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    Mazikeen -- Year 214


    "“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]  it's like we're on our own to figure it out | mazikeen
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    Gale opens his eyes, but he does so very slowly.

    He can tell it is near dawn, the soft light of morning just appearing over the eastern sky. To the west, some stars still shine in the twilight, and in the distance an owl bids farewell to a night of good hunting on the pale blanket of snow. Too shallow for them to run beneath, the meadow's mice had been a multicourse meal for the large bird.

    For Gale as well, the brindle stallion suddenly realizes.

    The thought of a belly full of mice is nauseating, and he takes a shape better suited to rid himself of dinner in the blink of an eye. Gale does not enjoy hunting, and he definitely doesn’t enjoy eating other animals. For him to have eaten, he must not have been himself, and this realization comes with it the acknowledgement he has been putting off so long.

    He needs to tell Mazikeen how far it’s gotten.

    As he bathes in the cool stream and dries his thick wolf’s pelt with a run in the wood, he tries to plan what to say to her. He has something good by the time he reaches the place they’d fallen asleep last night, and finds that she’s not there. Gale draws up short, then raises his head to scent the air, trying to determine where she’s gone.


    Although sleeping at night had gotten more comfortable with Gale being there with her, Mazikeen still spent a good portion of the time when they were curled together awake. Even before the pregnancy, when things were as good as they were going to get, she did not like to close her eyes at night. She would drift, of course, comforted by his presence - by the idea that even asleep, the two of them could handle any threat. But otherwise she would just stay there, quiet and unmoving, watching the darkness and - lately - waiting for Gale to leave.

    Not because she wants him to, but because she’s noticed it happening more and more. She’s not sure how to ask where he goes - not sure if it’s any of her business. She doesn’t know the rules for what they are. She just knows that sometimes he’ll give her a kiss before leaving, gentle enough that it would not have woken her if she was asleep, and sometimes he does not.

    Somewhere in her mind where she’s buried her common sense, Mazikeen knows what the difference is.

    There is not always a correlation between how he leaves and whether he comes back before she wakes properly, and this puzzles her.

    But still she does not ask.

    And she doesn’t follow him either - though she probably should. She’s supposed to be keeping an eye on him, after all.

    This thought lingers today, and when dawn is just starting and Gale has not yet returned - she rises and intends to find him. Not follow, just… well, just to see if he’s okay, if she’s really being honest - that's what her instinct is to do. The complication of the twins growing in her now still hasn’t changed the fact that she worried about him most of all.

    She pulls on the shape of some sort of large wolf, enjoying the thick fur, and scouts the surrounding area - but her worry eases into a smile when she picks up his trail and it leads right back to where she began and she can see him searching for her scent. There's no accusation in her voice when she speaks, just an explanation for why she had left. “You were gone when I got up so I was just looking to see where you went.” She goes to greet him - though this part still makes her a little nervous, being the one to initiate contact first, but it's a fear she's trying not to shy away from. She nuzzles his neck affectionately - and asks a question when she pulls back even though she thinks she already knows the answer. “How’d you sleep?”
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    When Gale turns to find Mazikeen watching him, he feels suddenly - and inexplicably - trapped.

    The sensation is fleeting, but the echo of it remains in the rapid pounding of his heartbeat and the tightness in his throat, and he only barely manages to calm himself as she comes closer.

    Her voice is soft, soothing, unsuspicious, and her touch is gentle. Gale takes a deep breath, calmed by her nearness, and realizes he’s forgotten every eloquently apologetic word of what he’d planned on telling her. Had the Curse taken it, he wonders? Or had it slipped from his mind for less sinister reason, driven out by the way he appreciates the wolflike shape she wears before burying his face affectionarly in her thick ruff.

    “Not well.” He replies, his voice muffled. He had hoped it would be easier to explain if he didn’t have to look at her. If he has to look at her, Gale thinks he will probably tell her Everything.

    “I don’t...I don’t remember last night. Or a few other nights, either.” There’s a pause, and an internal struggle with the truth, and then he adds: “Maybe more than a few.”


    Her smile fades when he replies, though she’d been expecting something like that. She doesn’t pull away to look at him, though eye contact is usually her preference. Whichever way is easier for him to talk, she thinks - and besides, if they don’t look at each other she won’t have to be so careful with her own reactions.

    Though she’d been expecting the first part of his answer, she hadn’t been expecting the second. That he didn’t even remember his nights. A cool chill spreads through her, eating away at some of that hope she’s always found so easy to keep alive. Maybe she should have followed him. She’ll feel guilty about that later, but for now she tells herself that there have been no signs that he’s been up to any real mischief. Him not remembering, not being himself, is certainly cause for concern - she can't remember now if his story about his parents involved this part.

    She should ask, but like with all things involving the Curse - Mazikeen puts off asking for more information for a little longer.

    “More than a few.” She confirms quietly and then as an explanation - “Your warmth is easy to miss when you leave.” Mazikeen doesn’t know why she doesn’t tell him she had been awake for most of his absences. That she had watched him walk away from her again and again and the only reason it hadn’t (really) bothered her was that they always found each other before long once the day began. It had been easy to remind herself that even though she would spend every second with him, that was just a little illogical.

    She probably doesn’t tell him for the same reason she keeps her worries in check. Because the fact that she hasn’t been able to sleep at night since the eclipse is a problem, a weakness, and she had promised herself to keep those hidden from Gale.

    Mazikeen can't tell him it's going to be okay - they both know that's a lie. Even if it will feel true for a while longer. So instead she comments gently as she presses her muzzle into his fur and breathes him in. “It’s getting more frequent.”

    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    Even though her confirmation comes quickly, the moment before her answer seems to drag on forever for Gale. He waits for her to recoil, even closes his eyes lest she try to meet his gaze. He’ll tell her everything if he has to look at her, for he is never able to resist the lure of her orange gaze. He draws in a deep breath while he still has her near, and then another as she speaks instead of winces.

    Gale reacts instead, an involuntary shiver as Mazikeen confirms that he has, indeed, been disappearing in the night. His thoughts tumble, a chattering chorus that drowns out any individual voice, and he closes his eye more tighty. He just wants it to be quiet so he can think.

    And then it is.

    The Curse draws in a long breath, savoring the sensation of Mazikeen’s pale fur against its blue lips. It’s been waiting for a chance, growing more frantic as Gale made firm his decision to tell Mazikeen of its progression. It is surprised to learn that she has noticed, surprised and displeased. It knows she is observant, knows that she will one day try to stop it from pursuing its desires, but she is carrying children and so it has done its best to remain unobserved.

    Seizing Gale’s distress, the Curse has taken him over and must now soften the confession Gale had made while pondering what exactly Mazikeen might suspect. She had noticed the increasing frequency of his absences but hadn’t said anything, and that is better than the Curse might have hoped. Gale hadn’t told her everything, the Curse remembers, and its mouth turns up in a black-hearted smile.

    Gale, lost in the quiet that he’d wanted, is not there to demand honesty, and the Curse seizes the opportunity. Turning his head, he twists his neck until he can pull a softly glowing feather from where it had been tangle-tied in the thick ruff of his navy neck. It is palest gold and as iridescent as his wolfhair, and he does his best to tuck it into Mazikeen’s hair. It glows softly, just as all his cremello markings do, and he presses a kiss to her chin as he says:

    “This was a present from a magician. It’ll stop glowing whenever I’m not me, so you’ll at least be able to know when I’m really me.” The feather is no more magical than any of Gale’s feathers, and the Curse had plucked it from its wing itself, and the glow will never fade. But perhaps it will buy him time, and now that it has Gale’s Sight, it can always make it look dimmer when it needs it to.

    The Curse is feeling rather pleased with itself and its plan, and delights at how easy it had been to take Gale unawares while he’d been distracted. It frowns, as if in pain, and the glow of the feather looks briefly as though it is flickering between dark and light, like an unseen contest is being waged within him

    Gale’s face softens into a smile after a moment, and he looks weary.

    “I didn’t want to worry you,” The Curse tells Mazikeen, and it says it so convincingly, with Gale’s tired voice sounding hesitant. “I wanted to be sure. And I know remember all my days -” (a definite lie) “- so perhaps we should start sticking together at night?”

    They already do start most nights together, with Gale delighting in the subtle changes of Mazikeen’s body as the twins grow within her. The Curse finds these signs of fertility equally enticing, especially as it knows that means they’ll be born soon. It is confident it will have Gale under control by then, and it smiles at the thought of taking them away from Mazikeen.

    Will she cry, it wonders? As it preens gently at the soft fur of Mazikeen’s white chest, it imagines how pretty she will be when she is begging him to give her the children back, and how delightful it will be to tell her no. Her tears will fall just here where he kisses so gently on her cheek.


    The only magician Mazikeen has ever met (to her knowledge) was Isilya but she remembers how Gale told her they hadn’t been much help with his father. A glowing feather isn’t much of a gift when it would be nice if they could just do away with the whole Curse altogether, but it is something. She frowns when it flickers in her periphery, her gaze moving to Gale like she’ll be able to tell the difference without the feather. But then the glow stabilizes and she relaxes a little upon seeing his weary smile.

    Mazikeen doesn’t tell him that she’s literally always worried so a little more information wasn’t going to make much of a difference. Maybe she isn’t as worried about the Curse as she should be but the looming reminder of what their future holds is difficult to ignore completely (though she has tried, in the interest of enjoying what time they have left). So she offers what she hopes is an encouraging response as she smiles faintly. “I’m glad you told me. I want to know these things. And we will definitely be sticking together at night.”

    The idea of stalking him, if she needs to, is a little unsettling but it’d be worse to hear news of any mischief second hand and know she could have stopped it. Mazikeen had been prepared to make herself a constant nuisance in Gale’s life since she first made her promise and, oddly, their relationship is what makes her hesitate. She wants to give him freedom, doesn’t want to spoil what they have by haunting him. But the days when that is possible may now be numbered.

    His touch soothes away the darkest of thoughts and she leans into the gentle kiss to her cheek. She’s quiet for a moment, attempting to find her balance with this new reality, and then finally asks one of the many questions she’s been meaning to since the autumn day they discovered she was pregnant. “Now that things are... progressing, do you think we should send the twins to live with one of your brothers after they’re born?”

    Mazikeen still trusts Gale, trusts that he’ll be the best judge of how far to push their luck with the unexpected family they’ve created. It has not yet occurred to her that her method of following his lead in all things may no longer be harmless.

    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    The Curse is far better at reading emotions than Gale, and it knows Mazikeen’s face especially well. She seems worried despite her reassuring reply, and the Curse smiles sweetly as she accepts its explanation. Is she fretting, it wonders, does the worry gnaw away at her the way it does at Gale.

    It resists the urge to ask, or to say something sure to concern her just to see her response. It’s not time yet, the Curse knows, it is too early to antagonize her. She still has the children, so it will play nice.

    “Can’t say I’m not looking forward to that, at least a little bit” it says, and this time the words are more true for Gale than for the thing that says them. Limiting its nighttime activities is not ideal, but he has traded them for observation free days. There are so many wonderful things it might get up to during the daylight, and the thought of them bring a smile to the Cursed face, one that matches the words that he’s said for an entirely different reason.

    She leans into its kiss, and for a moment it hopes that she has chosen to drop the subject and engage in more entertaining pastimes than talking, but those hopes are quickly dashed.

    “Send them away?!” The words come quickly, startled out of its blue mouth. She can’t send them away; they belong to the Curse. “I don’t, I can’t...” it struggles, searching for something Gale might say, something that does not ruin its carefully laid plans.

    “If you think it’s best.” It finally says, lowering Gale’s head slowly, wiping a dry cheek against her shoulder as if he brushes away tears. “I think I’m well enough to watch them grow - I wanted to watch them grow - but if you think it’s best.”

    She doesn’t know Everything and she is very fond of Gale, so the Curse attempts to use that to its advantage, hoping her trust will be enough to keep her from sending the children away before it can take them.


    Mazikeen grins back at him over the subject of their re-affirmed nighttime togetherness - though she’s thinking that there will still be days too. Agreeing to watch him during the night didn’t change that she enjoyed spending time with him during the day, and she would prefer to spend time with him while he’s… him.

    She wonders what he’s like in those lost hours - and supposes she might find out as early as tonight.

    His reaction to her question about the twins startles her in turn and she pulls back a little to watch him as he fumbles for words. It wasn’t ideal but considering the circumstances, she didn’t think it would be that surprising of a suggestion. When he wipes his cheek against her shoulder, she drapes her head over him in something of an embrace, comforting him, though - with the freedom of him not seeing her face - there is a fleeting frown. Something is bothering her, a worry itching at the back of her mind. She doesn’t pick at it much, she'll do that later when she's alone, but though she feels concerned it’s not quite what you’d expect.

    She’s never seen Gale cry.

    And it bothers her that this is, apparently, what would make it happen. Over babies he’s never even met? Is that normal? Should she be crying? Is the mere idea of being separated from them supposed to bring her to tears? There is sadness, sure, but Mazikeen isn’t letting herself be sad about any of this because she’ll never stop. The whole damn thing is heartbreaking. And she had been slowly warming up to the idea of being a mom but it was just mixed with so many questions, so much uncertainty it was hard to get excited.

    So his exclamation after her idea, even him saying he wanted to watch them grow, causes that spot in the back of her mind to prickle. It just feels a little off. And him telling her if she thinks it's best begins to make her believe that it might just be.

    But she doesn't say that yet.

    She focuses on the concern she feels, because it is both appropriate and genuine, when she presses her muzzle into his fur and her voice is soothing and hopeful. “We’ll see how things go, there’s still some time before they arrive. Maybe it’ll plateau a bit.” This is one of her hopes so it is not a difficult thing to say. Although they had not planned for these children she wanted the chance to be a family. She was just becoming more and more certain that would not be a possibility. 

    “It's not something we need to decide now, and we can think about who would be best to ask if we decide to." Mazikeen offers next, hoping to smooth over whatever is happening in his mind now and then when she pulls back a little there's a smile in her orange eyes as she asks something else. “Do you have any ideas for names?"

    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    Unaware of her building suspicions, the Curse feels at ease. He’s successfully put her off the topic, and she’s back to reassuring what she thinks is Gale. Maybe it’ll plateau a bit, Mazikeen says, and the Curse smiles against her soft fur. “Maybe.” It repeats, making sure that the tone is less hopeful than her own words.

    It nods in reply to her offer, and meets her orange gaze with Gale’s bright eyes. Gale stirs, recognizing for the first time that he’s not himself, but he stirs slowly.

    The Curse, which is often thinking of glory, suggests the name of a king: “Malik,” after a quiet moment of contemplation. “For a boy. And Mazikeen for a girl.” Then it laughs, amused at the thought of replacing Mazikeen as Alpha with Mazikeen her daughter, a child that answers to the Curse. Very funny indeed, the Curse thinks, as amused by its own sense of humor as Gale had been by his.

    But it will seem as though Gale laughs about the silliness of sharing a name, and that meshes with the way he affectionately butts his head against Mazikeen’s shoulder. As it does, the Curse shifts, changing smoothly from a canine to a feline, the same white-maned blue lion that Gale has worn before.

    Pressing against her, the Curse purrs, the sound a low rumble in its leonine throat. She enjoys being reminded of Gale’s affection, it knows, and the vocal big cat makes his pleasure obvious. Yet despite the speed of his shift, the Curse makes sure its movements are slow, because it plays the part of a weary Gale and it knows better than to tempt fate.

    “I don’t feel like I got much sleep,” it reminds her. “Will you lay down with me?” The bed of thick grass where they’d begun the night is empty, but the lion pads toward it, dropping its weight and rolling over so it can look up at Mazikeen.

    The position feels uncomfortable, its belly bared to something that the Curse knows is a genuine threat. But Gale wouldn’t think twice about it, and being like Gale is more important than being comfortable at this point in the con.


    His name suggestions ease away some of the tension that had been building, pushing it to the back of her mind. Mazikeen laughs with him at the idea of naming a girl after her, shaking her head at his ridiculousness. She has no alternative to offer, she’s been referring to them collectively as ‘the twins’ or ‘the babies’ and has not yet considered that they are going to be their own individuals when spring comes.

    Her stomach twists a little at the thought and she’s thankful for the distraction he offers. A very effective distraction.

    Gale shifts into a lion - and she’s already smiling as he presses into her and she feels that deep purr echo through her body and turn her thoughts into a familiar and pleasant haze. She’s always been particularly fond of feline shapes and that has only been reinforced with him. It’s instinct to change to match, becoming the white lioness with her black paws - her dark nose cradled by the red Alliance V.

    The request he makes softens the brightness of her orange eyes - there’s little she would deny him and this is very easy to know her answer to. “Of course.” There’s a part of her that wishes for a nap already but it will be hours before she lets herself sleep so for now she’s just happy to spend whatever time with him that she can. That has not changed.

    He lays on his back - a position she both enjoyed (because it was a little goofy like him, because it meant he trusted her) and hated (in case it meant he did not think she was much of a threat) seeing him in. Instead of moving beside him she walks over him - nosing his stomach and then his neck before she stops - her face looking down directly over his and her paws in the grass beside his shoulders and hips. She’s trying not to think about how much she enjoys this, how she wishes biology worked a little differently. It doesn’t really seem fair that it’s the same for so many species - who suffers the weight of the other.

    Not that it had felt much like suffering with Gale.

    And because she’s trying not to think about that, since he's tired and this has been a weird morning, other thoughts leak in and when she lowers her muzzle to nudge gently at his neck she asks in a soft whisper “Do you think about it?” And then her bright eyes are intent on his when she clarifies - “My promise. How… how I should do it.” Through a significant effort she keeps her tone light, almost like she could be teasing, but there’s a soft tremble in it. She realizes halfway through saying the words that this is something she has very pointedly been avoiding even thinking about.

    And now she’s just gone and vocalized it by mistake. Because nothing says pillow talk like ‘how should I kill you?’


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