sentences had dripped from her lips as the petite creature wandered her way through the forest. Margie had tried to follow the trail of her siblings after they’d unceremoniously dumped her outside the territory—but those traitorous bastards had purposefully woven an impossible path. The naïve fae had criss-crossed and doubled back and chased her own tail for hours before giving up and marching like a spoiled child in the opposite direction, convinced they would see the error of their ways . . . and THEN they’d be sorry. How exactly was it HER fault that she’d been born special? Beautiful? Breakable? Wolves such as herself could not waste away attempting to support themselves . . . that was the job of the pack. A pack took care of all of its members. And SHE was one of those members! How DARE they decide Margaurite was no longer worthy of her distinctive treatment? Margaurite, you’re eating too much. Margaurite, the elders need to use that den. Margaurite, you have to start stepping up. Blah, blah, bloody-fucking-blah. What about poor Margie, huh? Am I supposed to starve, or something? Sleep out in the cold?”

As if to answer, an aggressive rumble of thunder rolled like a beastly snarl across the heavens, resonating within the femme’s slender bones. She paused to glare up at the sky, churning a furious charcoal-grey between the branches, and grated out a growl of her own. No sunlight lanced past the thunderheads to light her way. No promising scent of warmth lifted her sagging spirits. Had the entire world decided to make her miserable? “If you’re going to rain, you better do it! I don’t have all night!”

The storm heard her cries. All at once an ocean’s worth of precipitation hammered the woods—rain sheeting down from blackened clouds—and Margaurite unleashed a pitiful howl not unlike that of a child’s. Her beautiful coat of soft grey and sweet cream immediately plastered itself to her little silhouette, its hydrophobic abilities utterly saturated. She shook and shuddered and whimpered in place, a pathetic drowned rat, yellow eyes shedding copious frustrated crocodile tears. Right about now should be the time someone sprinted to rescue her. Margie’s tender paws hurt, and her legs were sore, and her tummy clenched in hunger—and she was done, damn it. After hiccupping pitifully for a minute or two, Margie threw her head back and bawled at the very top of her lungs, hard enough to rival the storm’s furious cacophony. Hatred seethed in her breast, heating her even while she shivered from the cold. Her siblings would pay for this. Every last one of them. When she found her way back to her territory, she would ream them in front of their parents until their ears burned and their tails froze permanently between their legs, and she’d force them to beg for her forgiveness. Nobody betrayed the pack’s Darling and skipped off scot-free. I WILL return, and they will have to lick my individual toes if they don’t want to be thrown out just like they threw out ME.

A normal wolf would marvel at Margaurite’s choice of dealing with her current situation. No other predator with functioning survival instincts would think to sit in the middle of the forest, mud seeping into their drenched fur, while stretching their maws into childish screams. But this is how Margie had dealt with basically any situation that failed to tickle her fancy. Sooner or later, someone always rescued her. She saw no reason things should be any different now. And as minutes stretched into an hour, and when a soft voice finally interrupted her sobbing, the grey lass smugly determined she was right.

“Excuse me miss . . . are you okay?”

Chest heaving with sorrow, Margaurite turned her glimmering saffron portals toward where she heard the stranger’s cautious tones. The torrential assault turned the brute’s shape hazy with mist . . . he appeared to her as a handsome gold-toned specter, peeling away from the shadows of the trees. And even more astonishing than the unique shade of his fur . . . were his eyes. Twin rubies that gleamed with a stunning light of their own, a shocking scarlet that sliced effortlessly into the storm’s gloom and captured her gaze the way a flame captures a moth. Margie gasped—instantly drawn in. She wanted to drown in those brilliant lurid pools of blood. She wanted those incredible lanterns to stare at her and only her for the rest of her life.

“H-hello there?” she called out with false uncertainty, hunching her posture to make her appear even smaller and weaker. “I’m lost, can you help me?”


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