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  • Beqanna

    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

    [private]  the salt and the sea, agetta
    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything

    He remembers her now, just as he’d promised her that he would.
    He sees her from some great distance,
    (And wonders, too, if being a dead thing has somehow improved his vision.)
    and moves toward her as if drawn to her by magnets.

    He moves quickly, urgently, and if he were alive still perhaps his nerves would have thrummed with apprehension. Perhaps the breath would have hitched in the parched column of his throat and the heart would have leapt in its ribbed cage. But he is a dead thing now and the body does not react at all. He does not breathe, the nerves do not bristle, the heart does not stir. He moves quickly because he is eager to know if she came back a dead thing, too. Or if it had only been him.

    He had seen her, they had exchanged smiles, as the lot of them collected on the beach at the foot of some great ghost. She had been lost to her own version of the afterlife when they’d stepped through the rift, though, and he had not seen her again. Until now.

    How he aches for labored breath. He thinks he would give anything to feel the chest heaving as his strides eat up all of the space that separates them. He remembers how she’d asked him if he was a ghost, too. How he’d smiled ruefully and said, yes, I suppose I am. And now what is he?

    Agetta,” he murmurs, the voice thin without any breath to buoy it. The voice of a ghost, maybe. The voice of a dead thing. Hardly there at all. He smiles then. Or, he tries to. But it lists and fades before it ever fully comes to fruition. He can tell just by looking at her, though, that she is not a dead thing. If anything, he thinks, she is somehow more brilliantly white than she’d been before.

    So, instead of asking if she came back anything like him, he merely says, “it’s so good to see you.

    i'm finding all this well-worn sadness i never knew i kept
    and i still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

    It had been so wonderful to see Kensley on the beach that day, a familiar face that helped dull the edge of the anger she felt when she saw Atrox. When that vile panther stallion had spoken to her. But that brief gathering on the beach had been drowned in her memories by what had happened in the afterlife, and all that had happened since.

    There’s a bright light in her midnight blue eyes when she recognizes Kensley as he approaches, and she calls out to him happily - a small dance in her step as she moves forward a few steps to close the space between them a little sooner. She was feeling less like a ghost herself since their first meeting, and funnily enough the trip into the afterlife had helped solidify her, and she wondered if he had found the mare he loved or his daughter - if he had discovered little treasures of the past here in this strange future.

    But all these thoughts came crashing down as he drew closer and Agetta got a good look at her friend. His coat was not the same beautiful dapple it had been the last time they had seen each other, the spark in his eyes was missing.

    Death had stolen some of her memories as her price for returning, had it taken more from him? She moves to close the gap between them, a cautious muzzle reaching out to gently touch him. He seemed more a ghost now than he had before, and guilt begins to eat at the white mare. She had been floating along in happiness ever since the afterlife, and though she had often thought of her new friend and hoped to see him again - she had not thought to seek him out to see if he was okay.

    Her voice is soft when she speaks, drawing back again as concern darkens her expression. “Kensley, my friend. It’s good to see you as well but… what happened? Are you okay?”


    kensley how dare you
    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything

    How it pains him to think that she might be happy to see him.
    But there is an unmistakable glint in her eye and a kind of dance in her step as she moves to help remove all of the negative space between them.
    He cannot remember the last time someone had been happy to see him.
    (That’s not true, he can remember it quite well – his mother’s smile, her palpable relief, the way her expression had collapsed around his grief and then her own).
    He does not know why guilt pools in his throat. Perhaps because he knows that her happiness, too, will end in disappointment. There is no reason to be happy to see him. There never has been.

    Because his mother had been happy to see him and he’d broken her heart.
    Because Keiran had been happy to see him and then.
    And then.

    But he conjures up a smile – subdued, tired – and he dips his head in greeting. Tries to hide his eyes. The dull, dead eyes. Cold and flat. Eyes that had been alive the last time he’d seen her. Glimmering with a spark of hope, the knowledge that their loved ones were waiting for them on the other side of that rift on the beach.

    She reaches out to touch him and he does not move out of the way quick enough. Doesn’t even try, really. Just lets her touch his cold shoulder. It is only then that he lifts his gaze from the earth to her face, just in time to recognize the flicker of uncertainty in her gaze.

    It is a simple enough question, certainly. The pair of them. What happened? They both came back changed, he thinks, just in vastly different ways. Is he okay? No, certainly not, but it is difficult to say how much of that has to do with being a dead thing.

    I’m okay,” he says, lies. “I guess this is the price of forgiveness,” he muses and then smiles again. Tries to. Rolls a shoulder in a kind of shrug. As if this is merely a foolish mistake, something to be bashful about, embarrassed by. He might have coughed out a laugh if there had been any breath in his lungs.

    Did you find what you were looking for?” he asks then, the brow softening in question. 

    i'm finding all this well-worn sadness i never knew i kept
    and i still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

    Her nose tingles from the coldness of his shoulder and she does her very best not to react or let it show just how uncomfortable it makes her feel. Like touching stones in an icy river.

    Her discomfort is not for herself - Agetta has long since given up on worrying about her own well-being. She has hopped from selfless cause to selfless cause all throughout her life and she’s not about to suddenly learn a new trick now. Instead, her worry over this new friend of hers has just deepened significantly enough to cause discomfort. When he says that he is okay, she has already made up her mind not to believe him. How could he be okay? There is no spark in his eyes and she’s not sure whether his attempts at smiles are genuine or not. She hopes that they are.

    Even in this state, she still warms at his smile.

    If the soul is the same, does it matter what it looks like on the outside?

    She has no right to judge him, not when she paid the price that she had. A price so deep that she doesn’t even know how much it will affect her - that what feels like a blessing, having her darkest memories removed, has left her vulnerable and unprepared for the next time she might chance upon the one creature in all of Beqanna that has caused her the most pain.

    When asked if she found what she was looking for, she hesitates for a second before answering softly. “I did.” Agetta feels guilty saying them, even though the truth is so much bigger than those two words. She had found more than she wanted, more than she could have ever hoped for, and she had been blessed.

    Finally, because she cannot deny her concern any longer, she asks the largest question on her mind - or at least the largest one that doesn’t involve prying into whatever he went through in the afterlife. They may be friends, but it is a new friendship and she has no business asking such things.

    “Does it hurt?” She would gesture to him, indicating the changes that have occurred over his whole body, if doing so didn’t feel incredibly rude.


    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything

    It fills him with gladness, to know that her own quest had not been in vain.
    It is not lost on him, though, that she divulges no other information.
    She does not elaborate and he does not ask her to.

    It is a kindness she does not have to afford him, he thinks, but it does not surprise him that she does anyway. Because they have known each other only a short while but she had made it clear when they’d met that she was good and kind, selfless in a way he had been once but no longer is.

    He smiles and nods. “I’m glad,” he murmurs, the voice strangled by the gravity of what settles over them. She had made it out unscathed and he had not. He will undoubtedly spend hours trying to work out exactly where things had gone wrong for him. Eventually he will chalk it up to his inherent inability to get anything right. He will inevitably decide that it all fell apart because he had orchestrated it and he will carry the blame like a stone in his chest, too. He will add it to the pile and perhaps, someday when there are enough stones to weigh him down, he will walk into the sea and let them drown him.

    It is the same question he’d been asked by the first soul he’d encountered after escaping the rusty jaws of death, it is merely posed differently. Moselle had asked if he’d missed it and now Agetta asks if it hurts. Were he still a living thing, perhaps he would have swallowed thickly. He might have dragged in a shuddering breath and held it fast.

    But he is a dead thing, so he merely studies her for a long moment. The silence pulses in his ears as, finally, he nods. “Yes,” he says and the voice trembles, thin. He presses his mouth into a thin, contemplative line, glances between the earth that separates them and her face. As if he is ashamed to admit it. As if he is ashamed to be in this position at all.

    Not physically,” he continues, “but…” The silence stretches elastic between them as he frowns, trying to dredge up the words to explain it concisely. Until, finally, he shrugs and says, “my soul.

    i'm finding all this well-worn sadness i never knew i kept
    and i still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

    She feels his answer more than she hears it - it’s not just a simple splintering in her heart. It shatters for him in a way it has not in a long time (she doesn’t know that a broken heart is her default, that life has taken away pieces and pieces until there is little left). Agetta is determined not to cry, though she does not hide how much this truth of his has affected her because she does not want him to think her indifferent. The tears threaten and her midnight blue eyes swim with them for a moment but she bites her tongue, wills them to go away. She’s always been too empathetic for her own good, and she reminds herself that though she thinks she can feel his pain it is surely nothing compared to what he is actually feeling.

    Her tears won’t help him, won’t fix the ache in his soul. There’s nothing in her that can do that. Perhaps her friendship can be some reprieve but it’s such a small, minor thing.

    Agetta moves out of instinct, and though she will stop her advance if he should wish it, she goes to hug him. It’s more contact than they have ever shared, but cold-skin or not, if he allows her to she will hold him tight for as long as he will tolerate her closeness.

    It’s the only thing she has to offer him.

    Once she’s sure her voice won’t shake too much, she whispers a response. “I’m sorry, Kensley.” It’s not her fault, but she’s sorry all the same that this is the hand he has been dealt. It’s not fair. “Is there anything I can do? Anything anyone can do? Perhaps someone with magic…”

    Since having her memories erased, magic is now a neutral thing to Agetta. She has known awful magicians, had been murdered by one, but he had not used his magic to kill her. Surely, she thinks, there must be someone other than Carnage out there with magic - surely someone can do something to help Kensley.

    If he wants to be helped.


    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything

    She comes closer and he doesn’t think to stop her.
    To save her the trouble.

    Because he might have found comfort in the embrace of a friend in the before.
    But there is nothing in it for him in the after.
    Where it once might have chased warmth through him, the sweet swell of relief, it brings him nothing now. And though he feels so little, he can feel the throat tightening with his own want to weep. Because he has no way of knowing all of the things he has lost until he is confronted with them.

    She hugs him and he lets her but he still feels empty. He appreciates the gesture, of course. It solidifies his belief that Agetta is a friend worth having, selfless in a way he had been once but doesn’t know how to be anymore. And he smiles, if only a little, because he is a dead thing but he still recognizes kindness and it is still worth smiling about. It is a rueful thing, certainly, but it is there all the same.

    Her apology sinks bone-deep and he shakes his weary head before he briefly brinks it to rest against the smooth plain of her shoulder. He cannot feel its warmth. There is only a faint glimpse of how soft it is, but it is fickle and fleeting and it is gone before he can grasp it. He does not allow himself the opportunity to mourn it, though, not now. There will be plenty of time to think about it later, when he is alone.

    Is there anything anyone can do? He has wondered if he could travel back to the mountain and beg for his life back. But for what? And how could he prove that he deserved it when he had treated it so poorly to begin with? He has thought to ask Anaxarete, too. Thought to ask her to freeze the useless heart in his chest so that he might not feel anything at all. But this is the coward’s way out, he knows, and he knows that he deserves to suffer.

    He swallows thickly (an age-old habit) and shakes his head, lifts it away from her shoulder to do so. “I only know one magician and I wouldn’t dream of asking her for anything,” he murmurs. Not because he does not believe she’d give it to him but because he’s never asked her for anything before and he feels no overwhelming urge to start now.

    It hurts, but…” he says, takes one small series of steps backward so he can look her in the eye, “this is the fate I deserved all along.” For leaving, for letting his beloved sister die, for thinking he had any right to come back here at all. He tries for another rueful smile and rolls one shoulder in a kind of shrug. “It’ll just take some getting used to, I think.

    i'm finding all this well-worn sadness i never knew i kept
    and i still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

    It’s almost like hugging stone, but there is a sense of relief when he touches her back - the small gesture of resting his head against her shoulder. Accepting her presence, if nothing else. If only she could send some of her life into him, if only he would accept it if she could.

    She wonders how she can feel colder without his presence next to her, but maybe it’s his words when he steps away. The finality of them. It awakens something within her - and it’s not sadness. Not anger either, exactly, but when she looks back at him now it is without tears in her eyes. Kensley.” It’s the tone of voice she uses with her children, the voice of a practiced mother who has dealt with her fair share of stubborn children.

    “I have not known you very long, but I do not believe you deserve this. You do not deserve to be unhappy, in pain, or even uncomfortable for the rest of your life.” Oh Agetta, if only you knew how hypocritical this speech made you. How you’ve been torturing yourself out of guilt for the better part of a century, if not since birth.

    But, she never had anyone there to say she did not deserve it. She only had her own voice. The second stage of her life had been a very lonely one until now. Agetta is rediscovering what it means to have friends, to have a family, and through that finding the fire that lights within her heart to protect and help them at all costs.

    So although her voice is still soft and understanding, there is a firm edge to it that, she hopes, makes it clear that she will not accept any arguments from him. “It is hard to ask friends for favours but if there was ever a time, this is it.” Whoever this friend of his may be, she cannot imagine her turning him down. Not in this state.

    “Where does she live? I will go with you.”


    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything

    His mother had never taken that tone with him.
    He had never given her reason to.
    But he feels like a scorned child all the same.
    He had not known that his own name could hold all those sharp edges.

    It is not unkind, though. So, he smiles a sheepish thing and slides his gaze away from her face. What she says next is even kinder still, albeit unwarranted. He shakes his head in fractions, the movement stilted, but he does not open his mouth to argue.

    To live with this agony is the least he could do to atone for the things he’d done and allowed to be done. He grits his teeth and the muscles pulse beneath the surface of his skin. He closes his eyes, briefly, just long enough to wish that he could draw a breath and hold it fast, long enough to find his equilibrium.

    That is very kind of you, Agetta,” he murmurs.

    He does not argue but the words, kind as they are, hold so little weight. So much less than he wishes they would. He wants to believe her, certainly. He wants this to be enough to convince him to go to Ana and ask her to help him.

    Perhaps it is her offer to go with him that finally sways him. He shifts his focus back to her face and holds her gaze for a long moment. She is not bluffing, he knows this. Her kindness is neither forced nor feigned. And so, though the smile is sad at its edges, he smiles all the same.

    Thank you,” he says, quiet, “you’re a good friend. One of the best I’ve had.” He reaches out to touch her shoulder, briefly, then draws away again. “I’ll go. You don’t have to come along, it’s a long way.” He glances briefly at the horizon and then nods with a kind of finality. “I’ll find you after and maybe I’ll be a little warmer.” There, a breath of laughter as he turns to go with one last glance cast over his shoulder at her. He hesitates only a moment before nodding again and heading off in the direction of Pangea.

    i'm finding all this well-worn sadness i never knew i kept
    and i still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

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