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  • Beqanna


    Beyza -- Year 211


    "She kills him because no matter how far she has come from the bitter, angry young girl she had been, she is still Starsin, and if he wants to make her world burn, she will be certain that he burns with it." --Starsin, written by Colby

    [open quest]  seek me out; round ii

    The Deserts has never been a place for the weak.
    They all make it — young and old — through exhaustion, dehydration, animals, and hallucinations.
    The bright blue oasis continues to pull them, and they step in, perhaps for a drink or to cool themselves from the unrelentless desert sun. As they wade further, they’re overwhelmed by visions, incredibly and terribly vivid. Though their bodies do not move from the oasis, they are transported.

    it’s foggy, but there’s just enough sun that you can make out rocky cliffs and a jet black mare nearby. She’s chattering away — can you hear her? — a frantic look on her face, her piercing green eyes wild. Aida! you hear her cry: her daughter’s name, though you wouldn’t recognize it. The mare walks, hurried, further out onto the cliff, and then she is teetering, a little too close to the edge.

    you’re back in the deserts, but the oasis is no longer in sight. It is sunset, or close to it, and the air is warm, only the faintest promise of the coolness night brings. You see a palomino mare, with mane like cornsilk and eyes like amber, backlit by the sun. You are close, but she does not notice you — you are a ghost, made to bear witness to what’s about to happen.
    There is a stallion, dark and frothing with sweat, moving to her. You see their eyes meet, and he lunges forward, screaming something wordless and agonized, and then they’re fighting, hooves and teeth, blood staining the sand. A sickening crack fills the air as the palomino mare’s ribs break, the fragments driven into her organs, and she sinks to the sand. You hear her mutter a word — please — but the word itself is thick and liquid, blood bubbling at her lips, as the sun sinks lower, lower, lower.

    The stallion turns on himself then, lowering his head and pawing violently at his own eyes (they’re orange, like jack-o’-lanterns). Though blunted weapons, it works eventually, and his orange eyes are torn from his skull, rolling on the sand and he screams, his own words bloodied, is this enough mother, is this enough, and the orange eyes rolling on the sand are the last thing she sees before she’s gone.


    • The oasis has given your character visions of each queen’s death. You must choose which one to save.
    • You’re welcome to (minorly) powerplay Craft and Anatomy. At the time of their deaths, Craft had hypnotism and telepathy and Anatomy had no traits.
    • You can use any traits your character has.
    • Failure to respond to a round risks temporary defects.
    • Entries are due Dec. 7 by 11:59 PM CST.

    craft & anatomy

    Blue beckons; not her first friend here named Blue, but the shimmering brightness of salvation that laps at the sandy edges of the oasis. The brown mare steps into the blueness and it feels so good! Good enough to yank a sigh from somewhere deep inside her of immense satisfaction. 

    She takes a sip - just enough to wet her dry lips and tease her parched throat, and perhaps relieve some of the grit still in her mouth. That was her first mistake. Because the oasis bids her to step out a little further, sink a little deeper into that relaxing blue and after another sip… a sigh, a flutter of eyelids then HORROR! 

    Bean is chest deep in the oasis, eyes shut as she is plunged into the midst of visions that seem all too real. They even feel all too real! It is unlike any terror she has ever known, and no nightmare can compare as the scenes play themselves out like endless skeins of thread in her mind. 

    Her heart rips in two, jagged and torn as which mare suffered more. Why does that even matter? Because you must pick one to save, comes the answer in her ear. It is no more than a gust of hot simoom air but it feels like the desert’s own voice, something of magic and an understanding far beyond Bean’s.

    Save only one?
    Not fair!

    Her sense of justice and righteousness rebels at this, but some part of her understands - that is nature’s canon, a law unto itself, one or none. Bean must make a choice as the black mare teeters on the edge and the palomino mare fights bravely but falters and falls to the sand. Her mind makes itself up for her… something about the black calling out for someone, calling a name to which no one answers…

    It breaks her heart all over again and Bean - no, phantom-Bean, rushes forward, as careless about the cliff as the black mare is. “The edge!” she shouts, “You’re too close to the edge!” But the black doesn’t seem to hear her, so she must think of something else - another tactic, and quickly! 

    Wait - she called a name, that’s the key! Maybe… Bean isn’t sure but she maneuvers herself into position alongside the black, “I’m here,” she manages, making more than a stranger murmur as she tries to push the other away from the cliff. It’s hard to do - the black is too damn stubborn! 

    Bean’s shoulder collides with the black’s, small and brown and it’s quite a feat because Bean is much smaller and fuzzier than the beautiful queen. She manages to use her body to steer the black away from the edge but that puts the brown there, teetering instead. One misstep and it’s over for her! 

    “Aida’s here, Aida’s here,” she mutters, still trying to safely shoulder the black mare aside. She finally gets her off the cliff’s edge only to come face to face with that wild green stare. “I… I…” great, she’s stuttering. “I’ve seen her, I know where she is. Come on,” softer now, coaxing as she turns the black with a shove and a nuzzle. 

    “Come, this way.” still gentle, still coaxing and not at all disrespectful as the pair leave the edge behind them and move into the fog.

    ooc: edited only for paragraph spacing, stupid phone!
    for the call of the running tide

    Oceane does not kneel at the waters edge for long. Praying for thanks to a nonexistent deity for the oasis sprawled before her will not save the opaline mare from the dry dust in her lungs or the scorching heat upon her hide. And so she submerges herself. She finds her lavender hooves, stumbling but not caring, and plunges herself into the water.

    Its icy fingers grip her tight. It's colder than expected, sending a shiver into the marrow of her bones. But she doesn't care; it is better than the desert heat, and it pulls the recent memory of Mchawi away from the forefront of her mind. Oceane sighs deeply as she folds her long legs beneath her, letting the crystalline oasis water lap into her flight feathers and over the sweat-slick expanse of her pearlescent back.

    Her relief lives only a half-life. As she opens her gilded eyes to her surroundings once more, Oceane observes a thick fog. It seizes her chest in panic and forces her white-ringed gaze to dart in every direction, searching again for Nau-Aib or Mchawi or the King. Instead, she finds a cliff and a distraught obsidian woman standing upon it.

    Aida! calls on the breeze, and then the woman is close - too close - to teetering over the edge of the cliff. Oceane tries to move toward her, tries to call out to her, but the scenery changes just as quickly as she can blink the oasis water from her eyes.

    Sand dunes, as far as her wide amber eyes can see. A desert. Again. Fear grips her tight. It coaxes her to twist in a circle, looking for the black opal body of Mchawi and the evidence of his magik, and then -

    She almost mistakes the dark stallion for Mchawi. But his eyes, instead of feeding on Oceane's fear, have collided with those of an unfamiliar palomino mare. And it's on that mare that Oceane's amber eyes focus, the one on the cliff forgotten. It's the palomino mare, her ribs broken, falling beneath the weight of the orange-eyed stallion that Oceane's heart breaks for.

    That could have been her beneath the hooves of the King.

    The scenes replay themselves in a horrific loop, but this time Oceane runs for the palomino woman. She cries a war-cry so loud and piercing that it rings even in her own pinned ears. Her lavender hooves collide powerfully with the earth with each stride and as she draws nearer and nearer to the duo, the magik gifted to her by Beqanna rises forth in her throat. It calls upon the sand snakes and scorpions, the desert spiders and other creatures poisonous enough to do harm against this dark stallion.

    And they answer.

    From the dunes come countless serpents, harvestmen, and arachnids. And upon the orange-eyed stallion they do converge, giving Oceane time to place herself between him and the palomino mare.

    "Run," she tells the woman breathily as she spreads her glimmering wings, beacons of light in the setting sun, to shield the nameless woman from the sight of the wildlife seeking prey in the dark stallion.

    The woman stands. And they run.

    round 2 | speech
    i must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    and all i ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
    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
    A scorpion crawls past, paying no attention to Castile as he stands vigilant in front of the oasis. Every trace of his draconic heritage submerges beneath the depths, for now. The fire in his gut continues to roil eagerly, but he swallows down the threat of billowing smoke and destruction. A weary sideways glance confirms the passing of the sandstorm. Strong gusts still whip against him, but it’s not suffocating or lethal. With a heavy cough, Castile slips beyond the invisible barrier into the oasis. Palm leaves trace along him like the fingers of lovers, but his attention steadily holds the water until he finally immerses himself into its embrace. Sand and grime melt away as he sinks into its depths to cleanse himself before eventually gulping away his thirst.

    It comes as a swirling cloud of chaos, a turbulent storm that yanks him from the oasis and into a world, a place, he still does not know. Jerked into restlessness, Castile turns confusedly until motion snaps up from the dust and fog.

    The lighting is dim, but he still sees her inching toward a cliff’s edge while shouting a name. His heart leaps from his chest, but before a breath can even sink into his lungs, there is a manic whirl replaced by the desert once more. This time, there is a palomino fighting to defend her own life against a stallion. Hatred and unrestrained rage electrify the air. It’s nearly so powerful to pull him into it as well. There’s something – a gravitation - that sinks claws into him as he observes the murder. He sees the woman’s distress and her desperation to survive, the strength waning from her muscles. Another hit, another cry.

     And then she is down.

    A crushing sound – Castile knows the sound of bones snapping – and gurgled breaths.

    She is dying, her heart one beat closer to stopping entirely.

    But then the stallion is destroying himself. Determination spreads like poison as he contorts and shifts to attain his goal, and that’s when Castile sees.

    Orange. Orange eyes.

    Like his.

    A breath catches in his throat with assumption and revelation. Orange eyes. Murder. Kin.

    His blood is poisoned - tainted - by the cruel deeds of his ancestors.

    … Or empowered…

    Before he can react, the world blinks away again and repeats the looming deaths. It would be easy to take flight and to catch the first as she tumbles down the cliff in a futile search for someone,” but his mind still desperately gropes for those orange eyes. ”I’m sorry,” he whispers more to himself than the obsidian woman in the distance. Fog snakes along her body, fading the image of her until Castile is hurled back into the fighting sequence.

    This time, he acts quickly.

    Lurching forward, Castile’s body ripples and quickly alters. The black tobiano markings disappear until he is painted as a palomino. He mimics the woman beautifully, drinking in the bleached locks so that he mirrors her perfectly by the time his body slams into the obsidian stallion to offset his balance during the preparation for that rib-crunching hit. A labored breath shoves from his chest the instant their bodies collide. Even if there’s a flicker of confusion – are there two of her? – it’s enough. Castile engages in a fight while trying to keep between them, a wall shielding the fallen woman.

    But the eyes keep forcing hesitation. He swallows, but hits again, only to regret it and wonder if this is right, if he is brutally bombarding one of his own ancestors in a place he knows not.

    It does not come without suffering, however; bruises bloom across his body and lacerations criss cross his skin until he can take no more. Blood – he has lost track as to whom it belongs – stains the sand around them. The nameless palomino is quietly aside, panting with her own battle wounds. The cloaked male, persistent and determined, presses near but Castile’s body shifts in that instant. Talons, scales, and wings all sprout and expand his body into its dragon form. Fire blasts into the air, but not at the cloaked murderer.

    His head lowers and his lips curl into a snarl. ”I’m saving you from killing your own mother,” he had watched them once in entirety before returning to the memory to intervene. The scream hasn’t happened yet, not in this second replay, but the words burn in Castile’s memory as he whips around to see the crumpled woman. His head inclines observantly, slowly turning until she sees the orange eye that so perfectly mirrors her attacker. A low rumble vibrates through his core before snatching her in his claws and taking flight, buffeting the stallion with air and sand. Castile does not hear the shouting or see the orange eyes rip from the stallion’s head.

    The flight is subjectively short as he soars quickly enough (and high enough) to locate a smaller oasis. Only once they’ve descended, and once Castile’s body has reverted back to a tobiano horse, does he turn on her. ”What did you do to him?!” His voice is sharp, his stare eerily intense – and his left eye shifts to orange, like a jack-o-lantern, like the son she just fought – as he closes the small space between them, not realizing what she could just as easily do to him. ”Tell me I was right to save you from death. Why should I have not let him crush you before stopping him from…” he does not need to say it. The bloody image flashes across the back of his eyelids when he blinks, and he reels back a step, both afraid and thirsty for answers. 



    It took some internal convincing--an ongoing debate in her head like witnessing two lawyers harass a witness at trial--but she finally does it, one step and then another, until she is belly-deep in sapphire blue water indulging every inch of her too-hot-to-the-touch skin. A cooling reminder that pain is temporary, that even luke-warm water can sooth the throbbing pain still voicing concern in her knee.

    Her neck lowers, muzzle lipping at the surface of the water in curiosity. Bored, she lips at the ripples still quivering around her body before trusting herself enough to take a drink. At first, it feels alien. The temperature of the water suddenly quenching the driest, darkest parts of her mouth and throat and erupting life back into every inch of her body.

    The comfort leaves though, it leaves with the sun barring overhead and the ant-sized specs of horses in the distance. It leaves before she even has the chance to appreciate the moment. Just as she begins to feel secure.

    Her mind begins to fall into a foggy haze, soft rays of sunshine begging to peak from thick charcoal clouds. Ruthless squints off into the heavy landscape, trying to make sense of where she had gone and how everything managed to dissolve with her.

    Is she permanently attached to a watering hole?

    Disbelievement crowds her mind as she attempts to limp from grasp of the oasis, desperate to separate herself from this, and anything paired with it.

    A shrill cry fills the air.

    Her stomach drops, sudden heat rushing to her limbs and head as she makes sense of the noise and the direction from which it came. The haze is so thick, she can only compare it to the small forest fire she had witnessed in her early stages of life, the black smoke rolling like a machine into the air as a silent alarm. Little Ruth remembers vividly, she remembers the smell and the intensity of the heat. She remembers watching her mother cry out in a desperate plea to leave the area. Ruthless!

    The vision assembles in front of her like a puzzle. First, a dark shadow. A dark shadow that as Ruth stares longer, turns into the frame of a small feminine build. A build like her mother, so fragile yet resilient. Is that… Is that her mother?


    Desperately, Ruth takes a plunge forward in an effort to cross the oasis, pain shooting up her right knee with disdain. Did the water feel… Thicker? Her heart pounds, why isn’t she moving faster?

    Her brain switches, and while attempting to find her bearings the little child realizes she has no bearings left at all, not now. While the distant mare’s voice continues to ring like a siren in the deepest points of Ruth’s mind, her attention has turned to the menacing ebony stallion in a dominant stance. Eyes still following, they land on a sun kissed golden female--like me…--that seems… Prepared.

    Though our poor child, her mind is a turning mess of vivid imagery not yet imaginable by such ignorant eyes. She is not prepared.

    “Can you help me help my mom? I think she is in danger..” The devastated filly cries, trying to gain the attention of someone--anyone--who might be able to help.

    She watches in terror as the mare lunges, light and darkness colliding in a noble fight to the death. The yearling’s body shaking uncontrollably, her breath short and weak, her knee aching.


    Help, please, I am scared..

    Another shrill cry, as if the dark mare’s time is running out.

    “Please, I said please!” Our little golden child is fooling no one, the bravery in her voice is paired with an uncontrollable whine clinging to every syllable. The pair does not stop, does not breathe, does not pause. They do not hear her desperation, her petition.

    They hear nothing but the sound of thundering hooves cracking bone and muscle.

    Is this enough mother, is this enough

    By the time Ruthless musters up her courage, silence bestows her. Through tightly closed eyes, Ruth leaves just enough room to peak at the aftermath… The stallion, his eyes lifeless on the desert floor, the dead mare…

    “I want to go home,” she sobs.


    Her brain has been in a whirlwind of emotions, reflecting the inconsistency the desert has offered. But, it lands. It lands on what matters. The black mare is just yards beyond Ruth’s reach, an ebony coat lathered in frothy sweat. Determined this time, Ruth takes another plunge feeling water pounce from its haven. What was once a calm and soothing oasis, now a mess of ripples and white splashes.

    But, she can do it. She can get to her mom.

    “Stop! The ledge!” Her legs are a scrambling mess beneath her, the sand a welcomed gift after battling a mushy waterbed. The fog is thick--almost too thick--but through small waves of clearing, Ruthless spots the strange mare--who she can only assume is her mom at this point--sending dirt and rocks to a plunging death.

    The mare turns to face her, a wave of relief washing over the golden filly as she realizes her mom has heard her. With as long of strides as she can manage, her body flies fueled with adrenaline and dread. Will she make it?

    The mare goes to move, perhaps away from the ledge and perhaps not, but her effort fails her. The mistake of moving in such low-visibility sends her hind end falling down the cliff’s edge, only her upper body left to fight.

    Ruthless skids to the mares aid, though upon seeing the strange face she hesitates, “who are you?”

    The mare is breathing heavy, her will almost as doomed as her hindquarters reaching aimlessly for some grip.

    Would not saving her make her the murderer?

    Is this decision right here what separates her from the ebony monster and the golden carcass?

    Is she the monster, or the deadman walking?

    “Find something!” She screams at the mare’s hind end, her decision made. Her mouth extends and teeth latch onto the black mane hairs tangled from the struggle. A pitiful effort to some, but it’s all Ruthless has left to give. Her right leg feels numb from pain, her body tired, stomach empty, the weight of dripping water slowing her movement.

    “Please, please try,” her nose nuzzles the space between the mare’s ear and throat like her mother used to. “I can’t be out here alone. I need help. I need someone.”

    Her small white wings begin to flap backwards viciously, sending more power to her hind and allowing extra strength to pull--ripping hair and maybe some skin though she is not sure. However, that last stitch of effort, all she had left to give--it does something. The black mare’s hind legs find some sort of footing or ledge on the side of the cliff, giving her the power to push her weight forward and transfer leverage to her front end.

    Ruth slowly releases her grip, breathing shallow and heart racing but for a second--though it may be brief--peace fills her mind.

    Her attention transfers to the shadowed mare, as she gets the last of her body onto the rocky surface and collapses onto her side. Ruthless cannot help but see the cuts and gashes covering the legs of the female, certainly numbed by shock.

    Her attention glances downwards as the softest of what feels like water drops onto her left knee, legs coiled beneath her shoulders and tucked into her stomach. The faintest of red stains her nearly-pristine coat; blood.

    Frantic, her eyes flick to the mare only to see a similar expression plastered across the face of a stranger, and how her eyes settle on the lower lip of Ruth. Settling right where her lip had been cut, maybe by teeth or by a rock after falling backwards, but a cut deep enough to leave a steady flow of blood to trickle onto the rocky terrain.

    “I am OK”, baby Ruth whispers to herself, pulling her wings in closely as a safety blanket, “I am OK.”

    In the light of early morning, both mares stand on the edge of the oasis, each resisting it's call. Neverwhere's head falls just above it, flared nostrils drawing deep breaths of air across its surface, wary, unsure. Water like this isn't always safe to drink, but there are few other choices now and the day breaks above them, the sun spilling over an endless sea of sand, banishing the brief chill of night.

    In those bright beams of light, she barely sees the stallion approaching them, no doubt attracted by the water the same as they have been. That he hobbles and limps on an injured leg calls little sympathy to her heart, and that he seems to know Lilliana is not necessarily a point in his favor, either, but she considers him with an appraising eye and believes him to be unthreatening. She doesn't seem to hear Lilli introducing them, lost in thoughts of survival. She cannot be responsible for two ill and injured horses - plus herself - in this desert and already wonders what she could say to convince Lilli to leave him.

    The answer of course, is nothing.

    So that is what she says - nothing - and in the brief distraction of him, Neverwhere forgets her concern regarding the oasis. She falls under its spell and steps into it, wades into the night-cooled water until only her top-line remains exposed and sandy-yellow, and lets the sweat and sand fall away from her. She hears the chestnut mare reply unintelligibly to the stallion, and then she, too, is in the water, drinking deep.

    It's growing foggy again, and that seems right. Neverwhere's world is almost always wrapped in clouds, so she does not question the ones that curl around her now, cool, ghostly tendrils that slip across her skin like silk. She is still standing next to Lilli, but the water is gone and the mares are alone, though only for a moment. The sound of hooves ringing on rock catches their ears, and then a scream. A name echoing, and then the crack of bone. Simultaneously, two mares tread a thin line with death, with life, and two mares watch and must choose.

    Impossible to choose.

    But they, Lilli and Neverwhere, need not condemn one to certain death, because they are together. They can save both - or they can try. Lilliana steps towards the golden mare crushed beneath a stallion's rage and Neverwhere cringes to see the pained expression on her friend's face, knows she is watching a different palomino be driven into the sand beneath unforgiving hooves. Her scarred muzzle rests against the red mare's shoulder.

    "Be careful," don't fight a fight you can't win. She doesn't say it, knows it is advice Lilli could never follow. The bald-faced mare simply pulls away and enters the fog where the black mare jibbers and frets and hangs at the edge. Neverwhere's hooves are noisy on the rocks, their step measured and slow, testing the ground, giving time to feel for the wind billowing up, marking the cliff-edge that she cannot see. She feels the air in a tug of her eyelashes, of her whiskers, and knows she, too, is near death. Her lips curl into their familiar scowl in the face of it, in the understanding that she is risking her own life for this stranger. The black mare calls again and is answered only by dull echoes, absorbed into the fog, it becomes clear that whoever she is seeking will not be found here.

    The dappled mare's voice, never soft, is buffered somewhat by that understanding when she reaches out to the dark shape looming ahead of her, her scarred muzzle pressing against a black shoulder as so recently it did to a red one. Their hooves dislodge tiny rocks that fall forever into the gulf below.

    "If you take another step, the only thing you'll find is Death."

    And, perhaps, that is what she wants. Perhaps Aida has died and the black mare is drowning in the madness of grief. Perhaps, if that is the case, Neverwhere and Lilliana should have chosen differently, because the dappled mare does not know the words to soothe such hurts, and she is not necessarily inclined to stop those who wish to die. But sometimes the thrill of the precipice is enough, there's a clarity that rests on the knife-edge of Finality.

    "I won't try to stop you, if dying is what you want," she stands side-by-side with the unknown mare now, their tails twisting together in the wind, black and white, and looking blindly out at nothing. The clouds in her eyes and the clouds that surround them mingle to hide the world in smoke and shadow, "but there's no way to know that she or anyone else is waiting for you in the Afterlife, and won't you feel like a damn fool when you get there and there's nothing but Nothing?"

    Is it wise to berate someone in this condition? Neverwhere has rarely been called wise, most who do call her that don't necessarily hold the notion for long.

    "Come with me. If Aida can be found, I have a friend that can find her. And if she has been harmed, I bet I know someone who can do something about that, too. We will find out what happened, and when we know, if you still want to die after all that," Neverwhere shrugs, nonchalant, "Well, there's plenty of cliffs and fog in Nerine. Heck, I'll push you over myself, if you want."

    It's hard to tell, in the moment, if she is serious with that last comment, but for now, she wraps her neck below the other mare's and pulls back, chin and jaw applying the lightest pressure to that dark, trembling, chest. Just enough pressure to tip the balance back from the very edge, enough to feel a frantic heartbeat and the shallow breath that grazes the mare's lungs. Neverwhere's own breath comes deep and relaxed, more calm than a blind mare standing above an abyss has any right to, yet it is, and she is, her voice a lazy drawl riding the leaden gloom around them

    "My name is Neverwhere."

    She's dizzy with heat, the very blood beneath her skin feeling moments away from boiling. A sick lurching in her stomach made the sea mare groan softly, wishing it would end already. Unsteady feet gave up at last, and it was with no grace she fell to her knees. The sand flew up into her face, itching grains that dug beneath her scales. Would they turn into pearls? She didn't know. Any thoughts she might have had fled when her muzzle touched the water's surface.

    It was as real as her own ocean, cool and so blissfully wet. She drew in a long swallow, savored the strange mineral flavor so different from what she knew. It felt like life itself was flowing back into her, and she let it draw her in. Her aching legs obeyed when she ordered them into the pool, shaking with every step but so happy to have found this little solace from the heat. 

    It was a short lived euphoria. No sooner had she lifted her head to take a gasping breath than the precious water left her. Where it had bathed her legs, only air wrapped, dry stone beneath her feet. A whine of despair split the air, and it was with surprise she noted that it had come from someone other than herself. A figure that cut through the wispy fog that obscured all but the nearest objects. Whorls of mist clung to the distraught mare, a woman calling a name that the nereid didn't know. It sounded like her sister's, almost, but then who was this mare and why did she cry so miserably? 

    There was no answering clatter of hoof on stone when Aquaria moved to ask the black mare of her troubles, and her voice didn't echo back when she cried out too late. Whether intentional or not, shrouded cliffs claimed her, and the sea mare found she could only watch horrified as the fog spun to reclaim the air the fallen woman had disturbed. 

    There was no time to process the vision before the mist congealed about her again, only to lift on another scene. Warm, golden sunlight struck every curve of the dunes she found herself returned to. She had no way of knowing if this was the same desert as before or an entirely new location, only that her eyes fixed upon the clearest variance in the scene. 

    Another mare, haloed by light and beautiful as the setting sun. She looked made of light herself, and with a feeling of helpless sorrow, the nereid knew this story was as doomed as the last one had been. She screamed impotently as the stallion appeared, a cry of warning that went unheard. A useless sound even as they fell upon each other and let their own voices rend the evening. 

    It was terrifying and sickening the way the two sought to destroy each other, each with murder in their eyes. She was so innocent, so unexposed to the darkness in the world. Had never so much as imagined that this kind of violence could exist. It seemed that perhaps the pale golden mare might win, might fight well enough that her attacker would be driven off. Until the sand betrayed her, and slipped beneath her hoof in such a way that left her exposed for a vital second. 

    The dark stallion's hooves fell as inevitably as the sinking sun, to land with a sickening snap against the mare's ribs. Aquaria wanted desperately to look away. Instead she was forced by whatever magic had hold of her to watch the blood begin to seep from the mare's lips as the salty liquid pressed into her lungs. She was drowning in her own life force, observed by her killer and a phantom girl who had no power to stop it. 

    The rest happened in gut-wrenching sequence. The sand became red stained with blood and the dying light. The palomino woman fell to the ground with a finality that said she'd never rise again. And the deranged stallion turned his inner demons on himself, dragging already bloody hooves across his face with agonizing determination until the flaming orange eyes were gouged from their sockets. 

    A new wave of horror crashed around her as his wretched words met her. Mother. His own mother lay glassy eyed and still at the now blinded stallion's feet, the gorey remains of his eyes stare empty at the darkening scene. 

    The scene dissolved like a sand castle at high tide, leaving darkness in its wake. Aquaria trembled in the nothing, wondering what came next. Another scene of tragedy? Why had she been made to watch these ghastly visions with no hope of aid or influence? Women black and golden, images of souls long gone now haunted her, and she didn't know why. 

    Each one... They both held deep sorrow. One lost in search of a soul they'd never find, the other at the merciless attack of her own son. What had come before to bring such different ends about? The nereid felt her heart breaking for each of them, even for the fire eyed son who had been somehow driven to the actions she had seen. That, in particular, had struck her hard. 

    She had not chosen with any conscious knowledge, but her heart had shifted ever so slightly to the palomino mare, the sunset scene. 

    It was a tiny shift, but the sand resolved beneath her feet anyway. Time rewound, and once again the sea mare found herself staring at a setting sun, and the golden mare haloed in its light. "No, oh no." She whimpered, fearing that she was about to witness the murder all over again. Instead, the sunlit mare turned to face her, as if she'd heard the tiny plea Aquaria had made. It was the only encouragement needed by the nereid. She trotted quickly over to the stranger woman, saw her eyes track the newcomer with surprise. 

    Well. It wasn't everyday one found a fish in the desert. 

    There wasn't much time, so she got to got to her point quickly. "You need to leave. Now." Her voice was ragged with dehydration and her silent screams, but she got the words out as well as she could. "There is a stallion coming here very soon, one with dark hair and eyes as orange as that sunset and he means to kill you." She paused, though the truth spoke loud enough in the other mare's eyes. "Your son, I think." Adrenaline coursed through her, making her vibrate with unspent energy while the golden mare considered her words, nodding at the last. 

    In the opposite direction that she had seen the hellbent stallion appear the last time she had seen the scene play, she guided them away, hoping to be gone before their absence was discovered. "Please. I did this because no child should wear their parent's blood. If he has reason to want yours, you must fix this. Or I have wasted my time and your chance." She breathed hard as they ran. Had she acted in vain? It was impossible to know. There was only the fluttering hope that settled in her heart that the story had changed, and for the better.
    take my soul & make it undone
    be the one, be the one to take me home and show me the sun. i know, i know you can bring the fire, i can bring the bones. i know, i know you'll make the fire, my bones will make it grow.
    The longing of her thirst is just as powerful as the pull of the oasis. And yet, Wishbone’s first step into the crystalline blue water is hesitant. Memories begin to take shape, first slowly and then with increasing speed. The ocean reaches her chest and soon her throat, heavy summertime waves that rise to greedily swallow what air remains in her lungs. A quick but full inhale of sweltering desert air fills her lungs. She can hear the lusty sounds of Ivar’s breaths above her shoulders and jealously fills her amidst the fear — her breaths are silenced below the ocean’s surface, swollen with seawater. For a moment, Wishbone can only hear the rushing sound of blood in her ears alongside the pounding of her heart. The oasis has faded into Ischia’s warm ocean and she feels waterlogged, even while she stands dry on the sandy shore.

    There is no telling what brings her back to the present. Perhaps it is the throbbing pain of her cheek, or the feeling of grime and sweat rubbing into the crevices of her body, or the sudden realization that she is standing on dry ground, or the heat of the desert sun burning at the tender skin beneath her coat. Whatever the reason, Wishbone brings her swimming, panicked mind back to the shore of the oasis. The amber eye not soaked with blood scans the water for a few careful seconds. Her commitment is true and strong; the mahogany mare nearly sprints into the clear water. It is better to bite the bullet than tiptoe into the water, she has decided.

    As she runs, a memory of playing with Svedka along Hyaline’s lake flickers at the back of her mind. A warm, pleasant feeling of nostalgia fills Wishbone as she submerges herself below the surface of the water. The coolness is a relief against the many damages that scatter her body — the burnt skin on her shoulders and nose, the claw-marking from the vulture, the slight ache from twisting her leg against the finicky sand, the deep bruising that blossoms along her back, the shredded feeling of her throat — and she revels in the way it washes away the sweat and sand.

    Wishbone opens her eyes underneath the water, watching the way the sunlight hits the pale gray rocks like ribbons of gold. A few small, hardy fish flirt in the deeper parts of the oasis, winding between rock and sand like expert dancers. The palm trees above the surface cast shadows below the water, dappling Wishbone’s body in large patterns of deep russet and sun-tinted mahogany. She swims nimbly, a sign of years spent in Tephran, Nerinian, and Ischian waters. The relief the oasis brings allows her previous tension and panic to fade and then disappear until she is left with only blissful peace.

    When Wishbone’s face breaks the surface to catch a breath of air, the scene has shifted. The air tastes heavy and wet. “Aida!” Her heart tightens at the sound of the voice, a sense of empathy felt only between two mothers seizing her. Fog darkens her vision, but the Nerinian can see the shape of a panic-stricken dark mare wandering dangerously close to the edge of a sharp cliff. Wishbone isn’t certain whether this is Nerine, with its own granite cliffs, but she knows that falling off the edge would mean death.

    Before she can make a move to warn the dark mother, Wishbone blinks and the scene is changing again. Shapes and colors swirl around her as though she were in the midst of a tornado. When she arrives at this next scene, her head feels dizzy for a moment. The heat and sand are familiar, but Wishbone is not at the oasis any longer. Instead, there is a pair standing among the shifting dunes — a mare who’s coloring fits serenely into the backdrop of the sand and a stallion who’s orange eyes seem to reflect the glowing orb of the sun. The tension in the air feels just as heavy as the fading heat of the day. Wishbone watches wordlessly as the pair launch into a fight filled with emotion and bloodshed. Her heart wrenches at the sound of the mare’s ribs cracking beneath the weight of the stallion’s hooves… Hadn’t she also just suffered — died even — beneath a stallion? If Nikkai hadn’t reminded her of the consequences of her own death, this situation certainly would.

    While the cry of the mother to her daughter had tugged at her heartstrings, this death is much more real to Wishbone.

    Ivar’s weight dragging her down, down, down just as the sun sinks lower, lower, lower as the palomino chokes on her blood.

    Ivar’s teeth shredding the tissue of her throat to leave a gaping hole just as the stallion drags his hooves across his face to pull his eyes from their sockets.

    All of it chills her to the bone because it feels startlingly close to reality.

    “Please,” she had tried to whisper to Ivar, but the ocean had dragged the air from her mouth and silenced her voice. “Please,” this mare whispers, but the blood is thick and choking.

    Wishbone wouldn’t be able to stop the palomino from dying now, but could she prevent it from happening? As if the question were an answer of its own, a strange feeling of lightness accompanied a soft whoosh in her ear before the whole scene began again. The meeting of two gazes, while a third watches. She had to act quickly before the weight of hooves caused the mare’s ribcage to snap and curl into itself like a fallen baby bird.

    “STOP!” Her voice is a warrior cry, even as she scrambles across the sand in an attempt to reach them. The old muscle of her power is shaky at first, the sand only just stirring beneath the hooves of the orange-eyed stallion. Wishbone feels her grip tighten on the ancient bones and the solidifying action allows her to move quicker than she was expecting. The ribcage of a creature — much older than any of them combined, perhaps wiped out by the flames of a meteor — loosens itself from the depths of the sand-dunes and wraps itself around the stallion like a prison cell. Rather than launching his body against the palomino’s, the stallion finds himself colliding with strong, prehistoric bone. Droplets of sweat begin to form on the mahogany mare’s brow from the effort it takes to secure the cage. Various bits of the creature fly out from the ground like flinty arrows, finding purchase against the ribcage to anchor it to the sand.

    Though the stallion may thrash, there is little chance he will free himself.

    Wishbone’s gaze turns to find the palomino’s own. Amber eyes meet amber eyes among fading sunlight. “It’s ironic,” she says huskily, “that he is trapped in a ribcage when he was about to snap yours.” While this in itself is ironic, the irony of the entire adventure is beginning to reach Wishbone but she manages to control the potential of a wild laugh into an amused smile instead. “Who are you, anyway?” A pause, her amber eyes glancing toward the stallion caught in the bone-cage. “And who is he? He was about to kill you, ya know.”
    credit to eliza of adoxography.

    { and all we are is skin and bone trained to get along,
    forever going with the flow but you're friction }
    She steps into the cool water, and the shock of it against her hot skin makes her gasp. She takes another step, and then another, until the water is up to her shoulders. She bites her lip to stifle a whimper at the initial sting as it touches the ragged gashes that the lion had left behind, but eventually the coolness seems to numb it, and she closes her eyes on an unsteady sigh.

    For the second time today she opens her eyes to something different than what she had closed them to.

    She feels her heart constrict in her chest and she tries to swallow the knot of anxiety away as it threatens to climb up her throat. She was not cut out for adventure, she has discovered, as the oasis fades away around her. Her mother was bold and unafraid, and her father was not the kind to back away from a challenge if one arose. Her older brother was clever and daring, and she is sure that he would have found all of this to be strangely exhilarating.

    She was not like them, though. She was timid and quiet, and as the scenes begin to unfold before her she wonders if she will have what it takes to complete what is being asked of her.

    The black mare is first, and from the angle at which Lilt stands she can see her lips moving but she cannot make out what she says. Reading lips was still awkward and difficult for her, and the frantic look in the mare’s eyes matched the rapid movements of her mouth, making it impossible for Lilt to decipher anything. She shakes her head in frustration, blinking away the tears that threaten to build in her silver eyes again, and she focuses instead on the second scene.

    This one is far more violent, and before it even begins there is a feeling of foreboding that sinks into her bones.

    She is grateful that for right now, she is just a bystander. Grateful that there is some sort of magical barrier that keeps her from accidentally shattering one or both of them as the anxiety swells inside of her at the sight of their clashing bodies and the blood that stains the palomino mare’s brilliant coat. But she stares, captivated by the stallion’s vibrantly orange eyes, thinking how of all the colors she doesn’t think she has ever seen eyes quite like that before. They are eerily beautiful, she thinks, and so she sucks in a breath when he strikes himself so brutally.

    She doesn’t watch long enough to see if he succeeds. She has already made her decision, and it is not because she thinks the black mare is any more worthy of life than the golden mare. But with the image of the lion strung into pieces across the sand still burned into her mind, and now this, she isn’t sure if she can stomach any more violence.

    She isn’t sure if she has what it takes to stop the dark stallion. It would be easy for her to do, she knows. She could shatter him, she could breathe fire from the depths of her throat, but both of those options sounded so awful she is not sure if she could live with herself afterward.

    When she surges forward, it is towards the black mare.

    She thinks she calls out to her, but like a nightmare, she is sure her voice is not loud enough. It feels like it is trapped in her throat, a strangled whisper, and since the mare does not turn she knows that she has failed to divert her attention.

    With ground-eating strides her wings spread, and with a thrust of her hindquarters she is air-born. There is no hesitation when she leaps over the cliff’s edge just as Anatomy’s front hoof stumbles over the ledge, and Lilt forces herself to not look down at the jagged rocks below as she cuts in front of her. Their bodies collide, and though Lilt is still small – she was young, not quite two – the strength behind her wings is enough to shove the mare back on to flat ground. The two of them stumble away from the cliff, and it is only once she is sure the other is safe that she staggers backwards, her flanks heaving. It was sheer, stupid luck that she hadn’t accidentally exploded the other mare on contact. Her lack of control, all the more faulty from adrenaline, and the combination of the force of their collision should have ended in disaster but somehow they both were here, entirely whole. “Don’t,” she gasps, her voice hushed and weak since she rarely spoke – always afraid of being too loud. “I don’t know who you were looking for, but they are not out there.”
    We got older and I should have known
    that I’d feel colder when I walk alone
    The pin cushion figure of Leilan (his desert-lizard-scales protecting him where his mane and tail still meet his body) moves into the oasis with one purpose; re-hydrate. He gets a few heartbeats to do so; greedily he swallows the water, somewhat re-stocking his body with the fluid, as the ice cracks and frost flowers reform on his scales, and ice can be felt once more in his throat.

    It’s only a little bit, and not enough to stop the hallucinations. Transported like the first time, he finds himself staring at a mare looking desperate, a mare edging to a waterfall’s cliffside.

    A mare he vaguely recognizes?

    Yes, she was the Lost One in the forest. The one looking for the Deserts, which ironically he told her no longer exist, and yet is where he just came from. But when he walks up to her, she does not see him, does not hear him - a phantom is what he is to her, and when she teethers to the edge, he realizes that he isn’t here to change her past.

    There is no saving in a memory.

    Is there?

    One can try - she needs an active choice, not a fever- or madness-induced one. Choices are what he always stood for, after all. Always but that one time, and he’ll never make that mistake again.

    But there is the matter of not actually being there.

    Aida! He doesn’t know who that is, but he knows the tone of her voice - not a lover, but family, someone who was once in their care. A younger sibling? A child, perhaps? When he finally gets fully mad, he wonders, will he be the same? Calling the name of his firstborn, who might not be alive any more?

    Before he can do anything, the vision changes; the deserts again. An eye roll follows, but then the palomino is challenged by a dark-coloured stallion (maybe he has a heat stroke as well). There’s hatred in her eyes, there’s pain in his, until the black male crushes the ribs of the mare and all the heated pain of his eyes turns to hatred for himself.

    Leilan’s seen it. Felt it. It’s an all too familiar feeling.

    Is this enough, mother? Ah. Mother. A mother who hates her son, a son who doesn’t know how else to get rid of the image of her hatred in her eyes.

    There is a choice here, to save one of them. He feels it as he is taken back to the oasis and can take one step left or right; one towards a mirage of cliffs, one towards the desert ground.

    It’s not an easy choice, but Anatomy was the easy one. This time when the scene plays out, she does react to little sounds he makes, to things she sees, even if she is mad and here to off herself.

    ”I did that, once.” His voice is calm, as if he was telling her a bedtime story. ”Needless to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. There are better ways to go.” She stares at him and he at her, the past-Anatomy who doesn’t know who he is and frankly, even in the present they are practically strangers still. She on the edge, still ready to step over. If he moved towards her now, he knows she would go. Instead, he takes one step backwards, the river next to him, and lowers his head to the water. Not to drink, even if it seems so at first.

    From the place where he near-touches the water, the fluid instantly freezes. Thick ice spreads across the river, ice cold fluid falls, until the fall is temporarily frozen. Why? Because a frozen river is as frozen time; lifting his head, ice blue eyes stare towards the dark mare a moment. ”Jumping off that edge won’t help Aida.” Now he walks towards her, across the ice, leaving her to think, probably, that he’s some sort of ghost, some sort of fairy (ha-ha), something strange, at least. A fidget of her imagination. But that’s the point. That’s exactly the point.

    This time she stands still as he edges towards her, his cold-looking body before her and equally facing certain death, her mirror image. The ice beneath him is cracking, creaking, time and the river both threatening to start running again. Chunks of the cold stuff break loose from the waterfall, tumbling down deep into the abyss, showing her exactly which rocks she would hit on her way down.

    He looks, she looks. Then he looks up and into her eyes. ”You would set an awfully bad example to her.”

    So as she shakes her head, finally understanding that this won’t help, the waterfall breaks through the ice, and he goes down with it.

    Oh, it’s only temporary, he knows. He’ll be back for the next part. All this, it’s probably not even real.

    Besides, one of them had to go.
    no. 7 | ice forged in fire

    yes, he sort of died. don't worry, he's immortal, so he can be back before the next part of the quest.
    Two things I know I can make: pretty kids, and people mad.

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