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  • Beqanna

    COTY

    Reave -- Year 219

    QOTY

    "She did not wake up one day healed, she was simply moving and she realized that somewhere along the way grief had stopped stabbing her every motion. It’s a strange feeling. She is lighter and heavier at once. She doesn’t know what to do with the time that’s opened before her, what to do without wounds to claw open." --Cordis, written by Cassi


    im always dragging this horse around
    #1

    The first word she says in the Afterlife is, "No." 

    It shouldn't be any surprise that the one who had always been her champion - who had always tried to shield her from every misstep as a child, who had watched his sister stumble and struggle in the land of the Living - is the first one to greet her. He couldn't catch her on the other side but on this one, Malachi is the first one to greet her. He couldn't be with her before but he could be with her now and her brother is eager to make up for all the lost years between them.

    Stunned and suddenly blinded by the presence of light, she thinks that his dappled skin should have gone silver by now.

    And yet here he is, as familiar to her as the day that she had left him on the Pass after they had argued.

    "Lilli," he urges her gently. The chestnut buries herself into the muscled crook of his neck. "No." she says again, like if she keeps her eyes closed, she can remain blind to the truth that is so painfully obvious now. (How does she still fit against him so easily? Had he always been this tall when he had been alive? Or has she always been this small?) But where she had once felt emotions so acutely alive and held on to them, they are far easier to let go here. Pressing her copper eyelids closed, she takes a deep breath and steps back from her brother.

    When her blue eyes open, they meet his dark mocha ones; brother and sister look at each other, two halves of the same smile finding one another. Her only stills a moment. "I'm sorry," she says. "For that last time," and her mind travels back to remember the bitter cold of the mountains, the furious heat of their anger. The quiet that settles between the siblings makes her wonder if Malachi's memory followed hers. "I should have-," Lilliana starts quietly and Malachi doesn't let her finish. "Come with us?" The Andalusian lifts his silver head and motions it towards a path, moving them away from this topic.

    They had both ended up here, she decides. It doesn't matter the path they took.

    Time, as it does in the Beyond, passes differently here and Lilliana doesn't know if it hours or days or weeks that pass here. The slender mare falls into step with her brother and makes the choice she hadn't when they had been both alive. She decides to follow him. And while he leads her away from the hills, they speak of many things. Lovely things (their children and all the ways the family that the family has grown, how Aletta had found their father, how Jay learned to speak to the stars). Terrible things (Malachi tells her how he and Kalina died, their lives given so that their twins could live).

    They talk until there is a veil ahead, a haze not unlike the Taigan fog. She slows when Malachi does and looks over to where he stands regarding her. Finally, he asks: "Do you want to go home?"

    Shouldn't the answer be easy? Shouldn't it be yes?
    (But her mind can't conjure the word into a single place, to a single soul.)

    "The choice is yours," he tells her before pressing a fleeting kiss to her forehead, and then Malachi vanishes into it, leaving the chestnut to gaze into a rift between worlds.

    @[Neverwhere]

    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind
    Reply
    #2

    Hey all you cool cats and kittens

    Amarine's face had jolted some of the mist of the Afterlife away. The white-faced mare had watched her once-ward turn and leave. The Fairies asked for help. She had watched Ama leave, frowning, wondering if her suspicion had been warranted. It wouldn't have been the first time some other spectre came to her with a familiar face, this place is full of more trickery than the Living World had ever held. But Neverwhere is not built for regret, her heart does not hold onto those things, and if the stilled thing in her breast twinges even a little when Ama turns away with promises on her lips, none of it reaches that gnarled, burnt face or the pale ghost-blue eyes.

    How much time has passed?

    The silver grass shudders, rustling with a breeze that she cannot feel when she turns back to the herd of placid faces around her. She knows a few of them, knows that red spotted mare with the witches' knots in her mane and the bay colt with the crooked blaze leaping tussocks in the field like his leg was never broken. It was simpler, then. It was easier. There were fewer decisions to make and they all led here, in the end, led to these endless, peaceful fields. But she's not the same as she was, the world turned out so much bigger. That old tugging feeling re-ignites, the itch that sets her wandering away from safety, from security, and without a word or even a nod, she leaves these remnants of her old family as easily as she did once upon a time.

    Actually, it's even easier, this time.

    The landscape shifts suddenly, like a dream, blending abruptly into something else, her hooves loud on the slick, wet rock. She thinks it looks cold, although she doesn't notice it, and then, like water spilling from above, she feels the cold, the damp chill crawling under her coat like thin fingers. But something is missing, some detail lost. Her head feels stuffed full of dry leaves that rattle against the back of her eyes, too dull and dusty to remember what is missing, and the stocky mare shakes her head against the sensation.

    Stop.

    She swings her attention back the way she came but that sweetly shining place has faded away, only dripping granite and those frigid tentacles hugging tight to her skin. Until she can't breathe. She gasps, but the feeling like suffocation doesn't waver, she coughs, and the compression tightens around her ribs. She coughs and...

    She coughs and she knows what's wrong - there's no plume of fog dusting her vision like dragonsmoke. There's no breath like there's no heartbeat. She's already dead. The cold terror Thing that holds her clings more tightly, but can the dead die again? Ever cynical, Neverwhere pauses and calms the beatless heart in her chest. There is nothing terrifying about the cold, she's survived enough winters to know, and the tight press of her lips becomes that trademark frown, one burned ear falling back.

    I'm leaving.

    It's a thought that booms against the frigid rocks, bouncing soft and inexorable as distant thunder. She can feel her bones, dry, pale, stretched across with piecemeal skin and threads of cream-colored hair. Pale eyes blink and open on nothing, on white. She is blind again. Or perhaps it is only fog. Someone dark passes her, he's soft at the edges, dappled, scentless. He doesn't see her and Neverwhere says nothing. Instead she steps forward; it's just one step, she hasn't even moved, but the fog breaks and there are tears on the other side. Blue eyes full of tears and again Neverwhere thinks she knows this face.

    Lilliana.

    "What are you doing here?"

    Amarine's words fall from her lips before she can snatch them back.

    That bitch, Neverwhere

    Image by Cielvesare


    @[Lilliana]
    Reply
    #3

    These endless fields are supposed to be full of peace, so how is it that she is here, still full of tears?

    Oh, but they come.

    They finally hit her the moment her brother leaves and the fog surrounds her. They fall fast and hard and hot against her chestnut cheeks. The years between the last time they saw each other and this meeting here in the Afterlife nearly overwhelm her, but the years that separated them are ones that she can see clearer than ever.

    What Beqanna doesn't know - what the land of the Sunrise never saw - was that there were once three horses on a mountain pass. Two were light-colored (and one as pale as the autumn snow that threatened to fall soon), one had a blazing red pelt like wildfire. Two sets of eyes glittered like onyx in the sunlight, tempers ready to blaze like Lilliana's gold-red skin. And she had done her best, as she had always had, to dispel the rising tension between her family members.

    But Aletta was a force to be reckoned with; she always had been. And the words that Malachi had cast at her had been the stones to crumble a mountain.

    "You would have me break father's promise?" the dappled gray had asked. (He didn't raise his voice but somehow the deepening of it had sounded worse. Like thunder in the distance, like the rumblings of discontent yet to come.) Aletta, who had taught her children to have their own voice from an early age, heard her eldest and raised her refined head. But just as she had raised them to speak their concerns and to make themselves known, the gray mare had never wavered once her mind had been made.

    Not even for her children.

    "I would have you look to your own family," she tells him. Kalina - his mate - had been expecting again and with four young mouths to feed, scavenging for dead grass and roots was no longer a feasible choice for the band. "Your father knows that I will be here and when the Winds decide, he will come back for me." But the young stallion had argued. Would the Winds be there to aid her when a predator came calling? Worse yet, what about a rogue male? And that had earned a glittering stare from their mother.

    Sharp, pointed words as dark as the onyx that shone through her near-midnight eyes.

    Hadn't she managed to sneak Brynn away from Skullface?
    Had she not defeated Sirocco at the Summit?
    Had she not kept Underworld away from young Elena?

    And Lilliana had tried. Malachi had argued with their mother and their mother had said fewer and fewer words. "Malachi, please." The smaller chestnut pleaded. Then the worst had happened. The gray Andalusian had looked to his sister, another horse that he had promised their father that he would protect, and said: "You are coming with us to Liridon. To the Donietas." Much as he had told her when he announced that they were all going to Culloden.

    That had been the moment her grief had broken free.

    She had done as she was bid; Lilliana had played the respectable sister, the dutiful daughter. She had gone to Culloden and how had that played out? A man was supposedly dead because he had sheltered them. Something had broke in her and Lilli had snaked her head back. "No." She finally said, no longer trying to smooth the ragged edges of the argument between her mother and brother. Danger would follow them wherever they went and some part of her said it was better to go off alone.

    It always seemed to find them wherever they went - the Legacy clan, the Summer line - and some part of Lilli thought that maybe she would be harder to find on her own.

    On her own, she found trouble. It didn't seem to matter where she went, how far she tried to leave it behind her. It took the shape of a stallion with blue stripes and the gold coloring she had trusted through her entire life. She found trouble and Lilli who had played the peacekeeper for her family, called out for help the only way she knew how. Because in their hour of need, they always came. Because when the worst was about to happen, somebody was always there: her mother, her father, her brother, Elena. Somebody always came and perhaps some part of her thought that somebody would come.

    That the worst would be about to happen and the family she had lost would know, that something was wrong, that they would -

    They never came.
    They never came and she weeps now because she knows why he never came back for her; it wasn't because he was angry. It had nothing to do with their mother's stubborn pride. [font=Arial]It wasn't because his fury had lasted years. Malachi had never been given them. Her brother never came back because he couldn't. He had been here and the repressed fury that has been building all this time just pours out from her blue eyes. [/font]

    It makes her angrier that she can't stop them. She clenches her jaw and arches her neck, tucking her refined head down until a familiar voice lifts it back up. Lilliana looks to see @[Neverwhere] standing there with the fog swirling around her and wearing a frown that is familiar to Lilli as the mare herself. Her eyes widen and then her nostrils flare though there is no scent; there is nothing of the brine of Nerine or the moorland grasses that once clung to the dappled woman. "I was going home," Lilliana says. The haze around them continues to swirl until there are faint outlines of a forest, the soft trickle of a current nearby. "With my brother," she starts to explain (because once Lilliana had told her that nobody was looking for her and now she knows that wasn't true). "But it would seem his home and mine are no longer the same."

    She takes a deep breath, railing against the tightness in her chest. What she says next should surprise neither of them. She blinks once and then twice as the world around them continues to resemble a forest they once passed through. Her voice wavers. "I'm lost, Nev."

    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind
    Reply
    #4

    Hey all you cool cats and kittens

    The silence between them might last a lifetime for all she can tell, heavy with all the sadness and the hurt the red mare has been crushing down and down and down into the darkest corners of her heart, and Neverwhere can see the dark forest, trees and shadows and snow, and the pale moonlight filtering through the branches. She sees it more clearly than she did in life, and the branches feel oppressive and greedy, snatching at the ghostly wisps of her mane. But the trees gave way to sunrise. And the world shifts subtly, black giving way to deep indigo blue, to pink, to that day at the river. Water rushes cold around her pasterns and the memory of that algae smell is sharp in her nose as the fog that clings to her takes the shape of a long ago day. It's thin, though. Neverwhere is less experienced with the magic of emotion, and so the illusion falls away from her long before it can become clear.

    There is only fog again, and Neverwhere, stolid, if not entirely solid, and Lilliana's tears darkening her russet cheeks. Two shortened ears turn themselves towards the chestnut and the wind sighs for her.

    "Lilli..."

    Neverwhere closes the gap between them as she has done so many times before, finds her place again at her friend's side and imagines the warmth that used to be there until she's almost convinced of it.

    "Lilli, don't be stupid."

    Above the fog, the moon pulses softly, larger and brighter than she ever remembers it being. Perhaps it's guilt that makes it so broad, guilt to be a party to the Monsters' stained magic, guilt for turning the living world to pitch and ice. The beasts don't seem to linger here and she wastes little time wondering why that might be, it's enough to know that they aren't in this space in-between, and never mind the rest. Let it go. She isn't like Amarine, and she isn't like Lilliana. She doesn't answer calls for help by rushing in headfirst, bound by some sense of duty. Neverwhere would let dragons burn the world to ashes without remorse, yet, again and again, she finds herself here, desperate to staunch the flow of Lilliana's unhappiness. Somewhere distant, in the dark and the dust or the depths of some predator's belly, somewhere the shreds of her heart lurch and if Ama reawoke her, it is Lilli, her first and most steadfast friend, that reminds her what it is like to live. That broad, pale, forehead presses itself against a copper shoulder.

    "There's no such thing as lost." Neverwhere blinks clear eyes once covered with cataracts and rimmed with scarred, burnt skin. She had traveled so far and seen so little, "you just didn't end up where you expected."

    Her head swings up again, peering briefly into the place where the dappled stallion disappeared into the fog, to the place that is not Lilli's home, and the frown on her lips becomes something mischievous instead. Her shoulders roll, nonchalant.

    "Besides, I'm here, and I've never been lost a day in my life, so how can you be lost if I'm not?"

    That bitch, Neverwhere

    Image by Cielvesare


    @[lilliana]
    Reply
    #5

    What does Lilliana's idea of Heaven look like?

    Maybe this is why the fog is so strong, why it is so thick (or perhaps Lilli just misses Taiga and all the ways that she could hide there). Is her Paradise a crystalline lake, surrounded by family that she has never met? Is it the quiet bend of a creek where she spent so many hours of her youth? There could be the wide-open moors of Culloden - which had reminded her so much of Nerine - or maybe Lilliana would ascend to some corporeal mountain that belonged to her mother's people, a place so high that it was said the peaks could pierce the sky and force the stars to fall.

    Whatever she might have imagined, it is not this.

    She had never thought that she might get lost in the Afterlife. A thousand other thoughts are floating around her mind. Her mind is already rushing for a solution, (ignoring the folly of her youth) already searching for an answer. If she kept moving, perhaps Malachi might reappear and then-

    And then?

    The thought steadies as Neverwhere comes alongside her, a familiar gesture that helps alleviate some of Lilliana's unease. Their reunion is tender and Lilli dips her head to press into the dappled shoulder of her old friend. She had searched for the Nerinian for months, scoured the Common Lands, and even braced the icy waters to Leilan's Isle when Nerine and Taiga had turned up empty. Her emotions (when are they not at odds with each other?) catch in her throat and the sound she makes is a sob that battles with a laugh.

    Don't be stupid, Neverwhere tells her. As pragmatic as ever.

    Lilliana has always had the tendency to be too soft. When dealing with strife or struggles, her instinct had always been to soften the blows. She had learned to smile and laugh, to distract and offer a moment of respite away from the troubles. There have been times that she had wished to change that about herself but it's become a habit after a lifetime. It is simply part of who she is and to change that about herself... well, that would be like stripping Taiga of her trees or a drought claiming Paraiso's waterfall.

    Some things are ingrained. Some things are unchanging.

    Even after dying, @[Neverwhere] is so solidly herself that all Lilliana can do is laugh. (And this is perhaps why the bond has always been so deep and strong for Lilli. Neverwhere has always been so sure of who she is that she has never expected anything less from Lilliana.) The chestnut hadn't expected to end up here, but here she is. There is a vague memory of the thing that killed her - a monster that had swallowed her soul to the Afterlife before her flame-marked body could hit the pebbled beach. A faint echo of a scream. Her granddaughters?
     
    "Well, that was when you were alive," Lilli banters back as she pulls away to glance at Never's face, as her (watery) blue eyes soak in the presence of the other mare. "Has your sense of direction gotten better in Death?"

    PSA: this post was brought to you by sangria and ABBA, your welcome.

    Reply
    #6

    Hey all you cool cats and kittens

    Neverwhere may not think she has ever been lost, but she has certainly wound up where she didn't expect on more occasions than she can count on her hooves - and for someone who can bring duplicates of herself into existence, shivering them out from the silvered air, that's quite a few. She pauses, head cocked while she considers Lilli's question, and then shrugs it away entirely.

    She hasn't tried to go anywhere yet, not really. Everywhere seems open to them, and the way is strange, directionless.

    "It's different here. You can't follow the sun or the stars and you can't trust that moon. A step goes nowhere, and a thought..."

    There's a new hesitation, they've a shared history that doesn't need to be spoken.

    "Just be careful with your thoughts."

    The space around them changes, the fog that might be Taiga and might be the Forest and might be a place that the copper mare keeps in her heart evaporates and in its place is a bright sun shining at high noon. Chalk-white sand whips their legs, covering everything in a fine dust. Neverwhere remembers the heat of the place and sweat breaks across her mud-caked neck and barrel. This is her homeland, this unyielding place that has swallowed the half-formed fog of Lilli's memories. The fog becomes greasewood and juniper and the thrum of biting flies.

    The sandy soil underfoot crunches softly when she breaks away from Lilli's side. Not far off, a colorful band grazes with tossing heads and twitches tails, fending off the flies, but she doesn't approach them. She doesn't go far because she remembers how easy it is to be turned around and confused by the dry washes, how simple to take a wrong turn and in a blink your family is gone. It hadn't happened to her, but others, yes. Others had disappeared.

    Squinting through the harsh light - oh she remembers how it stung her eyes, how her face had burned - Nev turns back to her old friend.

    "I don't understand how it works. Are we in the same place as before? Did we move, or did things just change around us?  And who are they?" She gestures back to the herd, "Are they really the souls the desert has eaten? Are they a trick of my memory, or a trap laid to catch me up?"

    The problem, it seems, is not her sense of direction.

    The problem is how do they know they're getting anywhere at all?

    That bitch, Neverwhere

    Image by Cielvesare


    @[lilliana] (sorry about your to-do list, bro lmao)
    Reply
    #7

    Lilliana listens as Neverwhere explains all the falsehoods of this existence. There is no trusting the moon, no pull or ebb of tides to explain the passing of time already gone. There was no pattern in the stars, no discernable future to be found in the way that spread themselves across the cosmos. Even the sun was a lie, with a warmth that a soul couldn't feel.

    And perhaps because this place was existence between worlds - of things that had been and would be, things that had never been and never could be - it makes it all the easier to fall into a memory.  Her dear friend tells her to guard thoughts and as Lilli's eyes move away from the pale scars along Neverwhere's sides - scars that had taunted her for years - those blue eyes fall into the past.

    But instead of looking down to the ground, there is a river and as it trickles by, a voice calls out: "Lilli," her sister Brielle says, "would you stop thinking of someone who thought so little of you?" (This part of the memory never happened; it never will because Lilliana will never bring herself to speak of him to her family.)

    Her gaze continues to look down and study her reflection, to peer at the angles and planes of her face like they might reveal an answer from the distorted image that mirrored back at her. It is Lilliana as a yearling who looks up and away, towards the champagne youth that approached her. "I know," she told her older sister. "It's just that he...," and the chestnut bites her bottom lip until the pointed stare of Brielle drew out the rest of her words, "he looks so sad." Bri had sighed, "Well, you would be too. He came back from a war, Lil." It had been that war that Lilliana had seen still shining in his blue eyes, the battle is still raging on somewhere in the back of his thoughts.

    "I'm not a fighter, like you." She explains, "And I'm not a healer like Elena." Lilliana looks back down to the river again, where the current continues to lazily flow by them. "I'm not going to be a Guardian, like Malachi. And I'm not going to be a Shaman, like Jay." A troubled reflection stares back at her, revealing a truth that will always be a present in Lilliana's life - regardless of where she goes. "I just want to help," she tells Brielle.

    When looks glances up again, the riverbank and her sister are gone. The fog swirls more until it reveals a desert. The herd ahead of them is unfamiliar to Lilliana (though perhaps its a trick of the mind but they seem to shimmer gold for a moment and when a head rises to look at the pair of mares, Lilli thinks they are being watched by a pair of blue eyes; she blinks and it is gone) and so she turns her slender head to look at @[Neverwhere]. Had this been her home once upon another life? It had been so easy to step back into her past and it makes her wonder if because the past and present and future might tie together here, if they have found themselves at some sort of cosmic knot of time.

    She watches the horses uneasily and it is clear when she speaks that she doesn't like this idea. Her dark lips purse together at the thought. She doesn't even know if is something worth considering - perhaps Nev can dismiss it as easily as she has done with so many of Lilliana's other worries. "What if we have to go back to the beginning?" she asks quietly. What if to go back to the past was the only way to find their way ahead?



    [Image: 58x0pn.jpg]
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    #8

    Hey all you cool cats and kittens

    Back. To the beginning? Neverwhere doesn't know how to move backwards, not really, she's always surging forward like a boulder tumbling down a hill. She's already leaning forward slightly and has to check herself, shift her weight back again when Lilliana speaks. The red mare has always grounded her, which is strange given that she is by far the dreamier of the pair. Her words pull Nev back physically, rooting her again to the foggy floor of Death's house.

    "How?"

    How do they go back? She turns to look behind them but there's nothing obvious there, just more of the same sandy washes, more greasewood and more sage. There's nothing of the river or the forest or the foggy place she'd been before

    "Where?"

    Here? She's hesitant to take Lilli seriously, uncertain that the answer lies in the past, but she also has no other plan and it's hard to accuse something of being a waste of time when you are in a timeless place that... that isn't really even a place, or is every place, or is...

    Neverwhere sighs. It's beyond the non-time she has to bother untying the knots of the Afterworld.

    "Okay, let's try." They are already in her once-home, it is not so difficult to remember the faces and the way it was shaped when she lived there, to remember the way she was when she lived there. It is, in fact, too easy and she realizes her mistake too late. Between one blink and the next, she has shrunk. Significantly.

    "Shit!" her voice is high-pitched and callow on soft and unscarred lips, but the litany of curses certainly don't belong to a child. Tilting her head to one side affords her a look at long, knob-kneed, legs that she curls up one at a time in front of her, as though she doesn't believe they are hers, doesn't believe she's made herself a child again. Neverwhere scowls darkly, though the expression comes off as simply petulant on her young face.

    "Goddamn it, Lilli."

    This is your fault, her tone implies.



    @[lilliana]
    Reply
    #9

    Neverwhere is looking for a physical embodiment of the moment; Lilli mentions that they should go back and it seems like the dappled mare is searching for a physical place. She looks from behind where they stand and stares out into a landscape that isn't familiar to the chestnut woman. It's as foreign to her as Beqanna had once been but she glances out, tracing the details of Neverwhere's past.

    She stares out to the band of horses in the distance - where they Nev's parents? Siblings? The life that her friend had lived before she knew had always been veiled by the bald-faced mare's insistence that those details were no longer important.

    Funny, how the things that matter so much to one soul bear little weight with another.

    Her mind grows distracted as she studies the shapes of the strangers on the horizon. If Lilliana could go back to her beginning, where would she start? The day she had nearly drowned? That day with Elena and Frostbane in Murmuring Rivers? The day her father had finally returned from Windskeep? Had her life only really started after that argument on the Pass with Malachi and their family - already small and broken, had fractured more? Would it have been the day that Wolfbane flown overhead and changed everything? That empty, starless night when she had realized that Elena had fled Beqanna and left her behind?

    Their world shifts only a little; the scenery does not change.

    It is only the dappled mare who does.

    Suddenly, Lilliana is looking down at her oldest friend and failing to hide the shock on her delicate features. Her copper forelock hangs delicately, with no wind to sweep it to the side. The expression that @[Neverwhere] wears is not a face any of her children have ever made and yet there is something that disturbs her, remembering another child who was not a child. "It's alright," she moves to reassure Neverwhere (though she doubts that the dappled mare needs it), finding it easy to remain calm in a world that seems to rob Lilliana of her worries. "It's the beginning," she explains, glancing over the youthful form that Neverwhere now wears. "So what happens next?"

    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind
    Reply
    #10

    No.
    This is the beginning, Lilli says, as if she knows. But she doesn't, not really, not anymore than Neverwhere does, and the frown on those small lips only deepens.

    It's not the beginning.

    It's not the end, either. She can feel it, that dry dusty stirring in her empty breast, a flutter like leaves in the wind. The dappled mare-- the dappled filly shakes her head as if to clear it, to clear the humming away that's keeping her going in circles. Death wants to hold them, it's greedy, it wants to keep everything that crosses its borders.

    She shakes her head, eyes squeezing shut like even Death's dim light is too much. There's never really been anything wrong with her sense of direction - it was her sense of purpose that was missing, that is still missing. This is a temporary goal, find her way out of this maze. Get Lilliana back home and safe.

    What happens next?

    The child-that-is-not-a-child freezes.

    I don't know.

    The gates are still broken. They can leave. They can leave. But how? Nev opens those winter-sky eyes. Maybe a different beginning.

    "Lilli, how did you get here?"

    It happens so fast, but she doesn't understand most of what she sees because the creature has no single shape, it changes and morphs like a diseased thing (like Wolfbane) hands and tentacles and eyes and teeth. Its skin a black but it is red but it is white and rotting, and even though Neverwhere lurches forward for her friend, it swallows her up like a swallowtail snapping up flies.

    "No!" The beast appears and just as quickly disappears, leaving behind it a lingering miasma of cruelty and malice that the filly chokes on, that makes her heart race and her skin sweat.

    "Lilliana!"

    There's no power behind her shouting, just a child's voice that cracks under the strain. The red mare is gone and Neverwhere's chest aches strangely like she's been holding her breath for too long. It makes her cough, she can taste the iron tang of blood on her tongue. Now she remembers.

    She doesn't know where it came from or what it was, but she'd outlasted plenty of monsters before this one. There was no reason at first to assume it wasn't just another horse, it was shaped enough like one until she'd looked more closely, until she'd seen the form melted into its back with its raking claws and that awful wide grin. Until she'd seen that it had no skin and that the acrid blood dripping like oil from its gaped mouths leaves the life around them dull and dead.

    It was one of the only times Neverwhere remembers being afraid.

    It's the only time she ever ran - truly ran - away.


    But she hadn't been fast enough. She's not fast enough now, either, when the Nuckelavee appears, melting out of the hot, dry, air. Her legs aren't long enough, they aren't fast enough, and the beast catches her up in those long-fingered hands, claws rending skin and muscle like butter. It says something in a language she doesn't know and its breath is like smoke, toxic and faintly briny like the sea it belongs to (not here, not in the desert) and she chokes on it, her throat swelling, long tendrils of saliva tinged pink with blood reaching for the fading ground.

    She kicks weakly with a leg that must be broken and the squeal of laughter this elicits from the creature is the lullaby that she drifts away on.

    And then there's nothing. Again. But she doesn't notice the nothingness, because she is nothing, too.

    And then there's a sound; waves breaking on rocky cliffs.
    And then there's a scent; heather and the briny sea.

    Cold wind ruffles her thick coat and Nerine's autumn sky pours into her eyes all at once.

    "Oh, fuck."
    Image by FootyBandit


    @lilliana
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