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    Mazikeen -- Year 214


    "“Content to admire you from afar.” Well that’s just bullshit. She wasn’t *content* to be admired from afar. She would rather not see him at all then be tortured by a buffered distance." --Mazikeen, written by Squirt

    [private]  The eleventh hour
    A... lure? The starred girl pauses, letting the thought tumble through her mind like a fishscale lost in the eddies of a wild river, sparkling bright and too small to ever settle. Shipka is guileless and sincere and unused to the deceit that her companion suggests. A lie, he means, and she finds nothing in his voice or his expression to say that she shouldn't believe him, but she doesn't want to. Her heart thuds in her chest like a hammer, like a fist, and if she had time, she might wonder if he can see the outline of it pressing against her skin, but her attention is taken up by something - someone - staggering towards them.

    What sort of creature could cause wounds like that?

    The creature limps closer. Its progress is slow, hampered by massive injuries, but its keening cries fill her ears, snag at her, drawing her away from the gold stallion's side, and this time she doesn't pause but bounds forward too quickly to hear the irony in his voice. She's too quick, this time, to catch his laugh, to hear his words, because the thing shrieks and Shipka is running to it, and when it  lurches forward, the girl is there, catching up the full weight of it on slim shoulders.

    And gods, but it's heavy.

    So heavy.

    The creature's entire weight is falling across her back and Shipka falters, a foreleg curling unbidden.

    "Please," her voice is a gasp under the strain, "you have to stand, I- I can't hold you up, I-"

    Her bright eyes fall on the face of the creature, and finds no face. The shape is horse-like, but there are no eyes, only melting flesh and flashes of bone underneath. Her stomach turns and her words die away. She's no healer, and if she were, she thinks the destruction wrought on this strange body would burn her up like dry switchgrass in a wildfire. The jagged, broken edge of the beast's exposed sternum digs at her side and she dares not look to see what is dripping onto her back, or whether the burning sensation there is real. Surely not, she thinks, it's only her imagination, like the ice-cold fear that suddenly flares up her spine when she realizes it's not alive.

    The thing swings that vaguely equine head around as if to regard her with its eyeless face and Shipka shudders. There is no mouth but harsh laughter jangles noisily in her head like broken glass, flooding her vision with red and black and white, and when she tries to pull away, it moves with her, its sloughing flesh adhering to her skin, its bones shifting, cracking, as if to pull her inside the tarry cavern of its rotten innards.


    The stars here slip away from her when she reaches for them, defiant, cold, they aren't her stars and care nothing for her, care nothing for fools that run willingly into the embrace of the Eaters. There's only her and... and... Her gaze finds her companion's and in an odd moment of calm, it occurs to her that she is going to die on an adventure she agreed to go on with a total stranger. Was this the plan all along?

    She has always been so, so naive.
    Image by vakrai

    @[The Monsters] maybe something happens to her flowers?
    Shipka nothing happens to your flowers
    If there is anything that Ten can understand, it is that naive desire to help. To do good. To rescue the world around them. He had once been in her very shoes - or hooves, as it were - called to save something he probably never should have. And he had died for that belief. Only the goodness and benevolence of the one he had died for had brought him back to life. Not just brought him back, but changed him irrevocably. Woken something buried deep within he hadn’t known existed before then.

    But underneath it all, the heart that beats is the same one who had chosen to sacrifice himself.

    And it is why he bounds after her when she shoots forward to help the wayward creature shuffling slowly towards them. He may have learned danger lurks in the strangest places, but even so, he could not let harm come to her if he could prevent it.

    As she crashes against the creature, determined to use her smaller frame to support the thing in it’s ungainly ambling, Ten skids to a halt before he too ends up crashing into them. Her words fall on deaf ears as the beastly thing lets loose a rattling laugh, skin melting against hers in the most horrific of ways.

    “Lure it is, I guess.” Ten’s wry words are muttered from lips already stretching forward to touch her exposed shoulder lightly. Moments later, she is ripped from the rotting beasts liquid embrace as Ten rends the fabric of space around them, pulling her through. The creature’s furious shriek echoes behind them, the last of its clinging embrace.

    Moments later, they are deposited far down the beach, undead thing left far in the distance as its unnatural cries fade into silence.

    Letting loose a pent up breath, Ten returns his gaze to her, features slipping into a concerned frown. “Are you hurt?”

    The moment of clarity ends. Laughter rattles through her bones as the creature stretches its skin around her, she even smiles herself, an empty, manic, smile that doesn't touch her eyes which are filling with horror instead. The corners of her mouth stretch back too far, into a grin bigger than she could manage on her own, but the magic of the creature absorbing her holds her in a painful rictus, turning her head to the stallion that runs to her aid. What hubris he has, the little, insignificant, wretch. What a fool, to think he can pluck prey from Our belly, she thinks in thoughts that are not her own voice, but one that makes white fire flash in her eyes.  The laughter feels like it is tearing her bones asunder.


    It takes everything she has to break through the psychic link with a single word lost immediately in a fit of giggles that makes her jaws crack. She doesn't feel him touch the still exposed skin of her shoulder, but the way his magic rips her away from the Beast makes her shriek. Fear and anger and and a red flood of pain. Her brain feels like shattered glass. Something solid strikes her feet, strikes her knees and her chest and the breath leaves her body for so long she thinks she might be dead. A feeling like loneliness flares up unexpectedly, emptiness, and if she had the strength to stand, Shipka knows she would find her way back to the hungry thing wailing a hundred miles down the beach.

    When the tentacles of its magic begin to wither away the young mare convulses, rolling up with a choking sound, sending the murky sand flying. She leaps to newborn legs and wobbles, sidesteps, clipping her own hooves with a sharp smack and falling against the champagne stallion.

    Are you hurt?

    "No." She lies, black fluid trickling from her flared nostrils.

    "I'm fine."

    Her head feels too heavy without the Monster's strength flooding her veins like rancid fat and she lets it hang against him, breath filling lungs that feel half-drowned. That desire to rejoin curls in her brain like a beckoning finger.

    "We should go back. Please let's go back. It needs our... our help. It needs help. Our help." Her voice dies away, but she continues to mouth the words.

    Image by vakrai

    In so many ways, his death had opened his eyes to the whole of existence. He had seen for the first time just how very small they were in the face of the cosmos. Had understood just how much more existed beyond the small world Beqanna clung to. Had seen that not all viewed life in the same way he did. In the same way they did.

    The creatures like these? They existed to devour. To turn all of life into a macabre image of themselves.

    It had been foolish to ask her if she was hurt. The ‘no’ that rolls off her tongue is a lie exposed in the black liquid that dribbles from her nostrils and unsteady flailing of her limbs. And just like that, the guilt rises. He had brought her here. He had made this happen to her.

    Swallowing a lump in his throat, he mutters a low apology under his breath before reaching out once more to wrap her in his magic. He should never have brought her here to begin with.

    When he drags them through the crack once more, he is convinced he had somehow done it wrong. That somehow he had glanced off, landing them in yet another mirror dimension. But as he lifts his head and tastes the air, he knows he hadn’t. As his eyes rise to the eclipse, a slow horror burns in his throat.

    Without second thought, he grabs her again and flings them forward in panic. Had he inadvertently led to the destruction of his home? But when they land again, the sun shines brightly onto the beach around them. The relief is nearly instantaneous. Whatever it was, it clearly passed.

    Turning to the girl at his side, Ten presses his nose to her once more, feeling the flood of her illness as he once again sacrifices his own health for the sake of another. As black fluid begins to trickle from his own nostrils, a small, shaky smile stretches his lips. “I hope that… you’ll be able to forgive me.”


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