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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    GHAUL -- Year 209

    QOTY

    "(souls are not meant to live more than once — death was not meant to be temporary, and she is so sure that every time her heart starts to beat again that irreversible damage is further inflicted)" -- Anonya, written by Colby


    [mature]  Simple lies, Strange eyes [HEARTFIRE]
    #1

    when the stars threw down their spears and water'd heaven with their tears:

    Waiting.

    They are all waiting.

    But one of them can wait no more. One of them could feel it like certainty; that which is death come to take him away. Creeping fingers of cold that do not cease in their relentless grip, searching, holding fast and squeezing tighter. It came upon one of them with a shudder and a wheeze, a sound of inescapable truth that sent him wheeling into a hundred new shapes on his way to Loess.

    One of them is waiting.

    Waiting for his wife because looking down at her, he could not bear to wake her quite at that moment, covered in feathers of varying shades of blue, black, and white. The tangle of limbs and shallow breaths which will echo into eternity. His progeny, his wife. So he had gone ahead into the bruise-colored night just before dawn, breathing crisp air with invigorating hope for the day to come that would never come at all.

    Staring at the dark hills and her secrets, loving those shadowy places while beginning to forget the phantom fear that lurked there. A cool scent of newness fills his lungs when he sighs, content. The dark blue night stretches on and envelopes him, waiting for Lepis to rouse.

    “My boy.” The creaking voice rises, a pale wisp exhumed from the hard, cold earth and it stares at Wolfbane who stares back in shock to see bones and bare, brittle skin. To see eye sockets that do not stare back. “My future.” It moans softly, kindly. One thinks of what is to come.
    The other thinks only of his children and Lepis.
    “I want to tell you a story.”

    Bane thinks not. His wings unfurl to launch, a body lowering in anticipation of a springing leap. He feels his hooves lift free from the earth and for a second there is only the contemplation of how fast he can fly to Nerine when driven, could he keep from screaming? Joy rises up inside of him, vindicated by the idea that he had tested himself against elementals and hasn't he done -

    - Then the claws are driven through him, four points gouging into his throat like fire, a fifth burrowing deep for anchor until it pulls away in a dark spray of blood and he can’t speak, can’t think. The awareness that his jaw and the soft spot where Lepis loved to kiss are gone doesn’t yet immediately register. He’s choking silently, and another paw comes down across his vision with so much rage that it bursts through the bone of his nasal cavity and curls underneath. He can feel the pressure forcing his eyes to bulge out of their sockets.

    “Shh.” Wyrm tells him, crouched over his fallen grandson in a shape that can’t be named. Part lion or wolf, part eagle or baboon. Who could tell? “We don’t want to wake anyone.” He shakes the limp head, fingering the neck which has already stopped bleeding. His claws trace down the spine to the wings.
    He wrenches one, the snap of bone and wet sound of ligament, and then violently takes the other.

    Then the two fly off into the night anyways, leaving those lovely white wings where Lepis and the children would find them covered in hordes of feasting ants.

    Wolfbane gets dropped from the sky and he’s happy for it. Relief and horrible pain accompany him on the way down while new veins and new muscle knit together again. And all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men. He should’ve known better. Should’ve known that nothing could prepare him for this. Longclaw tried, Heartfire tried but they failed. Wyrm’s laughter above him is their laughter too; the feeling of his tail whipping across his legs are snakes and the blinding pain in his back is dragonflame.

    He shatters against the Beach and loses one of those legs completely.

    “Once upon a time,” Wyrm sings, sauntering over from where he’s landed. His limbs twist too, back into the false shape of grandfatherly, old green stallion. “Your great-grandpappy came to this place. This very beach! He came here and I swear, on my honor,” The old shifter giggles, flopping down beside Bane and his shallow, labored breaths. “he took down a full-grown horse as an itty, bitty wolf. ATE ‘EM UP!” Wyrm yells.

    “May the dark god rest his soul.” He sighs. “But he weren’t never the same, came back with a ter-rible temper whooooo. You wouldna believe it. But that ain’t all. He got something too. Got himself a pretty swell new power, one you may be familiar with yourself sweet boy.” And Wolfbane knows just what he’s talking about.

    “That pretty blue flame. You like that color, dont’cha? Pretty, pretty blue.” His grandfather whispers down into Bane’s ear. “I know the secret. I know what taking a power by force did to the thief but to be sure I made your daddy try.” He says, “And why shouldn’t I? Huh? I created him! I CREATED YOU!” He rages, shifting wildly into the hippogriff that he was before, raining fury and tearing, peeling, scouring away those lovely stripes until he can see the glisten of still-broken ribs.

    “And… ” He huffs, throwing his weary head back to lick the blood clean from his beak, “and now I… I know. Phew. I know just what to do with you. I’m tired of bein’ old. Tired of the ungrateful spawn I gave EVERYTHING to and got nothing back in return.” Wyrm lowers his eyeless head. “I’m gonna eat you up, little Bane.” He starts to laugh, “I’m gonna eat you up, and then I’ll - what?”

    His tirade stops. Wet mouth moving, lips forming words, his body still healing and Wolfbane tries to speak. “What’s that?” His grandfather is curious, crouching down to bend an ear towards the eye he doesn’t see staring directly at him.

    “I said,” Wolfbane moans, “Save his fucking black heart for me, Grandmere.”

    did he smile his work to see? did he who made the Lamb make thee?



    tl;dr: Wyrm senses he's dying and heads to Loess to pick up Bane and finish him off at the beach. He intends to devour Bane's heart to forcibly steal his self-healing but gets caught up in trying to monologue and can't seem to cut into Bane faster than Bane can heal himself.
    Heartfire feel free to kill him however you'd like, but for plot purposes the heart should be left untouched <3
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    #2

    She's got the devil's eyes

    She had warned him.

    She never gives the same warning twice. Never makes a promise she could not be certain to keep. Wyrm should have know that, of course. But it seems the madness had warped his mind as surely as age had warped his body. She had known it would come to this. Known the moment Wyrm had whispered her name into the winds to demand a meeting with their grandson.

    She should have slaughtered him then, where he stood. But foolish sentiment had stayed her hand. A thread of feeling remaining, refusing to be extinguished beneath the weight of her anger.

    She does not make the same mistake twice. Her former lover would not live to feel another dawn on his treacherous green skin. She would make certain of it.

    She has planned for this day. Aligned the pieces that, when the time comes, she need only click them into place. Only a fool would not believe her unprepared. Only a fool would think he could take someone under her protection far enough away from her that she could not quickly follow. Not when someone she cares about is in danger.

    A simple request, and moments later she is breaking through the shadows of the forest bordering Nerine’s southern edge onto the eerie sands of the beach. Her fury is rampant as she bursts across the bone strewn sand. A fury built from years of self-recrimination and regret for the loss of something she had once thought special, fueled by a heart she would never admit had been broken.

    Her normally implacable features are alive with feeling as she finds her target, lashing out with all the rage she had shoved down so deep, that she had tried to pretend never existed. With targeted precision, she removes the clawed feet the might further wound Wolfbane, waiting with seething impatience until Wyrm’s attention as turned to her before she acknowledges her grandson’s words.

    “Of course.” A low, fiercely implacable sound, carrying with it all the weight of the inevitability of Wyrm’s end.

    Continuing the trajectory of her destruction, she watches as his lower limbs begin to fall away. Gradually rising, letting him feel the inevitability of his end. She moves closer, until she is beside them, beside the thrashing shifter and the wounded pegasus. Until she can lift one hoof and shove Wyrm forcefully from her grandson. Until he lies on the ground, blood soaking the sands and flecking her skin, little more than a wild-eyed husk of the man he’d once been, staring sightlessly into the maws of death.

    Perhaps she might have been kinder. Perhaps she might have ended him quicker. But she finds inflicting him with a slow death eases the pain of his betrayal. Eases the long-held emotions she had always been loath to reveal.

    Freeing herself from whatever hold he might have left over her once and for all.

    Let him see how heartless she could be. Let him flounder in the mistakes he had made, in the understanding that it had always only ever been her kindness that had spared him. She pulls apart his body piece by piece, until his breath rattles with death and his heart lay exposed, sluggishly beating to a halt.

    Much the same way he had exposed her eons ago now. Metaphorically, of course. She smiles then. Truly smiles.

    Perhaps he finally understands how patient her revenge could be.

    and they'll cut you like a weapon

    Heartfire
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    #3

    ALL THE DOUBT YOU'RE STANDING IN BETWEEN

    It shouldn’t be so gratifying to see the way Wyrm’s skin visibly shivers at Heartfire’s arrival, but it is.

    It shouldn’t bring Wolfbane a wave of relief to watch him unravel, but it does.

    He shouldn’t rise so quickly, smile so broadly, stumble towards the dust that mingles with his blood in a final way, but it happens.

    Wyrm is gurgling at first and then making no sound at all. Heartfire unleashes a pain on his grandfather that Bane wouldn’t exactly wish on his worst enemy, and the two of them - blue roan and blue striped - stand side by side and watch it happen with something like mutual affection. Wyrm ruined too many lives for too long, and now that cycle was ending with a crescendo worthy of being written down. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    This was true power. Not her vision manipulation, not his odd form of shifting, not even the way she pulled him apart at the seams without blinking; their connection was at the core of Wyrm’s downfall. Their combination of gifts: Wolfbane’s impossibly quick healing and Heartfire’s thread of the all-seeing-eye… that they had found each other years ago and mended what might’ve been too broken to mend.

    The only remnant she leaves is one old, fatty heart that stops beating and leaves them watching, one of them breathless, with smiles on their faces. Quietly Bane turns his head and presses his nose into the dark curve of Heartfire’s cheek, closing his eyes. “If this changes me,” He worries to her, only to her, “try to make Lepis understand. Take care of Eyas.” The stallion mentions.

    She’s so much like you, he thinks as he pulls away.

    His wings are gone, one leg is a stump that’s growing even when he hobbles forward on the other three. He’s much more red than gold but determination and a desire for this to be behind them lends him strength enough to keep from passing out. Wolfbane lingers for a moment more, staring down at the shriveled mass of pulp and veins with a steady contemplation. He knows what might happen. He saw it happen to his father. Risk comes with reward, but often at a heavy price.

    In the next moment he swoops down and clenches the heart in his teeth, lifts his head and grinds it between his molars before forcing it down his throat. The metallic taste lingers on his tongue and he understands, finally, what it means to eat the flesh of another living animal. Breathing softly he waits, until all at once his body convulses and his shoulders clench, back bowing. Heartfire’s grandson gasps, shudders, and in an explosion of growth sprouts four new wings and instantly regains his leg.

    His chest jerks out, spine cracking as he looks to the heavens and his stripes fade from blue to red.
    It’s his first transformation; his rebirth.
    Wolfbane blinks once, twice, then turns to look back at Heartfire with one green and one blue eye.

    WITH WOUNDS THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS SEEN

    WOLFBANE



    Heartfire this was honestly so much fun
    [Image: Wolfbane2.png][Image: 3bCHvj.png]
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