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    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


    Cast your light - Oceane
    #1

    The light that meets the dark

    After the feeling of midsummer festivities had worn off and before old man winter could blow his icy breath across the northern territories, Cheri found herself accompanied by her sire, Yanhua, and on her way south to the borders of Loess. This plan of hers: to relocate from the redwoods and make a new home in the larger southern Kingdom, had been a decision weeks in the making. Cheri had known from a young age that she would leave Taiga someday, not permanently but certainly someday, and after the Eclipse had ended it felt like there wasn’t a better time. Amarine was home now. Her siblings were too old for games, her cousins and aunts and uncles branching out themselves now that the world was bright again. Even her father was busier than ever, helping to raise Cheri’s youngest new siblings from the previous season while adjusting to his role as Guardian. She knew she could’ve stayed in the redwoods forever if she wanted to, but somehow Cheri knew that if she didn’t take that first step toward a new future, it certainly wouldn’t come to her.

    She looked back over her shoulder as her father led her past a bend in the main roadway, watching the towering evergreen crowns disappear for good, and her heart clenched with a moment’s worth of anxiety. “This is it.” She thought to herself, turning back to catch up with her sire’s lengthy walk. “I only wish Targaryen was coming too…”

    But her childhood friend had gone away after the festival, and Cheri knew she couldn’t wait on him either. Not when the words of another, much darker stallion resonated inside of her.

    “Are you even worthy?” He’d asked her that stormy evening in the meadow, when Cheri had been at her lowest and him at his worst. She knew better than to let the casual accusations of a nitwit rile her up, and yet they did. That phrase nettled her so deep that Cheri had taken to remembering it more often than she’d like to admit, making her question everything about herself when she did. Was she worthy? Did she really think herself so special? She hadn’t… until she discovered that she could heal the ill and mend the broken. Then Cheri had felt as tall as a king redwood in the heart of Taiga.

    Maybe though, maybe he was right.
    Maybe she wasn’t.

    “We’re nearly there.” Yanhua spoke up, drawing her out from deep contemplation. Cheri blinked and looked up past him where the landscape was becoming more barren and diverse, noticing how the soil was changing from dirt to clay and how the jagged peaks of red rock spires loomed in the distance. It was still mid-morning, and a soupy fog clung to the air and also to Cheri’s skin. She pulled her wings close to her sides, grateful for the halo of light created by herself and her father’s aesthetic traits, but the two paused when the sound of clashing bones broke up the silence.

    A pair of rutting bucks swung their sharp horns at one another and then stopped, interrupted by the traveling pair of horses. With shivering tails they waited, hesitant to start again, but her father blew a heavy snort and sent them bounding off into wilderness where they could finish their quarrel elsewhere. “Healthy boys, the both of them. That’s a good sign.” Her father commented, and Cheri rolled her eyes. Sure, sure. She was much more interested in the location they stopped at, lifting her eyes to peer as high as she could. Cheri took in her first sights with an impish grin. “What now?” She asked Yanhua, who looked at his daughter with a slow smile. Cheri readjusted and watched her father clear his throat before he whickered a casual greeting. Then Cheri joined in, her pitch a much higher tone than that of her rumbling dad, laughing afterwards while the two waited for an answer.


    Oceane
    Reply
    #2

    oceane
    a little white light
    in a sea gone black

    Though she couldn't have known it beforehand, the cure for Oceane's anxiety had been a combination of the sun's return and her own attendance at Leilan's Midsummer Fair. Her venture to Icicle Isle had been a warm reminder that she and Loess have friends in Beqanna, thus ushering away the fears that the Long Night and the Eastern kingdom's close proximity had ingrained in her. But despite a handful of issues with the shadow beasts who called the eternal night home, the borders between the South and East had remained quiet and Breach's promise to continue to apply pressure to Loess' throat had gone unfulfilled.

    Since the rising of the sun, the balefire woman has returned to her duties. Loess' congregation had fared well enough in the darkness and a general joy for life has returned since, prompting Oceane to partake more heartily in diplomatic duties and involve herself more often in the lives of those who choose to make their homes in the Southern kingdom.

    She's airborne today, with twilight wings spread wide over the sandstone canyons of her home. Though it's already midmorning, dew glistens upon the foliage that grows near the hot springs, where the fog, too, seems heaviest. Loess' wildlife seems active today, and if she were to glide closer to the earth Oceane knows she would be able to hear them speaking about their thankfulness the diurnal clock has returned, but instead she settles for watching them from afar with only the wind to fill her pricked ears.

    She navigates towards the northwestern corner of the foothills and redrock spires, hoping for a quick glimpse of the polar bear that had recently agreed to call a small portion of the canyons there home, but instead her warm amber eyes are drawn to the powerful clash of antlered bucks and, shortly after, the two equine who send them scurrying to compete another day. Neither appear familiar, at least from the sky, but Oceane is instantly reminded of the friend Leilan had mentioned at his Fair.

    Perhaps these two were the ones who'd laid claim to Silver Cove and were making their rounds to the nearby kingdoms.

    Their calls rings through the sky despite the fog that still lingers heavily in some places, one deeper and more confident than the other. Oceane, having already begun her descent, calls back to them warmly from the sky and makes a wide circle to slow her flight, alighting upon the ground a minute later with a flurry of opaline feathers.

    “Hello there!” she greets them with inquisitive golden eyes, this pair of flaxen and obsidian. She pulls her wings to her sides and gives a polite nod as she settles into this unexpected conversation, “My name is Oceane. It's a pleasure to welcome you to Loess.”




    Cheri
    “”

    n | v
    i must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    and all i ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
    Reply
    #3

    The light that meets the dark

    Whatever Cheri had expected, it certainly had not been the Oceane that greeted them. Yanhua himself had never met the Queen of the Southern Lands, preferring to distance himself as much as possible from his heritage there, but the lady in command of this region had been at the helm for years now - her name was tied to her status and well-known throughout the territories. Cheri had practiced word for word with her father, hoping to avoid looking like an unlearned imbecile when confronted with the mare in the flesh, but as the vibrantly clear response cut through the dinge of fog her tongue felt heavy and cumbersome anyways. She could feel her nerves dissolving, but her father - ever the stalwart guide - leaned a broad shoulder against Cheri’s side and sent her quiet glimpses of the crystalline flowers back home. A memory they shared; one that renewed her tepid courage.

    “It’s our pleasure to be here.” Her father was first to reply, sensing Cheri’s racing pulse underneath her skin. He smiled and focused entirely on the presence of their host and her generosity. “I’m Yanhua from Taiga, and this -” He motioned with the sideways tilt of his horns, “- is one of my elder daughters, Cheri.”

    Here it was: her big moment.
    Cheri’s side felt suddenly bare as her father stepped away and turned his gaze down at her, expectant. It would’ve been so easy then to glance back at him for support, but fearing she would crumble from nervousness if she did, Cheri swallowed her doubt and cleared her throat.

    “He - hello your highness. Lady Oceane.” She stumbled through the first part, gathering momentum as she went on. It was hard not to be awed by the other mare’s presence, astounding as it was. Oceane looked positively mythical; her skin shimmered faintly like fairy dust and blended itself seductively throughout. Hues of an evening sky, Cheri thought. Radiantly lovely. She felt awkward and garish standing in front of such a display. “It would be my honor if you would allow me an apprenticeship here, in Loess. I come from a small herdland in the north and cannot offer much but my desire to learn and grow, which I hope will prove useful to your Kingdom some day. Please,” Cheri’s tone was hopeful, “if you have an opening in your ranks - anywhere, it does not matter - I would like to fill it.”

    There. She could breathe again. Adrenaline still had her pulse racing, but Cheri could smile at least and not make it look pathetic. Standing alongside her, Yanhua spoke up briefly on her behalf.

    “She’s a dedicated pupil and an avid healer. Her talents exceed my ability to train, and quite frankly I think they would find better use if shared with the world.” He laughed softly, not unkind. “Taiga itself is and always has been a place freely open for travelers, strangers, and friends alike. Unfortunately, this means I cannot freely offer you exclusive treaties. However, I can freely offer you my personal aid and any power at my disposal should you need it.” Her father’s tone leveled out into a deep, assured bass. Their peace and petition over with, Cheri could only stand and wait impatiently - though what she wanted was to dance right out of her skin. “Be calm, be cool.” The young ward schooled herself, not wanting to seem like a flighty sort of creature when she’d just promised the Queen of the South that she would be the exact opposite of that. “But please, please say yes.”


    Oceane
    Reply
    #4

    oceane
    a little white light
    in a sea gone black

    The Loessian Queen assesses the pair as she offers her introduction and comes to the conclusion that the antlered stallion before her certainly could not be the Chemdog that Leilan had mentioned to her. The new leader of the Cove had been portrayed in a light that reminded Oceane much of a stereotypical bachelor and while she is practiced enough to know not to take anyone at face value, the man before her very much exudes the energy of someone dedicated to family. She had assumed one thing correctly though: the visitors, residents of an Icicle Isle subsidiary, know Leilan. She commits their names to memory and nearly remarks on their association with the Northern kingdom before her intuitive amber eyes catch the well-shielded trepidation on Cheri’s face, prompting her to bite her tongue lest the young woman lose her nerve in the process of waiting for more small talk to pass.

    Oceane listens to the obsidian girl wholeheartedly, with ears pressed attentively in Cheri’s direction and an encouraging smile turning the corners of her lavender mouth up gently. Her speech is well prepared despite her nerves, and Oceane suspects it’s a product of both her desire to prove herself and the positive upbringing she’s had the luck of receiving. She is reminded momentarily of Tarian and the way he refers to her as Lady Oceane regardless of how many times she tells her Champion that she is simply Oceane to any and all, though the Loessian Queen won’t correct the girl here and now. Not when there is pride replacing the tight paleness of nerves that had danced upon her facade just minutes before.

    Even before Yanhua draws her attention again with his deep and reverberating voice, Oceane knows that she would be happy for Cheri to join her in the canyons of Loess, though she listens to the girl’s father with the same attentiveness she had afforded the emerald-eyed Cheri. The mention that she possesses the powers of healing does not go unnoticed by the Queen of the South and she decides to later ask the young woman about her comfort and level of practice in regards to her magic. But for now, she offers a kind and understanding bout of laughter as the conversation turns to treaties. She prefaces her own response with a nod. “I aim for Loess to operate similarly, and can gladly offer you the same in return.” She pauses for a moment before adding on information that she would have wanted to know as a parent when she had first brought Alcinder to live in Icicle Isle, “Up until recently, we did have some issues with the Eastern kingdom but a change in their guard has seen a fortunate end to that. Please feel free to ask Leilan if you feel you need more elaboration, as I confided in him often while it was most tumultuous.”

    She smiles, the expression hopeful as she then returns her gaze to Cheri, who has waited far too long for her answer. “As luck would have it, Loess has a new apprentice who could likely benefit from some diplomatic negotiations.” Oceane’s smile widens and she rustles her wings at her sides excitedly. “A desire to learn is all you need. I would be honored for you to join us, Cheri. Truly.”




    Cheri
    “”

    n | v
    i must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    and all i ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
    Reply
    #5

    The light that meets the dark

    Whatever her father was thinking, Yanhua hid it well behind a nod and a smile. Cheri supposed she’d never seen her sire in action and she would’ve never guessed that the tall, patient stallion would be as comfortable navigating social waters with royalty as he was proving to be. He’d always been her Pappa: a figurehead of their family unit, loving albeit stern when necessary. He used to love locking horns with Mem and Rey when they were all little foals, but as Cheri recalled those memories she was surprised to find that her father only ever really ‘goofed off’ when uncle Nash came to visit. With a flicker of his ear in her direction, Cheri blinked and focused on the present, aware that her sire had probably caught a residual echo from her and her wayward mind. “Focus.” She reminded herself.

    Yanhua was quick to the point. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.” He told Oceane, and just like that the topic had come back around to Cheri.

    Oceane had a smile that suited her lovely features. Neither too wide nor too tense, it blossomed naturally and lifted her expression along with it. In response, Cheri’s own dark face seemed to brighten. “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!” She squealed, hardly believing her good luck. She turned her neck to gauge Yanhua’s reaction and found that he was already looking back, proud as ever to witness his offspring’s joy. There was, however, a subtle pull around the edges of his eyes; something akin to sadness. Whether it came from her father or not, Cheri was reminded of the first adventure they’d ever taken together - that fateful trip down the river’s pathway to the Forest, right before the Eclipse had happened.

    Yanhua was watching his children grow up. Cheri was still much too young to understand that kind of love, and so she turned to look back at Oceane before a minute had passed.

    “I’m ready to start whenever you’d like, Lady.” She proclaimed, a fountain of boundless energy coiled up and ready to spring. A moment ago she’d been feeling the effects of walking since before dawn, (she had her father to thank for that - he was hopelessly pitiful at flying) but now she slid her legs sideways and sashayed on lightened hooves to peck Yanhua at the base of his neck. “Love you Pappa, I’ll come visit soon! Give Saturnelle and Wit a hug for me.” She asked him breathlessly, trotting away to join Oceane on her side of the borderlands.

    Her father rolled his eyes. “I’ll miss you too.” The chestnut nettled, adjusted his pale wings with a smirk. “Oceane, if she causes you any trouble say the word and I’ll yank her home again.” He teased. “Take care you two.” The Taigan Guardian wished them well, curling his head into a stiff bow. He lingered only long enough to hear any parting words from the Queen, then with a flap of one wing he waved them off and turned back for home.


    Oceane
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