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    Svedka -- Year 212


    “He only knows home in his dreams and even those dreams do not mimic large, centuries-old redwoods. Lio doesn't remember the last time he laid his head down and truly felt comfortable.” --Elio, written by Phaetra

    I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello

    Tornados from a butterfly's wing

    She'd considered his offer, long and hard. The only home she'd ever known was the land of harsh plains and rugged rock, it's formidable landscape effectively sewn into her heart from the day Neverwhere had first brought her into it. She'd been lost as an infant. It was in Nerine that she'd felt found. Wanted. 

    As stoic as the cliffs, the butterfly winged mare had watched the waves crash on the rocks, and had made up her mind. Or rather, it was the tumult in her belly that had made up her mind for her. Home was a feeling like any other, and she knew it when she was with him. Knew it again when she felt the unanticipated life rolling in her womb. As she watched as her sides widened as the days grew longer, the earth woke itself up again. Nerine was her childhood haven, but now it felt empty. So she stood on the cliffs, and sent as much love into them as she could bare to feel at once. Hoped that one day, someone else would stand in that same space, and feel the same way. That was goodbye. 

    Hello began with a long walk. Her wings, beautiful as they were, fluttered uselessly on her back as her additional weight kept her firmly on the ground. Her mouth quirked in an ironic smile as the trees began to tower more frequently over her. Who would have guessed that pregnancy had been the ballast she'd been longing for? 

    It was a different kind of wonder she'd felt as the redwoods took over the terrain. They were not the cliffs of Nerine, but held a beauty and majesty all there own. It was almost intimidating, the way they stretched seemingly forever skyward. She felt small, smaller than usual. Not afraid, though. Not when she could feel the warmth in the air. This was a peaceful place. Sacred, in its own way. Perhaps, this too could be home. 

    She'd waited too long, of course, to make up her mind. Parting is such sweet sorrow, and all that. She had been beneath the sweet-scented conifers less than a week when she felt something shift quite suddenly inside herself. A deep, persistent ache that no amount of stretching or walking seemed to ease for longer than it took to come to a halt again. It was time. Instinct told her as much, and yet it seemed like things had moved far too quickly. She was alone. That hadn't been the plan. 

    The pain and pressure increased gradually. With it, her anxiety. Threads of it spun away from her as her focus lapsed. She wanted Nev. She wanted Nev very badly. Surely the no nonsense elder mare would know what she was supposed to do, how she could make the pain ease, or take her mind off of things. Oh, but she wanted her mother. Or anyone, really. Just to not be alone as she squealed in pain and fear as nature took control.


    Yanhua or any

    I got extra feelings

    Yanhua couldn’t explain what drew him away from the familiar comfort of his shared den, only that it was a feeling. Between himself and Amarine there was nothing but that, so perhaps this was the reason why. The goat-horned stallion only knew that he was restless, and so restless legs got walking to soothe the ache of a wayward soul and tumultuous mind. His deft toes, split apart down the middle, increased his traction as he wandered uphill through all manner of dewey greenery. There were low-lyings plants that budded in soft blossoms of white and yellow, whose leaves spread apart over an already moss-covered earth. Everywhere he looked there was the comfort of endless redwoods, all varying sizes and adorned with springtime colors themselves. Now and then he’d slow to watch a doe and her offspring sprint away and he’d smile, aware that these were healthy signs for the forest. His mane and tail dimmed their glow as the light grew stronger from far above, but Yanhua kept on toward Nerine.

    He was consumed with the thought of Amarine and the state he’d left her in so many months ago, when they’d shared a laugh and then much more. He wondered (as he topped a hill with boulders sprouting up from the earth like toadstools) how she was, if she was alright with what had happened between them… Most importantly, he missed her. With Borderline things had been easy and almost expected - the graying mare with a mane and tail full of blue hair had been smitten with him, and likewise he’d been apt enough to fall into her charming smile and easygoing manner. Though younger than him, Yanhua had felt that Borderline complimented his lifestyle well. She asked for very little except his time, which he had in excess these days, and to his surprise he didn’t mind her extended company so much.

    However, there was the occasional need for him to slip away and be on his own like he’d always been. Habits built in his childhood were hard to break now that he was nearly a mature stallion, and though he put on a brave face for Borderline, Yanhua sometimes felt he could not truly connect with her. Time, he thought absently, winding along the high path with only his thoughts to console him, time could remedy that situation. It had remedied many other situations for him before, so why not this one? Borderline needed time to mature and grow, and becoming parents would keep them plenty busy in the meantime.

    I really am going to be a father. Yan thought anxiously, but he hadn’t a moment more to consider that thought before a high squeal broke through the peaceful silence and interrupted him. He froze, head high, and opened himself to an echo that left him running forward into the woods before it could even fade away.

    “Amarine?” He greeted her, crashing through the woods in a state of total disarray. The saplings bent their branches aside for him, and his mane was full of twigs and leaves he’d picked up along the way. Draped over one horn was sagging moss from where he’d brushed up against a low-hanging bough as he’d galloped by. None of that concerned him - he was worried for the black-and-teal mare lying in his neck of the woods, obviously in labour.

    For a moment he was speechless and at a loss for what to do, but just as quickly he shook his head and sprung into action, bending forward to fold down onto his belly beside her. From here he could support her weight against his side if she needed to rest.

    “I’m here, now. I’ll breathe with you.” Yan promised, pressing his bearded lips to her neck and feeling the rhythm of her heart pounding under her skin. She was hot to the touch and he was no midwife, but Yanhua was determined to help until she said otherwise. It was the one good thing he could do - the one good deed he might do, in lieu of her needing someone with more experience. He closed his eyes to match her rhythm, letting the soft echoes of wavelike images flow freely from himself to her until it was his heart and not his mouth that seemed to relay a message of tranquility.
    Nerine’s shoreline, empty and serene. The gray water rolling up to surge over the multi-colored pebbles before dragging itself back again in a white foam. The moory downs twitching in the wind of an oncoming storm, where the sky grows black but not ominous. A calm and placid lake, smooth as glass with fog hovering just above the surface. The water is cold, and clear, and crisp on the tongue. You can see the rocks lying under the surface, where fat gray and silver fish swim in lazy circuits near the shoreline.
    He sends her this and more, breathing with Amarine as long as she will let him, and together they share what he loves most about her. The ocean - Amarine's majesty and power, awesome in his eyes and indescribably beautiful. The moors - her resilience and ability to cling to hope, come what may. The lake - her spirit and depth of feeling, and the fish inside are the ones lucky enough to have gained her trust. He fancies himself one of these.

    Yanhua smiled behind closed eyes and felt his heart thud in his chest, raw from how much he had missed Amarine, waiting patiently for a sign.


    Tornados from a butterfly's wing

    Her chest felt as though she'd been galloping for miles. In truth though, she had merely been pacing the thick blanket of pine needles that carpeted this corner of the world, until she couldn't anymore. 

    All her attention was focused inward now. The clutching in her belly ebbed and flowed like the tide, one wave after another, and she hardly noticed when her thighs grew suddenly wet. When the faintest scent of blood mingled with the heavy resin forest smell. She simply laid down, knees curling and uncurling from her belly while her unweildy wings rustled on ground behind her. 

    A groan, miserable and petulant, bubbled from her lips, yellow streaks of Pain behind her eyes. It wouldn't be long now. It couldn't be. She squealed again, head thrown into the bed of needles, only to freeze as a familiar voice broke through her frantic motion. "Yanhua?" She asked, voice rasping slightly. And he was there. 

    A sob of relief ended in another gasp of pain as her belly rippled with downward pressure. He felt blessedly cool on her fevered skin, and she leaned into where he lay against her. Rode out the spasm while he crooned first in her ear, and then directly into her heart. 

    Ribbons of blue, green, silvery grey. Peace, Joy, Strength. That was how she experienced his memories. They wrapped around her mind like a cool breeze, painting a picture that suggested familiar scenes. That felt like a balm on her aching heart. Eyes shut, she made herself inhale deeply, let the soothing emotions overtake her so her body could do its work. Quickly she learned that relaxing had been the key all along. 

    She was spent. Covered in sweat, blood and salty tears, exhausted beyond belief, and happy. So very, perfectly, happy. The very air hummed with it as she looked down on the pair of drying foals, one on either side of her while they drank their first meal. Funny, leggy little creatures, with more than a drop of their father evident in them even at only an hour or so old. 

    Dreamily, she looked from one to the other, and then back to the stallion who they so resembled. It was later in the day now. The sun beamed from overhead and dappled the ground with its golden light, and she found herself grateful for the warmth on her back. It was going to be a beautiful day, and that seemed only fitting. Only right. 

    Shaking pine needles and scraps of bark from her tangled mane, she smiled at Yanhua with open adoration in her strange eyes. "You came. You really-" she began, then stopped. Bemusement played on her face a moment. "I didn't mean for my Taigan debut to be quite so dramatic. How did you know I was here?" She asked, confused but not especially surprised. Individuals carried emotional signitures as distinctive as their scents. She could recognize his a mile off. Maybe he could do the same.



    I got extra feelings

    Time passed. Slowly or quickly, Yanhua couldn’t be sure which - but it passed. This was the closest he and Amarine have been in months, yet it felt so natural. Almost like they hadn’t been apart at all. Yanhua thinks it very fitting that after so many cases of Ama supporting him, now his chance to return the favor has come, and what does it yield him? Something grand and wonderful, unexpected and breathtaking. Without so much a word, the butterfly mare conceived a pair of twins and Yanhua looked down on them with eyes as bright as his hair, indescribably happy. “Our foals.” He breathed in rapture of them, not a doubt in his mind concerning their lineage.

    One foal, a black filly with a white marking covering her rump and hair as brightly shaded as her dam’s, and her twin brother - a chestnut colt pied-over with beautiful, irregular patches of color. His ears hung alongside his face and her rump seemed too-bright, too-white. Both were equally charming and unique, and both resembled Yanhua strongly. Amarine had worked her beauty and color into them both, which Yanhua was silently (infinitely) grateful for.

    The little family made quick work of standing and getting to the business of nursing, and Yanhua shook the forest debris from his coat and did his best to nod out the moss clinging to one of his horns. He met Amarine’s appreciative stare with a proud look of his own and a handsome, lopsided smile to match.

    “Part luck, part emotional distress.” He answered her brightly, too happy to be anything but. Those echoes were always the loudest and always the clearest, which he thought might be due to how recently they were created and how intensely emotional the sender was in the moment. Emotions like Amarine’s had led him to many stray horses here in Taiga, and vice versa had led a few horses to him as well. But she knew that already. “I was headed North to see you anyways…” He admitted, switching his attention equally between the bejeweled mare and their newborns.

    Gently, he approached them.
    With his nose outstretched, Yanhua went to rub the bright white blanket covering his daughter’s rump and for his efforts, received a surprised baby kick which he laughed off. His beard must’ve tickled her rump, but the second time he went in for a polite little stroke the filly didn’t resist. Satisfied, he withdrew and let her eat in peace, choosing instead to raise his head like a giraffe so he could peer over Ama’s side toward the colt. Ah, they were stunning. To think she’d carried them all the way down here on her own, and intended to go through the process by herself! He lowered his head and turned his cheek, eyeing Amarine with renewed affection.

    “This is it, then? We’re parents now.” He chuckled in starry-eyed disbelief. “Does this mean you’ll stay? At least for a little while?” Yanhua pressed in a quieter tone.


    Tornados from a butterfly's wing

    It was funny, the way they seemed to have been copied in miniature. Green and black, gold and copper. Two little dolls that captured them both perfectly. Ama couldn't stop marveling at them. She had made these. They both had. The wonder of that captured her, eased the aches her body was sure to feel for days. It was enough to be here with them in this moment. She treasured it. How many perfect moments did a girl get in her life? She doubted it would be many. 

    Yan had arrived in the nick of time, and now that she could think straight, it seemed all the more marvelous. He looked like an old god, horned and wild. The illusion broke when he smiled. Then he was Yanhua again, light hearted and joyful. Her friend, above all. Her cohort and now, co-parent. She hummed softly as he replied to her question, eyes nearly glowing with the strength of her emotions. 

    She shrugged at his assertion that he'd been going to find her soon. "And I thought I was putting things off," she quipped, adjusting her weight. She'd waited almost an entire pregnancy to finally come this way. How long would it have been till she'd seen him again if she'd changed her mind about the trip? 

    She chided herself silently for thinking on such a bleak track. It took nothing but an easy brushing against his emotional state to know he was being earnest. She could trust him, more than just about anyone. It was something she simply had to remind herself of. 

    Sometimes she felt easy to be abandoned. Her own mother had done so at her birth, and it seemed that almost everyone she'd met since then had followed suite at one time or another. She stayed home, and hoped they'd remember her, and come back. It was a mark of her faith in Yan that she'd been willing to leave Nerine at all. Even for this. And he'd come through with flying colors. 

    She watched with a protective eye as he eased in by the tufty black and white girl. The fuzz that would be her mane and tail were still dark with fluid, but the drying ends promised vibrant colors. The determined little thing never broke her contact with her mother's teat, even as her spindly legs struck out at her inquisitive father. Ama laughed at their antics, watching and feeling as the first threads of bonding grew between father and daughter. It was like watching a seed send out its first roots into fertile soil, and she couldn't wait to see what kind of flower grew. 

    "I think so," she said, equally blissed. She made herself look away from the babes, to meet his eyes as she thought about her own answer. "If you're really sure, then yes. There's... not much left for me in Nerine. I'd like to think this is the start of a bigger adventure, for both of us." She matched his quiet tone, threads of golden Hope weaving through her spoken words. She reached around her side to press her muzzle to the brown and spotted colt's hip, unsure if she could watch Yan's expression as he digested her words. Words never did justice to their pure emotional counterparts.



    I got extra feelings

    When Lilliana had been taken away from Yanhua’s childhood and kept in Pangea against her will, the Taigan stallion thought he’d never let anyone close to him again. The pain of losing her so young still felt bone-deep. They’d never discussed what had happened to her there and he prayed they never would, because what was unspoken between them could always be brushed away and left in the past where heartache belonged. Yanhua truly believed that he could replace so many unanswered questions with laughter and her presence, that he could bury Lilliana’s waking sadness like a small seed in moss-covered soil. He could water it with love and continued affection until he forced it to grow into something stronger and better than it was before.

    But he promised himself, never again. He never wanted to get close to others, so he hid himself away from the world rather than overfill himself with new acquaintances like Nashua did. He turned away from Beqanna and drifted further into himself, into the redwood forest that enveloped all of his heartache and gave him ghosts to watch instead. If he couldn’t have his mother, then he could have the memories of her and other mothers like her as a balm against the pain. For a while it worked, but then she’d come home, a little bit sadder than before and not so much older, and it seemed like Yanhua could finally breath again. He opened up, traveled a little, and did his best to bury the seed and water it. They never spoke of those days, and over time Yanhua considered what life would be like for him if - just maybe - he did let someone in. The right someone?

    “An adventure, yes.” He agreed with Amarine, and suddenly it felt like he could breathe again. “I want to be there for them, be a part of their lives. Watch them grow, love them.” He spoke, warm as a summer’s day in the open meadow. A tendril of sunlight wrapped around his thoughts and his eyes softened to the touch of Amarine’s magic. He felt buoyant, echoing back her unspoken sentiments with the very images of how he might describe her feeling of hope, the two of them silently feeding off the other and their babes caught somewhere in between. Their children would never have to question how deeply their parents adored them; Amarine and Yanhua would make it seen and felt.

    “I want you as well.” He murmured to Ama with a handsome smile, eyes half-closed. A second later he blinked and came to. “I want you here, as well. For the same reasons.” Yan backtracked, stumbling to explain without getting tongue-tied. He laughed softly. Idiot, he chided himself. Amarine’s power was a terribly strong drug; he’d have to be a little more prudent in the future about letting himself slip too deeply into its embrace.

    “I figure that when they’re a little older we might introduce them to Lilliana. She’ll want to meet them, I think.” He changed the subject quickly, not wanting to pressure Amarine into a response so soon after admitting something so… deep. He’d rather she have plenty of time to think over what he’d said, and likewise wanted time to think about the subject before revisiting it again. Emotions had always been open between them, defined by their gifts and shared without hesitance of rejection, but when it came to love… well, that emotion could be trickier than most. “For now, I think we could all use a little rest.”


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