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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]  i'm baptised in your name, mazikeen
    The child does not know that soon he will be cast out.
    The child does not know that he is not like the sister.

    The child does not know anything yet except that the legs move when he asks them to move and it feels good to move them. It feels good to walk. Even in this crushing darkness.

    He is so terribly young, but there is something innate that tells him that there is safety in movement. He presents too tempting a target if he remains still. If he curls himself sweetly into the shadows and merely waits.

    So he moves. Because it feels good and it is safe and he does not know much, this young angel cast from ice, but he knows that safety is paramount.

    There is a crushing pressure wrapped like a vise around his windpipe. Ghosts loiter in his periphery. They rise up out of the earth where they fell. But he cannot see them, cannot differentiate them from the darkness. They pulse and writhe alongside the monsters, waiting.

    He casts no glow and he stumbles and staggers through the shadows mostly blind. He does not know the caliber of danger that lurks here. He is so terribly young, but he keeps moving. Keeps moving while the death swells up into the air around him so that he has no choice but to choke on it.

    Such a pitiful thing, this angel cast from ice. His head swims as he moves and he struggles to breathe and he can feel the darkness closing in around him. Fingers reached for him from the shadows. Beckoning. Fanged. Waiting. And he, so terribly young, goes so willingly.



    Mazikeen is feeling a little more like herself, a little calmer, and a little less like combusting into flames at any given minute. She’s starting to feel like the completion of her quest is less of a pressing necessity and more of an actual possibility. Which is ironic, because in order to get her shifting back she needs to be comfortable in her shift-less skin.

    This feels less like a quest and more like a very specific brand of torture. But she feels hopeful more than she feels sad, and that’s a pleasant change.

    Mazikeen moves through her home, patrolling and keeping a careful eye out for anything that doesn’t belong. She hasn’t seen any of the shadow-beasts here yet but that didn’t mean they would never cross the borders. And just because she is not as capable of fighting them as she had been when she met the one with Wishbone and the one on the island, doesn’t mean she’s completely useless.

    She’s starting to think her real superpower is stubbornness and that’s what keeps her moving. She notices the colt and thinks about how she hasn't interacted with a child since she was one. And then her eyes slide from him and notice the way the shadows seem to move and reach for him and her skin chills.

    So they’re here after all.

    “Hey!” She shouts and her legs are already moving without a second thought. HEY.” She shouts again, heading right for the fingers, for the fangs, and giving them something else to focus on.

    There is safety in the movement, the perpetual motion, but there is so much danger in his obliviousness. So much danger in how eagerly he casts himself into the darkness.

    When the monsters come calling there is nothing that can protect him. Not the crooked halo of ice or the crevasses cut into his flesh or the soft, downy wings curled uselessly against his ribs. He is vulnerable and foolish and he has wandered much too far from the safety of his mother’s side.

    He walks and walks and walks while the shadows pulse and writhe. And he looks up sharply at the sound of someone’s voice, swinging his tiny head around in an effort to seek out the source of the sound. He cannot see her as she moves toward him, toward them, but he senses some measure of urgency in her voice.

    He feels chastened, like he’s done something wrong, like he will soon be punished for it. His pulse quickens and his breath is kicked into an irregular pattern as he searches the dark. But he does not see her still and he does not see the things that had reached for him and have now turned their ugly heads in her direction.

    But there is a sudden heaviness to the darkness and a sense of unease descends around him, a spectacular wrongness. He goes stock still, though he knows there is safety in movement. Should he run? Is there something here that he needs to escape?

    His throat tightens and his tiny nostrils flare as he stares hard into the dark and calls, “hello? Who’s there?



    Mazikeen snaps at the shadowy forms, moving closer to the colt and wedging herself between them and him - trying to push away the heavy darkness. There’s absolutely no thought, no debate, as to what she’d do to protect this child she’s never met. And when he speaks into the darkness, she almost laughs. “Nothing good, kid.” And Mazikeen isn’t sure whether she means herself or the shadows she spots reaching for them again.

    In a flare of firelight, her aura surrounds her and she solidifies her stance in front of the winged colt, orange eyes on the thick darkness that recedes now from the fire. It regroups just on the edge of where the light falls, into a beast made of concentrated shadow. The light from her aura does not reflect off of it the way it does the surrounding area. It is something else entirely.

    Regular shadows skitter away but this thing crawls closer. Inky darkness among the orange-lit grass, a clawed arm first and then a head that she cannot discern any features on yet - but there’s a hiss and an impression of dangerous fangs as it slinks into the light.

    Mazikeen lowers her head and bares her own teeth, ears flattening against her skull. She doesn’t tell the colt to run, worried that it’ll be harder to protect him if he does, and she’s trying to remember where she last saw someone else in the kingdom as she had been walking. Not close enough, she thinks, for help.

    Her heart races with fear and anticipation and she shuts out the insecurities that threaten to crawl their way up her throat and strangle her.

    She hasn’t faced one of them without her shifting yet - and she supposes she’s about to find out whether she really is useless without it.

    Nothing good, she says, and finally swims into his field of view.
    White, like him, but kissed by darkness rather than ice.

    There is a split second of indecision as he wonders if he should be frightened of her, too. But he understands on some visceral level that she is protecting him from something that he cannot identify. He does not know how to respond, so he doesn’t. Instead, he shrinks when she seems to burst into flames. He shrinks but he does not run, because he is young but he understands that she is the only thing standing between him and some greater threat.

    He turns his focus the fire that swells around her but does not seem to touch her to the creeping darkness. His heart plummets into the pit of his gut when he sees it move, a shadow separate from the rest. A shadow that takes on real shape, like something living and breathing. Something hungry.

    His breath quickens and he squeezes his eyes tightly shut. Everything in him wants to cry out with the fear that courses through him, paralyzing him, rooting him to that small circle of flickering light. Had he known that such terrible things existed? Had he known that the world he’d been born to was uniquely cruel? No. No, no.

    There is a new sense of unease that claws its way up his throat. The creeping sensation that death will come for them. He can feel it like a rumor, a stone in the pit of his gut.

    He opens his mouth to warn her but he can force out no sound before the monster descends upon him.


    @[The Monsters] have at his light armor!

    “NO!” Mazikeen roars as the creature slips past her and to the colt. She twists after it, striking out with her mouth in an effort to pull it off of him, pull it away. Slick, shadowy skin comes away in her teeth and the beast turns to her - retaliating with claws that collide with the burning ring of fire. It looks back at the boy, as if it knows which of them is the safer target, but it’s wrong. Mazikeen would have fought to protect herself (hell she would have fought just for the sake of it) but seeing the creature descend upon the colt awakens something else entirely.

    She can feel it. The rage she thought she lost, the frenzy, billowing up inside of her like a dry forest catching flame. Without her shifting to feed on, it feasts on her fear - and there is plenty of that to go around.

    She surges towards the creature, her next mouthful tearing more slick shadowy flesh away. She bullies and stomps and pushes herself back between the colt and the creature - trying to get him out of harm's way - and once she has there is a brief moment where she faces the featureless creature. Where orange eyes burn into that shadowy face.

    Then like the crack of thunder, that moment breaks and they both move. Mazikeen strikes with her hooves, too lost to rage to feel the sadness that comes with remembering where her lessons came from, No noise escapes her, no more feral screams after that one word. She’s silent in her fury as she fractures one of those twisting arms with a well-aimed strike, even as she feels fangs drag down her side. The pain catches fire too and Mazikeen loses herself to the trading of blows.

    Until, finally, the creature does not move. Until she fractures its skull with her hooves and sees it disappear into the earth like the others. Her right foreleg gives out with the impact and she stumbles. It is only then that she notices the tendons have been severed there. When she turns her head to find the colt, she feels the gashes in her neck that are bleeding freely.

    Sees the skin and muscle that has been torn from her side and now hangs, revealing several ribs. Her fire aura begins to flicker as the pain begins to eat its way into the forefront of her mind. There is barely a patch of her body free from blood and her head begins to swim.

    But her gaze looks desperately around for the colt and she asks “Are you okay?” She is able to remain standing on trembling legs for enough time to hear the answer before her next step brings her hard into the ground and the fire extinguishes.

    Mazikeen had survived death once and been so sure it was not possible for her. She couldn’t heal but she could endure.

    She’s losing too much blood too fast this time - she cannot even focus beyond the very real certainty that she is dying. She is livid about it, but there's a sense of peace too - at least she killed it first. At least the colt will survive. The ground feels like it is tilting beneath her and her eyes roll into her head.

    Images flicker through her mind but the last thing that she sees there as she slips into darkness is the contrast of a blood-red marking on white feathers.

    @[Selaphiel] your light armor has mutated into reflective teleportation. you're welcome.
    He is only vaguely aware of the sound of her voice as it roars through the silence. But the enormity of his fear dulls each of his senses. A defense mechanism, no doubt, a way of tempering his awareness so that his death will not be as painful. He steels himself against it, locking his baby knees and sucking in a sharp breath that he holds hard and fast as the monster rakes its long black fingers down the colt’s side.

    The sensation kicks all of the air out of him and he lets out a primal yelp, recoiling. And then the thing is gone and he forces open his eyes, standing there, trembling. He cowers as the mare rips into the thing with her teeth and his sense of dread compounds. Death is coming.

    Death is coming.
    Death is coming.
    Death is coming.

    He feels it like a second pulse. Even as ice snakes through his veins from his feet to seep into the superficial wound along the swell of his heaving ribcage. He sucks in a sharp, wild breath, so consumed by his fear and dread that he thinks these things alone will surely kill him.

    And then, suddenly, such a peculiar stillness. He looks from the dead thing to the mare and thinks he should feel some palpable amount of relief. Gratitude. He thinks, too, that death has come for the monster and the dread should in him should have died along with it. But it intensifies as she turns to him, bleeding. She takes a funny step toward him and then collapses.

    He rushes to her, dips his head to press his nose urgently against her shoulder. If he can channel the ice from his veins into hers then maybe he can save her, too. But it’s no use, he knows that. She will die. She will die, he can feel it.

    No, no, no,” he whispers into her blood-slick flesh before he turns and throws back his head. Heart hammering, he opens his mouth and screams, “help! Please, help!

    His throat tightens and his voice fails him. So when he speaks next, it comes out as a miserable whimper. “Mom!


    @[Mazikeen] @[Ryatah]

    — there's something tragic about you, something so magic about you, don't you agree?

    She is not afraid of the dark or the things that lurk in it, but she forgets that her children are not so familiar. When Sela wanted to branch away to explore she hesitated, but she did not tell him no. She did not know how long this night was going to last, and while Este was too weak to follow her brother, it seemed unfair to keep Sela tethered at her side. It would be better for him to learn and grow in the dark, she thought, than to be taught to be afraid of it.

    He is still small though, and she is tracking the minutes, hours that he is gone. She had made him promise to not be gone long, but after raising so many children she knew how they could be; they had different ideas of what was considered too long. With her lips idly smoothing over Este’s down-soft mane she tries to ignore the worry that is settling like a veil over her.

    Until it begins to feel too heavy.
    Until that faint worry turns into a sinking stone in her gut, the kind of intuition she has learned to not ignore.

    “Stay here, Este,” she murmurs to the rose-dappled girl curled on the ground, though the odds of the girl trying to follow her anywhere were slim. “Atrox will be back soon, but I’m going to find your brother.”

    Pushing down the guilt she feels at having to leave Este defenseless and alone, she does not dare to glance over her shoulder as she walks away; she does not want to see the darkness swallow her small, trembling body as her own angelic glow follows her retreating form.

    Hyaline seemed oddly quiet, in a way that was unsettling. There was no faint rustling of the shifting residents, hardly even a stir of the branches in the wind. It did nothing to quell the fear rising like a wave in her chest, but she refuses to let herself drown in it. Though her heart beats quickly and every muscle is drawn taut she keeps her steps light and quiet, searching and waiting for any sound that she could follow.

    It comes, then, as a distant cry.
    His voice is so small in the great expanse of dark but she hears it clear as anything. She follows it, tracks it until it leads her to him and the broken, bleeding form that she recognizes as one of Agetta’s daughters. “Sela,” she murmurs to him soothingly, reaching to pull him to her chest gently. Her lips press to the top of his head but her eyes are on Maze, to where bone is exposed beneath flesh, to the blood that saturates the ground around her.

    She has never healed anyone with injuries like this before; has never brought anyone back from near death and she feels the doubt creeping into her mind. She steps forward, touches her nose to Maze’s cheek, and begins to heal her. Slowly skin begins to knit itself back together, broken bones and torn muscles mending beneath her touch. It is not flawless; she is sure she will scar, but she is also sure that she will live.

    Maze’s blood stains her porcelain-white lips by the time she is done, is smeared across her legs and chest from moving around her, and her glow seems to have faded from using so much of her power in one sitting. She looks back to Sela, can see the guilt and sorrow on his face, and she feels her heart begin to crumble. “She’s going to be okay, Sela. I promise,” she does not have to lie, does not have to fake any kind of confidence. She is sure that Maze will live, but she wishes, mostly, that she could heal the guilt from Sela that he should not even be feeling.
    there's something wretched about this, something so precious about this, oh what a sin —

    WOW did someone order some really bad word vomit that makes no sense because HERE YOU GO

    Mazikeen remembers the first time she thought she had died - the violence of waking to crows picking at her flesh, the intensity of that first moment and realizing that no matter how much she bled, she’d be alive through it all. Finding the strength to eventually stumble home to the Cove, tearing open her wounds again and again with every step and losing consciousness but always waking, no matter what. Always incapable of escaping the pain or the horror of dying without honour.

    This time is different. She does not jerk awake but returns to consciousness slowly like she’s wading through deep water. Her waking is preceded by a scowl when she remembers that last image that had flitted through her mind. That clearly doesn’t mean anything, right? Just some bizarre fluke of her subconscious - it could’ve been anything.

    Her orange eyes finally flash open when other thoughts begin to flood into her mind and she scrambles to her feet so fast she stumbles - eyes wild as they cast around as her fear catches up with her. Had the boy even been okay before she had fallen? She couldn’t remember him answering her question. “Where is he? Is he okay?” Mazikeen’s voice is strained and it takes her a moment to focus on the pair nearby - her heart still racing and breathing ragged as she does.

    They are both covered in blood - is that her blood? - but she cannot see any serious injuries. It’s only then that she remembers what her own injuries had been before she fell unconscious and she marvels at their absence. There is still a little bit of pain but it is dull and manageable. Later she’ll marvel at the scars and the injuries they echo.

    These thoughts fade and the embarrassment begins to settle in. She has a lot to learn about fighting in this form - particularly how to defend herself. A lesson she’s been meaning to learn for some time, that had driven her up the mountain for this quest.

    But she will think about that another time - when she's not so worried about this angelic pair. “I’m sorry. For the mess and everything. There was one of those creatures...” Comes her next fumbling words. The need to apologize is so heavy in her heart. She feels guilty for the boy having to see what he did, for the blood they both wear, for not having been efficient enough at fighting it off that she even put them in this position. And for supporting the rules of this kingdom that may very well separate this mother and child if he is not a shifter - when Mazikeen does not need more than a look to see how wrong that is. So few have been her interactions with parents other than her own she hasn't allowed herself to think about it - but she thinks on it now as she looks at them.

    “But thank you... for healing me. If there is anything I can ever do… please let me know.”


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