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poisoned leaves in a mason jar — Dead Empress Backwater 
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Played by Greyer who has 134 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater VI. Medic
Oleander Valle
September 29th; Morning; Overcast Clouds; 49.91 ° F, 9.95 ° C.

Change was on the wind. In the air the breeze had turned cooler; and, around him, his empress trees had started to shift colors. The freshwater mussels were still plentiful; but, now was the time to mind just how much was left. Everything had to balance. This much Oleander knew now.

Off-white paws brought him toward the recognizable scent of his parents. He peered through the backwater trees, wondering if either of them would circle back. The recent trail of one of the pack wolves signified that he had reached the border. Behind him laid the wilderness; in front of him stood the familiar places he knew from childhood. He wondered how many of them remained, if Violet and Marguerite had returned, if Archer and Kateri managed to come back... if his mother and father would be happy to see him.

He stood for some time, pondering and recounting why he had broken away from them. How he had needed a break from the mundane and ever-shifting hierarchy. His half-siblings were a little older by now, capable of more than mewling and sleeping. The thought flitted across his mind and put a small smile on his face. If he only applied himself, maybe he would find a companion in one of them. Have the proper friendship as there should be between siblings. He wiped the simper across his face. First things first. He would have to reintegrate.

Two hefty barks served as his calling card, an announcement that he had finally come home.
Played by Ghost who has 625 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater I. Leader
Viorel Valle

Viorel a year ago would have been sleeping at this time of the day, but the wolf wasn’t sleeping much these days. He shrugged off any concern that might be voiced of this matter, genuinely unable to sleep most of the time and not feeling tired. But, with the surge of energy had come more positivity than there had been before and washed the anger away though left a deep shame and guilt over his behaviour.

He had been deeply ingrained in conversation with Eros who was trying - fruitlessly - to explain the usage of some of the herbs in the infirmary. The leader had been trying to learn more, especially with so many of their members coughing from the smoke but it all seemed to go over his head. Viorel was happy to have a reason to excuse himself as a calling bark reached his ears and he dipped out of the den quickly.

It wasn’t until he was part of the way there that something in the man’s brain clicked and he realized who had been calling for him. His paws slowed for just a moment in confusion before he began to run. By the time Oleander came into view, his lungs burned from effort but a bright smile lit up his muzzle. He called out a bark of his own, joyous at the sight of his son.

[Image: s38i5ZS.png]
Played by Greyer who has 134 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater VI. Medic
Oleander Valle
Oleander waited with bated breath. Once or twice, his ears flicked back, self-doubt gnawing at his nerves. He had to shake his head, roll his shoulders, shift his weight... He was a Valle. That meant something.

His ears came forward, snapping to attention at the rustling of disturbed twigs. He turned his head in time to see his father's face change from eagerness to cognizance. Oleander couldn't help it, his tail rose into a wide wag and he moved to lessen the distance between them. Viorel being this happy to see him could only mean one thing: he had been missed.

Pale gold eyes glossed over as he beheld the Leader's face. "Dad," there was a breath of relief and then a crash of a wave of remorse. "Dad, I-I'm sorry for leaving without a word." He took a step forward, keeping a wolf's length between them. His eyes averted out of respect and his tail lowered while keeping it's sway. "I don't know what came over me."
they say pray it away, i swear,
OLEANDER VALLE
that I'll never be a saint, no way
Played by Ghost who has 625 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater I. Leader
Viorel Valle

The Valle man ignored any social pretense of leader vs. joiner and pulled his son into a deep embrace, wrapping his head around Oleander’s shoulders. He had a little bit of difficulty doing so since the child, really a man, had long since grown taller than his father. But, he managed. After a long moment he stepped back, looking the white pelt over carefully for any sign of injury, or anything else that may have prevented him from returning home.

A flicker of disappointment rose to his eyes upon processing the words that Oleander had just chosen to leave and stay away for as long as he did. Viorel had vowed not long ago that he was done letting people have a free ride and come and go as they pleased, but this felt different. He had gone, and he had come home, and had not made a habit of doing so. Now, if he did it again the emotion might have been stronger, but as it was it was brushed away quickly.

Still, he couldn’t help but dig a little, ”Where did you go? Why didn’t you tell me?” Viorel knew the answer was probably because he had been so busy falling apart that he had not been able to support the rest of the pack but…that was going to change now.

[Image: s38i5ZS.png]
Played by Greyer who has 134 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater VI. Medic
Oleander Valle
"Where did you go? Why didn’t you tell me?" Viorel asked. Oleander's mouth opened to speak but his tongue felt like stone behind his teeth. The questions stung. But, the lupine embrace his father offered soothed the turbulence in his head and heart. Oleander wanted to believe that the leader was merely curious.

"Away," he murmured when Viorel had withdrawn from him. "I just couldn't..." The words started to fail him. "I couldn't understand." He shook his head, eyes averting away like a scolded cub. His tall ears fell back with a sigh, knowing he would regret his next set of words, "I felt invisible."

There was a moment of pause as he tried to gather what it was exactly he wanted to say. "My sisters... when they left. It almost felt like I had to. Eventually. I mean—" He slowly sat down, eyes scrutinizing the ground as if the answers were there laid out for him. "With Archer and Eros, I couldn't compete." He grimaced as his nape prickled with heat and chill, "I had to get some perspective, but now I know." He gave a fleeting glance at Viorel's face. "And, I want to try again and I want to find where I fit in now. If you'll have me back."
they say pray it away, i swear,
OLEANDER VALLE
that I'll never be a saint, no way
Played by Ghost who has 625 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater I. Leader
Viorel Valle

Away. Couldn’t understand. Those were things that Viorel himself grappled with. After Sephrina he had wished a lot of the time that he could just be away, but he hadn’t been able to. Unlike his son he had too many responsibilities and things to take care of. He couldn’t begrudge Oleander for taking the opportunity to get sorted out. But, this hadn’t been about the death of his sister, it had been about his other sisters choosing to leave, and Archer and Eros.

Dark brow furrowed in confusion, and the man began to shift uncomfortably on his paws. He had felt invisible? Guilt ate away at his stomach, making the father feel somewhat nauseated. He had no idea he felt that way, was that also why Violet and Marguerite had gone, had he made them feel unseen too? Dropping his gaze he answered, ”it was never a competition, and I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like it was.” How had he gotten here? So wrapped up in certain children that others felt neglected and looked over.

Lifting his eyes to look at Oleander once more he nodded, ”Of course you can come back, this is your home. And he never should have felt any other way.

[Image: s38i5ZS.png]
Played by Greyer who has 134 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater VI. Medic
Oleander Valle
As Viorel's answer came, the words crashed over him like a wave. A sense of relief that blanketed him completely. It had never been a competition and Oleander was welcome home to Dead Empress Backwater. Once more, his ears came up and he stole another glance at his father's face. Hope ballooned in his chest as his tail gave a tentative wag in response to Viorel's nod.

"I guess, I should, um," he stumbled, straightening some as he slowly stood back up. He made a face, unsure how to word what it was he wanted to say. Well, first... "Thank you, Dad." A small smile. "How can I prove myself? As, um, a member of the pack. Mama taught me plenty about plants and I've scavenged plenty, but, where should I start?" Uneasiness skittered across his mind as he remembered an unsavory memory. He swallowed hard; he would do better this time around. And, maybe this time he would put his thicket near Clover's den to even better use.
they say pray it away, i swear,
OLEANDER VALLE
that I'll never be a saint, no way
Played by Ghost who has 625 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater I. Leader
Viorel Valle

Seeing his son begin to wag his tail and become visibility relieved only slightly alleviated the guilt that the father felt. He needed to do better. To be better. Even now Oleander was seeking a way to thank him and prove himself and the leader felt his face melt away from any farce of professionalism and into one of a comforting parent. He shook his head, ”You don’t need to thank me, or do anything to prove yourself,” He inhaled deeply and looked around him at the changing empress trees.

He continued, ”This is your home, and as long as you look out for everyone else here we’ll look out for you. You just need to do your best and if you want to focus on plants and healing that’s fine, but if you want to focus on something else, or maybe do a little bit of everything that’s just as okay.” Viorel moved forward and pulled Oleander in, rubbing his side against his son’s to mask him in the scent of the pack.

As he finished he added, ”I’m just glad you’re back.” And that might be the first honest thing he had said about his feelings in months.

[Image: s38i5ZS.png]
Played by Greyer who has 134 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater VI. Medic
Oleander Valle
Oleander's brows came up as his father told him that he didn't need to do anything. No thank you's or proof needed. Dead Empress Backwater was his home. The little smile along his maw widened some, his tail continuing to wave slowly about behind him.

"You just need to do your best and if you want to focus on plants and healing that’s fine, but if you want to focus on something else, or maybe do a little bit of everything that’s just as okay."

Viorel was glad to have his son home. Oleander's eyes glossed over, stinging at the corners as he blinked to stave away any look of relief. This was all he had wanted. Reciprocating the affection, he leaned down into the Leader's shoulder, sniffling once. All the scents of pack life that clung to Viorel's pelt reminded him of everything he had left behind. It was startling, justifying, and comforting all at once. As white pulled away from black and silver, he took a breath, "Glad to be back." He took a step to one side, body language wordlessly inviting Viorel to take the lead. "Ready when you are."
they say pray it away, i swear,
OLEANDER VALLE
that I'll never be a saint, no way
Played by Ghost who has 625 posts.
Dead Empress Backwater I. Leader
Viorel Valle

Oleander appeared to mist up a little, before blinking it away as quickly as it appeared. Viorel had never been one to ask his children to smother their emotions, and so just silently allowed his son the space he needed to compose himself as he clearly wanted. The feeling of the man leaning into the embrace began to heal something within him that he hadn’t realized was broken. He had allowed Sephrina’s death and Vaandis’ absence to consume him and had not allowed room for the other pain he felt in his heart.

Nodding one, a wide smile across his face, the leader re-entered the territory, this time with Oleander in tow. At least one of the Valles had come home.



FADE
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