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    COTY

    Firion -- Year 217

    QOTY

    "She approaches the cave and there is nothing but that anticipation and her ever-present fire inside her. No fear, no flickering echoes of love. It’s all been consumed for now. She is a wildfire contained only by the thin layer of her flesh." --Mazikeen, written by Squirt


    [private]  this is going to bring me to my knees; Mazikeen
    #1
    Gale
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you



    Though it is midafternoon, heavy grey clouds hang thick in the open air. In all directions, jagged mountains pierce the sky, and winds sweeping down from the Icicle Isle continue to bring more masses of snow-filled clouds to the skies above. Sheltered by the overhang of the cave he’d so often shared with Mazikeen, Gale watches the storm.

    He’d expected to find her here, but instead there had been only silence.

    Gale has been in Tephra for one day less than it would have taken Mazikeen to come for him. He could feel her at the edges of his mind, feel her growing frustration at his refusal to send anything through their bond except a firm “No” when he felt her reach for him.

    He’d spent days submerged in the tepid waters of the fourth entity, and has arrived  in Hyaline with a coat as unblemished as the day the brindle colt had been born amidst the prickly pear in Loess. The rest of him has changed, with birdlike wings becoming those of the quetzalcoatlus, black horns sprouting behind his ears with a far more impressive spread than those of a faun. 

    He sends Mazikeen a single image - the storm from within the cave - and settles in to wait. When she does, he moves nearer, purposefully keeping this equine shape rather than shift subconsciously to match the shape she wears. It feels uncomfortable, this adjusting of a habit, and the flutter of disharmony feeds into the black magic.

    That felt better.

    But he can’t make himself the victim. That isn’t sustainable. It needs to be Mazikeen. He’s got to hurt her, but he can’t risk killing her or their daughter. He can’t lie to her; she’ll see right through it. He loves the parts of himself reflected in her enough that it passes for love of her, and the stallion’s heart skips a beat at the sinuous shape of the white queen despite her current difference from a mare.

    Gale had emptied himself of magic after arriving, forcing it away. He’s dimly aware that it feeds into the fire and the stone and the guardians far down beside the lake. There is nothing in him left for happiness to take, and the magician is acutely aware of his vulnerability.

    He is also more able to tell when happiness begins to pull at what is not there to take. It is the moment that he lays eyes on her.

    The tug grows harder as his blue gaze moves across her face, unable still to read what lies behind her orange eyes. His own expression is deliberative still, until at last he nods to himself.

    “I’ve taken the fourth entity.” He says, and his tone is level and neutral, much like his expression. Though she can pluck his thoughts from his mind, Gale doesn’t miss the chance to practice his nonverbal deception. “As well as Tephra.”

    And then comes what has been on Gale’s mind far more than the lava throne, those things that have come to him as he lay beneath the water: “I am done being weak,” he tells her, and what he means is: “I am done with you.”



    @ Mazikeen
    Reply
    #2

    Mazikeen had reached for his mind while she had been away, but her frustration was unrelated to the refusals she found there. Not when there had been so much else to think about - not when she was busy getting back what had been hers. She kept the images of fire and death she might have shared with him and did not reach out to him again.

    The alarm rings through the storm in time to when she can feel his presence closer, the press of his thoughts clearer than they had been across the continent, and she knows everything has already changed.

    There is some consideration on making him wait - she is annoyed at the summons - but she can feel a different storm brewing in the air and finds the anticipation of it intoxicating. Will today be the day he finally hurts her like he’s been thinking of doing? Will it be the day he realizes there is no way he could try that she wouldn’t enjoy?

    She approaches the cave and there is nothing but that anticipation and her ever-present fire inside her. No fear, no flickering echoes of love. It’s all been consumed for now. She is a wildfire contained only by the thin layer of her flesh.

    Instinct brings her close, but she does not press against him in greeting. She circles him as a horse-sized wolf, disappointed with the lack of new scars to show for his takeover, and stops when she is facing him again, her back to the storm outside the cave. She sits there, unconcerned. Mazikeen does not yet point out that he has one entity, not four. Nor that it’s his own damn fault if he’s been feeling weak. He knew happiness affected his magic and still he sought to make her purr during the nights and days they spent together.

    Amusement passes across her expression like she’s listening to Malik tell her about the mighty earthworm he had defeated.

    “Congratulations. Did you even meet any resistance?”


    m a z i k e e n .
     


    @ Gale
    Reply
    #3
    Gale
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you



    She circles him slowly, and Gale looks at the snow trapped in the thick pale fur at her shoulders, and the marks that her pawed feet leave on the dry stone, and he little bits of trampled snow and melting water that drip down her well-muscled sides. He traces the fissures of light that illuminate her entire body, his blue eyes unreadable as he so closely attends the naked proof of her rage.

    “None at all.” He answers regarding the facile takeover.

    Seeing her now, he realizes that one wound still remains unhealed. There is some broken part of him still, a flaw even the waterfall has not been mend. Happiness with her feels better than Power. He’d prefer to see her eyes shut in pleasure than pain, would rather hear her moan his name than plead for relief from pain.

    It’s wrong. He wants her more than magic and it’s wrong.

    When he had ripped her apart, Gale had not paid enough attention to where the pieces had gone. He’d not known then what he does now - how to keep the destruction contained, how to keep any of the discarded pieces from sticking to him.

    The parts of her that he’d stolen had mostly been thrown away, left to rattle about between the mountains of Hyaline as little pockets of emotion. A few he’d kept for curiosity’s sake, and they’d redoubled when his host had resurrected, stronger than he had anticipated. Most of them he’d quashed, but some dug in, resistant. He’d left them be after a time, certain that they could do no harm.

    He’d been incredibly mistaken.

    That much is certain as he tells himself he should slam her head against the wall so that her brains might match the stone. He tells himself as much, and yet he does not move an inch toward her. Hurting her doesn’t appeal to him. Not in the slightest.

    Instead he stares, meeting her red-orange eyes without so much as blinking, and does his best to not think about anything at all. Instead he listens to the sound of the wind howling as the snow clouds turn from grey to black and lightning begins to flash. He inhales the smell of crushed pine needles old fur and feathers from the deeper parts of the cave, and watches as the wolf settles between himself and the entrance of the cave.

    Or the exit?

    There’s no magic in him to defend himself. Vulnerability had seemed a reasonable trade for knowledge a moment earlier, but having gained it now he suddenly feels much differently. She is the one with the power now, he realizes. She has been for some time.

    He takes a step toward the mouth of the cave - the exit - but the space is narrow and he pauses just before he’ll feel the heat that radiates from Mazikeen. Had he been trying to leave? He’s not sure himself. Perhaps moving closer to her? Pushing her out into the snow?

    This close, he can see the way the light from their glowing bodies catches on Mazikeen’s glittering white fur, how a bit of blood has dried below her chin, extending the crimson marking at the end of her nose. He can see the child that is growing inside her, and knows she is nearly the age of her nameless sibling he’d destroyed the year before.

    He can’t imagine doing such a thing now.

    Disgusted at himself, Gale shoves past her and out into the snow. The trail back to Tephra is long and treacherous, but he’d rather risk killing his host again than stand there in front of her for a second longer. 'You make me weak'. And he’d let himself be weakened, time and again, shedding power like it was something cumbersome thing. All to experience the pleasure and happiness that came from being near her, as if good feelings were at all a worthy trade for ultimate Power.

    Wrong.
    Wrong. Wrong.

    He slips on a patch of ice, and jagged rock cuts at his legs and belly. The wounds heal - sluggishly - but he does not intend to look back.



    @ Mazikeen
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    #4

    Does it even count as conquering if the residents don’t care enough to show up? Mazikeen’s grin grows at the thought of it. Once she would have easily thought they had all hidden in fear of him but now she enjoys a different idea - the families she remembers seeing in Tephra continuing to graze and play while Gale stomped around, declaring himself king.

    Mazikeen returns his stare, that grin remaining. She is content to wait - both delighted by the snippets of his thoughts she catches and infuriated by… well, everything. But she does not remember what it is like to not be angry.

    She laughs when he pushes past her without saying anything else, stretching out to lie down where she had been sitting while her thoughts storm through her and as she debates chasing him or letting him run with his tail tucked.

    Gale had told her once that this Curse was different than the one that had affected his father, but she knew that line wasn’t as clear of a distinction as she had once thought. Or, at least, the distinction did not matter. Everyone feared what Wolfbane had become, enough that the effects of it still rippled through his family even now. And watching Gale disappear into the storm, Mazikeen cannot help but wonder why was there so much fear?

    If this is all that there was, it was incredibly unimpressive.

    Some part of her thrills at the idea that she, of everyone, is the weakness to this creature. That she holds power over something that had ruined an entire family - even if she know believed the entire tree to be riddled with rot and hardly worth saving anyway.

    Had he picked Tephra for the waterfall, or had he picked it for the same reason she had hidden her children there - because it was one of the farthest places from Hyaline?

    She realizes she’s not done with him yet, though in what way she’s not sure. Mazikeen does not want any ambiguity when they part today. So she rises and slips into the storm.

    Even with the conditions, it does not take her long to track him - the scent of blood drawing her to him like a shark. Mazikeen is still the giant wolf as she flies out of the snow, intending to knock Gale over on his side or just off his balance - testing what strength and magic he has left in him now before she circles him once more. This time she’s not looking for scars. She prowls like the hunter she’s always been, intent upon her prey. The sight of the blood from the newly-healed wounds nearly sends her into a frenzy but she focuses on holding herself together for just a little longer. Threatening Nashua and Aela had been fun - she knew this would be sweeter.

    “You’re such a disappointment.” Though she is almost entirely coated with burning markings, her voice matches the snowstorm around them. “Did you really think you could just leave? You owe me a debt and part of you will always belong to me.” Her eyes roam his body, possessive and uncaring as she continues to muse out loud in that same cold voice. “Perhaps I’ll just keep the only piece that was ever satisfying.” She could toss it into the lake, let the fish get a taste of him. She certainly would have no use for it once it was severed.


    m a z i k e e n .
     


    @ Gale
    Reply
    #5
    Gale
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you



    With the roar of the wind in his ears and his eyes narrowed against the snow, Gale is taken entirely by surprise. He had not expected her to come after him, and surely nothing else would be out in weather like this. The sun is hardly more than a brighter point in the blindingly white sky, and what he thinks are the edges of the mountains might as easily be the bottom of the clouds. The bare grey stone of the mountains are his only guides, and they are hard to see from more than a few paces away.

    Mazikeen’s attack knocks him onto such a bit of stone. The impact knocks the breath out of him, and the rock scrapes at his skin. The brindle stallion has climbed back to his feet by the time the winged wolf lands, and this time when she circles him, Gale’s ears are pinned back.

    ‘You’re such a disappointment’. The words sting, and the magic from their impact gives him sharp teeth revealed in a silently snarling mouth. The words are true but unnecessary, which he knows she knows as well.

    He had thought he could leave. The only thing he owes her is death. Deaths, truly, but there are only so many times he can die like this. Not when his host resurrects when he does, as strong as he had ever been. Magic makes it easier to quash him down, but the amount it requires is significant.

    Or does Mazikeen mean to truly end him now, Gale wonders?

    He’d not expected this to be his last day.

    Blood drips from a gash just behind his elbow, and in the corner of his vision he can see it splash impossibly crimson on the white snow below his black hooves. He blinks at it, inexplicably captivated. The colors are the same as those of the pale queen in front of him, and he meets her eyes just as she threatens to make him a eunuch.

    Gale exhales a quick breath of amusement, his eyes narrowing as he shakes his head. She would not have been left without him, even when he stood on the other side of their world. His magic is still there, wrapped tight about her bones. When he’d torn her open and sewed her back shut with bits of magic, they’d never left her pale skin, and he sees them there, flashing about her glowing body even now.

    She’s brighter than the sun and still growling, but Gale steps closer anyway. 

    Closer to the magic, but she’ll know that. Just as she’ll know the way he can't control that his breath catches, or the heat that rises beneath his skin as he reaches out to grab a flicker of his magic - like lightning - that dances across a glowing fissure at her neck. He's near enough to touch her, almost close enough to bury his face in the white ruff around her neck, wants to feel the pulse of her throat hammering beneath his lips as he drew her nearer to him and...

    Gale grits his teeth as what little magic he'd managed to gather almost escapes.  

    Grinding his teeth together in frustration, the brindle creature looks away. This is exactly what he’s been trying to avoid.

    The path out the mountains is that way, he knows. The path to Power, to a place where Mazikeen and her bright eyes won’t dull his edge. He sighs, low and long, and meets her gaze again.

    “Take it then.” He says flatly. “Whatever it is I owe you.” Even if it’s a permanent death, or just parts of him that he’s no use for without her. He doesn’t intend to put up a fight, that much is clear. “Or let me leave.”



    @ Mazikeen
    Reply
    #6

    Maybe this will be the thing that finally drowns out that growing sense of something in the back of her mind. That golden light still managing to exist in the shadows and fire, in the empty places inside of her. Firion had snapped at her for giving up, after all, maybe this would appease that part of him he had left behind.

    She was sick of having pieces of others inside of her, wanting nothing more than to peel both black shadows and golden light from her so she could know nothing but her own fire no matter how hollow it had become. But Mazikeen didn’t have magic like they did, there was no way for her to pry those pieces out. Her strength lay in other areas.

    And she was stronger than him. She believed that with all that was left of her heart even as she tries to shut out a kinder voice telling her the same thing. She would have been content to simply be his sword, to let him guide her. Ambition had never been something Mazikeen cared for, being beside him could have been enough.

    When he steps closer, Mazikeen does not know what she’ll do - so she stands there, bristling, and waits like a coiled viper. Will he press close, try to mend this the same way they’ve distracted each other over and over? Will he attack? She finds the second more exciting now, her interest in the first fading as her frustration grows. She is no longer content to be distracted. She is burning alive and everyone, everything, else needs to burn with her. And maybe in the cold ashes left behind she will find some version of relief.

    He looks away from her and Mazikeen huffs out a quiet laugh - her gaze not straying from him.

    She no longer cares enough to be aggravated by however she affects him. As the year had stretched out, the echoes of her former self had gotten fainter and fainter - leaving her so close to that shell he had first made when he tore out her emotions. Even her anger feels different than it had that day on Islandres when she had bitten his head off. It’s both colder and emptier - matching the rest of her.

    Let me leave she mimics him, voice full of scorn. “You sound more and more like Gale all the time. The whole world of power at your grasp, literally fed by misery, and you turn away from it.” It does not matter to her anymore that she was the reason he had - that knowledge just makes it worse. She had not wanted that, just as she had not wanted him to stop hurting her. He’d shifted vital parts of her, shown her what it was to be free, and then just stopped.

    “The pair of you are useless.” She snarls the words out even though this is not their greatest crime. She felt useless too - she felt tamed. She had been frustrated for so long but had done little to ease it, content to focus on him and let dreams of the future soothe away whatever concerns she had.

    It is not hard to let that frustration grow in her again until her fire aura bursts to life around her the same second she lunges for him again, jaws snapping with the intent to hurt, not kill. For now she just wants to see if she can drag a fight out of him first.


    m a z i k e e n .
     


    @ Gale
    Reply
    #7
    Gale
    this is going to break me clean in two --
    this is going to bring me close to you



    He snarls again, one lip raising silently as she mocks him. His white teeth shine in the glow of her fury, and he is silent as she repeats the realization that he had come to in Tephra.

    For nearly a year he has turned his back on Power for her, and she derides him for it the moment he does something to remedy it.

    There are some who think themselves gods when they touch what he can. Gale, though, had only been reminded of his own shortcomings. His access to magic is flawed, the pleasure he takes in using it serving only to sap his ability to do so. The more powerful he becomes, the more intense the effect of emotions, and he’s no idea how to control it.

    So he means to seclude himself in Tephra, to drive the other residents out or into the shelter of the trees-that-are-not-quite-trees, anywhere that is not near him. There, without Mazikeen to distract him, he will find what he is capable of.

    He makes no effort to argue, not even when she refers to Gale. He only arches an eyebrow and waits for the lunge that he Sees coming with the last bit of magic that he can pull from her bones.

    Sharp wolf’s teeth tear into his neck, and his skin broils beneath an aura of fire. Tensed and waiting, Gale hisses, transforming into a cobra with a hood nearly six feet across to pull his body away.

    With fangs longer than her own, Gale draws back, and a white rattle shakes at the end of his coiled blue body. Each strike she lands will make him stronger, and they both know it. She will hurt him, and he will hurt her, and when he cannot hold any more power at all and more satisfied than he can fathom, their snarls of pain will turn to satisfaction, and the magic will be gone before he has realized it is leaving.

    He wishes he could kill her.

    And then, though his host cannot remember the tales of his ancestors: his wish is granted. The Ancestors care not if they are remembered, it seems. They only wish to be invoked.

    Gale lunges toward her, and though his venomous fangs are aimed for her heart, it is his rattled - now barbed - tail that wraps tight around her body. Gale crushes her first few ribs and sighs in satisfaction as he drags her closer, caring not that she’d avoided being poisoned with her quick reaction. He has her now, and that is what matters. The snake’s black tongue flickers across her body as he grows larger still. The pain of the  little bumps and jolts as she scrapes against the stone and snow are sweet like berries, and the snake grows a wolf’s head just to lick his lips.

    He could kill her.

    Does he want to?

    Unsure, he picks her up using the coils around her midsection, and slams her into the side of the mountain. Blood and power join the snow flying through the air. It feels marvelous, and Gale does it again, feeling the way the bones in her hind legs are snapped like green twigs.

    Just before she loses consciousness and just after he is sure she cannot read the lie in his voice or mind, Gale leans close to whisper into her ear, “I’ll be back for Viszla.” The coils around her body release from where they’d been both holding Mazikeen and shielding his child. And Sickle, he thinks, if the oily Prince follows through. By then he’ll have rid himself of this weakness when it comes to the white mare, and he’ll finally be able to kill her.

    Permanently.



    @ Mazikeen
    Reply
    #8
    The invoked ancestor remains even when the brindle creature vanishes into the snow. She looks down at the red and white mare in the snow and the way her midsection rises - hardly noticeable - over the ancestors youngest descendent.

    She’d wanted to play with this one (hence her attentive ear to Viszla’s father’s wishes), and had hoped to borrow her from her mother when she was old enough, much as she had borrowed Moira from Aquaria. But the mare is dying now, and it will take her so long to die that it will take Viszla with her.

    That simply will not do.

    So the invisible Djinni wishes the mare healed, and with a shimmer of golden sand, it is so. And then - though it has never done any good yet and perhaps is ineffective entirely - wishes for the woman to be more discerning with romantic partners. The granddaughter that had allowed the Curse’s stain into their family had needed such a wish as well. Perhaps it will take a few more generations tor it to kick in.

    That would be alright.
    Djinni is patient.
    D J I N N I
    genie | rose gold tobiano dun | trickster
    Reply
    #9

    Mazikeen gets her fight and she’s thrilled, some of her old fire heating up the coldness of her eyes as they trade blows and she dodges his poison only to get caught in the snake’s grip. Disgust curls through her - an emotion she didn’t realize she still had - when Gale’s snake-tongue touches her body. As he drags her across the snow and earth she does not stop shifting, bending and twisting her limbs to rake her claws against his scaled skin and sink her teeth into his flesh.

    If she had known it took a wish to his ancestor for him to actually get the strength to do this, Mazikeen wouldn’t stop laughing. But her mind isn’t focused on his right now. Her cold anger has caught on fire

    The pain doesn’t bother her, it hasn’t for some time - but all she can think about is how he is winning against her will again and even when she is shattered the glowing markings do not fade on her skin for a moment. No matter how many times she kills him, the score between them will never truly be settled.

    And then the pain stops.

    And her broken legs are whole once more, her blood smeared on snow and rock but not flowing anymore. She doesn’t understand how or why there is sand - but it doesn’t matter. And the golden specks give her an idea.

    Mazikeen grins up at Gale with a face where not a single hair isn’t glowing with fire.

    “No. You won’t.” Mazikeen speaks with a calm certainty as she grabs for that golden light in the back of her mind and it unfurls inside of her - reacting readily to her acceptance of it. She had not cried out in pain but she does so now in shock because the flood of memories and emotions it brings is worse than her broken body. As she weathers it, she force-feeds it through her bond with Gale. Shoving every happy memory she can think of into his mind as she twists, becoming a phoenix as large as she can manage. Her hooked talons grip Gale’s flesh, deep enough that even if he shifts she’s got a fierce hold on his very spine and she rises through the storm. In this form, he feels weightless and she knows she could carry far heavier things. The snow doesn’t deter her - this is her home. She knows it well, enjoys the fierce bite of the wind as it tosses her feathers that are burning with more than just fire.

    Tears prick the corner of her eyes for the first time in a year and she’s so angry at this intrusion but she doesn’t let herself focus on that. She keeps up the flood of happy memories, no matter how detached she feels from them now because they shine with life again under this light.

    And somewhere high in the mountains with sharp ice and rocks beneath them, when all her hollow places are touched with gold and she is remembering seeing Malik and Sickle for the first time and how the intensity of her love for them had shaken her - she lets Gale drop to smash his skull on the mountainside without so much as a goodbye.


    m a z i k e e n .
     


    @ Gale
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