with tremulous cadence slow, and bring the eternal note of sadness in
Alcinder had been surprisingly defiant when Oceane had informed him of their upcoming trip to Icicle Isle ─ abhorrent of the snow herself, the opaline woman was quite understanding when he clarified that he wanted to see Leilan again, just not surrounded by ice. And so it had been with the promise to make a wide-sweeping detour to visit Ischia on their way home, to surprise Aquaria and her boys. Nearly half a year had passed since Oceane had been returned to Loess, which meant it was nearing almost two years since she had the good fortune of seeing her finned friend. And she knew that the space in her heart where her friend existed was perhaps amplified in Alcinder's.
It had been an easy agreement to make.
They journey north, saving their wings until it was time to fly the gap between the cliffs of Nerine and the tundra of the Isle. Side by side, the gleaming mother and son drift on outspread wings over the wintry territory, where regrowth had yet to take hold of the terrain. Oceane had explained the circumstances of their visit during their flight ─ she knew that it would be discussed with Leilan, and she didn't need the boy to be surprised by Castile's actions when the ice-dragon inevitably breached the topic. "Dad did this?" he calls to her over the wind, a frown tugging at his handsome face. Oceane gives him a reassuring smile, "Your father is a good man, Al. Fairy magic is strong, and cannot be fought."
She had explained the concept of predators and prey to him, of predatory instincts and the primal need to hunt, possess, kill ─ he had understood as much as any young boy could, but to see the destruction was still disconcerting. To young Alcinder, a dragon ─ his father ─ had never been something he viewed as dangerous. It is all he had known for the first year of his life.
After their initial airborne inspection, the pair lands courteously at the southern shore of the Isle. Oceane explains diplomacy to Alcinder while they wait, and mentions that even though she considers Leilan a friend ─ and hopefully she, his ─ it's still the most polite course of action to remain at the unseen border to avoid intruding. Oceane whinnies loudly into the crisp, cold air of the Isle, a puffy white cloud in front of her mouth ─ and then they wait for the ice dragon.
The Isle is not as cold this winter as it used to be, and on some days, it irks him once more to think of the events at all. He is reminded daily, however, that his fellows that he brought here because he needed them - because the Isle needed people to stand for her, to defend her and cultivate her once more - are growing thin and restless. Some of them take more initiative than others in pursuing food on the mainland, or even, to work for the Isle to grow. Some others may need that kick under their butts; something he currently muses over. Perhaps a meeting or a little challenge would help wake them up again. Cold lulls a horse to sleep, to inactivate and slumber, if one is not careful.
Not that the southern half of the Isle is as cold as it could be. Embers had littered it the majority of the fall season, smothering any snow that fell at the time. Thus, it is only now in winter that there is any snow at all - grey, ashy stuff - a thin layer hardly worth the name, in comparison with what it should be; and cracked an melted in several places, for the ground it rests upon frequently cracks open to let out pressurized steam from beneath the surface.
All in all, the Isle still looks like shit. The forest is a collection of burnt sticks, and he doesn't expect any trees to start regrowing before summer - which will be a year after the burning of the Isle, then. Patience is what it needs, but time is what he doesn't have.
Today, however, he is expecting a guest - two if the boy could be persuaded. The female voice is a relief from his worries, though he can't say she will come with a happy topic if she is here to represent Loess. Her choice in men he had slowly come to find dubious at best, though if he was purely honest with himself, the ice dragon had always thought Castile some sort of distant kin; that was up until he'd changed, left, and never looked back north. How different the man had become, when he gave into his dragon-shape as if that was the only way to live. As a new shifter, of course, he shouldn't be one talking; on the other hand, he had largely felt like himself this whole time - even before he discovered how to shift back into either form.
White, ice-clad wings take the silver roan south, wrinkling his nose when he notices the state of the southern half of his home. No good - especially not when considering that any and all land-bound visitors are forced to come this way.
His landing comes with a change, and his body takes the shape of the slightly darker-coloured horse. He leaves a few of the icicles along his neck, mostly because they tinkle softly and just because he can't be bothered to focus on them to disappear. Knowing how to fully shift and doing it 100% correct are two different things for him, still.
He grins widely at Oceane and her son, stopping before them to nod in greeting. "Welcome to this Pile of Ashes. I can honestly say this used to be prettier." he nods around, tail swishing. "And colder." he follows up with a huff, but he stops himself. They know what he thinks of Castile's actions, probably. Figuratively, the man's head must have been the size of the sun for challenging the fairies so... but Leilan had always called him a hothead. One could even say he should have seen it coming.
with tremulous cadence slow, and bring the eternal note of sadness in
Leilan's ice-encrusted wings split the low-hanging grey clouds overhead. He coasts into land gracefully, greeted by a polite smile from Oceane and wide-eyed awe from Alcinder. He shifts seamlessly and paints on that familiar grin, prompting a similar one from the opaline mare. She lowers her head in greeting and coughs under her breath to conceal the small bout of laughter that had bubbled unexpectedly at his facetious greeting.
"Thank you for having us," she responds warmly as she rustles the feathered wings at her sides. Truth be told, she is quite pleased to be greeted by an absence of snow and ice ─ though certainly the ice-dragon has opposing thoughts. And his land will be restored, if he is willing to accept the help.
"Hi, Leilan!" Alcinder calls to the roan stallion, his silvered eyes inspecting his icicles appreciatively. Remembering his manners, and his mom's monologue on diplomacy, the young boy clears his throat and straightens his shoulders before continuing his greeting in a much more subdued tone ─ "It's nice to see you again! I'm sorry for, um... this."
Oceane flicks her ears towards her son, amused by the way he wars with himself. She had not expected the young boy to take her speech to heart. He is, after all, still young ─ and certainly not expected to behave the way an adult would in such a setting, though she is pleased he has recognized the gravity in their meeting.
Turning her attention back to the Isle's King, Oceane addresses the matter at hand without preamble. She has no desire to play around in the shallow waters of small talk when they know that both Leilan and Oceane would rather settle what can be settled. "I've come in hopes of remedying the relationship between the Isle and Loess. My Queen, Lepis, stands behind me in this decision ─ she has already traveled to Nerine to discuss the situation between the kingdoms, but understood the merit of me coming to speak with you directly, as well."
She pauses briefly to shift her weight more comfortably and to keep from bombarding the roan stallion with too much bureaucracy too quickly. "We would like to offer you the services of Noah, Queen of the Pampas. She has the ability to restore flora and has agreed to come to the Isle to assist in that." A brief, pleasant smile here. "And, in the meantime, we would also like to offer Loess' natural resources to you, if you and yours are in need of food."
Oceane ends her speech then and simply waits patiently, ready for questions or otherwise, and finds that she is silently hoping they have offered enough to the ice-dragon by way of reparations. Alcinder, sensing the end of his mother's diplomatic duties, grins up at the roan stallion and shifts his weight back and forth excitedly. "Noah's magic sounds cool. Can I be here when she fixes everything?"
05-22-2020, 11:13 AM (This post was last modified: 05-22-2020, 11:13 AM by Leilan.)
Eck, she's very much a diplomat on this visit. Poised and proper and all that - he's gonna have to try harder to crack her, he thinks as she stows away her laughter and offers him a rather normal greeting.
He lets himself be distracted by Alcinder, very purposefully delaying the inevitable. "Hey kid, don't worry about it. It's nothing to do with you." he reaches out to ruffle the colt's forelock if he gets the chance; if not, he'll retreat just as easily with a small bump to the young man's head. "Feel free to explore." he offers the young male - certainly he wouldn't actually want to watch the adults talk. "Just don't fall into the cracks. You might get cooked alive." he adds casually - it should be enough to pique his curiosity at least temporarily, unless Oceane had forbid him to leave her side beforehand. Just so, then.
The ice-covered male then turns his chocolate eyes back on Oceane, taking a more blue hint until they're icy blue once more during the first sentence she speaks. For the sake of their personal friendship, he hears her out completely, not interrupting before she finishes. "It definitely needs restoring." he starts with, looking at the mare who'd transformed from his friend to a diplomat representing her country - while he could not blame her for it, it wouldn't mean he had to go easy on her for the sake of their personal friendship. "I take it the trip to Nerine wasn't as fruitful as she hoped it to be. Northerners can be quite the stubborn sort." He says it with a shrug, as if it doesn't mean anything personally, though it is a warning for what else is to come. Neither Eurwen, Lilliana, or Neverwhere even, would have left him in the dark about an alliance between the two kingdoms if there was one - at least that he knows for sure; there's no way he'll fall for the implication that they are on good terms now and this is merely a formality.
Musing over her offerings, he chuckles once when he picks up Alcinder's comment, though his eyes don't leave the mother. "I'm so tempted to accept that offer." his eyes never leave the blue-and-purple opalescent mare's face as he carefully lays out each next word before her. "But it would take longer than a day or even a month, and Noah didn't seem all too eager to join us on our trip back to the Isle when we visited. In fact, she didn't even mention any sort of ability when we asked." For this to work, the poor mare would have to work day and night for probably a year or so. He very much doubts that that is what Oceane meant to offer; they'd lose a leader for too long a time. "Besides, where would your offer leave me, Oceane? In Lepis' debt? She didn't order Castile's attack, so I doubt she'll take any responsibility for it." He shakes his head. He's studied her actions long enough now. That she'd always worked in the shadows before, didn't mean she had changed upon gaining the crown for herself.
His lets his icy gaze go from Oceane to their surroundings, to Alcinder, then to the southern sea, as if mulling it over aloud. "So what could Loess offer, that we can't already take for ourselves?" And have taken? The world is at their feet - ripe for the taking. The only thing they lack besides the food they secretly and openly take? New blood and with it, family ties. So what does he want instead? "I want security. The oldest sort of alliance - blood ties. Wards and in due time, perhaps it'll lead to marriages." He deliberately doesn't look at her son - that would imply he intends to keep him here right now; but if he wants to come it must be a decision both him and his mother would make together, not right here on the spot. They're also free to send someone else.
"So keep your quick-fixes and settle for long-term. Here's my counter-offer. One yearling or two-year old each year, to stay the year. I'll see to their training personally. They decide where they want to live afterwards. In return, you get your alliance - and a bunch of well-trained Loessians, over time." A truce, in fact, he will want with each kingdom if he can establish it. But it's Loess that is the more desperate - they can set the example.
Probably not the kind of answer nor offer that she wanted, he knows. But he really has no need for eating out of Loess' hand, and even that temporarily.
with tremulous cadence slow, and bring the eternal note of sadness in
Alcinder grins as the roan stallion reaches down to ruffle his two-toned mane. Both man and colt seem much more comfortable around each other today compared to the day Al had almost literally run into Leilan during his mad dash out of Pangea, which helps the young colt to decide that he is actually quite happy his mother had forced him into this meeting. Leilan's offer draws instant curiosity from the boy; he had, in fact, inherited his own mother's thirst for anomalies and knowledge, and so he sidles off for a brief adventure while the adults talk.
Ever curious, however, he does his best to remain within hearing range.
Oceane watches the opaline boy go, finding comfort in the fact that he is so relaxed around both politics and dragons, before turning her full attention back to the ice-flecked stallion. She doesn't miss the way he stays politely silent while she speaks and affords her friend the same respect as he gathers his own response.
Her lips twitch into the faintest of grins as he speaks of Nerine and its stubbornness, but otherwise lets that topic come to rest as they begin to discuss what Loess can do to countermeasure Castile's destruction of the Isle. The Loessian woman has no expectation that Leilan will accept the offer she has placed before him ─ but that does not stop her from hoping.
And, indeed, he does rebuff the offer, though not unkindly. Oceane remains quiet, her ears pressed in his direction, as he picks apart what has been set upon his charred table ─ and, truth be told, friend or not, she is in no position to tell Leilan just what Lepis will or will not accept responsibility for. Those conversations are saved for the heart of Loess, not to be shared by the mouth of a diplomat. For the first time since her return to Loess from Pangea, Oceane feels the faintest hint of bitter helplessness.
Had Castile's desire for her to wear the crown after his abdication come to fruition, she would be in this very same position now, but with much more ability to agree to Leilan's terms on her own and without delay.
When he has presented his counteroffer in its entirety, Oceane lets a comfortable silence settle between them. She mulls over it, pensive, as she turns her amber eyes to Alcinder exploring in the distance. She can see the way his ears are pressed high in their direction, and she can't help the smile that finds her mouth as she realizes he, too, is awaiting her response to Leilan.
"Alcinder," she calls to the boy, and he reduces the distance between them with a collected trot. He looks between them expectantly with wide silver eyes before Oceane addresses him quietly, with a test: "What do you think we should do, Al?"
He's caught off guard by his mother's question ─ he hadn't anticipated that he would be part of this process, but he supposes that is what he gets for eavesdropping under the guise of exploring. Clearing his throat, Alcinder looks to the roan stallion briefly and then back to his mother before ever so tentatively offering a solution.
"I... I could stay," he says slowly, more out of a desire to answer correctly than out of apprehension at the idea of staying with Leilan in the Isle. He likes the ice-dragon, and despite his hatred for snow... there isn't much here right now, anyway. Plus, he thinks, he is much closer to Ischia and, therefore, Cormorant. "I could stay. As a, um... a sign of faith?" He tries to find the words he had heard his Mother and his Aunt use while they discussed politics, but can only smile sheepishly at the adults.
Oceane, overwhelmed with pride for her son who nears two-years-old this upcoming spring, nudges him warmly with her muzzle before turning her gaze back to Leilan. "A truce, not an alliance. Loess will not offer protection in the event you find yourself in the midst of war," she tells the Isle's King and then, because he is her friend, she adds, "Certainly you can understand that Loess isn't currently in the position to be able to offer that."
"And," she says as her heart begins to ache, "I will leave Alcinder to live with you for the next year, until his third birthday. As the son of the Isle's assailant, I know you see the value of his company. I will discuss your terms with Lepis and visit you when I come back for Alcinder ─ with the next ward, should Loess agree."
She is silent then, expecting a response from Leilan but is surprised when Alcinder speaks up again ─ "Can I still go see Cormorant in Ischia?" He doesn't suspect his time with Leilan will be like the months he had spent in Pangea ─ but his mother had promised him the opportunity to see the island, and he isn't ready to let go of that plan just yet.
It would be so much easier if she had been able to make her decisions alone, for sure - he himself is given that freedom, seeing as neither Heartfire nor Neverwhere truly felt like bestowing many laws on the territories. Of course, Jesper had been less of a liability than Leilan perhaps, but he’s still family, and perhaps they know he wouldn’t make a move that truly put them in jeopardy.
He doesn’t know the extent of Lepis’ and Oceane’s trust in one another, but it seems at least there is enough that the purple mare is confident with her words. When she asks her son, he knows it for what it is, a way for her to reflect and for him to learn - though it seems the kid is caught quite in the middle when he stammers he could stay. At that, the male tilts his head, assessing the boy. Hesitant - probably not liking the looks of the Isle. He can’t exactly blame Alcinder for that, but honestly, that’s the first lesson he’s gotta learn. Looks aren’t everything. Just the fact that both the boy’s father and Leilan himself happen to have two looks of their own might be a coincidence, and perhaps it’s a lesson he hasn’t yet learned regardless.
A truce, Oceane then interrupts before he can either accept or decline, naming reasons why Loess won’t come to the Isle’s aid in times of war. He cuts her off there, ”I wasn’t asking military aid. But surely you wouldn’t want to endanger us in other ways either.” He looks to Cinder, then back to the mother. ”I don’t need him for his father’s actions. If you can’t separate those events, perhaps it’s best to just take him back home,” His tone is unamused, a little cold even. ”The same way I won’t tie recent events to Lepis or you, though you know I could.”
He shakes his crest then, the movement used to loosen his tight facial muscles as well. ”Do come back with Lepis’ answer. In the meantime,” he muses and looks to Alcinder, then shrugs. ”I haven’t visited Ischia in a long time, so it’d be good for me to accompany you. Did you know I lived there, once?” he offers the teenage boy. He’s not a prisoner, but still the most valuable child they have up here. He intends not to loose him to a shark, or something equally stupid.
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