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  • Beqanna

    version 22: awakening


    Wolfbane -- Year 210


    "She presses into him greedily, hungrily, and demands more. She does not know how to be gentle when she is with him—does not know how to quell the aching in her belly, the neediness in her touch. She would devour him whole. She would sacrifice herself completely. She would give and give and give—" --Tabytha, written by Laura

    [private]  and the bible didn't mention us; brazen

    There is a lonely soul who blows in on a Taigan breeze.

    She drifts in again from the forests of the north and the more she makes this trek, the more familiar it becomes. It becomes easier to float from territory to kingdom and any apprehension she had about doing so fades with each season that passes. That invisible border that Lilli had created between herself and Neverwhere falls away, another wall she had constructed because it was so much easier to put space between herself and the world. Because it was so much easier to pretend that nothing was wrong at all when everything was. 

    She's still a pretender. The crimson woman who walks with a fluid stride in Nerine is absolutely a pretender. Lilliana has learned how to craft a porcelain face that smiles like her, that beams and warms and laughs as she has always had. It was almost terrifying how easy it was for her to lie about those emotions - how easy it was for her to hide beneath the mask of someone else, of someone who had once existed. (If there is one thing she is grateful for in her upbringing, she grateful for the lessons her mother unknowingly taught her. She is thankful for the example that Aletta provided - in the absence of identity, take on a role.) So Lilli tries on a few roles these days and always asks the dawn the same question, 'Who will I be today?' Diplomat. Friend. Stranger. Beqanna, as it has always been, is entitled to take its pick. 

    That quiet that she and Elaina had once wished has settled in her life and Lilliana finds it devoid of anything she has ever wanted.
    ('I think we could both use some quiet,” her golden cousin had said. 'We have had far too many complications. I think it would be nice, to live a life, without any more of them.' )

    She comes to Nerine intending to find Brine. The last look exchanged between the two mares has settled uneasily on the tempest soul of the chestnut and Lilli adds the roan to an ever-growing list of things done wrong, something else she repents in silence for. (Was she right to suggest Nerine? She hopes - Gods, she always hopes - that whatever had taught Brine to find such fear in the world does not find her here.) 

    Her eyes are cast upon the sea. Under the spell of winter, everything is grey. 
    Everything is resting. The world lays in wait again. 

    Lilliana doesn't notice the thin layer of new snow that quiets her hoofsteps. For once, she doesn't look upon a wintry landscape with aversion. She hardly notices it all. The sea - the song of a waning tide on a barren beach - calls to her and like all forgotten things she encounters, her heart reaches for it. Without thinking, her trail changes and the copper mare goes where it seems other souls frequently do not. Those sovereign cliffs remain in the distance and Lilli keeps it waiting, choosing the gentle-sloping hill instead. It's a quiet cove she finds, another abandoned beach that aches for somebody to remember that it exists. 

    So she stands there and she listens. The wind is sharper here, angrier, than it had been on the clifftops above. There is nothing to abate it. It tugs and tangles her mane. The iciness of it bites at the tips of her ears and burns her flaring nostrils. The bluffs and precipices of Nerine have learned to alleviate it over the decades. But here? Here, the wind tells Lilliana of all its bitterness. 

    And she simmers within its embrace.

    She shouldn't, she knows. She has no right to feel this way. She has no justification for the anger that has been building. Her feelings should have never existed and whatever Lilliana had felt should never have been in the first place. So she tells herself over and over again when the hurt and the ache fill a void in her chest (something she knows that wasn't there before), she furiously reminds herself that she is not allowed any of it.

    (And so goes the vicious circle - the emotions that push against her like the waves of an incoming tide and Lilliana pushes them back out like an ebbing one.)

    Maybe it is the churning of the ocean, the stirring of the artic current around her but the woman who stands there and stares out to the wild sea closes her eyes and turns away. She goes to hide against a wall of stone where she thinks that there is nobody to see her cry. Where nobody can tell her she has no right to grieve something that should have never existed to begin with.

    She turns and blinks, stunned.
    This beach is not empty.


    [Image: sTAi2f.png]

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    She has never been one to question herself or her purpose. Truthfully, she had never spared much thought for her purpose here. She had grown up with a vague understanding of what truths there were to know about her, but she had never been tempted to inspect them too deeply. She is a woman of action, not word. Her body is made for protection. For war, if one will. It had seemed only natural to follow in her father’s footsteps in that way. And pain is an inevitable side effect of life.

    These are her truths. It is only recently, as her world has begun to tumble on its very head, that she has grown to realize her life does not truly seem to have a purpose. Without the eclipsing shadow of her mother looming over her, she had been coming to realize that she had long been spared the necessity of fending, or even truly thinking, for herself.

    And she had discovered too, that riddles are definitely not her forte. She doesn’t know how Heartfire had done it all, even with her overreaching sight. And she has come to the conclusion that she doesn’t particularly wish to know. Though that realization housed the carefully skirted understanding that perhaps she wouldn’t find out what had happened to her mother. An understanding she had been trying very hard to avoid, because that would mean, for the first time in her life, she is truly alone. First, her father, then her brother. And now, her mother.

    It didn’t bear thinking about. Yet, it is an unavoidable truth.

    When her aimless feet bring her to the beach, as though she might find her mother standing there staring out to sea as she so often had, she wears the expression of one who has entirely lost her way. For a moment, she doesn’t register the figure on the beach. But when her name echoes across the misty air on a question, she blinks, focusing.

    It’s a familiar face that greets her. One she hasn’t seen in far too long. That recognition brings a nearly forgotten lightness to her heart, and her expression brightens. Perhaps both of them had learned too much of the world since last they’d met, but for a moment they are young and naive and optimistic, even if it is in no more than Brazen’s memories.

    “Lilli!” she exclaims, stepping forward into a brief jog to close the distance. The sudden movement causes dried wounds to crack, a trickle crimson tracing exposed bone, though it remains entirely unnoticed by Brazen. “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you again.”



    She blinks at the recognition.

    She blinks because it has been a lifetime and then some. Lilliana had known that Brazen resided in Nerine. They had even ventured here together in hopes of finding Heartfire once. So it shouldn't be shocking to find her here because she has encountered far stranger things on these lonely beaches that she accumulates like seashells. But she turns and she is so sure that she is alone that the initial knowledge that she is not is the very thing that does unsettle her.

    Her blue eyes are wide and wind-wild, a hurricane soul reflecting out of them.

    But it's only a moment and then the chestnut mare falls to her first instinct as she meets Brazen's gaze. The way that the smile embraces the edge of her mouth feels comforting. It feels like proof that despite everything that has changed in the time since they have last seen each other, this has not and it is a comfort to know that some things can still remain the same.

    There is a glimmer of the girl who emerges at the use of her childhood name and the affection writes itself all over Lilliana's face. No need for hiding her emotions, no need for guarding or protecting herself. Despite the dormant and bitter season that keeps the world slumbering, something awakens in the copper mare and she brightens with all the warmth of sunbeams emerging from behind the clouds. She casts that light towards her friend and moves forward, her dark maw reaching out for Brazen.

    Lilliana is so focused on greeting her that she fails to notice the way that the magic beneath her copper skin is collecting and it calls out to the cracks and tears on Brazen's armored body like the moon calling on a tide. There is no thought at all as the magic seeks to heal and brushes gently against the sorrell coat of her friend, the way that it tries to bond the bone and skin back together.

    It tries and its only when she feels that unusual sensation (that bright emotion that magic yields, pooling silver and striking lightning against the edges of her consciousness) that Lilliana understands what is happening. But she doesn't. What little that she does know of this unpracticed power does something entirely different this time. Where the light goes, this time she follows. A second (a lifetime) is where it leads. The Taigan mare isn't prepared for it at all and when time finally releases her, when the open cut on Brazen is just a pink line of tender skin, Lilliana is looking to her friend, confused.

    "Brazen?" she asks, "And beautiful?" Lilliana repeats, intoning the words that the armored man had murmured to the newborn.

    Brazen let me know if you want anything changed
    [Image: sTAi2f.png]

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    Brazen’s long habit of delving headfirst into every experience has not been tempered by loss. In many ways, it is a relief, the sudden appearance of an old friend. Another opportunity to reflect less on what she has lost, instead giving her the opportunity to banish those dark thoughts and revel in something lighter and happier. Of course, it is a temporary reprieve. But Brazen is hardly the kind of woman who would pay mind to such things.

    Better to race headlong into unknown, crashing over and over again into something new than to dwell too long on the things she could not change.

    A better friend might recognize that Lilliana too, had changed. Might catch the glimmer of sadness and regret on her face and try to alleviate those sorrows so faintly hidden. But Brazen is not designed for such things. Her own emotions are strong and tempestuous, but even she frequently doesn’t have the power to recognize them. To recognize those emotions in others would require an insight that she simply does not possess.

    Still, the fleeting and carefree joys are ones she is well versed in. And those are the things she offers so freely. But of course, it is not meant to last. And today for far less time than on other days, it seems. She might have been able to cloak them in the delusion of happiness, were it not for the next words to fall from Lilli’s mouth.

    The brightness of her greeting dims beneath a momentary confusion as she tries to decipher the meaning behind Lilli’s questioning words. Brazen and beautiful. Were she a more conceited creature, she might have taken that as an invitation for fliration, but the familiarity of the words strike her before any such lascivious thoughts have time to take root.

    Still, it takes her a moment to place them. To reach back in the furthest recesses of her memory and recall the phrase, softly spoke through the haziness of time and youth. Some of the very first words her father had ever spoken to her. Her heart thumps inside her chest, followed immediately by a subtle ache and a pang of loneliness. Her father had been her idol, and even to this day, she misses him with every fiber of her being.

    So caught up in her own whirlwind of loss and renewed heartache as she is, she does not even notice the sharp sting of her split skin fading, washed away by a healing light. Stilling, her gaze falls to the sand beneath her, blinking back the tears that suddenly threaten.

    “He named me, you know.” It does not even occur to her to ask how Lilli had known those words. Nor does it occur to her that it might be purely coincidental. She had grown so used to her mother having knowledge she couldn’t possibly have to question what things anyone else might know.



    When she comes back - comes back from wherever the armored man and the blue woman had existed (Heartfire, she realizes with a jolt) - her sides heave against the gale of emotion that blows through her. A flash of white has emerged against the blue of her eyes because even though her experience with it is limited, Lilliana recognizes the dazzling way that magic saps part of a soul, taking something in exchange for what it has given.

    In this case, where her light had sought to heal, it had gone deeper and illuminated something beyond the layer of skin and bone.

    It's something that Lilliana knows well. Her earliest memories are different. If she were to go searching through the fog and miasma of her mind, it would reveal a different scene entirely.

    (A blanket of stars is the only thing that covers them. A silver mare pleads with them, 'No, no, no.' Because the birth of this child represents all the change in her world and that it has not stopped turning. It reminds her that she is truly alone. 'Please,' she begs. There is no healer here. Murmuring Rivers is still unknown and if something goes wrong.. she is alone. But there is no stopping nature and a little girl is born - a red filly lays in the grass behind her. Her delicate head lifts and there are flaring nostrils, her eyes are blue and piercing - of bright December skies. The colors are her paternity, her heritage. Mother and daughter lock eyes and Lilliana who had been conceived in sorrow makes the very first motion towards comfort. Instead of a parent reassuring a child, it is the child who soothes her mother as she watches her fall apart in the moments after her arrival.)

    "He loves you Brazen," she firmly insists. (She can't say loved because it isn't her place to make such claims. It is not her place to put things like that in the past tense.) Her voice feels like it comes from some far-away place, that it rings from the distant place she has just come from. Lilliana doesn't know what the relationship between father and daughter developed into; she doesn't know if it was anything like her own. She doesn't know the circumstances that called Dovev to leave. She only knows that Brazen had once called him wonderful, that he was the reason that Heartfire wasn't worse than she was.

    Worse than she was, she wonders? Lilliana thinks of Neverwhere and her restored sight. She thinks of the way that the Nerinian queen has left the mantle of leadership on the shoulders of her dappled friend and her mind lights up with so many questions. Questions, like so many others she has, that will likely never be answered.

    ("I get that you didn't want me", the red man says. She still feels his anger resonating down the memory. Lilliana swallows the emotion that it brings and is reminded again of the mystery that is Brazen's mother, the way that she had countered the stallion: "If I didn’t want you, we wouldn’t be in this mess. And if I wanted to take them from you, you would never have found us.”)

    "So much," and though she knows nothing about Heartfire than what others have told her, Lilli feels the burden of grief filling in her chest for her friend. She feels raw. She feels hollow because she knows what Brazen is feeling. Lilliana knows what it is to have that, those lovely and treasured memories of everything feeling whole and making sense. In the recent events of Heartfire disappearing and Neverwhere being handed the title of Queen of the North, she wonders if anyone has come to check on the daughter of the once all-seeing Khaleesi. The daughter who has now been left behind by both her parents. "Your mother too," she says quietly. "She was trying to protect you," from what, Lilliana doesn't have the answer too. She only has that brief snapshot, that short glimpse into a history that is not her own.

    "I'm sorry, Brazen," she murmurs and Lilliana can feel it then. Her eyes fill with tears (it is the salt in the air, she thinks, the way that it is so impossibly cold around them that it stings her eyes) and though she tries to fight them, no amount of blinking pushes them back. She steps towards her and places her head over Brazen's neck. It's a motion that she hasn't done in a long time - not since the days of Elaina and the way that the two of them used to lose themselves in Hyaline when both girls had been so eager to forget.

    She'll pull her close, if Brazen will allow it. Lilliana will pull her tightly against her because she knows what it is to be left behind. What it is to stand among the memories and to not recognize the present you stood in. How you found yourself existing in a world where those you loved did not.  "It's such a wonderful name," her friend says as she smiles gently against Brazen. A brave and courageous heart. One that would endure and withstand the chaos and struggle that this life so often brings. More than that, she will exude light and luster against the darkness of it all. "It suits you," she whispers fiercely against the dead of winter around them.


    [Image: sTAi2f.png]

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    “I know,” she whispers, though the knowledge does nothing to stem the grief. If there is anything she knew in this world, it was the implicit honesty in her father’s love for her. She had never doubted it. And that is perhaps what made the ache of his disappearance all the more profound. She knows, without doubt, that he would have never left her and Dagen had he had a choice.

    Just as she knows her mother’s disappearance had to have been involuntary. Though Brazen cannot claim any great knowledge of her mother’s true purposes, she knows beyond any doubt that Heartfire would not have chosen to leave so abruptly with so many things left unfinished. And it reminds her harshly of the great and terrible powers her mother had so frequently chosen to toy with.

    Which of those had been the impetus behind her disappearance?

    She’s not certain she will ever know the answer to that question. Nor is she certain she wishes to.

    It’s impossible for her to know the many things crowding her friend’s mind as she gently reassures her. And even could she know, she is not entirely certain she could explain any of it. Her mother and father’s relationship had always been tempestuous at best, and Brazen had never quite understood it.

    Whatever she might have expected from this reunion however, it had certainly not been a swan dive into memories from her ancient past, nor had it been the resurgence of emotions she had tried so hard to repress. And when Lilli offers comfort in the wake of those unexpected memories, Brazen leans almost unconciously into the embrace.

    Drawing an unsteady breath, she loses herself in the warmth and companionship of the moment, eyes squeezed shut as she tries to shake the thick weight of her own thoughts. She does not allow the tears to fall though, and after a moment, she recalls herself to the discomfort her embrace must bring. Bone and blood regrettably do not make for a comfortable experience for those who press too close.

    Withdrawing slightly, she manages a faint, almost-smile as she gives a staccato shake of her head. “Don’t be sorry,” she finally mutters in protest. “It’s just how life is, I think.”

    Suddenly she laughs, as though the bright sound might dismiss all these dark musings. “What did I do to deserve a friend like you anyway?” With a gentle warmth, she brushes her nose against Lilli’s shoulder, chestnut against chestnut. The easy ways in which Lilli seems to handle the emotions of their reunion is certainly not a strength which Brazen possesses, and it seems far easier to shift the subject away from such things. Otherwise she might question how Lilli had come to know so much about her, and those are not thoughts Brazen particularly wishes to explore at the moment. For all of Brazen’s open gaiety, she has never been so vulnerable before someone. And it’s an uncomfortable realization.

    A reminder of the many ways in which she hadn’t escaped the influence of her own parent’s turbulent failings.

    “Now you know all my secrets you’re stuck with me,” she teases, trying - perhaps a little too hard - to reclaim some of her own former lightness. “At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it works, isn’t it?”

    Were she a little less transparent, she might even have succeeded in presenting the carefree and lighthearted face she’d once worn so easily.



    Oh, the grief.

    She hears Brazen's and it hitches in the back of her throat. Lilliana catches it (she is so careful with her emotions these days) before it can escape. 'I know', her friend says and like so many things with Lilli, she can't help herself. The copper mare pulls the embrace a little deeper, holds Brazen a little tighter despite the bones that dig into her skin. Brazen's protection hurts her. The jagged edges of her bone make the chestnut mare acutely aware of her pulse, of the distant echo of a heartbeat from deep within her chest. For a moment, she is grateful for the pain. The emotion feels genuine - a shred of something sharp and real when the past months have just been a haze of shadow, a dull blur of a life that just floats by.

    Just another ghost lost in the Taigan fog.

    She feels the edge of her cheek pressing against the bone of Brazen and she doesn't care. Lilliana knows she is standing at the precipice again, continuing to ignore a rift in her soul because she doesn't know what to do with the darkness and the crevices. They've always been there - life leaves nothing unscathed. It has jagged claws at times. Sharp edges, things that she always tried to soften (because if not her then who? if she didn't then who would?), have been scarring Lilli long before her days in Beqanna. She keeps trying, trying to turn that proverbial corner in her soul and find her way out of the ways she has tangled it.

    And then life likes to offer her another curve. 
    Another challenge that dares the firestarter in her soul and the dreamer stokes it to life because she can't help it. This could be a whole new way of shining, could shed a whole new light on something waiting to be found.

    "I wish it wasn't that way for you, Brazen." Lilliana feels the Nerinian withdraw and so she loosens her grip. The chestnut mare blinks and steps back, adjusting herself to the sudden chill that comes between them. "You deserve so much more." It's there - a wistful smile that comes because who is Lilliana without it? It is so often there that to be without it leaves her feeling naked, as exposed to the elements as a lonely crag on these shores. It's the smile that marks her as a fighter in her own way, that tries to defeat the heaviness that drapes itself around them. Lilliana refuses to give in to the full weight of it.

    "It'd be nice to be stuck with you," she states. "Nev might tell you otherwise but she's stuck with me too." And there are others - she realizes. Aten and his family. Ruth. Tyr. Smidgen. Kagerus. Not traditional or bound by blood. But perhaps, she thinks, it makes the bond all the deeper because it was made by choice. The knowledge is something steady against the volatile storm she battles against, something that leaves her feeling so sensitive as she stands there with Brazen.

    "I don't know how anything works," she teases as Lilliana feels the steadying swell of companionship building between them. "I'll try to figure it out with you though," the chestnut clings to the lightness that Brazen tries to bring. The smile brightens in response to it and Lilliana desperately wishes to give Brazen the illumination she seeks.

    When the knot in her chest starts to loosen, Lilli finally decides to ask: "How did you do that? Before.. with your family? How do you bring visions to life?"


    [Image: sTAi2f.png]

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    She clings too. She clings because it’s easier to believe things might be ok in the comforting embrace of a friend. Though acutely aware of how uncomfortable her own body is to others, she still clings. Perhaps it may not be a physical manifestation, but it is there nonetheless. In the way she tries to smile through her sadness, in the way she teases through the memories, and in the way she so freely shares all the warmth she has to give.

    There is a brief moment of doubt in the wake of Lilli’s determinedly wistful words. Do I? The words nearly escape her lips, but she catches them before they can. She doesn’t know what she deserves, but she’s not certain it is as much as Lilli so stubbornly believes. She had never been anything great or special. She had never done anything that deserved such high praise or compliments.

    Her life has been little more than an endless stretch of her doing exactly as she pleased in between bemoaning the state of her existence. And, after all that, did she truly deserve more?

    No, she thinks. Probably not.

    But she does not say it out loud, because that would make things far too real. Much more real than she is prepared to handle.

    Instead she laughs, Lilli’s teasing words loosing the amusement even as she tries to forget the darkness of her own thoughts. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t know anything,” she quips, eyes crinkling as her lips stretch into a too easy grin. “But at least we’re stuck here together. If it had to be someone, I’m glad it’s you.”

    Her next question stills the grin on her face, and after a moment, it slips, replaced by confusion. Brows furrowing, she glances uncertainly at Lilli as she tries to decipher the meaning of that question. “I…” Had she brought those visions to life? She hadn’t seen them. But then, her parents had both thought her mad when she made mention of Lio in her youth, the friend in her head only she could hear. The one who had disappeared as she’d grown older. Had something returned? “I don’t… know.”



    She had once asked Elaina why everything had to be so complicated.

    On one of those lonely Taigan nights when Elaina had still been an aspiring Diplomat in Hyaline, Lilliana had sought her cousin out when she had been full of confusion and frustration. There had been so many things about Beqanna she didn't understand. She had been coming to learn the layout of the land but there was still so much that didn't make sense. The herds were structured differently. The alliances she had grown up knowing - the things she had been taught at her mother's side - were suddenly meaningless here. The politics changed as much as the seasons did and were often just as volatile.

    Her mother had warned her that the horses of Beqanna hungered after power and prestige, to have their names known to the ages, in a way that the natives of Beyond did not. Beyond was idle. Beyond was content. Beyond, she has come to learn, was peace because that land slumbered. Their wars were fought beyond their borders. Their villains stalked and lurked and certainly did wreak their havoc... but considered against Beqanna's grand scale? Nothing. There is nothing that Lilliana has ever known to even compare this realm too. It's magic, the gods, the horses are such a host of originality that not even her beloved stories can illuminate any sense of it. She had asked after the Dale; what of it? It was long gone, buried under lifetimes of memories only to be remembered by immortals like Ryatah and to be eventually forgotten by the generations that came after.

    The legends of her youth did nothing to capture Beqanna as Lilliana has come to know it.

    Everything about her is knotted in complications. She should be alone. She shouldn't be allowed to warm her body next to Brazen or hold as tightly to her as she does. But some things aren't so easily undone - Lilliana had been a child reared on an abundance of affection and warmth and love. She's been starved for it these last few months and for a moment, it feels good to simply hold and be held. She has let herself become so tightly coiled that in the presence of Brazen, in their easy companionship, Lilliana simply unravels.

    When she pulls away and sees how prettily her friend's eyes crinkle in the corners, Lilliana finds herself softening at the expression. Brazen should smile like that more often, she thinks. "As long as you need me, I'll be here."

    It's only when Lilli sees the look on her friend's face falter does the knot return. Her brow furrows slightly and she feels it - that tingling sensation of fear as it creeps up her spine. It's not the bitter chill of the wind or the biting ice from the seaspray that crashes on the shore. Her copper forelock is blown angrily out the way as fear flashes against the vivid blue eyes of Lilliana as the dread flattens her voice, "You didn't see them?"


    light me up, i will blaze
    like a soul you have saved

    [Image: sTAi2f.png]

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