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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    GHAUL -- Year 209

    QOTY

    "(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


    The road may be long, but it always unwinds // Warlight
    #1
    A vacation. He couldn't remember which of them had suggested it, only that he knew that it as something that had to happen. Time away from the world that had trod on them so relentlessly. Time to remember who they were, and to get to know each other now. 

    How strange it felt, to walk the lands without fear. To feel safe. Whole. The face of the world had changed beneath their very hooves, and they were still catching their breath from it all. So yes, they would go away for a few days. To learn who each other was without the tang of fear coloring every action. Raul knew, though he was loathe to admit it, that he was nervous. When they had met, it was under the most dire of circumstances. They had joined because there had felt like no other options. Now that the pressure was gone, was he still enough? 

    They had left on a beautiful morning, taking the scenic route that would deposit them on the Island Resort's southern shore. It had seemed a good choice for a getaway. Still a province of Tephra, but isolated and quiet. Between sidelong glances at the bone-crowned mare walking beside him, Raul took in the swaying palms and the shell dotted beach. 

    There were a few others who lived here full time, but for now it seemed that they had the beach very much to themselves. He cleared his throat roughly. "I've never been here before," it was small talk, a thin shield of normal to bridge the space of time that stretched between them. It felt like a badly fitting coat. With a heavy groan, he threw a lopsided grin in her direction. "This is strange. Good, but strange." 

    He'd never taken a intentional vacation before in his life. Let alone one with the love of his life who had magically returned from the land of the dead. There would be no getting away from the oddness of their reality, so he may as well roll into it. 

    Warlight
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    #2
    It was harder than she thought it would be, to un-learn how to trod so softly, as she had in the days when she was hunted. Harder still, to learn to relax her shoulders when she felt a stranger approaching, to keep her stride loose and even instead of flashing with exaggerated strength.

    To learn to simply exist in a quiet sort of way, when she had come of age at the end of times; a woman forged in tribulation.

    But Rual was helping, as he always had. And when the idea of a journey together - to spend time in each other's company and see the world at their own pace, without death or diplomats on their mind - was tossed between them it was an idea that stuck. It was strange, it was tempting.

    So they set out, not for queen and country, not because a dark god commanded it or their lives depended on it. Just for fun.

    Just for them.

    On the morning of their journey, they dive into the channel which divides their home from the resort with the ease of two creatures in their prime. The crossing is easy, and it is not lost on her how difficult this minor obstacle would have been the last time she had been in Tephra with Raul.  But she had become an expert at pushing away these intrusive reminders of the past, and she does so now as she pulls her sleek body from the waves, shaking away the kelp which had clung to her tangled mane in a spray of salt-water.

    "Me neither," Warlight agrees, absently, as her shining black eyes take in the unknown territory. When she turns her angular face in his direction, Will is surprised to see a lopsided grin, almost boyish in its awkwardness. She doesn't hide her mild surprise; her freckled lips cracking into a smile to echo his own.

    "Before you get all sappy on me, let's find the place we will call home for the next few days." Her comment is emphasized with a smack of her wet tail across his hocks as she springs into a trot. "I want to put the whole continent at my back," she calls over her shoulder, "and look west to see if there is anything out there at all."
    [Image: Warlightpageddoll1.png]
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    #3
    The way they roll back into rhythm is as easy as breathing. One hoof after the other, paces matched to keep them moving in tandem, and it feels quite shockingly as though mere days had separated the flow of their lives, not years. It was exactly that ease that brought its own mirror of uncertainty with it. Easy, was it too easy? Was he setting himself for another bout of heartache by letting himself fall so easily back into her?

    He was thinking as though he had a choice in the matter though, and he knew that wasn't the case. Not when in the depths of his heart he knew that he would risk that pain time and again, if only to experience the joys that the bright times brought him. She would make him fight for every taste of bliss, and that made every sip all the sweeter. 

    When the island spreads beneath them in welcome, he can't help but admire the beauty of her here. Mane and tail thick with water, eyes bright with the exercise and for once, the weight of the world not visible on her back. His smile is a true one when she turns back to him. Even when the heavy smack of her tail raps against his legs, it holds on his blood tinted lips. Beautiful, and alive, and his. 

    The marks of his hooves follow the trail she forges in the white sand, little gouges to mark where they'd been, where they were going. The rough-hewn weight of his head shook with amusement as he let her lead, enjoying the way she moved before him. "As you wish," his rumble of a voice thrummed peaceably. Yes, it did sound wonderful to leave the world behind for a while. That was why they had come out her, wasn't it? To be just the two of them, without interference or filter. 

    He stretched out his legs as they moved further across the isle, until his matched her own and they could walk side by side. The landscape shifted from pale beaches into vivid vegetated areas that rustled in the island breezes. Raul could feel the knots of stress begin to unravel the further they got from the rest of the world. Groves of palms and elephant ear plants waved at the pair from every side, leaves glossy with bright sunlight. Now just to find some private, sandy spot for them to call their own for a few days. It couldn't be too hard on this island full of just such locations. 

    The clinging tendrils of vine and sucker pulled at his mane and tail when he squeezed his bulk through a tighter copse, leaving fragments of greenery behind. Always a bit ahead, he observed how Warlight was making out when the breeze brought him the tang of the sea in a stronger note. Wordless he broke into a fast trot, eager to see what the open ocean offered them. 

    It did not take long for the thicket to release them onto the opposite shore, and the flame manes stallion could only stand breathless on the dune when it did. Water, far as the eye could see until it swallowed the clear blue sky. The panorama of eternity, so neatly packaged for them to behold. "There you go," he said, nodding at the endless horizon before them. "The water and the sky, and whole world beyond it." Or nothing at all. They might never know. It was exciting to imagine though, the possibility of the world continuing beyond the reaches of their sight. 

    Warlight
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    #4
    As they travel across this new land, the sights and sounds that fill the world around them dominate Warlight's thoughts. The path they forge through the jungle never crosses that of another, or even many signs of others, but she doesn't slacken her pace until they are far beyond the last signs of life. Any thoughts of the future she entertains are of a more immediate kind of future - of what they will do when they find a hidden place to call their own.

    The rain forest is a tangle of life, an obstacle course to be conquered. It claws at them or bends to them, but their pace is steady. What stops them, in the end, is the edge of the world.

    The water and the sky, and the whole world beyond it.

    They, like the seabirds, have found their roost for the night as the sun grows heavy in the sky. Will watches breathlessly as it begins to melt into the horizon, and the sun strikes her eyes in such a way that makes it hard to believe they have ever been anything other than the truest of blues.

    "Tomorrow," she replies, her distant gaze coming to life again as it returns to him, "we can let the rest of the world exist without us until tomorrow."

    "Now," she purrs, rocking her hips against his waist, "I didn't bring you to the backside of nowhere just to talk."


    -----------


    When their bodies finally fall still - used, wet and wreaking of love - she leans her antlered head against his broad neck, savoring the feel of his pulse against her cheek. To hold another living thing was a pleasure she never thought she would experience again. To sweat and live in a world that had rules, even if they were flexible, was something she hadn't allowed herself to dream of. There were no laws of nature in the afterlife. Something solid could turn intangible without warning, and an enemy could lose its head one moment, only to sprout five more the next.

    But she didn't have to think about that anymore.
    She just wished she didn't have to keep reminding herself of that.

    "You stink," she finally says, wrinkling her nose at him as if she didn't love it. Love that his body had worked so hard for her, bent and strained and fought in its worship of her. She can't resist one more flirtatious bump of her hips against his solid form before she is turning away, stepping towards the ocean.

    "Let's swim."

    Warlight half-slides, half-jumps down the dunes, letting the sands deposit her at the ocean's edge. But it's only a moment before she's slipping into the water once again.  The gentle waves free the grit and spice from her coat, clouding the water around her. But it's too dark to see the grime, only the sky above can be seen, reflected on the water's surface.
    [Image: Warlightpageddoll1.png]
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    #5
    It was breathtaking to feel so close to her after so long apart. To join with her again in this way was a blessing the golden stallion breathed in on every rasping gasp. She was beautifully alive, and beautifully his. 

    He never wanted to stop touching her. The long swim, long walk and long love-making however took their toll as the sun climbed the heavens, leaving the pair hot and damp in their island sanctuary. He smirked at her admonishment, knowing the thick scent in the air was not only of his making. Sweat, sex and saltwater air. It was a cologne he could get used to, and could see she enjoyed it more than she was saying. 

    His teeth nipped playfully at her rump as she darted past into the waiting ocean, loving the curves of her as she moved. For all that he'd just spent considerable time worshipping that body, he found he still couldn't take his eyes off it, off her. The invitation was unnecessary as he'd already begun to follow the hypnotic sway of her hips where they led to the water's edge. The scattering of sand beneath his hooves sounded like rain where it hit the lapping waves, and his head tossed when the ground evened out beneath him again. 

    He joined her in the shallows of their personal beach, the water cool on his exertion-warmed skin. His head ducked beneath the waves a moment, let the water cover him completely on a lungful of air, and then erupted from the surf in a thrashing rear that threw brine in every direction. His laughter rumbled, a husky, deep seated thing that so rarely emerged from his scarred throat. "Better?" He asked, grinning broadly at the antlered mare. 

    With steps slowed by the water's grasp, the fiery maned stallion moved back to her side, stretching his thick neck to nibble fondly at her dark crest. They both deserved a little light heartedness, a little paradise. The world had denied them that on so many turns. It didn't seem wrong to take it back by whatever means they needed to to make things right again. 

    His jaw worked at the knots in her neck and shoulders carefully, feeling the weight she still carried. The worry and the fear that even as they fought for some kind of normalcy, it could be stripped away so very easily. So long it had felt that their lives were not their own, to live by their own rules and desires. Someone else had always been steering, in directions fraught with sorrow. Raul sighed into the wet tangles of her mane, the anxiety that he was getting his hopes up resurfacing as they soaked in the sea. 

    Warlight
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    #6
    He joins her in the water, creating chaos with a shower of salt water, and she can't help but laugh.

    "Much better," she replies, dodging and moving to meet him halfway as he dives towards her. The muscular length of her neck extends as he works the knots which had been accumulating there, black eyes closing as he finds a particularly tight one. A hum of satisfaction involuntarily leaves her before morphing into something else, her sunburnt lips reluctantly form the words she is trying to say. "I'll be expecting a massage every night of vacation," she manages, leaning into the pressure above her shoulder blade as he digs in.  "And maybe every morning too."

    She enjoys the continued attention, plotting ways to return the favor later on. The current swirls around them, working free any lingering travel dust with light fingers and cooling their skin. When the moment ends with his signs heavily into her mane, Will gives a small, understanding laugh.

    "There it is," she responds, turning to him slowly so she can watch the nuances of his so-often stoic expression.  She couldn't say she hadn't been expecting it, ever since her return to the land of the living she had been uncannily in-tune to his emotions, and the feelings she sensed weren't so different from her own anyway.

    "Do you think it's nieve, to think this will last."

    She doesn't clarify what this is, she can't. But in a strange way, the peace was grating. When there was conflict she knew where to look, who or what needed to be dealt with.  When there was a challenge she knew what she had to do. But the sense of eerie calm that had fallen over her life was disrupting her usual ability to live in the moment. 

    It wasn't that she didn't want peace, but she didn't trust it. It wouldn't last, her world had been flipped upside down before and she didn't want to be caught off her guard again.
    [Image: Warlightpageddoll1.png]
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    #7
    It was satisfying to feel the tangled muscles ease beneath his touch, to hear her sigh as they did. He chuckled at her instruction. If that was all it took to keep her happy, he'd gladly oblige. Anything to keep the lines of worry from the corners of her mouth, to keep the hunted look from her eyes. 

    When she turned to him, his expression went sheepish. He hadn't meant to shake away the little peace they'd been building, but she had read more into that one sigh than he'd meant for her to. With a meditative look in his eyes, the stallion set his chin to rest in the hollow of her back, the warmth between them all the more notable with water cooling their skins. 

    A flicker of a smile wavered on his lips. She was ready, always, for the next challenge. A warrior in every way, and if there was anything he knew about warriors, it was that they chafed when there was no war. As much as they spoke of "normal" and "safety", it would get old for her very quickly. 

    He kissed the arch of her withers gently, before nodding in his deliberate way. "Yes," was his simple answer. "As long as there are horses who want different things, there will not be lasting peace. But-" he hesitated, lifting his head to move alongside his mate once more. "That doesn't mean we have to be at the center of it when that peace does break." 

    His gaze sought out her darker one. The stresses of war had brought them together, it was true. They had also torn them apart. It was a risk he found himself unwilling to take a second time around. He wasn't sure he could survive it. 

    Warlight
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    #8
    There is wisdom in is words, and she is relaxed enough to know it. Will nods, her antlers dipping in the moonlight as she muses over his point silently, and his use of the word us is not lost on her.

    She sees he is right, but her soul is still restless. She wasn't sure she wanted to wait on the sidelines, that she was capable of living out her days in quiet contentment with a brood of offspring. With the last breath of her first life she had prayed for strength from the Dark God as she plunged her antlers into her attacker's throat, she had felt a high like none other as the life bled out of her, and she wasn't sure if that girl wanted peace. Her lips press together as she thinks about pushing back again, but the gentle movement of the tide, paired with the steady sound of his voice makes it seem like this is a puzzle for another night. The trait Nikkai had given her when she returned to this world has his calm energy washing over her in waves, and she doesn't find the words to object.

    Warlight blinks heavily instead, leaning into his solid frame and suddenly appreciating the warmth he is providing. The lith mare's blood has cooled from their romp, and the starlight -for all its brilliance- provides her with no warmth. Nights in the tropics were never quiet, and the sounds of tree-frogs and night-birds fill the air around them comfortably as they linger, and she begins to think of sleep.
    [Image: Warlightpageddoll1.png]
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