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  • Beqanna

    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    GHAUL -- Year 209

    QOTY

    "(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


    [private]  we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea; jamie
    #1

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    She was never a child—not really. It had been ripped from her as soon as she had taken her first breath. It had been a moment of a true childhood and, sometimes, it feels like a dream. She lifts her head, tips it back, and there is nothing but the sight of the two towering over her. She can feel them still—that woman of ice and the mulberry stallion with the galaxies in his eyes. She had been given the chance to suck in that cold air but never expel it before the magic had seeped into her skin, rushing through her.

    It had been colder than the air around her.

    She felt her body shift instantly, felt the aging process rush through her until she had opened her eyes as a mare and not a filly. He had gifted her enough knowledge to make the transition a more seamless one, but no magic could ever replace the foundation of a true childhood. No magic could have given her the true experience of growing up amongst her peers—of learning how to socialize, the natural laws of society.

    None of that could be replaced and she was, instead, forever without.

    She had been young when she had found Ivar (when he had found her?) and all of her early explorations had been cut short. Instead of continuing to wander the sea, to slip in and out of the rivers and streams, she had found herself making a home on the nooks of the islands. She found herself raising children that she could never truly understand because she was still just a child herself, trapped in this older body.

    Today though—today she leaves. She makes her way down to the water’s edge and slips into it. Her scales nearly sigh with relief as the ocean washes over them and she quickly dives into the water, her equine line churning against the tide as the water swallows her, cradles her, pulls her in close.

    There are children back on the island. There is Ivar and the rest of the brood that surrounds him. But today she needs something more. So she continues swimming, her body feeling exhilarated instead of exhausted as she pushes it to the brink. She marvels at the fish that surround her, at the wild sea creatures who dazzle and spiral. She wonders as she continues going, until the salt begins to fade and she is left instead with that echo of a memory—the fresh water that instead begins to clear around her.

    She continues until the water grows more and more shallow.

    Until her legs finally find purchase and she stands, only slightly wobbling. The water pours off of her in rivulets and the flowers bloom, slightly damp, as she tilts her fine head back. It’s night and she blinks against the wash of moonlight across the riverbank. This place so looks different and yet, the very same.

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    #2

    He is getting stronger, Jamie.
    There is still a tremor in the limbs and a weariness in the voice. The kind of weariness that suggests he’d be all right if he could just get some rest. But rest does nothing for him. He wakes every bit as ensconced in exhaustion as he’d been when he’d laid down his weary head. It leaves the fog that tangles itself up around his legs dappled, thin. It has been weeks since he last tried to summon a portal.

    But today he is strong.
    Today he opens up that portal. And he, thing made of darkness, feels absolutely no trepidation as he steps through it and into the river so many miles away. The creatures loitering at its edge skitter back in surprise, disappear into the dense forest and he is alone.

    The water flows around him, as if by magic. But there is no skin for it to gather upon, bead and collect. There is only darkness as he fights the current, his breath labored. And he emerges from the water dry. Untouched.

    But there is a vicious trembling in his knees and he hangs his head heavy. He had known better, certainly. Known that his journey would be taxing. Perhaps even more taxing to use the portal than it would have been to walk all that way.

    His chest heaves with his effort to breathe. He will have to stay here until his strength returns. It could take days. Darkness is gathering quick and heavy on the horizon. It will be night soon. The eyes glow electric yellow in the shadows, the only things that give him away. For he is the shadows. There is nothing to distinguish him from the darkness but the eyes.

    He has regained control of his breath by the time she emerges, as if born of the water. Effortless. It makes his lungs ache to watch her move easy up the bank. Makes his knees tremble. And when she comes to rest the water pools at her feet.

    You love the water,” he says, the voice thin as the fog that gathers around his legs. “And it loves you.” He tilts his head, that strange head. And when he grins, it is a cheshire cat grin, all teeth. “How peculiar.

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name
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    #3

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    She has always liked the darkness. Liked the weight of it as it presses down around her—a physical thing. It reminds her of the belly of the ocean. The way that it can surround you and lift you up. The way that you can feel the endless depths of it as it pushes you to the very brink and yet does not let you trip over it into oblivion. So she smiles when she sees that night is coming. Smiles when she realizes that the too bright sunshine would fade completely and leave her in the aftermath of silvery and milky light.

    It is then that she catches the sight of him—or, rather, the idea of him.

    He is almost impossible to see, to discern from the shadows, and she feels something lurch in her belly. Perhaps partly fear (she is, after all, a true animal of prey) or curiosity, but it grabs at her and she takes a step forward, her delicate ears turning toward him as her eyes widen. Her lips pull at the corner just slightly at the disembodied voice and she angles her fine head before nodding a little.

    “We are of each other,” she says simply. It is impossible to imagine a world where she was not constantly drawn to the water like the tide to the moon. She wishes that she had the words to properly explain that kind of relationship. To try and describe what it was to be of the water. It was not love. At least not like they understand it on land, she knows. But the words fail her and she does not try any further.

    “Perhaps the water is to me as the darkness is to you.”

    She finds his eyes, the only piece of him that she can find, and holds his gaze steadily.

    “Or perhaps not.”

    His smile sends a chill racing up her spine.

    “You do not strike me as someone who loves anything.”

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    #4

    She does not startle.
    And he delights in this, the way she turns to find his eye in the dark.

    He is no monster, though he looks like one.
    He is no monster, though he sounds like one.
    He is no monster, though he thinks like one.

    He is feeble and weak and he still wheezes when he breathes. He is no threat. Despite the sharpness of his teeth and the black ink of his mouth.

    The water is to her as the darkness is to him. And he turns his head and cranes that dark, dark neck to peer into the darkness at himself. But not even he can see where he ends and the shadows begin. And he understands. It is really that simple. It is not love but necessity. He wonders, quite abstractly, if it is seawater that flows through her veins rather than blood. If he were to sink his teeth into her neck, what would it taste like?

    He slinks out of the shadows then, thrusts himself into the slanted moonlight. Ponders. Blinks those big yellow eyes and slinks a little closer so that she might be able to distinguish him from the darkness. If only just barely. Because even the moon, fat and low, is weak in comparison. And his fog follows him and, though he is tired, he inclines his head and lets it itch up her legs, too.

    He draws in a long breath and holds it. Studies her. She practically glows. The beauty is overwhelming when he’s this close, devastating. He is not unmoved by it. He is not immune to it. He fixes his focus to the opposite edge of the river. Shifts his weight because the joints have begun to ache.

    Perhaps you’re right.” He murmurs in that thin, thin voice. Sickly. Weak. “Tell me what you know about love.”                                                 

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name
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    #5

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    He looks much as she had expected him to. He is dark, but it is more than that. He practically soaks in all possible light, until there is nothing but them. Nothing but the two of them and the rest of the world begins to fall away like petals from a rose. She finds it oddly pleasant, even though there are parts of her that thrill with the danger that he presents. The way that she straddles both curiosity and fear.

    She glances down to see the darkness as it crawls toward her. Without hesitating, she leans her silver nose down toward it, expecting it to react like a living thing. She wonders if it will feel as tangible as him—would she be able to feel him at all?—or if it would be like all things of darkness: just mist.

    “I know nothing of love,” her silvery voice responds, although there is no bitterness in it. “I have never known it.” Her parents did not love her, she knows. They did not even love each other. They had felt enough for her to give her the gift of adulthood to keep her safe, but not enough to give her a childhood.

    And since then?

    She has known possession with Ivar—a twisted sense of his lust that never overtook her in turn. She has known the detached care for her own children, but it reflects the same emotion that her parents give her.

    But never love.

    Not that.

    His voice catches her though, the way it sounds so much more feebler than she would have expected. She wonders if disease riddles his veins. Would a creature like him even be able to get sick?

    She cannot stop herself from taking a step toward him, the flowers in her mane blooming even more underneath the moon’s milky light. “And you? Have you known love?”

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    #6

    He wonders if she is a proud thing.
    Because he can imagine the poor souls clamoring for her attention. Begging. He can imagine them weeping at her feet, flaying themselves alive. And he tilts his peculiar head, featureless apart from the eyes and the nose and the mouth. It has no shape, not like hers. No sharp cheekbone, no soft furrow in the brow. There is no expression. It is nothing, just as he is nothing.

    And then he grins that cheshire cat grin again, darkness splitting apart and spitting out sharp, sharp teeth.

    He is no monster, though he smiles like one.

    And then finally he drags his gaze back to her, though it pains him to look at her too long. Pains him in the same way he imagines it pains the rest of them. If not for that insufferable weakness, the impossible exhaustion, perhaps he would draw the fog around her and obscure her face. If only so that he would not have to look at her. Save himself the trouble of how it makes him ache. If he had skin, perhaps he would flay himself alive at her feet, too.

    She sidles closer and his nostrils flare. “Stay put,” he rasps and then shakes his head, considers her question. He draws his dark tongue across the sharp edges of his teeth and thinks of his sister, the juvenile way he had loved her. If it could even be considered love at all.

    “No,” he answers, the word dissolving as soon as it leaves his mouth. It does not echo. There is nothing about him that lingers. Not even a scent, because he has none. Not even a hoofbeat, because his steps are silent. Worse than a ghost.

    “What if I told you that I am merely a figment of your imagination?”

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name
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    #7

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    Pride eludes her. She is not completely unaware of her own charms—she suspects that it is at least part of the reason that caught Ivar’s attention, along with her remarkable ability to consistently bear him children of the water—but she does not understand the fascination with it. In many ways, she has learned that it can be useful. Learned that she is able to get what she wants with a dip of her head, a curve of her lip, but the reasons why behind that have never sunk in. And, thus, she cannot truly feel her own vanity.

    Just in the same way she cannot deem him monstrous or handsome.

    He is only intriguing. Terrifying. Illusive.

    (And it is enough. That is enough.)

    He snaps at her and she is thrilled to find that her heart pounds for a moment at the order. She slowly lowers a delicate leg back down until it is planted firmly on the ground. “Okay,” she whispers, her voice silvery and light—not giving a hint toward the momentary fear that had flooded through her chest. “I will stay here.” She cannot tell if his order was truly to keep her moving forward or to keep her from fleeing, and she decides that it doesn’t matter. She would do neither for the moment. Not yet, at least.

    At his question, she laughs. Soft and quiet, in the back of her throat, as she tips her head back to consider the stars that begin to swirl above them. She lowers her head and gives him a coy smile, her mercurial eyes nearly playful as she studies the shadows of him. “I would tell you that is impossible.”

    A pause as her silvery tail flicks lightly against her hocks, drags against the mossy ground.

    “I have no such grand imagination as to conjure something as yourself.”

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    #8

    Forgive me,” he murmurs and exhales a rasping breath, blinking at her. The only indication that he is alive, really. Those big yellow eyes and the delicate flare of his nostrils, the labored, wheezing breath. “I don’t trust myself.” He pauses then, dragging in another shuddering breath. The talking makes him weak, too. Drains him of his energy.

    He is getting stronger, Jamie, but he is still so weak.
    And sometimes he wonders if it will ever get better.
    If someday he will know true strength.
    If someday he will stand and the knees will not tremble and the joints will not ache and he will remain untouched by exhaustion. Like his father, so blissfully out of reach of all of the things that plague a mortal body. And how strange that Jamie should feel them at all when he is so little more than compressed darkness. Shadows forced into the shape of a horse.

    I don’t trust myself to look at you too closely.” He finally finishes his thought. And perhaps if he had a brow to furrow, the smile that follows might have seemed apologetic. But each of his smiles is the same, feral, vaguely threatening if for no other reason than because it is lined with sharp, sharp teeth.

    And again, he tilts his peculiar head. Smiles that feral smile, blinks those bright yellow eyes. “Well,” he murmurs and turns that bold gaze to the river’s edge. “I must be the figment of someone’s imagination. Wouldn’t you think?

    He draws in another thin, shuddering breath. Chances a sidelong glance in her direction. “I am the same shape as you,” he continues, labored, “it is clear that whomever fashioned me did so with an equine in mind. But I am not like you at all, am I?

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name
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    #9

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    Each breath is harsher than the last—and she feels it like it’s being pulled across her skin like sandpaper. It’s difficult to imagine that he is ill when he is hardly a thing at all. He is a thought more than anything else. A vision. Some strange creation of the night. How could something like that fall ill? It should be no more susceptible to ill health than the evening sky, than the belly of the ocean she crawled from.

    She cannot comprehend it.

    Has no other way to explain it.

    So she tucks it away, her silvery eyes blinking slowly at his confession. Her smile is quiet, pulling in the corners of her mouth. “Does earthly beauty hold appeal for you?” She glances down at the water that still clings to the teal and silver scales, the mane that falls in silky ropes too far down her shoulders. She is aware of the flowers that bloom and hang around her face, of the delicate angle of her jaw.

    “I did not imagine that such things would.”

    A roll of her fragile shoulder. Who is she to claim what holds allure for him?

    She is much more intrigued by the turn of the conversation—of the idea of his creation. “I would like to meet that someone,” she whispers. Curious as to who could have carved someone such as him. Was it someone like her father? Someone who bent the fabric of nature to their every whim or something else?

    “You are not like me,” she agrees and feels an undeniable ache in her chest to take another step. To try and see him better—if she could see him at all. It felt like talking to a disembodied voice. To someone who was there and yet not at all. “I wish that I could see you better,” she admits, quieter this time.

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    #10

    He studies her a long while.
    And it puts a vicious ache in his chest. It grits his teeth. It tightens a vise around his windpipe, restricts his already labored breathing. It is not illness that disturbs the breathing but something else entirely. The weakness that plagues him. The exhaustion. The body’s violent want to shut down, to give up. It is the manifestation of all of these great and terrible things that make him the thing he is.

    Perhaps they don’t,” he agrees. Or, at least, entertains the idea. And he tilts his peculiar head again – does an awful lot of that, really, for it is the only way he can express thought or confusion – and smiles that same feral smile. “But your beauty is not earthly at all, is it?

    He wonders sometimes whose doing it was. Because both his mother and his father are flesh and blood. Muscle and sinew. His twin sister, too, though she is a living thing that has never been alive. Born without a pulse. He wonders sometimes if there was some mistake. If he only has a heart and lungs and blood because they were meant to be hers.

    But he does not dwell on this. Only acknowledges that there is some possibility that his mother, a magician, might have had something to do with it. Whether on purpose or by accident. Drawing her magic from shadows, is it any wonder that her son come out solid darkness?

    You cannot see me, but you know exactly what I look like.” He exhales a long breath. “I look like your shadow. Or anyone else’s.” He turns his head to peer into the deep shadows behind him. “I look like all the darkness you see there.

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name
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