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    Aela -- Year 216


    "So she smiles prettily and steals away when she can. Feels the brutal pounding of others around her with a savagery that she has never comprehended—their emotions so vast, their hearts so wicked. It warps her more than she was already warped. It presses a thumbprint of cruelty into her darkness, shaping her into a thing of shadow, a thing of longing, a thing carved from the darkness between every breath." --Baptiste, written by Laura

    [private]  where you gonna run to?

    It’s no small amount of worry riding like a rock in Mazikeen’s chest as she finds her way back to Hyaline. There’s no small amount of cursing, either, as she picks her way carefully across the dark landscape. She’s exhausted and her fire aura no longer blazes around her when she beckons it - even though she occasionally sees flickers of orange light - just testing to see whether it is still there. Making sure it had not been taken from her too.

    She stands on the slope of a foothill where she could normally see most of the kingdom stretch before her. Now there is a faint outline of the surrounding mountains and a glimmer of light on the waves of the lake. Mazikeen cannot make her hooves take her any further than this.

    Not without permission. Not now that she's no longer a shifter.

    Her anger flickers within her like her fire aura, competing with her exhaustion. She’d rather focus on either of those emotions over the fears that are rising like the shadows around her. There are too many of them to name - but she’ll be dead before she gives in to a single one of them. Mazikeen is far too stubborn for that. So after one deep breath to solidify her fierce resolve, she calls out for Breach.

    Though she will not be surprised if her alpha is close by already.


    for so long had my teeth held my tongue from a venomous voice
    but the poison has passed from my lips to my hands, an incendiary point

    Breach stalks the darkness as a fox. It is smaller than she usually likes to be, but the form is light and stealthy and the night vision is an added bonus. It is not enough to fully combat the dark—not enough to clearly break through the shadows that pull at the corners of this strange world—but it is enough for her to feel more comfortable as she walks through the kingdom, checking on the people who reside there.

    That she could not find Mazikeen makes her uncomfortable, but she trusts her Champion.

    She knows that she can be trusted to find her way through the dark.

    When she catches her scent, she whips her head around, eyes narrowing as she looks into the shadows to find the familiar ivory form. She wastes no time, shifting into her equine form as she surges up the hill, powerful haunches launching her up into the space before Mazikeen—something like worry on her face.

    “Mazikeen,” the relief is palpable as she approaches her at a slower pace this time.

    “What has you hiding out on the borders?”

    Her head tilts to the side, curiosity warring with the fear that blooms in her chest.

    though ritual pyre sending smoke to the sky as the building continues to burn
    though rapt in the ruin, the pain in the grave, is lies you leave tied to the earth

    @[The Monsters] - mess with her self-healing.


    Mazikeen isn’t left on her own for long, and seeing Breach eases away some of the anger and brings forth other emotions. She’s glad to see her friend (especially to see her unharmed) and dreading this conversation all at once. “Hey Breach.”

    Tears threaten but Mazikeen masters them this time. For her beloved friend and her alpha, she will not fall apart. She doesn’t delay in jumping right to the point. Her normal confidence is missing but stubbornness holds her head high when it wants to droop. “I went to the mountain. I… I was so tired of failing you - failing our home. First in the alliance and then when you were stolen…” Her orange eyes are steady on Breach’s face, her two-toned eyes, watching to see if the disgust Mazikeen feels over these failings is reflected there. It hadn’t occurred to her to actually check to see if Breach despised her, and even now that she should have doesn’t cross her mind.

    It had felt like a solid truth - unable to be disputed.

    “I got a quest, and I’m going to be stronger. Better. The certainty in her voice waivers and the temptation to look away rises, closing her throat. She doesn’t, though. She won’t. The next words are quiet, hollow and she’s ashamed of them even though she believes she needs this quest. “But they took my shifting until I can complete it.” She cannot actually bring herself to form the question on her mind - though she’s sure it hangs in the air like something they can physically see.

    Why is she standing on the border? Because she’s not sure if she’s welcome here anymore.


    for so long had my teeth held my tongue from a venomous voice
    but the poison has passed from my lips to my hands, an incendiary point

    Breach can only frown at Maze’s confession, her lips pulling deeper and deeper at the corners, her eyes narrowing slightly as she tries to understand. “Fail me?” she echoes, not understanding. She shakes her pale head. “Maze, you have never once failed me or done anything but bring honor to this pack.” Had she not volunteered to represent them in the Alliance? Had she not made it to the final rankings? Had she not been the only one to step up when Breach had been threatened—there to help her when no one else was?

    But she doesn’t speak further, letting Mazikeen complete her sentences, finishing her thoughts.

    When she’s done, she cannot stop herself from laughing—the sound soft. She steps forward to press her nose to the mare’s cheek and then slides forward to embrace her fully. A show of affection she does not allow herself often. “Of course you will come back stronger,” she says quietly. “We will get your shifting back,” this with a little more steel. She is not upset with Mazikeen for gambling with her shifting, but she knows more than most the rules that she has set—that she has already bent more than she should.

    For all of her love for Mazikeen, she cannot snap them completely.

    Instead she steps back, searching the mare’s gaze.

    “You can stay here until your quest is complete,” it is her home, after all, and this she feels confident about promising. “And once your shifting is returned to you, then there will be no need for concern.”

    She doesn’t address the possibility that Mazikeen would perhaps never be able to shift again.

    The idea of it, the consequences it would bring, are too much for her to bear.

    though ritual pyre sending smoke to the sky as the building continues to burn
    though rapt in the ruin, the pain in the grave, is lies you leave tied to the earth


    Ever since she descended from the mountain she’s imagined a dozen different ways this could have gone - and ever since she lost in the alliance she’s been so afraid of what Breach thought of her. When her insecurities took over from her logic, she had even imagined  laughter - but it had been cruel and not as soft as it is in real life.

    She had never imagined the touch on her cheek, though, or the embrace. And when they come, Maze’s breath hitches in what she’s pretty sure would be a sob but she bites her tongue against the noise - flat out refusing to let herself cry again. Even though this time it’s from relief and an overwhelming sense of affection for her friend. She returns the hug, warmth radiating through her even after there is space between them again.

    The confirmation that she is not immediately banished from Hyaline is further relief and she appreciates that the blue-tinged mare does not use ifs when talking about when Maze gets her shifting back.

    “Thank you, Breach.” Her voice is a little strangled when it comes out but there’s a smile that shines in her orange eyes now and then a light, embarrassed laugh comes out of her. “Guess I could’ve just come talk to you first. I’ve... been feeling pretty guilty about everything. It means a lot that you don’t think I’m a failure.”

    A lot didn’t even cover it. It seems a little ridiculous now, going up the mountain for this quest, but only a little. A weight has been lifted from her heart but Mazikeen's own self-doubt is eager to swarm in and fill the space.

    @[breach] your self healing has mutated into electricity mimicry. you're welcome.

    for so long had my teeth held my tongue from a venomous voice
    but the poison has passed from my lips to my hands, an incendiary point

    The depth of Mazikeen’s relief does not quite register with Breach who has never had any reason to think the other would doubt her faith in them. Breach has never had any second of concern or worry about her friend and so she doesn’t fully understand the way that Mazikeen’s voice grows strangled and her voice a little thick. She blinks a little before focusing on her again, trying to study the angles of her face as though the answer for her questions could be hidden there, underneath the orange of her eyes.

    “There’s no need to thank you me,” she says, opening her mouth to speak again when she feels something brush against her—something cold. She inhales sharply, shifting into her tigress form before she can even connect the two thoughts. The growl is low and deep in her throat, tail twitching behind her when something else rushes past. This time, the growl erupts, lips peeling back over her sharpened incisors.

    The third one jumps on her and she feels its breath hot on her face.

    Snarling, she rolls with it, feeling something like teeth against the thick fur around her throat and then something ripping through flesh. She howls and gets her feet under it, kicking it off her as she rolls back up again. There’s something cold that races through her veins, something shifting as she feels a shock of…something. She whirls toward the sound, but it’s already retreating and it’s just the two of them again.

    Panting, she shifts back to herself, as frazzled by the suddenness of the attack as she is by its end.

    When she stands, she winces, looking back at the jagged wounds across her haunches—claw marks that bleed freely. “Don’t worry,” she says out of habit more than anything, feeling for her healing.

    It doesn’t answer.

    So she frowns, trying again…but only emptiness responds.

    “Maze…” her voice trails off, something building in her chest.

    “My healing. It isn’t working.”

    If she crackles, if she begins to emit a light glow, she doesn’t realize it.

    though ritual pyre sending smoke to the sky as the building continues to burn
    though rapt in the ruin, the pain in the grave, is lies you leave tied to the earth


    Watching Breach shift is like having someone reach into her chest and squeeze her heart with icy claws, but Mazikeen doesn’t have time to focus on that pain. Even her exhaustion is forgotten when something separates from the darkness around them and jumps on Breach. Terror and a rage deeper than her own hollowness flood through her. She’s taking a few steps forward, instinctively moving to help, her fire aura blazing to new life at the sound of Breach’s pain and illuminating the area around them in an orange glow.

    But just as soon as it began, the attack is over - her orange eyes following the retreating shape until she cannot see it anymore.

    She forgot her own uselessness in those few seconds, even though she did not even have the time to help. She would have used these blunt teeth to tear the beast off of Breach if she had to - risking the tiger’s claws on her flesh to do so - and she would not have hesitated for a single second. Perhaps there was more of herself in this form than she feared (and maybe that meant Sabal had been right… but she’d never tell the foul waterbeast such a thing).

    Her attention moves back to her friend and Mazikeen’s expression is darkening with worry as she takes in the bleeding. How it doesn’t stop - worry replacing every other thought in her head when Breach says her healing isn’t working.

    Eyes slide momentarily to the darkness where the creature had disappeared as she frowns. “They can… do that? The ones I met on Islandres and in the forest were… different.” But even as she says that she remembers how she had teleported to the forest and has never since managed to do that again - how instead she could call wings made of shadow to her side (when they felt like appearing or answering her, at least). Had the creature that had bitten her there taken something, traded it for something else entirely? Were the jagged claw marks simply immune to Breach's healing or had something changed in her too?

    Maze moves so she can check on Breach's wounds, her head reaching out - not intending to touch, just investigate. As her muzzle drifts close she receives a shock that has her head involuntarily jerking back, a small nervous laugh escaping her as her nose twitches with the effect.

    Her fire aura begins to die again, the adrenaline feeding it fading, but in its absence she's aware of the glow coming from Breach and she steps back to marvel at her friend. The concern doesn't leave her expression, though she attempts something of a joke anyway. “The glow is handy right now but a poor trade for healing if that's what just happened. Guess you're going to be stuck scarring like the rest of us now."


    for so long had my teeth held my tongue from a venomous voice
    but the poison has passed from my lips to my hands, an incendiary point

    It happens so quickly but it leaves Breach shaken.

    She can feel it, down in her bones, that something is wrong—more than Mazikeen standing before her now, stripped of her power. More than even the wounds across her haunches that do not heal. More than the darkness that has stolen across Beqanna and has not lifted. She feels it in her every cell.

    Something permanent, unsettling.

    She glances up at Mazikeen, studying her friend’s face with an intensity that is not entirely unusual for her but is still pointed. It lights up her features, causing that crackling glow around her to expand just a little further. She wants to laugh at Maze’s joke—she does—but that feeling doesn’t leave.

    The area around them is lit between Maze’s fire and her electric glow, casting shadows across their faces. Breach hisses in a breath as wind picks up, the cold air against the split flesh an unusual pain for her. By the time, she was used to it already beginning to close up on its own, sealing of its own accord.

    But it doesn’t.

    Something shifts in her again and she swings her head to the side, peering into the darkness.


    “I have to go,” she says abruptly, biting her lip. She reaches out to bump her nose against Maze’s cheek, managing to give her a smile. “Take care of things for me while I’m gone, okay?” the smile fades as she shifts into her favored form of a hawk, spearing across the sky toward the source of her fear.

    though ritual pyre sending smoke to the sky as the building continues to burn
    though rapt in the ruin, the pain in the grave, is lies you leave tied to the earth


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