Perhaps changed most of all out of all of the packs is this place. It was stripped out of its forested home and now instead lays at the edge of an ocean. The vast sparkling eternity of the water lays to the south of the land, while the rest of the land is made of rocky outjuttings. Gone are the trees, and all that remains for greenery are the short shrubs that dot the paths in the rock, and the moss that grows thanks to the spray of the waves. Further toward the shore, barnacles are a plenty, and look to cut the pads of those who slip on the wet surface. These extend out into the water itself, and the tough land has multiple caverns scraped into it, providing ample dens for the wolves that live there. Depending on the tide, however, the lower caverns may flood, and the vicious swirling water may prove to be dangerous as there is a strong undertide ready to pull unsuspecting swimmers to their doom. Even the tide itself is powerful enough to push intruders against one cliff or another. The ocean does provide, however, plenty of food for those who brave the waters - there are many breeds of seals and sea lions, though the males that protect each of these are vicious and territorial. There are also turtles that come ashore to breed and to lay their eggs - both the adults and the eggs themselves can provide sustenance to the wolves. But they must take care - the water is deep enough to allow sharks to come to shore from the depths below. Those unwilling to venture the waves or wet their paws with the moist sand of the shore can find snakes and hares in the rocky outcroppings, but they must beware the Komodo dragon and other monitor lizards that perch upon the shore - they are swift and move in groups, not to mention they carry venom in their bite that causes immense pain, paralysis, and prevents blood clotting. This is not the land for the weak of heart or the weak at all really. This is Uyaraut - ‘The Diamond in the Rough’.




When Kershov first heard Kahlan’s voice, he had to swallow down a tide of bile—for he initially assumed it was his own mind playing cruel tricks. It took a few seconds for those last wavering notes to tremble into stillness for the arctic outlaw to believe their reality . . . and even then, sitting erect outside the entrance to his den, he found himself hesitating like a pup afraid of the dark. No reason presented itself for his childish worry. Ker knew he should be at least interested in investigating Kahlan’s call; after all, she had been one of the few wolves he trusted and admired before his entire life went to hell. Had this been the past—when Abendrot was a feared army and his ties to other packs were tense and brittle—the Ice King would have already been halfway to the border to greet her before anyone else. His steps would have been light and energetic, reflecting his enthusiasm to converse with the clever healer. In some ways, though she had never been his subject, Kershov thought of Kahlan as a close friend . . . somebody he sought out for the company of her brilliant mind. And also for her—

A jolt snapped through him. An unexpected twist of lust spearing into his pelvic bowl that left him breathless, talons clenching the earth. Kershov began to pant, shaking his head once to clear it. Yes, he enjoyed Kahlan’s presence. But . . . her body? What on earth had caused this base notion to crawl into his ear? Stubbornly, growling to himself, Kershov pushed to his paws and marched steadfastly to Uyaraut’s gates. He was being ridiculous. Though he could not recall ever flirting with the medicine expert during their conversations at Saw Tooth, Ker saw no reason why he should react so negatively to the thought of Kahlan as a sensual being. There was nothing wrong with thinking about her lasciviously—as unpredictable as that idea had been. Perhaps opening himself back up to his packmember’s had also unlocked a natural, yet repressed desire for a she-wolf he hadn’t seen in . . . months. Kahlan never had to know what Kershov had just experienced. He could meet her like an old friend, just as they’d been so long ago, and bury his confusion as far down as it would go.

The moon hung half-full in the night sky, its faint light tracing the edges of clouds and limning Ker’s ivory pelt in silver. Uyaraut had no forest to obscure its paths, but rocky cliffs cut up the horizon. It wasn’t until he began padding downhill that Ker saw a shape slip over the border and slither deeper into the territory—and if it hadn’t been for her perfume reaching his nares, Kershov would have snarled at her to stop.

Instead, he quickened his pace to meet her halfway: tail soaring over his back and obsidian eyes narrowed slightly. “Madame Kahlan . . . it has been too long. But surely not so long you felt you needed to cross my borders just to find me?” He’d never punish her for coming to him. Their relationship was beyond these niceties. Yet he tilted his head at her just the same, considering the serious expression she wore, the determined set of her shoulders . . . “You appear troubled. What brings you . . .”

An alarm blared in his brain—full system lockdown, iron doors slamming with harsh finality across the organized hallways of his mind to prevent any of his abrupt, visceral panic from poisoning and corrupting the carefully controlled efficiency of his thoughts. His inner beast heard the commotion and howled within him, bumping restlessly against its prison. All the sanity Ker had worked so hard to cultivate and protect shivered nauseatingly upon its foundation—not unlike a poorly constructed bridge facing a powerful wind. His body had no safety protocol to rely on, other than rigidly mastered muscle control that managed to freeze his posture when he instinctively wanted to quake; however, underneath his perfectly smooth plumage, the frost-born Pharaoh’s pulse raced as if he’d injected his blood with nitromethane and the motor of his heart charged painfully out of control. Kahlan’s familiar face—which had once prompted respect from him—triggered an emotional landslide. Objectively, the deadly Alpha observed this tumultuous rupture and raced for ways to stop it. To contain it. He struggled to maintain a normal breathing rhythm despite the haze that entered his vision when he focused on Kah’s hard yellow eyes. Seek out the source of this reaction. Identify it. Corner it. Destroy it. Why did her very scent make his jaws clench? Why did thoughts of devouring her—literally, viciously—flash over the backs of his eyes?

What had happened the last time they’d seen each other?

Why couldn’t he remember?

“Kahlan . . .” Honesty was the best policy between friends, right? And despite the fact that Kah approached him the way she’d approach an enemy, or someone who owed her explanations and groveling apologies, Kershov still considered her an invaluable ally. He took a small step back to better look at her, gaze shifting from her paws back to her grave countenance. A vision of flowers and a burned field overlayed his sight, as if a film had been slicked over his cornea to distort the landscape. His inner beast, so firmly tamed after his time away, gave a quiet, persistent rumble. A sound of warning . . . or a longing purr. He shuddered, wondering if the lusty scent of passion flooding his senses was an illusion or a memory. What had happened the last time they’d seen each other? What had Kahlan inspired in him? What had Kershov done? Honesty, honesty . . . “We left on a bad note.” The Pharaoh meant it to be a statement, but his voice lifted ever so slightly at the end to form a question. “There is darkness in our history. I did something . . . we did something. And it must not have been wholly unpleasant, for you are still alive, and I . . . I recall what your back felt like under my abdomen.” He blinked slowly, leaning in so that their gazes were level with one another’s. “Why do you think that is, Kahlan?”


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


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