[ P ] My Favorite Part

Their walk had been silent for the most part, filled with small talk and niceties... it was calming for her in a way, to talk to a stranger like this. This was what normal felt like, or so she imagined. Soon ashed turned to grass and pine underfoot and the scent in the air began to change. She could almost feel the shadows, much more prominent in the daylight, as the pines began to reach above them. She paused a moment, turning down a small trial that would lead to a nice grove where the knew that she would have more freedom to move without running into trees. She was small enough that most of the foliage and low-hanging branches missed her, but every now and then she got clipped. She pretended it didn't bother her, but if he had been watching closely, she was flinching very faintly at every unknown touch.

"Oh, the birds are starting to sing..." she said softly. A trill echoed through the trees and she smiled softly, lifting her chin towards the sound. Soon, it would be dawn.

She walked into the small grove and down the slope before pausing and turning, ears flicking on her head as she listened for the sound of paw steps that let her know he was even still following. "This is the pine forest... its very big. My friends and I live here." They wouldn't mind him being here, she didn't think. So long as he was with her. She turned her muzzle, gaze flicking towards the sound of the nearby river. "If you follow that river north, you'll get to the floodplains and beyond," she told him. It was the best she could offer if he wished to explore beyond this place.

Aurelia's silver eyes returned towards him as she turned her head again and sat down. She ran her paw over the soft grass and a gentle smile settled on her face.

"So why did you come here?"

Usually wolves had a reason for coming here... and usually those reasons weren't too good. But Renner seemed kinder that most men she'd met from here or elsewhere.

OOC: @Renner

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sins and virtues...

Underfoot ash turned to dew-laden moss. Plush grasses pressed against his paws and dampened the ebon' fur about his toes. Dark nails left small impressions in the earth and, as they walked, the crisp scent of pine filled the air. Shrubs and low hanging branches brushed against their backs as they passed. At times, he would be forced to lower his head and ease into a crouch. Aurelia, due to her size, seemed largely unburdened by the foliage. That said, occasionally she would flinch. The movement would be small and barely perceptible, but it was there all the same.

A small frown sloped upon his lips and he felt the urge to guide her, to keep the branches at bay so that she might pass freely. That urge, however, was unrealistic. She was the one guiding him.

As the first notes of birdsong filled the air, Aurelia paused to comment. Happiness was a soothing balm within her voice and, for a moment, Renner did not feel quite as exhausted. He granted her a tired smile that, regrettably, she could not see.

"This is the pine forest... its very big. My friends and I live here," Aurelia began as she padded into a grove. Renner followed after, remembering this time that to communicate with her, he'd have to speak. "It is far lovelier here," he acknowledged. In truth, it reminded him of Tharrin more so than the Mythic Forest. As much as he enjoyed the fervent sounds of life, it all made him a tad sad. The happiest memories were the most nostalgic and, by that same token, the most painful.

Following the sounds of a nearby river, she gave him a fine set of directions. "If you follow that river north, you'll get to the floodplains and beyond." He nodded his head, once more forgetting that affirmation needed to be said aloud. Inside, however, he couldn't say that he was eager to leave the pines. The "floodplains" did not sound wholly hospitable.

Though in need of a rest, he was prepared to continue traveling. After all, he had no desire to be a burden.

Before he could take more than another step toward the river, however, Aurelia flashed him a small smile. Having settled upon the grass, she asked him about his purpose here. Well... it wouldn't hurt to humor her so long as she wished him to.

Easing onto his haunches, he relished in the cool touch of dew against his fur.

"My natal pack had fallen apart," he said with a small sigh. The little twice was not uttered aloud though it echoed within his skull. "Without my brother or his children to care for, I had found myself without a purpose. So, I took to traveling." Dark ears twitched as he glanced at the woman's face.

"Travelers told me of the red wood and, with nothing else to do, I thought it might be nice to see what I'd never seen before." A small laugh left him. "I'd never seen a burned forest either but," he paused, glancing at the green grass. "It was a little more depressing than expected."

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"It is far lovelier here," he said. Aurelia glanced around, as if she were surveying the scenery. "I agree. It smells better, and it's not so quiet... though sometimes the silence is nice."

The beauty of the pines, and other places, were not wholly lost on her.

Her ears flicked as she her him settling nearby, and a part of her wished she could see his face for she wondered if he was already eager to leave her. The thought saddened her, but she supposed she couldn't blame him. "My natal pack had fallen apart," he began. Aurelia's eyes widened. She had never been a part of a pack -- until now. She couldn't imagine what that must have been like for him. "Without my brother or his children to care for, I had found myself without a purpose. So, I took to traveling." Aurelia blinked, finding that an odd thing to say. "Did something... happen to them?" she asked, swallowing her nerves. "It must have been nice to have a large family," she said. "I was an only child and my mother died when I was young and my father just recently returned. It's just me, him and my aunt." she said.

"Travelers told me of the red wood and, with nothing else to do, I thought it might be nice to see what I'd never seen before. I'd never seen a burned forest either but, it was a little more depressing than expected."

At this, she laughed a little. "Oh, I haven't either."

"But they do smell awful, the fresher they are." she said as her laughter tapered off. "Does this look any better?" she asked.

OOC: @Renner

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A myriad of evergreen surrounded him and, despite the darkness, he could imagine the forest's beauty come day. While he had rarely spent time beneath a conifer's canopy, he enjoyed the crisp scent of pine and moss. Aurelia, too, seemed to prefer her home to the red wood's grave. Her world, however, was not one that was dictated by appearances. Rather, scents and sounds threaded the tapestry of her world.

In some respects he was sympathetic, in others, he was jealous.

To not have sight was to be vulnerable. By that same token, she would never witness some of the world's worse cruelties. Her ignorance was both bliss and bane.

When conversation began, the she-wolf had the grace to appear concerned. Silver eyes widened as they blindly searched his face, gliding over planes of ebony and ash. "Did something... happen to them?" Worry lined her words and, for a moment, he felt the urge to nudge her shoulder and brush away her fears. Alas, he had settled at a companionable distance and he was loathe to spook her again.

"My brother's wife passed into the next world and the loss was... difficult." A small sigh slipped free of his lips. He paused before shaking his head and offering gentle smile.

They traded stories, one token of history in recompense for another.

Her story was a sad one that, for the time being, appeared to be approaching a happy ending. "I'm sorry for your loss," he said sincerely. "I lost my mother young as well, though I had family to lean on. I'm sorry you had to survive alone." His heart constricted as a memory, one he often ignored, lifted to the forefront of his consciousness. It was a dream more than anything really, but it was of his mother whispering of his brother's betrayal.

Renner rolled his shoulders.

Though Sinclair had always been odd and eerie, that did not make him capable of murder.

The girl showed a bit of humor as she laughed, remarking on having not seen the redwood either. A bit of heat touched his cheeks as he coughed, feeling a tad guilty. It would be difficult to not bring up sight around her for it was so ingrained in him. Nonetheless, he did not want to lord his ability over her.

"Does this look any better?"

At her question, Renner glanced up at her. His ears perked and, for a moment, he stalled on what to say.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound pretentious." His paws flexed over a bed of fallen nettles. He figured this was a gentle admonishment for his earlier comments.

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Aurelia heard him settling, and when he spoke again she frowned. Hearing that someone had died, even if it was someone she did not know, saddened her. "I'm sorry," she murmured. He didn't go into much detail about the event, but it was clear the whole family felt the loss.

The silver woman's dark ears flicked at his own condolences and her frown softened, but remained. "Thank you," she said. In truth, she was sorry she had to survive alone too. It brought back bitter memories every time she had to think about it. The long, cold nights alone. How she made it was a wonder... and then, the ones who hurt her. She shivered, then pointed her muzzle downward as if she were trying to avoid the bad thoughts from settling in her mind. "I-I'm just glad I'm not alone anymore," she said.

It wasn't like she could tell him about all the terrible things that had happened to her, or explain what it was like to be alone and be her. Could he understand what it was like? Maybe, if he closed his eyes forever. She huffed quietly to herself, the noise almost a quiet laugh. She looked up at his words, blinking at his apology. She looked a little confused, and finally she smiled. "Don't be sorry... it's okay." She reached out to comfort him, and managed to brush her muzzle against his shoulder. "You can talk about being able to see. You know, I can see some things... like lights and really shiny things."

She offered a smile, hoping that he didn't feel like he had done something wrong.

"You don't have to be sorry for being able to do something I can't," she added. It wouldn't be fair of her to get angry over something neither of them could control.

OOC: @Renner

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It was nice to relax and ease his weary paws. They traded pleasantries, offering stories in trade for understanding. Apologies fell like pennies around their paws. Sympathy made soft their voices and soothed the worried, sore hearts that beat within their chests. Renner, at least, had endured a small number of tragedies when compared to his five years. This woman—no, girl—seemed far younger. Maturity had not yet claimed her. There was an innocence in her gaze that age had yet to dull—and at once he felt far too old.

“Your pack owns this forest?” He had been tempted to say “family” but had thought better of it. Though Renner had always lived in familal lands, he’d never been forced to walk alone so early in life. That, and he felt a need to steer the conversation toward more objective fact. As sweet as it was to trade stories, it felt… well, he wasn’t sure how to name it. He enjoyed learning about the girl and he wanted to help her too, but he knew that he was only a stranger. In the gloom, she had seemed older. Now that he could stare at her better, he realized her age—or lackthereof, really. It left him feeling… predatory? But, no, that wasn’t quite right. Perhaps it was the fear of being construed as predatory? Or maybe it was anxiousness over not feeling… fatherly?

Gently, the she-wolf reached out to touch his shoulder. Black ears perked and, for a moment, angled back.

Aurelia continued to speak, laughing lightly before sharing more. She was so sweet, so kind, so—but no, he couldn’t dwell on such things. His heart constricted slightly and he forced a smile on his lips. He was fortunate that she could not see for the sight would have surely hurt her.

“Lights and shiny things?” Renner echoed thoughtfully. “Then perhaps we should meet again on a sunnier day. Perhaps we can tell one another what the world looks like.” He relaxed slightly, hoping to soften the blow of what he’d soon say: a farewell.

“Thank you for saying that,” the man offered with a small exhale. It was good to know that she did not fault him for the mistakes he’d made. “But still, I do not want you to feel lesser.” A weak smile touched his lips. “I’ll need to make it up to you at some point.”

If he was trying to leave, why was he offering her all of these future meetings? To ease his escape or to see her again?

“Speaking of your family, I’m sure they’re worried about you, especially at this hour.”

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"Yes, they do." she said. Anteros had found this the safest place for them and she had simply followed. Wherever her aunt was, she wished to follow. She did not want to be separated from her family ever again, not after being alone for so long.

Her ears flicked as she looked up at him, listening to his voice as he talked about seeing each other again. The thought made her smile, though she didn't know why. She felt like she had made a friend in him and that made her feel... warm. It was so hard to make friends, and he was so kind and thoughtful... her ears flicked and she glanced down shyly. "I'd like that a lot," she said. Aurelia loved hearing about the world around her. It gave her something to imagine and made her feel less like she was missing out on something.

"That's sweet of you..." she said, pausing a moment. "Nobody has ever really cared about that sort of thing. Except for my family, I suppose, but they kind of have to care," she said with a light laugh in her voice. Most of the wolves she'd met were abrasive, or downright cruel. Renner was so... different.

Her dark ears flicked at the mention of her family and them being worried about her; though it sounded more like he was trying to go.

She smiled. "Bored already?" she teased.

"You're right. My aunt is probably worried. I should go," she said, standing up and shaking her silver fur briefly.

The young woman's dark ears flicked as she took a few hesitant steps away from him, then she turned her head slightly to the side. "Remember, follow the river." she said before disappearing into the pines.

OOC: Exit Aurelia @Renner

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sins and virtues...

His heart constricted as the girl’s gaze slid down, her expression melancholic. She was like a rose with the petals withered, for her eyes were like dew upon an ebon’ petal. Aurelia was frail as a flower but unerringly beautiful. Her movements had been graceful as the poppies that swayed in the wind and, he was certain, that there were thorns within her too. Some were buried into her own flesh and caused old wounds to weep. Others—well, he preferred to believe that she would not crumple under pressure. He would have to believe that there was strength beneath that scarred heart or else he’d never leave her.

Tentatively, he pressed his muzzle against her own. The touch was feather-light, intended only to lift her head so that she might sit proudly. Assuming he had succeeded, he would linger for only a second more before withdrawing. “You and I both know that family does not have to care.” His gaze was soft as he searched her face. “Be glad for the ones that do.”

He had been struggling with how he viewed the girl. In this moment, at least, he saw the child there. She was uncertain and she was sad, but not without reason. “And know that you are worth their worry.”

With a somber smile on his lips, he stepped back a few paces. The moment’s severity faded and the she-wolf offered a teasing quip. Though his lips parted to deny her claim, she beat him to it. A hint of mischief glowed within sightless eyes and curled upon curved lips. A soft huff of laughter left the man as he granted her this small victory.

“Follow the river.”
“I shall,” Renner responded, dipping his head as the maiden turned and left.

[ exit renner ]

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