Common Interests

Title: Common Interests
Time Period: March 4, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

  • Forge (owl and wildcat)
  • Ylva

Summary: Forge seeks out the subject of conversation at the Wandering Albatross.

The weather is terrible. There is no moon. Rain prickles through needles and naked branches like ice, prattling against bark and soggy leaf litter to create an ambience that goes undisturbed by the great shuffle and settle of owl feather and talon respectively. Forge sinks into a branch as thick as a man's arm, horns flattened into ears, eyes narrowed to slivers and tail bushed irritably against the wet.

Out of easy reach, if only just, he has to wait for his eyes to adjust again before he can pinpoint the approach of a familiar canine. Cross, maybe, or merely arrogant, he drops from his branch to confront her head on and at a sit. King of the clearing.


In the absence of moonlight, Ylva's shape becomes impossible to pick out from the other shadows by human eyes. That she's been spotted at all by a being capable of speech brings her to a sharp halt, ears curving to conform to her skull. It takes effort not to let her teeth show.

The moisture in the air darkens her pelt, made charcoal gray by the wet, and clearly shows the slope of her back, long legs and the pattern her ribs make through the fur that covers them. She smells Forge before she sees him, and as her nostrils flare around the feline's scent, wrinkles appear around her muzzle in an aggressive furrow.

She does not snarl.


You're looking sleek, the cat observes, questionable flattery difficult to discern one way or the other while he's looking away. A slow pull of his tail buffers it blunt around his paws, moisture glittering across the thick of his pelt. Muscle twitches against the blade of one shoulder beneath it. Uncomfortable.

A friend of yours arrived in town tonight. He decides as much after a pause in which it might be tempting to try and eat him.

If there was blood on the wolf's whiskers, the rain has since washed it away, leaving Ylva smelling more like the damp earth and sodden wood around her than the last kill she made. Nevertheless, she watches Forge with the opportunistic eyes of any predator faced with something smaller, though she does not believe him to be weaker or more vulnerable than she. Respect for the familiar keeps her at a cautious distance.

I have very few friends, she answers. How do you know?

But you do have them. Forge's eyes are an unnatural orange, less striking in the absence of light. It's easy to see when he looks at her again. We don't believe in coincidence.

The royal 'we' applied here offhand, he wrinkles his nose to loose some of the watery weight drooping at his whiskers. He knows you're living with the bear.

Ylva's ears prick back up and stand straight at attention. She looks up and past Forge into the darkness at his back, listening, but all she hears is water dribbling on leaves and sees nothing except the denseness of the woodland around them.

Anxiety carries her several paces forward, mulch crushed between the toes of her paws and dead leaves splintering. When she goes still again, her gaze flicks back to the cat, abruptly uncertain. Her breath leaves her nose as a thick plume of steam. Why are you telling me this?

The wildcat takes his time considering, no ground given for her sudden advance. It takes a certain amount of willpower to keep his hackles from lifting to an obvious degree. The heaviness of the rain helps.

Cautious optimism.

When he does finally answer, it's hedged with an air of dry reluctance. Perhaps he'd hoped she wouldn't ask.

Tall, dark and handsome, wearing a wolf pelt in fairer condition than yours. He looks to her ribs again. He intends to ply his — timely — talents to the men in charge. For some reason I expect at least one of them will be interested.

The wolf curls her tongue over the front of her teeth, licking them clean of the water that leaks past her lips and over mottled gums. Yes, she agrees at length. Rowntree. There's no one who hasn't heard what happened to his girl.

She lapses into silence then, taking the time to calculate things that cannot be calculated, and not because they do not strictly involve numbers. Life is unpredictable. Tell me what you have to be optimistic about.

Again inquiry is met with a stretch of silence. Forge rolls his tongue over his nose in unconscious mirror, unblinking regard more owlish than he'd probably like, given his scarce use of the form.

Common interests.

Forge already had Ylva's attention, but now nothing short of the crack of a gunshot will put it off him. Around them, branches creak and lichen grows at a rate too slow to be remarked upon by anyone living.

Then you have my help.

See that you survive long enough for that to mean something. His delivery stops it short of a true imperative. It's more of a distantly companionable recommendation as he arches his back into a push and stretch off the forest floor.

As I do not currently exist, I am not easily found.

Unless you are spying in trees, Ylva corrects him, though there's a gentleness to her tone that wasn't present before, pressing in around its rougher edges. She takes one step forward and then another to move around Forge rather than come straight at him. Apparently she respects his space as much as she does him, and refuses to let any part of her intrude except for the thin rasp of her breathing and the more distant reek of her canine breath.

Howl and I will come, she promises as she moves past, steering toward the direction of the cottage. I'll know your voice.

Yes. Unless he is spying in trees. The correction is accepted without friction; an ear turns to follow her progress around him before an automatic, puff, shiver and shake clears him of some of the weather he's collected. From there, the lowest branches are a few slippery leaps away. Impeccably sharpened talons ensure that he makes the ascent without embarrassing himself.

I will, he agrees, once he's there, fur shed for feather and a hunched shift of his weight sideways along his chosen branch. Safe hunting.

Safe hunting, replies Ylva, friend.