"She presses into him greedily, hungrily, and demands more. She does not know how to be gentle when she is with him—does not know how to quell the aching in her belly, the neediness in her touch. She would devour him whole. She would sacrifice herself completely. She would give and give and give—" --Tabytha, written by Laura
Here it comes with no warning; capsize, i'm first in the water
Standing at the edge, Lucrezia stares at the sparkling blue water, her reflection staring back at her. It beckons for her to come in, to take a dip and feel the refreshing water. It calls to her, telling her she can forget about it all.
Her skin feels like it is on fire, it aches from the blistering sunburns that scatter across her body. The sun beats heavily on her back, despite the palm trees that attempt to hide her away from the sun, igniting her even more. She can feel the cool temperature of the pool. Her muzzle lowers, drawn to it, tempting her to drink it. Lucrezia licks her lips, they are so dry, and she feels dizzy from the blazing sun and travelling across the shifting dunes.
Just a little sip, she thinks to herself. It could not hurt. Why would it?
A drink from the pool was not enough for her though. Lucrezia can no longer wait. She submerges into the sparkling blue water, instantly the coolness of the pool soothes her aching body, and her stiff muscles release from their tight grip. A deep sigh of relief escapes through her soft lips. She wades deeper into the water, expanding her wings out and letting them feel the silky, smooth water too.
Lucrezia closes her eyes, letting the last tension release from her. Her heart instantly fills with joy as she thinks about how she is back in the desserts—a home she never thought she’d see again. She would do anything to live in this moment forever.
Taking another step further into the depths of the pool, her hooves instantly feel the hard-rocky cliffs beneath her. Lucrezia’s eyes flash open wide, darting around with confusion. It is foggy, a dim light then pulls her gaze to the rocky cliffs. She can see the jet-black mare nearby, outlined by the dim sunlight. A desperate cry comes from the black mare—a name she does not know, but her heart as a mother knows it is her daughter. The black mare walks quickly out more onto the cliff—too close to the edge. Lucrezia takes a couple steps forward, “Hey!” she shouts out, but the world turns dark and the black mare disappears over the cliff.
Turning in the darkness, the blackness fades away instantly, bringing her back into the desert. Her eyes dart around, looking for the oasis, but she only sees the shifting hills. She feels the coolness in the air, realizing that the sun is setting in the horizon, and that is when she spots the palomino mare. “Hello?” Lucrezia yells out to the golden woman but she doesn’t hear her. “Can you hear me?” She yells out again, moving quickly across the golden grains towards the mare. Still the mare doesn’t see or hear her.
Am I dead again? Lucrezia wonders for a moment.
At the corner of her eye, she spots the black stallion moving towards the mare. The stallion lunges at the mare and they start fighting. Screams fill the quiet air, hooves clash, bones break, and blood stains the sand beneath them. Horror fills her as she bears witness to the murder. She feels her heart sink to the pit of her stomach as the golden mare begs, bringing back the memory of her own death. Lucrezia rushes forward, the golden mare needs her help—she must help her. Moving quickly towards the fighting, she stumbles and falls into the sand, her head quickly lifts from the ground, and she looks up to find the mare again, but everything goes dark once again.
The looming death scenes are replayed. Her heart is split into two to save both of their lives—she aches for the black mare that searches for her daughter and falls to her death. However, her heart pulls her towards the golden mare. Lucrezia cannot shake it, the memory of her own murder haunts her.
She returns to the desert scene once again in a blink of an eye. The champagne mare rushes towards the golden woman. A desperate cry of alarm releases from her lips. It is loud and distressing, and unlike before, the palomino mare stops in her tracks and turns towards Lucrezia. A look of confusion appears on the golden woman’s face, questioning the alarm of distress that Lucrezia cries out, and is distracted as the black stallion comes around the nearby dune.
The golden mare turns, meeting the eyes of her son, and then the stallion lunges forward. “RUN!” Lucrezia screams. “RUN!” She cries again as she throws herself in between the fight. A hoof slams against her left shoulder. She stumbles at the blunt force but then turns quickly to face the orange-eyed horse. Pushing her weight onto her hindlegs, the champagne mare lifts into a rear, her wings expand as she shields the golden mare. The golden mare lunges back from Lucrezia and her son. “GET AWAY!” She screams at the black stallion and throws a hoof out in his direction. The black stallion rushes back at her threat, Lucrezia flaps her wings, sending him a warning to keep his distance, before landing onto her hooves.
Suddenly the stallion screams. He lowers his head, pawing violently at his dark face. Lucrezia turns to the golden woman quickly, concerned for the black stallion but also the golden mare, she finds the mare focusing on the black stallion with a stern expression. Lucrezia isn’t sure what the mare is doing, but deep within she knows it was wrong. “No. This isn’t right!” She says pushing the golden woman, who then loses her focuses and stumbles
“We have to go. We cannot stay here.” She tells the golden woman. The black stallion screams out in pain again. “PLEASE! If you love your son, you will leave.” Lucrezia begs. The golden mare turns to her, a look of sadness flashes in her eyes for a moment. Lucrezia didn’t need to hear the words from the woman. Somehow, she could read them, knowing hurting her son even more would not mend their relationship any further. The two mares then turn and quickly leave the black stallion behind.
The water was so tempting. Her mouth was bone dry from her adventure through the desert. The little pink girl stared longingly at the cool blue waters. She took an unconscious step forward, craning her head around to see if anyone else had come.
She saw nothing.
So she lowered her head to the cool water to drink. In return, the water seemed to breathe new life into her wary body. She wades deeper into the water, drawn into the cool embrace of the oasis. There’s something strange about this place, but Lala cannot register how or why.
Until the visions begin.
The images are crystal clear, and Lala recoils with horror at the sight of the palomino mare’s gruesome fate. The sound of bones cracking is something that she will never forget. But despite the gore and brutality, it is the sight of the black mare that turns her blood cold.
Beulah knows that mare. Anatomy. Ana. The same mare she’d come across in the forest not so long ago. Before Lala could consciously decide, she was running in the direction of the back mare.
“ANA!” she screams - the panic evident in the little pink girl’s voice. She struggled to control the emotion - unfamiliar as it was.
“ANA DON’T!” Lala pushed herself and her legs as fast as she could, trying to eat away at the distance between herself and the black mare - but she was petrified that Ana would lose her footing before she reached her. “STOP! PLEASE!” She pleaded with the mare, hoping it would be enough.
In her desperation, Beulah sends wave after wave of calm towards the black mare - hoping it will be enough to slow Ana down. Hoping it will give her the few seconds she needed to reach her in time…
She thought she saw the black mare slow - hesitate just at the edge of the cliff. Though Lala was not confident about her flying abilities, doubt never once slows her now. In this moment, the little pink mare cares more about her friend’s safety than her own.
Lala doesn’t stop when she grows closer to Ana - instead she spreads her wings and leaps from the face of the cliff - trusting her wings to carry her as she twists just so she hovers before Ana’s troubled form. It seemed like flying was easier when she didn’t think so hard, but Lala didn’t even register the fact because her focus was entirely upon the black mare. The surprise forces Ana to step backwards, far enough that Lala is able to land between Anatomy and the cliff’s edge. She keeps her wings spread wide - thinking perhaps that is enough to keep Ana from falling.
Lala sends another wave of calm - both for Ana and herself. Her heart still thunders in her chest. “Ana, please!” she says, softer now - pleading. “Please be careful. Come on. Let’s go where it’s safe,” she said, gesturing to the mostly-level surface a safe distance from the cliff’s edge. Ana backs another step, followed by another. For the first time, Lala allows herself to draw in a deep breath.
“Maybe I can help you?” she asks, her wings still spread to their fullest. “Tell me how and I will. I promise.”
there's nothing you can do that can't be done,
nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain,
And eyes squeezed shut ‘neath rusty mane;
He moves into the water, compelled by forces beyond his meager comprehension. The water is cool, soothing against his wounds, and his eyes flutter closed, allowing a brief moment of relief.
Then, the visions come.
He first sees a dark mare, frantic and crying out someone’s name. She’s at a cliffside, and does not seem to notice him, but he notices the precariousness of her hooves to the edge, he can taste death on the air, and he looks away before she falls. An ugly sight, to be sure, but he has seen death enough, he has time to draw a shaky breath, and then—
Then he is witnessing a scene he has relived a thousand times. He sees Craft, beautiful in the sunset, and he sees himself, monstrous and lumbering across the sand, a distorted mirror of how he had just walked the sands not long ago.
He knows this story. He’s lived it.
He sees, or he imagines he sees, the desperation in the dark horse’s eyes. He can no longer recall the feeling of fury that had spurred him on, then, fury was an emotion that had burned to nothing, had left behind embers of despair and self-loathing.
This stallion – this version of Garbage – is furious. He is haunted and terrible and there is blood on his hooves already, from Fia’s murder.
He wants to turn away, because he knows how this story ends. But he watches. Stands witness as he watches himself kill his mother, maul himself. His lips move with the cries.
Is this enough, mother?
The vision does not show what came after – the magician who was there, who took him in, saved his worthless life, the stallion to whom he was consort, the stallion to whom he bore a son (he’d been alone, by then – Cancer had left him for another, but Sleaze had stayed, had stayed until Garbage had sent him away).
It's clear, of course, what he is meant to do. It’s clear, of course, what he chooses.
He’s standing back on the sand, and it’s sunset now. Craft’s head turns and looks at him, and her eyes are filled with hatred, and there is a moment when the old, long-dead fury blossoms, and he thinks, why couldn’t you just love me?
The answer is obvious, creeping over the dune, breathing heavy. Garbage moves between the queen, faces himself, staring into those goddamned orange eyes.
“Don’t,” he says, and his voice is ragged, shredded, and he doesn’t know if it will work, because he was so angry then, but he knows there is sadness under the anger, sadness and hurt.
“This will ruin you,” he says, “trust me.”
The stallion – this version of Garbage – stops. The whites of his eyes are showing, gleaming bright against the dark of his skin,
“Look at me,” he says. He’s staring into the orange eyes, a terrifying mirror, “you can change your life. I wish…I wish I could go back.”
“She—” croaks the other-Garbage, the one will blood on his mind, and Garbage doesn’t know exactly what that version of himself means to say, yet he does, well enough. Some semblance thereof.
“We’re a monument to the worst times of her life. She can’t – won’t – change. It doesn’t matter.”
A pause, and he continues, “please. Turn back.”
He’s shocked when other-Garbage obeys, his hooves dragging in the sand, and then he’s gone, over a dune, and the life that unfolds after is different, but Garbage will never know how, because his own path has been set.
Garbage looks at his mother. She is drawn tall and her amber eyes are wide open, still shocked and confused. He wonders if she knows what she avoided.
“I’m sorry,” he says. He is. Sorry for being born. Sorry for the orange eyes. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
“You should go,” he continues, “back to the safety of your kingdom. They’ll protect you.”
She doesn’t move. She looks at him. Her gaze is inscrutable.
“Thank you,” she says, hesitant.
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
I never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.
The water beckons them. She lowers her head and her nostrils flare as she hesitantly eyes the water's edge. Something calls them forward. The oasis is lovely and blue: hues of turquoise and promise swirl together in an achingly sweet scent of water and hope in this arid landscape. The dunes that surround them fall away against the gravitational pull of water and that desperate need to quench thirst. It becomes momentarily forgotten as someone speaks and she looks behind her to see Cassian. He hobbles and it clouds her expression with concern, bleary blue eyes filling with worry.
His lopsided grin puts her at ease in this unfamiliar place and her smile produces a dimple in return, Lilliana shaking her head with a silent apology in reply. Her voice has gone missing somewhere in these shifting sands and her throat runs ragged and raw with no sound coming from that dark mouth. There is a minute where they both stare at each other and then Lilli feels herself drawing back to Neverwhere, seeking the comfort of a friend. The dappled woman is already wading into the water, Lilliana and Cassian forgotten under the spell that the oasis has cast. The copper mare follows, taking one heavy step after another as the water rushes to embrace her. It cools and soothes all those aching places, washes away the scent of sand and sweat and blood. When it has reached her chest and she feels Neverwhere firmly beside her again, Lilli reaches towards its shimmering surface and drinks deeply. Water has never tasted so sweet.
The world retreats as she satiates that desperate thirst.
When her chiseled head raises, the fog is back. The world blurs around her (though she feels Neverwhere's shoulder, a solid touch in a world rendered irrational). Suddenly, there is a black mare - as dark as a night without stars or a moon - that flirts with the edge of a cliff. She faces a perilous destiny and the heart in Lilli's chest turns to thunder. No! she wants to cry though the words do not come. No! she wants to insist though she is frozen where she stands. The black mare's green eyes are wide and they rail against something, an emotion that comes with a name: Aida. Lilliana's gentle heart breaks into a thousand pieces before the fog whirls in again.
It reveals a flame that flickers against the desert.
The golden woman is illuminated by the dying sun and Lilli hears the sound of rage and fury as hooves and teeth clash. That metallic smell is back again - the aroma of copper and sweat staining the air as much as the sand. There is a crack that vibrates along the dunes and Lilliana wants to cry out again: Stop. No sound comes and the mirage does not give any pause. There is no acknowledgment that she even exists at all. And then the mare is down, buried by the anger of the stallion and his voice is echoing against the sunset, the orange of his eyes rolling away as he tears them out.
And then an impossible command comes from the desert: choose.
But her choice has already been made. It has been since the moment her blue-eyed gaze had landed on the palomino mare. A voice breaks through the fog (be careful) but her delirium has already made her focus on the fallen woman. Gold has been imprinted on her soul since that day by a laughing river. Gold has been wrapped around her heart for years. It is etched along the dark places that she carries now - wrapped around grieving mornings in Culloden and moonless nights in Hyaline. Gold is her color of love and bravery and courage, of the pelt that this woman wears.
The stallion lunges at her, foaming and frothing, made manic and frenzied in his hatred as the memory plays again. She doesn't know what the palomino has done to make him so angry. (It does not matter - she would have forgiven Elaina anything.) Lilliana is not a fighter; there is nothing in her demeanor or disposition that paints her as a warrior. Dread settles like doom into the pit of her stomach. She knows she is no match for this orange-eyed stallion. She knows this and yet she has to do something.
The crack resonates through the desert again as the memory loops and it spurs the chestnut mare on, a whip that lashes her forward.
Her weight shifts to her hind and Lilliana sprints, surging towards the golden woman who falls down, down, down. Away from her. No, her thoughts roar. This scene is too reminiscent of nightmares, of her greatest fear. This woman is not Elaina - the curves are different, the cornsilk of her mane is too fine, the amber of her eyes burn a different shade. But in the haze of the desert, it so easy to pretend that this could be Elaina.
The mare sinks below the sand and the stallion has turned on himself. He paws at his eyes, tearing them from his head and Lilliana slides beside the woman dressed in gold. She comes behind her, her legs folding gently and she settles against her in a way that suggests Lilli has done this action a thousand times before. The silhouettes don't match - the hip bones are different, the arch of her neck set definitely, the curves are unfamiliar but the gesture is still a true and intimate one. The chest beside her rattles, struggling for air as blood pools in places that it shouldn't be. Lilli's heart races, issues a war cry against her ribs, as life starts to drain away from this woman.
The black stallion is still out there - is this enough mother, is this enough - he continues to call. This is a new level of Insanity, another ring she has never known. Her heart has not yet been forged to steel and something in her aches even for the man who moans among the sands.
She wishes she could do something for them both and yet it is the warmth of the mare pressed against her that she claims. The day is leaving them as this flame is leaving her. There are so many things she wants to say and she is bewildered that she can't find her words. Her voice is still missing and she has no way of deafening the agonized cries that carry on the wind. You do not die here, she thinks. Light blossoms in her soul - queer magic that pools in her as the blood pools in the pierced organs of the palomino and what Lilliana has to give, she does. It travels from her to the place of bone and sinew, of muscle and marrow and what she can conjure, she creates and rebuilds for this dimming candle she cradles gently next to her. It isn't much - it won't heal everything. But the accusations of the stallion become forgotten (or perhaps they have stopped, she doesn't know, she no longer hears him) as she focuses what remaining energy she has in keeping this nestled flame lit.
You do not die here, Lilliana thinks again. It is a determined and fierce thought blazing in its insistence, as the last of her gift gives. The world is fading to velvet blue with the sun finally going down. She does not know this mare. She knows nothing of her story. The only thing she knows is that it does not end here. This mare is not her torch but she might be the light in the darkness for someone else.
As it all slips away, as it all vanishes back into the fog, Lilliana thinks that there could be no better way to fall into this void than one last glimpse of copper and gold coming together again.
Before Jude is crystal water that her throat aches for. She stares longingly, lavender eyes flickering with pained desire. For a moment, the rippling liquid reflects so clearly in her pupils that it could be another world. The pool calls and the pastel mare can no longer contain herself: she rushes near joyfully into its outspread arms. Cool and smooth, the water is calming enough to allow Jude to shut her eyes.
Still on edge from her encounter with the Vadar clone, the pegasus merely lips at the water cautiously. She scans the surrounding shore until a sudden tug drags her face beneath the pale blue. A gasp of air is all she is able to grab before being fully submerged; but when she opens her eyes, she finds she can breathe again.
A black mare, rushed and somber, sticks out of the surrounding fog. Jude briefly thinks she is back where she began, but that thought is quickly wiped away when a cliff’s edge is revealed by broken up mist. Hmm, she hums to herself as the woman continues her hurried path despite its inevitable end.
Instinctively, the pegasus mare stumbles a few steps forward when she realizes what is about to happen but—
Anatomy teeters and . . .
Water flies in an arch when Jude whips her head from beneath the pool’s surface. Her chest heaves but the visions call again, and she finds herself submerged only a moment after catching her breath.
Golden and white, beautiful, Craft exists beneath a desert sunset like the sky just birthed her there. The air is perfectly still and something about the coming night truly resonates with Jude. She watches with the faintest smile, mesmerized by the magic of the past; but her trance is broken by the attack of a sweating stallion, and the smile is violently wiped from her mouth.
He kills the palomino woman brutally, even as she puts up a good fight. The pegasus’ hooves are rooted to the sand as she is forced to watch the madman gouge his eyes out with his hooves. She swallows back disgust and closes her eyes. When she reopens them, she mostly expects to be somewhere new; instead, the scene has restarted, and Jude’s disgust returns tenfold.
“No,” Jude gasps, the sensation of being a ghost eradicated by her adrenaline and feminine justice. Once was enough, she thinks, finding the murdering of this woman somehow even more wrong in its playback. Suddenly, she launches forward, wings tensing to whip out and buffer Garbage away from Craft.
The orange-eyed madman is startled by the pastel mare’s rush; so, he falters on one of his attacks, and Jude squeezes between the space between his front and Craft’s side. Just as she defended herself before, her wings swing forward to force the stallion to back off. The force of her defense sends her stumbling a single step backward, but she is able to turn that backward momentum into a turn.
Jude remains agile even in her frightened state, twisting long legs just so that when she turns to face Craft, her left wing smacks into Garbage. She hears what she thinks are his knees crashing into the sand as her now-aching wing retreats to her side.
“Somethin’ tells me you’re not the type to need to be ordered but—” Jude starts, but is cut off both by the fierce look in Craft’s eyes and the words spilling from her mouth.
“I’m not. Move.”
Jude does as she is told, tucking her injured wing to her side and sidestepping robotically. The hypnotist steps toward the now kneeling Garbage and looks over him with a scoff, then crushes his esophagus with the weight of her two front hooves.
“Oh,” Jude says, then laughs. “He deserved that.”
The air grows quiet and still, Craft offering no immediate response.
Agetta slips into the oasis, wincing a little as the cool fresh water comes in contact with the sand snake bites she had received just moments ago. Flecks of shimmering sand are washed out and she relaxes, but only for a moment. Of course this could not be just a hallucination - a strange dream bringing her to the Deserts instead of the Gates to tease her. This is something else entirely.
A gasp escapes the white mare when she can feel the tickle of memory when she sees the mare standing on the cliff, standing entirely too close to the edge. Anatomy is the name that rings in her mind, though she has no idea if it’s really the black mare’s name. It’s little more than an echo from another life, back when Agetta was another black mare, but the idea that she knew this mare is so strong - and the fear that she is standing too close to the edge - that she could drown under the weight.
A noise of distress escapes her when the vision changes, removing the black mare from view and Agetta wishes it would come back, wishes to call to her and coax her off of the ledge.
But all thoughts of that vision come crashing to a stop when the next settles in.
She does not recognize the palomino mare, but she does recognize the stallion. They had met just recently, two passing ghosts in this new world, and she had liked him. He seemed like her, heavy under the weight of lives already lived.
Words cannot convey the horror she feels when she watches him murder the mare and it only grows all the more when he digs out his eyes - those beautiful, bright orange eyes she remembers being fascinated by. She hears his words, realizes that this is his mother - the mother who gave him his name, and though she had just witness a murder very much like her own, she cannot help but feel her heart break for him at the same time it does for the mare. It is difficult to imagine anyone who deserves to die - just as it is difficult to imagine a young foal deserving the name Garbage.
And then, cruelly, she feels the whispers of a thought telling her she needs to choose someone to save. The mare on the cliff or the mare in the desert. It’s an impossible choice. No matter who is involved, whether they were completely unknown to her, Agetta does not think she has enough iron in her heart to make the decision that is needed.
Though her mind whirls, she forces herself to move. Forces herself to act out of instinct.
She lunges, ignoring the pain in her legs from the freshly cleaned but still bleeding wounds. She shifts into her favourite form, that of a silvery snow leopard. When she lands, her paws are on the sandy floor of the desert, and she is charging towards the golden and black pair before Garbage can strike. What she had seen before seems to have rewound. No bones have been broken, no eyes are rolling along the golden sands.
Of course, Agetta only means to stop him as she moves forward. To save this palomino mare, to save him, to save herself from this heartbreaking scene. But she would, without hesitation, offer herself as a replacement. Better she should die.
She’s already a ghost, after all.
“Stop!” She shouts, sliding between the pair. She’s supposed to save the palomino mare but her attention is on this younger version of the stallion she barely knows. Can she save him too?
There’s surprise all around, the thick-coated feline is hardly a usual feature in the desert. If it is not enough to entirely diffuse the situation, it’s certainly enough of a shock that things stop in their tracks. She suddenly wishes she had gotten to know him better, so she might know exactly what he would need to hear in this moment. If this is a vision of the past, which she suspects that it is, then she hopes she will see him again in the future.
Even though knowing this piece of him, without his permission, feels like a violation of his privacy.
“You’re better than this.” She looks right at Garbage, her midnight blue eyes burning with her belief in those words even though, really, she doesn’t know that. She barely knows him at all - and certainly not this younger self - but she believes it all the same.
She’s posed between them, ready to pounce and push them apart if the need arises. Her gaze flickers to the palomino mare, checking to see if she will retaliate for the almost-attack her son, but she still seems to be in shock. Agetta focuses her gaze back on Garbage then, her voice soft and encouraging. The voice she would use on her own children. “Walk away from this, and be better for it.”
It’s stupid, her reaction to this event - and surely it makes no sense.
Burn everything you love then burn the ashes. In the end everything collides; My childhood spat back out the monster that you see.
At long last the invisible barrier is broken, and Tatter stumbles into the water, washing blood, sweat, and sand from his patchwork body. A sigh of relief escapes his lips as the refreshing water cleans his wounds and soothes his aching limbs, and he lowers his head to drink from the pool. His eyes drift shut as he drinks his fill, vowing to himself that he is not going to remove himself from this pool until night falls and travel will be easier amongst the shifting sands. The water refreshes him as he drinks it in, and when he reopens his yellow eyes he is surprised to see the swirling fog surrounding him once more.
Through the fog a black mare appears, and he recognizes that they are standing on a cliff-face – she screams out a name, foreign to him, and then she is teetering, balanced on a razor blade as her hooves meet the edge of a cliff. Grimacing, he looks away; watching the black mare fall to her demise is not something he particularly wants to have replaying in his head as he tries to traverse the Deserts at night. If she is doomed to die, he cannot stop her.
As quickly as the vision of Anatomy had come, he is back in the Deserts, but no longer in the oasis he had just been resting in. The temperature has begun to drop and the hint of sunset has swept across the sands, and for a moment Tatter doesn’t notice the golden mare standing atop a dune. It is the crazed black stallion that catches his attention, lunging and screaming, and when he collides with Craft, Tatter’s eyes grow wide. Just what exactly is happening here?
He tries to move forward, to stop them, but his hooves are rooted to the sands and they make no notice of him as their battle grows bloody and ferocious. He hears the mare’s bones crack – a sound he is all too familiar with from his own gruesome murder – and she sinks to the sands beneath the black stallion, blood bubbling at her lips as she pulls in her last strangled breaths. Tatter looks to the stallion with a morbid curiosity, wondering if he’s going to deliver a final blow or just leave her to die on the sands, but he seems to have forgotten the battle entirely.
Instead he claws at his own eyes with blunted hooves, and Tatter swallows hard as blood and orange roll down the dune, the stallion screaming and pleading and so desperate it makes the painted king feel ill. He’s blinded himself, Tatter realizes as the vision begins to fade, and he blinks his eyes open to the oasis and the cool, cool water surround him.
Save her, something breathes in his ear, and though he glances around frantically, there is no one there to have spoken to him. Which one? he thinks, but before he can move he is plunged back into the visions once again, the black mare at the cliffside appearing to him first.
He moves instinctually, lunging forward over the hard-packed ground to reach the mare before she falls. “Stop!” he cries as he thunders towards her, his yellow eyes nearly as wild as her green ones. They collide in a tangle of limbs and go down hard, crashing to the ground only paces away from the edge of the cliff. Untangling himself from the stranger, he glares at her and shakes his head.
“Are you blind?” he demands, thrusting his head at the cliff beside them. “Did you not see the cliff right there? You nearly walked right off of it!” Climbing to his hooves, he realizes a softer approach might help more, but perhaps scaring her back into her right mind would help.
“Who is Aida? A child, a lover?” he asks her, voice softening. “I can help you find her, and if she’s at the bottom of these cliffs, I’m sure there’s a simpler way down.”
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