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  • Beqanna


    Jamie -- Year 213


    “"I don’t know how to do this,” she says. What she actually means is I’m sorry, but she doesn’t know how to apologize either." --Titanya, written by Mirage

    im always dragging this horse around

    The first word she says in the Afterlife is, "No." 

    It shouldn't be any surprise that the one who had always been her champion - who had always tried to shield her from every misstep as a child, who had watched his sister stumble and struggle in the land of the Living - is the first one to greet her. He couldn't catch her on the other side but on this one, Malachi is the first one to greet her. He couldn't be with her before but he could be with her now and her brother is eager to make up for all the lost years between them.

    Stunned and suddenly blinded by the presence of light, she thinks that his dappled skin should have gone silver by now.

    And yet here he is, as familiar to her as the day that she had left him on the Pass after they had argued.

    "Lilli," he urges her gently. The chestnut buries herself into the muscled crook of his neck. "No." she says again, like if she keeps her eyes closed, she can remain blind to the truth that is so painfully obvious now. (How does she still fit against him so easily? Had he always been this tall when he had been alive? Or has she always been this small?) But where she had once felt emotions so acutely alive and held on to them, they are far easier to let go here. Pressing her copper eyelids closed, she takes a deep breath and steps back from her brother.

    When her blue eyes open, they meet his dark mocha ones; brother and sister look at each other, two halves of the same smile finding one another. Her only stills a moment. "I'm sorry," she says. "For that last time," and her mind travels back to remember the bitter cold of the mountains, the furious heat of their anger. The quiet that settles between the siblings makes her wonder if Malachi's memory followed hers. "I should have-," Lilliana starts quietly and Malachi doesn't let her finish. "Come with us?" The Andalusian lifts his silver head and motions it towards a path, moving them away from this topic.

    They had both ended up here, she decides. It doesn't matter the path they took.

    Time, as it does in the Beyond, passes differently here and Lilliana doesn't know if it hours or days or weeks that pass here. The slender mare falls into step with her brother and makes the choice she hadn't when they had been both alive. She decides to follow him. And while he leads her away from the hills, they speak of many things. Lovely things (their children and all the ways the family that the family has grown, how Aletta had found their father, how Jay learned to speak to the stars). Terrible things (Malachi tells her how he and Kalina died, their lives given so that their twins could live).

    They talk until there is a veil ahead, a haze not unlike the Taigan fog. She slows when Malachi does and looks over to where he stands regarding her. Finally, he asks: "Do you want to go home?"

    Shouldn't the answer be easy? Shouldn't it be yes?
    (But her mind can't conjure the word into a single place, to a single soul.)

    "The choice is yours," he tells her before pressing a fleeting kiss to her forehead, and then Malachi vanishes into it, leaving the chestnut to gaze into a rift between worlds.


    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind

    Hey all you cool cats and kittens

    Amarine's face had jolted some of the mist of the Afterlife away. The white-faced mare had watched her once-ward turn and leave. The Fairies asked for help. She had watched Ama leave, frowning, wondering if her suspicion had been warranted. It wouldn't have been the first time some other spectre came to her with a familiar face, this place is full of more trickery than the Living World had ever held. But Neverwhere is not built for regret, her heart does not hold onto those things, and if the stilled thing in her breast twinges even a little when Ama turns away with promises on her lips, none of it reaches that gnarled, burnt face or the pale ghost-blue eyes.

    How much time has passed?

    The silver grass shudders, rustling with a breeze that she cannot feel when she turns back to the herd of placid faces around her. She knows a few of them, knows that red spotted mare with the witches' knots in her mane and the bay colt with the crooked blaze leaping tussocks in the field like his leg was never broken. It was simpler, then. It was easier. There were fewer decisions to make and they all led here, in the end, led to these endless, peaceful fields. But she's not the same as she was, the world turned out so much bigger. That old tugging feeling re-ignites, the itch that sets her wandering away from safety, from security, and without a word or even a nod, she leaves these remnants of her old family as easily as she did once upon a time.

    Actually, it's even easier, this time.

    The landscape shifts suddenly, like a dream, blending abruptly into something else, her hooves loud on the slick, wet rock. She thinks it looks cold, although she doesn't notice it, and then, like water spilling from above, she feels the cold, the damp chill crawling under her coat like thin fingers. But something is missing, some detail lost. Her head feels stuffed full of dry leaves that rattle against the back of her eyes, too dull and dusty to remember what is missing, and the stocky mare shakes her head against the sensation.


    She swings her attention back the way she came but that sweetly shining place has faded away, only dripping granite and those frigid tentacles hugging tight to her skin. Until she can't breathe. She gasps, but the feeling like suffocation doesn't waver, she coughs, and the compression tightens around her ribs. She coughs and...

    She coughs and she knows what's wrong - there's no plume of fog dusting her vision like dragonsmoke. There's no breath like there's no heartbeat. She's already dead. The cold terror Thing that holds her clings more tightly, but can the dead die again? Ever cynical, Neverwhere pauses and calms the beatless heart in her chest. There is nothing terrifying about the cold, she's survived enough winters to know, and the tight press of her lips becomes that trademark frown, one burned ear falling back.

    I'm leaving.

    It's a thought that booms against the frigid rocks, bouncing soft and inexorable as distant thunder. She can feel her bones, dry, pale, stretched across with piecemeal skin and threads of cream-colored hair. Pale eyes blink and open on nothing, on white. She is blind again. Or perhaps it is only fog. Someone dark passes her, he's soft at the edges, dappled, scentless. He doesn't see her and Neverwhere says nothing. Instead she steps forward; it's just one step, she hasn't even moved, but the fog breaks and there are tears on the other side. Blue eyes full of tears and again Neverwhere thinks she knows this face.


    "What are you doing here?"

    Amarine's words fall from her lips before she can snatch them back.

    That bitch, Neverwhere

    Image by Cielvesare


    These endless fields are supposed to be full of peace, so how is it that she is here, still full of tears?

    Oh, but they come.

    They finally hit her the moment her brother leaves and the fog surrounds her. They fall fast and hard and hot against her chestnut cheeks. The years between the last time they saw each other and this meeting here in the Afterlife nearly overwhelm her, but the years that separated them are ones that she can see clearer than ever.

    What Beqanna doesn't know - what the land of the Sunrise never saw - was that there were once three horses on a mountain pass. Two were light-colored (and one as pale as the autumn snow that threatened to fall soon), one had a blazing red pelt like wildfire. Two sets of eyes glittered like onyx in the sunlight, tempers ready to blaze like Lilliana's gold-red skin. And she had done her best, as she had always had, to dispel the rising tension between her family members.

    But Aletta was a force to be reckoned with; she always had been. And the words that Malachi had cast at her had been the stones to crumble a mountain.

    "You would have me break father's promise?" the dappled gray had asked. (He didn't raise his voice but somehow the deepening of it had sounded worse. Like thunder in the distance, like the rumblings of discontent yet to come.) Aletta, who had taught her children to have their own voice from an early age, heard her eldest and raised her refined head. But just as she had raised them to speak their concerns and to make themselves known, the gray mare had never wavered once her mind had been made.

    Not even for her children.

    "I would have you look to your own family," she tells him. Kalina - his mate - had been expecting again and with four young mouths to feed, scavenging for dead grass and roots was no longer a feasible choice for the band. "Your father knows that I will be here and when the Winds decide, he will come back for me." But the young stallion had argued. Would the Winds be there to aid her when a predator came calling? Worse yet, what about a rogue male? And that had earned a glittering stare from their mother.

    Sharp, pointed words as dark as the onyx that shone through her near-midnight eyes.

    Hadn't she managed to sneak Brynn away from Skullface?
    Had she not defeated Sirocco at the Summit?
    Had she not kept Underworld away from young Elena?

    And Lilliana had tried. Malachi had argued with their mother and their mother had said fewer and fewer words. "Malachi, please." The smaller chestnut pleaded. Then the worst had happened. The gray Andalusian had looked to his sister, another horse that he had promised their father that he would protect, and said: "You are coming with us to Liridon. To the Donietas." Much as he had told her when he announced that they were all going to Culloden.

    That had been the moment her grief had broken free.

    She had done as she was bid; Lilliana had played the respectable sister, the dutiful daughter. She had gone to Culloden and how had that played out? A man was supposedly dead because he had sheltered them. Something had broke in her and Lilli had snaked her head back. "No." She finally said, no longer trying to smooth the ragged edges of the argument between her mother and brother. Danger would follow them wherever they went and some part of her said it was better to go off alone.

    It always seemed to find them wherever they went - the Legacy clan, the Summer line - and some part of Lilli thought that maybe she would be harder to find on her own.

    On her own, she found trouble. It didn't seem to matter where she went, how far she tried to leave it behind her. It took the shape of a stallion with blue stripes and the gold coloring she had trusted through her entire life. She found trouble and Lilli who had played the peacekeeper for her family, called out for help the only way she knew how. Because in their hour of need, they always came. Because when the worst was about to happen, somebody was always there: her mother, her father, her brother, Elena. Somebody always came and perhaps some part of her thought that somebody would come.

    That the worst would be about to happen and the family she had lost would know, that something was wrong, that they would -

    They never came.
    They never came and she weeps now because she knows why he never came back for her; it wasn't because he was angry. It had nothing to do with their mother's stubborn pride. It wasn't because his fury had lasted years. Malachi had never been given them. Her brother never came back because he couldn't. He had been here and the repressed fury that has been building all this time just pours out from her blue eyes.

    It makes her angrier that she can't stop them. She clenches her jaw and arches her neck, tucking her refined head down until a familiar voice lifts it back up. Lilliana looks to see Neverwhere standing there with the fog swirling around her and wearing a frown that is familiar to Lilli as the mare herself. Her eyes widen and then her nostrils flare though there is no scent; there is nothing of the brine of Nerine or the moorland grasses that once clung to the dappled woman. "I was going home," Lilliana says. The haze around them continues to swirl until there are faint outlines of a forest, the soft trickle of a current nearby. "With my brother," she starts to explain (because once Lilliana had told her that nobody was looking for her and now she knows that wasn't true). "But it would seem his home and mine are no longer the same."

    She takes a deep breath, railing against the tightness in her chest. What she says next should surprise neither of them. She blinks once and then twice as the world around them continues to resemble a forest they once passed through. Her voice wavers. "I'm lost, Nev."

    but it's all in the past, love
    it's all gone with the wind

    Hey all you cool cats and kittens

    The silence between them might last a lifetime for all she can tell, heavy with all the sadness and the hurt the red mare has been crushing down and down and down into the darkest corners of her heart, and Neverwhere can see the dark forest, trees and shadows and snow, and the pale moonlight filtering through the branches. She sees it more clearly than she did in life, and the branches feel oppressive and greedy, snatching at the ghostly wisps of her mane. But the trees gave way to sunrise. And the world shifts subtly, black giving way to deep indigo blue, to pink, to that day at the river. Water rushes cold around her pasterns and the memory of that algae smell is sharp in her nose as the fog that clings to her takes the shape of a long ago day. It's thin, though. Neverwhere is less experienced with the magic of emotion, and so the illusion falls away from her long before it can become clear.

    There is only fog again, and Neverwhere, stolid, if not entirely solid, and Lilliana's tears darkening her russet cheeks. Two shortened ears turn themselves towards the chestnut and the wind sighs for her.


    Neverwhere closes the gap between them as she has done so many times before, finds her place again at her friend's side and imagines the warmth that used to be there until she's almost convinced of it.

    "Lilli, don't be stupid."

    Above the fog, the moon pulses softly, larger and brighter than she ever remembers it being. Perhaps it's guilt that makes it so broad, guilt to be a party to the Monsters' stained magic, guilt for turning the living world to pitch and ice. The beasts don't seem to linger here and she wastes little time wondering why that might be, it's enough to know that they aren't in this space in-between, and never mind the rest. Let it go. She isn't like Amarine, and she isn't like Lilliana. She doesn't answer calls for help by rushing in headfirst, bound by some sense of duty. Neverwhere would let dragons burn the world to ashes without remorse, yet, again and again, she finds herself here, desperate to staunch the flow of Lilliana's unhappiness. Somewhere distant, in the dark and the dust or the depths of some predator's belly, somewhere the shreds of her heart lurch and if Ama reawoke her, it is Lilli, her first and most steadfast friend, that reminds her what it is like to live. That broad, pale, forehead presses itself against a copper shoulder.

    "There's no such thing as lost." Neverwhere blinks clear eyes once covered with cataracts and rimmed with scarred, burnt skin. She had traveled so far and seen so little, "you just didn't end up where you expected."

    Her head swings up again, peering briefly into the place where the dappled stallion disappeared into the fog, to the place that is not Lilli's home, and the frown on her lips becomes something mischievous instead. Her shoulders roll, nonchalant.

    "Besides, I'm here, and I've never been lost a day in my life, so how can you be lost if I'm not?"

    That bitch, Neverwhere

    Image by Cielvesare


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