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    Jamie -- Year 213


    “"I don’t know how to do this,” she says. What she actually means is I’m sorry, but she doesn’t know how to apologize either." --Titanya, written by Mirage

    [private]  so give me hope in the darkness

    Her stars are gone and she misses them.

    Islay has looked up to sky and it has been empty for months now. Devoid of the cosmos that she has adored and has spent most of her young life recreating. She had been the youngest on Islandres. The only child (unless you count Narcisus but she had found nothing child-like about the winged boy that Aedan had brought home from the Den).

    The stars had been her companions since... since she could remember. There is not a time that Islay doesn't remember reaching for them and wrapping herself in starlight. There is not a time that she doesn't remember making her moon spin and twirl in games of chase or bringing the stars to shine around her. There might have been a shortage of playmates on Islandres but Islay had created them from stardust instead.

    And now?

    Now there is only the Dark and the two-toned girl wraps herself in it. It is the only way she escapes the notice of the creatures who roam Beqanna (or worse, Islay had heard rumors that swam in the rivers and tides along the coasts). She cloaks herself in shadows and hides from the things that have done nothing but sabotage. But Islay, who has remained sheltered on Islandres, has come across things that have aged her.

    Her silver-blue eyes have seen decay and ruin.

    She has seen loss and death.

    Still, the daughter of darkness is out here, searching for a sign of the light.

    Islay is a shadow.

    And then she is not. She is simply there when she hadn't been moments before. Her blue-and-white coat emerges from the muted shades and the girl looks behind her shoulder, wondering if the light could be behind her.

    savage i know we talked about Mariner, but throw whoever you want at her!

    It is his mother he worries about the most.
    His mother, who pulled light from the sky and pushed it into his flesh, who made the galaxies in his skin spin and flourish. 
    He wonders how she will survive without her light, his mother. He imagines her angry, moody, condemned to the shadows. He thinks about finding her sometimes, cheering her up with the galaxies that still spiral across his knees, the stars that rain down the slope of his nose. They had laughed together once, hadn’t they? Hadn’t she wished upon them once? As if they were meteor showers? As if he could make them come true.

    And he wanders through the darkness now as if he were a beacon and he imagines his mother wilting and he wonders what it means that he does not seek her out.

    Perhaps it makes him wicked. 
    He knows that there were wicked things in both of his parents and that these things sometimes don’t skip generations. (Though sometimes they must because his mother’s parents are not wicked, neither one of them, and there is such dark ugliness in his mother’s heart.) 

    But he is not all wicked, Mariner, he knows this.
    If he is wicked, he is only partly wicked.
    Because he is at least partially frightened of the things that lurk in the darkness. He does not care for this darkness, although the galaxies that spin across his skin thrive in the shadows. He is not immune to fear. His pulse quickens and his breath hitches and he thinks sometimes he ought to stay put. 

    And one moment he is alone and the next moment he is not. 
    He turns and he looks and he asks, “are you a monster?” although he can tell just by looking at her that she is not. 
    i’m a shot through the dark, i’m a black sinkhole
    if it weren’t for second chances we’d all be alone


    The Monsters please mess with his immortality!
    mariner your immortality has mutated into living lightning rod. you're welcome.

    Islay flickers in and out of existence.

    She is there and then gone again. One moment, a girl of cloud and sky and then there is nothing but the swallowing darkness that devours everything. It happens again when she looks behind her, searching for some sign of life in this place that isn't cursed. Searching and hoping that it isn't Death behind her.

    If she were a braver girl, she might have remained in his sight. But the moment that his voice calls out, she vanishes. She doesn't take the risk that he could be anything else but a monster. Islay reaches for the dark and tangles herself in it, disappearing in the blink of an eye.

    But then she blinks. She blinks and sees the galaxies spinning on his legs. She catches the starlight shimmering in his wings and this sets something alight in Islay. The painted girl drops her shadows and emerges on the other side of him. "You haven't lost your stars," she says in a voice that holds all the warmth that their world currently lacks and wonder that has been lost this past year. She speaks to him with a familiarity that implicates they have met before (they haven't but Islay had been the only child on Islandres. With her imagination, it isn't hard to believe that she crafted playmates from moonbeams and stardust. It isn't so hard to believe that her imaginary playmates would have looked like him.)

    The daughter of Darkness looks at him and sees nothing wicked at all.

    "No," she tells him with a slight shake of her two-toned face. "Just Islay."

    "Who are you?"

    He barely gets the question out before she is gone again.
    Just that quick and he begins to think that perhaps he imagined her.

    Is this what it means to be lonely?
    Divining companions the color of the skies he remembers out of thin air simply because he cannot stand to be alone anymore.

    He turns to go, to venture further into the darkness.
    He silently reminds himself that he does not mind being alone. Reminds himself that, though there are things in the darkness that he fears, he is all right on his own. 

    His mother had been a solitary creature and he is, too.

    But there she is again, solid enough to convince him that he had not imagined her after all. She manifests on the other side of him and he exhales a sharp breath, studying what he can make out of her face in the darkness. 

    No,” he says, glancing down at the galaxies that curl around his knees. These stars that belong to him and not the sky. He looks back to her then, waits, wondering about all that warmth in her voice. Had she been looking for something? Has she lost her own stars?

    She is no monster, though he had already decided that she wasn’t. 

    No monster, just Islay.

    I’m Mariner,” he tells her, though he is reluctant to get too friendly and he doesn’t know why. 

    What are you doing out here by yourself, Islay?” he asks, gaze narrowed, “don’t you know about all the wicked things?” 

    i’m a shot through the dark, i’m a black sinkhole
    if it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone


    The Monsters let's mess with his living lightning rodness
    mariner your living lightning rod-ness has mutated into jewel-touched.

    Perhaps she is foolish to assume he is good because he is star-marked.

    Islay has seen the cosmos written on the skin of others and yet as she smiles at Mariner, it doesn't occur to her that he would not be kind. Her stars have always been selfless things, always threatening to fall from the heavens above to make room for another. She has never known starlight to be anything less than wonderful and moonlight to be anything less than magical and so she smiles to this stranger with all that wild wonder shining from her dark blue eyes and lifting the corners of her lips.

    "I'm glad," she tells the stallion with the warmth remaining in her lilting voice. She says it like this is some great secret, some great discovery that she will keep between them. Wherever the stars above have gone, she won't tell anyone about his because the galaxies still need to shine somewhere.

    Her white-and-blue face tilts up, looking towards this shadow. mariner, and suddenly her mind is filled with stormy seas and horizons that remain just out of reach. Her expression stills. It's an unsettling feeling for a girl who has been taught to reach for the moon. "I was looking for a friend," she explains (never thinking why she shouldn't, Islay offers her honesty as easily as she offers her friendship). She gives a small roll of her slender shoulders, "I haven't found her yet so I've just kept searching." The shores of Tephra had changed to the obscure jungle and then she had found herself here, had found Mariner.

    "There are too many wicked things roaming about," she says about the monsters (and not just the creatures, some souls are just dark). It's an unsettling thought. Islay glances to his glowing knees again and finds that she likes his stars there. Should he ever stumble, he would have the heavens rise with him.

    It makes her wonder: "Are you searching for something good?"

    She is so keen to share her warmth, her kindness, that it chases a tremor down the length of his spine. (Does it make him uncomfortable? He is so unaccustomed to this lack of inhibition! Whatever kindness he has known in his life has always been conditional. Does he think her naive?) He watches her, a wary edge to those sea-green eyes as he studies her, the softness of her smile. (Ironic, isn’t it, that he should be unsure of her instead of the other way around?)

    He shifts his weight, flexes the cramped wing joints, and nods. Casts a glance over his shoulders as if he might catch a glimpse of the friend she’d been searching for. As if she might be lurking just out of sight, waiting to spring out of the shadows. He does not ask who her friend is. He knows so few souls in this land, isolated from them by a mother who has never cared for company. A mother who crafted playmates for her son out of light when he complained of loneliness. (On the rare occasions when she could be bothered to entertain the child’s complaints.)

    He tilts his head to indicate that he’d heard her but does not speak. He has no concept of friendship, not really. Instead, he watches her gaze fall back to the galaxies spiraling across his knees. He wonders why she seems to favor those galaxies to the stars that rain down the length of his face but does not ask. 

    He considers her question, his tongue pressed hard against the roof of his mouth as he shifts his wings again. “I don’t think I was searching for anything,” he tells her. Was he searching for something? If he was, he has since forgotten. If he was, it almost certainly was not something good. 

    Does your friend know that you’re looking for her?” he asks. “Not very kind of her to keep you looking, is it?” 

    i’m a shot through the dark, i’m a black sinkhole
    if it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone


    The Monsters let's mess with his jewel touched just for fun!!
    mariner your jewel touched has mutated into sublimation

    All Islay has known is kindness.

    Her nights had been spent under the tutelage of her ever-patient father - learning the secrets of starlight and how to divine the weight of shadow. She wasn't an only child but her only sibling had been much older than her and seemed to inherit that wanderlust that afflicted their always wandering mother.

    She had grown up tucked safely away on the white shores of Islandres with only the mysteries of the mainland to wash up on their beach. Seaworn wood from Taiga. Pale stones that she liked to imagine were crumbled against the granite cliffs of Nerine. The antlers of a creature that she thought wandered the Tephran jungle.

    Even during those few interactions where Narcisus (another child living in Paradise) had been, well, himself, Islay had still been kind because that is all she knows.

    And it doesn't change; even when their world plummets into darkness and there are a thousand things to be afraid of (with sharp teeth and an abyss for a soul), Islay still smiles because this is how she finds her balance. The world goes dark so she stays light. Her head tilts slightly to the left when Mariner says that he is searching for nothing. She stays silent but wonders why he wouldn't be wandering. It's not as if he can get lost, she thinks. Not when he has those glowing stars on his hide. A soul has no better compass than them.

    "We were supposed to meet at the next full moon," Islay explains and then the small smile on her lips turns wistful. She doesn't say more because everybody knows that the following moon never came.

    He's got to be teasing her, right? She can't fathom Aesta purposefully evading her any more than she can imagine that he would be intentionally cruel. A pale blue ear flicks and the two-toned girl shakes her head. "Well, isn't Beqanna fairly large?" She teases back to Mariner, as if the two of them have done this before. Her silver eyes trace the shape of his wings while she amuses herself with an idea. "Surely you're never in the same place very long."

    The darkness against her blue-and-white sides swirl and shift, readjusts and reconciles itself to form a pair of pitch-black (the color of the deepest and furthest galaxies) wings. Islay has never done this before and her head turns to admire her handiwork before she turns her attention back to mariner. "What's it like to fly?"


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