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  • Beqanna

    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    LILLIANA -- Year 206

    QOTY

    "There is still something of himself - something of the Wolfbane who would always love her - that rallies against the slime. It says, 'lie in the bed you’ve made'. So he gathers the covers and tucks himself in." -- Wolfbane, written by Calcifer


    Neverwhere;
    #1
    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 need for truth pressures him from the confines of Loess into a world once lost to him.
     
    This was his home once, his passion, and his sanity. Nerine provided him life and protection; it was his happiness for years, but then it all fell away. Loess captured him, fascinated him. In that same breath, Heartfire helped to create a wedge that prevented the same comfort to extend into the kingdom. No longer was he welcomed with open arms as a pseudo-nephew.
     
    But things can change so quickly, thus the reason why he soars into the familiar coastal land – or, at least, toward it.
     
    Time slipped through his talons when he soared in his draconic form, high above the clouds where he wasn’t seen by curious eyes. Each buffeting sweep of his wings brought him so much closer to his childhood where life was much simpler and quieter. The trek wasn’t as time consuming in this form, but it still took a while, but at least it was not yet nightfall.
     
    Castile’s body contorts among the clouds as he shrinks down and returns to his natural body. Hair sprouts and his teeth dull prior to a gradual and winding descent that places him at the southern border of the kingdom. A wintry gale kisses him, almost welcoming him back after so many years of his absence. A feeble grin crawls to the edges of his mouth but quickly dissipates as his eyes lift from the rocky soil toward the horizon where he knows rests the cliffs and coastal caverns where he was born, memories rising to the fore front of his mind.

    Amid his observations, he cannot help to notice the fading of Heartfire's scent.

    castile



    Neverwhere
    Reply
    #2
    She has never met the King of Loess.

    She has no reason to recognize his patchwork coat, and so, she does not, but it is hard to miss him when he enters, his otherwise sensible black and white marked with gold and hidden beneath enormous wings. The wind brings the smell of brimstone to her nostrils, faintly sulphuric as it finds its way to her from across the distance between them. Neverwhere calls no greetings, she is still and he does not seem to have noticed her, instead lost in the views around him, grasped either by memory, or by the magic of the austere landscape, and she - watching with lips set in a firm, stubborn line - waits. She doesn't mind the waiting, everything about waiting is simple, it's where waiting ends that the complications begin.

    Everything is a complication, now.

    And all visitors are here for her, now, too, even the ones that don't know it at first, so she lets him take his bearings because, eventually, he will turn to her. He will see her. He will approach her. He will probably ask her where Heartfire has gone. Nobody has explicitly asked her that yet, but the question lingers in their eyes, stains their tongues and colors all the other questions that are asked of her. There are no satisfactory answers, though, nor to the question of how she happened to come to power in the roan's place, playing a game she agreed to without hearing the rules... Actually, when put like that, it's exactly her way, it's how she ended up in Nerine in the first place.

    So, am I winning, or losing?

    The thought etches into her scarred lips a faint smile, a smirk, really, only the corners upturned and the bright red, wind-chapped skin of her nostrils drawn tight with wry amusement. Winning or losing? It remains to be seen.

    Neverwhere
    ...


    @[Castile] phone post coming atcha
    Reply
    #3
    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
    There, just beyond those rocks, Castile sees the frostbitten mare. A sweeping acknowledgement, a quirk of her lips, but nothing beyond the regarding gestures. It doesn’t bother him. It’s almost like a muted welcome, confirming his progression into what was once his home. It seems like eons ago when he looked out from the cave and watched the ocean lap placidly against the black sand. A storm welcomed him into the world. Lightning cracked when he finally escaped the womb. How appropriate for mother to have her first born during such a torrent.

    Castile’s eyes slide toward the distant horizon, wondering if the cavern is abandoned now since his family vacated. It crosses his mind to visit, but he refrains.

    With a toss of his head and a final step toward her, he reaches the mysteriously quiet figure. He says nothing of her nature, her hermit-like stance that kept her rooted. It gave him reason to venture into his memories and revisit the touch of cold, salty air. A flick of his tail against the breeze and a lift of his chin to breathe it in. He doesn’t say hi, not yet. There’s a comfortable quiet blooming between them as he savors each piece of the puzzle the comprises Nerine.

    A languid smile draws up the corners of his mouth when he finally lowers his mismatched eyes to her. ”The name is Castile,” he offers willingly, unafraid to make himself known to her. When he took in a lungful of air, he sifted through the numbers. Every fiber of his predatory nature vibrated with curiosity, pinpointing relevancy of each in order to present his assumptions to her. ”Your scent is stronger than Heartfire’s, so I imagine I’m speaking to the right woman.” The throaty growl of his voice is somehow alluring, even in its bluntness while he traces the lines and scars of her face with mild fascination. Unique, he determines, in her grotesque story read across her face. ”Welcome to the world of politics, Queen.”

    castile



    Neverwhere
    Reply
    #4
    The waiting ends.

    She is ice to his flame, the thaw of her quiet welcome melting no further than that slight upward curl at the corners of her lips. Castile, King of Loess, and likely to be irritating as a stone bruise.

    "Congratulations, Castile, I think that's the fastest anyone has ever complicated things for me. One word," her voice is cool against his smokey charm, "Impressive."

    This may not be entirely accurate, but it is close enough for her, and he won't know any different. She shifts her weight back, resting one rear hoof on its edge as he deduces and congratulates her on her ascension. It it not a recognition she welcomes, but she remains impassive, that barely-there smile unflinching, though it cannot, and does not try to, match the ease of his. So many easy smiles in this place, hiding rot behind their friendly distraction.

    “Neverwhere," she says, bluntly, "and thanks, I hate it.” One shoulder shrugs, nonchalantly. So many responsible for this mess she has inherited, this high-wire of international conflict she must walk. A snarl curls in her breast at the thought, but she guards her face from it. She has always been good at building such walls around herself – when she wanted to be. It was, perhaps, why Heartfire had brought her here in the first place, why Heartfire had anchored her with that gift of land-linked sight, and why it was Neverwhere she had reached out to in those brief moments before she disappeared. Or perhaps it had simply been because there was no one else. The roan’s reasoning is opaque, the former Queen had never been forthcoming with answers, and Neverwhere does not bother wasting her time on thoughts of why she did what she did.

    She does not bother wasting her time on pleasantries with the painted stallion, either. The careless nature of her voice falls away with a flick of one ear, her bored expression turning skeptical. She is not Lilliana, she will not pretend at friendliness when it does not exist, she barely manages civility most days.

    “Why are you here?”

    Has he come to retrieve the memories she cannot see? To tell her that she must answer for an argument in which she had no part? (Nothing personal, of course, it's just politics.)

    Maybe he's just here for the view, she thinks, drily.

    Neverwhere
    ...


    Castile
    Reply
    #5
    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

    ”I try,” he humors with a rolling shrug of his shoulders, his hooded eyes gleaming with a flicker of amusement. ”What fun would life be without some complications?” He has experienced many, perhaps too many in comparison to his age, but each one has been a lesson. Not that he always learns; his stubborn and proud nature often derails the steady flow of learning opportunities. But her, this newly-ascended Queen, is just beginning her high-ranked place. The time still lies ahead of her during which she will face trials and tribulations. That was him once, seemingly so long ago.

    Yet she doesn’t possess the same air as most leaders. In her uniqueness, Castile finds fascination that he masks behind a reserved expression. New Queens, even Kings, often raise an amiable façade and smile, even when it isn’t warranted. Over the years, Castile has built up that small wall, facing outsiders with a glance of mistrust. There are no true friends, he has painfully discovered. At least, not in politics. For this reason, he does not bombard her with niceties or rambling small talk. A deep appreciation surfaces for her bluntness, but it spurs light-hearted responses from him, as though accepting the challenge of breaking past her barrier and bringing light to her chapped face. ”A bit rude of Heartfire to thrust someone onto a throne they didn’t want,” he pauses to observe their nearby area and take note, ”unless there were no other options?” Which, quite frankly, happens rather often. ”I’m assuming leading a kingdom isn’t your thing? Or just leading in general?” Curiosity rises in his throat when his mismatched eyes return to her from their aimless sweep of Nerine. His lips purse tightly together. ”You’re the only one I’ve met that outwardly hates a throne,” and then, just to mirror and reflect on her primary statement, he adds, ”One word. Impressive.”

    She isn’t a warmonger like him, not ambitious warlord.

    She is simply Neverwhere.

    ”Neverthere,” the drawl of his voice would indicate a serious mishap of her name, but the quirk of a brow, hidden underneath his forelock, betrays the humor. ”A couple reasons, actually. The most important is simply seeing Nerine again. It has been quite some time, and I’ve admittedly missed her.” It will always hold a piece of him, but he gathers Neverwhere is disinterested in sentimentality. A bird of a different feather. ”I can show myself around since you don’t exactly strike me as a tour guide.” A corner of his mouth flinches, a shadow of what would be a boyish grin as their eyes level on one another – hers impassive and aggravated, his fairly bright with coy humor. ”The other is an idea, a proposition, that we feel out.” Shifting his weight, he allows a brief moment of quiet, a fleeting taste. ”So, we can either touch on that now or you can attempt to prove me wrong about your touring skills first.”

    castile



    Neverwhere
    Reply
    #6
    She might do without the difficulties, but her life, like his, would not be what it is without them. She would not be who she is. She has crossed many miles with eyes like milk and skin that burns in the sun, and she has survived those miles where many others would not. This was not a complication that she had intended to take up, yet here they are, and as he ponders over the unwelcome nature of her rise in status she lets her head fall quizzically to one side.

    "A bit rude-- I suppose you never met Heartfire?" There is something to the quirk of her lips that implies this is not a serious question. Castile has led Loess long enough that their paths must have crossed, for better or worse Probably worse, if she knows Heartfire the way she thinks she does, almost definitely worse. If she could ask the mare - and actually get an answer - then perhaps she would have a better understanding, but there was no time, no way to explain all the reasons in pictures. The frustration of it burns, but Neverwhere does not linger. Move on, move forward.

    "I would not say there were no other options, she has relations that live here still, " she shrugs. It was true that there had been other choices, but there were not many, and those either too resistant or too absent to rely on, "but Heartfire loves a joke."

    She wonders if he will agree with her, but it does not matter because she is confident in her perception of their friendship - and it had been one, once you cut through all the sarcasm. Their humors had lined up in an odd, abrasive way, like two glaciers crashing into one another in the sea. Their entire relationship had been a joke, but it was the roan who had gotten the last jab in. To some extent, Neverwhere supposes it is a strange respect for that which made her pick up the empty crown. She lifts her head beneath the weight of it, matching his odd-eyed gazed.

    "I don't much see the point of kingdoms and boundaries," She was not raised in a world with controlled and maintained boundaries, the herds drifted, apart, together, apart again. The land had no name, it was wild as the horses that lived there, and would not be claimed. It was only when she arrived in Beqanna that she discovered others lived differently, and she struggles fruitlessly against the idea like a wild bird caught in a cage, bruised by the bars.

    Neverwhere brushes his mispronunciation of her name aside with a snort and nods as he admits to missing Nerine because the land has hooked itself under her skin, as well, "I am not," but she is already turning, stepping forward to take up the path ahead of him, "but I am sure things have changed little enough that you can share your thoughts on the hoof."

    Neverwhere
    ...


    Castile
    Reply
    #7
    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


    Castile cannot suppress the snort that rattles his nostrils. ”Oh, I’m very familiar with Heartfire,” a loose chuckle tumbles, enveloped with the bittersweet memories he shared with the previous queen. ”Fun fact: I’ve known Heartfire since my childhood and saw her as an aunt. So, it shouldn’t entirely surprise me that she thrusted the crown on your head.” Just because of his ignorant perception of familiarity to Heartfire doesn’t entirely mean they were always amiable or respectful. Their relationship shifted when he ascended Loess’ throne and expressed high ambitions with Lepis alongside him.

    But Neverwhere doesn’t need to know the gritty details or the tension that blossomed in recent years.

    It’s a matter of the past, one that Castile lets slip through his hands as he looks ahead toward a Nerinian future with the current Queen at the helm.

    ”Applause to you for living with her,” he chuckles more lightheartedly this time, chiseling away the ice between them. Her patience with his aunt is commendable, and it obviously worked in her favor since the kingdom now rests on her shoulders. An unconventional leader, but intriguing nonetheless. Slowly, their conversation solidifies Castile’s opinion of her and the position she clutches in her palm. ”While she likes the occasional joke, she obviously saw something in you,” an acknowledging shrug punctuates the compliment as sincerity – and residual curiosity – soften his expression beneath her scrutiny. His humor and gradual warmth seemingly unlock another layer. Lifting a brow, Castile is admittedly surprised to witness Neverwhere’s acquiescence of a tour, even if it isn’t her forte, she confides.

    Nodding, Castile takes the offer and walks alongside her, his eyes drinking in everything like it’s the first time again. ”I doubt I can offer you much, but I’ll tell you what you want to know if you tell me,” in mid-step, he glances sideways at her with a glimmer in his eye – his orange being what she sees of him – and a coy grin, ”almost like a 21 questions game.” Truthfully, he isn’t certain whether she will oblige, or where her opinions stand, but he allows a few moments of contemplation as they approach the cliffs, the ocean lapping at the shore far below. The relaxing rhythm is a lullaby he fell asleep to each night as a boy. Tense formality melts from his muscles, reliving his old memories while absorbing the minute changes of the kingdom. Swallowing a lungful of salty air, Castile returns his attention to Neverwhere, his chin lifted inquisitively. ”How long have you lived here? Both Nerine and Beqanna.” An easy start to their game of intel.

    castile



    Neverwhere
    Reply
    #8
    There was never much of a chance for Neverwhere's patience with Heartfire to be tested, the roan had been secretive and quiet, but had never pressed her hard or forced her to choose a path. Perhaps the trick with the eyesight had been a... suggestion but there hadn't been any harm in it once she understood its limits, and it didn't corral her in any way - the decision to stay within Nerine to take advantage of the unasked for gift had been her own. In any case, if she had ever thought that Heartfire might have done more for her, she is soothed by full vision that she now enjoys, and she directs a clouded eye on the black and white stallion as he travels beside her, taking in the scenery of Nerine.

    His dry opinion does not surprise her, and not simply because of the tense relations that Loess and Nerine have enjoyed recently. The silvered mare has heard whispers of others' opinions, and also because, in some aspects, the two mares were similar, and she knows very well the sort of reactions she is capable of eliciting. But being disliked did not seem to be a problem that concerned Heartfire, nor is it a problem for Neverwhere, and, she suspects, not one for Castile, either, though he tries to hide the edge beneath downy layers of charm and a voice thick as tobacco. He stops, and her clouded eyes narrow slightly - she is slow to do the same, drawing further ahead, and does not turn right away as he speaks. Neverwhere is not generally curious about others by nature and his proposal of a game leaves her cold. Games are not her forte, and she has fewer than twenty-one questions to throw back at him without asking after subjects she could not care about much less. So...

    "Usually everyone just tells me their life story without my having to guess at the correct questions," She finally cranes her neck to look back at him fully, the rest of her follows, body angled slightly away from his, "Probably because I never ask."

    Has she never asked? The words fall from her lips as most do, careless, without a second thought, and even as she says them, she wonders if they are true. She can't remember a time the she has asked anything so banal as how long someone has lived in a place except with thickly layered cynicism. She smirks slightly, remembering how she had asked after Lepis as she needled Lilliana and Wolfbane in the Taigan woods, but the humor melts away, remembering another conversation involving many of the same characters.

    She does have a question, after all.

    "Four years, more or less. Three in Nerine." Enough time to trace its boundaries, to see the invisible lines by the fade in-and-out of her vision before Heartfire gave it back in full. She wonders if he will think her question an unfair trade - age for purpose. Well, never mind.

    "What do dragons want with a rainforest?"

    Neverwhere
    ...


    @[Castile]
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