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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]  we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea; jamie

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    She is unsure about how to deal with this desire to touch a shadow, to find the formal boundaries of it. She wonders if she would pass right through him. If she would be able to actually press up against him or if it would feel no different than when a shadow passes over her, when the sun shifts its position. The thought simmers in her veins until it reaches nearly a rolling boil, until she can practically feel herself vibrate.

    Still, she gives no hint of this internal tension—of these thoughts.

    Instead, she gives him a small, coy smile and an incline of her delicate head. “Perhaps not.” She does not know much about the magic that created her. Does not know anything beyond the fact that she was made from a woman of winter and a man of blood magic, that she was formed as much as she was birthed.

    But she knows that there is more to her than just a simple mare.

    As there is more to him than anything simple.

    She wonders at his explanation. Wonders if he is just a shadow. Just a dream. Wonders if she would be able to keep him with her as her own shadow when, if, she returned to Ischia to live alongside Ivar’s brood. Would the others see him or would she be able to keep him as her own secret?

    Where would he go when she slipped into the ocean?

    When she severed herself from such a shadow?

    “I have never wanted to touch my shadow,” another admission.

    “But I find I want to know more of you.”


    He smiles.
    And this time, it is not the same cheshire cat smile.
    There is something predatory about it.
    Something sharp. Dangerous.
    Something that reeks of bad intentions.

    Just a glimpse before it is gone and he is tilting his peculiar head and studying her. Still doesn’t trust himself to look at her too closely. He had not been exaggerating when he’d said it. But he finds it easier now. Perhaps he has built up some immunity to it. Even if only just a little.

    Go on, then,” he murmurs, raspy. And he moves before he gives her the chance to. Slinks closer. Reptilian somehow. Seamless in the way he closes up all the space between them. For a moment it’s almost as if he’ll dissolve, move around her, consume her.

    But he doesn’t. Because he is as solid as a thing like him can be.
    He is a horse, just as she is a horse.
    But even this close there will be no scent. Nothing to remember him by.

    When she touches him, she will come away knowing that she has touched him but it will leave no lasting effect. Because he is real, just as she is real. But he is almost intangible. Solid without being solid. Real without being real.

    Touch me,” he says. She will touch him and he will know that she has touched him but he won’t feel it either. Not really. Because he is so little more than a ghost without purpose or direction.

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    He smiles and it reminds her of Ivar. Reminds her of how quickly she slips between the teeth of predators. She feels a wave of adrenaline race through her, this knowing that the waters were getting deep, but she does not make a move to retract—not yet. She is too curious, too hungry for the knowledge that lies beyond, and she is not willing to bend just yet. Not willing to slip into the water and to the ocean.

    Instead she remains still and lets him move closer to her. Realizes that she is vulnerable and that she has no idea what other things lie beneath the darkness of him. He could have all kinds of abilities and she would have no idea. There is something so thrilling about the idea that this moment could be her last.

    She doesn’t run though.

    She watches as he approaches and feels her heart thud in her chest. She wonders if she has any power here—if there is more to her beauty than something nice to look at—but the thought slips away like minnows in the water. There is little chance that her beauty would shield her now and little chance that it would give her any kind of hold over the strange man of shadow before her.

    It doesn’t stop her. Nothing does now. He is close enough to touch, but there is no scent—nothing about him that she could maybe hold onto for later. Still, she feels like she can feel the essence of him. As though it hangs in the air like a weight. Something tangible that presses into her very bones.

    “Okay,” she affirms, and without further ceremony she takes the final step toward him. Her mouth finds the endless black behind his jaw, where the flesh would be soft, and she is surprised to find anything at all.


    He is no monster.
    This is what he tells himself.

    His peculiarity does not make him a monster.
    This is what he tells himself.

    He is real, just as she is real.
    This is what he tells himself.

    But she touches him and, just as he’d anticipated, he knows that she’s done it. He watches her do it. But it’s as if she’s reaching for him through the folds of a dream. She does not pass through him, for he is solid just as she is solid, but the gesture is so little more than an idea. A curious mouth passing through vapor.

    The heart spasms and something wicked churns at the very center of all that darkness. Someplace deep inside his bones, which quiver and tremble as he casts himself out of her space. Again, he flashes that feral smile, all that black ink in his mouth. Studies her with those bright yellow eyes, skating that heavy, discerning gaze across all that scaled skin. She refracts the light while he absorbs it.

    They could not be more different.

    He tilts his peculiar head then, blinks once. “So?” he asks, the voice all a rasp now. Because he is tired. Tired from the talking and from the emotion and from whatever dark thing is chugging through his veins.

    He is no monster.
    But all that ink in his bloodstream says different.

    What did you learn?” 

    from the destruction, out of the flame
    you need a villain, give me a name

    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    She is not a monster, but she is not normal either. She is not made of the earth and not shaped by its influence. She is of the ocean and the water. The cold and the stars. She is created from blood magic and saltwater and she is not afraid of the predator who watches her, who tracks her, with his yellow gaze.

    So there is no more hesitation when she reaches out to him.

    She finds him solid and yet not at all. It is curious to feel something that does not feel natural at all. It does not sate her hunger but instead stokes the flames of it. It nearly consumes her, this curiosity. This need to learn more about him and uncover everything underneath the surface. To know if he has always been like this—created of darkness more than flesh—and if he can feel her the way she can feel him.

    Her breath displaces some of the shadows, she thinks, but she cannot explore more before he is leaving her. She feels the distance but not the rejection of it. Just the knowledge that she was done.

    He had decided that she was.

    “Not enough,” she answers. She should have been given more time to discover the edges of him. To learn the shape of him. To hunt down the things that he does not have, that she thinks that he might.

    She lifts a leg, hesitantly, as though she might follow him and then, after a moment, places it back down. “What did you learn?” She turns the question back on him, wondering if he had learned something in the honeysuckle of her breath against the endless black of his coat, of the coolness of her scales.

    “Why did you leave?”


    from the destruction, out of the flame

    Not enough, she says.
    It slithers deep, winds itself wicked around his dark heart.
    But he merely blinks at her and smiles that feral, feral smile. Drags in a breath that rattles his lungs. He can feel the strength leaving, pooling in his feet from where it had collected in his muscles. It feels like melting, it always does. As his energy dwindles and the breathing gets thin.

    He is a thing of the shadows. He is a solitary thing. In time, he has even taken his leave from his sister. Condemned himself to the darkness. He does not know the meaning of loneliness, has never wanted for much of anything at all. But she has touched him, he watched her do it. And, while he had been fortunate enough not to inherit his father’s curse, he did inherit the deadened nerves. The inability to feel that went along with being alive without really being alive.

    He’d watched her touch him but had felt nothing but the distant stirring of something dark and wicked at the very center of him. How sweet it must have been, he thinks.

    What else would you have liked to know?” he asks but does not move to eliminate any of the space he has wedged between them. He does wonder, in some abstract way, if he would feel anything at all if he should drag the ink-black mouth across the surface of her skin. If his mouth would repel the water that clings to her.

    I learned nothing,” he wheezes, “that I did not already know.

    And he rolls his shoulders in a kind of shrug, but it is slow and feeble. He is tired and weak.

    It becomes painful after awhile,” he tell her, unabashed, “to know that you are only an idea.

    you need a villain, give me a name


    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    She does not understand much of this world. Everything of her childhood had been shortcut and then even her young adult wanderings had been cut short for a life sheltered on the small island off of Ischia. But even if she had been afforded a full life of exploration—even if her years had been full of nothing but learning everything about what Beqanna had to offer—she still would not have been able to understand him. He is so wildly different. So different than anything that she could have ever experienced.

    But that does not stop her from wanting to learn.

    Everything in her leans into the experience—leans into him. It pitches her forward slightly, almost reaching for the nothing feel of him that he had so abruptly yanked from her. “Everything,” she answers, not trying to play coy or shield herself. She does not consider whether she should be embarrassed of this.

    “All of you,” she follows up and without thinking, she takes another step forward toward him before she pulls up short. Her scales glisten underneath the faint light and she longs for the water, feeling that strange sensation of drying, but it does not override her desire to be here. “What did you already know?”

    She catches the faint wheeze in his voice though, and it triggers something in the back of her mind. She does not have much experience with illness, but Woolf had instilled enough knowledge of it for her to recognize it, finally. “Are you ill?” She angles a delicate head, perking her ears and studying him. 

    “You are more than that to me,” she says. “At least, I think that you are.”

    After all, she does not know what an idea truly is—not like this.

    “Perhaps you really are just something I thought up.”

    A recanting of her previous statement, but she does not mind wavering.

    “Does that make you mine?”


    from the destruction, out of the flame

    Everything, she says, as if everything about him cannot be learned in the space of a breath.
    But he does not speak, merely blinks those bright yellow eyes at her while the knees tremble and the breath rattles. She sinks closer and he feels no impulse to tell her not to now. Because he is already destroyed, because the damage has already been done.

    He considers her question. Grins, flashes those teeth, and faintly shakes his head. The only indication that he’s moving at all being the way his eyes move in the dark. The way the teeth move. “I knew that you would touch me and I would know you were touching me, but I would not feel anything.” Nothing but the darkness coiling like a viper in the pit of his gut, vibrating in his chest.

    Ill?” he asks, his tone registering surprise. “No, I am not ill.” She knows as well as he does that a thing that is not real cannot be ill, doesn’t she? But if he’s not ill, what is he? All that phantom pain. The weakness, the exhaustion, the way the lungs spasm when he breathes. Not even he’s certain if any of these things are real or figments of his own sordid imagination.

    He grits his teeth for an instant, the longest he can manage, because the effort makes him dizzy. He slinks closer, too, when she speaks. When she entertains the idea that she thought him up, that she is responsible for this shadow thing that moves as if to surround her. But he exhales another wheezing breath and merely lays his peculiar head against her shoulder.

    Won’t you stop thinking me up?” he murmurs, rasps, whispers, sighs. “Won’t you let me rest?

    you need a villain, give me a name


    we are slaves to the sirens of the salty sea

    He is like having a conversation with a ghost—or, he would be if she had the imagination deep enough to try and conjure the idea of it. Instead, she is left chasing shadows. Trying to wrap her pragmatic brain around the deeply fanciful notion of him. He is so different than everything she has ever encountered in her young life. So deeply different than anything she could have possibly imagined that it’s difficult for her to try and maintain the conversation, to stave off the ache that comes with upholding it.

    But the pain is worth it for the wonders that live beyond the veil, and she keeps pushing forward. “You sound ill,” her statement blunt because she doesn’t know how else to be. The longer she stands here, the longer she is away from the salt and the sea, the more blunt she becomes. The pieces of her that are coy and playful—the pieces of her that act as shields peel away, leaving her raw and vulnerable before him.

    He closes the distance again and she wonders at how it feels like a relief at the same time that it causes her heart to skip. The closeness of him both tangible and completely other in the same breath.

    She stands still as the shadow presses into her and tries to focus on if she can feel the edges of him. If she is able to discern where he starts and ends, where he meets the truth of her scaled shoulder. She thinks that she can imagine it, but she is not certain—not clear that she knows. Just that she feels something there.

    “If I stop, will you leave?” she asks, curling her head slightly, tucking it in to brush her silvery lips against the shadowy wisps of him. “Is it selfish of me to want to keep you here but a moment longer?”


    from the destruction, out of the flame

    He sounds ill.
    And he wonders if ill and exhaustion are perhaps one in the same.

    It occurs to him that he has no way of knowing. Because he is real like she is real but he is nothing like her. He has convinced himself that there is a beating heart and breathing lungs and bone buried in all that darkness, but he has no way of knowing if they are real or if they are imagined, like him. If he has dreamt them up to convince himself that he is real.

    A fever dream.

    He cannot feel her flesh but he knows that she moves, that she reaches for him. Can feel her mouth like a secret as it glances through the soft edges of him. And she asks him her question, if he’ll leave and he unscrews his ink black mouth to say, “yes.

    And then she asks him her second question, which should make him feel something. But there is nothing but the way the fog curls sweetly around his legs and then through hers so that they are intertwined. There is nothing but the labored breath and the weary head laid against her shoulder. There is nothing but the exhaustion in the muscles, whether real or imagined, the trembling in his knees.

    He sighs then and he unscrews his ink black mouth to say again, “yes.

    He lifts his weary head then, takes one of those odd, shuffling steps backward so that he can look her in the eye. “Will you tell me your name before you let me go?

    you need a villain, give me a name


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