Shera has been wandering aimlessly for the past two hours. For right now she had nothing to do, and since the sun up the stars were nowhere to be seen. It was time to find something to do. Maybe sparring one of her packmates would keep her entertained enough until night came. As if her wish was answered by some invincible force, her eyes noticed movement far ahead of her. Feeling excitement rushing through her body she called out, trying to stop whoever it was from disappearing:
- Hey you! Stop! Wait for a second!
Shera fell into an extended trot, her long legs carrying her toward her goal with ease. "Please wait," she thought, hoping to catch up with them before they left. Maybe they didn't hear her?
Having her freedom back was… nice. Despite her arguably privileged life prior to being captured and enslaved, Neith had almost forgotten what it was like to be free. Depending on one’s perspective, the entire ordeal had been enlightening. She had always felt trapped as a child, burdened by the expectations that came with her bloodline. Neith never once felt like her own entity, forever eclipsed by her heritage and doomed to remain in the shadow of her kin. It was not until her identity had been truly stripped away that she realized just how good she had it. She supposed she should have been grateful after all most would have come to this realization too late. But she had been given a second chance.
She was still processing her liberation, still contemplating how to make the most of this precious gift she had been given. Her first instinct was to depart and pick back up where she left off as a loner. But that had not gone well the first time… so she decided to linger in Vargas’ “Damasca” for a while longer. She could take her time and decide her future. Meanwhile, she would need to readjust.
Training seemed like a good place to start. She had learned how to defend herself, but as a slave, she had been forced to forsake her physical upkeep and serve. Now, Neith found herself with much catching up to do. A good run was what she needed—simple and easy for determining where she stood in terms of fitness. And with the territories arid climate, she would have a decent challenge.
“Wait for a second!”
The voice instinctively drew her to a startlingly halt, her paws skidding in the sand and kicking up clouds of dust. Immediately she whirled to address whoever called the requested, although she had interpreted it as an order. She had grown accustomed to obeying orders.
“Can I… help you?” She asked warily, looking the approaching she-wolf up and down. She is not your superior—you have no masters anymore. Equals, she chided herself.
The big creme colored female caught up with the dark colored one. Despite the identical height, Shera noticed that her packmate looked a lot smaller from long distances due to her lower weight; if it was a good or bad thing she didn't know. Her packmates polite question surprised her even if she knew that her rank itself could make lower-ranked wolves feel intimidated by her.
- Are you up for a sparring session?- she asked hopefully, her tail standing still behind her as a small shiver runs through her body. Her light amber eyes wander over the dark female made her doubt her packmate`s chance of keeping her own ground. Not because she was weak - Shera reminded herself that there were no weak ones in Damasca- but because she was much heavier than her, not to mention more musculous giving her a clear advantage. If anybody had seen her ask her for a sparring session.... it would definitely look as if she picked the weaker ones to make herself look stronger. Trying to save herself from making a fool of herself or at least recover part of her own pride, she added:
- We don't have to if you would prefer do something else.
She blinked in confusion, not quite comprehending the female’s question. Sparring session? She had not done that in quite some time. Not since she was an adolescent, most likely. Her upbringing consisted of self-defense lessons, though she was always better suited for hunting. Her competitive nature often prevented her from participating in anything she found herself mediocre at. Fighting, while she was capable and competent, did not quite suit her as hunting did. And she enjoyed doing the things that suited her… still… it would not hurt to brush up on her fighting techniques. She was out of practice, after all.
“Uh… sure. Alright.” She shuffled her paws anxiously, not sure how to perceive the social exchange. Or how to proceed. She had been made to obey for months now and struggled with declining an offer. “I’m more of a hunter, however. Just so you know.”
Shera relaxed once she heard the answer but didn't miss the other females nervousness. Making a mental note to herself to not jump on her and pin her to the ground with best and fastest move she could, Shera started out with a simple attack aiming at the dark females paws instead. It would give her some time to figure out the other females capability of fighting but also warm them both up. If it didn't work she would figure out something else instead.
Hunter, she said?
So she was used to hard work. Shera herself preferred using her strength and became Ravager instead. Running or walking long distances was entertaining at most but nothing that catched her interest.
- You enjoy your work as a hunter?-she asked while waiting for the other female to make her move, keeping her eyes on the others body movements to see what they intended to do.
As the female aimed a blow at her paws, Neith evaded, bouncing away from the female on nimble paws. She kept a considerable distance between herself and her opponent, lingering out of range while she eyed the other cautiously. Such was her style—dodging and evading, hoping her opponent tired quickly. Her training as a hunter had developed her endurance.And her patience. A true opportunist, Neith was willing to wait for victory, regardless of how long it might take. Furthermore, her fighting techniques were defensive in nature, not at all offensive. In fact, she hardly cared to strike first at all. Unless, of course, she was angered and lost control of her emotions.
“I use to, yes.” Neith answered her, straightening her posture. Perhaps the female would want to chat instead of spar. The Hawker was not sure which she preferred—both made her skin crawl with anxiety. This sparring match was awkward, to be sure, but Neith was not sure if she would perform better as a conversationalist. She decided she should give it an attempt.
“Before I was captured and made to serve, that is. I have not had the opportunity to hunt since then—truly hunt.” She clarified, giving a slight shrug. “I don’t consider hares, rodents, and lizards to be true prey.” She offered a smile, her piercing blue gaze glittering. “I was actually going out for a run—before you came along. I have not had much time to build my endurance back up. And I miss the feeling of wind in my fur.” She admitted. All the while she remained still, shuffling her paws uncomfortably as she did before. She made no move to attack, and looked rather out of place. As if she did not know what to do. Sure, Neith knew how to fight properly and could certainly hold her own, but only when it was necessary—life or death situations had a way of activating her prowess. However, she appeared particularly useless when it came to play-fighting.
Shera stopped in her tracks when she heard the word "slavery". She knew about Damascas history with slaves and how their current alpha made them free. Meeting one of them was interesting. Once Neith mentioned what she really wanted Shera felt...bad. Not only for what Neith had gone through before she got her freedom, but also what she wanted to do.
-I apologize. Let us forget the sparring- she said, hoping she could somehow repair the damage.
- I may be able to help you with endurance training. I have seen how an old friend of mine was training when I was young, it had some good results.
Unfortunately, the training had been also brutal, and brutal was the last thing this female needed. She would have to make sure to adjust those methods and work her comrade slowly...if she allowed it.
- For now, how about a run instead? Since you want to feel the wind, let us run until we cant carry on anymore.
The she-wolf found herself surprised by the sudden shift in her newfound companion. She was not expecting the other to relinquish the match so soon, nor to cater to her sensitivities. Neith was not sure she, herself, would be so generous. But then again… did she really know herself anymore?
Shoving the thought aside, Neith turned her attention back on the cream-colored she-wolf.
“Oh, sure. I’d prefer that, I think.” She stammered, suddenly feeling self-conscious in the face of such a small act of kindness. “If you don’t mind, that is.” Her shredded ears flicked nervously on top her triangular head. For several moments she studied the other, wondering if this was some trick. While Neith desperately wanted companions, she had trouble deciphering good intentions from the bad, and feeling at ease with those in her company. A side-effect of this internal battle was often blind trust with the occasional visits of paranoia.
“Alright. Let’s get on, then.” Neith agreed with a smile, trying to appear amicable despite her anxiety. Perhaps in another era, Neith would have pointed out that she did not need help. That she had been brought up as an heir, and received the best training her pack could provide. But she was not the same arrogant wolf she had been a season cycle ago. Something in her had been broken… And if this stranger wanted to try and show her techniques to improve her endurance (which has certainly been damaged during her time as a slave in poor conditions), who was she to protest?
Without another word, she bounded away to start the run.
The other females modesty made SHera feel slightly protective. While a hunter probably didnt need a babysitter or bodyguard she was certain this dark pelted comrade of hers would sooner or later need help with something.
- Of course, I don't mind. Running is as much good workout as sparring - she said and once the other one set of, she followed her without question. There was no doubt in her mind the other female had her own goals she wanted to reach, but her long life as a slave was holding her back. There was no way to find out this information without asking about it. Shaking her head a little Shera speed up a little until she was side by side with the huntress.
-I didn't catch your name- she said cheerfully, seeking after a good spot for the mentioned training of endurance.
-I'm Sheranee, delta ravager of Damasca. You may call me Shera.
Her blue gaze darted towards the wolf running at her side, and she found herself blinking in response. It had been quite awhile since someone asked her for her name.
“Neith.” She told her. “I’m a Hawker--obviously.” Allowing herself a short laugh, the she-wolf smiled once more. This time it was more genuine. “Nice to meet you, Shera.” It was a nice enough name. In fact, it sounded more regal than hers. She wondered where the Ravager came from before Damasca--if she had been born into a pack like herself. She even wondered if Shera was an heir too… How many pack-wolves like herself ended up here in this arid, desolate land, forced to serve before Vargas?
“Are you a friend of Vargas?” She asked after several, long strides that carried them into the desert portion of the territory. Fortunately for Neith, her pelt was short and was built more for summers than winters. However, its dark complexion absorbed light and warmth, and would surely become problematic if the temperatures increased.
-Likewise! And...not exactly.Haven't met Vargas yet- the sand-colored female replied, her eyes spotting the perfect place for their upcoming endurance training. Sure, the training she had been observing was to train strength as well...as her friend once said: "without strength, forget about any other skill you want to be good at."
- I haven't been born in Damasca. Came here as jouvenile with a friend of mine- she said with a smile, feeling happy to see Neith smile as well. For now she looked relaxed and that was all Shera asked of her.
- The pack I was born in was....falling apart. My mom and I left said pack and ended up in even less "friendly" pack than my birthpack. Kind of ironic I found freedom in a pack that once had slaves- she said and sighed, moving toward the softer sand in the distance. The memory of her mother almost made her growl.
- I may not know how to be a slave, but I do know how it is to be someone's trading object. For my mom I was the planned "payment" to ensure her bloodline didn't die out, a starter of her legend she wanted to create about her name.
“You joined the pack without even meeting its alpha?” Neith asked her incredulously. Even she had spoken to him briefly--when he freed the slaves and took over Stormhaven. He had offered her a place amongst the pack, to which she quickly accepted. She had not been ready to stand on her own. “That seems… risky…”
Her eyes widened when the female went on to talk about her past. She had only asked if she was familiar with Vargas--she had not been anticipating an entire life story. Even still, she could not help but feel touched by the sentiment. Neith could not help but feel compassion for the she-wolf, and in turn feel obligated to share her own story. Although, she was not quite comfortably explaining the whole of it. After all, Shera was still just a stranger to her. And furthermore… Neith was not in a hurry to forage lasting bonds here in Damasca. She had no idea how long she would remain amongst the roguish group of bandits. And whenever she made up her mind to leave--if she made up her mind to leave--it would be easier to do so without friends to leave behind.
“Ah…” Neith acknowledged her story in a sad voice. She knew about the importance of bloodlines and the expectations that came with them--some less fortunate than others. Neith had been lucky in that regard. With so many brothers and sisters to compete with, the huntress had not grown up in fear of becoming a bartering chip. In fact, her father was particularly fond of his bloodline and his offspring--he would never have sent them off to marry against their wills, or at least she did not think so. He was too proud for that. It only stroked his ego to have rivals seek bonds with his own--and only furthered his superiority complex when his heirs declined their suitors.
“I ran away from home.” She admitted her own past, albeit vaguely. “I was not prepared for the winter, and almost froze to death.” She shook her head, frostbitten ears flopping two and fro. She had no feeling left in them. “A wolf from Stormhaven found me, and after I recovered I was expected to serve them.” The she-wolf gave a shrug of indifference. “So that is what I did. Until Vargas came along and liberated us.”
-Maybe it was. On another hand, do you really see the true-self of the other wolf that wants you to join ones pack?- she asked and looked at Neith while she led them both into the soft, deep sand. She could feel how her paws were sinking into it easily, making it harder to run and forced her body to work harder to keep going.
- Besides. I failed to see anything that would mean Damascas alpha was a tyrant. If he was...let us say crazy.... then the members around him would reflect those ideas. Besides Damasas and my birth-pack, i have ended up in a pack led by a monster. I left that place as fast as I could. Damasca was the only place so far where I felt...happy.
Feeling how her muscles started to really work to keep her going, she wondered how Neith was doing. She mentioned that her endurance wasn't the best... and if Shera was right, the dark female was going to need a break sooner rather than later.
Her brow furrowed as she considered Shera’s remark. She thought she had seen Vargas’ “true self”. A roguish renegade who sneered at the injustice taking hold of his pack and sought to bring freedom to his companions. Perhaps she even admired him… But it was possible that she had gotten it all wrong, and like her new companion pointed out, she might have been given a facade. A mask worn to convince an able body to join a cause. She frowned at the prospect of being lied to and the all-too-familiar sense of loneliness began to seep in again.
“I guess I never thought of that. He seemed genuine enough.” Neither answered, though her voice betrayed her newly acquired uncertainty. “And certainly not a tyrant. He gave me a choice: to come with him, or leave with my freedom.” She added as she raced across the sand. Her slim build kept her light on her feet, the sinking sand did little to slow her pace. Although the heat from the sun above was growing hotter with each passing moment, and she was growing thirsty.
After a few more strides, the female was panting with effort. “I don’t suppose there is a river nearby…” She muttered, mouth dry.
Hearing Neiths question about water Shera decided it was time to slow down and let her catch her breath. Running with dry mouth was not pleasant and thanks to the sun the urge to take a relaxing dip in water to cool down her overheating body.
-If we continue toward Singing Sands we will reach a river. We are probably half a mile away from it by now-she replied and continued forward in trot instead.
- As you can see, deep sand is your best friend when you need to train strength and endurance. The beginning is really annoying, but once you get some weeks of training you will see that running on the normal ground will be nothing. Then you can enjoy the wind for long periods of time.
She nodded without speaking, saving the moisture that still remained in her mouth. The sun was beating down on her dark pelt, and the sand was beginning to irritate her paws. She had never been exposed to sandy terrain in her previous pack, for they had lived in an arguably more hospitable land. Much more greenery than she could find here. Although, she supposed Damasca had its own unique beauty.
Eventually, they cleared the Singing Sands and the river was at last visible in the distance. Relief washed over her, and she excitedly bounded forward. Once she reached the water’s edge, the she-wolf crouched to lap up the cool water. She remained silent, content to let the refreshing liquid bathe her tongue and sooth her dry throat. Water had never been so precious to her.
Shera went slowly in the water feeling how her legs cooled down as soon she was deep enough.With water reaching up to her belly, she lowered her head and started drinking the water in silence, enjoying the scenery before her. One day she would take a run around singing sands and listen to that weird sound it made. Sometimes it was comforting, sometimes it was disturbing. And sometimes it was nothing more than music one could listen to for whatever reason they felt like it.
With her thirst satisfied Shera decided to retreat to shallow water. It wasn't as cool as the deeper parts but it would do the job. Shera laid down on her right side and stretched out before she rolled over to her left side cooled down as well. Once her fur was wet and the uncomfortable feeling created by the heat was gone the female rose to her paws and shook off the sand that got stuck in her fur.
Looking over at her dark follower she noticed Neith looked content where she was. Feeling pretty happy with how this small run ended -even if she still felt slightly uncertain if she had given Neith any advice she hasn't known about or managed to give her some fun time to remember - Shera left the shallow water and laid down in the sand to rest and let her fur dry before she did something else. For now, she was content with where she was.