"She presses into him greedily, hungrily, and demands more. She does not know how to be gentle when she is with him—does not know how to quell the aching in her belly, the neediness in her touch. She would devour him whole. She would sacrifice herself completely. She would give and give and give—" --Tabytha, written by Laura
Well, thanks to all those training practices with Grye, she'd become quite adept at flying. A little too adept for her occasional babysitter and half-sister, Alonwy, however. It was always Khaeli, not so far! And please stay down here where I can see you. But ah, Khaeli has a mind of her own, free spirited and all too eager to live and learn. Her mother knew it, and her father certainly knew it; but her sister seemed to think otherwise.
Today proves to be nothing new for the pair, at least at first. The Ischian landscape is boring and thoroughly explored for the little princess, and with Grye off and about elsewhere, she's going next to crazy just walking. When she tries to subtly unfurl her spot-sprinkled wings, a sharp hey! Don't even think about it, erupts from behind her. Ugh! Could Alonwy get any more controlling?!
Thinking this a fun game now, Khaeli skirts ahead towards the beaches, followed by worried calls - but the worry is dotted with laughter, so Khaeli does not truly heed the warnings she is given. By the time the Ischian jungle drops off behind her little hooves, her wings are completely unfurled, and just as she's about to splash into the ocean, she takes to the air. "Yuppee!"
Khaeli, get down here, I mean it!
"C'mon! I'm going to the meadow! See if you can keep up."
Oh, little Khaeli with the brave heart and trusting eyes - if only you knew the dangers that await you.
Gliding easily over the thermals, the little princess went slowly enough that her babysitter could easily keep up - and eventually the threats stopped being issued and they can finally travel in some peace and quiet. Before long, Khaeli is tucking her wings to deftly land in the open clearing of the meadow - right in the middle of the public eye.
Grinning, she turns to the tobiano. "See! That wasn't so..." But the words die on her tongue when she catches the look her sister is giving her. Uh oh... She's in big trouble.
If all the world were apple pie, and all the seas were ink, and all the trees were bread and cheese, what would we have to drink?
devin let me know if this is okay!
Sylvans, just hold off til we say go
Not the land itself, exactly; Father has found a perfectly lovely chain of islands that are as warm year-round as the Tundra was cool. But Alonwy hadn’t been entirely keen on the society itself in Ischia, before the Brotherhood returned; there was just not that much to live for. She’d kept to the fringes, and she wasn’t the only one. She’s not entirely sure Krone and Klaudius had even an inkling of how many of Brennen’s children drifted in and out, drawn to him like moths to the light or fish to the sea.
This particular child had come out of the woodwork since her father ascended the throne, because she could see a purpose for herself again, as he often ran out of hours in the day, and found himself once more knee-deep in true younglings, while trying to stay on top of the business of ruling. Enter Alonwy: edging towards a title as a spinster, but truly an experienced big sister. This lot, though, is truly a challenge. There’s the twins, with their fire and their constant minor squabbling. And little Grye, whose quiet countenance hides a mischievous streak a mile wide. Last but not least, the only filly of the bunch, bright and rambunctious Khaeli.
Today, she only has Khaeli. The boys are off somewhere - with Belgaer, perhaps, or Father - and she’d volunteered to give Galilee some time to rest. She’s growing round with Father’s child again already as winter hits, their fifth, and often overextends tending towards the herd of almost-yearlings. Alonwy is resigned but not particularly surprised when she finds herself chasing Khaeli from the ground, only the luck of low tide and the filly’s announcement of her destination allowing the pinto to keep from being left behind. She’s completely out of breath when they come to a halt, the little appaloosa turning around with a great big grin.
Alonwy isn’t grinning, she’s fuming and trying to catch her breath. “Khaeli,” she hisses, flicking her honey-brown eyes this way and that, trying to look everywhere at once. “What were you thinking? You know we’re not supposed to leave the Island.” Unlike the majority of her father’s children, Alonwy had truly never taken to the warrior arts. Not that it kept Father from training her, but she was slow and sometimes clumsy and just plain uninspired; his best hope is that she can halfway defend herself until someone else allows her to run away. She’s certainly not equipped to defend herself and her little sister, not this tired. “C’mon, we need to go home - quickly, if you please, and sneaky. We can make it a game - who can sneak the best?” It’s a tactic best used with younger children, but the pinto is desperate.
She doesn’t want them to be found here, alone in the chilly winter day.
Alonwy wasted no time making it clear exactly how she felt about Khaeli's little game. A confused and hurt look quickly filled the void of the girl's expression, her ears pressing back remorsefully and submissively. "I just wanted to explore Aly, you're my favourite sister and I thought it would be fun, I'm really sorry, I should have listened." But her long list of apologies met deaf ears, and she only sunk further into herself.
Still, er bright eyes caught the way Alonwy scanned the meadow as if for predators, and a wave of unease rolled over her. Stepping with her hind legs, she pivoted to glue her winged side to the tobiano's, nestling into her babysitter despite the lankiness of her half-yearling's frame. "I'm really sorry," she tried again, keeningly - but she forgave Alonwy her silence, stuffing the tears she felt gather in her eyes back to where they came from. Crying wouldn't help now - it would only add to the mess she'd made.
When the tobiano did deign to speak again, she spoke with the false sincerity of someone trying to manipulate children into doing what was right by making that thing seem like it was a game. Of course, little Khaeli fell for it full force - mostly because she wanted desperately to please Alonwy, but also because sneaking sounded terribly fun.
"Oh! Oh! I can be the sneakiest. C'mon! I'll show you."
After whispering the words (for somehow the game was still filled with an awful lot of real-life tension and fear), Khaeli turned to head back the way she'd come. In truth, her spotted figure did blend well into the snow and the trees, and she used her wins to hide mot of her body even more. She stepped quickly but with care, keeping her head low to watch for any obstacles, darting behind big trees whenever possible.
"We'll be home in no time!"
If all the world were apple pie ,and all the seas were ink, and all the trees were bread and cheese, what would we have to drink?
He’s been curled among the bramble and cobwebs while Beqanna’s rosy peace reigns (while his heart beats for the wilderness of chaos, he can understand the need for balance and thus he allows them their gentle moments). He spends his days crunching squirrel heads beneath his hooves and occasionally ruining a small forest by the swirl of his sandstorms. His destructive streak never dies (always lingering behind his eyes and under the scarred, white-streaked patterns of his skin) but he forces the flames to quiet themselves while the pure-of-heart laugh and dance in the sunshine.
But the need for balance is a powerful thing. There cannot be growth without rain or thunder to water the soil. And he can feel the unsettling of their happiness (he is born from that disturbance, in fact); it draws him out of the shadows to linger on the edges of their gatherings. His mind is frothing with the desire for fresh, true blood (not the thin, slick fluids from the rabbits and squirrels or the faux, magicked fluids he crafts in his own imagination). It has been too long since he has hunted — truly hunted — and saliva pools in his mouth at the prospects.
He can smell them (with their fresh-faced cleanliness and pure souls and hints of prey-instinct fear) and it draws him from the shadows. It would be easy to snatch them off the trail and call that the end, but it’s been too long and he craves their torture. So instead he pulls himself into their line of vision, a bruise-eyed stranger standing on the trail with a pleasant smile and high cheekbones.
“Not sneaky enough.” His tenor voice is light and friendly, dancing with the song of a gentle knight. Mischief is his forte, but it pairs nicely with his mastery in the art of masking his true identity. “My tree-friend could hear you, and she doesn’t even have ears.” He crafts an illusion to their senses (shadowy, slippery fingers sliding between the crevices of their brains) and it is a beautiful, cheery one. A tree-horse, with birch-bark for a body and willow-wisps for hair. It’s eyes are made of Queen Anne’s lace, blossoming before their very (ill-perceiving) eyes.
The tree-horse steps forward, a bubbling laugh on her mouth sounding akin to a water’s trickle sliding across pebbles. “Where are you two from?” Her words are as gentle as a breeze whispering through summer leaves. The trickster steps alongside his tree-friend, mismatched eyes glancing between the two sisters. The eldest smells of weakness and anxiety while the younger smells of fresh excitement and unrooted worry. Perfect.
Khaeli’s sad little pleas don’t fall on deaf ears, Alonwy isn’t a total monster, she’s just more preoccupied with real monsters that might lurk here than she is about immediately soothing hurt feelings. And when the spotted girl does step sideways to press against Alonwy’s black-and-white form, she can’t help but soften a little, and she reaches down to nibble affectionately on her little sister’s crest and the ever-itchy spot at the base of every pegasus’ wings, unspoken tokens of her affection and even her forgiveness. She’s not one for grudges on the best of days, and certainly not holding grudges against littles who don’t really know any better.
So when Khaeli agrees - eagerly, even - to the game, she forces a smile on her face and tries to tell herself that all will be well. It’s not as far as all that, afterall; if they can make their way quietly through the Meadow and Field to Tephra, Khaeli can fly back across. As for Alonwy, low tide is not nearly as low and welcoming from Tephra as it is from the shallowest distance at the point of the mainland near the river, but for all she is a hopeless fighter she is a strong swimmer. And while Tephra is not Allied to her sire’s Kingdom, they are friendly enough to grant her temporary succor until she the ungifted can return home as well. It would be nice to see her sister and brother residing there, too, and perhaps Dagny could even be persuaded to fly across to ensure Khaeli doesn’t make any other unauthorized and unwise detours.
She hangs back a ways from her little sister under the trees, for she can see herself how well Khaeli blends and her own bigger patches would only give them away. It is this that puts some distance between the bigger of the sisters and their unknown stalkers, and Alonwy is started by the appearance of two strangers ahead of them. Instinctively she puts on burst of speed and overtakes her charge, placing herself between Khaeli and the duo of tree-creature and stallion. She is not a warrior, she is afraid, but she is ever Brennen’s daughter; bravery runs in their veins sometimes to the point of stupidity. His voice gave her the shivers, and her eyes are focused on him even though he is the second to step up, and she is suspicious of him as she would be of any stranger.
But his ‘friend’ - the tree-horse - is beautiful, and friendly, and her voice entreats Alonwy to trust, and so she opens her mouth with some caution but less than she might have. “We’re on our way home,” she says, but carefully leaving out where that actually is. Even this small kernel of trust does not undo the cumulative effects of many lectures they have all had from their sire about the dangers of the world. “Actually,” she smiles brightly, stepping back towards Khaeli in hopes that they might be able to simply walk away, “our brothers should join us any time now, as our escort home.” It’s a bluff she hopes nobody will call her on: their brothers would be an impressive back-up force, but she doubts any of them even realize they are missing.
Her sister falls behind, making the sneaking even more serious - a thing the girl had thought next to impossible. Head low to the ground and hooves barely making a sound, she crept through the land with nary a thought on her mind besides getting home, to mother and to father, where she could expect much love after a brief chastisement.
Not sneaky enough.
Squeaking in surprise, little Khaeli jumped nearly out of her skin when the unexpected words flew towards her in a mockingly friendly tone. Trembling, she scrambles back towards Alonwy until the two are side by side. The tree figure, though undeniably endearing, frightened Khaeli because of its oddness. And it could hear without ears; out of all things, that most unnerved her. Breathless, the little princess allowed her sister to do the talking, tears swimming in her eyes as she came to realize exactly what was about to happen to them.
Sometimes, a child's instincts are too keen for their own good.
"Please," she begged tearfully, sobs blubbering up from her chest and making her a pitiful, heartbreaking sight. Her wings shook with the sobs, mouth crumpling into an expression far sadder than any she'd sported before. "Please let us go - daddy is waiting for me, he said he'd play a game of tag with me tonight after he has a short meeting with the brotherhood, and momma is about to have her baby any day now, please let us go, please, please, ple-"
A sharp shove from Alonwy quiets the girl's panicked bleating, perhaps because she's managed to reveal their identity and patronage, or perhaps because the black tobiano knows that it'll be better for their last moments to pass in silence, instead of in screaming.
It's a nice thought.
And oh, it was a nice life, for the short year that it lasted.
Today was her first birthday.
If all the world were apple pie ,and all the seas were ink, and all the trees were bread and cheese, what would we have to drink?
HEAVY MATURE WARNING: THERE IS A LOT OF VIOLENCE IN THIS NEXT POST. PLEASE PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Where there is no imagination, there is no horror
It’s a tightrope they walk upon (he to decide when his moment of strike will be, them to decide when their moment of ending will be) and he feels the careful danger of it curl in his belly like a smoke-dragon. He craves it (chaos, that is) like a drug to his veins, and his arms would be speckled and bruised with many needle-points had it actually been a drug. They are the chess pieces in his movements now, and he’s been in the Meadow long enough to hear of Beqanna’s political climate (of shifting rulers and evil stirring in the west and tense, biting words) and work out a way at which he can further prod at the potential earthquake.
The older can sense him (he hadn’t covered himself up well enough, apparently) and the shadows he brings, but he hardly pays that a mind. She’s exhausted and, therefore, a likely target. But then the little girl is bawling (sobbing and begging and whimpering and he fucking loves it) and he pushes his tendrils deeper into the elder’s mind, all the way down to her heels. It should feel like she’s falling now, and if she were to look down there might be a sandpit beneath her feet (sinking and pulling and dragging her closer to the innards of the earth).
He has more important things to deal with, like the (now confirmed) princess. His bruised eyes narrow in on her, eyelids half-closing to scan over her young body with a frightening sort of calculation. Beside him, the tree-horse disappears into a thin mist so quickly that she might’ve been their imagination in the first place. “The Brotherhood, hmm?” His voice has changed (no longer sweet and sugary, but laced with a syrupy malice and firecracker excitement) as his eyes latch onto her darling little face.
Before she might be able to spring away (and with her protective sister firmly held in the clutches of his faux-quicksand) he springs from his position, ears pinning into his silver mane and allowing a bitter snarl to tear from his mouth. He whisks together a quick, wide sandstorm to block her path, pushing it wider and wider until it encircles the three of them. “Now I can work in peace,” he mutters, more a thought to himself than to them.
He decides it would be much more delightful to let the younger watch her ever-protective, mature sister pass away before her eyes. So the trickster pushes a trick into the winged filly’s mind (filling her eyes with darkness and centering her feet firmly on the ground so she feels as though she cannot move) and then makes his way closer to her tender little body. His teeth reach out quickly (one bruised eye moving to look directly at the mare) and snap down on the beginning of her wing appendage. There’s the sensation of muscle and tendon shredding under his teeth, along with a dull thud that indicates the creak of bones, and then he’s certain she will never fly again. The same is done to the other side (shredding and thudding and creaking) and his fingers release her vision from the darkness and back to reality.
She could try to attack him, the yearling, but her wings will do her no good and his strength against hers is insurmountable. He laughs as he releases the mare from her sandpit, only to force another trickery across her mind. This time she is witnessing her worst nightmares (in whatever forms they might be) over and over again. His hope is to make her scream and wriggle and cry and beg for it to end, and he will not relinquish her mind from these terrors until she does.
When the mare is weak under the pressure of the hell playing through her mind (each time quicker and more intense than the last) he will attack. He does not take his time with this mare (there is too much at stake, too much muscle, too little time) and so her end is brutal but merciless (and before her little sister’s eyes). He beats her and crushes her and pounds her and cracks her until she is a pulpy, disintegrated, fleshy mess of blood and gut and muscle and bone (his bruised eyes reveal in the masterpiece he’s created, even while blood and bodily fluids are painted across his body).
But he’s been careful to avoid truly crushing her chest, treasuring the gem that lies within her ribcage. His nose rummages around the remains of her body until he finds his treasure (slathering his muzzle with blood in the process) and he carefully grabs it between his lips, pulling it from between membranes and ligaments and fatty tissue. He walks to where the younger might be (perhaps pressed against the sides of their sand-prison, perhaps launching her own attack upon his scarred shoulders, perhaps grounded to the floor by the horror of the murder) with her sister’s heart in his mouth, blood dripping a trail of red.
He says nothing (watching her with those eerily blue eyes) and stands for a moment, letting her examine if she wants to, before he calls forward another sandstorm to secure the unmoving heart until he might deliver it. Then he turns (bloodstained and relatively satisfied) to face her. “Don’t worry, little doe; I’ll be much more gentle with you.”
In hindsight, he is. He doesn’t beat her until her face is a distorted pulp of tissue and bone, but rather dances around her for a moment, pressing dainty kisses to her tender, child-soft parts (to her cheeks, to her shoulders, to the curve of her hip, to the slope of her neck, to her forehead) until she might be crying, if she isn’t already. A laugh bubbles from the depths of his chest as he places his final lingering touch, this one equipped with a nasty bite behind it (“A love-bite,” he thinks).
Although he is a nasty lover of chaos, he comes with his (as he sees them) tender sides. So before he spills her blood, the trickster pushes her mind into a fantasy, one where she is flying high in the sky (so high the air is thin and Beqanna spreads below her, but she can neither sense the air change or the level of her height) and the sun is setting in the distance. Her sister is there, gifted with her own wings, and the pair are pinwheeling through the sky while the trickster is, meanwhile, slowly pulling apart her limbs and inspecting them with a surgeon’s interest (he’s never taken apart a yearling, you see, and his curious mind desires to know where her differences might lie in contrast to an adult).
But she should be happy and free, careening through the sky at incredible skies. The trickster wonders if he almost hears a tender, childlike laugh drip from her lips when she is close to the edge of death, and it warms the stone of his heart. She passes on before he’s gotten very far, but he continues his work until he finds her own (slightly smaller, he notes) heart and wraps it carefully in a separate sandstorm.
He buries the girl (call it age, but he can’t leave her young body parts spread across the trail) just along the side of the trail, using his storms to first dig and hole and then fill it. He leaves one of the bones from her ribcage there, a few strands of her dark mane tied around the length of it, atop the pile of freshly-dug soil. Her sister, however — he could shit on her body and not care less, so he leaves her there (pulpy mess already being feasted on by the bodies of many tiny insects) and twists toward the forest in the west, two slender sandstorms weaving between his legs and around his body, their masses tinted shades of pink and deep red from the cargo they carry.
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