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’.



Meat on your bones - they won't know, they won't know . . .

Bewitched by winter, Uyaraut had been a beautiful, though desolate, kingdom. Moisture fanned up from the sluggishly sloshing silver waves brought great cascades of snow as clouds dragged past the cliffs, blanketing the territory’s far-reaching plains in glittering white. The sky hung a bloodless milky grey as far as the eye could see during the glacial hours of daylight . . . only to fade away and reveal the chilly starkness of the night sky. Unencumbered by clouds, stars shone with nearly painful clarity in their indigo velvet backdrop—a tapestry of perfect diamonds that had given Uyaraut it’s sacred name. The moon, especially, glowed here more magnificently than anywhere else in Blossom Forest, as if to mourn the title this land used to carry. For most of the season, at a loss of what to do, Kershov found himself studying the march of its phases through the days. Those bright evenings when it glided round as an open eye across the ocean—pearl-ivory, its edges softened by its own celestial glow; the scimitar sharpness of its crescent days, sliced wafer-thin in the blackness; the abject darkness of its rebirth, a hollow abyss where its luminescence used to hang, making the starlight sprinkled all around that much more dazzling. Cold air gave the sea a subtly different music, as well. Cold water always sounded distinct from warm—at least, it did to the tundra gangster, who had once marked the passage of seasons with the shifting burble of rivers. In winter, the ocean seemed to chop at the air, spraying up foam that froze before it hit its mark. The black jagged cliffs retained their glossy, wet façade, too thick with salt to properly freeze, but elsewhere in Uyaraut frost stole into even the deepest cracks of rock. Harsh . . . and still lovely. A paradise for those tough enough to survive through its pitiless majesty. Kershov told himself it was this enchantment that prevented him from mobilizing his wolves—from taking steps to strengthen the army and forcing Uyaraut to make its mark. Abendrot of the past would have been seething with activity; however, his oceanside home appeared nearly asleep, and the massive dragga had no one to blame but himself.

And yet . . . no guilt chased him when he realized this. Where once adrenalin and avarice would spur his heart, instead Kershov languished in an odd sense of peace. Perhaps Uyaraut did not need to be an army after all. He had whipped Abendrot’s soldiers into shape to prepare for a war that never came; what harm could come from running a pack for the simple enjoyment of protecting its members?

Not that these past months had been incredibly enjoyable. Mabbit had taken to stealing from the territory more and more often; Kershov usually only saw the young hessian as a black blur crossing over the border toward the freelands, the knobs on his head rising up into grand branches like that of a stag. Grey Wind and Macaria were always to be seen draped passionately over each other; the iron-colored warrior gazed at the charcoal she-wolf as if she were his sun, and though Macaria usually wore the musks of other brutes on her pelt, Ker knew that Grey remained her first choice. Since spring had brushed away the worst of winter’s evidence, Kahlan’s niece had made herself scarce . . . and it didn’t take a genius to deduce what kept her busy. Frekari was supposed to join Ker for lessons regularly to erase her phobia of water—when had he seen that firebird last? Had her restless spirit finally gotten bored of Uyaraut? Of her darling “dominant” and all the challenges he offered her? The pallid Alpha had always thought of Kari as a flake, ready to melt away at any inconvenience she didn’t like. He still felt disappointed. At least Frekari might have been able to distract him from the absence of another female in his kingdom, the very wolfess who he knew carried his pups . . .

Athene avoided him expertly. Even when he attempted to run into her—when he designed his patrols to cross her path—he missed by a hair. Her earthy perfume, a tantalizing mixture of sweat and sea air and sweet grass, haunted him like a ghost. A slip of her essence brushing by his muzzle . . . a fresh pawprint in the soft earth to tell him he was just a few minutes too late . . . The only thing that prevented the Ice King from confronting the woman at her den was the knowledge that she did not want to see him, and he wasn’t sure he could force her to entertain him for more than a heartbeat. Clever creature that she was, Athene would find some excuse to dash away—or better yet, tangle his orders into a means to continue off on her own, insisting on efficiency. And honestly . . . Kershov knew he deserved her scorn. Though the night he’d been drugged still swam hazily through his brain, he retained enough detail to choke on the weight of what he’d done. If Athene had not led him into her chambers herself, if her invitation had not been explicit—a contract signed by both parties—the savage way he’d taken her might have been rape. He shuddered now when snippets of his beastly lust passed over his mind; the chemicals in his blood stole his means of gentleness and transformed him into a thing of desperation and pain. His need ruled him so ruthlessly that romance was impossible. The brindled warrioress had made her goal clear: she wanted pups from him, not a relationship. Yet Ker had so wanted to please her, to make the act of conception one of shared passion. Instead, he had behaved no better than the rabid dogs he despised—and the hope of seeing Athene’s face again was always followed with guilt’s bile. He had done worse than disappoint her. He had hurt her . . . one of his own wolves . . . a sin he had promised himself never to commit, even if it meant banishing himself again . . .

Kershov knew Athene was pregnant. Her signature betrayed her, hormones thick in the urine she painted on the border to ward off intruders. He only knew she was about to give birth when the fleeting signs of her movement in Uyaraut began to dwindle—and then disappear. “Come on, old man. Stop being a coward.” Tonight he would find her. If the striped she-soldier did not want him near her, then he would at least leave her a meal to replenish her strength. He owed at least that much to the exceptional female. Evening hunting allowed the Alpha to gather a large mouthful of fat voles still sluggish from their winter sleep; these he carried resolutely in the direction of Athene’s den, head down and posture somber. Prepared for vicious words he deserved—perhaps worse if she weren’t in labor yet and capable of taking her frustrations out on his deserving hide. Moonlight hadn’t even touched the horizon when Kershov finally arrived at Athene’s quarters. Screams punctuated the air, muffled only slightly by the earth that encapsulated her. The tang of birth met his nostrils, a swirl of blood and fluid and exertion. Through it all, the glacial Pharaoh stood outside her room . . . silent, unwilling to interrupt her toil . . . but at last her aching cries faded into gasping pants, accompanied by the tiny squeal of pups. Kershov felt his tail wagging without his permission—and he stopped it immediately, schooling his features into total seriousness. A breeze dragged through the charcoal feathers blanketing his back; he hadn’t noticed the way they lifted like hackles as he waited, expressing the anxiety he thought he’d kept firmly locked inside. Athene hasn’t even seen these yet . . . how will I explain them?

Carefully, Ker placed the bundle of still-warm food at the entrance of Athene’s den, stepping back in case she lunged out to snap at him. “Madame Athene . . . sorry to bother you. Should you find yourself hungry, I have brought sustenance. Ah . . . I hope all went well?”

This was unnatural. Never in his adult life had Kershov been present for the birth of pups. The femmes on the tundra insisted on taking care of their own; males hardly ever saw their offspring if at all. It’s not as if Athene had asked him to be here. Yet he could not pull himself away, could not turn around and walk back to his own bedroom without first ensuring the beautiful lady was alright.

I love your face - just get away.

【King of Uyaraut – tied to none – from far away – father to Kirastasia and Kavik – xathira】

picture credit to xathira | wolf stock to Jessi S. on Dawnthieves | bg stock to Photos for Class


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