"There is still something of himself - something of the Wolfbane who would always love her - that rallies against the slime. It says, 'lie in the bed you’ve made'. So he gathers the covers and tucks himself in." -- Wolfbane, written by Calcifer
Despite the fact that her hooves are like anchors, weighing and wearing her down at each step, she comes back. Despite the fact that there is nothing left for her here – no one left for her – she forces herself to take that final step back again into the familiar. She lets herself be swallowed up by the forest that had been her sanctuary, for a time. And though it feels more like a violent collision than a soft landing, she eventually moves deeper into the open air beyond.
Almost immediately, there is that same troubling tightness in her chest. She feels the weight of her secret press heavily against her heart, daring her to acknowledge its’ persistent presence. But Titanya is loath to look inward, especially these days. She’s a creature of action, of doing without thinking and jumping in blind. The fact that she shouldn’t be here is never lost on her. Her return is stupid and selfish. The time bomb that ticks away between her ribs pushes everyone closer and faster towards destruction.
But she can’t stay away.
She is uncharacteristically quiet as she moves deeper into the meadow. She picks at the grass as she goes, mindlessly, a means to an end to search the eyes of those around her. They are not filled with dread and disease, she finds, as they had been just before she departed Beqanna. They are not hungry: for sustenance, for companionship, or for war, even. Everyone she sees seems rather content, lackadaisical, foolish. They will not be ready for the next ball to drop, will be wildly unprepared when the next catastrophe rises over the sunrise lands. It seems she’s come back in the midst of another lull.
More’s the pity.
The mottled mare will have to find other ways to keep herself entertained. She drops the pretense of grazing and sidles up next to someone else without an apparent appetite. Their head has been raised long enough to assume a free meal is not their intention for visiting the meadow today. “Hello,” she says, her voice low and crackling with unused. Her amber eyes are bright as she takes in the other’s face. She makes herself forget that she shouldn’t be here. For now, in this moment, she feels like she is where she should be. There is unfinished business here she can’t wait to get started on.
Since his first visit to the rest of Beqanna, Halcyon has grown bolder in his adventuring. Before, he was confined to the tropical jungle of his homeland. Now though, he knows the path through the sandbars and the shallow waters and reaching the shore of the mainland is no longer a mystery. Having gone invisible to slip beneath his mother’s watchful eye, the young colt has chosen to take extra precautions even when he reaches the Meadow at last. Rather than wear his most comfortable skin, Halcyon is as far from his tiger-self as he can manage this bright summer day. Instead of stripes, he wears a gold coat. It shimmers in the bright sun, as blue as the ocean that surrounds his home. His mane and tail remain black (though he doubts that is their natural color), and a pair of white circles still decorate the back of his slowly-flicking dun ears.
The sound of a voice comes from lower than he expects, and the yearling turns to face the unfamiliar mare. He is not used to being so tall – most horses tower over his tiger height.
She is a stranger, dark-haired with amber eyes not terribly dissimilar from his own. About his mother’s age, he thinks, but so he thinks of anyone that is not his age or younger.
“Hi!” he says, visibly delighted that someone has made the first step in speaking to him. Though he doesn’t do it purposefully, there is a slight spilling over of his own happiness into the air around him. Unaware that he is even projecting, the emotion is weak and easy to miss, or even dismiss as stereotypically contagious happiness from the brightness of the boy’s smile. “I’m Halcyon!”
A boy turns to greet her instead of an adult like she’d hoped. Perhaps the sun silhouetting his shimmering body has thrown her off? Regardless, she is caught off guard when the yearling about-faces. “Titanya.” She had hoped to sink her claws into someone with sway and potential power simmering just under their skin. She wanted to latch onto the first passerby with a whiff of influence inundating their pores. But this child could bear the blood of royalty hiding with his veins; she only has to do a little digging to find out.
He is like most children of Beqanna these days, dazzling in color and likely hiding a treasure trove of abilities. She wonders what talents he has squirreled away. Her own had been tacked on as the years ticked by, through blood and sweat and luck. Titanya still feels the phantom fire of her most recent gift burning her body up one hair at a time. She swears she can still smell the not-unpleasant charring of her own black and white skin before she became ash. It had been like a holy experience, her death, like a sacrament a long time in the making. Fortunately, it hadn’t stuck.
She had risen, younger and far more alive than she had been before.
Now, she wants to do everything she never did before. With her brother dead and his little clan gone, the sabino wants to live for herself. As she regards the younger male, a smile starts low on her face – the first smile she’s ever worn in this lifetime. There is something about his youth that pulls a tiny thread of joy from the deep well of her heart. Maybe it is good that I have found him first, she thinks, wondering what path she might have gladly walked down if it had been someone less kind and naïve.
“What are you doing in the Meadow today?”Not running away from your mother, are you? She wants to ask, but she’s never been one to treat children like children. Truly, she’s not been around enough of them to know how to act around them at all. Instead, her smile turns into a conspiratorial grin. “There’s nothing I liked more at your age than getting away from my dam and running wild.”
Titanya, she says, and the name sounds like the cold winds that blow through Beqanna. Or so he assumes, having never been cold. There is no winter on Ischia, only a season where rain comes more frequently, and all he knows of snow are the stories told by his mother and Uncle Pteron. “Titanya”, he repeats, and likes the way it feels on his tongue.
The Meadow is for conversation, he’s been told, but he’s not considered what that might mean. What would he talk about? That worry had started only a moment before the black mare had greeted him, and he is happy to find that it is not so hard to talk to strangers after all.
“I’m exploring!” he answers truthfully. He considers telling her that his Mother knows he is here ,but decides that might make him sound too much like a baby, and he is not a baby. Cormorant, his little brother, is a baby. Not Halcyon.
“Do you know what I like best?” He asks, easily charmed by the grin and the nature of their conversation. “I like catching birds! I like when they try to fly away when they see me and the way they squawk when I catch them anyway.” He grins widely, and remembers the words of caution from his mother. Not everyone likes a predator.
“But I don’t eat them,” he attempts to reassure Titanya, his golden eyes watching her carefully in case she looks startled by his admission. “I won’t eat you either,” promises the gangly yearling.
02-09-2020, 07:05 PM (This post was last modified: 02-09-2020, 07:08 PM by Titanya.)
we'll never get free, lamb to the slaughter
It’s strange to hear her name on her own tongue, much less the tongue of a stranger, especially one who happens to be a veritable child. Being alone for so long has left her ears sour to the sounds and voices of others. Or maybe it’s only hearing her name that is the problem. Hearing it reminds her of the few that could name her. Hearing it reminds her that they are all still dead or missing.
The act of pushing away those stormcloud thoughts should be a mighty task, but she finds it is easier, somehow, around the boy.
Halcyon says he is exploring, and she quirks a brow curiously. The meadow is safer than most places, she supposes, but the unofficial ceasefire of the shared land is not always upheld. The mare shifts her amber gaze to the horses milling about them. Even the heat of the summer doesn’t deter them from coming in vast numbers. The ever-changing blur of bodies from all corners of Beqanna makes it the perfect place to hide in plain sight. Anything could happen to an earnest and eager colt. Titanya had warned Ander of the dangers of coming here. And while she hadn’t blocked her nephew from exploring, she had made sure he knew of every precaution he should take. She wants to impart the same knowledge on Halcyon, but she realizes it is not her place. It is not her responsibility to shatter whatever perfect, crystal world he’s likely grown up in.
Time will do that for him instead.
She turns back to her young, would-be charge when he speaks again. There is an undercurrent of unbridled enthusiasm to his words that seems fit to burst. Catching birds? My my, what do we have here? What mere horse can catch birds, after all? The tigress stirs within her at the first true piquing of her interest. Titanya shifts her weight from one side to the other to expend some of the energy that rises – yet unused – into her limbs. She’s antsy to know the truth of it, but she borrows some predatory patience and smiles again.
“Birds, eh?” She tilts her head towards the sky as if considering it. “Give me a nice plump rabbit any day. Birds are so bony and not much meat on them for the amount of effort it takes.” Titanya realizes what he’s said only a second after she’s already happily prattled on about her own kills. Oops. Well, so much for not shattering that crystal. “Wait, you don’t eat them?” Her gaze narrows and hardens on the younger boy. “Ok, now listen. I don’t believe in stepping in and being your mother – that’s her job – but you should at least eat what you kill. It’s only right. She should have taught you that already.” Letting him continue killing for fun is only fostering the next murderer in their midst.
Beqanna certainly has no shortage of those. The sabino huffs, her piece said. The misunderstanding is lost on her for the moment, but she is glad he never considered eating her at least. Perhaps they can still be friends. Maybe she will show him the secret beneath her skin if he does the same. “What are you, anyways? Not just a boy, I’d wager.”
Halcyon, though not especially powerful, is quite sure that he can handle himself. The few horses he has met tend to flinch away from a tiger, even if the reaction is only instinctual, even if they recover quickly. Momma hadn’t let him wander until his first birthday, either, as a tiger cub is far less intimidating than one that at least looks as if he might be fully grown. His youth is more obvious in his equine form. Today though, he’d not wanted others to flinch away, and so he wears this hooved and slightly uncomfortable skin. If there is danger, he tells himself, he can always go back.
Titanya doesn’t feel like danger though, not as she looks up at the sky during his tale of birds, not as she mentions preferring rabbits instead. It’s not her hunting that surprises him, but rather the realization that there are things in the world other than fish that he might actually eat. Momma had fed him coconuts until her milk had come in, and after that the transition to fish had been quick. But eating birds?
“But they’re so feathery,” he tells her, “and they squawk so much and their beaks are sharp. They won’t be still enough to eat!” The fish always grow still after time on the shore; Halcyon can’t imagine trying to eat one as it flops around. He just hooks them out of the water with a sharp-pawed hand and flings them to the rocks; the lack of water has always done the rest. He’d promised not to eat Titanya, but part of that is because she’s not already dead – how can he eat her if she’s moving around?
“I can kill things?” The yearling asks, and while another child might be appalled, Halcyon is instead quite thrilled with this realization. He’s no murderer; the lesson he has missed from his mother is far different from the one that Titanya thinks. So excited is the blue colt that he misses the hardening in the gaze of his companion, and instead readily answers her question with a wordless shift. The too-small hooves and the too-stiff body gives way to one that is far more comfortable, and where the boy had once stood, now a tiger sits, it’s tail flicking through the grass behind him. As a matter of habit, the only thing he keeps equine is his ability to communicate, and he says proudly: “A tiger!”
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