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    Assailant -- Year 226


    "But the dream, the echo, slips from him as quickly as he had found it and as consciousness comes to him (a slap and not the gentle waves of oceanic tides), it dissolves entirely. His muscles relax as the cold claims him again, as the numbness sets in, and when his grey eyes open, there’s nothing but the faint after burn of a dream often trod and never remembered." --Brigade, written by Laura

    [private]  we could try to go back where we started
    It’s a strange thing, entering Hyaline of her own free will. She’d never travelled the pathways through the mountains before. She’d been teleported in with one parent and then carried out by another - or so she had been told.

    Even Sickle has to wonder whether that day had been just a nightmare after all. And all the fears she had carried with her through her life could be just made up. No one else seemed to share them, after all, and one-by-one the stable figures in her life seemed to have faded away. So maybe it was all a dream.

    These thoughts don’t bring any comfort but they keep her occupied after she leaves Bolder and begins to search for her siblings. She isn’t sure what Myrna looks like - but expects a dark coat like herself and Malik.

    Wary about being recognized by anyone else before she can find them, particularly her mother, Sickle takes the form of a dark blue phoenix - making a near-matching set with Oceanus as the pair circle over Hyaline and the lake there. It shines now with sunlight rather than starlight but the sight of it makes her heartbeat race. Real or not, the memories of her short stay here are bright and vivid in her head and through the roar of them, she can barely think enough to continue scanning the ground.

    @ Viszla
    The wolf shape is one of Myrna’s favorites. Her coat is white-gold, with a longer platinum streak running from between her flower-studded ears, down her back, and to her full white tail - the wolflike version of her equine spinal mane. She wears the horns of her horse shape as well, two pearlescent spirals that have grown from the small buds she’d had as a child. She’s an adult now, say those horns, and she’s very proud of them. Too proud of them to shift them away, even when the rest of her is otherwise lupine.

    She had heard the entities earlier, and seen the pair of flying figures. Strangers, Myrna thinks, and she’ll be the one to greet them.

    Breaking from the cover of the copse of wisteria, Myrna moves toward the edge of the lake. Against the bare stone and green grasses, her pale figure is easy to see, but she still raises her head to yip out a greeting to the pair of phoenixes circling the lake.

    If they were true phoenixes, Mynra knows that the residents of Hyaline wouldn’t have been made aware of their presence. She glances from one to the other, noticing their brilliant blue plumage. When they land, will they shift to horses, she wonders? Perhaps she should be polite, and welcome them by showing them her own equine form.

    Becoming a mare takes only a moment of concentration, and soon she is standing on hooves rather than paws, and looking quite like her mother as she stares up at the visitors with an easy smile and curious dark blue-grey eyes.

    Since she had been hoping to see a dark figure below, naturally there is a pale one instead. Sickle watches as the wolf becomes a horse with twisting horns and her heart sinks. The colours aren’t quite right but her mind immediately snaps to Mazikeen. No sooner is she registering the pale figure is she tilting her wings to veer away. She isn’t ready to just drop to the ground and confront - meet - the mare who had birthed her, protected her, and then kidnapped and hurt her. She still has scars on her sides from the sharp talons that had gripped her and carried her from the Pampas.

    No no, they’ll leave the kingdom that had taken them forever to get into and try again another day.

    But her companion doesn’t like this plan - Oceanus veers before her, flapping his wings to throw her off course and shouting through their bond to get her attention.

    It isn’t her mother, he tells her.

    And of course she believes him. Oceanus is a constant in her life, he wouldn’t lie.

    There isn’t much bravery in Sickle - she is pretty sure there isn’t any at all - but she borrows enough of Oceanus' certainty to dive down. Her eyes are fixed on the stranger as she draws closer, seeing similarities between the youth and Mazikeen and hoping this isn’t a trick. Hoping those blue-grey eyes aren’t masking ones made of fire. Her companion lowers his altitude but remains in flight, circling above and keeping an eye on things.

    Sickle shifts as she lands, becoming her horse self - iridescent blue with black brindling. Eyes that never matched each other - they only matched Malik.

    “Are you Myrna?” No bravery and next to no confidence, but it feels like a good assumption to make so she does not waste time in checking. “I’m… I’m Sickle.” She doesn’t know whether Malik had mentioned her or not, so she adds in a cautious voice just barely above a whisper. “Your sister.”

    @ Viszla
    The blue creatures don’t immediately come closer but they do look down, and Myrna turns her smiling face up toward them. She meets the gaze of the near phoenix for only an instant before it turns away, leaving Myrna with nothing but a brief impression of a beaked face contorted into an expression that she is only sure was not delight.

    But then the other bird is blocking that one’s flight, and it is turning back toward her, leaving the other to climb higher overhead. Had it tried to run away, she wonders, and been turned back by a scolding? Was she so startling to look at? Myrna glances briefly down at her reflection in the water and when she finds nothing terrible, uses the water to watch the phoenix descend.

    When it lands, Myrna’s gaze leaves the water, and she watches with open interest as the flaming creature becomes instead a black-striped mare about her brother’s age. The iridescent blue startles her just for a moment, but then the stranger calls her Myrna (not Viszla) and her heart resumes its regular beat.

    She’s nodding, pleased to be recognized by someone she doesn’t know, when the mare introduces herself. Myrna’s blue eyes go very wide at the name, but she is wordless until Sickle adds the unnecessary relation.

    “I know who you are.” She says, her words nearly as soft as Sickle’s. She had managed to piece together enough of her family’s history to be very sure that Sickle would never come to Hyaline of her own accord, and so her open startle at seeing her older sister is a combination of surprise, excitement, and shock.

    “Why are you here?” She whispers, and after she hears the words,  repeats herself with significantly increased volume, but this time the tone is entirely different. “‘Why are you here?’” She mocks herself, rolling her eyes with a soft huff of breath. “Like that matters. You’re here!”

    Without bothering to wait for a response, she goes in for a hug.

    There’s a nervous sort of joy that flutters around Sickle’s stomach when she hears I know who you are instead of I don’t have a sister you weirdo (or something to that effect). She hoped to be recognized but she hadn’t let herself expect it. After all, these last few years had started to feel like she didn’t really exist for anyone at all.

    But someone had told Myrna enough about her that her name was recognized, someone had spoken of her - however briefly - and that helped ground her in this reality.

    While she doesn’t think anything of the question (it certainly makes sense to wonder), a quiet laugh escapes Sickle when Myrna mimics herself and brushes curiosity about reasons aside. There’s a light in her blue and orange eyes as her caution begins to recede.

    Only for it to flare back up when her sister steps forward to hug her. Sickle’s indecision roots her to the spot rather than making her move away - and then she finds herself being held. Her black brindling flashes with a series of colours - reflecting the soft white of Myrna’s coat and the pale colours of the flowers in her mane.

    After her initial shock - Sickle returns the gesture. She feels shaky and is afraid she’s going to start crying just from the joy - and that’s when she carefully breaks away from the hug. She isn’t going to cry. She is definitely not going to cry.

    “She really is different, isn’t she?” Sickle asks once she steps back enough to look at Myrna - thinking it inconceivable that the burning rage she had known from Mazikeen could’ve raised the bright girl before her.

    And though the younger girl had said it didn’t matter why she was here, but Sickle wants to explain anyway. “Malik told me I should come when I was ready… I don’t know if I am, really. Not to see her.” Her nerves rise up again and she resists the strong desire to look around them. Oceanus was keeping an eye out, he'd let her know if Mazikeen was approaching. “But I wanted to meet you.”

    @ Viszla
    The black stripes of her sister’s coat flash with familiar shades of blue and orange and cream, which delights Myrna. She doesn’t notice Sickle’s initial stiffness in response to her embrace, and is smiling brightly when they pull apart.

    Having only known a loving mother, it takes Myrna a moment to realize what her sister is talking about when she talks about change. There is much she might say to that, Myrna knows, but she thinks she recognizes that Look in her sister’s eye. It is rather like the way her mother looks when she is Trying Not to Cry, and so she just nods in response because she knows that the woman Sickle fears is not the one who now lives in Hyaline.

    Myrna has very much looked forward to meeting her elder sister, so hearing Sickle admit to the same thoughts brings a glowing warmth to her chest.

    “I’ve wanted to meet you but wasn’t sure where you were.” She was also not sure if Sickle would want to meet her, or even if she knew who Myrna was. How she knows about Myrna is not something that concerns her - she has enough family and her existence is no longer quite the secret it had once been.

    “We could go for a walk, if you want?” Myrna suggests, and then, looking out at the wide clear sky. “Or a flight?” Myrna has stalked enough rabbits to know forced stillness when she sees it, and while she doesn’t know Sickle well enough to be sure that is what she see, there is enough of her brother and mother in the older girl that Myrna feels an immediate kinship.

    Sickle is grateful for the suggestions that Myrna gives - sure that it’ll be better than just standing around. And she would like to see more of Hyaline, especially with a friendly face. There’s a whole collection of her family from here - more than she ever thought, and more than she even knows - and there must be something redeemable about it. It has to be the land itself - it’d be far too hurtful to think that it’s the family that she wasn’t really a part of that kept everyone here.

    “Maybe a walk? Or a swim?” She glances over to the lake and then up to the sky where she can see Oceanus making lazy circles and floating along on air currents. “I don’t spend a lot of time flying, I’m not very good at doing it and talking at the same time.”

    And she’d like the chance to talk.

    She would be equally happy with a walk or a swim so she lets Myrna lead the way, spending on what she’d like to do, and does a little more of that talking. Maybe she’s rambling because she’s nervous - but she also feels like explaining where she’s been. And of all the things in her life - that little piece of it that was tragic for reasons unrelating to her family. “I’ve been in the forest, mostly. I’ve got a friend there - she can’t leave her pond so I like to keep her company.”
    “A walk,” Myrna agrees with a content nod. Swimming shapes are not her favorite, and so the young mare is not especially good at them, and there will always be time for flying later. Maybe if they take one of the trails up the mountain they could fly back down. It doesn’t take much skill to soar, and exhilaration of it comes in part from beyond conversational speeds. But Myrna is not really thinking about flying, or the walk, or of anything except Sickle at all.

    She listens with rapt attention, blue-grey eyes wide.

    The Forest, Sickle says. Myrna has only ever stood at the edge of the Forest, having found the shadows of the place a little too eerie. She’d suggested searching for her grandparents in the Meadow instead, and Mazikeen had agreed. So to hear that her sister spends time there, and perhaps deep in the woods if she’d found a pond instead of just more trees, and had befriended someone who lives there.

    Or rather, someone who is stuck there. Being trapped in the Forest does not sound at all pleasant, and to learn that Sickle stays so that she might have company offers Myrna further insight into who her sister is. Not selfish, but kind. Myrna feels a weight lift at that, one she’d tried to ignore as much as possible.

    She’d been worried Sickle might be like their father.

    But she is anything but, it seems, and Myrna leads the way toward a trail that will give them a good view of the alley, smiling all the while.

    “We’re probably just gonna miss Bolder,” she says, as chatty by nature as her sister is when nervous. “He’s on patrol with Malik, but they won’t be back this way again for a few hours.”


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