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  • Beqanna


    Firion -- Year 217


    "She approaches the cave and there is nothing but that anticipation and her ever-present fire inside her. No fear, no flickering echoes of love. It’s all been consumed for now. She is a wildfire contained only by the thin layer of her flesh." --Mazikeen, written by Squirt

    [private]  full moon, wolf moon
    A quick flap of his wings lifts him out of range of the wyvern’s first strike, but it draws back with a snarl, bright eyes searching for Malik. He can’t fly in this small cave and is forced to land after only a few futile flaps, and he loses a few feathers on his right wing to sharp yellow teeth before his mother arrives.

    His mother snaps a command, and Malik obeys instantly, the ruffled feathers of his eagle shape becoming instead a melanistic leopard. He presses his body close to the earth but does not flee, taken by surprise but uninjured, and watches the fight in front of him with near-reverence in his bright eyes. Malik has seen his mother as a dragon before, but he’s never seen her fight as one. It is an impressive sight, and one that makes his desire to take such a shape all the stronger.

    The wyvern, too, is an imposing beast, one that puts up a good fight until Mazikeen has it pinned on the stone floor. Its scales are no easier to pierce than dragon hide, and the winged forelimbs could have made short work of an eagle. He is not sure he could have taken it down alone even as a leopard, so when his mother calls him forward, Malik is eager. He might not get such a chance again, and the beast is laid out for him.

    ‘A feather, a claw, whatever glitters and catches your eye’, the fairie had said.

    Malik waits till the wyvern flaps its near wing, and pounces. His weight is enough to keep the thing down, and he forgets his mother’s earlier words about asking if it’s a shifter. He is too eager, and with his sharp white teeth he soon tears off the large claw on the wyvern’s right wing. It is pearlescent white and he is eager to inspect it closer when there is more time, but first he looks up at his mother.

    “Can I kill it?” He asks, knowing that the answer will probably be no. She is the one that had caught it, after all. But his mother is more inclined to share than his father, and he has never killed anything so large before. Will it feel different than a bear, he wonders?

    @ Mazikeen

    The wyvern in her grip twists and utters a sad, angry noise when Malik rips off the claw from its right wing. Mazikeen winces at the sound, the pain, and she is just about the shift her weight to allow the beast to leave when Malik draws her attention with his question.

    The draconic face that she wears does not display her emotions as readily as other shapes, which she is grateful for because this question makes her immeasurably sad. Some days it feels like the waves caused by her life with Gale are small ripples, and then there are days like today where she wonders if there will ever be an end to the clean-up required.

    “Tell me why you want to, Malik.” Mazikeen asks, taking care to keep her tone soft (which isn’t hard) and light (which is). “Are you hungry enough to eat a whole wyvern?” The wyvern struggles a little bit but she tightens her grip on it in a warning. She was going to attempt to let it leave this cave with its life - it just needed to stay still a moment longer.

    Was it too late to help Malik learn this important lesson? She had to hope not. She did not want her son to believe he could kill anyone or thing just because he wanted to. It was a very strange sort of spoiling that had been done to him during his second childhood. The same Mazikeen that would not have intervened during the wyvern’s attack would have allowed Malik to do anything he wished, especially if there was blood involved.

    She knows it must be confusing, the change that's occurred in her, and she cannot help the fear that Malik will be uninterested in being around who she is now.


    @ Malik
    The keening of the wyvern as he gnawed through its wing had been as inconsequential to the dark haired boy as the crash of waves against the cliffs. Prey always cried out, but Malik has never paid much attention to it. Focused on retrieving the prize, the boy had not seen his mother wince, and Malik does not yet know this face of hers well enough to read the sadness as she questions him.

    He’d expected either a yes or a no, and his own feline face frowns at her first question, and his head tilts at her second.

    “I’m not hungry.” He replies, but the words are hesitant. His tone is cautious, the strangeness of the question making him feel off kilter. Hungry? Why would that matter? The wyvern has been defeated; its life is forfeit. It is too big to be a pet, and it’s not as though he can take it home to show Myrna the way he plans to take one of the catfish kittens when he visits Ischia.

    Malik’s gaze has turned back to the wyvern as his mother digs her claws into it, and he realizes that he’s not answered her first question. His bicolored eyes return to hers quickly, and they are wary only for a moment. Even though he does not know this face he does not see anger or impatience on its scaled surface, and he realizes that she wants a real answer, wants it enough to not lose her temper even if he is slow to answer.

    “To know that I can.” He finally says, his gaze having once more travelled to the wyvern. He looks at the wing where he’d torn the claw free, and there is no empathy in his gaze as he looks at the blood, just luridly bright curiosity.

    “So I can be stronger. Better.” He nods at this, thinking of the fairies, of the quest they’d sent him on. He had not hidden himself from them, but perhaps they had not realized what he might become if given all the strength that he seeks. He is only the product of his raising after all, of a (second) childhood spent seeking the attention of parents who smelled always of blood and death and anger. Hunting was something that the boy could do, and something that they enjoyed.

    “Why do you want to kill it?” Is there a better reason? He has seen her eyes light up in near-red pleasure at a kill before, and as he meets her gaze now finds only the warm orange rather than the burning red. She has been his mother in every way that matters since Myrna’s arrival, but as he licks his lips and tastes the sour blood of the winged reptile, he feels inexplicably uncertain.

    @ Mazikeen

    Mazikeen hates the cautious way with which Malik replies to her. Or, not the tone itself but what she thinks the reason for it is, the memories that tell her she had not been kind to her son. It’s a tone that reminds her there had been the better part of a year where he had only known her temper, her indifference, or her reluctant attention. That there was a time when he needed to be cautious around her or risk being lashed out at.

    She hears Gale in Malik’s reply and her stomach twists. Her talons dig a little further into the wyvern in reflex but she eases up when it makes a sad, pain-filled moan.

    It is an effort to keep her gaze on him, to not look away when he asks her why she wants to kill the wyvern. “I don’t. I want to let it go.” Mazikeen admits quietly.

    “When your… when your father was around, I believed each kill made me stronger. Made me better. But that’s not true.” Each one is a fracture in her heart that will never be healed, but she worries over showing that weakness to Malik now. How much of his father was in him, how much of what Mazikeen had been like? He tolerated her stretches of sadness now but if she really let him see how broken she felt would he scorn her? She is too uncertain to try, too desperate to want to make up for lost time and that means keeping him around for as long as he’ll let her.

    And if he knew she was weak, would he want to kill her too?

    These questions storm through her mind so she continues to speak rather than let them drag her down. “There’s strength in holding back. In knowing when not to kill. I would have decimated the deer population of our home, and then moved on until there was nothing left, and then where would I be?” If she could have torn all of Beqanna apart, Mazikeen knows she would have done so without hesitation. She would have let that wildfire in her heart take over and then when there was nothing left she would have wasted away in bitterness and anger. “We should only do it when we’re hungry or when it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a waste of life otherwise.”

    A more practical part of Mazikeen thinks that Malik's reasons for wanting to kill the wyvern are negated by the fact that she is the one holding it down. If he wants to know he can kill it, he'd be better off fighting it on his own. But this part of her cannot find a voice just yet as she waits for her son's reaction to this lesson that is so different than anything else he's been taught so far.


    @ Malik
    There has been little opportunity for Malik to develop empathy, but he is young yet. He recognizes that vulnerability is inevitable and acceptable - but only in his family, or within the Pack. Everything and everyone else is inconsequential. Prey. To be toyed with - or killed - at his pleasure.

    She doesn’t want to kill it, she says. Eat it alive, then? Malik knows to rip the bellies out of sleeping sheep before the fear can sour the meat. But the blood of the dragon-like creature already burns his throat. So she can’t mean that, and just as he comes to this conclusion himself, she says as much.

    At first he nods, because what she says is what he knows. Kills make them stronger, better, more Powerful. And Hyaline is the most powerful of all, which is why he cannot understand why his father has gone and his mother struggles to speak of him. This uncertainty is what sours in his belly now, as his mother takes aim at the foundation of the way he views the world.

    He is too bewildered to be angry.

    “Then we’d go somewhere else.” He says to her question about the deer, and though he is frowning he sounds quite incredulous. They are powerful - they can take what they want. If their deer were all to die off, well, there were surely more deer somewhere else. The idea of wasting life makes no sense at all to a boy who’s been raised to objectify those outside his family.

    She’s wrong, he realizes. He just has to prove it to her.

    “What if eating its heart gives me the ability to shift?” He asks. Would she deny him then? Can she know if it will or not, he wonders? He hopes not.“It’s just a wyvern, Mom. It’s not like it’s important.”

    @ Mazikeen

    Being able to shift is not worth taking a life - she would rather him not be able to shift at all than to be a murderer. But Mazikeen does not say this out loud just yet. The lesson that she was supposed to have learned during her quest has finally sunk in years - and though she loves her ability to change shapes, adores the family that the Pack has given her, if Mazikeen woke up tomorrow and could no longer shift again it would not devastate her. It is not everything. And if eating the hearts of other animals was what it took to get it back, she would live the rest of her days as a horse.

    Instead of saying all that - she asks softly “I can shift into a wyvern, a dragon, and many other things. Would you like to eat my heart too, Malik?” Mazikeen hates that she doesn’t know for sure what his answer will be or that she does not know what she would do if he were to attack her for her weaknesses. She couldn’t fight back, not against him, but she did not want to die anymore. “Your father did. The day you were born. I survived thanks to the kindness of someone else then - I don’t think I’ll be so lucky a second time.”

    Or however many deaths it has been now.

    As she feels the weight of the memory of waking up with no heart or eyes settle on her, she suddenly wonders if this is a cruel tactic. Mazikeen shakes her dragon’s head to clear it a little, though this does nothing to erase the shine of tears in her orange eyes as she watches her son carefully, her voice quiet. “I know this isn’t what we taught you before, I know it’s probably very confusing.” She looks down to the wyvern that no longer struggles, that seems to understand that its life depends on this conversation. Whether it can actually understand them, she doesn’t know. “This wyvern may be someone’s parent. If it does not go back to the nest with a belly full of fish to share with hatchlings and they die, does that matter?”

    Her gaze moves back to Malik, wondering what she needs to say to get him to understand. She had not been terribly concerned with teaching him lessons beyond 'don't bother me' before and she does not know how to do it now that it matters. “If we killed all the deer and moved from land to land, eventually there would be nothing left to eat at all. There needs to be a balance. Generations of deer are required to keep generations of us and other predators alive - and for that, some need to survive.”


    @ Malik
    Would he eat her heart? Malik frowns, because this is not something he’s ever thought about before. She is his mother, the most powerful woman in the world, and he’s still an unblooded colt. Even if he wanted to, there is no chance he could kill her and take it. And Mazikeen wouldn’t let him, either, so he cannot understand why she’s asking.

    The anxiety in his chest begins to grow, and Malik can feel the rapid worried beating of his heart. This is unfamiliar ground, and his bi-colored eyes dart across the dragon’s scaled face as though he might be able to puzzle out some answer there. She tells him a story, and while he doesn’t really understand all the details, he does know that if he were to kill her for her shifting, Mazikeen would be gone Forever.

    Malik does not want her gone Forever, and the thought makes his expression grow ever more perturbed. He wants to argue, to say something, but he’s not sure what. Just that this is wrong, it feels wrong, but he can’t say why.

    And then his mother acknowledges his confusion, and that she’s changing everything, and he begins to nod again. The black leopard exhales slowly, still cautious, and in the darkness of the cave it sparkles with the soft glow of his light aura. He is not relaxed yet, and his attention does turn occasionally toward the now-still wyvern.

    He thinks about the hatchlings she mentions, of the possibility that this wyvern might have children to feed. Less wyverns would mean less competition hunting rock sheep, he thinks, and maybe he could carry one of the babies back home to keep as a pet. This does sound ideal, and while he does not fully understand where his mother is going with this lesson, he grows less fearful that it will end in violence.

    She is not poised to attack, so he has some time to think, and to consider the situation she proposes. “What if we killed the other predators instead? Then we can have all the deer and not have to share?”

    @ Mazikeen

    Malik doesn’t respond to her question about eating her heart and she closes her eyes for a moment against the wave of agony. It is not a yes, but the fact that it is not a no either tears something open inside of her. She is so thankful that she gets to spend time with her son at all but of course it is too easy to think that things would have been far smoother if they had stayed with Wishbone. If only Mazikeen had been able to hide them more efficiently, they would both be safe.

    It is an undeniable fact that Sickle’s life would be better without knowing her birth parents, and now there seems little doubt that the same is true for Malik.

    She let them both down so badly and she was ill-prepared for the process of trying to make it right. Would Gale know? Not who he was now, but the one who had shown her around Islandres. The one she had shared a too-brief summer with before the ground fell out beneath their hooves.

    As soon as those thoughts rise up she shuts them away, opening her eyes to focus on Malik’s questions. “I don’t think it works like that. It’s all connected. The predators that feed on the deer, the deer that eats the grass. Removing one part of that cycle throws the rest into chaos.” There is a small, rueful smile that twists her draconic mouth. “And chaos isn’t as charming as we’ve been led to believe.”

    A heavy sigh escapes her then, feeling the resignation that this will not be something she can make Malik believe with fumbling words in one afternoon. If there are magic words to share with her son to alter everything else he’s been taught, she does not know what they are.

    So she stops trying for now and instead warns him before she starts to shift her weight off of the wyvern - her voice hollow but firm. “Watch out.” The creature beneath her freezes for a moment, as though testing to see if it is a trap, but Mazikeen just snaps at the air to encourage it to flee. The wound on its wing should not be a death sentence - or she hopes not, anyway. Otherwise this entire conversation has been rather pointless.

    Once it is gone, she shifts into a feline shape that matches Malik’s and turns her attention back to him - eyes sad but paired with a smile. “I haven’t said this nearly as much as you deserve, but I love you, Malik.” even when when you scare me. “I just… I want more for you than a world of death.”


    @ Malik
    When she closes her eyes (the expression of sadness and self-control an unfamiliar one to the dark-haired boy), Malik’s frown deepens. Why will his mother not look at him? He is sure of his answers, and yet still it seems they are not right.

    Malik does not have his father’s Healing, and the fear of death - true Death - is one of the few repeated lessons that he received from the brindle stallion. He would eat his mother’s heart if it would gain him Power, that he knows. But only if it would not mean she were gone Forever. No shifting is worth that - not wyvern or even dragon.

    But he doesn’t know how to reassure her of this, or even suspect she fears it. Instead, he looks back and forth between the dragon and the wyvern until his mother speaks again. This time, her eyes are open, and he searches her gaze unconsciously for the sparks that precede fire. Nothing at all, only another lesson.

    He listens carefully, because despite her fears, he is not entirely detached from the parents who raised him, and his young heart does want to believe her. She speaks of a cycle, and Malik nods, because that does fit with what he’s been told before. He is still not entirely sure why he should not kill the wyvern or why chaos is no longer desirable, but it is clear his mother feels this way, and he decides that he, too, will try.

    Try, of course, being quite operative.

    He steps away when she warns him too, allowing the wyvern passage from the cave. It skirts the leopard holding the pearlescent claw, and leaps into the open air. The boy watches it go, hearing the sharp calls it gives to its fellows echoing against the salt-stained cliffs. When he turns back to his mother, she is looking at him from a more familiar face than the dragon’s.

    She tells him that she loves him, and Malik smiles. She doesn’t say it often, so it feels good to hear it. Even better, when he still feels certain he had just somehow disappointed her. Hearing it means she is in a good mood, so Malik takes advantage and sidles just a little closer to her, so he might rest his head on her shoulder. He had learned young to tuck himself close to his parents only after they’d come back from a successful hunt, when they were most tolerant. This feels like such a time.

    @ Mazikeen

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