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    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

    [open]  that day even the sun was afraid of you; any

    that day even the sun was afraid of you and the weight you carried

    The day passes quickly.

    For the first time, Firion feels a strange and unrooted agitation. It simmers in his bones—racing through every inch of him until he nearly vibrates with his frustration. He runs, but even when his coat turns to crushed goal, throwing the jaguar spots into stark relief, he does not find an outlet. He drinks until his belly is full and roams until there is not a spot of his home that has gone unturned. But no matter what he does or where he goes, he cannot shake the feeling of dread in his bones—the feeling of something gone horribly awry. It leaves a bitterness on his tongue that turns even the sweetest grass foul.

    He should have known, he thinks.

    When the night comes, the feeling intensifies instead of wanes. It billows in his lungs, leaving him at turns sorrowful and gnashing his sharpened teeth in rage. His coltish legs cannot stand still as the moon rises and then crests and his heart pounds until it nearly beats out of his youthful chest.

    It comes slowly, and then all at once. He feels it as the moon washes over him. The way that his flesh slowly begins to peel from his body. The way that his body begins to slowly decay. He feels the death that rattles prematurely in his veins, stopping his heart but not pulling him into the grave.

    He weeps. He rages. He asks questions that do not get answered.

    The hours pass as he moves blindly—running into a headwind that does not stop him.

    When finally the dawn comes, and his golden body returns, he stands in the forest,

    soaked with sweat, aching, and alone.

    so you saluted every ghost you've ever prayed to and then buried it where bones are buried


    She’s been experimenting and practicing with shapes all throughout the night - following noises and turning into whatever creature she discovers. Slowly she’s getting better at passing through forest and field without notice - a handy little skill. The night noises invigorate her and she passes through the darkness without feeling tired, though she’s looking forward to an afternoon nap stretched out in the sunlight somewhere.

    Although she typically favours the forms that come with claws and teeth, Mazikeen spent most of the night as a doe - crystalline white but for the black markings on her face and legs, and always those bright orange eyes. She’s left the herd she had been trailing, mimicking their movements and learning as she did, and has been wandering in an attempt to shift back into her normal body.

    Maybe she was more tired than she thought she was - because it wasn’t working. The more frustrated she gets, the harder it is to grasp that little switch that allows her to shift from one thing into another, until she just begins angrily stomping through the forest in the early light of day.

    A few seconds away from just full-on pouting, she’s distracted from her current failure by the sight of a golden boy. He stands out not only because of his coat but because of the rather dramatic package he makes, looking as though he just got finished running for his life. She hadn’t seen any predators in the area (she would have shifted and tried to join in, just to see if she could) and in the peaceful early morning, there doesn’t seem to be much to be afraid of.

    Rather than leave him alone, Mazikeen’s voice joins in the morning symphony of birdcall and rustling. “Well, you look awful. Rough night there, kid?” He looks to be about her age, sure, but that hardly matters to the orange-eyed girl as she approaches, still in her deer-shape, wondering if taking her frustration out on someone else will make this morning any better.


    that day even the sun was afraid of you and the weight you carried

    He feels scrubbed raw—every inch of his skin both burnt and set afire with nerves. It’s like coming alive again but nothing about it is pleasant. He does not feel a rush of adrenaline or the joy of living. It does not fill his lungs with air and the gratitude of the moment. Instead he only feels the bitterness of death that still stains his throat. It isn’t some grand contrast. It’s just horrid and thin and leaves him feeling hollow.

    So hollow that he almost does not notice the doe as she arrives. He does though. He swings his head up and his brilliant gold eyes stare through her for a moment before he finally focuses. She is not like the deer that he is used to crawling through the outskirts of Hyaline and by the brilliance of her coloring and the sharpness of her tongue, he quickly deduces that she is not a simple prey run across his path.

    “You have no idea,” he manages, his voice unnaturally hoarse. His tongue feels swollen, his throat dry. It feels like swallowing sand with each breath and he wonders if he will ever feel normal again. If he will ever forget the horror of last night. If he will ever feel like just a boy again. He considers telling her more. Telling her that he looked worse just a few hours ago. That it feels like a miracle to be standing here as himself—brilliantly carved of gold and flush with health—when he was anything but the evening before.

    But the words don’t come.

    They stick in the sandpaper of his throat. The fears and the thoughts drown him and he takes a breath that sounds like a gasp. He doesn’t have the energy to feel anything like embarrassment because of it.

    Instead his eyes focus again on her, darken in intensity.

    “Who are you?”

    so you saluted every ghost you've ever prayed to and then buried it where bones are buried


    His response inspires a smile, and she tilts her head to the side curiously while she watches him - waiting for more of an explanation. Ideas bounce around in her head and each second brings a new ridiculous explanation. Was he a shifter like her? There seemed to be so many around, she wouldn’t be surprised. She had met more horses who could shift than those who couldn’t - even a colt that could change the colour of his coat. There isn’t much of an imagination in this young girl but it’s still enough to fill the silence with theories.

    So it is disappointing when there is no explanation about what his rough night involved and her smile quickly fades away into a frown.

    She takes a moment to just look at this golden boy for a moment before she answers the question he asks of her. His voice is hoarse, as though he had been screaming all through the night, which only intensifies her curiosity. Still, she answers in a rather blunt tone. “Mazikeen.”

    Maze-the-doe holds her breath for a moment after speaking her name, as if that will somehow trigger her real-self into being. When it doesn’t, she lets that breath out in an exaggerated ‘humph’ and rolls her orange eyes. “I’m not always a deer but I’ve been stuck like this all night. Bet your night wasn’t worse than that.” Actually she’s pretty sure his must have been - since hers wasn’t bad at all except for this little hiccup - but she’s going to poke until she can get a little more of a reaction.

    “Who are you?”


    that day even the sun was afraid of you and the weight you carried

    Could he explain it if he wanted to? He isn’t sure. There is no desire in his belly to bring forth his secret, but there are also no words to explain it either. No way for him to try and relay to her the strange happenings of the night before. How the dust found him and then sense of dread followed so quickly. How he had wandered for hours throughout the day before the night finally began to stain the sky.

    How that was when things really went sideways.

    He shakes his head. It sounded foolish—even to him—to try and recall the hours before. How he had run for so long, but how by the end, it was more of a crawl. How his flesh had begun to peel away from him—or had he imagined it? How the blood in his veins slowed until it was nothing more than sludge.

    He could not have died the night before, he reasons.

    (He did though, he knows, in his heart of hearts. He did. He did.)

    Her voice cuts clean through the thoughts once more and he does his very best to focus on her. He watches her roll her eyes, the frustration clear, and he wonders if she is frustrated with him. He would be. But he knows he can’t give her what she wants, even when the sharp, clear gaze she cuts him with, and so he pivots to the only defense that he knows: denial. He straightens until her looks more like the son of Atrox that he should be. He pulls on the arrogance he has seen his father wear so often before.

    “Firion,” he answers, the roughness fading from his voice until it’s more of a deep growl instead of a hoarse whisper. His tail twitches behind him and the sharpness of his teeth flash into a faux smile.

    He ignores the comment about his night, dancing around it.

    “Why were you—are you—stuck?”

    (Please don’t let her ask again about himself.)

    so you saluted every ghost you've ever prayed to and then buried it where bones are buried


    What a surprise - she gets no response. Not even any anger or annoyance, two traits she has come to expect in foals that are around her age. Or maybe it’s just that she feels them so much, she assumes that everyone else must too.

    A switch seems to flick inside the mind of this Firion, which only serves to raise more questions. She doesn’t believe this straight-standing, faint-smile-wearing version is anything but a mask. For a moment she just watches, uncertain about whether she’s going to harass him further or not. She decides she can appreciate masks. There’s a feral note in that flash of teeth that she finds familiar and comforting, so she’ll pretend to let her questions drop.

    For now, anyway. She thinks if she allows the conversation to change for a couple of moments, he’ll stop being so damn weird about whatever had happened to make him look so spooked when she first showed up.

    The doe-Mazikeen huffs in exasperation again, short black-tipped tail flicking behind her. “Sometimes I get stuck. I think it’s an “experience” thing.” Although air quotes are not exactly easy for horses to accomplish, Mazikeen’s slight roll of her eyes and drawl of the word should get the task done.

    “Pretty stupid of me, I know.” She says it like a joke, but she feels the sting of her own words. She feels like an idiot for not being able to do one simple thing - switch back into the form that was hers. The fact that she has an audience does not make it worse - she does not mind what others think, but she loathes her own failures.

    Mazikeen can feel the pull on her mood like a physical weight and she suddenly decides that she very much does not want to focus on this anymore. Her dark deer-nose twitches as she abruptly changes the subject. “You hungry, Firion? Whatever you were running from seems to have disappeared,” She says this as casually as she can, her orange eyes even slide away from his face and to their surroundings, though she’s watching from her periphery to see if the words cause any reaction. See if her first guess hits a mark at all.

    “It’s as good of a time as any for breakfast. I don’t know about you, but my night time endeavours made me work up quite the appetite.”


    that day even the sun was afraid of you and the weight you carried

    Her eyes are as sharp as his father’s, and he finds that it is both strangely unsettling and comforting in the same breath. He doesn’t believe that she is less curious, less hungry to know the truth beneath the mask (although perhaps she would be less willing to dig it up if she was to know the truth depths of his darkness). He does believe that she is willing to play along with his facade though and so he lets her.

    It’s easier for him to settle into this arrogant persona than navigate the trenches of his reality.

    He laughs at her explanation, a short, husky chuckle as she rolls her eyes again. “I suppose you should continue practicing then.” Not that he has any idea how shifting like this actually works. He had been given the characteristics of the jaguar, but it was just a brush of power. It gifted him with superior strength, enhanced senses, and even the bite of the jungle cat—but he could never don the fullness of it.

    Perhaps his father’s sharp gaze was disappointment then.

    Firion could hardly blame him.

    “I would not say it’s dumb,” he rolls his shoulders. “Most of those I’ve met wouldn’t even try.” It spoke to his low opinion of most Beqanna residents, but he didn’t soften his words. “At least you’re working toward mastery of it.” He lets his gaze wander over her doe form again. “But you have a while to go.”

    Another quick laugh as if to prove that it was a harmless statement before he continues. His interest perks at the mention of food and he realizes that his stomach is indeed groaning in protest. Enough that his guard drops just a little. He flinches at the back half of her sentence before smoothing his features over again. After all, it would never disappear—not really. Not when he was running from himself.

    “I could do with some food.”

    so you saluted every ghost you've ever prayed to and then buried it where bones are buried


    Even if the boy that she gets to laugh is only a mask of the true self, even if it is fake laughter (which she suspects), she cannot deny that it feels good to make someone else laugh. Enough to make a non-edged smile brighten her orange eyes for a moment. Even if it is at her own foolish mistakes, she enjoys the feeling for a brief moment.

    Then Firion makes what she thinks is an attempt to make her feel better about being stupid, though it falls a little short. There’s no sense of relief that she is, at least, a little higher than the others he has met. “Inspiring. Thanks.” She clips back - and though it might have been a little bit sincere, the sarcasm drips from it though there's that near-constant grin that suggests she's not as offended as her tone suggests. Still, she wouldn’t mind shifting into the jaguar he reminds her of and giving him a little smack with a clawed paw for that remark.

    Unfortunately, when she tries to pull on the shift to do that, it is as unresponsive as the tether to go back into her body.

    Fortunately, at least, she can eat just as well as a doe as she can as a filly. So she puts “slap this boy” in the back burner with “find out what he was doing at night” on her list of things she will do in the future.

    Maze at least earns a flinch with her comment, a success which inspires a feral grin that she (very slowly) hides while turning her head. “Come on then, weird boy. Let’s go find ourselves a snack.” She turns to head down the small path they’re on and begins the search for a spot that is not just trees and shrubs where they can graze. She doesn’t pause to see if he follows her or not - but if he does she casts a look over to him.

    “So.” She lets the word dangle for a moment but ultimately does not repeat her previous questions but instead, with a faint smile, chooses something neutral. “Where do you live?”


    that day even the sun was afraid of you and the weight you carried

    Her sharp retort rolls easily off of him. his own internal thoughts about himself were so sharp that it’s difficult to imagine that anyone else could pierce his armor these days. He just grins back at her, his sharp-toothed smile brilliant against the black of his lips—and, for a moment, he forgets that it is a mask that he’s wearing. It’s easy to let himself think that he is nothing but this arrogant, carefree boy wandering the common lands. He has no secret. No shame. No burning secret in the back of his throat.

    “I’ve been told I’m exceptionally inspirational,” he quips, although secretly he knows that’s not the case. He’s never been a particularly inspiring soul—he was, at most, just another boy—and he is certainly not now with all of the weight that he carries along with him. But she doesn’t know that, can only guess, and he is in no mood to try and reveal that to her. So he just laughs again at her sharp eyes.

    At the insult, he rolls his shoulders. There were worse things that he could be called than weird—if only she knew!—and he didn’t mind that being the label that he wore. Instead, he just moves forward and falls into step beside her. It’s odd to walk so closely to something disguised as prey, but for all of his sharp teeth, he’s never truly had a carnivorous appetite. Nothing about her form inspires hunger in him.

    “Hyaline,” he answers easily, content to answer questions that don’t come close to his actual secret. “My parents both live there.” He knew enough now to know that his parents has an, unconventional, relationship but it was the only thing he truly knew so he didn’t question it. “I don’t know if I’ll stay though.” Another shrug. He’s never really thought about where else he would go if not there.

    “What about you?”

    so you saluted every ghost you've ever prayed to and then buried it where bones are buried


    The name he gives is familiar and she thinks it’s close to where she’s been hanging around at Silver Cove, but she doesn’t know for sure and doesn’t want to seem stupid by asking. Maybe she’ll sneak around and investigate - it seems like a good idea to know where the different lands are, after all, even if her pack will transcend the need for borders. All information, she is trying to remember, can be handy if she bothers to try.

    The question is flipped and she should have expected it, but somehow she doesn’t. For a moment, the doe-Mazikeen is quiet as she tries to figure out the answer to this very simple question. “Nowhere in particular - just around.” Is the vague answer she gives him when she veers into a small clearing, lush with grasses and dappled with flowers. The rising sun is brighter here and seems to glint off of the golden skin of the colt with her. She idly admires it for a brief moment before moving into the clearing and lowering her head to graze.

    As much as she is annoyed with his secrets, she’s finding it easy to keep her own. Mazikeen doesn’t want to explain that her mother never brought her to where the rest of her family lived so they hung around in the common areas with her father. Or that she has found a new family in the Cove with delightfully wild creatures she admires with all of her young heart. How could she explain to someone that she doesn’t even feel all that guilty about how easy it was to find someone to replace Agetta as the focus of her young world?

    Even though she does not believe the arrogant mask Firion wears is real, Mazikeen does not trust it to share these pieces of herself.

    She is not self-aware enough to wonder if this is why he does not share with her, either.

    After a moment, her doe-head rises from the grass and she poses another question. She has, momentarily, been effectively sidetracked from her initial mission and now finds herself curious about whether everyone’s first year of life has been like hers. Not quite unstable - but something close, surely. It’s easy to assume Firion has - since he’s not all that old and already planning on flying the coop so to speak.

    “Why would you leave? You don’t like it there?”


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