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    Beyza -- Year 211


    "She kills him because no matter how far she has come from the bitter, angry young girl she had been, she is still Starsin, and if he wants to make her world burn, she will be certain that he burns with it." --Starsin, written by Colby

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    [private]  It's nothing complicated, I just want to kill him

    There's more wrong with her than the obvious. There's more wrong than these hooves and this soft velvet nose, more than the missing feathers and the way her hind leg has greyed out so suddenly. Manny leaves the Beach, she leaves the afterlife and that awful liquid world of made of gremlins - made of bone and skin and sense stripped away from the intruders that fell into it - but so much of it is still inside of her.

    The trip home took an eternity. Not a true eternity like the ones she knew while she was dead and time was nothing, but one made of the rise and fall of the sun in the sky, of flesh as weak and weary as the fallen leaves lying in puddles. Her bones hurt. Something in her belly flips and flops and she kicks at it with her silver leg, she bares flat teeth at it when her head swings around as though to rip the thing out from between her ribs, but there is no beak to do the job, there are no claws flexing at the end of strong front legs. There are not even feathers to tear at until she bleeds, only thick horse-skin that defies her snapping jaws. This. This is how Avocet feels every day - minus the gibbering in her belly and chest. This weakness. It does not make her feel any more kindly towards the brother she hunted through childhood.

    Should have tried harder, she thinks, A kindness, really. Should have put him out of his misery when she's had the opportunity. Who could love such a weak thing? Who could love themselves this way? Manikin curls her pink upper lip, baring her teeth as her dull hooves find their way back into the Pampas once again. The claws will return, the beak and the feathers, the integrity of her bones will return, and then when she is strong again, hale and whole, she will help her brother as she ought to have done months ago.

    "Avo?" She calls out, her voice tired, rasping, but recognizable, "Where are you Avo?"

    And then, because a scent is missing in the wind above the warm scent of their grassland home, "Where has Mom gone?"

    avocet No pressure to respond to this, it's just a cranky Manny coming back home Smile

    Avocet wasn't initially bothered by Manikin's absence.

    He had always preferred she did her... hunting on her own (though she seemed to love to taunt him with her claws and beak). Avo's teeth were as flat as his hooves and he didn't have talons like his mother or sister. He was just as a horse; as dull as his teeth (and as Manny liked to tell him, his senses).

    There are no raptor-like features for the bay yearling. His only discerning feature was a smattering of bird spots that his twin also liked to tease him for.

    The days that had passed without Manikin had been sweet. He had gotten Popinjay all to himself and as the winter weather worsened in the flower fields of the Pampas, he had huddled his brown shaggy form beneath one of her ink-black wings and they weathered out the storms together. To his young mind, all was as it should be in his small world. He wasted no moment with his mother because Avocet was always so certain that Manny would be back with that clacking beak and raucous laughter.

    What he didn't expect is that one day he would wake up and not find Popinjay.
    What he didn't expect is that one day would turn to two and then three.

    It made him almost senseless and the near-yearling had bleated all over the Brilliant Pampas for his mother. He went to the tree that his dam favored for itching her back. He went to the large clearing where he had last seen her shift into that rather terrifying shape she could take - a large bird. He went and he looked and he bleated; what he didn't expect to find - to get in return of the absence of his mother - was Manikin.

    What he didn't expect was to see her.. like that.

    "Mom is gone," he laments first, the most obvious thing to him (the center of his whole world; the sun of his life, gone; all joy, vanished). And then he lifts his head sharply, realizing that hers was different. More... not beaked. He blinks.

    "I, uh, think you lost some things." Avo adds, looking down to the hooves that should be claws.


    It's strange how easy the words jump to her lips, now that she has them, it's strange how easily she smiles - and it is her mother's grin that she greets Avocet with when he finally emerges from where-ever he has been searching for their lost dam. Mom is gone? She had never gone to great lengths to stop Manikin from her hunts, but it is better that she is not here now.

    "Come here, Brother." She feels his gaze like a burning touch on her velvet lips and the hard hooves that scrape at the dark, fertile soil of the Pampas, but Manikin doesn't waver or wait for him to come to her, rather she goes to him, a purr in her throat and her yellow eyes poison bright. He might flinch when she draws close enough to curl against his side, her movement feline though her body no longer reveals any touch of cat in its shape, but she presses her muzzle to the soft place beneath his jaw as if to show that she cannot hurt him, that she, now the smaller, lighter, and more defenseless of the pair, needs his protection instead. What can she do, after-all, stripped of her protections? What can she do with these pockmarked bones?

    "I need help, I'm hurt. Don't you remember all the times I helped you? When Mama was angry?" The lies drip from her lips, honeyed words that remind him of Popinjay's foul temper, her constant anger, and how frequently the twins hid in the grass, pressing tight together to stop the shivering fear that threatened to give them away in the tall grass. Doesn't Avocet remember how she, small but fierce, would defend him with beak and claw when they were found?

    "I died, Avo. I was so scared, I died and, and when I came back, I... something came back with me."

    She does not actually know if he can feel the way the bodies of those awful gremlins tunnel beneath her skin, filling her belly and lungs, gripping at her throat and tongue with their fingers until the flesh turns bloodless and white. She does not know if she carries them here, or if some part of her is still in that other realm, like a door that, when they finally tear her asunder, will vomit them forth into this world and birth destruction on it. Manny feels them all the time, as if she could look at her sides and see the firm imprints of their hands pressing out against her taut skin, yet when she does, there is nothing.

    Madness, some might say, but she knows better. Not madness, Chaos.

    "Help me, Avo?"


    He thinks it odd that she smiles.

    Avocet looks up from the hooves-that-should-not-be-hooves and frowns slightly, questioning that familial grin with a fixed amber stare. Their mother is gone. She is no longer to be found in the Pampas. Why does that not upset Manikin as it does him? Why is there no worry? Why is there no concern?

    The yearling tilts his head as she comes closer and keeps a wary eye looking down on his sister. He doesn't flinch, like she suspects he might. The bay colt is unfamiliar with having his twin this close (at least without her beak and her claws). Her usual accoutrements are gone. Avo doesn't flinch but he stands rigidly as Manikin draws nearer and eventually curls next to him. The smaller bay tries to press her dark lips beneath the hollow of his jaw and it is then that Avocet finally moves. He curves his head towards Manikin and moves the exposed part of his throat away.

    Don't you remember? She starts.

    Does he? He remembers moving away from Manikin. He remembers that having her so close was uncomfortable. He remembers that he certainly didn't like sharing this proximity with his sister. Or at least, he hadn't in the past. Manikin had loved to taunt him with her beak, pecking at the white spots on his coat. She had loved to use her talons to scrape against his hide. Maybe, though, she had wanted to help? Maybe she had only wanted to make stronger him somehow?

    It grows hazy, what he remembers. There is a thin line in his memory and with each moment that passes, his physical protestation at having his only sibling so close weakens. "You made Mama angry," Avocet says with the last of his conviction. "I was just there," he says. He knew their Mother had liked him best. Avocet was just the unfortunate bystander in the memories that start to reform in his mind. If their dam lashed out, it was because of Manikin. She always had to poke and prod; his sister could never be still. There was far too much lightning in her veins, he had thought.

    His sister had rarely made sense to Avocet but his stern face looks down to her, "You aren't making sense, Manny." The yearling tells his twin. "How could you die and come back? You went missing for a little while... but it was just a hunt. You always go hunting and you always come back."

    Popinjay hadn't.

    Avocet grapples with the memories in his head. It was just a hunt, wasn't it? Manikin had just gone searching for prey, hadn't she? He fights with the thought at the back of his mind that she hadn't. The memory in the back of his mind - once concrete - becomes an uncertain one.


    It surprises her how easily he takes her allusion that their mother had ever meant to harm them. There's no reason he should forget that Popinjay had never once cared what her feral twins had done, and certainly, Manikin had never actually tried to protect Avo. It begs the question of why she would even suggest such a ridiculous thing, except that she is a liar, and it is what liars do. He curls his jaw close to the soft skin of his neck and her lips curl into a wicked smile that he cannot see, one that softens almost sadly when he tries to look down at her from where she leans into him, small and vulnerable. Her ears tremble faintly.

    "No. No, Avo." Her yellow eyes shut and she turns her face away from his so when they re-open it is on the glorious field of flowers they were raised in. She takes a breath as if gathering courage and looks at him again.

    "You're wrong, Avo, I'm sorry." She isn't. "It was you she hated, she'd have killed you so many times if I hadn't stopped her."

    Silently, the memories whisper to his heart and to his mind. She does not know how hard it is to change a heart because she has never tried, but she calls out anyway. Minds are easier, so many little paths in the forest of his memory, where will this one go?

    "I made her mad at me to keep you safe, Avo, how could you have defended yourself against her?" And in the dark theater of her mind, she creates a terrifying image of their mother looming above a sleeping Avocet, fragile and defenseless as a blind bird in its nest. Electricity crackles around her, heat-lightning illuminating the night-time grove, and something aggressive twists her lips into an angry scowl. The white of her teeth reflect the lightning, and there can be no doubt that they will soon be buried into the child's neck, the tense muscles of her neck ready to shake the life from him, hard hooves to crush his body and splinter his bones.

    This is the reality of Mama, her magic whispers softly, wandering the avenue of his memory.

    And then, just as the strike begins, there is Manikin, small but sturdy, her kitten growl breaking the hush of the empty grassland like glass. Beaked and clawed, she is between them, standing over Avocet not to attack him but to protect him. She draws away Popinjay's anger with a swat that makes blood blossom bright across the mare's nose, draws the monster on whom they depended for survival away from her unarmed, endangered brother.

    Don't you remember?

    And then she shakes her head sadly.

    "If it was just a hunt, Avocet, where are my claws?"


    Why had his mother hated him? Avocet stands there, still and silent. The pair stand surrounded by wildflowers - flooded and nearly drowning in a colorful ocean of them - and the bay yearling frowns again. Mother hated you, Manikin tells him with a voice laden with a sweetness that even the flowers must envy. Avo frowns and shakes his head, away from the unnerving memory and away from the thought that Popinjay hated her only son.

    But even as he pushes the memory away, it comes back in bright and vivid lightning strikes, the truth clashing with the lie.

    Avocet - small, plain, ungifted -  as he slept beneath his dam's dark wing. A place that should have been a sanctuary for a young foal. But the face that Popinjay wears shatters the peace that should be there; the face that the shifter wears is one full of hatred. (Some part of Avocet still protests against this false-memory. Why would Popinjay hate him? He never brought his dam bouquets of the trademark flowers but Avocet tried to show her the most open spots he could find. He thought that his mother would have enjoyed more space to spread her wings and all the freedom she could find to summon her storms. It seemed to him that Popinjay would have enjoyed using her lightning strikes as firestarter offerings. He thought that his mother would have smiled more at wildfires than flowers.)

    The thought burns away; it blazes across his memories and is replaced with Manikin and her beak blooming blood in the land of wildflowers across the face of their dam. She saves him (again and again; there isn't one time but many). She saves him and Avocet is grateful for all the times that Manny placed herself in the face of danger - a face that should have loved them. The flames are still there, burning in his velvet brown eyes but when he looks at his twin again, they are burning with love and recognition for all that she has done for him, for them. Who needed Popinjay, anyway? Suddenly, the disappearance of their mother no longer seems like a problem. Manikin has returned and at this moment, she is all that matters. It is enough.

    His sister shakes her head sadly, rightfully mourning the loss of her claws and Avocet feels his resolve tighten like a fist inside his chest. It hammers, demanding that something is done. That there be some kind of compensation for Manikin's loss.

    He remembers.

    "Should we go looking for them?" he utters darkly. "Or would you rather we do something else?"

    and you thought we couldn't play siblings who get along.


    It's too easy. Perhaps it's their shared blood, perhaps the natural inclination of twins to fall together, even ones intent on destroying one another, or perhaps it is something peculiar to the taller boy at her side who so bravely, so foolishly offers to take her best parts back from Carnage with an ease that suggests that he could. That he would at least try. There ought to be something like guilt or fear in her heart for her brother when he offers this, but, instead, it thrills her. Manikin, in that perilous heart of hers, grins wickedly and wide, tracing along the high of the easy victory. Her first. She savors it, takes her time to consider the options Avocet lays before her. Do they get them back? Impossible, but she wonders how Carnage would destroy him, would he do it slowly, or strangely, as he had killed some on that strange, far-away beach, or would he do it swiftly, because Avo would be nothing before him, an insect, and a foolish one at that.

    She wonders, and she purrs, a silk-soft sound that hints at the temporary nature of her current embarrassment, a sound that, without warning is stopped dead in her throat by a lump that wriggles and rolls, that stops up her breath long enough that she chokes, and then disappears as if it was never there at all. An entire world is still within her, and not, and the creatures of that world run their fingers across her ribs and set her skin to twitching. Sweat dampens her neck. She needs a distraction.

    "Yes..." When she speaks again, her voice has a rasp that wasn't there before, something genuine and not another party-trick. "Let's get them back."

    Carnage had said they would be made whole again, that the effects of that fog would not last, and he had even rebuilt her bones. She has no reason not to believe him, but the idea of her brother dashing himself against the dark god like a baby bird against a cliff is an enticing one, and that he might do it because of a power Carnage gave her access to, because avocet is so desperate to love and be loved and their grandfather's gift allows her to manipulate that desire, is even better.

    ........seem a saint when most I play the devil


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