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    COTY

    Mazikeen -- Year 214

    QOTY

    "“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]  I'm going to light it up
    #1
    Mazikeen
    The arrival of winter has done nothing to cease Mazikeen’s restlessness. There had been idle thoughts that maybe the colder temperatures would encourage her to slow down, maybe even den somewhere in Hyaline until the little lives she was carrying were ready to emerge. But though she had settled into Hyaline, taking to a permanent home with more ease than she ever thought she would, actually physically staying was not something she excelled at.

    So she moves as if prowling will erase her nerves and the thoughts that plague her or the general unease that’s settled into her body. She patrols the borders of her home and when that is still not enough to tire her out she takes paths through the mountains and follows the river north. Mazikeen purposefully chooses routes that are unnecessarily dangerous and ones she does not know well. Though she does not particularly want to be a mom, she’s not trying to risk anything by navigating the steep slopes and testing her skills against gravity - she is just relishing the challenge and the puzzle these routes provide.

    And yes, flying would be faster, but the last few days shifting into a bird has been particularly uncomfortable. While she’s pretty sure it’s just because the twins are growing, she also can’t shake the idea that if she’s a bird then the eggs will simply fall out of her so there’s a chance that the discomfort is more mental than physical.

    She’s pleasantly winded when she arrives on the banks of the river, looking across it to Taiga. Mazikeen has often looked at the redwoods of the neighbouring land, what she could see from the mountains of her home, but she has never thought to visit. Now, she considers those large trees and wonders why she’s never been tempted to climb them. She thinks of it now, thinks of the different shapes she could take to climb to the very tops of the crowns. How she could swing between the branches in a world so very unlike the one on the ground.

    And she thinks too, how Taiga is the home of one of Gale’s brothers - the one who she did not get the chance to properly meet at the festival. She’d recognized his name when he had been called before the crowd, and she’d laughed (quietly and without malice) at the flower crown he had been bestowed with at the ceremony.

    Two pleasant thoughts are enough to encourage her to shift into a bear to wade across the cold river and then back into her horse-self on the other bank. Her horns are absent as her head tilts, regarding the forest before her that's illuminated by the cool winter afternoon sun. She lingers there where the two lands meet, aware of her own dislike for visitors that just waltz in and thinking it'd be hypocritical for her to do anything else. Mazikeen doesn't call out either, though - she's got no real purpose here and doesn't need anyone to rush over - and if she's not discovered, home is just a river away and she will pick another challenging route back to the valley.


    Yanhua
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    #2



    By the time Yanhua catches the clean scent of the unfamiliar mare, hours have passed. Afternoon dwindled into evening, the stars blinked out from the night sky as if awakening from slumber, and the moon - pregnant with light - ascended to her throne in the heavens in her most full and lovely form. It was a beautiful night for strolling. Yan enjoyed the walk alone through the foggy darkness, not feeling winter’s bite as sharply as he should underneath a thickly-growing overcoat. The season’s past had been good to the Taiga herdland; his clan and the ones remaining were well-fed and ready for the long snap of cold to come. Recently, the new Guardian of the redwoods had heard news of Reave’s ascension as well, given how quickly word could travel in the north these days, and a few weeks had passed since two of his elder offspring had moved out into the world on their own. Life was ... good.

    As the chestnut stallion ducked underneath a towering red mushroom, he thought of how happy he was to see Reynard, his eldest son, staying put for the time-being. Nash and Noel’s daughters seemed to turn up now and then as well, though his twin brother had been making frequent trips to the Eastern Kingdom - for what, Yanhua could only guess. He slipped down an incline woven through with roots, picking his footing carefully, and made a mental note to speak with the Hersir of the Isle soon about the comings-and-goings.

    Like a wayward lantern, he himself floated eerily along until Mazikeen’s particular smell came up in the wind’s shifting directions, and he altered course toward the riverbanks with a shake of his curving horns.

    “Come in, come in!” He called out from far away behind the trees, that same old familiar way he’d done when Gale had come to visit. She looked like an ethereal phantom herself, hard to place as his half-sibling’s mate at first, but the closer Yanhua came the more prevalent Gale’s connection to her was. He remembered her clearly from the festival (even if she was missing a pair of horns he was sure he’d seen on her forehead before) and did nothing to hide the surprise and satisfaction of seeing her here. “Sorry to have kept you waiting lady Mazikeen,” Yan apologized, “I was on the far end of the territory. To what do I owe the occasion?”

    YANHUA
    Image by Ani2ad


    Mazikeen
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    #3
    Mazikeen
    It does not bother her, the time that passes - and in the end she’ll be thankful no one arrived while she was still winded from the trip over. While she found it pleasant, the drain of energy, it would’ve bothered her for someone else to see her in a weakened state.

    And it is peaceful here, near the river as the sun goes down and the stars come out. Mazikeen has not quite gotten around to thinking about turning to go home when she hears a voice in the shadowy woods call out, inviting her in. It’s Yanhua, and his friendliness inspires an easy smile in her bright orange eyes. Was everyone in their family like this?

    It gives her hope for her children. That with a cursed father and a faulty mother, they might still end up okay.

    She moves into the trees to meet him, distracted by how small they make her feel, though her attention is (thankfully) easily drawn to the horned stallion and she shakes her head at his apology. “Oh, nothing important - nothing official.” Mazikeen now looks briefly up at the trees surrounding them, their crowns disappearing into the darkness of the night, wondering how to best explain the multitude of reasons she’d found herself here. “I was just feeling restless and I realized that even though I’ve been living in Hyaline for four years I’ve never visited any of the neighbours. I can't believe I haven't tried to climb these trees yet.”

    She wonders now if it’s strange that she’s curious about Gale’s brothers, wanting to meet them because they are in his life and he cares for them, so she doesn’t mention that she’d been hoping to run into exactly who ended up greeting her.

    “And please, just call me Maze.” Her gaze turns up to his horns, and she grins at the pair of memories that come to her - of Bolder chattering about his uncle and of a flower crown that had been draped over them the last time she had seen the bearded brother. It’s that second memory she speaks of - the teasing note in her voice is as warm and without malice as her laughter had been during the ceremony. “How long did you keep the crown on?”



    Yanhua
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    #4



    As Mazikeen wove her way through the evergreens, Yanhua thought about how much he liked the idea of her being here. The inclination wasn’t a possessive kind, nor was it a sense of attraction (though Maze had a raw, powerful beauty.) It was strictly familial. Mazikeen being here meant that the likelihood of Gale coming and going had increased, which could also tempt Yan’s other half-siblings to come around more often. He knew there was bad history linked to this place and their lineage, knew that a concept like openness between himself and the rest of Lepis’s brood might be a heavy undertaking years in the making, but seeing Mazikeen look up in wonder gave him a similar sort of hope as well. That things, as tumultuous as they had been in the past, might be alright in the future.

    It gave him reason enough to smile, shake his heavy shoulders with laughter that sounded faintly musical, and reply, “It’s never too late to pick up a new hobby.”

    The redwoods could use some climbing, he thought. They were more accustomed to being leapt off, as his twin and Nash’s children were prone to doing. He even suspected that Cheri or Mem had given it a try, too. Mostly their branches were weighed down by nests of all sorts, their leaves rustling with activity from the magical wildlife or blowing and creaking during a particularly windy spell.

    “Maze.” He thinks warmly, not at all offended by her tone or the mention of the ‘crowning’ ceremony on the Isle. “I chucked it off like the thing was on fire.” He rolled his eyes, adjusting comfortably. Perhaps he should’ve had a bit more tolerance for the flower crown, considering some horse had gone through the trouble of making it in the first place, but even wearing it for the short amount of time had felt like an unnecessary target for mockery. “As if my horns alone weren’t reason enough to stare.” Yan knew, peering back at Gale’s mate under the dim glow of his yellow-gold light. “I’m off to investigate some of the new biodiversity around here,” He told her, “Want to come along?” Yan offered.

    “You could catch me up to speed on things in your neck of the Mountains, tell me how Gale’s been doing. Is he still living in Islandre’s?” Yan moved off a few paces in one direction, careful to leave space for Mazikeen so she wouldn’t feel crowded by him. He knew that time was a rare commodity these days and that she was a busier horse than most, so he wouldn’t be offended if she declined.

    YANHUA
    Image by Ani2ad


    Mazikeen
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    #5
    Mazikeen
    At the mention of new hobbies, she replies with an easy “Next time for sure.” She says it with a grin, looking down from the trees. Though she does itch with the desire to try claws and hands against the bark, she likes the idea of coming back for that specifically. Maybe she and Gale could make a day of it, racing each other up to the crowns and back down again, seeing who could find the tallest tree.

    She laughs at his response to her question about the flower crown - knowing she would’ve done the same thing. Her laugh is not nearly as musical as his, it is wild and bold even when it lingers in her bright eyes. It is not a lie when she responds to his offer of checking out the new biodiversity with an “I’d love to.” She’s never had a head for plants, aside from the small number she knew were safe to eat she did not think about them - but she’s curious about the animals that live here. Maybe she could find a shape she’s never tried.

    So Mazikeen falls into step with Yanhua, shifting her eyes to those of a feline so she can better see in the growing darkness outside of the faint glow he provided. Half to better see this land that’s entirely new to her, and half because she is unable to turn off the part of her that watches for threats.

    She might have asked what was so new about the biodiversity here but she’s distracted easily by Yanhua’s question - it is one of her top favourite topics to think about. “Gale’s actually living in Hyaline now with me.” Mazikeen doesn’t bother to fight the brilliant smile that comes with this statement, though she is a little embarrassed by it, and even though the reasons behind the move were complicated. There’s a pleasant flutter in her stomach when she says those last two words: ‘with me’. She’s been enjoying having Gale close, more than she ever thought she would. It feels right, waking next to him. And it helps her forget for a little while longer that they may not have much time at all.

    As for news - she’s unsure whether she can, or should, share all of it so she shares what a family member might be interested in. Her smile fades a little as her nerves settle in. “We’re actually… we’re expecting. Twins even, if the magician we saw can be believed.” She doesn’t doubt Isilya, the strange tree-mare had been kind to them when they needed it though her experience with magicians is limited to that single moment and she does not know how trustworthy their powers are as a whole. “Do you have any kids?” She’s pretty sure Gale told her they all did, his brothers and sister, but she didn’t learn the particulars. And she’d rather hear Yanhua talk about his family instead of trying to sort out her own feelings on the one she and Gale accidentally are starting.


    Yanhua
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