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    version 22: awakening


    OCEANE -- Year 208


    "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]  come into the water

    i always wanted to die clean and pretty
    but i'd be too busy on working days

    After meeting with Vulgaris, Litotes and the Tephran king agreed to meet at the border of Loess and Taiga. There, Heartfire will join them, and the trio will face the havoc Loess wishes to wreak head on.

    The Archon would be nervous if three of the four kingdoms were not banding together to take on one—or he might be nervous if that was his nature, or if Castile was not still considered a friend. Still, while not anxious, he is itching to get the entire ordeal over with. In light of his personal life, all of the kingdom squabbles seem so trivial, and his once raging heart only wishes to turn its magma to cool rock.

    The real tragedy to Litotes is that what he once found powerful and welcoming he now finds irritating, and he may lose one of his first trusted friends.

    Never mind the death that may reign if three leaders fail to stop Castile.

    The unfortunate fact of their situation is that this may all turn to war no matter how the dragon king takes their arrival. This the cremello thinks as he and his trailing son stand upon the scented border. He turns to look at Ghaul and finds that pride blooms in his chest at the handsome sculpt of his son’s face. The horns that are beginning to grow from his eye sockets do not seem an eye sore to the Archon; in fact, he thinks they quite suit his son’s personality (and painful emergence into this world).

    “Ghaul, stand next to me, at least until the others arrive.” That anxiety he rejected before now burns his throat. He knows Castile to be a volatile man, and he hopes that he will not make Lie regret allowing his son to tag along.

    vulgaris Castile @/[Heartfire]

    do you think God stays in his heaven because he, too, lives in fear of what he has created?

    He can remember this moment from his dreams, or maybe it was only a dream he had last week that felt an awful lot like this. But he remembers the blur of yellow and red of his father’s shoulder against the blue of the sky. Ghaul remembers the way the sun felt on his face during his dream but he doesn’t recall why this day felt important when Litotes told him about it. His heart thumps nervously against his ribs but he keeps up with the shadow king, his leathery wings pressed tight to his sides. This place smells of scales and fire, of dragons far older and stronger than him. He touches his tongue to his teeth and wonders what they taste like.

    He sniffs a little more and notes one odd scent among the bunch. Something sweet, like honeysuckle or fresh flowers. He croons softly as his curiosity peaks but he says nothing, casting a glance toward Lie as he instructs him to remain close. Ghaul would like to wander and hunt the source of this smell but he is obedient – to his father, at least. Dawn has tried to command him, to ask nicely, or to bribe him only to find that the child is as stubborn as he is strange. Still, she is gentle and kind when he finds himself frightened after falling or failing in his hunts. But she is not his father, his guardian in whom he invests all his trust and adoration.

    Are they like me?” he asks quietly, glancing around at the blurs of heat signatures in the distance. Ghaul does not know that he is the first and only of his kind. He leans his head against his father, his rough scales gently meeting Litotes’ warm shoulder. His small talons idly paw at the dirt while he waits for these dragons to reveal themselves and this meeting to begin.

    What will he do if he hates them or if they are weak, he wonders? Will father teach him to hunt greater prey so that he might one day devour all them? Ghaul touches his tongue to his teeth once more and tries to quiet the hunger for death gnawing softly on his bones.


    Castile litotes Heartfire i'm going to reply with vul later because he's always late to things.
    and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left
    a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
    The lull is more unnerving than the drums of war.

    Castile is waiting, a poised cat. It won’t be long, he muses, until the world flips again and his fire rains down from the sky. Despite his friendships branching out like tendrils of spiderwebs, he realizes that it is not permanent. Mother was even betrayed. It’s likely that he will be, too.

    The congregation in Nerine was anticlimactic but there was tension bubbling underneath the placid surface. He knows what Lepis plans, how it likely enrages Heartfire to her core.

    But there is so much more to it, so many more discussions that occur behind his back as Loess stirs restlessly. His eyes trace the border feverishly all while Cyprin clutches his side and weaves tendrils of magic into the soil and into the clouds to create small creatures that assist in vigilance. A sideways grin reassures Castile, but it wavers when motion catches his eye and steers him toward Litotes.

    They move together, their bodies synchronous in movement but starkly different in appearance. He keeps her close for multiple reasons, all of which are deeply tucked into the chasms of his mind. A soft touch cradles her shoulder in the long silence until they’ve reached the outsiders. There is only Litotes and a young boy similarly clutched adjacent to him. An inquisitive tilt of their heads – again, similar – but it is Castile whose gravelly voice shatters the quiet. ”Lies,” they last saw each other in Pangea when Valdis’ scent thickly clung to the dusty rocks, ”To what do I owe the pleasure?” A lopsided grin manages to feebly crawl across the thin line of his lips despite the reeling of his thoughts that deepens a sense of mistrust and uncertainty.

    With a sharp breath, he acknowledges the boy and realizes how the curled horns have replaced his eyes.

    ”And you’ve brought with you…” he trails off with a curious glance to the Pangean king before shaking his head and remembering his sibling standing in his shadow. ”This is Cyprin.” She mutely nods as her eyes drink in the sight of them, memorizing every intricate detail.

    V u l g a r i S
    Vulgaris wasn’t aware it was bring your child to work day here in Loess, but he fits right in with Meraki coiling a thin vine around a lock of his shaggy mane. Her steps are small and skittering to keep up with his long, practiced strides but she doesn’t complain of being tired. Her wide green eyes are too busy taking in the rocky hills and strange plants of Loess for her brain to even notice how long their journey is. The serpent king spots Litotes up ahead, with a scaled boy curled to his shoulder. There is something familiar about the child, but it doesn’t quite register for now. He doesn’t have any kind of sense for their relation but perhaps one of the others may notice the same curve to their jaws or the way they show their teeth with certain expressions.

    Castile approaches before Vulgaris can catch up to the Archon but they seem to have only exchanged a few pleasantries when he comes to stop beside Litotes. He briefly wonders where Dawn is, but he supposes she doesn’t have a taste for affairs as serious as these. Neither does Leliana, he thinks, and he wishes he could excuse himself from the meeting as well. Meraki edges closer to the dragon boy and prods curiously at his horns with another thin vine sprouting from her mane. She presses tight to her father when the child turns, smiling with sharp, crooked little teeth as he stares without seeing.

    That was rude, Meraki.. Apologize,” he instructs before turning back to the Loessian king. His daughter gives a soft snort and turns up her nose quickly rather than admitting her wrongdoing. The third child, Cyprin, is quiet as she is introduced.

    A pleasure to meet you, Cyprin. Leliana is having a day of rest, so I’ve brought our youngest with me,” he explains, gesturing at the flower-child at his side. She beams proudly, wings puffing up while the flowers in her hair bloom a little bigger. “This is Meraki, and she’s very happy to meet you all.

    Vulgaris looks back over his shoulder, searching the borders for Heartfire while he waits patiently for her arrival or for Litotes to begin explaining the reason for their visit.
    In this shook-up, twisted world, I'm gradually growing transparent and vanishing
    Don’t look for me; don't look at me

    She's got the devil's eyes

    She is the last to join their unusual party. And it seems, as she closes the distance between them, she should have brought a child with her. She appears to be the only one who had dared arrive alone.

    Curious, that.

    She is among the trio seeking to avoid war, uninterested in sowing further tension where their needn’t be any. Still, neither is she one to stand aside in the face of a threat. Indeed, if it were known everything that had occurred these last weeks, it might be considered interesting that she is here at all. But then, the meeting she had with Lepis had proved far more… surprising than even she yet realized.

    Unfortunately nothing good could come from it when she realized the truth. The acts of war had already been sown and no one knew it yet. No one except Lepis, of course. But she was too foolhardy to have that much forethought.

    With an ease born of all her years spent in tense situations, she joins the small party, appearing far more relaxed than she had any right to. Blue eyes sharp and inscrutable, she shifts her gaze from the two men she joins to Castile as one brow tilts slightly. “I suppose it’s never too early to begin teaching diplomacy, is it?” she observes mildly, a hint of dry amusement in her tone.

    She’d never been one for small talk however, and it takes her little time to dive straight into the heart of the matter, brushing aside any further pleasantries that might have been uttered. This group likely had no use for such stilted, useless conversation anyway. “I’m sure you’ve surmised why we have come, Castile.”

    and they'll cut you like a weapon


    i always wanted to die clean and pretty
    but i'd be too busy on working days

    For a moment, the cremello stallion feels entirely alone, and gulps back the wish that Kensa or Starsin were here to comfort him with just their presences. He feels that heartbreak as it wrenches another faultline in his heart, but a second-long closing of his eyes steadies him just in time for Castile’s arrival.

    A smile grows pure and happy across his lips at the sight of his friend. “Castile!” he calls, nearly forgetting why he is there. The dragon-king’s questions draws him from that familiar reverie, causing his gemstone eyes to cloud and his raised chin to tuck closer to his neck. They brush quickly over that question when the cremello settles on the daughter close to Cas’ side. He smiles down at her, that foolish weak-spot for children clear in his face.

    “This is Ghaul, my youngest son,” this he states with pride, even if most are frightened by the horns protruding from the colt’s eye sockets. “And it is a pleasure to meet you, Cyprin,” he adds with a drop his head, level eyes dropping to meet her’s.

    Before an awkward silence can spread between the two kings, Vulgaris arrives with yet another foal. “Vulgaris,” Lie murmurs, then looks down at the mischievous girl close to his side. A smile creeps up again, one that grows as Meraki prods at Ghaul. They make a fine pair, he thinks—both strange and powerful.

    Heartfire is soon to follow. The Archon sighs with relief, happy that he will not have to blather on about nothing while waiting for the last kingdom leader to arrive. “Heartfire,” is his dutiful greeting, followed by a dip of his head. She has a much heavier attitude than Vulgaris and Litotes, and the cremello scrambles in his head for a gentler way to speak to Castile. He nearly sighs, resigning himself to the realization that no matter how he words this, the draconic king will not be pleased.

    “Castile, can you tell us what you are doing with Taiga?” Lie casts a furtive glance at Heartfire, his jaw set as he hopes she is not displeased with his approach. The Archon thinks his friend deserves a chance to explain himself, though he hardly has hope there will be a good reason for Lepis’ and Wolfbane’s actions. “Lepis has made her pointless mutiny very clear . . . Does she have your support?”

    He supposes that is all they really need to know.

    Heartfire Castile vulgaris
    and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left
    a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
    They arrive, one by one, and Castile’s eyes narrow in skepticism as his gaze sweeps across the stoicism they emanate. This must be it, his thoughts reel feverishly. Mother was eventually betrayed and this, now, must be his moment.

    Even as Litotes begins with friendly jubilance, it’s returned with a forced smile and silence as Castile waits patiently for the first to shatter the eerie calm blanketing their group. Eyes dart among each other warily, and it appears that Heartfire is the ringleader. ”My sister,” he enforces sternly, ”is more inclined toward diplomacy. I won’t stop a curious mind.” Cyprin returns his comment with a soft smile that just barely reaches the corners of her eyes before dissipating as the tension thickens. Unfortunately, Castile doesn’t take notice how she softens toward him as his attention tunnels on the Nerinian Queen, listening to her drawling statement. ”Seeing as you’re here, I imagine it isn’t to party.” Even with humor woven into his words, the quip abruptly clips at the end as his gut roils with mistrust. The others, excluding their children, are – were – friends, but his relationship with Heartfire has balanced on a tight rope since his ascension to the Loessian throne.

    Unfortunately, it seems that she has sunken her claws into Castile’s friendships, retracting them from his grasp and influence so that they may accompany her here. She is the dog, and they her fleas. They leap into why they are here, their muscles stiff with anticipation.

    And Castile laughs.

    The noise is at first boisterous and it rumbles like a rock from the Cliffside, startling even Cyprin. She looks up at him, then to Ghaul and Meraki, somehow reassured to have young bystanders nearby. But Castile gradually quiets and shifts his body weight to allow a hind leg to casually recline. ”What am I doing with Taiga? I’ve never even visited that forest. Since you seem to know more than me, please, tell me exactly what I am doing with it.” His voice raises slightly, his eyes darkening beneath his frustration. He sees that Litotes is uncomfortable, and yet he is the one breaching the topic, dancing across the questions because they all are aware of Castile’s volatile personality.

    ”I’m flattered that you brought an entourage, Heartfire, rather than facing me alone,” an amused smirk peels apart his lips as a brow lifts. ”Whether you realize it or not, it tells me a lot about you,” but he does not dwell on her, no. He does not elaborate or feed her the thoughts that sink into the crevices of his mind.

    His eyes hold them all, piercing into them like polished knives as they stand unwelcomed at Loess’ border. ”I’m loyal to my friends and family,” is all he says, but he realizes that his sense of loyalty could be to a disastrous fault. Castile has quieted, but the underlying prowess lathers and foams, coating the passive-aggressive hit against them as they stand alongside the offended queen (why else would she be here, blaming him, when her position is attacked?). His words stab them, goring them, as they take sides with Heartfire against a friend – now, it appears, a former friend. Without so much of a word, they’ve rolled over to expose their vulnerable bellies to the woman, losing all sense of strength that Castile respected and applauded them for. Their powerful alliances are aflame, all because of their fickle allegiances.

    In a matter of seconds, the relationships are in shambles at Castile’s feet, but he merely sweeps them aside without regret.

    Licking his lips, he cannot help to look again at Heartfire, still bemused. ”From the small details that I’ve heard, I imagine you refused Lepis and her plans, but I would like to know why? Rumor has it that Taiga is far more fruitful nowadays than Nerine, but I know how things can be misconstrued through the grapevine.” He searches her face. He is not asking, but demanding. ”Tell me why you would refuse a peaceful shift of power – that does not involve your removal as a leader - and instead come to my gate boasting...” his eyes nonchalantly regard Vulgaris and Litotes, ”…Tephra and Pangea’s strength, and threatening me in my own home?” It needn’t be said outright. Their arrival details enough – confronting him with a group of five – and yet even under their leading questions, Castile remains steadfast and uncomfortably calm.


    Heartfire vulgaris litotes
    V u l g a r i S
    What would Larva do if he were in the Tephran king’s shoes? What would the old Vulgaris do? These questions pick at the back of his mind as he watches, says nothing while Heartfire speaks. But did he know or did he let his dogs run free? He wonders but he remains silent while Litotes introduces the strange boy at his side. The draconic thing smiles with a mouth full of crooked little crocodile teeth and he wonders if he ever looked so wrong before he shed his scales. But his child seems delighted by his awful expression as she returns it with a more beautiful grin of her own. Does she even know how to feel fear, he wonders?

    But then it’s time to explain the entire reason for their arrival. It draws his sage green eyes back to Castile as his face grows stern and the warmth drains from him all at once. He remains patient until the Loessian king finishes. A soft snort leaves him and Meraki watches him, eyes wide with curiosity, as he takes a step forward.

    Why would anyone yield their crown to you and yours? What reason does Heartfire have to surrender the kingdom seat to your hounds? You expect spineless obedience from others and you will find none among us,” he says flatly, eyes meeting Castile’s unblinking. “Call off your minions and be content with what you’ve already been given.

    He speaks to him like an impudent child, a parent simply quelling a tantrum rather than a king trying to prevent further wars. Meraki turns and observes the dragon king, tilting her head before glancing at the child beside her, then to Cyprin. None of it makes sense to her but she doesn’t speak up to ask questions just yet. Vulgaris offers a brief glance to Litotes and Heartfire, wondering if he should continue to speak for the three of them. Are they as wrathful and voracious as him? Are their people as furious? He knows the Tephrans have tried to forgive all they can but they will never forget seeing their home burn.

    End your plans for conquest now, and Tephra can promise armistice for one year. Continue, and your suffering will be legendary. You will curse your immortality and you will beg,” he says, eyes still locked perfectly with the dragon’s.

    You. Will. Beg.
    In this shook-up, twisted world, I'm gradually growing transparent and vanishing
    Don’t look for me; don't look at me
    Ghaul is basically standing there like "YEEAAAAAAAH!!! LETS WAR!!!!!"

    She's got the devil's eyes

    Truthfully, she had not expected this meeting to end in anything less than shambles. For a moment, she frowns, trying to recall what had been the impetus driving her here. After all, her initial plans had not included confronting Castile, only Lepis. But as memories of her conversation with the mare filter back through her brain, the recollection of a seemingly benign suggestion, a chill disquiet settles in her gut and raises proverbial hackles.

    But that is not something to delve too deeply into in this particular moment. No, her focus needed to be on Castile and his growled, blustering accusations.

    Were she a less composed woman, she might have rolled her eyes. Fortunately for all, she is not, and instead continues to stare impassively at Castile, her only reaction a faint kick at the corner of her lips. “I should be the one who is flattered Castile,” she replies mildly, icy blue stare boring into him, “that you actually believe this entourage is for me.”

    While it’s clear he had unilaterally decided she were the one who had coordinated this meeting, she does little else to correct that misassumption. If he wanted to make her the villain of this scenario, it could only reflect poorly on his abilities to reason and discern truth than anything she had done.

    Her gaze slips to Vulgaris when he begins to speak, his words flat and merciless as he makes his accusations. While she appreciates the sentiment and quietly enjoys the deliverance, she does have to admit it had likely come across more harshly than she might have liked. She’d never been terribly good at damage control, as it were.

    She shifts abruptly, tail snapping hard, directly at Vulgaris as she cuts him a sharp glance before returning her attention to Castile. “As Vulgaris has said, I was given no reasonable explanation as to why I should be expected to do so. Lepis is, ultimately, little more than a child with delusions of grandeur.” She pauses briefly, before forging ahead, doing her limited best to quell any explosion that might be forthcoming. “She made it quite clear to me she has your support Castile.”

    She steps forward, gaze catching his, unforgiving in its icy blue stare. Her voice when she makes her offer is hard and resolute, indicating little willingness to entertain negotiation. “In any case, no one need beg, so long as you assure us, here and now, that you do not support Lepis in her ill-fated scheming.”

    and they'll cut you like a weapon


    Castile vulgaris
    and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left
    a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
    ”You are mistaken, Heartfire,” Castile calmly interjects, his voice a deep roll like distant thunder, ”I’m implying you brought them as protection since you were unable to single-handedly deal with Lepis, it seems. Her ambitions concern you. Worry you. That is why you are here.” The mischievous gleam in his eyes has returned, his smile brimming with amusement even as Vulgaris lunges with threats and insults. Admittedly, they hurt. The words repeatedly stab into Castile’s core, bleeding him out, no matter how stern his face remains to conceal the ache of betrayal. It takes every fiber of his being to suppress his temper, to douse the fire that typically burns within him. He wants to lash out in just the same manner, but instead, Castile pivots to face Vulgaris. A calculated step is taken forward, mere inches separating their faces. His eyes narrow disgustedly. ”You would think so low of me,” his voice hisses past his clenched teeth before swallowing down the outburst that threatens to erupt. ”You speak of hounds and minions, yet you are just that to Heartfire. A disloyal dog. I suppose she had a tastier treat than our friendship to make you turn so easily.” He never yells, never shouts. Despite the sharp venom coating his every word, Castile’s tone never rises.

    Perhaps it’s the fact that he is defying their expectations that makes this so eerie, that he isn’t exploding as they anticipated. Other than the tension throughout their space and bodies, Castile suppresses much of his notable anger, surprising them. Somehow, with great effort, he is collected and observant, calculated and steadfast.

    ”Stop wasting my time with your threats, Vulgaris. Tomorrow, you could suddenly be Heartfire’s enemy. You’re as fickle as the wind,” it hurts to say this, to admit and accept that their friendship has burned into a pile of ash. With his lip curling into a sneer, Castile returns to Heartfire, meeting her as she edges toward him in intimidation.

    He mirrors her.

    Their muzzles are a hairsbreadth away. The heat of their bodies mingle, their breaths twirl together in a dance before dissipating into the cool air. His muscles pull taut like cords of rope, prepared for her, for anything The world disappears except for her as their eyes heavily lock. Not even Cyprin’s concern can break down the walls of his vision. ”This isn’t conquest,” he snaps, ”It is a matter of strength. A kingdom should be capable of protecting itself and its territories, and from what I have heard, Taiga has greater strength and numbers to accommodate that – more than Nerine.” Castile does not pull away. He looks down at Heartfire with animosity. ”Age doesn’t matter, especially when you are immortal, Heartfiire, so get your head out of your ass. There always comes a day when the student surpasses the teacher.” That day will come to him just as easily as it will Vulgaris and Heartfire. Their reigns will rise and fall, their teachings eventually fade in place of something greater.

    It is fate. It is life.

    ”I support the strongest lands being a kingdom, and if that means Lepis has helped raise Taiga to surpass Nerine, then so be it,” the confession is there, suspended in the air for them to hear, but with a condition tied delicately with a bow. ”There is no conquest. Take your lies and false accusations the hell out of Loess,” standing still as a statue, his face ever near Heartfire’s, he waits for either their defiance or acceptance. 


    Heartfire vulgaris

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