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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]  Part One: The Discovery

    The wounds that Beqanna has endured have been quietly festering but the time has finally come to heal them. There had been no signs that this important task would happen today, of all days - at least not for most. There is a catalyst, of course, but as far as the rest of Beqanna is concerned the day ends normally. The sun sinking below horizons that have not always had these same shapes and stars come out shimmering over bays that have only existed for a handful of years. 

    It’s about halfway through the night when this night of all nights begins to differentiate itself from all the rest. The starlight begins to brighten - silvery light washing over everything in Beqanna until every leaf and blade of grass is clearly visible and the waves everywhere seem to dance with a little more vigor although there is only a gentle breeze.

    There are no clear summons this time, no trail to follow. Wherever you were, wherever you might have been out for a walk or a dream, you find that when you pass the next tree you are on the banks of what used to be the meadow - where the forest should ease into golden and green grass dotted with flowers but instead is a vast lake that glows in the strange starlight.  

    There are two shadows lying on the bank there - stark in their blackness against everyting else that is more illuminated. 

    Several small silvery sprites sprout from the dancing waves and the light that had been glittering there. They spin over the bodies - revealing details.

    The black, octopus-skin of the mare and her twin heads, the contrast of the storm-grey feathers of the stallion against his white mane. It becomes evident as the sprites move over the scene that the water around them is not black from the night, but a deep red. The queen of the ocean, a councilmember from the sky - neither had gone peacefully and the signs of struggle are evident. But were they struggling from each other? Or was there another party at play here?

    This scene agitates the lights and the scene intensifies further. Brighter light from above, the water surges and pushes the bodies further up onto the beach, and the sprites moving faster in erratic patterns around. 

    This is a dangerous night and many more will follow if this mystery isn’t solved. Beqanna doesn’t deserve the war this will cause - not for this world that isn’t even its own. Not for a feud so ill-defined, one with beginnings no one can remember. 

    The erratic flight patterns of the sprites changes abruptly and they rise and fall to form a spinning circle over the sand - wide and tall enough for two horses to walk through side by side with ease. Looking through it, one would not see the bright silver night that exists on this side - just a murky haze of clouds. 

    The intent is clear enough and the sprites begin to make encouraging chirps and sounds - asking the brave or the just curious to step through the portal and discover what is on the other side.

    Tsilutsuli and Timais are both found dead and some sprites have opened up a magic portal nearby, needing your help to figure out what happened. Please end your post with your character stepping through the portal - they'll find out what's on the other side next round!

    This round will end (approximately) Feb 21st at midnight EST - but it will likely be a little closer to the following weekend by the time I get the next round up and you'll have until round 2 is posted to enter this one. There will be no eliminations this quest, unless you don't reply to a round.

    If you have any questions please message Squirt!
    i have been bewitched by the sweet song of darkness and the wine of solitude..
    PHOTOS BY BisBiswas, MD-Arts

    He stands alone in the moonlight, knee-deep in the very waters that he had fought vigorously to loosen their fluid hold on him. For a reason unknown to him, this place calls his name in the quiet hours, compelling his legs to move instinctively to her. Tonight, with questions in their darkness, his eyes turn to the numinous mountain in the distance. For as long as he had lived here, his knowledge of his home was minimal, at best. It was only in very recent days that he had learned there was a place to lay a petition before the powers that be, to ask to share in the magic that Beqanna possessed. So he studies the landscape, weighing the pros and cons of making a jaunt up that fabled mountainside.

    The water swirls and splashes around him as he unconsciously paws and stomps in mild agitation with one of his hooves. Distracted, he does not notice the strangeness beginning to dominate the scene.. the water that continues to churn when his anxiety subsides and his movement lessens, nor the intensifying luminescence being thrown by the stars. He is transfixed by the mountain, by the idea of obtaining something that might facilitate grand exploits with the young siren occupying the majority of his waking thoughts. Unintentionally, his feet begin seeking a path that will lead him to his greatest (at least at this moment) desire.

    It is subtle, but the tableau changes as he steps forward. The mountain no longer lays directly in front of him, which causes him to pause and take notice of his surroundings. The brightness makes him wonder if he has lost track of time.. is the dawn already approaching? He searches the horizon for traces of the sun but he finds none. Instead, he finds the dark shapes lying still along the embankment as silver specks dance haphazardly above them. His nostrils twitch, picking up the scent of death as he slowly moves to get a closer look.

    The dead man does not create much impression, but the woman is like nothing he has ever seen before. He had been surprised (and mesmerized) by Adriana’s unusual looks, now he was utterly dumbfounded. His eyes drift from the two heads to the innumerable tentacles, especially those that comprise the entire lower half of her body. As he drinks in this bizarre scene, he recalls his conversation with Adriana.. two new kingdoms of sea and sky had been unveiled in the very events that allowed him to escape from his underground prison. He looks from the woman to the man. Tentacles and wings. Oh. The realization sweeps over him as the lights reveal the true color of the waves washing over the deceased.

    Always apolitical in nature, he begins to turn away from the killing ground. He does not know who these two are, but he is sure that the discovery of their bodies will breed conflict that he wants no part of. However, he does not move fast enough and finds his intentions diverted by the new movements of the silver lights. His ears flicker as tinny chorus of the sprites beckon to him. He had been preoccupied with thoughts of magic prior to stumbling into this peculiar situation and now he wonders if this could be the opportunity he seeks. He exhales roughly as he studies the cloudy portal that has sprung to life before him. What the hell. He grimaces with uncertainty as his feet carry him through the veil into the unknown..


    they taste like bliss

    yes i know that love is like ghosts,
    few have seen it but everybody talks —

    She is so tired of their voices, the way they run like a current in her mind even when the rest of the world has fallen into sleep.

    She is so tired of the way they flash into focus without warning, as if they have simply appeared from thin air—no footsteps to sound their approach, the rustle of the wind that their spirit creates hardly any more than a sigh.

    Her nerves, set on edge from the moment this gift (curse) had been bestowed upon her, have yet to settle. They are still rubbed raw, and the tension that pulls her muscles taut has seemed to create permanently rigid angles that she is afraid will never loosen. She had thought she would have learned how to manage all of this by now; that if she had not learned how to turn it all off, she would have at least learned to ignore it. But the dead are persistent, especially once they find someone that can see and hear them. Sometimes she tried to help them—especially in the beginning, when she had thought that perhaps it was only a handful reaching out for help; only a few that had unfinished business.

    But she is just one girl, and she cannot help them all.

    She learns to mostly ignore them, with eyes always downcast so that she might not accidentally lock gazes with someone she shouldn’t. She does not answer their calls, does not acknowledge when their aura presses into her own. At night she forces her eyes to remain closed even though sleep so rarely comes, seeking any kind of respite from the lead-like exhaustion that had sunk itself into her bones.

    But tonight there is a disturbance in the world, and try as she might, it is not one that she can ignore.

    It starts first as a sudden rush of whispers, the equivalent of excited chatter. It happens sometimes, in the wake of disaster or a traumatic event, when souls are ripped from one world to the next but they are not quite ready to go. It’s another one of those things that she ignores and then immediately feels bad for ignoring, her heart twisting and her jaw clenching as if that might chase the guilt away.

    The starlight, though, cannot be ignored.
    It floods the world in a silvery light, the kind that penetrates the back of her eyelids, and immediately her eyes fly open, her heart jumping nervously. She listens, perhaps on purpose for the first time, to this world and the next, but she does not find an answer. Cautiously she stands, not bothering to shake the debris of leaves and grass that cling to her coat and tangle in her mane, the starlight glinting off the jewels that ornament her skin.

    She follows a trail that is less of a path and more of a feeling, an invisible force that pulls her from the treeline and to the shores of the lake. The sight of the two bodies lying limp makes her shrink back, immediately closing her eyes and drowning out any voices she might hear with her own frantic thoughts. Against her better judgment she wills herself to open her eyes again, and this time it is not the lost souls—she does not recognize them, and the solitary creature that she is she knew very little of Baltia and Stratos to begin with, besides what she had been forced to learn (the way Beqanna had been forced apart in order for them to fit, like puzzle pieces that didn’t quite belong together)—but instead to the sprites that spin in the air.

    Her senses are screaming at her to stop, reminding her of how unforgiving the supernatural can be. She already knows what it is like to be able to peer through a veil that the rest of the world cannot see—what might happen if she steps entirely through and to the other side?

    Perhaps it is the fatigue that makes her reckless, or the ever-growing murmur of voices or the encouraging way the sprites seem to usher her forward. Whatever the reason is, Narya steps through the portal that they have crafted and to the other side.
    — spirits follow everywhere i go,
    they sing all day and they haunt me in the night
    What would an ocean be
    without a monster lurking in the dark?
    Rezza has been restless lately, her mind reeling, trying to figure out how to fix this - all of this. “This” wasn’t just one thing, and there was no word for it except perhaps travesty. The existence of Baltia and Stratos in Beqanna was a travesty, and yet the word tasted wrong in her mouth because it also felt like a gift. A snapshot of what life could be like, a taste of something she had never known - peace. There had been a glimmer of it, before Stratos’ arrival here, a moment in time where Rezza wasn’t planning for war and looking over her shoulder for attacks. A moment, however fleeting, where she felt free.

    Traitor, hisses her own voice in her head, and oh how right it is. She was a traitor, thinking of herself instead of her kingdom and her Queen. That was what she was born and raised to do, but lately, it was not what she had done.

    The chorus of traitor grows louder in her own mind as she paces on land. She has gotten far too used to spending time on land, and it only fuels her own guilt and self-doubt. Tsilutsuli and Helice’s voice join the choir, and she knows they are right. Her feet keep moving, but her mind swims. Should she is resign from her position? But how can she even fathom such a thing with Tsilutsuli sick and Helice so busy?

    It isn’t until the landscape around her changes suddenly that Rezza snaps out of her own pitying thoughts. She knows where she is now, but it is certainly not where she was a moment ago. The banks of the water that covered so much of Beqanna stare back at her, accusing. Though she hadn’t chosen to bring Baltia here, she felt responsible for it anyway. She felt responsible for taking their peace, something far too precious to take from anyone.

    But there’s more. In war, she has learned, there is always more. There are two shadows on the bank, a sight Rezza has seen all her life. They are not merely shadows, but bodies, she knows, and her feet carry her forward as the sprites illuminate the bodies enough for her to see (though she needs less light than her land dwelling counterparts). She can’t say what she was expecting to find, but what she does find is certainly not what she expected. Both bodies are ones she knows well, and ones she never expected to find dead in Beqanna. Timais, one of her enemies in a long line of enemies. Her heart does not break at the sight, for it has long since become accustomed to seeing her enemies dead, but she wonders how. How and who and why?

    It is the other body that brings her to her knees, the all too familiar body of her Queen lying crumbled and dead on the land. The questions swirl through her mind - how did Tsilutsuli come to be on land? Did she choose to leave her hiding place? Did someone find her? And who could have possibly found her? Only a few even knew where to look, and very few could easily go searching the depths of the ocean for the Baltian Queen. Was there a turncoat in their ranks? Was it magic? The questions swirl and swirl, and she can make no sense of them because in the midst of all those questions the grief rages through, cutting past reason and sense and all the mental skills Rezza prides herself on.

    Grief brings her to her knees, because it is not just her Queen at her feet but her friend. A century of friendship stares back at her with lifeless eyes, and in this moment she sees her husband and her brother and her parents and so many lost to a senseless war. Tears well in the corner of her eyes and she cannot blink them away. They traces paths down her scaled cheeks unchecked, as if they have been bottled up far too long and cannot help but overflow now. Even as the sprites move, swirling nearby, encouraging her forward, Rezza allows herself a moment to grieve. It is not a luxury she has been granted often in life, though even today, it is a luxury that will be cut short.

    She hears the sprites chirping encouragingly. Her one goal has been to right all the wrongs Baltia and Stratos had wrought on Beqanna. She could not bring back the dead, and she could not undo what has been done, but she could help change the future. Rezza stands, blinking the tears from her eyes, and walks into the portal with her head high.

    One word to be looped inside her skull, buried so deep its claws rip at the remnants of scattered thoughts. Even when her lungs beg her to stop, sweat soaked hide positively burning, legs threatening to buckle, she barrels through the pain. She can barely breathe, wheezing respiration chokes her throat, perhaps a trickle of her own blood escapes flared nostrils but Famkee ignores it. 

    Keep. Running. 
    Something she couldn't ignore, the poisonous slough of repeated commands haven't stopped her. Would she care if her heart gave out? Daydreaming of the idea takes her somewhere else, better, tangible even. Death followed the mare like it waited for her around every dark corner, it's starlit cloak surrounding her in familiarity, and dare she say, it felt like home. It wasn't just a feeling though, it was her reality. Beqanna had proven to be no different, in it's throes of collapse death hung stagnant in the air, heavy as it presses on her heaving lungs. She doesn't know why or how the lands came to be this way, but Famkee begins to believe she's cursed. Cataclysm has become a close friend, one that leans its weight on her shoulders. 

    The steady drumbeat of hooves punishing the earth is her only anchor for what materializes in front of her, once thought to be dodging trunks of trees now lays bare a lake glittering like a fictitious mirage. Is she really dead? Did the whisper of demise embody her mind, manifest as simple words telling her to run to the light, run to the other side? She feels as though some ethereal force actually stops her legs from carrying her any further to just look. She's not sure if she's seen anything like it, the night so blinding she'd swear it was the sun casting it's rays along the bank bathing the waves of the lake in a silvery light. Starkly, two shadows paint the bank that she squints to try and see but they are much too concealed by the irony the basking pearly florescence brings. A dream maybe she thinks, it would be the only explanation for this. But this, it feels real, the soft gnawing of the sand at her hooves, the gentle breeze allowing it's fingers to play with her mane. She finds herself closer, and it's only then the scene unfolds. 

    Two bodies lie in the stillness of death, tender waves lap at cold skin and for a moment, this feeling traveling up her gut feels very real. She can't seem to find the need to escape, to turn around, nor does she shrink at the sight, though the body to her left looks to be an invention of the gods, cast down to rein havoc on the living with her tentacles deflated like a cephalopod would on land. If that wasn't strange enough, not one but two heads bob along with the rising and falling of the tide. She had known of the creatures who lurked beneath the sea, though her first encounter with one in this way, she wants to lower her head in disdain. The other is a winged equine, fairly normal in comparison, but both are littered with scars fresh with blood that glitters along with the starlight and the beings that dance around the deceased. 

    Two opposing beings it seems, one of the sea and one of the sky. Did they kill one another? Were they murdered? In positions of power, or perhaps commoners? Possibly something she has no business sticking her nose into, but if things couldn't get any stranger, Famkee doesn't feel afraid. Fear has long since tucked its tail and perished to join the pair at her feet. She doesn't see anyone else, other than the sprites beckoning her with every call that begins to pull her attention away and to a sort of portal manifesting in a cyclone of clouds. Nothing is surprising at this point and if she really is dead, what is there to lose. If she really is alive, what is there to lose. Perhaps the curiosity, the numbness fuels her need to step into the unknown and forget all that she's leaving behind. It's a wonderful, blissful thought that Famkee embraces as she plunges into the cloudy vessel.    
    if my heart is in your hands will i die
     [Image: EOU990v.png] Famkee [Fahm-key]

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

    He should have known.
    He’s been here too many times not to know.
    But he knows denial so well, my Sleaze – familiar as a lover’s kiss. So when he walks, when things shift – when the light grows silver and eerie – he does not notice. He should have, but he doesn’t. Was it willful, this denial? Sleaze has never been the brightest thing, he is average at best.
    He stops at the lake, at the bodies. The things shifting about. Finally, his skin prickles, a too-late warning sign. Go back, it says, go back. And he should heed it. There are no chains at his ankles dragging him forward, no magic compelling his movements.
    It’s just one step, at first. To better see what’s going on, he tells himself. He’s paid little mind to the shifting of lands, even though he had his own hand in it (the nightmare cloud, the reason wings jut now from his shoulders, the reason he sometimes twists into a shadowy, nightmarish thing).

    He hears the noises. Wordless little sounds of encouragement. Encouragement, not commands.
    You don’t have to do this. Don’t do this.
    Another step. The portal is clear now, spinning over the sand.
    Oh Sleaze, will you ever learn?
    Another step, slow, as if he’s walking in a dream. Or a nightmare. His hooves leave faint impressions on the sand. The air smells thick, almost damp, and he thinks of sea-creatures washed up on shore.
    Sand whipped up from the portal stings at his skin, but he walks forward – the fool, the fool – and he moves past the sprites, no longer hearing their noises, only hearing the rush of impossible wind as he is enveloped and taken, once again, to another world.


    No. It's wrong to say there is no summons here. Perhaps, for the others, their arrival is a mystery to them, but it is because they are not hunters. It is because they feed on grass and sunlight and things that don't stare back at them as life flickers, dulls, and dies from wide and rolling eyes. Things that don't cry or scream. For Marten, though, the scent of so much blood is a siren's call, a copper-bright flash that makes his brain itch, turns his head away from the deep copse he inhabits, and sets him slinking to the forest's edge. It calls him across a dimension, that ocean of blood, and he does not pause between the step that should drop him from Forest to Sea but instead leaves him upon the abandoned plain of the Meadow.

    He remembers this place. It is distant in his mind, a piece of his childhood much forgotten, lost in the teachings of his sire. They had hunted here on occasion. It had not been necessary, but they had come, once upon a time, to test the speed of the rabbits and of the brown boy's long legs. Green eyes blink slowly, muzzle lifted to the sky to draw great draughts of air. Iron, salt, and sweetgrass fill the unlit prairie, and, gradually, the soft silver of unfamiliar stars. He is on a bank he doesn't know, a foreign ocean murmuring gently at his back.

    He is as much a shadow as the bodies the starlight reveals, his coat dark beneath the sorrowful sky, but the Sprites rising from the waters reflect in sharp green eyes and in the gold star that fills his brow as he turns to watch them. His striped hooves carry him in liquid silence to the royal carnage. Baltian and Stratosian. He bares his fangs in disgust - not at the scene but at the smell of the Baltian queen and her drying tentacles. This is not his usual game. The feathered man, though...

    Marten plucks a storm grey feather from the dead stallion, holds it between his teeth as he considers what to do. The Sprites are anxious, they did not bring him here to feed on the corpses but he is not really concerned with their preferences. Instead, he is concerned with the sound of hooves coming up from behind him.

    This way, the Sprites are singing, spinning erraticly. A silver moon gleams overhead, breaking through the clouds that flee the sky and pour themselves like smoke into the bright-ringed circle. A black-trimmed ear falls back to the sound of someone else still creeping through the night. He considers the likelihood that this is a trick, but he is not hungry enough to defend this kill. His tail snakes against his flanks, lashing the air in warning, then, with a condescending sniff, the bay steps through the beckoning portal.

    The darkness doesn’t bother Lystra.

    Why would it, when all she has had to do is wish and want for it remake itself into something she wills it to be? Sometimes, the shadows might become wolves that ran through the quiet corner of woods that her family called home. Sometimes, she was able to manipulate the dark just so that it concealed her, creating a magic-dark veil that shielded her from the unknown.

    (Funny how a girl might fear what she doesn’t recognize, and yet has no fear for something that has often been the backdrop for tales of dread and unease. Fear the dark, held no sway with the little sabino. Fear the stranger, that, that had been the subject of her stories of terror.)

    She waits for the daylight to finally fade, feeling relief creep along her spine like the shadows that grew with each passing hour. And then, at last, the sun sinks down low enough that the shadow-wraith can draw out from her hideaway – a small cave that keeps her almost always in her lovely dark. But, as comfortable as Lystra’s refuge was, it wasn’t enough to keep her longer than the hours of sunlight.

    Once night fell, the mare descended.

    There is little obscurity with starlight, but Lystra didn’t mind. At the sound of a slight rustle, a whisper, the snap of a twig, all she had to do was call upon her murky means of camouflage. (One day, she will encounter a stranger who will take away that fear. They will no longer be some unknown entity, and eventually, her curiosity will give way to conversation.) She moves quietly, and swiftly, cutting through the forest umbra like a silver-sharp knife.

    It comes quickly, like lightning strikes, a flash of silvery light that gleams through the autumn wood.

    But it is not her blue roan coat gleaming that permeates this night. It is the futile starlight – which usually can only shine so bright – beaming brighter and brighter. Odd, she thinks. Odd and strange, and then as Lystra decides to return to her temporary home, the trail shifts. The meadow that she had passed through only hours earlier was gone; the sparse tree line gave way to reveal a lake that shone, a watery-glow that seemed to ripple out through what remained of the forest.

    Lystra – clinging to what was left that felt familiar – remained in the shadows and inhaled sharply. Occurrences like this weren’t unheard of in Beqanna; there had been stories before Taiga vanished of strange magicks and even stranger creatures. The Northern-born mare had heard the stories of faeries, of mystical beings that existed only at the Mountain, where one might be granted some favor for themselves or their kingdom or…

    Or anything, she supposed.

    There had never been any purpose in Lystra – content with her own abilities and existence – to seek them out. The waves across the lake grow brighter with each passing moment that she remains, shining and shimmering, until the silver-eyed creature peers out from her shadows. Her pale nostrils flare, scenting something on the wind.

    The copper scent is blood; she has seen (and heard) enough kills by the wolves in the North to know when the pack has had a successful hunt. But there is no blood-cry, and despite the prickling sense of being watched, Lystra sees no one. She moves closer, though she knows the danger in approaching. There is no longer a straight path to return home, and perhaps her own abilities combined with the twilight-dark have made her overconfident.

    The skin of the two-headed mare is unlike anything she has seen, and so she lowers her roaned head. The feathers of the fallen pegasi move with the wind, unnerving Lystra, as all the other signs of life have left both forms. Her head jerks back, sharply, as the whites of her eyes reveal the cracks in her confidence. The lights ahead – the illuminators of the tragedy – dance; they rise and fall, go one direction and then another; and then, come the chirrups from across the sand.

    Wanting to be away from the bodies, away from the strange smell of magic mingling with blood, Lystra moves quickly through the waiting portal.


    Alone and in the silent dark, the nightmares still come.

    She has grown used to the running in her sleep, the useless scraping of the ground as she tries to outrun the faceless monsters that pursue her past consciousness.  She knows how the images will blur at the edges, how they will become less defined and somehow more terrifying for it all the same.  How she wakes with her heart in her throat and her sides heaving with terror and breathlessness both.  She is used to not sleeping much, now.

    So tonight, hours after the latest nightmare has come and gone (a stormcloud with a thousand faces all leering at her, their smiles sharp as a thundercrack), Glaw moves through the forest.  The light is beautiful and strange and it is enough to keep her going, this rare pursuit of wonder.  She is unbothered by the shadows and sounds of the night nowadays.  A fair trade, she supposes.  And even as it grows cooler the further into the tangle of woods she goes, goosebumps do not prick at her skin. 

    There is nothing out here that can be worse than what she has seen so far.  There is no monster stronger than the one inside of her head.  For when she was Called before, was it not her own misery bleeding out, poisoning the fairy magic that had swirled all around her?  Was it not her own many shortcomings giving rise to terrors dredged from the deepest pits of her? 

    Nowadays, she is more scared of what lurks in the shadows of her mind than anything set before her eyes.

    She presses on until the trees become so dense it is as if they are holding each other close to ward against the chill.  The copper-haired girl takes another determined step forward and silently gapes at what she sees.  A lake laps at a shore in a space that had just been occupied by more twisting trees.  The repetitive sound of the water’s gentle advance and retreat against the bank keeps her grounded to the spot, steadies her feet from turning back and running as fast as she can.  Because surely this is just another nightmare?  Places can’t appear out of thin, silvery air unless they have been conjured with ill-intent.  Even the bodies (the bodies?) are hallmarks of her nightly battles within herself.  Death features prominently, after all.

    “Wake up,” she says, her voice as dull and lifeless as the forms carelessly slumped on the shore.  But if she is speaking to them or herself, even she is not sure.  She is only sure that they don’t listen and she doesn’t open her eyes for the second time to find she had been asleep.  Instead, she stares longer than she probably should, looking for any twitch of a muscle or rise of a flank.  Glaw knows little of the rearranging of the lands and less of the politics making a tangled mess of the changes.  She would grieve for any life lost, even if she is not convinced that any of this is real. 

    She wants it to be real, because anything is better than the nightmares. 

    The shame of it should make her turn around and find the forest again. But as the sprites spin more frantically, she knows that she will not leave.  To leave would be to deny herself the truth – is it fact or fiction?  Is she so consumed by her fears that she cannot separate reality from that place beyond it?  The sprites illuminate the sandy shore as they form their gateway.  Glaw hopes they can shine light on more than that and follows eagerly into the portal.  She has to see this through. 


    How long?
    Oh, how long?

    So long now that she had only been a girl then. Before the upheaval. (Could it be called that? Certainly it could, with the way the sea had crested and swallowed up the earth. What else could it be called?) Before the sky splintered and became something else altogether.

    And she had peered out at this new world from the dark wood where the creatures chattered, trembling. If she could have calmed them by explaining the way the world had changed, she would have. But even she did not know.

    So she had kept to the forest because it was familiar. Because the woodland creatures bent close and she could still creep through the shadows there, giggling while her skin changed to match the surroundings. She called to the wolves and the owls and the elk, though these tended to be the most haughty of the woodland creatures. Together they had wondered aloud where things had gone wrong. (Had they gone wrong? Glean was not an intelligent enough creature to differentiate between wrong and different. All she had known, all she knows, is that her home had been one thing and then it had become something else altogether.)

    There is another shift someplace out in the distance on this particular night like any other night. ‘Look,’ the rabbit whispers, big round eyes turned to the sky. And Glean looks, too. Glean turns her face to the stars but they are gone, the darkness flooded instead with some great light.

    Her breath catches.

    She swallows.

    ‘What is it?’ asks the squirrel and Glean doesn’t know. The only answer is a kind of pregnant silence. ‘Glean,’ the deer says, ‘you must go.’

    Why her?
    Glean looks to the deer and somehow, in her bones, she knows the doe is right.
    She must go.

    She has never been a particularly brave thing, Glean, if only because brave and foolish are not the same thing at all. Her breath shudders and she nods.

    Out of the forest, then. She shimmers in the dark as she shifts from the horse to the sprite. She flies because it is quicker this way, though she is in no particular hurry to confront whatever it is that awaits her.

    She sees them there on the shore. The dark figures lying prone there in the sand. But it is the sprites that call her attention. Smaller than her, more brilliant. Despite herself, she grins. The smell of death has not hit her yet. It does not hit her until she lands on the beach and sees that they are dead, the two figures. Her heart gives a violent start and she yelps despite herself.

    She has seen Death.
    Seen Death in the way that old age seized the creatures of the forest, the way sickness sometimes strangled out the life there. But this is something altogether different, therefore it is wrong. This is perhaps the starkest form of fear.

    But the Sprites are welcoming in their halo of light. She scurries toward them because they are safe, they are familiar. She is one of them. She does not hesitate before she plunges through the center of their circle.


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