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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]  i've never fallen from quite this high; aten
    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    Winter’s grip on Taiga has begun to fade. Pteron still shivers most mornings when he wakes, but the deep snows are melting (not that many of them piled up beneath the protected canopy of the redwoods). With the slow stirring of the seasons comes the rousing of life, both that of the territory as well as the flora and fauna within it.

    This is the morning that Pteron will meet with Aten, and the tobiano stallion doesn’t delay in his journey to their meeting place. The early sun already shines brightly on clear meadow, and the thin blanket of snow that had fallen a few nights ago is now mostly dampness in the soil. The pegasus holds his pale wings tightly against himself for warmth, and when he finds Aten already waiting for him at the heart of the meadow allows them to fall away in favor of slightly faster movement. He greets the older stallion with a nod of his head. Pteron lacks his mother’s ever-present smile; he is not as given to thoughtless diplomatic niceties as his dam. Pteron smiles when he means it, and he’s not sure if he’ll mean it during this conversation.

    Time will tell though.

    “I never planned on staying in Taiga forever,” he begins without ado. “You are not the only one whose wishes were ignored when my mother named me as her successor.” Pteron has been trapped here by his position, and then by the impending birth of his daughter with Reia. Now though, Adarra is a yearling, old enough to make her own choices, and most importantly: old enough to be away from her mother. The dun stallion has been waiting, biding his time, and now it is his time to act – assuming that Aten does not object.

    “I want you to challenge me for leadership of Taiga.” The stallion says, and his olive eyes search Aten’s face for a response. There is more he wants to say, but it all depends on how the older stallion responds to this admission – this offer.

    -- pteron --

    Aten had known that this meeting was a long time coming, and so, for the past few suns, had spent most of his time around Taiga's main meadow where Pteron would easily be able to find him. At times, members of his family would join him, but he requested they never stay for long in case the younger stallion showed up and decided to act on some of the more... vile tendencies, that his sire had exhibited. And Aten would be damned if he allowed that colt to hurt his family.

    Of course he appreciated the company, especially on days where Pteron didn't show up, but he got word that the stallion was heading his way one morning while he was grazing. Kalil and Ruth had joined him, but upon getting word from Turul, who had helped Aten by being on the lookout for Pteron among Taiga's redwoods, he sent the colt and filly back off into the woods so that they wouldn't be within Pteron's reach while he was here.

    Once they were in the clear, Aten settled back into grazing while he waited. The fresh spring grass did wonders for his belly, his stomach now back to it's normal functions after a typically hard winter that meant much less food. He could already feel some of the pains that cropped up fading away now that he could constantly had food in his gut again, his body feeling nourished and healthy.

    Pteron did not greet Aten verbally upon his arrival, only doing so with a nod of his head. The younger stallion's wings were loosely drapped across his sides, his face betraying any sort of emotion he might be thinking about displaying. Aten returned the gesture, tilting his head to greet the 'ruler', his own face like a mountain stone. He knew the business Pteron was here to take care of, but how exactly would he handle it?

    Unknown to Aten, not at all in the way he expected.

    Pteron dove right into the main point of his conversation, still catching Aten off guard. The older stallion's ears twitched as he listened; Pteron didn't even wish to be in charge of the kingdom? That was the first he'd ever heard of such a thing. How could he walk away from this opportunity practically dropped into his hooves? Perhaps he didn't feel read - no, that didn't sound right to Aten's own ears. He had a nagging feeling that Lepis and Wolfbane had done their best to prepare Pteron for this position should the day come, as it did, where he inherited leadership.

    And how he finishes the first piece of their conversation truly stuns Aten. The golden stallion had to take a moment to collect his thoughts, truly shocked to the point where he was speechless and his brain needed a jump-start.

    When he managed to pile everything away in the corners of his mind so he could remember how to form words, he gave the younger stallion an inquisitive look.

    "Forgive me if this seems quite surprising, but obviously you can I imagine I did not expect this," he began. "I won't outright deny your request, but I must ask. What brought this on so suddenly? I have encountered rulers who stepped down to deal with problems worse than helping raise a foal."

    Aten didn't want to make assumptions, but seeing Pteron's daughter and mate around caused some rumors to spread among Taiga's residents. Was that the only reason, or was there something more going on here?

    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    Pteron does not know that Aten suspects him of violence. If he had, if he had any idea that the champagne stallion thinks him capable of harming children, the conversation that he intends to have would have been far different. In much the same way, Aten does not know that Pteron’s body is a literal shield between his wife and the rest of Beqanna, and that to Pteron the idea of inflicting even a fraction of the harm that he absorbs daily into his magically regenerating flesh makes him sick to his stomach. This morning the only sign of that is a mostly healed burn along his right flank. The wound itself it healed, but the dragon fire had been hot enough to sear him to the bone. It will take several more hours before the scar tissue smooths itself flat and hair begins to regrow, as it always eventually does. This is far from the worst he’s received.

    What he has to say to Aten is very clearly not what the roan had expected, and Pteron waits out the inquisitive look and the questions that he had known would follow.

    “It’s not sudden,” the dun stallion says, knowing quite well the full count of days since he had first seen the tell-tale rounding of his now wife’s belly. A full year he has waited, four seasons come and gone while the child he had not ever wanted grew ever-more independent from her mother. The arrival of spring has marked the surety that Reia will not be bearing him the son she desired, and the winged stallion is more determined now than he had been in the autumn, as well as far less distracted.

    “I wish that what I am dealing with were as simple as raising a foal.” Pteron replies, and despite the seriousness of the topic, he cannot keep a smile from tugging at the edge of his mouth. He’s been successful at hiding it, Aten’s words tell him, the rest of Taiga is unaware of the monster that Pteron has saddled them with or the one that lurks in their woods. If he is successful, Pteron thinks, they never will. The relief of knowing he’s kept them safe from Reia and Wolfbane this long is short-lived though, and he soon turns back to the matter at hand.

    “There is no one else I could trust Taiga with,” Pteron tells him. “And at the same time, I cannot promise Castile will approve. He might wish to make further changes to the leadership, but I do not have the time to ask him.” For the first time, the urgency of this very-long delayed meeting appears in Pteron’s words. For a moment it is there in his face too, a brief flash of concern, and then it is gone again. “Will you take the leadership, or not?”

    -- pteron --

    "It is sudden to me," Aten cut in. "I certainly didn't expect this when you and I were to meet today. I will be honest. I wished to speak to you on equal ground, to tell you what I know of Taiga, to offer my 'assistance', if you will call it that. I told your dam I would give you a chance to be the leader Taiga deserves, and over the past year, you didn't do anything to go against that. I was ready to stand beside you if you needed me to defend the redwoods, even if you didn't see me as a friend, much less a comrade.

    "Whether you had welcomed my advice or not, I would only wish for you to consider what I have to say. But hearing your wish today, it caught me off guard."

    Pteron goes on to counter Aten's statement about raising a foal, and the golden one knows there is definitely more to the story. He tilts his proud head in almost a wish for Pteron to continue, for he knows how raising a rambunctious foal can be while being saddled with other responsibilities that take up most of one's time.

    He stilled owed Lethia some time given how much more care she'd done for Kalil while Aten had been off completing his own goals.

    The winged tobiano then says something that intrigues the older stallion. Aten's ears flick forward; there is little significant meaning behind Pteron's words, Aten feels. He says there is no one else, but the golden one has a suspicion that if there had been, he and Pteron wouldn't be having this conversation. He says Castile won't approve, but Aten cared not for the Loessian stallion. He had some very colorful words to scream in his ear if they were to ever meet face to face, and he would not be afraid to say any of them.

    The tobiano finishes with a question Aten, at one point, would have dreaded in his younger years. And now, he almost hesitates again, for a part of him is screaming to not give in to Pteron's wish, given the enormous responsibility that came with it. But he was not afraid of that responsibility... there was much more to it, the care of which he would take the regret to his grave if he couldn't live up to it.

    He has his answer the moment the question leaves Pteron's lips.

    "Yes," he tells him with confidence, "I will take Taiga's leadership, and once again hope to do it justice."

    But there is more he has to say. He won't say it all, but perhaps, this will help.

    "Pteron..." he waits a moment to compose himself, "I never hated you, no matter what you may have heard from any of Taiga's residents. I hated myself, for what I allowed to happen. I have considered you the leader a while now, and despite whatever bad blood may run between myself and you, or if it stems between myself and your dam..."

    He trails off a moment, "I do not know if you will take what I am going to say with much concern. You may not consider me a friend, or even an acquaintance. But you have given me the chance I desired. For that, I am grateful to you, I always will be. And so, please know, that if you ever need help in the future, I will be there to lend what I can."

    It is not a promise to everything, only what he can, for there are certain things Aten will prioritize. But he feels he owes Pteron something. Perhaps this is a start.

    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    Though Pteron had known this would be a difficult conversation, he had not expected it to be difficult in exactly this manner. That Aten accepts so easily does not surprise the dun stallion. Pteron nods, and is just about to turn to leave when the older horse says his name again. The pegasus remains still instead, his olive eyes meeting Aten’s while he waits for the other male to compose himself and continue.

    Pteron does not expect what follows, and that is clear from the ever-deepening furrow in his striped brow as the champagne stallion speaks. Hated him? Why would Pteron ever had thought that Aten hated him? Their interactions have been minimal, but never less than cordial. The bad blood that Aten speaks of certainly doesn’t exist in Pteron’s veins, and the younger stallion cannot fathom why it would in Aten’s. Unless…

    Pteron’s single-minded focus on his own concerns have left him blind to a great many things. It has not occurred to him that that Aten might still think the change in power five summers past was some Grand Failing on his part. Aten is still the Protector of the Redwoods, after all, the exact title he’d had before. The redwoods have not needed protection either, at least not from any outside danger. Pteron has lived here this entire time, and never one felt any looming sense of danger or uncertainty. He had grown up in the shelter of Loess though, and knows the protection that comes from being under the eye of a powerful Empire. He has only ever wanted the same for Taiga.

    And so he does not argue, does not pry farther, does not attempt to defend his family or the legacy that he now chooses to leave behind.

    The dun stallion has never been able to appropriately polish his silver tongue, and so he only nods to Aten’s promise to lend aid in the future. His mind his already elsewhere, after all. It flicks from his wife and child tucked somewhere deep in the woods and then to the shoreline of Ischia, where another lover waits for him, her sides growing round with his son (or so he can only hope). It returns to Reia then, and Pteron is reminded that perhaps the new Leader of Taiga deserves a warning of the calamity that Pteron is certain he will soon be unleashing.

    “If you could make certain there is no one on the northern shore in a few hours, I would appreciate it.” He tells the golden now-leader. “I have to share this news with my wife, and I am not certain she will take it well. I’d like to avoid any bystander casualties, if I can.” And then, with a firm nod of his head, he takes to the sky and to Ischia.

    -- pteron --


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