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    Mazikeen -- Year 214


    "“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

    [private]  it's like we're on our own to figure it out | mazikeen
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    The smoldering markings across Mazikeen’s body blink out, leaving only the fiery coloration of her fur and feathers. The Curse is not watching her face, but it feels the shift of muscle beneath her skin where it remains pressed against her, and pulls away to better see her reaction.

    There is an uncomfortable clash of disappointment and desire at seeing her so swiftly change to suit its demands. The Curse had expected more of a fight - wanted one even, since it can’t yet pry the twins from her body - but the unconscious rumbling of satisfaction from his feline chest is unmistakable.

    When it sees the hatred in her eyes and the fire return to her skin, the purr turns into a satisfied laugh. That, it thinks. That is what it truly wanted: her submission. She will let it do what it wants, and will even participate herself if the rough tug at the lion’s haggy mane is any indication.

    “I don’t think that’s possible,” the brindle lion breathes against her cheek. With each word, a small puff of steaming air rises into the crisp winter morning, and each exhaled breath smells of a bloody breakfast that Gale could have never choked down.

    Despite its lies, despite her fear - the Curse has never lain with Mazikeen. Gale has never let it, fighting for her - for them - with an indefatigable strength that even black magic could not subdue. The fury with which he has defended her had left him weaker in a myriad other ways.  The Curse had slipped black tentacles into those thin crevices, widening the cracks and its control over its host.

    To have Mazikeen consent so easily is a rather splendid stroke of good luck. It would have had her eventually, but deal-making leaves it far less physically exhausted than the alternative of bruising and breaking her until she bent to its will.

    She had scoffed at the idea of its generosity before, but the Curse feels itself both kind and rather benevolent as it rakes its pearlescent teeth along her feathered shoulder and then her furred back and hip without drawing blood, and also as it slowly presses Gale’s broad chest against the base of her black tipped tail, and even more so as it moves forward so its chin rests along her feathered neck, and Gale’s lips place a tender kiss just below her ear before it speaks

    “It’s a pity he knocked you up so quickly. We might have had some real fun.” The lion’s front paws flex, and eight sharp claws dig into her shoulders deep enough to draw blood. The Curse wants her to feel the pain just as it generously shares with her the truth of her children’s parentage, and it uses the claws that Gale has hooked into his lover’s flesh to pull her closer against him.


    Revulsion hits her at the words and scent of blood on the breath that carries them, she feels bile rise in her mouth. What had the Curse been up to in Gale’s body last night? Mazikeen knows that’s the real line - the threat to others. She would not think it was time, not think things had become too much, for anything done to her. How could she, when any pain she experiences is her own fault for not being strong, fast, or smart enough to avoid it? How could she possibly think it was time when Gale had warned her she’d get hurt and she knew what she was getting into?

    Even though she had not expected this at all. She had been thinking physical pain.

    This is not Gale she tells herself as his body moves down hers, tracing her feathers and skin with its teeth and she can feel her body respond to this touch because it is familiar.

    This is not Gale she shouts at herself when he is behind her, when she feels that tender kiss that is both sweet and cruel.

    The words hurt more than the claws and there is a sharp intake of breath when they both dig in before a vicious snarl escapes her “I’m going to enjoy killing you one day.” Mazikeen is waiting for that white fury to overtake her, for her anger to swallow her up but when she reaches for it she can't grasp it. Maybe it is some stupid instinct that will keep her from tearing everything apart, including the children. So she burns alive on the inside instead, hatred for herself is outweighing her hatred for the Curse and it brings with it despair and shame. So much shame.

    This is not Gale she says again when parts of her instinctively react positively to the familiar weight, even while her shoulders sting with pain and blood drips down them from the claws that are hooked in her flesh.

    Her body burns with light the whole time, feeding off of the storm inside of her. And then - some of the cracks blink out of existence when she feels something break in her chest and in her mind, when she feels tears sting in her eyes and she closes them as a hollowness forms inside her where her fury had been.

    This is too much to give but she knows she would make the same choice again if it buys Gale a little more time in the light. Knows that if there’s any truth behind the desire for her that this thing feels, she will continue to use all that she had to keep it from hurting anyone else.

    But it is too much. She hopes Gale never forgives her because she will not deserve it. Not now.

    Willpower keeps her from vomiting right there afterwards, keeps that crowned head held up high. Mazikeen cannot decide whether trying to turn to hide the tears is worse than letting them be seen so she keeps her eyes closed as she inhales deep, ragged breaths and asks herself just what the hell she’s doing.

    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    Mazikeen snarls a threat, and the Curse laughs.

    “I will very much enjoy your attempts,” it says against her ear, and this time it uses Gale’s voice, a slower and gentler tone. It retracts its claws and draws her nearer with the rough pads of its leonine paws, and as it has its rough and selfish way with her, it is an absolutely perfect imitation of Gale, right down to the kiss it presses to her nose at the end.

    Afterwards, it stretches lazily, glancing to its left where Mazikeen stands. Her orange eyes are closed, and it cannot see if she is crying. Boring. The coppery smell of blood perfumes the air, and the Curse yawns, and with a glance up toward the sun speaks in a casual tone.

    “Well, it’s daytime, and a deal is a deal.”

    The lion collapses, shifting as it does to a brindle horse. Gale is too exhausted to hold onto shifting magic, or to any magic at all. His glowing markings brighten, his conscious dimming of them released, and Erne circles overhead in slow and concerned spirals.

    Gale wakes slowly.

    There is an ache in his head like a flaming thorn, burning him from within. The Curse. He recognizes this sick nausea as a remnant of being possessed by the darkness. His eyes are closed, and though he knows it will burn to open them he does it anyway. Seeing is better than blackness.

    Mazikeen is there, just at the edge of his vision. He isn’t sure how he knows it is Mazikeen (the wind is not in his favor and he’s never seen her in this shape or color), but there is no doubt in his aching mind that the blurred figure is his beloved.

    “Maze?” He asks, his voice soft. Gale catches sight of the blood that remains where his claws had shifted to hooves, and a deep inhale reveals that it is her blood, and he blinks as rapidly as he can to clear his vision, but even that is worn and used up by the Curse. He lifts his head, then tries and fails to stand up. His heart is beating much too fast, and he manages to stand on his second attempt but can’t quite make his tired legs walk toward her.

    “Why are you a gryffen?” He asks, confused. Before she can answer, he realizes that he’s finally been freed to remember, freed to speak, the words pour from him like water down the rocky slope. “Maze, I think the Curse is worse than I thought. I think it’s taking my memory more often than I thought and making me do things I would normally never do. I don’t remember a lot of things.”


    Mazikeen fumes with anger as it uses Gale’s voice, when pads instead of claws are pulling her closer and she recognizes everything but the roughness with which she’s used. It is simply too much and in the end this is what breaks her, the use of Gale against her.

    There’s angry words there after, waiting to be bit out, but she cannot open her mouth to say them. She’s a little surprised that it doesn’t taunt her more, that it only mentions their deal before she hears the unmistakable sound of a body colliding with the ground.

    A sob escapes her before she can clamp back down on the sadness and the rest of the fire on her skin fades out at the sound. She opens her eyes though, watches to make sure the body rises - and she flinches when he says her name though she doesn’t know why. The Curse hadn’t called her Maze but she hates how perfectly it could use his voice, hates how she wants that softness but doesn’t deserve it. There’s nothing left in Mazikeen to doubt whether this is Gale or not. Her default setting had been to trust him, once she had gotten over her anger over the alliance, and she cannot even rouse enough fire to fret about whether this is a trick. If it is, she doesn't think it matters anymore.

    She shifts after he mentions her shape, becoming her horse self - no horns but large black wings are folded at her side. They don’t hide the smell of blood in the air, they don’t hide the twin trails of it that are curving around her forelegs, but she cannot bring herself to display those wounds openly. Her legs are shaky and though she wants to move to him when he tries to stand, it takes until he speaks again for her to manage a few steps.

    She wishes it hadn’t used his voice, hadn’t placed that kiss on her nose.

    Wishes she didn’t feel both like she had betrayed Gale but that he had betrayed her too.

    “It’s worse.” She confirms quietly, just as she had when he had mentioned that he had lost more than a few nights. The comforting touch she places on his cheek is whisper soft and even that much assumption hurts so much that she pulls back a few steps, squeezing her wings a little harder into her sides until her shoulders blossom in pain. “And maybe it’s better if you don’t remember.” This is so much crueler than Mazikeen thought it was going to be. She thought Gale would fade away into a monster, not that he'd be sharing the body with one - and that he'd still be himself whenever the shadows retreated.

    This is so much worse.

    She looks up to the sky, to where she can see the shape of Erne circling above - and wishes she could talk to the osprey. So many wishes. Mazikeen’s eyes remain upwards like that’ll hide the shine of tears still there when she continues. “It… it’s going to leave you alone during the day. It should." That word holds more of her usual fire, a threat there if the Curse is listening. "But… you should probably sleep. I don’t think you’ll have any restful nights for a while.”

    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you

    The ache in his head remains constant, unaffected by the regenerative abilities that so easily heal physical wounds. It feels as though he is being split apart, like a coconut fallen onto hard stone, but he cannot tell one piece from the other. The cool brush of air against his eyes burns as if it carries hot sand, and Gale winces and closes his eyes.

    Only to open them again, because that is the smell of fresh blood, and it is Mazikeen’s.

    Dripping down her forelegs, the source covered by a pair of feathered wings he’s not seen before. She has come closer as Gale struggles to stand, and though he is sure she is ready to support him, her nearness comes with a fresh wave of scents, and Gale’s blue eyes widen and he falls still as he takes them in.

    What has just happened?

    His thoughts spin in ten million directions, and he closes his eyes. It’s worse, Mazikeen says, and without thinking he presses back against her touch, the long bridge of his nose against her neck. Her white skin smells of blood and sex and things that are 'better if he doesn’t remember', and a single shuddering sob breaks from his chest. Only one, because he is too tired for more.

    As if her words summon the weariness, his limbs grow heavy, and his closed eyelids feel as though they have been filled with heavy stones. Mazikeen is bleeding and he (he?) had some part in it, and some part of him wonders why she is still able to stand so near to him, wonders why she has not fled. 

    “This is not the Curse that killed my parents,” Gale breathes against her white neck. “This is something different, something...” His voice grows fainter as he drifts off. His slipping head wakes him an instant later, but he cannot stop his legs from dropping beneath him, and he is murmuring apologies as he falls into a fitful sleep.


    Mazikeen had not thought about how her body would carry more than just the scent of her blood and she realizes it only when she notices how still Gale falls. She waits for his disgust as shame burns at the hollow places inside of her. The shuddering sob that she hears and feels against her as they stand close is so much worse. It worse than the discomfort and emptiness inside her and Mazikeen hates herself most of all for causing him pain.

    The words that are breathed into her neck don’t immediately register because she’s distracted by how she feels both sour revulsion (it wasn't him, it wasn't him, she tells herself) and sweet comfort in that touch and how those two reactions mix with shame and churn her stomach until she is nauseous once more. He wouldn’t be touching her at all if he really understood what had happened, she tells herself, though she cannot make herself move away again - even though it would be kinder to him if she did.

    Gale drifts off and concern breaks through her hollowness and she brushes her muzzle against him after he falls, making sure he is not hurt. His murmured apologies break what hold she had on her tears and they fall in earnest now that she does not have to worry about him seeing the weakness in them. Mazikeen tries to convince herself that she has no right to cry, no right to feel anything when she had signed up for this - when it was not enough to make her leave or break her promise. She really had not expected it to affect her this way. She hadn't thought it would fill her with anything other than rage. The Curse had seemed to know exactly how to hurt her, though, and she knows she needs to be stronger and better prepared in the future so she will not break so easily.

    So she'll cry here, where only the unconscious form of the one she loves is a witness, and once they're done she'll try to turn herself to steel.

    And then Mazikeen’s thinking about how she needs to wash, how she needs to find water far enough away from the lake that her blood won’t alert Sabal, how she so desperately needs to sleep too. But she stands there a little longer, keeping watch over him, and presses a soft kiss to his forehead as she tells him that it’s okay, and she tells him what she is telling herself on repeat. “It wasn’t you.”

    And she quietly gives his sleeping form the comfort that she wants but does not know how to ask for (even if he were conscious). “This isn’t your fault. I love you so much Gale and I am so, so sorry.”


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