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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    OCEANE -- Year 208

    QOTY

    "Because if she had not met him, she knew she would have been searching her whole life for the piece that he filled her heart with." -- Eva, written by Shelbi


    [private]  our veins are busy but my heart's in atrophy
    #1

    we wear the mask
    that grins and lies


    The Forest is not as kind during the winter months as Halcyon's island home, a fact that the nearly-mature boy had neglected to remember until his sopping wet feline body pulled itself onto the shore of the mainland after his swim across the channel. Since dragging himself from the grasp of the ocean tide, his trip had grown more and more strenuous ─ until, with exhaustion, he throws his predatory body against the hardened winter ground beneath the wide-sweeping boughs of a pine-needled tree in the Forest. Halcyon shivers, and uses what body heat he has to warm himself as he curls into a ball for a nap.

    Upon waking in the late afternoon, the young boy raises himself from the earth and shakes his lean body clean of forest debris. A massive yawn pulls his jaws open to reveal teeth meant for ripping and gnawing, the smallest hint of a growl rumbling in the back of his throat. He had not intended to travel this far away from Ischia to find Uncle Pteron, but those he had stopped to ask along the way had continually pointed in this direction, and he had kept following.

    Now, despite the crispness of the air and the bare branches, his uncle's scent still clings to the nearby forest. Finally.

    Halcyon stretches his feline body, digging his front claws into the hard dirt for a short moment before throwing his weight forward and bounding through the trees. Playfully, he rounds natural corners and curls his lips away from his teeth to growl, though this predatory display is mixed with a smirk when finally his feline pupils lay themselves upon the teal and white body of Pteron. "Uncle!" he calls with a voice that seems to deepen each day, his eyes bright with happiness now that he has found who he had been searching for.


    Pteron
    ""
    n | j
    Reply
    #2
    and since you’re the only one that matters,----------------
    ----------------tell me: who do i run to?

    There is the same sort of instability in the Forest as in all the common lands. It sets Pteron’s bones to aching, pushing him away from this fitful impermanence. Soon they will leave, he thinks. But each day the edge of Aegean’s slim barrel grows wider still, and soon feels a little bit farther away. Pteron knows nothing about pregnancy, and less than that about magical conception. It had seemed a sweet thing to say in the haze of autumn, a tender whispering in his lover’s ear of his longing for a daughter with Aegean’s purple eyes and a son with Pteron’s wing. Yet now the consequence of that grows larger every day, and come spring will take their first breath, inescapable evidence of the bond between Pteron and Aegean.

    Sometimes when he thinks about it, he is terrified.
    Sometimes when he thinks about it, he tries to recall exactly what they’d done so they might do so again and brood an entire flock of children.

    Most of the time, though, he is thrilled.

    He had been excluded from much of Adarra’s childhood, and the paternal affection he felt was instead given to Halcyon. Aquaria had never begrudged him time with her son, and for that Pteron will be eternally grateful. Ischia had been an escape for him in so many ways. Escape from the tight confines of the Taigan forest, escape from the strict rules of when he could interact with his child, escape from his marriage. Pteron is not proud of himself for all of his choices regarding the island, but he had always been proud of Halcyon.

    He remembers this all in a rush as a larger tiger rushes toward him through the wood.

    “Halcyon!” he calls back, his grin widening as the span of his defensively flared wings narrows. He is keep patrol while Aegean rests, but he need not defend against this predator. “You’re not a cub anymore, are you?!” Pteron reaches toward the tiger’s shoulder, rubbing his blue muzzle affectionately against the thick striped fur. “What brings you so far from Ischia?”

    Halcyon

    -- pteron --

    Reply
    #3

    halcyon
    a tight-pressed line keeping
    a wildfire on the inside

    Running to Pteron feels like coming home, the same way it had felt to lay his feline eyes upon Ischia after a year abroad. But unlike Ischia, Pteron greets him just the way young Halcyon had suspected ─ first, with the primal urge to fly, and then second, with a widely blossoming grin. The young tiger hadn't realized just how much he had missed Uncle Pteron until this very moment, but when they collide together and the teal stallion presses his nose to Halcyon's thick feline fur, he leans appreciatively into the affection and chuffs warmly.

    “Did I scare you?” he asks with mischief in his bright eyes and that playfully lopsided grin pulled back against his sharp incisors. “I came for you!” he announces ─ enthusiastic and confident, and altogether unaware of what it could mean for Pteron and his new family to invite the painted stallion back to the island. He pauses for his Uncle's reaction and pulls away from their embrace to better observe it before straightening his shoulders and clearing his throat quite adult-like.

    There is just something about Pteron that rids Halcyon of his usual awkwardness, and he plans to capitalize on his brief outward confidence.

    “Mom said I'm old enough now to start recruiting for Ischia, but I'd also like to help protect the borders ,” he begins matter-of-factly as his feline tail swishes involuntarily about his muscled hinds, “Which means I am here to recruit you to be my mentor.” His grin, in the midst of his speech, had morphed into a genuine smile, proud of himself ─ and naively certain that Uncle Pteron will not deny him this request.

    “Besides, Mom is the Caretaker now and I can't just leave her with Cormorant to train elsewhere.” Not to mention the child she carries now, though he would't know it ─ he'd left too soon to notice the swelling of her belly, but it would certainly be a surprise upon his return.



    Pteron
    “”

    n | r


    WHAT ARE WORDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Reply
    #4
    and since you’re the only one that matters,----------------
    ----------------tell me: who do i run to?

    The familiar chuff of Halcyon’s laughter elicits an equally happy noise from Pteron. He leans into the embrace, continuing the ruffle the thick fur of the boy’s striped shoulder. Its different, he thinks, not the cottony fur of the cub that he’d been when they’d last met. Halcyon, like Elio, has grown up while Pteron’s eyes were turned away. The realization of this causes an uncomfortable twist of guilt in his stomach, and he is grateful that the nearness of their embrace allows him to hide his face just long enough to disguise the emotion that flashes across it.

    He’d made many promises to Halcyon, and he had broken them all in favor of a single promise to the boy’s mother.

    The warmth which which Halcyon greets him had been wonderous, but it had not been what Pteron expected. He’d feared the boy would hate him (and he would deserve it), but what he says – I came for you! – seems very much the opposite.

    “Came for...For me?” He repeats cautiously. He is unable to keep a smile from his face at the boy’s enthusiasm, even if he is not entirely sure what Halcyon means. The young tiger seems to sense this, and tells Pteron of his recent activities and his current goal, and by the end he repeats back “Came for me,” with a nod of understanding. That Halcyon is old enough to patrol the borders seems hardly possible, yet surely a tiger of this size is nearly an adult. Pteron has seen only one tiger, and had only encountered her once up close, and that when he was a youngling himself. It occurs to him, just as Halcyon says something about his mother being the Caretaker, that he’s never seen the other as anything but a tiger.

    Surely Halcyon has an equine form. He can talk, after all, and that seems to be the basic requirement of sentience to prove that one is horse kind. Pteron has heard of creatures without a form of their own, but Halcyon is clearly a tiger and so not one of the mutatios. 

    Before he can think more on this, what Halycon said a moment ago finally seems to reach him.

    “Caretaker? Aquaria? And who is Cormorant?”

    He cannot recall anyone by that name, only the seabirds that he had chased down on his last visit to Ischia, swooping up into the air with them much to the delight of the laughing Halcyon and Aquaria below. The memories of that last visit, a few days at the very end of summer, are some of his favorites of Ischia. They had instilled in him a love of the tropics, one that is nearly satisfied by the place he and Aegean have found in Tephra.

    @Halcyon]

    -- pteron --

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    #5

    halcyon
    a tight-pressed line keeping
    a wildfire on the inside

    Halcyon laughs at Pteron's confusion and gives a bob of his tri-colored head. “Yes, for you. I need someone to teach me how to fight and... well, I don't think Mama is much of a fighter.” He smiles and rolls his feline shoulders in an amused shrug. He doesn't doubt that Aquaria could handle herself, should the need arise ─ but he had only ever known her to be caring and nurturing. Picturing her in the midst of battle leaves a weird feeling in his gut.

    Halcyon slips into easy conversation with his Uncle, not realizing just how long it had been since the teal and ivory stallion had graced the shores of the island nation. Pteron's confusion is met with a similar expression from the tiger boy, but only briefly, before childlike laughter rolls from him again.

    “It's been a long time since you came to visit, huh?” The question is rhetorical, absent of any accusations or bile ─ if there is one thing the young boy has come to know over the last year, it's that time can get away with you if you're not paying attention. “Yeah, Eva stepped down and Mom took over,” Halcyon says with a prideful smile; he had known just how it had pained Aquaria to be away from Ischia while they had waited for Alcinder and then Oceane to return to Loess, but to see her rewarded in such a way had seemed to make up for the time away.

    “Cormorant is my little brother! He was born the spring after you visited us last, I think.” He tries to remember the seasons and the timeline, but he's never been good with dates. “Anyway, you'll like him.”

    Sitting on his hinds, the tiger lifts a large front paw and scratches at the spot behind his ear. He yawns and it sends a shiver down his back, reminding him of the cool air that twists around them in the forest. “So, what do you say, Uncle Pteron? Will you come with me?”


    Pteron
    “”

    n | r
    Reply
    #6
    and since you’re the only one that matters,----------------
    ----------------tell me: who do i run to?

    Halcyon needs someone to teach him how to fight, he says. Though Pteron knows he doesn’t deserve it, a warm glow of pride rises in his chest, expressed in a final touch before they pull away. The image of Aquaria as a warrior brings a matching smile to his own face. It is not that he thinks the nereid defenseless – that is certainly not so. He has been the (willing) victim of her water sorcery, but he has given some thought to how she might use it in less pleasant ways. He’d given it much thought, truly, on the long nights when he fretted over his decision to leave her be. Aquaria is not much of a fighter in the ways of tooth and hoof, Pteron agrees with a wordless nod, though Halcyon does not quite seem to be either.

    Still, there are many things that he might teach the boy. He even finds himself considering them. Had Aquaria let Halcyon keep the skeleton that he’d pieced together? Bones were strangely plentiful on the isle of Ischia, bleached by the sun and salt so that their age was impossible to tell. Pteron has convinced himself they were carried there from the Beach. The skeleton had uneven legs, but Pteron had still been impressed with what Halcyon had done. He’s brought the final few bits of the tail, little bones that he knows exist only because he’d watched them grow back together after a particularly nasty fall. Anatomy is the most important lesson.

    Does he have the right to teach it to Halcyon?

    The guilt returns when the tiger speaks again, and Pteron does not need an accusation to feel it.

    But he cannot bring himself to dim the prideful smile on Halcyons’ face. In truth, Pteron is proud as well. Aquaria was excellent choice for a leader, and he is certain she does well. “Good for her,” he replies, “I am sure she is kept busy with that, so...” here he trails off, but there is a lightness in his tone, and a teasing glint in his olive eyes before he continues, “perhaps you are in need of a mentor after all. I have little else on my plate.” He is smiling readily by the end, nearly eager to tell the boy of Aegean and the children, ensure that they too are welcome, when Halcyon tells him who Cormorant was.

    His little brother? Born to Aquaria?

    In his youth, Pteron had been jealous of Halcyon. Jealous of him and of his unknown father. Jealous until Aquaria told him that the cub was a founding, a gift from the ocean. That Aquaria had taken another lover had felt wrong, even though he knew the emotion was irrational. Pteron’s time with the nereid was spent without his wife’s knowledge; he had no right to jealously. As he has grown older, he has come to terms with that emotion, has learned from his moonglow lover that jealously has no place in love. He’s even put that into practice, dallying now and again with lovers that know their time is fleeting and will last no longer than the night. No jealousy.

    And yet. Jealously is easier than the possibility that Cormorant is his, that Aquaria might have borne him a child and never even told him. She would never do that. Who had she been with, he wonders, and so soon after she had sent him away?! Had that lover played tag with Halcyon too, used his wings to give the fish in the water a false sense of safety so that the tiger might more easily catch them in the shallows? He clearly hadn’t offered to teach Halcyon to fight, and that at least soothes some of the envy. It is different, he finds, the jealously of sharing a lover a pain far less than having missed out on Halcyon’s life.

    Pteron hadn’t realized until this very moment how much he considers the boy his son, regardless of the blood they do not share.

    “Of course I will,” he says, his voice thick with emotion. He smiles still though, proud and paternal, and reaches out for another embrace. “Nothing would make me happier.”

    @Halcyon]

    -- pteron --

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    #7

    halcyon
    a tight-pressed line keeping
    a wildfire on the inside

    It doesn't dawn on Halcyon until the question has been posed that Pteron could deny him his request, if he really wanted to. The boy doesn't know the inner-workings of his mother's relationship with the teal and white stallion, but he does know that they are important to each other. And it's this fact, tied neatly with the knowledge that he and Pteron are also important to each other, that keeps the tiger grounded as his question hangs in the air.

    They are family.

    And Aquaria had taught him the importance of family.

    Halcyon grins and enthusiastically leans into Pteron's embrace as the older stallion agrees to join him in Ischia, the man's internal war going unnoticed. Halcyon had never really considered Cormorant's parentage himself, had tucked it gently next to the mystery of his own birth parents (if he does have any ─ though he is happy to live with the assumption that he is borne of the ocean), never quite curious enough to ask Aquaria about it. They were family, that is all he knows. And that is enough.

    “I knew you'd come, Uncle Pteron!” he says with laughter as their embrace ends. The tiger spins in a small circle before he faces towards the west, where he now knows Ischia lies. “Should we go now? Or is there anyone you need to tell?” He inquires excitedly, his verdant eyes moving away from Pteron and to the Forest around them, as if they will suddenly be joined by an unknown confidant, ready to join Halcyon and Pteron on their journey to the island kingdom.


    Pteron
    “”

    n | r
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