The wolf pulled out a bottle of wine that he hoped she liked and also a small round bottle of whiskey that was from Art’s favorite collection. He’ll pay him back later for it. The man came out only a moment later carrying a chocolate colored basket wafting in the scents of pies and meats, cheeses, and fruits. Shiloh’s nose led the way to the basket before he could stop himself and tried to peek earning him a smack on the head from the misses. Taking the basket with a muttered thanks and slipping the two bottles into the basket he rose his eye brows with his back to the pair, leaning forward to Belle as they strolled out. “Never get caught in striking distance of that woman I swear, she hits me more than my own mother ever did.”
A fog horn blew from the furthest ship just as they exited, bellowing through the town sounding its take off. Shiloh loved to watch the ships leaving the ports, and his smile brightened as his youthful joy filtered into a soft jog to get to the docks. The ship was glorious, hailing from the mother land with sails of pure white snapped tight in the wind. Shiloh took them to the very edge of the upper dock where his home was below. Tucked away on the lower docks, and a little room of sorts. The ships lines groaned in protest as the sails became to pull the ship from the harbor, and Shiloh pointed to the men running the ropes off the docks as the ship started moving out.
"This is one of the best parts of the job, it takes all those people to make it work. Everyone has their own job, see the men running the lines on the yards? They are setting the sails right so the ship blows out to sea and not crash into the dock once they release the ropes." Men were heaving the billowing sails to the new position by tying off and securing the rope to the ship through rigging on the boat. "There are men on a huge wheel laid horizontal on a dolly that takes four men to turn to raise the anchor. They have to time it off the sails position, or again they can crash."
Shiloh sat at the edge of the dock closest to the actual market but where they could see the ship leaving and stay out of the way. He smiled, hoping he wasn’t boring her with his excitement and helped unpack their picnic as he finished talking, “someone is on the helm, which is the wheel on the upper deck. Controls the rudder, so when all the lines are pulled and set, the anchor is lifted, and all of us, meaning me as well, have released the ropes keeping them attached to the docks the ship takes off slowly, then fades quickly into the horizon. Its one of the more amazing moments you can ever see. All the team work for just leaving.”
He shared a sad sort of smile. One that lead on to a deeper meaning than just watching boats leave, and crew men doing their jobs. Shiloh thrived working with people, but it was moments like this one that made him feel that loss. Three years wasn’t enough time to get over them tossing you out like trash. “But if you ever want to sail I know a guy, pirate but a honor bound kind of guy. Its hard to find him because he is always on the go, but if I see him I can ask. His ship blows all these other ones out of the water,” Shiloh leaned forward, “and he claims its magical, but I know its just him.”
Shiloh sighed contently, pouring her glass of wine and filling a small flask with whiskey and looked out at sea as the ship began to drift away, listening to all the sounds. The crew yelling over the wind, the groaning of all the mechanics. “I hope this isn’t prying but where do you live? I haven’t had a chance to see all of Athoria yet, I have only been here three years. You like it here?”
Once at the beach, Belle sat beside Shiloh at dock’s edge, her attention drawn to the towering ship and its intricate workings in setting to sea. She knew precious little of the running of ships and so listened with real interest to her companion’s explanation. To her untrained eye, it all looked so easy, but she knew that looks almost always deceived.
At his sad smile, she pressed a hand to his in a small show of comfort and solideriaty; she had known loss, too, and knew the lingering ache that came with it. “It might well be enchanted; there are more things on earth than most dare dream … You should know that. I would sail with your honorable pirate, magic ship or no, though I would need a destination.” And where I would wish to sail, she thought, no earthly ship could reach.
Belle accepted the glass of wine, attention piquing at Shiloh’s question. “I have a room outside of Monir City, in the slums.” Her answer was forthright and carried no sense of shame. There were far worse things to be than poor. A finger played at the glass’ edge as she considered her opinion on Athoria.
"It is a beautiful place and there are some truly wonderful people to be found, but it isn’t home and I don’t know that it ever will be. I’ve lived here, now, for …" A small frown creased her brow as she thought on the time. Recent years were difficult for the girl to track; it all passed so quickly and she was still so used to heaven’s reckoning, counting ages as mortals marked single years. "I would say it’s only been months, but it must needs be longer than that. Perhaps one year, maybe two?" She shrugged; the length of time wasn’t important.
"Do you like it here? Is this the land of your birth?"
It wasn’t often Shiloh indulged in the barest touch. It was a sacred moment, like the brush of a knuckle, or the press of lips. It stole his focus differently than with a firm handshake, or wrapped up in a lust filled fantasy. Touch with a Garou, with Shiloh, was also amplified. Like that of all his senses, touch, even the softest sent electricity crawing over his skin. What last seconds becomes his entire world, feeling every muscle stiffen slightly in surprise down his back. How instinctively his hands gripped her hips. He could smell her better this close, intoxicating in rich ozone adding to the shock to his own system as if he was surrounded momentarily in a storm. All over the barest touch. Over before a blink fell over his sight, or an escaped breath past his lips. He wanted another.
Shiloh laughed out loud, feeling a little light on his feet for being over six feet tall and grinned feeling content with the days events. “You are very welcome, come on,” he said offering his elbow and made the quick steps into the Inn on the very far corner of the harbor. Art was the owner of the fine establishment, a porty aged man that Shiloh always assisted whenever he had large shipments of ales and other items too large for the man to carry. It was homey, darkened woods, dotted with drift woods and accented in dark blues of all shades. Candles and a hearth were usually lit in the space but Art loved to keep the windows open. The entire wall on the right side had five picture windows looking out at the grayed ports and ships. He had his favorite seats but he wanted a change in pace and marched up to the man behind the counter to order some food.
"Art! It’s good to see you," he said, quickly reaching over to shake the man’s hand. "This is Belle, we just came back from hunting, could use a good meal. Can you whip something up for us in a basket? I think a picnic on the beach might be in order." The man waved them off, muttering about giving him five minutes and that Shiloh needed to reorganize the barrels of mead before he left. The wolf chuckled, leaping over the counter with ease to move the three heavy objects and turn over the mans stock.
"Excuse me," he said leaning across the bar in flirt after he set the last barrel down, "you come here often?" Shiloh was nothing short of a hardworking goof about ninety percent of the time. A solid eight percent made up pure anguish and angst so black on his soul he felt it pulsing in his darkest moments, and the rest of him was a deadly, frightening monster. Shiloh kept most of that ten percent hidden, not out of shame, more for ease of living. Becoming a ronin came with responsibilities for maintaining his protection. And being hopeless or killing didn’t do anyone any good. Letting a cheeky smile dot in a faint blush on the tips of his ears he asked, "What drinks do you want to bring?"
If she knew just how much of an effect she had on the wolfish man, Belle didn’t let on, though she remained keenly aware of his effect on her. He reminded her, rather sharply, of a lover lost; a man of great light and mirth and beauty who also knew immense darkness and damning secrets. Julian had never been so robust in his joie de vivre, however, and Belle was certain that if she were able to view the two side by side, the physical resemblence would be negliable.
Their kisses, their taste, from what she could tell, were different, though there was a familiarity in the way Shiloh spread wide hands across her hips. All told, it was an enticing package of the known and unknown; of rememberances of happy days and the thrill of days to come.
Happily, she looped an arm through his, hand resting on his elbow as he lead her to the inn and its fabled foods. As soon as they walked through the door, Belle was taken with the charm of the space. She could easily envision Shiloh spinning tales for interested dockworkers or flirting with a pretty barmaid. She offered Art a warm smile and gentle “Good day” when their introductions were made then stepped to one side so as to be out of the way as the men set about their business. Taverns were not in her usual line unless she were desperate for coin and looking for a drunkard’s unguarded purse.
"Only when I’m in the company of men who buy me jaunty hats," came her teasing reply to his flirtatious question. "A bottle of wine should serve unless you have a taste for something stronger …"
Shiloh was use to be surrounded in good company. All of the ports was filled with every walk of life, but he usually found himself blessed with good souls when he allowed himself to found. Smiling at her complement he quickly lowered his head in slight embarrassment, scratching his left ear with a hangnail on his ring ringer. “Thanks,” was all he managed to say as they stood in the market square and he peered up dropping his hand with a deep breath.
Glancing over his shoulder to the massive ships, he shook his head no. “To be honest I expect the only time I ever to be on a ship leaving the ports it will either be for an act of revenge, or myself being taken unwillingly,” he said worrying his lip between his teeth eyes darting quickly from the gray docks to fall on Belle. “Where I come from, there is no going back. Unless they want me, I believe he would always be able to find me. Take me like they had all those years ago, though I would put up a hardy fight.”
His smile was faint but there, as he walked towards a small booth just near the butchers shop that was selling a collection of hats. “I use to be apart of something far greater in England. To me at least, but I messed up, and I paid for it,” he said with the smallest nod to his scars cutting down his back. “You ever have that happen? Made a mistake you felt you were set up for then paid the price?” Clenching his hands slightly at the intrusive question, he nudged her shoulder to off set the darker mood he brought, “m’sorry, hiding who I am all time does things to my cheerful mood, you don’t have to answer that.”
"How’s this look?" he said changing the subject, and putting on a leather hat from the man’s booth. Red as the ripe tomato it did wonders for not accentuating one part of his face. He knew it though, as Shiloh was always putting himself in these situations to see someone laugh. It was the best part. How their face lit up, muscles moving into a smile that reached their eyes. It was always worth it to him, and his chuckle barely suppressed, he grabbed another from the booth and plopped it on her head.
"Oh now that is not fair," he smiled devilishly, boldly tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and readjusting the hat. Shiloh wouldn’t ever admit to his fascination with dotting beautiful women with gifts, but he always some how got his way with it. But the hunting hat was beyond stunning with her hair, and the attire. Nodding in approval, his smile infectious, he pulled out the right amount of coin to hand to the vendor he always liked to help out who sold items on off market days. "Where too? The Inn? Art’s stews are amazing, and they have Jill’s pies that I swear are touched by an angel."
"I was once part of something bigger, too," Belle began, feeling that Shiloh had earned some of the truth of her history. "Far away from here. I broke one of the precious few rules my Father ordered I should follow and now … I have a home and a family I will never see again." A line of melancholic worry creased her brow. "I have heard soldiers speak of phantom pains, of feeling an arm or leg that has been lost. When I lost my home, I lost a piece of myself yet I can still feel it. Or, perhaps, I can still feel the memory of what it was to have had it. I sometimes wonder if that is the true punishment and not the banishment itself."
The playful nudge of shoulder against shoulder broke the rueful rumination the girl had found herself in. She looked up to Shiloh and couldn’t help but smile at the image he presented in the absurd cap. “Perhaps if you were to take on the role of jester …!” Shaking her head in bemusement, Belle removed the ridiculous thing from his head, putting it back to its proper place at the vendor’s stall.
Mouth formed a silent, surprised ‘O’ when he placed the hunter’s cap on her own crown. She didn’t pull back from his touch or raise a protest when he paid for the cap. At first, she didn’t even answer his question as to where they should head next, instead cupping one cheek gently as she pressed a kiss to his lips.
"Thank you, Shiloh," she said, pulling away with a soft smile. "The Inn sounds perfect."
The light shined in through the window in the eastern wall of Ian’s small home as he pulled on his tunic and pulled his belt tight around his waist. The night’s watch had been quiet, with surprisingly little activity even among the drunken mortals. Perhaps it was just the calm before the storm, or perhaps he had just been lucky that night, and so still had a substantial amount of energy left that prevented him from being able to fall asleep after returning home from his shift. Oftentimes he slept until just before midday, and he rarely got to see the goings on of the mid-morning in Brailston.
He stepped outside, a light breeze blowing at his shirt and hair as he walked directly into the gentle gust, men and women alike walking around him in a hurry. He swung his hands carelessly by his side, considering stopping by any taverns that may still be open or just opening for a hearty morning meal with a few large mugs of mead. He happened to know of one where he had yet to go into any sort of drunken rage that would result in him getting banned from it, and it was near the church, where the most dedicated parishioners were already beginning to gather for a morning mass that was to take place.
The large man moved with the crowd, a few here and there bumping into him accidentally in the morning rush. One poor women hit him so hard she was sent flying backward onto her bottom in the middle of the path. Ian immediately helped the women to her feet before she could be trampled or injured, but before he could accept any words of gratitude, he felt something strange yet familiar behind him. It was the presence of another of his kind, something he had not encountered in some time. A holy being, a graceful creature of the Maker.
Ian turned to put a face to the essence, and the face he was met with was amazing, possessing the kind of beauty no mortal creature ever could. “And I thought I was one of a kind in this area of Athoria,” Ian said, smiling at the other angel that seemed to be even younger than him.
That morning saw Belle on her way, like so many other townsfolk, to the day’s mass. The prayers and hymns and sermons were a comforting, familiar thing to the girl, being so far away from home as she was. Gilded icons and stained glass murals, while valuable teaching methods for the mortals around her, provided glimpses of well-known and beloved faces.
She had dressed for the service in a modest gown in shades of green, the color calling to mind mottled leaves in a sylvan glen. A dagger could plainly be seen at her hip, fastened by a leather belt, a concession to the dangers ever present in a mortal city. Her hair she wore loose, but for the twin braids at each temple, pulled back and attached with a bit of ribbon. The bone jewelry she loved so much had been forsaken this day, save for a single ring encircling the first finger of her right hand, a token given to her just the night before.
Just as Ian had sensed her before laying eyes on her, so she had sensed him. Moving through the thronged crowd, Belle had paid little mind to her temporary company, only making acknowledgments as someone begged to be let through or murmuring an apology for a jostled elbow. The presence of another of her kin caught her as surely as if her name, her true name, had been shouted by a thousand voices. It made her stop cold in her steps, eyes scanning the faces she had thus far not seen, searching for that glint of familiarity.
When she found it, she wondered how she had not noticed it before. He was a giant of a man, and beautiful, hair more golden than the sun, eyes of the purest shade of blue. And though his presence was as familiar as a beloved old friend, she could not say she knew who he was.
“I thought much the same,” came her reply, a smile lighting an already radiant face. “A pleasant surprise to be sure! Were you on your way to mass as well, brother … Ahh, forgive me, I do not know your name, though I feel as though I should …”
Shiloh could chase after women all day. Lean legs carrying them away from him, taking with it a trail of a scent unique to hers. He breathed it in, feeling the breeze carry it gently around his body, envelope him in instincts that flared into a wanting smile as she called over her shoulder. Women were beautiful creatures. Soft lines, curves everywhere that made him itch to touch. Power and control wrapped up in a vessel of beauty that was dangerous to the wrong person. Shiloh loved women who were free thinkers, showed determination, strength in their skills because it made them all the more perfect.
It was one on many reasons why he took off in a sprint down the path, to catch up to her, nodding in a bright smile to some passing guards who all knew him. Shiloh didn’t have to hide too much here, except the wolf bit, but his strength and quieter moods were known by all. That and his good heart and skills at repairing and keeping the small port town in good shape.
"See all the molding along the buildings? Added last year, thought it gave the place a little character. I tend to keep up on the maintenance, repair the docks, build new structures and the like," Shiloh weaved naturally around the crowds of people looking for trades. The sea of humans usually walked around him with his more towering height but today it was mostly people milling about. Nothing like on a market day.
"Have you ever been on a ship? I can sail, well I am learning from a few crewmen who come to ports all the time," he said unconsciously walking towards the butchers house. Walking through the back door he tossed the doe upon a massive wooden table and grabbed a rag to wipe down his arms. "He will know its from me," he said chuckling at the oddity of it all. "We all take care of each other so there is not need to be demanding for payment, or set expectations. Kinda nice to be honest. Just like the repairing and keeping the place beautiful, no one asks me, but I can see it keeps them happy, and that in its self makes me want to do it."
Shiloh peered over to Belle as he led her back out to the main square. Buildings of all kinds, circled them, and straight ahead was one of his favorite spots in his home. Pointing to the large round grass area situated just east of the square surrounded in stone, “they call that the ‘beach’, its obviously a joke, but its where I like to nap, or eat lunch. You can meet some interesting people from all over the world who come in to port to sell their goods.”
Belle’s eyes followed the invisible line to where Shiloh directed, taking in the decorative details along the buildings’ exteriors. It looked well-carved, her new-found lupine friend was a man of many talents it would seem, and he was right in his assessment; it added a charm, a homey touch, to the place. She stayed close, as if with his height and bundle and the lack of crowds she could possibly lose him, hand occasionally darting out to touch his arm or shoulder as they made their way across the town’s square.
“No,” she said in response to his question. “I’ve never sailed. You’ll have to show me your seamanship one day.” She waited as he unburdened himself of the doe and cleaned up. His explanation was met with a nod of understanding; in a way, it reminded her of home. Not the slums she currently resided in, but the home she had lost. Everyone had taken care of each other there, too, in their own way. They had been unto a family, their bond to their Maker tying them closer than blood ever could. With that line of parallel thinking came a hint of remorse, of melancholy for what she had lost. Foolish to think of it now and she covered it with a smile.
“I would say the arrangement suits you. The pride you have in this place … Your face shines like the sun when you speak of it. It makes you beautiful.” She busied herself with her own game as she spoke, freeing rabbit’s feet and fox from her bag and laying them beside the doe. They could return for the skins, or so she reckoned, and she would rather not carry the dead on her person for the remainder of the day.
Back in the square the girl again looked to where she was directed. “Do you ever think of joining one of their crews and sailing away from here?”
She knew firsthand that no matter how idyllic a place was, how happy one was in a home, the heart so often yearned for something else.
"Suit yourself," he conceded only somewhat reluctantly. "Suit yourself in steel strong enough to bear the tenebrous tide of this stygian sea through which we are about to wade."
Walking on toward the horizon, from his long shadow, swaying in mottled movements over the lumpy, desiccated remains of the greenery that used to be, was drawn a slender scythe. Its curved talon of a blade bore no evidence of previous use, argent arc catching and casting sunlight in a smattering of flashy shapes and spotted ephemeral glare as it was lifted above his head. A grand sweep of the air before him seemed to split the stitches of existence - Azrael stepped through the slit he had created in that particular moment in time, a slender digit briefly lingering to grimly beckon forth the company of his companion.
The other side marked their arrival in a small Italian village, streets littered with strays that barked and bothered the bulbous figures of rats who scurried between alleyways - from darkness into darkness. He led them down what looked to be a main artery leading to the sickly heart of that struggling encampment, past those strays both alive and dead in odoriferously inhumane piles; past a child loitering on the stoop of their family home, body shaking with the sobs of a sad burden no young, fresh thing should ever have to bear alone. The only comfort that came was the notion of the end they would meet upon their clearly cut path of life, merciful in that they wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
A lone rat slid its wretched, bloated form in front of the otherworldly pair as they walked. From its belly marked with buboes was sputtered the essence of its ailment - an easily divined pattern of blood splatters coloring the dirt in small pools of deep crimson. Azrael simply stepped around it.
"This entire town heaves with finality," he looked aside to the pristine picture of the beautiful girl at his side. "Do you feel it?"
Sofiel obeyed that finger’s beckoning, stepping through the rent in time and space as easily and fearlessly as one stepped through a door. Azrael’s dramatic warning was met with the silent quirking of one eyebrow; though she might have doubted its delivery, she had never known the other to lie and, so, the girl braced herself as best she could for whatever suffering their arrival would see.
However, it was not the sight, but the stench that first assaulted her senses. Disease, decay, death, destruction, all of this came roiling over her in an unseen fog, sickly tendrils catching clothes and hair and skin. It was a familiar scent, though it carried with it no pleasant memories, and Sofiel knew what it was that threatened this place ere she saw a single disfigured rat or mouldering corpse.
Blank façade still holding, she followed Azrael down the street, past the suffering child that tugged at sympathetic heartstrings and foraging feral dogs who suffered in their own way, too. The rat that had blindly, stupidly, intersected their path gave the girl pause. She, in her tender-hearted mercy, waited for it to pass before rejoining Azrael in his wanderings. It seemed cruel, for reasons she could not articulate if she had been called to do so, to disregard the thing and step over it.
She nodded at the question, a hand stealing to her breast to rest over her heart. “Yes.” The word was scarcely above a breath. The disease ravaging this place was as much a part of nature as any singing bird or bright-eyed doe; that it carried an ugliness with it and left desolation in its wake did not change this fact. Sofiel knew this, and she accepted it, though her companion might not believe it so, but seeing the damage done was a difficult thing.
Then, regaining some of her composure and strength, “Every living thing within its walls feels that finality. Rats, dogs, Men … They all know this place has breathed its last, that the time they now live on is borrowed and must needs be returned and soon. Have you come here to claim that debt?”
Shiloh did actually blush at that but he turned as quickly to be manly and powerful, and hoisted the doe upon his shoulders with practiced ease along with his pack. Tucking the legs of the deer around either side of his neck he strutted a few steps past Belle. Taking a deep breath, the sound rushing in his nose in a soft whistle of air as he leaned in just enough to really capture it again.
"You know, once I have someone’s scent…" he paused his steps in front of her spinning around on one foot until he faced her. "I can find them again. But that’s not as much fun as a race," he said walking towards her, eyes glistening with mischief found in a child, and flashing with a ring of gold around the blackness of his eyes. He leaned in for dramatics but his smile broke all pretenses of this being anything serious.
"I can beat you to the meadows outside of the harbor, in a run, with this upon my back," he said wrapping his arms across his chest to lock around the legs to keep the deer in place. "And with it I win a dance after dinner," he said boldly in a whisper of fun, letting his fur ripple over his forearms, down his thighs and calves. The bones in his face shifted slightly, brows furrowing forward in added bone in bulking muscle to hallow his cheeks and elongate his jaw that would be able to accommodate his fangs.
"Try to keep up, and if you win, you can tell me what your prize is." And before he would let her speak he took off. Phasing more into his beast form as his legs elongated, shaping to that of his wolf as he remained on two legs. He plowed through the woods, brush and low handing branches smacking against this skin in small slashes across his skin that healed with every stride closer to his home. He could smell, the sea air, mixed with his unique scent of cinnamon and musk. Letting his ears pitched back for a second in curious wonder if she followed he phased completely human before exploding from the tree line and right into the meadow on the outside of the Ports.
A sea of violets swaying in the gentle breeze coming from the waters edge littered the small patch of greenery, the Ports in full swing of their day but with only two massive ships in the harbor. Docks of pales gray woods over the years reaching out into the blue ocean large enough to house eight of the largest ships in the world. The square was packed with vendors of all kinds, and Shiloh could smell the pies, and foods littering the small stands that made his stomach growl. Small local stores, with their homes above dotted the backdrop past the square and Shiloh found himself in stunned silence over his little home.
Not realizing if Belle won or lost the peaceful moment was stirred by her scent and he faced her with a soft smile momentarily forgetting the bet. “Not much right?” he said, watching the line of carriages leave off the main road heading to all the cities and villages in Athoria. Horses shoes knocking against soft worn cobblestone set in red hardened clay from the sea. “Did you win?” he asked, not really caring if she did or not, just excited to show her everything around his home.
It would hardly have been a fair match no more than a year ago, when Belle was in full possession of all her heavenly powers. Then she could have merely willed herself to the new place, or flown on gilded wing. Now, she had to rely on muscle within and without and its inevitable fatigue. There was hardly a choice, however, as her challenger had gained a headstart and left her with no recourse for protest.
She wouldn’t have balked at the challenge given the chance, anyway, and, even now, as she found herself left behind, all she could think of was the other’s playful nature and brash claims; both brought a smile to her face and she was glad of it. Then, gaining her wits, she set off after him, idly wondering how much of the frienship growing between them would be a game of catch-me-if-you-can.
There were short-cuts she knew, secret paths unknown to Men that she remembered from ages past, but it was to no avail. Shiloh, even with his burden, was the faster of the two. Belle gave good chase, however (and were they counting injuries incurred during the race, she would have been the victor for she avoided all scraping, scratching branches, roots and rocks) and was at the werewolf’s side once more not terribly long after he had arrived at the prescribed finish line.
It was a prettier space than she had expected, purple and green, a salty tang on the light breeze, the ocean and its infiniteness just over the horizon. Looking to the ports and town square she thought she might understand, just a little, the man’s draw to this place; his loyalty to her people. They seemed an honest, hard-working bunch; simple and true, deserving of a richer afterlife than the hardscrabble one they forged on earth.
“It’s beautiful,” she answered, just slightly breathless and cheeks flush from the challenge. Belle shook her head at Shiloh’s next question, a soft breath of laughter accompanying the gesture. “You were too fast for me so you will have your dance. I only hope you don’t have two left feet in this form.” A wink and she was off, feet following a path to the town proper.
“Show me your home,” she called over one shoulder, trusting her wolfish companion would be close behind.
Shiloh found he could listen to her speak all day. Her voice soft spoken, poetic in the little uplifts of certain letters and the drawn out vowels that made him focus on every words leaving her tongue. He didn’t think it possible to be affected by speech, but if they chose to sit under the tree and talk the rest of the day he would be oddly content with that. Swinging slightly from a branch, he lowered easily, holding himself up on one arm before dropping to the ground.
White littered the green grasses, around her feet, and he found himself smiling beautifully at the entire image of the flowering tree in the mists of a terrifying forest. Little velvet petals had found their way lodged in his hair, sliding down his shoulders as he walked over to her space. Moving his hand slowly not wanting to push his boundaries, but willing to walk them, he reached up and pulled a single trapped petal along her bottom lip from the skin and blew it off his finger sending it spiraling into the rest.
"I sure made a mess," he chuckled, "how is it you managed to keep those, less than friendly like me, predators off your trial? I didn’t smell you right away which was new. But not many people wonder this far north. Actually, I have only ever ran into a handle of people over the years up here," he said shaking his head to rid the petals from his hair. "I actually come up this way under Rahu, or the full moon. Safer for most if people stayed away from the area then, even you."
He wasn’t sure why he said that. Maybe a small warning to what he actually was. Though confident she would be a worthy challenger he would hate to run into her up here under those circumstances. Friend or foe didn’t exist to him under those powerful rays. Maybe to other wolves, but not to Shiloh. Not without his maker there to keep him in line. Now his scars itched along his back, the three clawed lines extending from his shoulder blades down below his tailbone. The oval brand barely defaced, scared in a raised brand of his old pack, Silas had only let one claw run through it before he banished him.
Shaking those thoughts as quickly as possible, he played up a bright smile to hide all his inner demons suddenly racing forward to cloud and darken his mood. “How many more animals you need? I can help you catch a few more if you like? or we can walk to the ports, talk, maybe get dinner.” He said it confidently though a small blush crept up his neck that he had went there. Not having much to lose either way, both suggestions would be fun. He just needed a distraction, and didn’t want to see her leave yet.
Belle stood still as Shiloh drew near, her eyes locked on his face, perhaps reading his intentions or, then again, perhaps she only wished to gaze upon his masculine beauty. Lips parted just so as he pulled the errant petal free; fingertips reached up to gingerly touch where his own had just grazed, like a young girl reacting to a first unexpected kiss.
She echoed his laugh with her own, a soft breath of a sound. A stray, stubborn petal remained in his hair and she reached up to pluck it free, tit for tat, fingers combing mussed strands back in place, echoing the gesture imparted when he had been in wolf’s form. A moment came and grew then, in the scarce space between them, where she might have been so bold as to kiss him, but it faded and passed. The huntress stepped back, putting inches that might have been miles between them.
“I’ve traveled these woods for — many, many years,” Belle began and there was a beat, a pause, in her statement. “I know my way and am known. Most predators know to turn at the sight of a hunter.” Her tone turned teasing, playful, with the last remark. “But I will bear your warning in mind and be more mindful of the moon’s phases in future months and keep my travels further south when the moon is full.”
The gratitude was sincere. Though she could feel a closeness growing between them, she had no doubt that, under the maddening influence of a full moon, Shiloh would no longer be the sweet, playful young man before her, but little more than a crazed wild beast. And though she had faced similar foes, and worse, in her time, she had no desire to test her skill against preternaturally strong claws and jaw or to do him harm. His scars had not gone unnoticed, even if they remained unspoken of; such marks, she knew, rarely carried happy memories and she did not wish to cause him distress. They were a point of curiosity, though, and, maybe, she thought, if their friendship continued, she would one day ask for the story.
“What I have is plenty, thank you,” Belle said, returning his smile. “We should return to the ports so you can disperse your gift. The sooner she is prepared, the sooner your families’ cooking pots will be once more full.” Then, not wanting him to think his hopes had been utterly dashed, she laid a hand on his arm. “I can think of no better way to spend the remainder of this day than with you, Shiloh. I would love to see your ports and to dine with you.”