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  • Beqanna


    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

    [open quest]  there's thunder in our hearts - round two

    Each one that arrives is a thrill to her heart - with their help, they will find a way to fix what has been wronged.

    Only, she just wished there was another way forward. She frets for these heroes as they each give up a nightmare in order to pass through the storm. Their fears coat her like another skin, flashes of them passing through her mind and she does feel genuine pain.

    Because whatever relief they may feel at having given up those nightmares will only be temporary.

    Inside of the storm that they’ve just entered is every nightmare anyone in Beqanna has ever had. The fee for entry allows them to blend in, distracting the storm enough to allow the solid bodies to pass through unharmed. There is no helping them once the clouds reform. And no retreating either - those who try will discover that the clouds are now as impenetrable as stone.

    Forward then, to the heart of the storm. There, the Cloud Fairy tells them, there they will find the secret to save Beqanna from the mess it’s gotten into. Though she does not know what it might be - a key, a piece of knowledge, a spell - it must be powerful if there's to be such a defence built around it.

    To get there, though, they will need to make it through the nightmares. Some are just images projected onto the clouds around them, some manifest in more solid ways. Everything is illuminated by that same, eerie lightning - causing the images and figures to jump and flicker as they are revealed.

    The Cloud Fairy hovers anxiously outside of the storm - nothing to offer by way of help except her faith. It's unlikely any of them can be physically harmed by the nightmares, though she really only has her best guess.

    The Cloud Fairy believes the answer is being hidden, protected, at the eye of the storm. The catch? To get there, they need to pass through a minefield of a collection that is every nightmare anyone in Beqanna has ever had. These nightmares can be projections or physical manifestations (or a combo!). You won't know who the nightmare belongs to but there's certainly the possibility of seeing some familiar faces.

    This round will end (approximately) in a week, June 24 at midnight EST but you'll have until I get the next round up to put in your post. There will be one more round after this one.

    If you have any questions let me know!

    I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
    tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife

    The storm swallows him. The pressure is immense, no room for air in his lungs, and for a moment Sleaze thinks it will never stop, that he will be flattened into nothingness. But it does stop, and Sleaze breathes again, inhales the thick air. The clouds are all around him, smothering, and in the corner of his eye lightning flashes and he feels as much as hears the thunder.
    He looks back the way he came, but the clouds have consumed the space he flew through. He flies downward and the clouds part briefly until they don’t, until his legs collide with something solid and he crumples, bruising his worn knees, the wings flying out as if to catch him.
    Can’t turn around, can’t go down. He thinks about flying up, that maybe that’s the way out of this cloud, but fear keeps his hooves on this faux-ground.
    As we said – he’s been here before. Not here, specifically, of course, but in these kinds of things.
    The only way out is through.
    Through what, though, is yet to be determined.

    So he moves, his steps cautious. With each step, he expects his hooves to lose contact with the ground. But he doesn’t fall. The clouds shift around him. He doesn’t know if he’s walking a straight line or in circles. It all looks the same.
    Until he sees the first image.
    It’s a child – one he doesn’t recognize – and he sees the abject fear on the small face, sees the mouth open, crying something out soundlessly.
    The noise comes then, after a delay, the way thunder follows lighting - mom!
    The voice is pleading and Sleaze’s heart twists, he sees the wet shine of the child’s face, the tears in its eyes, and then he sees the child fall.
    After a beat, the roar of something monstrous.
    After a beat, the sound of a scream.
    The image is gone, then, and Sleaze shudders.

    He keeps moving. More images come. Some he does not understand – he sees strange horses turn and walk away. Their voices come too, almost matching the images now, and this, he thinks, is a sign he’s going in the right direction. Into the eye of the storm, the way nearby lightning is followed instantaneously by thunder.
    He sees them die. He sees them say I don’t love you, I can’t, go away, you’re nothing.
    He sees a silver mare begging a gold one, saying don’t leave me here alone.
    He feels an ache in his chest even if they are strangers.
    The images flicker and he slowly feels almost numb to them. They are pictures on the cloud, words on the wind. He’s seen worse. He’s been through worse.

    And then he sees his father. His father, who is solid, walking on the same clouds Sleaze is.
    “Dad?” Sleaze says, and his voice is thin and reedy, like he’s a child again.
    He was a child, when Garbage left. Or, little more than one. He hasn’t seen him since but it was Garbage who bore him, who raised him, who led him in strange, half-fabricated prayers. Garbage who laid his head across Sleaze’s sun-warmed back and said I love you.
    Garbage does not look at him. He is staring at something – someone – else.
    Sleaze hears it then, the chittering sound of monsters, and the pale mare comes into view.
    Run! she says and Sleaze watches as the figures run, a strange movement – he can see their legs pump, their sides heave, but they don’t move. The pale mare transforms into a snow leopard and he watches her fight the monsters, sees his father fall. The light flickers, the image changes, and then it’s the pale mare’s face – incorporeal again, no longer solid – and he hears weeping and his own chest feels tight and he keeps watching, keeps looking for his father to come back. Keeps waiting for the dream-father to turn and see him and say oh, my son, I thought I would never see you again.
    But there is nothing – that image is gone, his father is gone, the pale mare is gone. Sleaze is alone amongst the nightmares, moving through.
    He walks to where his father had been, but there is nothing, only the same stretch of clouds.
    And so he walks past it, keeps moving on, hoping that eventually, he will become immune to the sound of their screams.
    After all, the only way out is through.


    Into the storm, the fairy tells them, and Myrna does as she is bid.

    The dream of that most terrible night disappears, and the massive clouded thing she goes. She faces the battering winds with the energy of youth, though her confidence is quickly shaken by the wind. Though she has flown through stormy winter nights in her mountain home, she has never faced anything like this. She’s not sure whether to try to fly or just keep her wings close to her body to avoid the risk of hitting something. Perhaps she should become a cloud herself, and see if the wind would carry her forward.

    Before she can decide, the first nightmare comes.

    Myrna does not remember closing her eyes, but suddenly: she is opening them. Though the chill of the dawn air suggests deep winter, the leaves overhead still wear early autumn’s colors: warm shades of orange and red and gold. The blow to the back of her/not-her head is unexpected and brutal, and Myrna feels herself (or someone’s self?) falling forward. There is the sound of laughter, a pair of voices, and then another strike, this one on her left side. She lives the nightmare that Lepis had so often had, of her captivity in Sylva and the torment she had suffered there.

    Then she’s in the storm again, and there are tears on her face both from the memory of pain and the sudden brutal awareness of how very terrible the world is.

    Other nightmares follow: being left alone in the darkness, of crawling from the earth after being buried alive, of swallowing a goblet of fire.  She flies onward, finding the wind feels almost gentle compared to the nightmares. Is it too late to turn back? To flee from the storm and go back home?

    Myrna doesn’t let herself think about it too long, doesn’t have time to think about it too long, because a flash of eerie lightning illuminates a shadowy figure. Before she has time to scream, she is caught by the twisting black tentacles of a pitch-black nightmare with electric eyes. They burn where they touch her, but Myrna doesn’t give in, even when her father’s dream whispers her name - her other name - so quietly in her ear.

    ‘Viszla. Viiiiszla.’

    At that she does scream, nearly as terrified as she is defiant: “No!” before she wrenches herself away and continues onward: ever onward toward the heart of the storm.

    Even her wildest imaginings would not have been sufficient to dream up such a nightmare-fueled monstrosity as the one she had just willingly entered. A simple and quiet life does not lend itself to learning of the darkness that exists in this world, so she is wholly unprepared for what she might encounter. As a result, it is not true bravery that sends her forward, but rather an incredible and almost enviable naivete to the truth of what exists beyond her small understanding.

    It is hope and a youthful belief in the good around her that propels her, but it proves little protection in the face of true terror.

    At first the nightmares highlighted by ghostly flashes of purple-white light do not seem so awful. They are almost tame, like the toll she had given to shield her entry into this place. The dreams of children who haven’t yet tasted the horrors of the world. But the further she flies, the darker those brief glimpses become. As images of blood and death flare around her, an acrid taste begins to coat the back of her tongue, her rainbow eyes growing rounder with each passing flash.

    Until she sees monsters unlike any she has ever known. Except, these are not monsters like she would have imagined, creepy and misshapen and wholly evil in appearance (there are those too - they abound in this realm of nightmares - but they are not the monsters that surprise her). No, these unimaginable monsters look exactly like any horse she might meet in the meadow. Those are the monsters that send a true chill running down her spine, because if she saw them in her everyday life, she never would have guessed.

    Yet here they are, drawn from the darkest corners to play in the light, covered in blood and reveling in misery. As she watches flames consume a stranger, eyes wide with horror as her heart threatens to burst from her chest, she knows she will never look at the world the same again.

    For a moment, the nightmare is like all the others she has seen so far. She fully expects it to disappear with the next flash, but it lingers instead. It lingers, revealing a monster who could have been anyone. If it were not for the flat eyes that watched the stranger burn with such dispassion, she might have thought they were nothing more than a hapless passerby, staring on with as much helpless horror as she.

    When the monster’s gaze turns to her, she recoils almost instinctively. He could not possibly see her, a voyeur reliving a terror not her own, but the way his eyes linger make her question her own sanity. She should be flying away as fast as she possibly can, but she can’t seem to tear her gaze from the nightmare. She can feel it reaching, grasping, wanting. Waiting to swallow her whole.

    It’s only when she begins to feel the phantom crawl of burning pain across her flesh that reality reclaims its grip on her. Fear causes her wings to seize, and for a single heart-stopping moment, she is falling. Just as abruptly, she is freed from the nightmare’s pull. Instinct has her snapping her dark wings wide to halt her descent.

    Sucking in desperate breaths, Illis surges forward. Despite the way her entire body refuses to stop trembling, she presses on. She is no longer feeling brave, no longer filled with unearned confidence. She wants little more than to flee, but she would not risk passing that beast again. The only way out is forward, to the eye of the storm. So forward she goes, white-rimmed eyes darting (and perhaps a little bit mad) as she tries to avoid seeing any more of those treacherous tolls.


    Blackwell only has the one nightmare, and it's a borrowed, hand-me-down sort of thing, but it gains him access to the thunderhead with a hiss and sound that reminds him of distant screaming. One of the others, he thinks. He cannot see them at all, and the Cloud Fairy does not come with them as they enter, a thing that the flame-dashed stallion notes grimly as the clouds and the sizzling lightning knit back together behind him. It's dark at first, even the pulsing electric light shows him nothing but more grey billows. His face is wet with what he thinks is rain but his lips purse and he can taste the salt of tears on them. Tears of anger and fear and frustration fall gently against his skin, warm droplets that make his hide glisten dully under the light of his halos. Somewhere, someone is weeping, a soft sound to start, but all too soon it is wailing instead and their thunderous  cry drowns out the crashing all around him. Blackwell is not immune. His heart quickens in his breast as he presses deeper into the storm.

    Ahead, the darkness coalesces. It makes his breath catch in his throat - he is not his mother or his sister, the shadows have never loved him. He is the Flame and the dark that wove in and out of their crèch in the forest has always longed to smother him.

    The darkness converges on itself, folding into a familiar shape and he stares fiercely at it. What chance, in this world fueled by misery, that he should find his own mother? Is it the scent of her in his flesh, or the taste of her in his skeleton dream? Did all those traitorous shadows whisper to the nightmare magic and tell it who he is? The clouds become trees (but when he looks closely, he can see they are still clouds, only carved, pretending, not quite right,) and the lightning molds itself to Beryl's shape, running, running, with darkness whipping behind her.

    "Where are you going?" he asks her in a hoarse whisper. Her ear twitches as if she can hear him, but she never breaks her gait. 

    She mutters as she runs, she trips and stumbles, her knees bloodied. She did not look like this the last time he saw her; it takes him aback. Whose dream is this? The golden mare runs a mile but three steps is enough to bring him to her side again where she stands panting, moaning, muttering, with madness ringing her dark eyes. There had always been darkness there but madness? No. He looks where her rolling eyes seem to try to focus but there are only roiling clouds until -- ah! Something in the darkness shimmers, stars gilding a flank hidden well in all that obscurity. The gleam of teeth spread too wide and black, black, grinning and hungry. He can make out nothing more, even the ringing halos do not help, the darkness spreads like poison around them, no slave to Beryl's magic. It swallows them, those black teeth suddenly at their throats, their bellies, the only thing not black is the red of blood and his own golden light. Blackwell shies, mirroring his mother's panic as an ocean of blood pours from her veins until they are drowning in it. All those disembodied black teeth growl and are pleased, a dark tongue lapping at the sanguine lake. The dark stallion chokes on blood that tastes like tears, like seawater, as red waves pour over his head, thrusting him down, dragging him down.

    "Mom!" he sputters, thrusting out from the depths in a sticky red spray and Beryl turns and looks at him as if she can see him. But this is not her dream. The wendigo on the bank is as much a skeleton as the palomino, and she is hungry - so hungry - and her prey is tired and feeble, worn down by months of nightmares, worn down by not sleeping, not eating, forgetting to drink, weakened by the bleeding belly wound where those long antlers pierced her. She is dying, but the wendigo is too hungry to wait for that. She walks across the blood lake and her black teeth find purchase in the gored flank while the mare shudders, groaning, hooves scraping the iron-scented ground and Blackwell screams noiselessly, his mouth full of clouds. 

    And then, because this is not Beryl's nightmare, the mare bursts into flame. The lake of blood becomes fire, her flesh becomes the sun, burning the skeletal predator to its ebony bones and it reels back, screeching, keening. Flames lick at his skin fond and familiar, and they go out abruptly for, somewhere, the wendigo has awoken. Somewhere, it rubs its still-aching mouth against a long, thin leg and tells itself that it was only a bad dream, but here Blackwell finds his shaking feet. His mouth is pressed into a firm line as he stares out into all that grey fog, empty except for him.

    He draws a slow breath, and then he steps forward again.

    And he hopes that the wendigo will be at the center of the storm because he thinks he might kill it, if he can.

    Image by Lark.Bliss

    She feels brand new, losing the memory that has haunted her for all of her existence.

    She lets herself be carried into the storm on borrowed wings like it is not of her own volition.  It is almost like all the bravery that had lain dormant in the deepest hollows of her has risen to the surface and taken over.  It isn’t much, relatively speaking.  It isn’t as big as the muscles or as lasting as the will of past heroes, but it is hers’ and hers’ alone.  It is strong enough to propel her forward with her chin pointing into the center of the dark, swirling mass of clouds.

    Once inside, Glaw realizes the magnitude of her actions.

    She had known it wouldn’t be easy.  She had known it would be like nothing she has done before, in her sheltered young life.  But how can this be real?  Incredulity shows in every line of her delicate face as she lingers just inside the cloud.  Images play on every inch of the billowing substrate around her, none familiar but all so close.  Some are terrifying right away: gnashing teeth, toppling trees, swallowing waves.  Some make little sense at all.  There is a mountain that moves further and further away until it is a pinprick in the distance before it blinks out of view.  There is a woman with raven hair smiling prettily in the sunlight.  A child laughs.

    Glaw realizes she has been hovering in the same spot for too long.  She moves deeper into the stormcloud with the fast flicking of her insectile wings and tries to brace herself for what might lie ahead.

    It had been its own exquisite torture, reliving her abandonment.

    But a callous mother and rough start in life are nothing new to Beqanna.  She wonders what nightmares the others had given up as a way in.  She wonders if she will see them here, plastered up alongside the images of her own dam walking away. 

    There is a shifting in the body of the giant cloud.  One wispy arm reaches out like it is trying to block her.  She tries to ignore the spray of blood that suddenly coats the grey appendage, but she realizes there is no way around it.  Just as she’s preparing to tuck her knees and leap over, it turns into a snaking vine that wraps around her feet and encircles her neck.  A horse appears ahead, shrouded in the shadows.  Only white eyes shine through the darkness, piercing her as the vine begins to constrict her airway.  An unhinged laugh cuts the sudden silence.  She gasps for oxygen through her ruined, twisted nose.  It is a familiar scene, her struggling to breath, but it is not her nightmare.  Glaw struggles against her bonds, feeling the life slipping from her…

    And then she remembers it isn’t her nightmare, but it is just a nightmare.  Someone else’s.  The hidden assailant melts away and is swallowed by the stormcloud walls.

    There is the steady, constant sound of falling rain as she moves forward again.  It quickens and grows louder, turns into a monsoon.  Pitiful moaning fades away. The same child from before appears running alongside her.  His blue eyes shine with curiosity and joy.  He is still laughing, at first, until his eyes widen and he falls out of view.  His scream of terror stays behind and fills her ears.  Glaw feels that shield of bravery being chipped away the further she goes, the more she sees.  How can this be real?  How can so much pain exist in the world?  How many of these nightmares are grounded in reality?

    Her spine begins to tingle like she is being watched.  Instead of turning around to see what fresh hell is behind her, she pumps her wings forward faster.  Maybe she can’t block out the sights and sounds, but maybe she can outrun them.  Howls and snarls and yips chase her deeper into the heart of the storm.  There is nowhere to escape but forward.  There is no way to change her mind, to prove that she is not brave enough for this.  There is only this chase into the unknown, into more darkness eager to swallow the weak.


    cause if we don’t leave this town
    we might never make it out --

    There are others that arrive, but he hardly notices them. The storm that he walks into does not afford him the chance to be distracted by anything else. He is surprised to find how easily he took to having wings, that even though they still feel clumsy they still have become an involuntary action that he does not have to focus on to keep himself aloft. Had he not seen the things his mother could with simple threads of starlight he might not have trusted moonlight wings to carry him into the swirling chaos ahead of him, but so far they had not faltered.

    From the moment he enters the storm he is bombarded with images and a torrent of emotions. Fear is the strongest of them, an overlapping theme that ties all the nightmares together no matter how different they may be.

    Some of them show as an unwilling series of images in his mind, as if he is replaying a memory that he does not recognize. He sees a spinning vortex in a lake, follows as it sucks him down and spits him out in a land of blinding white, and thinks he hears the echo of his mother’s voice calling out from the other side.

    He is ripped from that nightmare and into the next, this time tasting what he thinks is fire on his tongue and the smell of smoke and volcanic ash in the air. It is dark, not the kind of dark that night brings, but the kind of dark brought on by shadows and smoke, a thick kind of dimness that you think if you blink enough your vision might clear. There is a stallion with a halo and blood streaked across his pale coat, and from this viewpoint he looms above him, and he thinks there is a flash of white dragon scales. There is anger, too, a feral sort of fire that feels like it might burn him alive from the inside out, and then from the corner of his eye there is a glowing, star-dappled mare rushing towards him, and the impact hardly registers before the world goes black.

    Sweat glistens across his pale skin now, exhaustion beginning to settle like lead in his bones as he tries to fight his way through, only to be grabbed ahold of the next nightmare, only it is not so different from the last one.

    This time he is running across the same shadow-smoke land, and there is the same haloed and bleeding stallion, but he is hurtling towards him and the white dragon that sits poised to strike above him. The anger in his chest is second only to fear and panic, and the stupid kind of desperation that love seems to always create, and he sends himself directly into to the side of the white dragon and lets her shatter into pieces.

    A bright flash, and then dark again, and he is in a labyrinth below the ground, where the ground pulses like a heartbeat and walls inhale and exhale like a ribcage of a sleeping monster. Fear, again, this time the claustrophobic, choking kind, a bubbling panic as he makes his way through the maze. The nightmare leads him from dead end to dead end, he sees bodies broken and lifeless eyes, and shadows that crawl and snake around his legs and up his chest until they manage to claw their way down his throat. The darkness is inescapable as it consumes him from the inside out, and he does not know how this nightmare ends because he never makes it out of the labyrinth.

    He is lurched back to reality all the same and he finds himself almost to the eye of the storm.

    -- tiernen.


    It feels more like being swept away by a wave, or tumbled into an avalanche, than soaring into a storm. She knows that this one is more than that; she has spied the almost-night-dark clouds as they had come rolling angrily off the sea. Areane had watched as those violent winds had white-crested the waves and made the Tephran jungle nearly bow down against its anger as the heavens clashed above with thunderclaps and lightning strikes.

    Areane has always considered herself a capable flier. It had taken her nearly a year to regain her confidence after Loess had sunk, as that day had collided with her very first solo flight. It had taken her seasons to reclaim the skies again. Once she had been reunited with her family, the black pegasus had rarely left them. She had always remained nearby, almost always in sight of one of them; it had taken several glances over her winged shoulder to remind herself that Starros was there; that if she looked the other way, she would find her parents, Tarian and Altissima.

    But her confidence was rattled when the thunder, which had sounded long and low in the distance, suddenly cracked above her. The wind rushed in a wild torrent of air and Areane spun, losing control of herself until she was falling, spiraling towards a landing that she no longer had command of. The clouds circled as she did, spinning and spinning, until she suddenly stopped. She was caught in a trap of some kind, a monster’s weaving of a web like the spiders. Her wings struggled against the silk-like twine, trying to free themselves as the young mare tried to kick or twist or do something with her body that would free it.

    Finally working her speckled head free, it was then that she noticed the shadowy figure at the edge of the web. Its fangs glistened, its eyes glowed menacingly, and it came crawling forward slowly at first, taking its time as if to taunt Areane with her immediate death. Her head jerked up, suddenly free, and the many-legged creature leapt towards her -

    Lightning flashed and the thunder peeled again.

    There was more, as the Fairy had claimed there would be.

    Faces filled with terror as they watched the things they feared most were brought to life in this dream-reality. There was fire that devastated everything, burning and consuming, and she stood, frozen, as if the one screaming out in agony was someone beloved to her. There was drowning, and at one point, she went from watching the massive tidal wave that had swallowed
    Loess on a pebbled shore to find herself being dragged down, down, down until something with tentacles grabbed onto her legs, bringing her into the bottom-deep dark of the ocean.

    She blinked and then she was running, racing through a forest she didn’t know, pursued by such a frenzied fear that Areane wasn’t able to look behind her.

    Another flash of lightning and then her wing caught on a bramble where it pierced the flesh and she was caught again in another trap. A body laid on the ground, wreathed in its lifeblood, not far from her, causing her to pull and begin to panic. Somewhere in the distance, a gray stallion roared to run, and that was when she saw it: a creature of another world. Something made of shadow and bone. Perhaps a wraith, or perhaps some other terrible thing that Areane had once heard (or concocted in her adventurous mind) as a child. It was pursuing something until it heard the brambles clatter, the audible sound of her struggle, and with an unnatural turn of its white skull. You, the word suddenly loomed, filling her mind. What had been empty sockets suddenly light fire-red, burning for vengeance, burning for revenge, and then the Beast began to rush forward, hell-bent, thinking itself finally able to finish its lifelong purpose.


    The wind roared in one final enraged gust, and when the thunder bellowed in the distance, Areane blinked to find herself back in the drizzle and damp of the clouds.


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