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    version 22: awakening


    GHAUL -- Year 209


    "(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

    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

    Very little escapes his notice within the walls of Loess. His acute vision gropes to its ultimate maximum while his sense of smell latches onto every molecule, both familiar and non. It first came as a surprise to see Ghaul meander here so frequently after the confrontation months prior. With piqued interest, Castile observed, both from a rocky ledge and from the sky.

    What surprised him most – and actually unnerved him – was when he saw Clarissa with the boy more than once.

    A tide of uneasiness kisses the shoreline of his brooding thoughts when his eyes one day find Clarissa alone. An expectant sweep of his gaze searches for the strange boy, but finally, she is abandoned for at least the moment.

    With skilled swiftness, Castile alights from a brief flight in front of her. His hooves heavily land, rolling pebbles underfoot while his draconic wings furl back into his sides. ”Clarissa, my dear,” he greets sweetly, always paternal and warm toward her. A smile softens the edges of his face as a final step is taken toward her to close the gap and touch her poll. With a playful ruffle of her forelock, he draws in Ghaul’s scent, forever recognizing it after their first – and last – meeting. Expertly suppressing the snarl that so desperately wants to split his mouth, Castile lifts his chin away from Clarissa and searches her delicate face. ”How are you? Anything exciting lately?” He does not expect her to remain confined within Loess for eternity, not when she is so young and vibrant. It’s now that she should explore the horizons and find her niche.

    And yet, there is Ghaul…
    And yet…


    won't you drag the lake and bring me home again
    When she returns to Loess, it is not very willingly.

    She has made friends in her brief time in Pangea, and Ghaul is there. She is entirely too young, she knows, but the wanderlust is there, and she already longs to return to his side even as the mountains of Hyaline give way to the mismatched shrubbery of her birthplace. Her eyes search the ground from above, but thankfully she does not see her adoptive father out looking for her… yet. She wonders if he knows she’s been sneaking away - of course he does, how could he not? - and how he’ll react when she tells him what’s been weighing on her mind.

    The dragon-child wings her way to the center of the kingdom before landing, hoping that pushing herself so deep into Loess will clear the scent of Ghaul from her skin. She shifts back to a horse as she lands, shedding the wings and scales that have become such an integral part of who she is, leaving just the delicate blue-and-gold girl standing alone… but not for long. With a rush of wings Castile alights before her, and though his greeting is as warm as ever, the angelic child can sense something that feels off about him.

    He reaches forward to ruffle her forelock playfully, and Clarissa leans into the brief touch as a smile crosses her face. She is uneasy - she has not had the time to disguise Ghaul’s scent on her skin - but she doesn’t let it show as he pulls away to study her face. He questions her politely enough, but she can tell that the questions are loaded ones, and she knows that it would be best not to hide anything from him; he has a way of finding things out, after all. “I’ve been exploring,” she offers with a smile, tilting her head innocently to the side. “A friend of mine invited me to his home to meet some of his friends, and they’re really such lovely people.” She doesn’t mention Ghaul by name; will Castile recognize his scent and be cross with her?

    Castile this only took literally three years
    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
    When their eyes connect, everything Castile wants to be disappears. Anger, frustration, mistrust. It all melts like the winter snow, and he is left with softened resolve. A deep breath escapes him, and he glances down to the rocky soil contemplatively, knowing her gaze is fixed on him expectantly.

    Clarissa reeks of Pangea, a scent he memorized years ago when he first visited Litotes, then met Anaxarete more recently.

    His heart quivers, groping for the steely disappointment that first rattled his bones. It’s weak when the feeling returns, but he feeds it with fabricated images and thoughts to better unnerve him when he finally levels his eyes on Clarissa again. Her response, also, helps to stoke the smoldering fire back to life. With a leveled voice, he comments, ”Yes, one of the friends that came to Loess’ doorstep with threats.” Without trying, his words end with barbs that prickle the edges of his tongue as his memories recall that one fateful day. Still bitter from the experience, Castile’s eyes flash. ”The heart wants what it wants,” he begins, forcing himself to still be kind and reminding himself that she is not truly his daughter, ”but why him? First impression leads me to believe he’s not exactly sweet and romantic, and don’t you want someone that sees your beauty, both inside and out?”

    Perhaps it’s shallow of him, but he has always been drawn to unique beauty. Ciri, Solace, Sabra, Sochi, and Oceane.

    Their minds and personalities kept his attention, but it was their outer beauty that first hooked him.

    There is a brief pause as Castile attempts to fathom what disarray can form between the two. If not for his self-control, a chill would run the length of his spine. Castile’s wings shuffle against his sides for a moment longer before he adds, ”Or perhaps someone on better terms with your family?” It doesn’t at all make sense to him, and he wants so bad to understand, to see the beauty in all of this, but it’s eclipsed by the primitive mannerisms of the eyeless boy. There could have been others for her, future beloveds, but she ran away with a creature worse than himself – uglier.

    Taking a step back, Castile waits. He wills himself to listen to her and to take careful note of her argument before finally, and simply, asking, ”What is it that you see in him that I do not?”


    won't you drag the lake and bring me home again
    She wonders if he knows what it’s like, to be so infatuated with someone who seems so dangerously unstable, but who loves so purely. Ghaul acts entirely on instinct, with no thought to whom he may hurt in the process, but there is a tenderness to him when they are together. There is no doubt in her mind that her twin flame loves her so, and with each passing day she finds herself falling harder for him. He is her soulmate, through and through, and she just wants her father to accept that, even if he can’t accept Ghaul.

    Her love for him will not fade and certainly will not falter. There is just something about him that pulls her in and holds her close to his heart, and who is she to question what the gods have chosen for her? She is unwaveringly loyal to him in every way and she is so proud of the man he has grown into, just as she knows he is proud of her and adores her every move. She can’t explain it - there’s just something magical about it, and she refuses to let anyone try to stop them.

    Her molten eyes meet Castil’es mismatched ones with the curious calmness that always seems to radiate from the angel-woman. “Ghaul was just a child the first time he came here,” she scolds him gently, bumping his neck with her nose. “You cannot blame him for his father’s threats. And yes, he is good at pressing buttons, but he is not evil.”

    He asks her why she doesn’t pursue someone that sees her beauty, and a giggle escapes her. “Ghaul sees every single thing about me, even the parts that aren’t so beautiful,” she tells him, and she stares briefly into nothing as she pictures the way he curls himself around her, murmuring to her of her beauty and her strength. “He sees the things that no one else does, the things that I am sometimes afraid to admit to even myself. He sees my flaws and loves me despite them, and the flames in our hearts flicker in time. When he angers, I anger; when I hurt, he hurts. We are one in the same, Father; one soul split into two.”

    Just the strength of the emotion behind her words chokes her up, and she swallows past the lump in her throat as she turns her attention back to Castile. “I don’t know how else to explain it. To me, he is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. He’s touched with stars and he’s brash and impulsive, but my heart sings when he is near. With him, I am at peace.”

    And together, we will topple empires, she thinks.


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