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  • Beqanna

    COTY

    Mazikeen -- Year 214

    QOTY

    "“Content to admire you from afar.” Well that’s just bullshit. She wasn’t *content* to be admired from afar. She would rather not see him at all then be tortured by a buffered distance." --Mazikeen, written by Squirt


    [private]  The eleventh hour
    #1

    Shipka

    Most likely, this is not what Aloy would have intended if she had given Shipka any real encouragement or guidance on travelling. It is unlikely that she would have sent her here, to this place with bone-white sand and black sea, both stained dark with rot and the destruction of so many souls. Death walks here and no-one else.

    Almost no-one.

    The girl is silent as she observes the sickly land around her, even the sand underfoot feels strange and wrong, feels damp far enough away from the swelling tide that in any other place, it would be quite dry. Her lips are drawn into a firm line, her ears turned back slightly and long slender legs take their steps carefully, picking a trail between cracked ribs and macabre grinning skulls. A small one tucked in among the others so clearly belonged to a child and the crushed eye socket tells more of its sad tale than she wants to know. Shipka stops, sickened, her breath caught in her throat.

    No...

    Naive girl. The bones are white and weathered and show their age. They have lain quiet longer than her own bones have existed. With the early twilight growing, her magic floods her veins again like fire and the girl calls a silver thread of starlight like diamonds to wrap the bones in a child's shape. There are missing pieces, but it doesn't matter, there's no soul inside the puppet she has made, yet a glittering foal with stars for eyes finds its clumsy shining feet and stands before her, flicking starlight from its curling tail.

    "You're beautiful." Shipka murmurs softly, pressing her dark nose to the child's radiant brow, "and this is no place for a child. Go play somewhere else."

    The starchild bucks and broncs, leaping forward in silence, only the soft sound of bone dropping onto the sand - and that is enough like hooves to not matter - finding the girl's tense ears which quiver invisibly against the night sky, and then they light upon the trail of starlight that teems from the sky and gallop off into the deepening darkness. Shipka knows it will not make it as high as the stars, the same as she knows that there are only empty bones wearing a starlight shell, but it soothes her to see the shattered child escape. It soothes her to imagine that by the time her magic runs out, it will be in a softer place, a gentler one than this.

    This is no place for a child. Not even a dead one. Frowning softly, she turns her gaze out to the horizon to find comfort among the stars, and it is there, gleaming and brilliant, but something else is there, too. Something new.

    Something wrong.

    Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash


    [Ten]
    Reply
    #2
    He can feel it. A tear in the fabric of the cosmos. As with so many things, he’s not quite sure why or how. He knows only that it is there, and that it should not be.

    It has been ages since he had ventured back to his home. That his hunt for the rip had led him back here is both unsurprising and unsettling. He has learned so much in the time he has been away. Enough that when he returns, he slips quietly through the ripples of time and space onto the beach rather than bursting through spectacularly as he once might have done. Practice had tempered the brute force he’d once applied to make his abilities work into a much finer, more delicate instrument. And there is a pride in being able to slip so easily and quietly between worlds.

    With nothing to herald his arrival, he finds himself standing silently on the bone-strewn beach, pale sands and ebony waves washed in the soft glow of moonlight. Overhead the stars twinkle with brilliant innocence, the truth of their mass and depth so easily cloaked by the immense space that separates them from this impossibly small world.

    He is just in time to see the girl pluck the bones of a child from their resting place in the sand, wrapping them gently in a shimmering shell of starlight. He can feel the tug of her ability, the familiar symphony of the stars dancing along each delicate thread as she weaves them around the long-dead foal.

    He says nothing as he watches her place a heartbroken kiss to the specter’s brow before sending it to gambol among the stars. The scene feels private, as though she needed the solitary send-off for a life cut short far too soon. But it is a sentiment Ten can deeply understand. A sentiment he had once sacrificed his own life for.

    It’s curious to think that, were it not for a quirk of fate (or mercy, or whatever one wished to call it), his own bones might still be curled alongside the very heart of Beqanna.

    But then she turns to peer in the direction of the breach, and Ten is recalled to his purpose here. He had not intended to make this a social visit, but his curiosity has been piqued. So after another moment of silence, with his gaze focused on Shipka rather than the horizon she now watches, he asks quietly, “What do you make of it?”
    TEN
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    #3

    snag the sky, make it bleed starlight

    She didn't know she had an audience or she might not have done it at all, might have left those broken, scattered bones where they lay, half-buried in the sand. It seems so silly, now, when his voice startles her from that starlight path, from that crack in the sky, and she turns suddenly to find him just off to her side, as if he had come from nowhere at all.

    A ghost? But ghost whispering has never been her talent. No, Shipka has only the light of the stars, nobody comes to her with mournful whispers of the afterlife. For half a breath, she only stares at him, mute with her embarrassment, until the meaning of his words slowly creeps back to the forefront of her dull mind.

    What does she make of what? Oh--

    Not the starchild, no, but that gash across the sky where no stars sing, yet light pulses sickeningly.

    "I..." she turns from him to the tear again and her grey full-moon eyes narrow just so, the delicate skin around them crinkling faintly. The thing makes her dizzy to look at, "I'm not sure. It isn't stars, I could feel it if it was stars."

    And she knows that it shouldn't be there, but it feels like something she doesn't need to say.

    "Anyway, I've only come from the Meadow, not so far that the stars should change." And she pauses for a moment to consider the strange smell of his pale gold skin, a scent foreign and strange, less like the grass-spice of Aloy's wandering and somehow more like the cool timbre of Islas' voice. It's not a scent at all, but she breathes it deep just the same through wide nostrils.

    How far have you come? She wonders.

    "Have you ever seen anything like it?
    '

    Image by MillionAshes


    Ten
    Reply
    #4
    It is almost immediately evident that his new companion has an intuition far beyond her years. She is young of course, lost briefly in the cage of her own embarrassment (though why she would be self-conscious, he isn’t quite certain. Of course, given his own childhood and convictions, embarrassment is something of a foreign concept to him).

    With a slight smile creasing his lips, he turns his attention from her to the anomaly hovering in the sky. It seems almost innocuous at first glance, but his connection to the universe screams loudly of the danger emanating from that scar. “You’re right, it’s not stars,” he replies almost absently, gaze transfixed.

    He is drawn back when she continues, her anecdote capturing his attention. He considers her for a moment, the slight smile now tugging into a grin. “Well, I suppose that could depend on the speed with which you came from the meadow.” He pauses before teasingly quipping, “But you don’t seem that old.”

    His amber eyes sparkle briefly, amused by his own joke. Undoubtedly a sign he had been alone for far longer than he should have. But at this particular time, that’s neither here nor there. Humor subsiding, he eyes her for a moment longer before shifting his gaze to the sky once more.

    “I confess that I have not,” he replies slowly, idly considering the possibilities. “It’s why I’m here, to be honest.” He glances briefly at her, lips quirking before adding self-deprecatingly, “I can’t seem to resist… poking at things I probably shouldn’t.”
    TEN


    Shipka
    Reply
    #5

    She doesn't understand his joke, doesn't understand the connection between space and time, it is only the music of the stars that chimes softly insistent in her mind and heart. Shipka is not privy to the laws of the Universe, neither how they work nor how they break, and so though he amuses himself, the humor falls flat on her, and she only twists an ear back, uncertain. Her silence is awkward, but it is honest, the girl does not fake a smile or a laugh as her moon-grey eyes wash over the curious stallion. There is something familiar in his manner though, something that, if she took the time to consider it, might remind her of Islas, and something that might make her wonder if that is because they share a common past, or if is simply the nature of all who chase the night and the stars. They are all seekers, all dreamers, wandering the depths of the midnight sky with their yearning hearts.

    He turns back to her, catching her study of him, and she quickly flicks her gaze back to his own as he confesses not knowing what the crack across the sky might mean. She shouldn't have expected him to know, but his voice had felt so confident as if he had seen everything there was to see and could explain the anomaly away as something mundane and simple. Something in her belly shivers as he speaks.

    "I--" words fail her for a moment, how does he mean to poke at it? Her own magic cannot reach it no matter how far she stretches. "Is that such a good idea?"

    Shipka regrets the question as soon as it leaves her mouth. It is almost certainly not a good idea, but the fear that stirs tremors in her heart also lights a strange fire in her.

    "How would we even get there?"



    Ten
    Reply
    #6
    There is an uncertainty that flavors her words and expression. One heavily underlined by a thread of tempered curiosity. It draws him to her, that forbidden curiosity. Anyone sensible would feel the absolute wrongness of the rift in the sky and immediately leave. But she stayed, reluctantly drawn to such a foreboding anomaly.

    He recognizes it because he feels it too (though he had long ago shed whatever inhibitions he’d had holding his own curiosity at bay).

    During the brief silence left by her hesitation, Ten uses the opportunity to steal quietly alongside her as he considers the tear, lips still half-quirked. “It’s probably a terrible idea,” he replies matter-of-factly, gentled by a faint laugh. He would not mince words. Would not downplay the danger.

    He wanted her to be fully aware of the danger in the unknown. Wanted her to understand, because he had made a decision. Because he had seen something of himself in her, and he had begun to wonder what might flourish inside her if allowed.

    Her next question brings a rueful smile to his lips. “Trial and error, I imagine.” His voice is frank, but the smile remains on his lips as he shifts his gaze to her once more. “How would you like to come with me and find out?”
    TEN


    Shipka
    Reply
    #7

    "Well...

    It's probably a terrible idea. Does he know that he's talking to a girl who built a staircase of starlight and climbed until dawn tore it down again and that luck alone landed her safely on the Mountain? Does he know she's made her decision before he asks the question? That she's made it without even knowing his name, or what he intends to do?

    He says they'll get there through trial and error and the starry darkness of her tail flicks, agitated, thoughtful. She should be afraid, she knows it, and some part of her is, because what is a crack across the sky except for something terrible? Has anything good ever come out of fractures that should not be? Rifts in the sky, in the earth, in the soul? But it beckons her like a crooked, toothy, smile, a crocodile grin, and all she wants is to see what's on the other side. Shipka is afraid, and the fear peels away at her heart, but she is also headstrong and naive, too, and she meets his challenge with a set jaw and eyes full of moonlight.

    How do you prepare for a journey like this? Does it happen in a blink, or will they fly? Is there something she should do? A thunderstorm of questions pours down on her. And then she smiles, the seriousness has gone, though some memory of worry remains in the slant of her ear and the way her breath trembles in freckled nostrils. Even the wrongness of the broken sky is a chance to walk among the stars. Sparkling silver light leaps up around her and Shipka springs nimbly onto it in a shower of bright sparks that fall around the stallion like snow.

    "I guess we should get started."



    Ten
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    #8
    His lips split into a wide grin the moment she agrees to join him. Head tossing in approval, the molten silver strands of his forelock shimmer beneath the starlight briefly before he wraps them both in his power, plunging them into darkness. Though he grasps blindly at the rift, attempting to feel where he might best rend the fabric of space to pull them through, there is something not quite right about it.

    Something slippery and wrong.

    In moments, they are hurtled from the darkness, spit back onto the beach where their journey had begun.

    Except, it is not the beach. Not really. Everything they had been staring at only moments earlier is now mirrored. The rift lies before them, humming with it’s foul energy in a perfectly backwards replication of the one they had attempted to step through.

    “Hmmmmm.” Ten finally breaks the silence, brows furrowing as he peers at the sky in consternation. After a moment, he turns a quick glance on his star-studded companion, one brow lifting in a faintly sardonic expression. “I don’t think it cared for that too much.”

    When a shriek pierces the air however, he stiffens, ears swiveling as he swiftly scans their surroundings. It’s then that he notices that not only is everything here backwards, it is also ever so slightly wrong. In a way that sets his teeth on edge. “Maybe, uhhh, don’t go anywhere without me, yeah?”

    The last thing he needed was to lose her somewhere in this strange mirror world, especially if events necessitated they leave quickly.
    TEN


    Shipka
    Reply
    #9
    She gasps the moment the darkness swallows them, wrenched loose from the starlight that she was holding - in her eyes, in her mind, in her heart. It's ripped away so unexpectedly that there's a moment where the starred girl feels bereft of everything and her heart leaps into her throat, threatening to choke her with grief. The soft shine of stars in her cloudy mane does little to ease the sense of loss, nor the warmth of his skin against hers as they plunge into the bitter cold of a night sky beyond the stars, and then into that awful cracked mouth.

    She thinks, just for a moment, that it seems to be laughing and her gut churns with something akin to regret, but it is already too late.

    Is that her screaming? No, she thinks, her jaws clamped tight together, her teeth gritted against the noise, against the awful vibration that threatens to shake the spots from her skin.

    "Oh!" The ground rises up under her feet too fast (she doesn't remember it not being there, actually, but suddenly it's there and her knees start to buckle beneath a strange, unfamiliar gravity.) She tries to focus on the horizon to get her bearings but it shifts and evades her silver gaze. Everything is slightly out of focus and it makes her wince.

    The screech makes her cringe.

    Shipka has never considered herself particularly brave - inquisitive, yes, but not brave - but she's already taken three steps towards the direction of the screeching when the stallion's voice presses a dark warning against the bright spark of her curiosity. One foreleg hangs frozen in the air.

    Foolish.

    She looks back at him.

    "What if they need help?"

    There's no way to know, without going. The noxious land pulses under her feet as if it is alive. Despite all the souls the dead beach of Beqanna has eaten, it has never felt so sentient as this. This beach seems to tip itself forward, makes her hooves long to tumble toward the sharp cries. The oily wind has her heart on a hook, but the tense lines of the champagne stallion's face give her pause. The wind pulls harder.

    "We might not be the only ones to come here. They could be trapped."
    Image by vakrai


    Ten I was going to tag him in the post and then I realized she doesn't even know his name. Shipka makes the best decisions.
    Reply
    #10
    He often forgets how jolting his method of travel is to one who has never experienced it before. His own body, so accustomed to being flung through space and time like foam in a current, barely seems to notice anymore. But the brief illness on her features remind him of what he’d forgotten. At this point however, he can only offer a faintly chagrined, apologetic expression.

    While the shriek had been disconcerting, it is everything else in this otherworld he finds far worse. There is nothing terribly obvious, but it screams its wrongness nonetheless. His warning is a timely one, halting his companion’s footsteps just as she is about to go find whatever hapless creature had let out the cry moments earlier.

    “They could be,” he agrees with a faint nod, eyes distant as he stares across the beach. “Or it could be a lure.”

    Not that that distinction had ever stopped Ten from investigating. Or from getting chased across space and time by horribly frightening creatures. His warning had not been meant to keep them from exploring this world, no matter how wrong it felt. If they did need to beat a hasty retreat however, he did not want to have to be scrambling around dodging monsters to try finding her.

    Raising one brow, he turns his gaze to her before inviting, “Shall we?”

    Whether they should or not quickly becomes a moot point however, as something… odd emerges from the trees in the distance and begins shuffling slowly across the sand. Narrowing his eyes, he tries to make it out. When he does though, a faint sound of dismay emanates from deep in his throat. Whatever it is is clearly no longer alive. At least, not in the normal sense of the living. The flesh seems to be melting from it’s very bones, skin peeled away and flapping with each step. And if that weren’t enough, it appears… half-eaten.

    At that moment, it lets out another shriek, causing Ten to laugh abruptly. “Well I suppose that answers that question.”
    TEN


    Shipka someday he'll realize it and introduce himself haha
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