"(souls are not meant to live more than once — death was not meant to be temporary, and she is so sure that every time her heart starts to beat again that irreversible damage is further inflicted)" -- Anonya, written by Colby
Has a whole day really passed? His eyes flutter open and the colt peers suspiciously into the autumnal wood, small ears twisting this way and that. Nothing but silence finds him.
The leaves above are rustling in a cold wind, despite the warmth their color offers the light filtering through. The hardy birds that over-winter are fluttering through the undergrowth, and in the near distance, a crow caws harshly. Small creatures crawl through the carpet of leaves, searching for acorns, nuts, and dried winter berries that have dropped to the ground. The sylvan wood is alive, even in the coldest months. So, no, it's not silence that meets his ears.
Yet, there is a distinct lack of the sort of thing he might expect to hear, heavy hooves drifting slowly across the ground, the soft whuff of his mother's breath, or the throaty bubbling of her nickering to call him back to her side when he's strayed too far. His tail flaps worriedly like a lamb's.
It is not silence, but an emptiness that he feels.
The colt is tucked away in a bed of leaves and ferns that curl softly around his edges as if trying to reclaim the green that they used to be. He is too young to know that they were never green - not in this wood - and he is too young to know they should have been, but that some latent magic gives this fall forest its constant fire. He is not too young to know that this isn't the first time it has happened, that he has lost time and awoken alone, confused, but those other time he had found her again, nearby and searching. Her voice had come to him suddenly, like waking out of a dream, and he had answered her groggily, but today her calls are not in the air. Eyes bright as mulberries search the landscape, like him, his mother is wildly colored and would not easily blend in anyway, not even among the reds and blaze oranges of Sylva. Florian nickers a question into the air, his voice high-pitched and small, then climbs clumsily to his feet.
Image colored by Ratty Malkin Feel free to respond whenever since this is already a year out of context lmao
Once upon a time, Malkin had been a decent father. He had possessed his own herd, had a few favourite mares, they popped out a bunch of red babies, and that was that. He was fairly certain he had helped raise them, at least a little bit, even if it was just the occasional ‘good job’. But that was a very long time ago, long enough that he did not even remember what being a parent was like. The occasional dalliance he had experienced since then never resulted in a foal actually showing up in his presence.
Malkin thinks immediately that the rather floral looking foal he stumbles across is his. It’s not as flashy as the rest of the family that lives here - or he might think it belonged to them. He remembers wearing brindles when it was actually fall and he had mated with a rather charmingly coloured mare.
He may not remember what it was like being a dad but he always remembered what he wore.
Today he’s in his favourite maroon with light-pink hair, a colour he thinks he sees in the foal’s mane as well. “Oh.” Is the first word that comes out as he approaches cautiously - not a single non-equine feature about him for once and he’s nervous about those creatures coming out of hiding. It never seems to take much to set off his mother’s little curse. But he quickly realizes that ‘oh’ is not a very polite way to greet someone, especially a foal. A foal that was, theoretically, his son.
Had he gotten so accustomed to wandering through this forest on his own that he didn’t even notice the mother here? Were they living here too? Or was he about to find himself a single father? It’d be appropriate karma for the mares he didn’t ever see again, probably.
First things first though - find out how much the little guy knows.
“Hello.” He states a little more firmly when he pauses, head low but body tense. As though he’s approaching a rattlesnake.
What’s next? “Are.. uh, you alright?” The words are halting and, though they do form a question, he’s also wondering to himself whether that’s something he should ask. Is there a better question? But instead of trying again, he clamps his mouth shut and just waits.
The stallion's soft 'Oh' is matched by Florian's own, the tension that wrinkles his maroon brow greeted with trepidation and the brindled boy takes a step back as the stallion comes closer, his head turning slightly away, lowering to chest height, as if proximity alone will set off whatever strange sickness it is that makes him lose so much time. That makes him lose his mama. It's not the first time she's wandered away when he was floating in darkness, and not even a dream to wake up with when it is over!
It is the first time that she's just been gone though, the first time she's left no easily-followed trail. The first time someone else has found him. A shiver runs up his spine, his tail wags, nervously.
"I-- I'm fine. I think. I just-- I just-- I..."
I just what? the colt thinks miserably, whimpering softly into the darkening wood, still casting a desperate glance around the wine-red stallion. It dawns on him slowly that she may be truly gone, taken away by teeth, by magic, by her own feet, and he is alone, lost, forgotten. Despair and fright well up in his belly and his chest and his breath quickens, eyes like claret focusing at last on the stiff-legged stallion as tears begin to burn in them and darken the speckled green of his cheek.
"Mama..." Florian steps forward suddenly, without thinking, his voice a strangled whisper under the careless melodies of the birds singing around them - he steps forward, overwhelmed, losing the thin thread of control that holds him in the present. His vision blurs and goes black, eyes rolling back, flashing the bright white sclera as he falls, as he faints and tumbles into a heap at the stallion's feet.
It is not an unconscious colt that lands against those hard hooves, however.
The magic of Beqanna is a strange, thing; tricky and given to mischief and inexplicable mutations, such is the curse of Florian. The colt slips again into that blank place, that Nothingness, and all that remains is a hard-skinned gourd whose color vaguely resembles the boy's own. It does not breathe or think or dream, it does not move except to roll awkwardly as if thrown and then come to a stop at the first obstruction. That the obstruction is his sire's hooves is an accident of dubious fortune.
Nothing, for Florian, happens. Whatever Malkin does is unknown to him until the fit passes and he turns to boy as illogically and inexplicably as he turned to gourd before. He groans softly, dull and slow as the Nothingness fades to simple nothing, and opens bleary eyes again to the world. He is not in a soft nest this time but hard-packed ground and memory nips at him sharply, stirring panic as he tries to rise up on too-long limbs once again, fragile ribcage heaving with fast and shallow breath.
Malkin just… stares at the colt as he begins to cry. There’s a quick glance around to see if there’s anyone, anyone else who can deal with this instead - but no such luck. Where did the mother go? What was her name again? He continues to stand there when the colt takes a step forward, ready to come up with all kinds of promises about how they’ll find his mother when the colt stumbles. Malkin balks, reaching out with his head to try to catch just a second too long to really be polite, and his eyes widen at the moment of change.
When the colt shifts, Malkin does too. He’s so startled by the sudden change of horse into vegetable that his entire body seizes up and in a flash he has himself turned from horse into lop-eared rabbit. Still the same rich maroon colour, though - with the same bright teal eyes.
Why always with the rabbit? Malkin wonders with frustration as he sticks out a fuzzy paw to tap the gourd-that-was-his-son, his small button nose twitching. Knowing full well he's not about to leave, rabbit-Malkin settles down next to the gourd and waits.
Although he was expecting it to happen eventually, and tried to steel himself and his jumpy nerves against it, when vegetable becomes a foal again his body shifts too. Instead of looking up from the ground he is towering from above now - a great maroon bull moose, crowned with rich brown antlers.
Well, this was a slight improvement.
If there had been any doubt that this foal was his own, that doubt is gone now. Surely only his family would be cursed by something so ridiculous.
Hoping that they have stemmed the pattern of shifting for the moment, Malkin’s parental instincts finally kick in and he lowers his massive head to the height of the hyperventilating child. “Hey, don’t worry about it. You weren’t out for too long.” He considers attempting to nudge the kid or something but ultimately decides against it. “This sort of thing happens in my - our family. My mom did it too. You’re the first to become a gourd though.”
That great antlered head tilts to the side and a smile finally thaws and shines in his eyes. “I’m Malkin - I’m your dad.”
Beyond the blur of panic, the colt nearly misses that what was a relatively normal (if maroon, but who is he to judge, with his green stripes?) stallion is now an enormous humped creature with a wide rack of antlers and split hooves. It takes a moment to register that the nose that lowers into view is not equine, it is decidedly larger, the skull longer, and when he finally does see, it startles him out of his tears with a gasp.
This happens in the maroon moose's family, and, wide-eyed, the boy nods absently. Horses become moose in his family. Maybe it's the other way around, maybe he is a moose that became a horse. That would be no stranger, not really, Florian thinks, his panic subsiding in the face of curiousity, yet still he peers between the lanky legs of the bull moose, seeking signs in the close forest of his mother's return.
Nothing happens. Only the deliberate words of the Stranger, offered carefully to a strained heart and mind. Our family, he says, You're the first...
To become a what?
The revelations fall against his heart like blows. A gourd - he is not certain what that is, but he hopes it is more impressive than he believes - his dad. The boy turns sharply back to the enormous deer, claret eyes unsure. Wide, hopeful, disbelieving.
"Am I... Is a gourd a kind of moose? But why don't I remember changing?"
Malkin can’t help but grin a little when the colt asks if a gourd is a type of moose. “Uhhh no. It’s a type of vegetable. A plant.” At least the boy didn’t turn into a great plant hat was a common food for horses. Malkin is grateful that he has never eaten a gourd before nor does he have any plans to try. Still, the idea that there are horses that can shift into plants has him wary about everything now.
Will a flower he trample be someone’s daughter?
These are disturbing thoughts and he’s growing more and more unsettled by all of these big reveals today. He didn’t expect today to have anything interesting - nevermind find a son who would make him question every plant he ate from that day forward.
“I think that’s why you don’t remember… since plants don’t have eyes or brains or anything.” The maroon moose grimaces a little, figuring that it probably wasn’t good fatherly practice to tell your son he’s braindead - but it was only sometimes. So it wasn’t too mean of him to say, right?
Damn he was so out of practice with this parenting thing. And though he has no place to judge, he wonders if the boy's mother knows - wonders what kind of parent leaves a child that turns into a gourd and can't even do so much as roll away from anything that might come along and squash him.
He tries to adopt what he hope is a comforting expression in his teal eyes and his voice is soft as he forces himself to ease the edges that have become all too easy. “I don’t always turn into a moose, it’s a different animal every time. Sometimes a bird, sometimes a bunny. I can’t control it, and it’s usually worse when I’m upset.” He watches the colt, wondering if that will sound familiar.
There is no good time to find out that you turn into a vegetable, especially with the added inconvenience of not having any control, and the stillness of the colt on learning this belies the turmoil in his chest, but small curls of vine sprouting along the thin crest of his bright mane give it away. They stroke his neck like fingers and make him shudder. It breaks him from the tumbling pit opening in his belly and he looks up suddenly at @[Malkin] with a tremulous smile, his breath trembling.
"The first?" Well, it's something to be the first, but he'd rather be a moose. The nose is a bit goofy, but the heavy crown of antlers is appealing. He'd rather be anything other what he is, he'd rather be a rabbit, for that matter, small and fast and brown, hidden away deep underground in dark tunnels. It would be different from the darkness of being a... a gourd. Plants don't have eyes, they don't have brains or memories, they don't have a way to defend themselves. They can't run or claw or bite - at least, none of the plants he knows have defenses like that, and the thought makes the hair on his spine prickle uncomfortably.
What if somebody just ate him? What if somebody just walks up and ate him?
Do people just wander around, eating things, willy-nilly?
The-moose-that-is-his father is still speaking and although the words are familiar, Florian only nods absently, too busy tripping down this path of horrors. His own mother might have eaten him. His father might have. Anybody might have, so when he looks back up Malkin, his claret eyes hold new worries to color the insecurity he already knew.
"Florian. Mama... Mama called me Florian." And where has she gone, the green boy wonders, his neck craning to peer again between the great, thick-kneed, legs of his father, "You didn't see her, did you? I can't find her."
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