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  • Beqanna

    COTY

    Svedka -- Year 212

    QOTY

    “He only knows home in his dreams and even those dreams do not mimic large, centuries-old redwoods. Lio doesn't remember the last time he laid his head down and truly felt comfortable.” --Elio, written by Phaetra


    [private]  I will be your sword and shield; Lilliana, birthing
    #1

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    She can feel the creeping hands of death drawing close. She had kept the truth from Lilli, though some part of her had always known she would not endure pregnancy well. It had manifested in her aversion to it before, but some cruel twist of fate had seen fit to plant a child in her anyway. She hadn’t imagined it would result in death, but she knows better now.

    The jagged and broken ends of her horns sway in her vision as she stumbles through the trees of Taiga, breath labored as though she had just run for miles rather than walk the short distance from Nerine’s borders. The bone that never quite stopped growing wraps her ribs in what had once felt like a protective embrace. Now she knows it is the unforgiving clutches of a prison. Once they had been able to flex as ribs should, but she had grown old enough and they large enough to press against the bone of her spine, allowing no give.

    The child grew ever larger inside her, pressing against a body that had no give. So it could grow only one way, and soon even that had not been enough.

    The contractions had started though. She knows it is too soon, but somehow an understanding had been reached. She is too thin, her stomach long ago compressed by the child until she could barely eat enough to sustain it, much less herself. Her heart and lungs had grown weak beneath the strain. Too weak.

    So she seeks Lilli. Though she has no knowledge of the other half of this child’s parentage, she knows beyond doubt Lilli would care for it when she could not. For all that she had never sought motherhood, she does care for it. An ancient instinct that drives her to find the best for it, even if it would cost her everything.

    “Lilli,” she whispers, her voice muffled by the forest. She had to be close, but the child wouldn’t wait. Stumbling into a secluded glen, she crumples to the moss. It takes everything she has not to slip into a slumber she knows would end in death. Every ounce of her willpower is thrown into pushing, until a small, damp bundle slips onto the moss. She struggles against her own weakness, instinct screaming at her to ensure the little bundle breaths.

    She brushes weakly at his small nose and face, until his eyes blink open. For a moment, she could swear it is her mother’s gaze staring at her, but the wet red fur and pale flaxen strands slicked along his crest are most certainly not.

    On a failing, trembling exhale, she mutters “Reave.” Her next inhale is impossibly shallow, even as her eyes slip closed in exhaustion. “You reave.” There is pride wrapped through her rattling breath and sluggish heartbeat as she rests her bone-masked head next to his small, perfect, squirming form.


    Brazen




    lilliana
    Reply
    #2

    THE FEELING WAS ALWAYS TOO MUCH FOR ME /
    IT ALWAYS CAME TOO STRONG /
    I WANTED TO GET IT RIGHT SO BADLY /
    THAT I ALWAYS GOT IT WRONG /

    She kept as close to Brazen as she could all during the winter. It was a harder task to accomplish when Lilliana had two young children to look after as well as a territory but her bone-armored friend was given every spare moment that Lilli could find (and then some more as well).

    But as the autumn faded with falling leaves and the barren branches were replaced with layers of snow, it became obvious that Brazen was carrying a child. What was more obvious was that the mare with stoneskin and bone-plating shouldn't; what Lilliana refused to believe was that Brazen couldn't carry a child.

    They'd figure something out. They would. They had to.
    There was no other alternative. Lilliana simply wouldn't accept it.

    The stench of blood taints her quiet forest. It doesn't take Lilliana long to find the source bleeding out in a lonely glen. A whole life and then another one had painted the snow-covered ground red. Her delicate nostrils flared, taking in the coppery scent before lowering her head to the ground as she approached the pair. Her stride was considering and far too careful. There was trepidation in each step that she took towards Brazen and her newborn, like there was far too much for her to think about.

    A little boy is nestled against moss, protected from the light dusting of snow and he is already wriggling with life. He's come early in the season and yet the little chestnut shows a vitality that could only beckon spring. The colt is already attempting to stand while Brazen continues to lay on the ground.

    Lilliana's mind reflects on the night that Nashua and Yanhua had been born. Brazen had come for her, then. They had laughed and teased softly into the late hours of the night. Her friend had put Lilli's worried mind to rest when she might have otherwise kept herself awake with fear. This birth, though, is so different. There is no laughter. There is no teasing. There is only Lilliana fighting her tears and her worry because she knows that Brazen doesn't need either of those things right now.

    She needs a healer.

    "Brazen," Lilli murmurs gently into her friends red ear. Her eyes are closed and Lilliana hopes to keep her conscious by speaking to her. The most important thing right now is that the Nerinian remains alert. That she stands so her newborn - Reave - can nurse. That she gets up so they can find help. "He's perfect," her friend tells her with a softness that can only be born with motherhood.

    The Taigan finally stops and uses her nose to guide the flaxen-haired colt as he attempts to rise. Turning her attention back to his mother, Lilliana says in a voice as steady as Brazen's wobbling newborn, "We need you to get up."

    light of love - florence + the machine
    image credit to footybandit

    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind
    Reply
    #3

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    Her voice reaches her, muffled, as though it had traveled across a great distance. It stirs what little fight she has left, the need to comfort and protect almost enough to stay the hands of death. Her eyelids flutter as she tries to lift her head, but she doesn’t have the strength. She can faintly hear the sounds of her son stirring, attempting to rise, of Lilli’s encouragement, distorted and distant.

    She reaches for her, as though she could somehow share, without words, that she would always be here for her. It doesn’t feel like a lie, even though it must be. Her breath has grown too heavy in her lungs. Too hard and thick to draw in. Even as her last breath shudders out, flames begin to lick her skin. But she clings with stubborn tenacity, even now. Almost as though summoned by instinct, stone ripples across her skin, dampening the flame. Snuffing it out until her curled figure is frozen and lifeless. A prison of stone and bone, warring with the inevitable.

    ----

    Reave mama had called him. Reave.

    His vision, vision that should have been new and bleary, is sharp and clear. He can see her face, bone-masked and beautifully fearsome, even with her eyes closed. He knows something is terribly wrong. Everything tells him to rise, so that maybe she will rise. If she did, everything would be alright. He knew it.

    The other woman comes, grief and worry and fear a blaze across her. He knows her. Deep inside, her knows her, kin calling kin. He rises for her too. To show strength and bravery. Because she needed it as much as sleeping mama did.

    But it’s not enough. Somehow, it’s not enough. Even as he wobbles on his feet, he can feel the distant exhale as Brazen breathes her last. The flames are brief, quickly snuffed out as he stares at her. In a rush, he crumples forward, falling against her unforgiving side. She doesn’t move, her skin refusing to flex beneath his touch. After a moment, he looks up at his other mama, bewildered confusion filling his wide blue gaze.


    Brazen




    lilliana
    Reply
    #4

    THE FEELING WAS ALWAYS TOO MUCH FOR ME /
    IT ALWAYS CAME TOO STRONG /
    I WANTED TO GET IT RIGHT SO BADLY /
    THAT I ALWAYS GOT IT WRONG /

    Lilliana has seen (and known) Death before, but never this close.

    She had barely been a year old the first time it greeted her. It took the shape of a man - white and sparkling like new-fallen snow. It had horns and it smiled. When she had been too afraid to run, when she knew that she couldn't leave Elena, she had looked behind her and saw it there as well in the eyes of her parents. The only thing that would have stopped them from killing the demon was Death itself. She saw it glowing, burning, blazing - in Elena, who seemed so desperate to throw herself on a flaming pyre of her reckless courage.

    (How many times has she borrowed that torchlight courage? She clutches at what remains of the embers even now.)

    And then she had come to know a second time, through the weight of her father's blue eyes. She came to learn about how Death took another shape - the same one that nearly killed her and Elena that day - and murdered her aunts and a cousin while her father looked on, powerless to stop it. Powerless while Death took another shape - that of a dragon - and it took everything about the Summer line (their warmth, their golden coats, their blue-sky eyes) into a frozen point aimed at her father's chest. It wasn't until Lilliana was older that she learned that her sire - Valerio, war hero of Windskeep - had died there. That she would learn it was an Immortal who brought him back from the knowledge that they gained from centuries of watching the candles of lives flicker out. (Is that how she will use her Immortality?)

    Death came in the shape of other ways. Here in Beqanna, Lilliana has learned that there are million little ways to die while still breathing. She has learned what is to draw a breath and resent it, like in this moment. It feels like sacrilege that this ability comes to her so naturally while Brazen staggers for it under the weight of her bone armor. Lilliana is still clinging to hope while her friend clings to life, dragging out breath after breath. Get up, Lilli thinks fervently. Get up, get up, get up. She repeats the thoughts over and over again like a prayer some forgotten god might remember.

    Eventually, just like the vision that Warden shared with her, the shallowed breathing stops. The stoneskin side stills. There is nothing left but a shell that is filled with echoes of a soul that Lilliana has loved. The chestnut wants to be like the little boy who has curled around his birth mother and lay down with them both. Death will never come for her but she thinks - desperately, almost feverishly - that if she lays down here where it has been, it might come back for her, too.

    Because of Reave, she has no more time to consider Death. He is looking up at her - looking so much like Brazen that breathing does hurt - and she is already tearing herself apart, trying to find the piece of her that he needs. Lilliana casts a grief-stricken glance at his mother before looking to the little tobiano and lowering her head, to encourage him to stand again. "Up, love." she says gravely, the heavy emotions in her chest straining her voice as she tries to force them back down.

    light of love - florence + the machine
    image credit to footybandit

    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind
    Reply
    #5

    He doesn’t understand yet how death can shape life. How this moment might skew the trajectory of his entire future. He only knows that it is not supposed to be like this. How even in the face of the inevitable, she clings so tenaciously. He can feel it. Can feel her pushing at the edges of his thoughts. Emotions.

    She’s not leaving. Not really.

    As he looks at his beautiful golden mama standing over them, he can feel her grief. But he presses towards her. Shoves the certainty sleeping mama had left with him, willful and haphazard and entirely without finesse, at her, hoping she will understand (even if he can’t quite understand it yet).

    Though Reave does not wish to leave (not yet, not when mama might still wake up), the ground is cold and the still body he presses against has rapidly begun to lose heat as the chill leaches through stone. Shivering faintly, he struggles to rise once more, legs still weak and wobbly beneath him. It is frustrating, the weakness. He has seen strength, and this is not it.

    But he perseveres, because that is what his golden mama needs. Because through it all, he can sense the only thing keeping her from shattering in this moment is him. He could be strong for her.

    Stumbling forward, he burrows into her warmth. His face presses against her, feeling her skin, warm and alive, give beneath his touch like sleeping mama’s should have. It feels safe here, as though nothing bad could ever touch him. He understands then, in some deeply visceral way, why mama had fought to be here.

    reave



    lilliana
    Reply
    #6

    BUT IT SINCE IT FELL UNTO MY LOT /
    THAT I SHOULD RISE AND YOU SHOULD NOT /
    I'LL GENTLY RISE AND SOFTLY CALL /
    GOOD NIGHT AND JOY BE TO YOU ALL /
    SO FILL TO ME THE PARTING GLASS /

    Brazen is still out there, somewhere. Lilliana doesn't doubt that. Her clan had a different name for it, the place where souls go when they leave a body dormant; she doesn't care about the name, about the legends, about that they said that it was a place free of pain and suffering. Her blue eyes are peering down into the shape of a little boy - of darling Reave (who has already stolen her heart as well; but then that was inevitable). She loves him - something already burning bright, furious, fierce in her chest.

    Reave rises and Lilliana stands, letting the little boy find his legs. When he has taken his first steps, she smiles despite the ache that she feels. He should be sharing this moment with Brazen, not her. She feels like a trespasser, an intruder, as much a thief as Reave might someday be with his sight.

    But when she looks back at Brazen again while she waits for the tobiano colt, her friend doesn't stir. The flames have slowly started to extinguish and soon there will be nothing left of the Nerinian. There will be nothing left but the memories that she and Neverwhere and the others will carry around with them.

    He struggles to find the ground, falling a few times before he finally reaches her (how she wanted to catch him each time!). But as a mother five times over, she knows that the resiliency of the young needs to be tested in the beginning. They will be tested over and over again - especially here in the North where the winter months can be so unforgiving. She nearly makes it to the end, waiting for her little boy to find his hooves. The last time Reave falls, she steps forward with her slender head lowered and uses it to help him rise again. The colt stumbles into her side and Lilliana softens against him, using herself to prop him up.  She traces the slope of his shoulders with her mouth, up to the soft newborn tuft of his flaxen mane before repeating the gesture.

    I've got you, she thinks to the little boy - her son. Brazen's son. Their son, she decides.

    I've got him, she thinks to the specter her imagination creates. A rift between this life and the next, it has to leave something behind. A soul can't fly so far, so fast, so soon. (Can it?) Brazen's death leaves a void in both of them and echoes to the empty places within both of them: We're still here.

    It's a thought that will echo between heartbeats in the days to come. It will come as Reave learns to run. It will come as his sister places bluebonnets in his flaxen mane and his brothers envelop him into the fold of family that defines their very identity as Northerners. It will come in the quiet moments when his breathing will fall in tandem with Oren and Roselin while they dream, when she thinks on Aela and watches her eldest sons, Nashua and Yanhua, continue to grow.

    We're still here.

    the parting glass - peter hollens + lindsey stirling
    image credit to footybandit


    why you got to gut kick me in the feels
    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind
    Reply




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