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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    OCEANE -- Year 208

    QOTY

    "Because if she had not met him, she knew she would have been searching her whole life for the piece that he filled her heart with." -- Eva, written by Shelbi


    [private]  it's hard to stop what you can't see, Wonder
    #1

    — I'll break you a hundred different ways —

    He hasn’t been back to Tephra in some time, but he also could not be found in Loess or Pangea. His attachment to Wonder had grown exponentially, and the moment he had felt that link forming, he had left. He had severed all contact so swiftly and so suddenly that the guilt nearly ate him alive. It gnawed at him during the day, and even during the night – when he usually felt almost nothing, when the curse took more than just his flesh. But there was a part of him that knew, that was completely convinced, that Wonder deserved better than what he could offer her. Which was, honestly, absolutely nothing.

    For once, he was grounded, walking through the forests of Taiga, and lost in his own sober thoughts. He almost ignores the smell of smoke when it first reaches him. So focused on his own mind, it hadn’t occurred to him that the smell of grass and trees burning was different than the sulfur-like scent that the volcano in Tephra often emitted. But the further he walked, the stronger the scent became, until it was nearly overpowering. Slowly rousing himself back to reality, it is like the curtain is suddenly pulled aside. His pace quickens, as he smothers the panic that rises in his throat. In a matter of strides, he is running, and when he finds a break in the treetops, he spreads his wings and emerges in the sky. 

    From this vantage point, he can see the shadow that has fully engulfed Tephra. Thicker, more ominous than a mere cloud, and yet it still doesn’t explain the sharp smell of smoke. 

    He doesn’t hesitate to fly directly through it, but not even he was prepared for the wall of heat and smoke that he was assaulted with. Fire glows from several points in the kingdom, dwarfing the illumination from the volcano. There is one place that seems to be the focal point, where dragons fight and fire spits from their mouths, where two magicians struggle to maintain the shields they have erected; and out of the corner of his eye, he sees Sochi, in her tigress form, brawling with a black panther.


    It was complete and utter chaos, and he has to fight every thread of him to not join. He didn’t even have a side to be on, but the smell of blood and the cries of rage and pain cause his pulse to quicken and his mind to steadily begin to escape him. Flashes of the bloodshed in Pangea intrude his memories, and he almost makes a move to land closest to the nucleus of the anarchy.

    But then he sees her.

    She is so close to the fray, and this is both surprising, and somehow completely not.

    There is nothing graceful in the way that he lands. It is rushed, his hooves clattering loudly against the war-torn ground, mud splashing up his legs. Saturated with rain, he doesn’t even flinch as thunder rolls loudly again, but the flash of lightning is enough to alight both of their faces. “Wonder,” Even in the middle of war, his voice is quiet, but with such a force behind it that not even the storm could drown it out. He presses close to her, as though he hadn’t been absent, as though he had ever given her a reason to even trust him. His lips brush near her ear, and even though his voice is soft, the way that he begins to try and push her towards safety leaves no secret to his intention. “You have no business being out here.” He looks to the complete disorder in the distance, and then back to her – back to that beautiful face that has haunted him since the day he had met her. With his shoulder still aligned with hers, as though his larger body could somehow shield her from the fire and destruction, there is finally a crack in his voice; the first sign of any sort of emotion creeping through as he rests his lips against her neck and whispers, “Come with me. Please.”

    — and I'll make you remember my face —

    Nightlock


    repost from what I put in the war thread <3
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    #2
    Wonder

    War comes with no warning, no morning epiphany on the day where it settles its roots deep in the soil of someone's home. It comes quietly at first, quiet in those first few moments where an unfamiliar winged-silhouette framed in such beautiful gold drifts across a familiar sky. She had seen him come, but the only thing she had been struck by was his beauty. Gold and glowing softly in certain places, certain shapes, a halo above his angelic head - and even when his lips part and his mouth opens, even when fire ruptures from him with an intensity that startles her, she still doesn’t understand.

    Fear is slow to find her, for there is no reason she can think of that this is an act of war, of deliberate violence. She does not know instantly that she and Choke are in danger, does not realize that she should go find her family before worse than this comes.

    And it does, of course.
    It comes.

    When fear does finally find her, it is a perfect bubble in her chest, a glass bauble that shatters the moment understanding touches it with open, forceful palms. She cries out against the fire, horrified by the indifferent way it ruins everything it touches, by the way it turns home into something unfamiliar and charred. The trees remind her of skeletons as the leaves burn away, as the branches crackle and fall like broken bones, broken ribs that bare an unprotected heart within. She wants to cry over such loss, wants to stand and stare at this destruction until her mind can make sense of it. But there is a boy at her hip, so small and so perfect, her boy, and instead she bends around him to shield him from the ash that falls like burning comets in minature over their skin. “Come here, baby,” she murmurs as she pulls him in closer against her, presses trembling lips to each brow, brushes kisses over his ears, “stay close, don’t leave my side.”

    It is a strange feeling that bubbles up inside her until it fills her throat and chokes her words, a fear that is unlike what she felt even in the face of the quests. That fear had been for herself, for what the future might bring. But this fear is for him, for the beautiful boy pressed to her skin and a rabid worry that she won’t be able to keep him safe from a world that cries tears of fire over their backs. She doesn’t know where to go, where to take him that might be safe. Doesn’t know where her family is or how far this destruction extends.

    She knows only what she can see, and then, abruptly, she can see nothing at all.

    The darkness is like night but for the absence of stars or the sliver of a yellow moon sitting in the branches of a tree. The only things she can see are the trees as the burn red, and the veins of magma that cut paths of bright to a volcano that sits above them like a furious, trapped sun. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust, for her mind to adjust, and then in a flash of lightning the skies open up to pour on them.

    She is breathing hard, feeling increasingly more frantic as the light from the fires dim and go hazy with smoke as the rain falls. But she is moving now, hurried by the clash of something nightmarishly loud overhead, by the impression of something dark and sinister in her periphery as she tries by memory to take them closer to the ocean. She moves only as fast as her baby can, pausing to kiss his faces in places where the mud is so thick they can hardly pull their hooves free. But the ocean is what she knows, and the whisper of the waves against the shore still call to her beneath the din.

    There is another flash of lightning and this time it brings her face to face with a hazy silhouette. She is not a warrior, but in that moment she curls her body between him and her child, dropping her brow so that the tines of her antlers are pressed against his throat. Despite the soft ethereal glow of her body, of the ridges of bright bone and brighter antler, the blood streaked in red across her skin is enough to make her appear menacing, violent. She opens her mouth to say something that might make her sound like the warrior she is not, but she is interrupted by the sound of her name on a voice that makes her heart ache.

    “Nightlock,” she breathes at him in a voice the color of pain, of tears, of raw vulnerability, “why are you here, you can’t be here.” But there is some wretched part of her that is glad he is, some broken selfish thing in her chest that is relieved when he presses in so close with his lips beside her ear. She turns to coax Choke between them, to tuck him beneath a beautiful silvery wing where he can be safe from the fire, safe from a world shattering apart around them. For a beat she closes her eyes, trails her lips across that tiny little crest of neck covered in downy baby mane so that she can breathe in the scent of him. But there is no more time to borrow with them because Nightlock is already doing his best to herd them away. She doesn’t realize it at first, is too busy lifting her nose to breathe in the smell of him, of cedar and deep forest, of smoke. Busy burying her face against him so carefully so that the antlers don’t wound him.

    You have no business being out here, he tells her, and for a moment she feels scolded, small, until he presses his lips to her neck and she feels something entirely different from him. It finds her like a flicker, something important revealed to her in a flash of rawness that makes her turn and press a soft kiss to the soft skin behind his ear, lingering with eyes closed at the smell of his mane again, at the way it makes her heart ache in her chest.

    He makes it so hard for her to deny him, so hard to tell him no. So hard to tell him she needs to leave Choke with him so she can go help the people she’s watched and known her whole life, and even those she hasn’t. She didn’t fight to help find the cure only to watch life decimated in some other violent way. But instead, and despite the war that rages on around them, she asks, “Is that why you’re here, Nightlock, for me?” It is soft and so tentative, gentle when she leans back to press her trembling nose to his, to find him through the strands of red forelock with eyes the color of pale green oceans.

    i am brambles but i am tangled in your love

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    #3

    — I'll break you a hundred different ways —

    He tried to not look at the colt that she ushered between them, but he doesn’t flinch away. He lets her encourage him beneath his wing, where ash and rain both fell, and he steels himself against the urge to move. He still has not fully accepted that this boy was his; that he had somehow aided in creating him, and in turn, killing his mother. His lack of acceptance made it easy to keep his suspicions from Wonder, at least. Lying to himself canceled out the fact that he was lying to her, in a sense. But she had been so devoted to the boy from the moment she had found him that he knew he could never tell her, and in that same line of thought, he would have to accept Choke if he wanted her. And so he protects him, but only because she asks him to.

    The feel of her pressing into him almost makes him forget why he came. Even though they are submerged in darkness, even though the air is thick with smoke and the cries of the war echo in his ears, all he can feel is how soft her lips are against his skin. It stirs something inside of him, as it always does. A sort of longing, but it twists inside of him like a knife, knowing that he shouldn’t feel it. But even knowing this, he lowers his head, and he brushes her red forelock from her pale green eyes. In the impossible darkness they are far more muted, but he doesn’t need to see them to know they are beautiful. He has seen her eyes in his memories every day that he was gone, most often creeping on him at most unexpected times. He can hear the uncertainty in her voice, and he knows those lovely eyes are watching him in a way that he doesn’t deserve.

    “I did,” he begins, brushing his nose across the armor of her forehead, and trailing downwards to trace the flat of her cheek. The rain has soaked him to his skin, and it caused the ash that continued to fall to cling to him – his mane, his wings, across his back. She, too,  smells of smoke and fire, mingled with her usual sweetness and the coppery scent of her raw skin that borders her bone. “I won’t leave you here.” He pauses for a moment, stealing a glance down to the boy still curled beneath his wing,
    and he adds, if only to appease her, “Or him.” He pushes against her again, doing his best to urge her towards the Tephran border. He can feel her hesitate, he could sense it in her voice earlier, and so he adds a bit more firmly, searching for her eyes through the dark, “There’s nothing you can do, Wonder. And I’m not going to let you die trying to save a kingdom that’s already lost.”

    — and I'll make you remember my face —

    Nightlock
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