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  • Beqanna

    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


    She sells seashells by the sea shore // kahzie
    #1
    The pale water mare erupted from the sea to land on Taiga's western shore, shaking the water from her skin as she did so. Immediate shivers coursed her body. How was it so cold here? After the balmy warmth of her home island, the crystalline air of the mainland was an awful shock, and she belatedly recalled her last visit to the continent. In the winter. You'd think a girl would learn. 

    She pranced in place for a minute, trying to work some heat into the thinly covered muscles of her body. It didn't get cold enough in Ischia to make its residents grow any sort of a thick coat, and her scales couldn't be called an improvement either. Oh well, she'd said it was her turn, so she could suck it up. 

    So this was his home. Her eyes turned to the depths of the kingdom, winter fog still clinging to the massive trees that dominated the horizon. They were truly enormous from her beach side vantage. It was difficult to imagine just how small she'd be standing next to one. But Pteron, she could see him growing up here easily. Those massive trees must have been a wonderful playground to a winged boy, an incredible arena for all kinds of childhood games. 

    She smiled softly, taking her first steps along the crunchy gravel shore. "Pteron! Pteeerooon!" She called out in singsong, making her way to where the small beach met the tree line. A different kind of shiver danced along her spine as the dim trees greeted her with their silence. She imagined wolves grown proportionately huge among the redwoods, like bull sharks or morays lurking in the deep sea caves. 

    "Pteron?" This time much quieter. She was so small here. So out of place. A sudden doubt filled her. Was she being stupid? She was a fish, he was a bird, and suddenly she couldn't think of one place they'd both be happy. But she liked him. She really liked him. She'd swum out here in the middle of winter just to see him. She could give the giants a chance, couldn't she?

    @[Kahzie]
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    #2
    Coming back to Taiga had taken less time than she’d thought, bourne as she was on the snow-heralding wind.

    Here in the lowlands or Beqanna, the snow is not so deep as on the Mountain, and beneath the redwood canopy there is barely any at all. Still, it is chilly, and the dun mare pulls her golden wings more tightly to her well furred sides as she makes her way along the open beach where she had landed. The tight forest of her realm is not conducive to easy landing, and the few open meadows are likely to hold other horses on this bright afternoon. The idea of interacting with others causes a hollow ache in the black emptiness of her stomach, and a walk along the empty beach had seemed far preferable regardless of the weather.

    Yet there is a voice ahead, one that calls again and again. Lepis considers sidestepping toward the woods, avoiding the pale figure that shouts her eldest son’s name. She is would have, had the other not turned her head and Lepis not seen the shimmer of a finned mane that she had seen not terribly long ago.

    The diplomat from Ischia, but calling out specifically for her son. The Comtesse knows that Pteron has visited the tropical island no few times, yet he had never mentioned meeting anyone - she had assumed he’d simply lounged in the paradise that was temperate Ischia.

    “Aquaria,” Lepis says as she draws near. There is nothing behind her grey blue eyes, yet her navy mouth pulls up into a friendly smile, and the lines around her eyes deepen in pleasure. “I’m afraid my son left for Loess this morning; he said something about hot springs, I think.”

    The way she had called for him indicated familiarity, a woman visiting a friend rather than a diplomat come to a foreign land. Lepis’ observations of the pale nereid at their meeting had been limited, now she acknowledges that the mare is quite lovely; perhaps she has caught Pteron’s eye as something more than a friend.

    A day ago, the thought might have brought a smile and a vague thought of grandchildren and political alliances. Today, she thinks of another pretty mare, and does her best not to frown - or to cry. Fortunately for Aquaria, Lepis’ best is a dozen years of honed practice, and her friendly smile never falters.

    “I take it you two know each other?” She asks curiously, finding that distracting herself is far preferable  than dwelling within her own thoughts.

    Aquaria
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    #3
    She had been about to give up on this beach, to maybe try another along the stretch of land, or to go home and come back another day. When a voice did respond, it was not the one she'd been anticipating. It was not one unfamiliar to the pearly mare, however. She smiled, happy to see a familiar face at least. To chat with the lady who had visited them not too long ago. 

    "Comtesse! It's nice to see you. How are Celina and Lilliana?" She chimed, then paused. "Your son? Pteron... Is your son. Of course he is." Well. She wasn't cold anymore. Blood flushed the surface of her skin as the sea mare made the connection that had been laid out so plainly before her. Her friend kept his secrets well, it seemed. She wished he'd said something before she had managed to put her hoof so efficiently into her mouth. 

    She sighed as the breeze came of the ocean, bustling into her exposed sides carelessly. How did they live out here in the winter? A dazed smile lifted the pink edges of her mouth as she lifted violet eyes heavenward. "He's got the right idea. Only wish I'd known. A hot spring sounds wonderful right about now." A rueful laugh followed her words. 

    It was a disappointment, of course, to know that the one she'd come to visit wasn't near. And the newly found knowledge that she had met his mother before without knowing it was a bit of a shock. She hadn't really talked about her parents either, but the odds of him meeting them were clearly much slimmer. Still, the girl shrugged the disappointment off like water. She was here, she may as make the most of it. 

    And Lepis seemed like a role model to look up to. Her poise was seemingly effortless, a skill Aquaria had no natural talent for. Scars that rose and fell on the woman's body betrayed a past that seemed at odds with her subtle demeanor. Or maybe it was the cause of it. Either way, Aquaria figured she didn't know the woman well enough to pry. 

    Lepis betrayed nothing when she asked after the connection between her and the Comtess' son. "Er, yeah, we're friends. Didn't seem fair for him to always be the one traveling, so I figured it was my turn to visit." She blew out a hot breath that crystallized was soon as it hit the air. "Sorry, I'm not trying to be a sunfish. I can be off, I'm sure you've got things to attend to. Just... Let him know I was here? I'd appreciate it." 

    She felt stupid, to say the least, standing here shivering in front of Pteron's mother. Had he ever visited Ischia looking for her when she wasn't there? He'd never mentioned it if that were the case. She might have vanished into the water herself without a word, had the lady not intercepted her first. 

    Lepis
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    #4
    lepis, comtesse of taiga
    RUN AND TELL ALL OF THE ANGELS; THIS COULD TAKE ALL NIGHT
    i think i need a devil to help me get things right

    There is some cosmic balance, Lepis thinks to herself, that the winter has come along just as she has frozen over.

    The waves that crash against the shore are the louder for the bits of ice they carry with them, and though they sparkle in the morning light the Comtesse finds no joy in them. She finds no joy in anything, though her expression brightens at Aquaria’s inquiry, and she assures the pale mare in easy tones that they are both well.  The words all but choke her. Lepis’ blue mouth curls into a smile, wider still as the other fumbles over her own words. She’d not known about their relationship, it seems, but Lepis cannot blame the boy. It is not as though she introduces herself to others with the names of her parents, and when not viewed beside his family the stamp of his parentage is not so obvious in this world of colorful equines.

    He looks more like his father, anyway, and the thought knifes through Lepis just as the nereid looks up at the sky that promises snow. The wince that accompanies it is hidden by the time she meets the girl’s purple eyes, and her own memories of hot springs are forced behind a mask of quiet contentment that accompanies a nod that says: she, too think the idea a splendid one.

    Aquaria elaborates on their relationship: friends, a friendship where only Pteron does the visiting. He has other friends, Lepis knows, he has spoken of them in the vaguest terms: a boy in Hyaline, a girl in Loess, a filly he’d taken to visit Icicle Isle. All in different places, she thinks, and none of them ever here, never spoken of as a group or a pair or in any sort of detail. Lepis has never question why her son might keep might have them at such a distance, why he might not want them to meet. She had not questioned a great many things, she realizes.

    “Why don’t I walk you to the meadow?” She asks, but it is clear by the way she takes a step forward and the raise of a brow that she expects Aquaria to come along without objection. “He should not be much longer, not with the snow coming, and you can meet him when he arrives.” The Comtesse begins to lead the way into the shadow of the redwood trees, away from the beach. Though she is a good hand shorter than the younger grey, she does not quite seem to be looking up at Aquaria when she asks: “And perhaps you can tell me exactly how well acquainted with my son you are?”

    Aquaria
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    #5
    Aquaria watched the winged woman with interest, knowing that this was likely not the last time they'd cross paths. How different Lepis was from her own mother. Nyxa was a free spirit, a mare as wild as the water she lived in. And while both mares were beautiful, Lepis' was an elegance that seemed so very practiced, while Nyxa's beauty was that of one who'd lived a carefree life. It was rooted in happiness. Looking at the blue dun woman she spoke with, it occurred to the nereid that perhaps her companion's grace was based more in necessity. 

    That was what diplomacy was, after all. To give off the impression that one wanted to give, without betraying anything beneath the surface. To keep everyone and everything at arms length, until you got what you were after. Aquaria didn't have a mind built for politics. She was too loud, too defiant to take orders well if she didn't respect the giver. That had been proven just recently. Freedom for herself and others, that was what she believed in. And kingdoms didn't exactly fit with that view. 

    Her inborn thread of challenging nature disliked the commanding way Lepis suggested an alternative to her leaving entirely. It wasn't a request, even if that's how it had been worded. But she pushed the rebellious instinct down. It wouldn't hurt her to accompany the Comtesse through the trees, and the possibility that Pteron might meet them there was a nice thought. Sort of. This trip had not been planned with his mother in mind. 

    "Oh... Alright then. Lead the way." She acquiesced, smiling softly in the chill air. Perhaps it would be warmer away from the water. The pearl mare fell into step alongside the winged woman. It felt good to be moving again, to let the blood flow more freely along her limbs. The question that hits the air next took her my surprise. She blinked, a little taken aback by the query. It had been given without much inflection, but some instinct pulsed at the back of her mind. Shaky ground. 

    She thought a moment before answering, watching their breath escape in foggy puffs that dissipated quickly before them. "Like I said, we're friends. I saw him try to dive into the ocean one day. He wasn't very good at swimming so I helped him back on shore." She smiled at the memory. "That's about all there is to it. He's nice, I like it when he visits. I was hoping he'd be happy if I surprised him with a visit of my own. His home is so different from mine..." She matched her stride to the shorter woman's, looking up through the massive trees as they passed through them. She really did feel miniscule here. And the conversation wasn't really helping. 

    Pteron was her friend. That was about as complicated as she was willing to make things. But the way Lepis was questioning her made it seem like maybe she'd done something wrong in befriending the woman's son. Was it her nereid nature that worried her? Aquaria knew that children of the sea had a reputation for such things, but she had no interest in stealing him away, ensnaring him with whatever wiles she supposedly possessed. He was her friend. And yes, sometimes, when he smiled at her the way he did, she wondered if they could ever be more. But that way was the complicated one, the one that tied you down. And neither of them needed that. 

    "Is that alright with you? That we're friends." She asked, steering herself over a massive root in their path. Why it wouldn't be okay she had no clue, but something in the other mare's demeanor seemed to suggest it. Nothing overt, nothing obvious. Just a feeling that hung over their conversation that let the feelings seep in. 

    Lepis
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    #6
    lepis, comtesse of taiga
    RUN AND TELL ALL OF THE ANGELS; THIS COULD TAKE ALL NIGHT
    i think i need a devil to help me get things right
    The younger mare acquiesces, and Lepis gives her only long enough for doing so to ask her follow-up question, intending to take full advantage of any upper hand she might have. Aquaria might be reluctant to answer the question that she finds too probing, but at the same time, Lepis is Comtesse to her diplomat, and mother to the young man in question. There is some hesitation, but Lepis thinks that perhaps her tactic has been successful as the finned mare speaks.

    There seems to be genuine fondness in her voice as she recounts Pteron’s exploits.

    Somewhere – very deep, so far down she does not even recognize it – a tendril of fondness uncurls in her mind. Lepis does smile, an immaculate facsimile of amusement at Aquaria’s description of her son’s adventures. Just friends, the nereid assures her; Pteron is only nice. Well, that is good thin, and another little bit of shame that she might have thought such a thing of her son possible writhes imperceptibly. Aquaria asks if their friendship is alright, and the pegasus glances back toward her from where her gaze stretches ahead toward the deeper woods. The visitor is stepping over a branch, and Lepis takes the moment to look at Aquaria in a way she hadn’t before. The ethereal beauty often blurs the rest of the creature that wears it, and Aquaria is no exception.

    The fin along her mane, the little stars beneath her ear, even the salt-scent imbedded in her skin. She is a creature of the sea. If she were brought to land for any length of time, Lepis half-thinks she might shrivel up like the saltfish in Loess that splashed themselves into a freshwater pool.

    “I’d like him to make a good marriage,” she says, the pointed tone of her words betrayed by the easy way with which she looks around them. Raising her navy muzzle, Lepis points out the curious eyes of a trio of possums. The little family watches the horses with beady black eyes in their skull-white faces, chittering back and forth for a moment before resuming their laborious climbing of the wide tree. The nereid strikes her as someone who had been born and raised at sea, and while possums are not the most intriguing of Taiga’s wildlife, they are at least something that the Comtesse doubts they have back in Ischia. They do pass the tracks of more interesting animals (hours old lynx-prints and the scraping along a tree where only a moose could reach) but the dun mare does not veer off the most direct route to the meadow where Pteron is most likely to land.

    The dun mare does not elaborate, does not clarify with Aquaria what she might mean. That Aquaria might be one such marriage? That she might not? That she might, but Lepis is still considering it? Yet before there is really even time for the Ischian to formulate a reply, Lepis continues: “He is a good boy. If he were to be hurt, even by a friend, I would not be pleased.” For just one moment, Aquaria’s pale face becomes someone else’s entirely to Lepis’ questing blue-grey eyes, and she knows precisely what her displeasure would entail. And then Lepis’s smile – the absent one she has worn this whole walk, brightens even further when she points out a place in the woods ahead of them that is infinitesimally bright than everywhere around them.

    “The meadow is not much farther. I’ll wait with you until Pteron arrives, and then I’ll be taking my younger children on a trip to the Playground and the Common Lands. I trust Pteron will be able to give you a more intimate tour of Taiga than this brief jaunt.” The Comtesse is still smiling, even though she has glanced surreptitiously toward Aquaria as she added the adjective. She means to keep the girl off-balance, unsure of exactly what Lepis’ true feelings might be. The girl seems to have a good head on her shoulders and a healthy amount of respect for authority. She’s certainly better than that hellion from Loess that Pteron keeps visiting; even familial ties have not swayed her opinion of too-wild Reia.

    Aquaria
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    #7
    It was utterly bizarre to be walking here alongside the pegasus mare, discussing the intricacies of relationships. This felt so much harder than diplomacy. Going to other lands, talking about much larger things than what was felt between just two. Friendship had been the topic the first time they had met too, hadn't it? And yet today it felt that it was her own heart under inspection today. A far more frightening prospect. 

    She knew this, and still managed to trip over her own feet when the Comtesse spoke again. Marriage! Who had been talking about marriage? Had Pteron? Was Pteron getting married? To who? Probably some pretty, clever thing with an impeccable bloodline. She couldn't see Lepis approving anything less than a perfect match for her son. An island girl, with no connections and only a herdland behind her did not match that description. 

    Well. Hopefully he'd still be able to hold their friendship when love came for him. She recovered from her stumble, only to come to a halt shortly after. Emotion she hardly understood welled up inside like a tidal wave, and she wished she could just stop and think about what the hell was happening today. But first, first, she needed to get one thing straight. 

    "I don't hurt my friends, Comtessse. I'm sorry if I've done something to make you think I would, but that's not who I am. Whatever is between Pteron and me, whatever you think is going on with us, willfully hurting him is not and will never be included." She was nowhere near as experienced at hiding her feelings as the elder woman was. Her face betrayed the pain she had been struck with by having to declare something so basic about herself. The nereid was not afraid to fight when times called for it, but her nature did not lend itself to spite and vindictiveness. Hopefully that was something the Comtesse would come to believe, eventually. 

    The remainder of their walk felt different after her outburst, and she wasn't certain if she should regret it or not. Not, she decided. The winged woman had every right to feel protective of her son. Aquaria hoped her own family would feel as strongly for her if the situation were reversed. However, she had to stand up for herself as well. The pale mare's manner was subdued, however, by the time they reached their destination. 

    She smiled weakly in return to Lepis' announcement, nodding politely in her turn. "Very kind of you, I'm sure." Her manner was retreating behind etiquette, a soft, squishy creature ducking back into the only shell she had. Hopefully Pteron would arrive soon, though now she felt thoroughly unsure of how she could greet him. As herself, probably. A warm breath exhaled on the crisp air as she shivered, though not with cold this time. 

    The shiver ran from nose to tail, and it melted away her scales like a warm touch to frost. There was no winter coat to reveal, only thin summer hair, but her body felt a little more right now that she was just herself. Less powerful, only merely pretty instead of the unearthly glamour her aquatic shape afforded. Fins still crowned her, and draped from her dock, but they were shorter now. If Pteron was going to see her here, he may as well see her without the magic. 

    Lepis
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    #8
    lepis, comtesse of taiga
    RUN AND TELL ALL OF THE ANGELS; THIS COULD TAKE ALL NIGHT
    i think i need a devil to help me get things right


    The Comtesse has meant to put the little nereid off balance, and it seems she has achieved that literally as well as figuratively. The dun mare pauses politely as the girl trips over her own feet, and doesn’t move forward even when Aquaria catches herself. A wise choice, it seems, for the Ischia draws to a near immediate halt. The pain that flickers openly across Aquaria’s face as she speaks tells Lepis everything she had wanted to know, though her twitching ears catch each word as well.

    “I will hold you to that,” she responds smoothly, and then smiles in a way that is neither pleased or displeased.

    Aquaria might retreat back to politeness as they continue through the woods, but Lepis glances at her now with an expression quite near to satisfaction. Not just a pearl oyster, she thinks, but a little crab willing to leave the safety of its shell to brandish its claws when the need arose. And she seems aware, too, that Lepis is best dealt with using the shell. She inclines her navy head at Aquaria’s meek acceptance of her offer, and the two wait in what Lepis considers companionable silence. When a dark speck in the snow-darkened sky becomes near enough to identify as Pteron, Lepis says as much and bids the Ischian farewell before heading east to find her youngest children,

    Reply
    #9
    The saltwater had frozen a quarter-mile up, and Pteron had shaken the crystals from his wings as he flew. His skin soon loses the wrinkles of his hours-long soak, but the satisfaction that accompanies the memory of his morning in Loess keeps him warm for a long time into his flight. The clouds and thick and promise snow, and as Pteron shiver sin the cold he is glad that hiss flight is a short one. The skin of his neck is coldest of all, freshly regrown and lacking the thick winter coat that covers the rest of his tobiano body. The Loessian princess had not forgotten how easily Pteron will cave to her demands, and even finds the resulting burns she gives him amusing. Soaking in the saltwater pool had been as much to blanche away his pain as it was her scent.

    As he circles the white meadow, Pteron is thinking fondly of the high hollow where he makes his nest. Cushioned with feathers he has molted and mouthfuls of leaves and pine needles carried carefully from the forest floor, he means to bury himself in their depths and sleep for a long time. Till dinner, maybe, or perhaps even through the night if someone else will take his evening patrol. So occupied is the pegasus with this plan that he does not even notice the pair of horses below until one turns to leave. There is not time to land before she is away, and the blue-haired stallion glances after his mother for only a moment before looking back to the stranger that matches so well with the snow.

    Not a stranger at all, he realizes as he comes closer.

    Aquaria, less pearlescent than he remembers, with soft pale hair instead of a coat of scales. Her fins are fewer as well, and he wonders if this is because she is far from the sea. Very far, he realizes, and it is much colder here than her home has ever been. Without thinking, he steps beside her and wraps a wing across her body. The feathers are cold from flight but he knows they will warm soon, all the more so for how he pulls her tight against him, shifts his shoulder so that she fits just so.

    She smells of tropical flowers even in this frozen weather, and her soft hair tastes of salt when he speaks quietly against her ear.

    “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you have a double death wish,” Pteron laughs softly, “not only have you come to Taiga in the winter, but you did it in my mother’s company as well.”

    Aquaria

    -- pteron --

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    #10
    As it happened, it didn't matter what she decided to do. As soon as the ever nearing spot on the grey-white sky resolved itself to be the pegasus stallion she'd come all this way to meet, Lepis took her leave. That the woman did not wait to greet the son she had been so sternly defending moments before seemed odd to Aquaria, but she did not have long to think on it. 

    Pteron landed, and she noted the precision with which he did. This meadow seemed to be a familiar landing site, one he navigated with graceful skill. Far better than he had handled his watery dive the year before. 

    The gentle sea mare did not even have the chance to call out in greeting before she found herself enveloped in a feathery embrace. The heat radiating from his exertion warmed muscles sank into her, and drew a moan of pure relief from the summer coated girl. 

    His low words tickled against the down of her ear, and she pulled lightly away with a giggle. "I know, what in water was I thinking?" She sighed, and returned to the curve under his wing where he had fit her so perfectly. "This, though. This just about makes up for it." It drifted through her now pleasantly buzzing mind that she would be willing to go through much worse things if it meant he'd be waiting for her on the other side. 

    A laugh of incredulity bubbled from her throat as she went over the past moments in her mind again. It felt like she had been snatched up in a riptide and spat back out on shore. "Your mother, is she always that... intense? She seemed to have some strong ideas about your love life." The nereid blinked up at her space heater, wondering if he might have insight into the topic. It involved him rather intimately, didn't it?

    This experience with the winged mare had been so very different from the one on Ischia. She wasn't quite certain which Lepis was the one she could believe in. Today's example, more than likely. That one had more at stake. Still, as much as she'd put Aquaria through, the sea mare suspected there were worse things. Like having that kind of scrutiny over your shoulder from the day you were born. 

    She rubbed the pink-gold velvet of her nose across his neck, feeling the rise and fall of muscle and sinew beneath his skin absentmindedly. There was a patch on his throat bare of woolly coat, covered only in smooth skin. It looked like an old injury, but new enough that it hadn't been present last time they'd met. She breathed warmly on the expanse of skin, hoping whatever it was no longer hurt him. "What happened here?" It was a harmless question. She figured he had maybe had a run in with a tree at some point, or... Well, she really didn't know what could have caused such a mark. But she was feeling a little reckless after her encounter with his mother. Bolder than she might have been before. As soft as she might lift a fish from the water, she placed a tender kiss on the empty skin of his throat. Get well soon.

    Pteron
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