After siring five children, Wolfbane hadn’t expected many more surprises from pairing with Lepis. Marni and Pteron had closely resembled their parents, and the triplets (while something of a shock at first) still took on the design of their makers. But Celina had started to show changes that didn’t exactly unsettle Bane - they just made him curious. And Elio? The youngest boy of the brood was the biggest surprise of them all.
The reddish-gold colt had told Wolfbane and Lepis when asked about his sister Celina, so Wolfbane went ahead of the colt and his mother to smoke his growing daughter out from her secret place. “Where oh where is Celina?”
The winged stallion asked in a sing-song voice, lighting a bit of a proverbial fire while looking for the yearling filly. He high-stepped over a blanket of ferns, pushed together until the floor of Taiga was completely obscured by their vibrant green pinna, and hummed
while poking his head around the roots of ancestral redwoods.
“I brought her something special from Icicle isle but,”
He sighed loudly, feigning sorrow over the loss of a daughter he could smell nearby. His nostrils quivered and Wolfbane smirked, inching closer to where his snowy-girl might be, “I just can’t find her anywhere!”
Another step and then he paused, lowering his head to stare directly into a thick cluster of ferns and moss overtaking a felled sapling. “I guess I’ll have to give it away…”
Celina’s father lamented, lifting his head and turning away to tromp on through woods, right past the heavy smell of a wildling little filly.
this is crappy please forgive me; will be better
Hiding behind trees is her typical go-to, but she had learned a trick playing with Owin and Aeolus the other day, and decides to take full advantage of the thick greenery. She is lying down, her legs tucked up tight and her head and neck stretched out low and long. The fronds of a fern tickle at her scaled nose, and she struggles to hold in a sneeze.
Just as she is ready to stand up, she hears the sound of her name. It is not Elio's voice, she knows instantly, but it is someone she knows. Not Pteron either, she sees as she slowly raises her head. With her long jaw and protruding teeth, she looks quite like a white crocodile rising from green water.
There, not thirty paces ahead, is her dad!
Celina chokes down a squeal and pulls her head back down, listening intently for the hoof steps of the yellow stallion. He is coming closer - so close! - but then he passes by amid stifled giggles that eventually break out at the same time as she bursts forth from the ferns and races after him.
"I'm right here, Dad!"
She rears up without thinking, tapping at his shoulder with her hooves in much the same way she had as a younger child. Celina is a little too strong for it now, but she buries her head against his muscled chest after with a contented sigh. She is happy to see him, but she suddenly remembers the mention of a present, and pulls away from their embrace to asks excitedly: "What is it!?"
Something from Icicle Island, he says, and she hopes that it is a baby polar bear of her very own.
Fatherhood still felt natural to him, more instinctual in a way Bane could appreciate. The feeling of being Celina’s father hadn’t been trumped by the new clouds gathering over his heart, and giving her a wide, playful smile came naturally the moment she gave him chase and burst from her hiding spot. He still looked at her adoringly, crinkling the blue edges around hooded eyes and a soft mouth with unspoken affection that could weather all seasons or changes. He could still appreciate the strength bred into her, distinguishably Lepis
but also marked as his
daughter was bold and beautiful in her own unique way, and he can tell by the condition of her gleaming coat and fledgling wings just how much care and attention his wife had given to their brood. The happiness in Celina’s eyes - the expectancy of gifts - remind him of what he and Lepis had built together over the years. Not an empire of kingdoms or horseflesh, but a legacy of children who were happy and content in their own world.
The thought that Celina’s happiness could be shattered by marital strife (and that it would be his
fault) nearly broke his smile in half.
“I couldn’t see you at all! Very good hiding, Celina.”
He gave her due praise first and foremost, curling the proud arc of his strong neck over hers in a protective, aimable hug when she came close and nuzzled at his chest. “They,”
He emphasized the idea of more than just one present, “were something I made for your mane or tail. Sea glass baubles—”
He told her, unaware that he’d be disappointing her high expectations by not
producing a live polar bear cub.
Luckily, the disappointment would go unnoticed as he turned to bury his handsomely-crafted nose under the crook of his left wing. Hidden beneath the pale feathers was a self-shifted marsupial pouch, containing icy blue and crystalline white flat beads that he withdrew one at a time to place gingerly on the dead stump of the felled tree she’d been using as cover. Each bead was no larger than his own eye, and each contained a hole whittled clean in the middle.
“I thought a growing filly like yourself could use some distinction.”
He told her warmly, looking down at Celina with an expression that belied her already distinct and wonderful nature, regardless of glass beads. “If you like them, I can thread them with strands of your hair for decoration.”
He explained, “No other island in Beqanna has sea stones this color. When I saw them, I was reminded of you.”
He reached for her again, longing to stroke the lines of her cheek and forehead where Lepis’ cobweb markings hid among white fur. Beautiful, bold Celina. His little girl wouldn’t be very little for much longer. “Did I do good? Or should I go back and try again?”
Celina preens beneath her father’s praise, proudly shaking her head just a bit before she tucks herself firmly against his chest in a hug. He is warm in the autumn chill, and the blue-gold of his soft hide smells familiar. Mostly familiar, anyway, much more like Dad
than the blend of Taiga and Mom and herself and her siblings that the filly recognizes instinctively as home. The smell of home has changed a little bit in his absence: more Elio and less of her older siblings, but the sense of comfort it invokes has never varied. Everything is right at last, Celina knows, and though the idea of a present – of her very own bear – is thrilling, she is still reluctant to leave the warmth of her sire’s side.
Still, she is young. Anticipation and excitement win out, and she pulls away to peer eagerly at what Wolfbane has.
The little bits of stone are very small, and even if they had not had the purpose that her father explains, they are very small
and Celina is quite fond of little things. She has a crevice in a fallen tree where she keeps her favorite treasures – mostly good rocks and bits of wood smoothed by weather. Not a polar bear, but she doesn’t think a polar bear would look as nice in her mane as these, and so it never occurs to her to be disappointed. She is further soothed that he had thought of her, because she had thought of him quite a lot. This reminds her:
“I tried to stay up for you at night,”
Celina admits, finding that she does not have to look up as high as she once did to meet his eyes. “I really did, I promise. But I always got so tired and Momma said it was okay but was it? Were you mad I fell asleep every time?”
She babbles her greatest worry in his absence, that she had lacked the strength of will to stay awake long enough to see him. That she might have disappointed him. He came to visit them at night, Mom had told Celina and Elio, always came to tuck them in. He had to be gone by the morning, but sometimes Celina would find a feather from his wing when she woke, and those she keeps with her other Crevice Treasures, each one a sign that he loved them even if she could never see him.
(The egrets with their great white wings no longer settle as easily to roost on Taiga’s beaches as they once had, not with the twilight stalking of a determined dun mare).
Her mind skips quickly from one thing to the next, and she realizes that even though she has been gazing admiringly at the sea stones, she hasn’t told him what she thinks. “They are perfect. They kinda look like my scales! Didja see those? I just got them in the summer!”
She lifts her head, showing off her scaled throat, and then awkwardly raises a foreleg so he might see where they continue down her neck to her belly and the back of her legs. Shedding her foal coat had revealed their presence, and Celina has been quite proud ever since. None of her other siblings have them, Mom has told her: she is special. And now she will have her own special stones too!
When he asks if he has done well, if he should try again, Celina’s crooked teeth pull into a sly smile. “Ohhh, you can go back.”
She says, failing to hide the giggle that ruins the solemnity of her words, “But! Buuuut. You have to take me too! I want to go on an adventure!”
By the end, the enthusiasm has her bouncing from one hoof to the other, all but prancing in place.
He’d thought to bring her small things because once upon a time, Lepis had liked to collect items of no great value and stash them away in hidden crevices herself. Celina’s mother had been fond of geodes, Wolfbane remembered, but while he took the little stones individually from their warm hiding place underneath his wing and placed them one-by-one on the stump for his daughters approval, he’s fairly certain that his wife would’ve had a myriad of other little shiny, self-important trinkets hidden away all over Loess. Like mother, like daughter he supposed.
“Celina I could never be mad at you.”
Her father responded without hesitation, pausing for a moment to look into her worried eyes. He reassured her the best way he knew how: smiling and reaching out briefly to tousle the growing length of her forelock. All the while he contemplated what lengths his mate had gone to in order to keep a lie alive and well inside the wishful hearts of their offspring. That was wrong of Lepis,
he accused - not understanding the depth and necessity of her facade - what if I had truly never returned?
Would the heartbreak have been worse?
“Every night the stars would wake up and rise out their bed, twinkling to remind me about you and mother, Elio, Pteron and your other siblings. It was a long flight home - but I would come back for you. Just like I left for Eyas. I would go to the ends of this world and many more for you, your brothers and sisters, understand?”
He pressed this one thing into her mind, so that Celina might never forget it. The hate and misunderstanding of horses who didn’t know him, the disappointment and anger from his spouse, all could be shouldered between his wings but letting his children down? No. That was one thing Wolfbane couldn’t let rest.
Gale. Tiercel. Their vacancy is one jagged, aching hole unwilling to give him peace.
“Well look at that!”
The stallion burst into a grin after the moment had passed and the final stones laid out for inspection. He lowered the short arch of his poll down to Celina’s level (she was growing so fast for her age!) and eyed the glimmering additions to her own skin. Up close they resembled blue-white pearls, winking whenever a small lightning bug passed them to illuminate their iridescence. “I bring a shiny surprise for you, and you show me a shiny surprise too.”
The elder male laughed in a deep, rich baritone.
Questioning her, the patriarch returned to pick up one stone and begin the process of twisting them into her mane, only to turn back and see his not-so-babyish girl hopping madly with excitement. “Hah, easy there wild child.”
He did his best to soothe her, stepping closer until the shadow cast by his neck darkened her mane. “You think the world could handle a firecracker like yourself?”
He asked, already knowing the answer. Quietly he shape-shifted a bit, sprouting adept little forearms and monkey paws on either side of his neck that worked quickly to weave the stone into her mane. His tail stiffened and elongated, acting like a whip/claw that struck out, gathered another stone, and brought it forward continuing the process.
Odd but effective,
he grimaced, wondering if Celina would be put off by the growths at all. Sometimes his changes could be majestic and regal; this time (like it had been in the beginning) was… freaky. “There’s a lot to see out there. But I left home when I was your age.”
He reminisced pleasantly, trying to smooth over the awkwardness he felt at his new bodily additions. “So maybe it is time you go on some adventures, hmm?”
Bane contemplated, stepping back to admire the handiwork while his miniature forearms and prehensile tail returned to a state of normalcy.
Celina now sported four rows of stacked stones all woven equally into her hair. They would clink softly and shimmer when she moved. “Where exactly would you like to go, my small adventurer?”
Celina leans against his reassuring touch with a satisfied little huff of air, and at the mention of stars her pale ears flick forward. She has always been fond of the stars, and knowing now that they helped Dad remember her, Celina loves them all the more. She loves her father most though, and when he finishes telling her that he will always come back for her, she snuggles once more into the warmth of his chest. She sighs happily, at last reassured that her world is settling back to how it should be. They had been off-kilter without Wolfbane, and she tells him that “I am so glad you are back now,”
with no inkling at all of what is soon to come.
What matter is now, and now Wolfbane is exclaiming over her freshly grown scales with exactly the enthusiasm that she had wanted. Pteron had teased her about being a lizard when she’d shown him, and Mother had looked from her already sharp teeth to the scales with what Celina could only describe as concern. Well, Celina is not concerned. She is proud of her teeth and her scales and her fireflies, and she is proud of the little stones that her father weaves carefully into her mane. Doing her best to stay still, she only wiggles away a time or too, giggling playfully before returning back and imitating a statue for a another few breaths.
The growth of the odd little arms startles her, but after a quick snuff she’s accepted them as just another thing that her father can do. Wolfbane does not seem concerned about them, and his casual reaction sets an example for his daughter as well. If Dad isn’t worried, there’s no need for her to be either. (Celina does hope that she does not ever grow such ugly little feet though – they don’t even have hooves at the end of them!)
“I’m gonna be an explorer,”
she tells her father. “I’m gonna see all the lands a billion times and maybe even find new ones!”
Mother has insisted all the lands are discovered already, but Celina is unwilling to accept that limitation. As her father pulls away, Celina shakes the décor he has added happily, doing her best to get a look at them but swinging her head forward. They are blurry, but she is sure that they are beautiful.
Where would you like to go, he asks, and Celina pokes her nose against his shoulder where the monkey arms had so recently been. “Da-ad”
she says in a tone of long-suffering patience that is spoiled by her grin, “I’m not a small explorer! I’m medium sized! And I want to go to…um…Nerine!”
Mother had told her in no uncertain circumstances, that going to Taiga would mean at least a week
of no berries. But she had meant Celina going alone, she is sure, and if Dad takes her that is very different!\\
In more ways than Celina could even begin to imagine, her father is glad to be home as well. A place where he’s just one call away, close enough to keep a steady eye on everything surrounding himself and those he claims to care about most. Somewhere that his presence can be felt and understood by actions, not just allegations. Being away had been a point of clarity for himself, had brought the shape-shifter closer to the power manifesting inside so that he could control and maintain a semblance of outward peace when interacting with other horses, but being away had also left entire gaps of time unaccounted for.
Time that he’s driven to make up now that he’s home. Time wasted that he intends to use for a brighter tomorrow: the future of his narrowed dreams and aspirations.
Celina has a place in that future and, regardless of what comes to break between himself and his soon-to-be ex wife, Wolfbane sees that his legacy is worth expanding and nurturing. His daughter is a wild beauty of sorts; uncommon and yet lovely through the edges. When she pulls away to dance and twinkle in the fairy light of her miniature companions, clinking
softly and telling him about her ideas of grandeur, Celina is unknowingly feuling her father’s desire to see her situated somewhere for his own personal gain.
For now, though, he hides it well enough behind the guise of familial affection.
“Find new ones?”
He laughs, flaring both wings in a show of gusty pride, “Celina my love - you can make new ones.”
He teases the possibility along with a sly, half-baked smirk.
Everything in the way he looks at her seems to say, I know someday you will
. From his brood? He expects nothing less. “Alright, alright - my medium sized explorer.”
Wolfbane relents without much of a fight, “You want to see Nerine eh?”
She bumps his shoulder and he flexes one wing just enough to push her off-balance a wee bit. “Then we’ll go to Nerine.”
Now his smirk is a full-blown grin, covered with bad intentions because he knows exactly
how Lepis would feel about such a thing. Celina is still his daughter though, and if Lepis denies her something Wolfbane has promised beforehand the resentment at being told “no” would only drive his youngest girl back into his waiting embrace.
How coincidental that Celina would chose the one place he most longed to go. “When the last snow melts and the first few days of Spring come by, we’ll go together. Meet me at the northern border about sunrise. You and I will make a father-daughter adventure of it.”
The bright-eyed filly glows (literally) in pleasure at her father’s confidence, the fireflies around her swarming together until their flashing lights emit a steady light around her head and shoulders. The glow is pretty in this muted sunlight, even if it highlights the long shadows of her protruding teeth and the way her iridescent mask shimmers enough to irritate the eyes of most horses. The soft vibration of their wings fills her ears, but not so much that she does not hear his acquiescence. Celina, deprived of her father for these long months, realizes that she has forgotten exactly how wonderful he is. The pride in his eyes, the confidence he has in her, they fill each crevice in Celina and cement her certainty and adoration for her father.
He’d relented with much less fuss than she’d anticipated, and promises her a trip to Nerine with a playful push. Celina stumbles a few steps, and then a few more for dramatic effect. Her Dad is grinning widely when she looks back up, and the filly assumes it is at her acting, and at the shared adventure they will have. “Do we have to tell Mom?”
she asks conspiratorially, her voice an exaggerated whisper. “Or can it be a secret?”
Celina loves secrets, and the idea of having one with Dad (one that just they have and not Mom and Elio, with whom she shares all her other secrets) is nearly as exhilarating as the idea of going to Nerine.
Dad sets a date, and Celina looks down at the snow at their feet, as though staring might make it melt faster. A few fireflies settle at her feet, but their dim glow only lights up the snow yellow-green. There’s no heat in them despite their name, and they eventually settle into a blinking ring around her left hoof when the effort to melt the snow proves futile. The idea of a father-daughter adventure sends an elated shiver down her iridescent spine. “I’m so excited!”
She confides, as though her constant shifting from one side to the other wasn’t evidence enough.
“Do you think they’ll throw us off the cliffs?”
She asks curiously, and despite the morbidity of the question, Celina sounds positively delighted by the idea. “Pteron said that they throw all outsiders over the cliffs but I think he just wanted to make sure I didn’t go.”
Knowing her brother’s trick of invisibility, the winged filly lowers her voice and stage-whispers to her father: “Sometimes, I think he’s more boring than Mom.”