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  • Beqanna

    COTY

    Wolfbane -- Year 210

    QOTY

    "She presses into him greedily, hungrily, and demands more. She does not know how to be gentle when she is with him—does not know how to quell the aching in her belly, the neediness in her touch. She would devour him whole. She would sacrifice herself completely. She would give and give and give—" --Tabytha, written by Laura


    [private]  you'll wish for time to turn back around
    #1

    stars when you shine, you know how i feel
    oh freedom is mine

    On the waking wings of a chilly and pale dawn, Nashua had spread his and taken to the dim morning sky. His uncertainty had prevented him from leaving the Isle as often as he once had. He doesn’t shed it but the young pegasus feels Spring in his bones, a new beginning begging to start somewhere and Nashua doesn’t fight it.

    So he goes.

    Nash thinks of continuing to fly south. He even thinks of heading towards the Resort to find Gale but an easterly wind pulls him the other direction, towards the Common Lands. His heart plummets at the realization when he flies over Nerine and then the Taiga, coming closer to borders of Hyaline. He had barely managed the trip to Tephra. 

    But- 

    The pegasus lands. (It is not as far as Nashua might have once ventured but the Forest is better than staying put, he tells himself. It's a start.) One hoof after another. The seasons would keep spinning, he realized. And as he walked through the woods, Nashua told himself that he wouldn’t shackle himself because of his uncertainty. 

    It’s because of a newfound certainty that he stops. It’s because Nashua - who over the last few months has doubted so much - knows the familiar striping of gold and red that he finds himself looking at a realization. He wants to laugh, at first. Joy is the first thing that comes to mind when he sees Fire Wing and though he can’t quite bring himself to say the familial nickname he bestowed on his elder brother, he still manages to smile. A broad, almost wicked grin.

    Drawing his auburn wings to his sides (perhaps conscious of the years that have passed since he has last seen his flame-hued sibling), Nashua calls out in a voice, that despite deepening, still echoes the boy that the older pegasus found in the Taigan woods those many seasons before. "elio?”


    NASHUA

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    #2

    elio

    some say I should learn to cry but I only learned how to fight
    and I know everything must die but nothing fades like the light

    There isn't a single time that Elio imagined his reunions with his family going well. When he pictures them, his family is awkward and shifting or angry and bitter. Where have you been? Lepis and Wolfbane are dead. You have a new family you're late to meet. You left us. You abandoned us when it got too hard. Their voices are a chorus when he fixates on them and a whisper when he is distracted, but they are always, always there.

    And oh, the regret is a bitter tang he chokes down every day. A mixture he convinces himself is a tonic. A saccharine syrup that leaves him with a stomachache and uncomfortable buzz.

    Like a child, he wishes for his mother. Lepis wouldn't want him to wallow, but once again he cannot see past the pain of growth long enough to actually get taller. His once proud, if mildly paranoid, head hangs low to the ground. His once vibrant and kingly wings now hang dully and unkempt at his sides.

    Elio hardly has pride, and he hates himself with each passing day, wondering how much more of his name he can drag through the mud. He hardly takes a second to recognize his unconditional love is mutual, that those that see him at his worst only wish to lend a hand a little compassion. It's simply unfathomable, a way out of the abyss he's dug himself into. There's hardly a glimpse of sun and no green to keep himself fed: he's dying.

    "Nash?" Elio says on a gasp, lifting his lowered head to find not a boy but a creature on the cusp of a man, handsome and youthful. He draws his wings tight to his sides and shakes out his painfully tangled mane. Shame chokes him.

    What is there to say?

    "I'm sorry."


    Nashua
    [Image: elio-by-dozymare-ddo34i6.png]
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    #3

    stars when you shine, you know how i feel
    oh freedom is mine

    Nashua has very few memories of the man who sired him.

    The only thing he has left of Wolfbane is a single white feather that he had stored away in one of Taiga's caverns near the Nerinian coast. (He had tried wearing them, once. His Aunt Elaina had braided them into his mane and he wore them proudly. The blue, the red, and the white feathers of his family woven in his flaxen hair when he first took the sky. It wasn't until he lost the pale blue one - a gift from Celina - and Nashua spent several hours looking for it, walking the Taigan trails on hoof until he found it muddied on the ground that he decided to find someplace safer for them, a place where they wouldn't get lost or dirty. He learned they were far too precious for that, far too precious for him to just lose.)

    What Nashua remembers is that he hadn't mattered enough for his father to stay.

    What he had come to learn was that his father was a Monster and Nash has yet to make to peace with that. The Northerners whispered about the death of the former Commandant with relief. Nashua carried those whispers with him. He carried the knife-twist of guilt in his gut around that he still had a single white feather hidden in Taiga. He walked around in silence with the thought and the weight that, I am that man's son.

    It's not his fault, he's been told. It is not his or Yanhua's fault and yet sometimes Nashua thinks he feels the weight of those sins on his broad shoulders.

    This flight away from the Isle is his first attempt at not letting the burden stifle his wanderlust. He had spent much of his winter alone, training for the upcoming Alliance with infrequent visits with Leilan and his family in Taiga. It was just that this world felt suddenly so much heavier to Nashua and he didn't know how to carry it yet. He was still learning how.

    And yet he's not prepared for this moment of vulnerability when his older brother looks up at him. Elio's head hangs low to the ground and his vibrant mane is tangled. It's like the weight that Nashua has carried around with him but instead of grounding the striped pegasus, it has starved and beaten and left him laden with this shell. (Because he still remembers Fire Wing, he still recalls the brother that taught him all the ways to be brave before he had ever left home so he is braver than he feels now.)

    He has never seen someone laid low before.

    Nash says nothing at first, only drops his head the loamy ground as he approaches. But then elio raises his head and the younger pegasus feels a twinge of hope lifting with it.

    "What is there to be sorry for?" Nashua asks softly, quiet despite how loudly his heart hammers. Reaching his slender head out to greet the other, he says, "you're here."


    NASHUA

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    #4

    elio

    some say I should learn to cry but I only learned how to fight
    and I know everything must die but nothing fades like the light

    "I wasn't," Elio murmurs on a caught breath, gray eyes trying desperately to convey all the things his tongue cannot. I wasn't, he thinks, and it beats him further into the earth. Bruises well around his eyes, blood trickles down his legs: this invisible force keeps him tied so close to hell that Elio can hardly tell the difference between demon and family. Nashua is family, though, and that is certain.

    Nashua is family. Beloved family. A mantra he sticks to until his tongue is no longer fifty pounds of lead in his mouth.

    He can't take it, all the unconditional love sitting so readily in Nash's eyes. He's so grown and yet so naive and Elio doesn't know how to express to him how much he admires and appreciates that sincerity; and he doesn't know how to warn him, how to shield him from all the bad and dangerous life will throw in his way. No son of Wolfbane is destined to have a life of plenty and smooth roads, no--Lio is certain they are both doomed to tread on sharp rock and in deep shadow, plagued by predator and desperate prey alike.

    Oh, how he longs for Nashua to see life as a beautiful and precious thing. One to cherish and keep close to his chest, but his tongue remains heavy and uncertain. Love is powerful and yet so fickle.

    Once again he feels like a disappointment.

    "I should have protected you from him," Elio finally states, turning his face away from Nash to stare into the dark bark of surrounding trees. His mouth sets into a hard line.

    "I knew the threat he posed and still I disappeared."


    Nashua
    [Image: elio-by-dozymare-ddo34i6.png]
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    #5

    stars when you shine, you know how i feel
    oh freedom is mine

    He wonders if there is something wrong with him. Nashua knows that Elio wasn't in Taiga when it burnt. He knows that his gold-and-red brother was nowhere near the North when it met with dragonfire. His elder brother was somewhere else and all Nashua can feel at that moment - when Elio says I wasn't - is a relief as sweet as rainwater after a drought.

    It's selfish, he realizes. This relief that Elio had been somewhere else, had been safe while their shared birthland blazed. While childhood memories turned to ash and sacred places became made all the more hallowed because they could only be visited in memories. There was no more bringing back the copse of trees that he and Yanhua used to rest under or recreating the fort that Little Feather had led Fire Wing to.

    Nashua is selfishly-relieved because he doesn't know if he can take it again; they have lost one sibling. Elio, he realizes, has lost so much more than he. I should have protected you from him, his elder brother says and it makes Nashua think about all the times that Yanhua had said they were better off without their manipulative sire. The younger pegasus hadn't even known that they had needed protection until the Nerinian queen had gone missing. Until someone had given the monster a name. Wolfbane.

    "He was dangerous," Nashua echoes what he had been told. His words are quiet and there is an edge to them; an attempt at trying to defend elio from his own accusations. That there was nothing to forgive because Elio had done nothing wrong. "It took a Magician to keep him out of the North," the pegasus says quietly. There had been no reports that Nashua had heard about the shifter trying to break through Brennen's barrier. For all that he knew, Wolfbane had never come North again. He had taken one shape and then another, moving from place to place. Gale had told him that he had gone to Pangea for a time.

    After that?

    They both knew (or so Nash assumed) how that story ended. 

    (The gold-stripped stallion is still grappling with his own guilt that he was not there in the Taiga. That he was not in Nerine. That there was no bringing Celina back.)

    He doesn't miss the hardset line of his brother's mouth. He doesn't miss the way his grey-blue eyes hold a thousand storms in them, even when he looks away. In that moment, Nash would have done anything to have banished them. "I'm glad that you weren't there," is what he tells his brother instead. His green-eyed gaze follows out to the Forest and Nashua searches the spaces between the trees for his next words.

    They aren't hard to find.

    "It's good to see you, Fire Wing."


    NASHUA

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    #6

    elio

    some say I should learn to cry but I only learned how to fight
    and I know everything must die but nothing fades like the light

    Oh, Elio should've known. As he should've always know: from a child to a teen to grown man, he should have known that the shadows he imagined tickling his heels would finally catch up to him. They find him with a dark, glorious, bloody fury. They pick his bones clean, build relics with what's left of his easily surrendered body.

    Oh, you should've known, Lannister had crooned to him once. Rolled onto their back and laughing like Elio didn't have a real world to return to, his son teased him about not seeing him beneath a particularly large palm leaf. He had popped out suddenly--the screaming AHHH enough to make Elio lurch backward--but couldn't keep the composure of a scary monster. Into fits of laughter they had both burst. I should have known.

    But how could he have known anything? The painful reality Lio longs to escape from is that he simply cannot know what he does not know. And what, exactly, should he have known? Lost in the seemingly endless spirals of his fabricated suffering, Elio loses the meaning of what he punishes himself for.

    "Oh," is all the golden man can rasp at first. He lifts shameful, stormy eyes up to Nash's, wondering if he can offer himself the same forgiveness his brother so readily gives.

    "It's good to see you, too, Little Feather," comes the painful admittance. His tongue is like sandpaper and his heart wrenches with every consonant in the old nickname. But just speaking aloud the truth (that Nashua is Little Feather and Elio is Fire Wing, and there is nothing besides wicked magic to change that), is enough to lighten the rainy weather that dims everything he sees. The thunderclouds behind his eyes begin to clear and for a moment--one crisp, cool moment--he forgets the lashings he wears on his back. He forgets the scars on his face and body. Forgets the expectations only he forces himself to live up to.

    "Nashua, I--" Elio begins but stops himself, so terribly uncertain. "How is Taiga? Lilliana? Yanhua? Tell me what I've missed." Such rushed words come as an obvious distraction: perhaps even word vomit will unearth more normalcy. Perhaps within the stories of others living while he can barely keep awake, he'll find a home.


    Nashua
    [Image: elio-by-dozymare-ddo34i6.png]
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    #7

    stars when you shine, you know how i feel
    oh freedom is mine

    Nashua offers his forgiveness because what is the alternative?

    He'd be a liar (and a poor one) if he didn't admit to the complications that stared so plainly back at him. Nash wasn't blind to the ache behind Gale's eyes. And he wasn't immune to the shame that peered out behind Elio's. It makes him think of the anger that he saw in Wherewolf and his tenacity to lash out when helped was offered. It makes him think of glowing Yanhua and the sister he never knew, Aela.

    This is the only family that Nashua knows. It is broken and fragmented and he will cut himself on them again and again because the alternative is to give up.

    So Nash tries.
    He tries reaching out to his older brother. He tries lifting his spirits by broadening his smile when Elio speaks. Because it wasn't that hard to do when they are trading boyhood nicknames and speaking of simpler times. The only tremor in his smile comes when he thinks that his red-striped brother will apologize again. If he does, Nashua might even think of braving the Mountain for the second time. At that moment, he thinks he would do anything to wipe the pain away from Elio's masked face. He can heal but Nash knows that the kind of healing he could do would never be able to take away the pain that Elio harbors.

    "I'm sorry," he tells him. Sorry for the jest he had played in Taiga all those years ago. Sorry for not trying to find him sooner. Sorry for the Father they shared and for the Mother that Elio lost. Nashua's face - normally so boyish  - changes to a rare emotion for the chestnut pegasus; the lines of it fall away to expose a vulnerability that makes him appear older. He feels Elio's uncertainty palpitating between them and Nashua braves the unstable ground of this conversation because this is his family; his brother.

    "Healing," Nashua says softly. "Parts of Taiga didn't escape the flames but there is talk of trying to turn those open spaces into gardens." The chestnut pegasus turns his face away from Elio and stares out between the trees, contemplating his next words as he searches the shadows of the forest. What Yanhua had told him during his last visit to Taiga left Nashua with the assumption that wildflowers wouldn't be the only new additions to the Redwood forest come spring. A smile finally starts to break on Nash's pale lips - quirked to one side - at the thought.

    "I don't think Yan has stopped growing," he half-jokes and then tilts his head towards his elder brother. The two pegasi were of a similar height and as the sunlight glinted off Elio's stripes, the younger one was reminded again of how much the red-winged pegasus resembled their sire. Despite the way his face has softened with affection, there is a knot in his throat at the reminder. Nash swallows it down and tells elio about more immediate things that he pulls from his mind: his travels to Tephra and Islandres, a pale girl he encountered one windswept day in Nerine, finding Gale and meeting Aedan, Leilan becoming Freyr of the North.

    "And you?" Nashua finally asks, concerned despite the teasing glean in his emerald eyes. "How have you been?"


    NASHUA

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