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Eternity

Un-Foretold Journey

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It wasn’t long before the screams of the dying became silence, and the clash of steel and roar of lightning faded away, as well. In no time at all, Paris’ small troupe had eliminated nearly all of the men and women that had so recklessly come to claim their lives. Only one of the marauders remained, a young man that had suffered a deep slash to his left thigh. He’d tried to hobble away, but now stared down the blood-covered length of the crown prince’s sword.

He walked the surviving marauder back to the center of the massacre, where the small campfire still burned, and the others had already gathered in waiting for their lord. He was not cruel to the man, but nor was he friendly. The tap of his sword’s tip on his shoulder was only to spur his gait into something less stagnant whenever he slowed to eye all that remained of his raiding party.

“This wasn’t all of them,” Paris said, gesturing back at the bodies with a sweep of his blade. “The reports we received said there were over a hundred, which means they likely have a settlement somewhere in the hills.”

The marauder looked away.

Paris stepped around the young man—more a child, really, barely into his seventeenth summer—until he could look upon his face. “We would like for you to lead us there.”

The child raider scoffed.

“Do you know who I am?” Paris asked.

“Some noble shit,” the boy spat.

Solomon raised his axe and took a step toward the marauder, but Paris stayed his approached. “A noble shit, indeed,” Paris said with a smile. “I am the crown prince of these lands. And while I do not condone of your way of life, that does not change the fact you are my people. I would very much prefer to resolve the issues at hand without further bloodshed, if at all possible.”

“Nothin’ to resolve. The strong live, the weak die.”

“So, your friends, they were all weak?” Paris guided the boy’s eyes to the sea of bodies behind him, watched the determination shatter and fall away from his expression.

“Guessin’.”

“But you, you’re strong?”

The boy didn’t answer.

Paris let his blade rest on the furs covering the marauder’s shoulder, its edge glowing red as the firelight danced across the blood. “But you didn’t survive because you were strong,” he reminded his captive. “You survived because I allowed it; because I want to see if there is another way to go about what I’m trying to achieve. Now, I know there are more of you… and if you make me find them by myself, I will kill every last one of them. The women, the children, the elderly – everyone you have ever known or loved. I will butcher them down to the last uncivilized heathen and salt the earth where we bury their bones so that their souls stay trapped in the soil. As for you?”

Half-turning to face Okina, he nodded for her to come to his side. “I will feed you to my friend here, piece by piece. Show him, Okina.”

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Okina watched from the fire that had been built to light their night and cook their meal. Her body glimmered in the light red, the sticky substance that once flowed through the sea of bodies around them covered much of her body. Still holding the blade that cut down a good portion of their enemies and the sheathe it rested it, she carefully sat them down near a painted stump. 

As Paris led a young marauder around to the middle of the camp site where they stood together among the dead, her eyes sharpened at the way he spoke to her current master. To have the audacity to speak that way to the leader of this land without thinking of the consequences was breathtaking, which lead her que from Paris. 

Stepping forward from the blade she relinquished, Okina began to remove the blood stained clothing. Peeling away the layers and kicking off her boots, her skin began to shimmer. First a shiver ran from the top of her spine downwards, the physical tremor could be seen by her party. The sheer energy it took to manifest her transformation was immense, many newly turned werewolves could only dream of doing this without the full moon. 

Deep inside, Okina called to her ancestors; the spirits of those before her, beckoning them to aid her transformation. To allow her wolf side free, this would be a shock to the boy who knew nothing of her kind. Another shutter of energy ran down her spine sending her to her knees, catching herself by her fingertips she growled a deep bass. First her eyes shifted to an ethereal honey gold, her hair began to grow longer. Okina's body began to contort and twist, and suddenly the outer human body exploded in a shower of gore. 

Shaking out the chunks of her old body from the white fit that covered a new muscled body, Okina stood much taller than the average man. Baring her white fangs at the boy, she flexed the black claws that  protruded from her fingers.

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Startled by the woman’s brutal transformation, the young marauder yelped as he stumbled back. His wounded leg gave out from under him, and he toppled to the blood soaked earth. Kicking with his heels and clawing with his hands, he tried desperately to put distance between himself and the werewolf, only to find himself climbing onto the blanket of bodies behind him.

“There’s nothing glorious in death,” Paris called out after him. He walked toward the injured boy casually, letting his sword sway in the air. “There is no honor in it, either. There’s nothing more than the end.”

Whether from exhaustion or blood loss, the boy’s crawling slowed, then stopped. He settled against the stomach of a man who had been his friend. The other barbarian was missing half his face, exposing the cleanly cut bone of his skull and the gray meat it held. His remaining eye, a brownish red from the blood that had leaked into it, stared at him emptily.

“Is this what you want for the rest of your tribe?” Paris asked, kneeling in front of him. He slammed his sword the through chest of a corpse, keeping his hand wrapped around the hilt for balance. “You saw what we’re capable of. There could be a hundred more of you, and it wouldn’t make a difference.”

The boy nodded.

“Where are they?” Paris asked again.

“The h-hill,” the boy said. “There’s a clearing not half a day’s walk from the bend in Swindler’s River. Bojack had us make home there.”

“Bojack?”

“He’s the chief.”

"Mm." Paris nodded, rising to his feet as he wrenched his sword free from the corpse. He turned to face his wolfish companion, her brilliant white fur still misted with the blood of her former self. It was unlike anything he had ever witnessed before. Magnificent, he mused, looking her over as a man might his greatest masterpiece. You’re more incredible than I could have possibly imagined. Stepping closer, he brushed his gloved fingers over her snout, then down the side of her face. “I’ve decided we’ll use your nose, instead,” he murmured to her. “Kill him. Have your fill.”

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Okina stood larger than the average man, her muscled furred body covered with the mist of her former self. Keeping still where she transformed, watching as Paris advanced on the boy who scrambled away on his hands and feet. Watching as he fell into the mass pile of bodies, with Paris making his point with the stab of his blade into the body with half a face. A wolfish smile appeared over her black lips, as she took a step closer to him as he turned to make his way back to his werewolf. 

The feel of his hand moving along her snout to the side of her face made her amber eyes closed, feeling every hair that covered her face tingle to the touch of him. It was then his words sparked the fire inside her, the beast released was ready to sink her teeth into the weakest of prey before her. 

Wolf eyes stared at the boy who reeked of fear covered in blood, his wound was beginning to fester she could tell. Crouching down slightly, Okina pushed off with her hind legs sending all of her mass into the boy who was now screaming and choking on his saliva. Plunging herself into the boy, his hands and feet fought to kick the full force of the werewolf off of him. Ignoring the attempts to remove the unnatural strength of her from his body, Okina felt her teeth easily sink into his middle. Instead of making his death a quick release, she purposely moved for the softest part of his body. His screams turned blood curdling, sometimes silent as his fingers pulled and pushed at the white fur that hovered over his stomach. 

Okina’s black clawed hands moved to hold the boy by his pelvis, while the other just rested over the front of his throat. She didn’t dare press the claws into his flesh, as she wanted to drag out his pain as long as possible. The beast in her enjoyed the fight the boy was trying to put up, as she moved her nose around the innards of his belly. 

Paris had one thing right, she was starving. The mini battle in the dark covered woods had her excited, and again ready to shed more blood. With one command she tore into the surviving offender, his blood was warm over her tongue as she devoured him. Finally she pulled her head from his abdominal section, the fur of her face dyed the deep crimson. What little fight the boy held was quickly fading away, helping him along she squeezed his throat with little effort. Having eaten her fill of the boy, he was left lying on his back with his ribs exposed and picked to the bone. Parts of his innards she didn’t much care for were left hanging from the torn flesh, his mouth was stained with what little blood tried to escape the other orifice. 

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Paris watched with wild excitement in his eyes as the werewolf beset the young boy. So this is the beast in its natural habitat, he thought as her fangs sank into the boy’s gut, tearing it open. Blood and gore seeped out in rivers, clumpy chunks of flesh gathering on the grass. Not constrained by the expectations of society; no longer pretending to be a person at all. This is what she was born to be. That she’d made his death as gruesome and prolonged as she had spoke volumes to her true nature, the one she kept hidden beneath her glances of indifference or bursts of passion. He wondered, then, how much of this sadism was the beast and how much of it was Okina. Was there truly any difference between the two?

Sheathed his grand blade, Paris dared to make his way closer to the wolf’s butchery. The boy’s screams had turned into wet chokes, clogged in his throat with blood and bile. His eyes were wide, staring up into the starry night; his expression seemed a cross between pain, fear, and surprise at the crown prince’s betrayal. There was no place in his kingdom for the likes of such people. They were savages, incapable of domestication—the only option was to exterminate them, if he was to secure a lasting peace.

At the wolf’s side, Paris stroked a gloved hand through her long mane, drawing his fingers across and down her scalp. “You’ve done well, she-wolf,” he purred, gazing down at the remains of her meal. “I’ll be sure to find you something more savory when we return to the Capital.” There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the malnourished teen hadn’t been much of a delicacy. Looking over his shoulder at the stalwart knight, unmoved by the brutality, Paris nodded in commanded. “Stack the bodies and burn them.”

Solomon grunted in acknowledgement and set to the task. Helaine, however, busied herself with pawing at a small trinket dangling from one of the corpse’s hips.

“Will you stay like this for the night?” Paris asked, returning his attention to the wolf. “I’d like to admire you for longer.”

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Having filled her body with what she could of the malnourished boy, her eyes stared at the bloody remains. Feeling Paris bring his hand through her thick mane of white fur, she turned her amber gold eyes towards the man whose orders brought her to this form. Although she felt no fight in her when asked to do so, as she had a thirst for blood. 

Shifting her eyes over the other two who were busy now, she brought her werewolf form to stand straight on her hind legs. Pulling her thick black claws through the fur around her face pulling bits and pieces of the boy’s flesh from the mangled bloody spots. 

“Yes, I will remain in this form for some time..” The way her lips moved as she spoke was so unnatural for a wolf, but oddly fascinating to watch as she stood in this form. Looking to the place she left her swords, she glanced at the horse that had been tethered away from the mass killing. Knowing the horse may be accustomed to her like this, it would be very difficult for her to pack her blades among the saddle. 

“I will have to wait till I return to human form before I can do much with the horses…” She could smell the tinge of fear from them as they eyed her while they tugged and pulled at the reins that kept them tied to nearby trees. 

Unsure whether or not she should help pile the bodies, she just sat back near Paris. She knew it wasn’t something that was asked of her, but it would move things along much faster. “I can choose how long to stay in this form, so however long you wish..”

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Indeed, it was rather strange seeing a wolf’s face producing human speech. Growing up, Paris had often wondered what it might be like if certain animals—lions, wolves, bears, tigers and the lot—could speak their minds. What it might look like, sound like, to have a person’s voice coming out from behind those razor sharp teeth. Watching Okina now, it was almost comical seeing such a tall, imposing creature speak in his tongue, and the crown prince could not help but chuckle in growing amusement. “Yes, I would rather like that,” he said as she pawed away bits of the boy’s flesh from her face. Paris assisted in the endeavor, swiping away some of the flesh that had managed to make its way down to her breasts and stomach. “It isn’t every day that I get to see a lycan’s transformation.”

Neither Solomon nor Helaine requested help from the other two, more than content to occupy themselves with good conversation as they loaded the bodies into a heap. The knight was accustomed to the grisly work, and Helaine’s days of pilfering about the ruination left behind by marauder raids also made her a worthy candidate. Moreover, the she-cat had developed something of a wild curiosity with her sparring partner—and all the manners of battle he’d yet to teach her. When she was not lounging about the palace, serving her prince, or demanding attention in that fickle way cats do, she was in the training yard, pestering Solomon for yet another lesson in the spear and shield or sword.

Paris took his seat closer to Okina than before, gathering up one of her massive paws in his hands. “So much power,” he said as he fondled her fingers, spread them, weighed her palm and found it daunting. “It’s incredible to think that all of this… raw… untamed power is lurking just beneath such a pretty surface.” The intrigue in his eyes was so heavy, so thick, that it darkened the jade to a rich emerald. He carefully ran his fingers up over her arm, squeezing the taut muscles beneath the fur. “I wonder then, if you were a pureblood, born as you are, which do you consider your true self? The wolf or the mask, darling?”

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It seemed to please Paris that she stayed in her current form, her beast form. Watching as the man she fought side by side with moved closer to her than before, picking up her paw in his hands, allowing him to move her fingers about. Her deep amber eyes watched his hands move over her large paws, finding their way up her muscular arm. 

“It’s not everyday a human witnesses such a transformation and lives to talk about it..” Meeting his gaze, she gave the briefest of wolfy grins. It was hard to believe she was kind of warming up to the man she pledged her service to, a man who seemed to be a beast without a transformation of his own. 

While he continued to touch her wolf body, she glanced over at the other two who happily did as they were ordered to do. The question Paris left with Okina made her eyes move back to him, flexing her fingers carefully. She was pure raw power, a beast that could pop his head like a melon if she so chose. 

“I believe my human side to be my true side, as we are all born in that form..” It was true her kind didn’t turn until they were in their adolescent years, a trying time for parents who must educate their young of their traditions. 

 

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“Interesting,” Paris replied, still captivated by her transformation. “That’s very interesting. I’ve read stories, you see, of other purebreds that are born in their bestial figures. The human skin they wear, it is but a mask, a reflection of how they see the world around them. Weak, timid, shallow.” There was a question in his eyes as he looked over her then, one he would not openly voice, for fear of ruining the foundation built between them. What do you see when you see me? his gaze asked silently. Do you think of me as you do all humans? “I think that I would very much enjoy meeting a wolf of that nature, as well.”

Finished with his exploration of her muscled physique, Paris freed her of his curious fingers and groping palms, stepping back an arm’s length so that he could take in all of her magnificence in a single view. “Well, I must thank you for this display, she-wolf. You’ve certainly made my night.” Perhaps for the first time since she’d met him, the crown prince smiled a true, genuine smile. “I’ll not forget this.” With the wolf herself emblazoned in his mind, he cast his sight to the boy she’d mauled as Ser Solomon hauled what remained of his corpse with the rest. “Not for as long as I live.”

When the bodies were piled high and wide, they were set ablaze, and a thick plume of dark smoke curled up through the woodland canopy. They burned hot and quick, reduced to cinders and embers in moments. Ser Solomon and Helaine had stripped them of what useful furs there were, armor and weapons included, and formed a cache they would bring with them. They’d fetch something of a price at the markets, Paris was sure, and serve as a beggar’s coin. When the stench had been cooked from the air, Solomon returned to finishing their meal.

Paris ate quietly, flicking his gaze between his bowl of stew and the great wolf. “Have you ever seen a dragon before, she-wolf?”

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When Paris was finished exploring her muscles and fur, she watched as he moved arms length from her. A wolfly nod came from her as he spoke of the human physical form being weak, shallow, this was something she could agree with. Although with her own human form it wasn’t like natural humans, she still bore the strength of her wolf form, the intense use of the animal instincts and senses. Speaking of her senses, it was true that the work of forming a human pyre was complete as she wrinkled her very sensitive nose to the smell of burning flesh and hair. 

It was interesting to her to hear such a thank you from the man who seemed to find a way to get what he wanted when he wanted, especially from anyone who made a contract with him. Some would think royalty snobbish, completely unable to say a simple thank you for anything. “It was my pleasure.” Even though she wasn’t exactly accustomed to the type of contract she had made with Paris, she genuinely meant what she said about showing him her true beastial form. 

It was an odd thing to see a massive wolf eating stew from a bowl, but she made it work with her massive paws using the utensils brought by Solomon. Although she didn’t feel much hunger, she made it a choice to taste the stew her employer’s right hand man made for the party. Balancing the bowl in her palm to carefully set it down near the others as they finished, her amber hues shifted to Paris based on the question asked. 

Has she ever met a dragon?  Setting back on her hind legs once more, she would shift closer to Paris allowing herself to be within reaching distance. Glancing up to the stars above them now, she would let out a long sigh. “I haven’t seen one face to face, but I have met the scent of one once in the lowest of caverns in a mountain. They carry a metallic scent to match all the treasure they horde in their dens.” 

@King

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Never one to let a good opportunity pass him by, Paris took silently took advantage of the she-wolf’s close proximity with more pets and stroking. He watched closely to the way she responded when his gloved fingers moved, whether she tensed or relaxed, whether she leaned into the touch or pulled away ever so slightly. He learned the touches she enjoyed and those she found too invasive, too personal, and began steering away from them. It was, of course, all in an attempt better cultivate an already blooming relationship between them—as employer to employee, friend to friend, and perhaps (with time), lord to servant. The thought made him smile.

“Wonderful as always, Solomon,” Paris praised his knight. “It’s good to see that your culinary skills have no diminished. It seems you’ve even learned to rein in that spice.”

Ser Solomon grunted.

“Mm, well, it seems best that we all get some rest. It’s a long journey to the camp, and I doubt they’ll abide by my commands without violence.” Paris reached high above his head with both hands, arching his back until several pops sounded from deep in his spine. “I suspect that won’t be an issue for us, but all the same, I’d prefer our troupe bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we meet our hostile guests.” And they were guests, no doubt in his mind. Calm and charming though Paris preferred to present himself as, these were his lands and no others – ancestors be damned. They would kneel to his rule, or they would die.

Rising to his feet, he brushed his hand down the back of Okina’s head. “You’re free to return to your human state, should you choose. Again, thank you for entertaining my… more peculiar requests.” The crown prince freed a small coin purse from his waist and deposited it beside the enormous wolf, a token of his gilded appreciation. He crossed over to the shadows where the horses had been fastened, still somewhat unsettled by the battle that had unfolded. They grazed anxiously, nearly startled by his presence. He gathered his roll of blanket and returned to the tree splintered by fervor, taking a seat, his back to the bark, and covered himself in warmth of heavy wool.

What a thrilling evening, he thought. Perhaps I’ll have her wear this form more often. We’ll gild the bones of those that would oppose me and fashion her a beautiful collar.

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Receiving passive petting from Paris, Okina didn’t lean in nor move in any way. Although it felt nice, she didn’t believe herself to be a full wolf in the sense of being someone’s pet or play thing. Looking down at her claws, she examined how clean and pristine they shone in the moonlight after tearing through the flesh of the boy who mocked and fought them with the belief he would be triumphant. 

“Yes, whatever it is your cooking Solomon, smells delightful. I can pick out every ingredient you so carefully chose for that stew.” Shrugging her shoulders, Okina stood her full height in her werewolf form. Stretching out her neck, she took the invitation to return to her human state seriously. Not turning back towards the others, she walked out beyond the trees that surrounded their little campsite. Dragging her clawed hand over trunk after trunk till she was far enough from the camp that it made it difficult for a normal person to see her. Satisfied with the distance put between her and the others, she willed her change to human form like she did with her previous change. 

The bones in her face and hands began to crack, breaking and reforming inside the flesh that was slowly changing. Following the smaller bones in her body, the larger ones began their process which would normally rip a scream out of someone who was new to the transformation. Chunks of the old beast type flesh fell from her body leaving a steam emanating into the air around her. With the timing of this change taking much longer than her initial transformation, Okina would come out much cleaner than before. 

Many wondered where a seasoned pureblood werewolf’s mind went during this moment, some believe there was a form of meditation that overcame their minds as the messy and sometimes painful change happened. For Okina it depended on the moment in which the change took place, if she was in immediate danger she didn’t have time to put herself in this meditative state. Now in the moment her mind was watching from above, as she focused her mind’s eye on what would lie before her in the future. 

With the moment’s end, Okina walked back to the campsite shortly after retrieving her clothing. She had left the coin purse where Paris had sat it next to her, returning to pick it up she walked to the horses to pack it away in her saddle bag. Removing her own blanket from her saddle, she moved out from under some trees to allow herself the pleasure of looking that stars a moment before she slept. 

 

@King

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Paris awoke the next morning with purpose still hot in his veins, a gently snoozing she-cat huddled close to his side, her head tucked comfortably beneath his right hand. He stroked his fingers through her luxuriously dark hair, raked at her scalp with the supple leather of his gloves, and traced the profile of her ears to stir her from what he’d hoped had been a good dream. “It’s time to wake, darling,” he whispered down to her, the heaviness of lethargy in his voice hinting at his own exhaustion. Sleeping in the wilds was never restful for the crown prince, no matter how he tried to comfort himself. He awoke stiff as a board every time, and it took longer than it ever should have for him to regain his limberness. “We’ve business to attend to.”

As the she-cat peeled herself off the crown prince’s flank, shuffling off to pester the good knight in their company, Paris rose to his feet and did his best, though with little success, to stretch and shake the stiffness from his limbs without pain. He grimaced as he rolled his shoulders, grunted as he twisted left then right, and groaned as he leaned on his legs, stretching the back of his knees. It was a long, tedious process, but one that left him feeling revitalized with an abundance of youth.

Once the others were fully awake and prepared, he addressed them together. “We’ve not much longer in our journey, but I want to stress the importance of all of your safety. This needn’t be the end-- of this situation or any of you, for that matter. If, by some heathen miracle, we find ourselves outmatched, we are to retreat. Do I make myself clear?” He awaited their nod or spoken word of affirmation. “I will return with the royal guard and crush them beneath my heel for their impudence, should that need arise. But I’ll not suffer the loss of anyone here. You are mine,” he said with a sudden possessiveness often absent in his soft, velvety baritone, “all of you, and I’ll not part with any of you.”

Plucking his sword from its resting place on the earth, the crown prince made way to his steed and climbed atop it. “Let us once again ensure my rule.”

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Okina had been up before the first rays of daylight peaked over the hills, having carefully tended to her horse in preparations for their journey deeper into the unruly lands. Everything looked as it did on Okina before she had made the transformation the day before, her clothing and weapons were neatly secured to her body as she moved about the campsite. 

It wasn’t too far off from where they called a home, a spring of cool water traveled along a well wooded area. The trees were very happily growing near the water that moved with grace over moss covered stones, giving space for tadpoles and other water life to dwell. Okina could smell the crisp smell of the water, drawing her into a place where it pooled into a small watering hole. Kneeling down on the banks of the watering hole, she carefully filled a canteen she carried with her. Admiring the way the water moved from the stream to the pool and out to continue traveling, she wondered how far it went from where she stood. 

As the rays of sunlight began to break over the treeline, it was decidedly a good time to return to the camp which would soon be moving out. Leaving the cool dancing water behind her, Okina secured her canteen at her waist as she walked through the tree line back towards the camp of carnage. 

Breaking through the treeline Okina’s eyes shifted from the pile of corpses that began to bloat and attract flies, then to the man she pledged her servitude to who stood stretching away the night's stiffness. Combing her fingers through her short white hair, she pulled away a loose leaf allowing it to float away as her hand fell back at her side. 

As the others finished preparing, Okina had made it to the group just in time to hear the lecture Paris gave them. Nodding her head in agreeance to not sacrificing herself if things got too hairy for the group, she turned away to find her horse as she did some time before. Checking the saddle straps, she pulled her blades from her waist by the belt allowing them to be attached to the saddle in a way that would give her the ease of drawing them. 

Stepping up in the saddle shoe, Okina flung her leg over the wide beast. Seated as comfortably as one could be in such a hard leather saddle, she pulled the reins turning the massive beast towards the others showing she was ready to follow her employer into battle. 

@King

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Paris eased his mount forward at a leisurely pace, clearly in no hurry to descend on what remained of the marauding tribe. From the previous night’s numbers, they’d sent a hearty size of their men to sweep across the land—it’d been sheer misfortune that they’d happened by the crown prince and his entourage. No doubt some of their forces had remained behind, but the lion’s share of their people were likely women and children, the elderly, none that would pose a threat to so skilled a pack of warriors. So he let his mind wander, fancying the lush, untouched nature of northern Lorean.

“When I am king,” Paris said absently, “I will build a city here, sister to Lyria.” He reached out as they passed a low-hanging branch, gently fingering some of its heavy leaves. “It will need to be done in a manner that does not subtract from this place’s beauty, but rather, adds to it. I wish to preserve as much of this natural paradise as possible.” But it could not remain as lawless and unmanned as it had been. They needed to secure this region once and for all. Perhaps one of his many siblings would not mind commanding this front, freed from the shadows of court.

He’d need to revisit the thought later.

They reached the river by noon, a swollen stretch of water that snaked through the dense forest underbelly. “I believe this is where you earn all of that coin I’ve been so kind as to deposit into your possession, she-wolf.” The crown prince reined in his mount, turning her aside to let the mercenary take lead. She’d assured him that the boy’s scent was fixed to her senses, that she’d be able to track his kin by that alone. “We follow you.” More than putting an end to these insurgences, Paris looked forward to seeing the woman’s talents at work. After all – how many could say they’d seen a lone wolf hunt its prey?

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