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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

    there's beauty when its bleak; vital
    The winter night is still and nearly silent. No wind disturbs the leafless black canopy overhead, and every crunch of Malik’s feet as he runs across the snow’s icy crust seems to echo off the trunks that crowd around him. Tonight he wears the shape of a snowshoe hare

    Usually the dark haired shifter prefers a predatory form, but he had been too often outrun by a wide footed hare to not wonder at how they floated across the top of the snow that swallowed his heavier feet. It had taken him quite a while to learn the shape, but that is how he spends his time of late: learning new shapes.

    Along with the wide feet that carry him so swiftly across the deep snow comes the fear of an animal at the base of the food chain. A shadow overhead might be an owl, or the dark sharp to his left a crouching fox. Malik’s dark ears (black and faintly striped, as his fur is in every shape he takes) flick hurriedly this way and that, and when he pulls to a stop he can feel his heart beating rapidly within his chest.

    A moment of concentration later, and he regains his natural shape. Equine, but clearly a native of this magical land with his tined horns, feathered neck and chest, and insubstantial wings that glow with the same dark light as the rest of him. Even the natural predators of horses would hesitate to hunt such a creature, least of all one in his adult prime.

    Yet still his heart beats quickly, knowing even as he stares out into the seemingly empty darkness that there are still monsters that hunt his kind.


    He has come a long way from the boy who had been afraid of his own shadow. Such a long way that he almost can’t remember the taste of his own fear. Almost can’t remember the days he had worked himself to exhaustion, trying to prove he was stronger and faster than what he had feared. That he was better in every way.

    But then, he hasn’t been that weak in a very long time. It’s strange, how fear is tied so intrinsically to weakness. He had once vowed never to be weak again, and he had kept that vow.

    Winter has brought its chill to the ever-shifting land he calls home, but he does not feel it. Not when the fire beating in his soul keeps him warm. Anyone sensible would be tucked away in safety during the darkest depths of such a nearly moonless night, but Vital had left sensible behind a long time ago.

    Well, mostly left it behind. His skin is a pale glimmer of shadow-dappled white that blends perfectly with the snow around him rather than the ember hues that would stand out so harshly. A faint concession to sensibility. His footsteps are idle and without destination, but he is not out at this hour because he has places to be.

    No, he is out at this hour because this is when interesting things always happen. Usually. He is beginning to suspect nothing of note will happen tonight when a hare darts out from the shadows of a tree. For a moment, it freezes as though it had just spied a predator. And then, it shifts.

    It takes him a heartbeat to recognize the form that takes its place, but when he does, a slow grin spreads across his lips. Who would have thought tonight would be the night for old friends?

    A normal creature might have simply approached and offered a greeting in that familiar way old friends have. But their friendship had never been normal, had it? Instead, Vital shifts rapidly. An act that had once taken minutes to accomplish is now done in a single burst of blinding flame. His ear-piercing shriek splits the air only seconds before he bursts forward, gaining height for a brief moment before diving at Malik, delight burning in his avian eyes.


    He is not quite as still as a horse as he’d been as a hare.

    Malik looks around him, pivoting on his hindlegs to face the direction from which he thinks the sound had come. His head is turned to the left to better see, and a bright orange eye roves the shadows of the dark woods. He’s rather far off, he discovers, and the flash of light comes from his other side.

    Almost simultaneously, a loud screech splits the air, adding clamant sound to the broken tranquility of the night. Malik’s ears pin back, but the sight of them is lost in the blaze of his own internal light that comes as an automatic response to such an unexpected blaze of sound and light.

    His wings bend forward, a shield in front of his body, and ultraviolet light pours over the white snow around him, emanating from the glowing aura of his wings. Below that shield are the three sharp tines and one jaggedly broken tip of his horns, but usually the brightness and the aura are enough to deflect any incoming blows.

    It has been some time since he’s practiced such a use of his occult skill (preferring these days to spend his time shifting), and Malik silently promises himself that if he gets out of this alive he’ll refresh his proficiency to be better prepared. He braces himself for a blow, though if nothing comes he intends to peek carefully around the edge of his right wing with a curious bright blue eye to see what exactly is going on.


    The light that bursts around his target is nearly blinding. Had the flames that sizzled across him, replacing flesh with feather, not already lit up the night only moments earlier, he might have lost his sight for a time. Even so, he is still forced to blink against the dots now swimming in his vision. Snapping his wings wide, Vital lets loose another ear-splitting shriek that fades into something suspiciously like laughter.

    His talons swipe half-heartedly at the brilliant wings shielding Malik as he brushes past him. Had he truly wished the horned stallion harm, he might have clutched more ambitiously, might have used his deceptive strength to his advantage. They had spent enough time together as children for Vital to know he had the advantage in that moment. But, despite the nature of his approach, he did truly wish to harm Malik.

    The back-draft from his wings sends snow billowing around them as he lands with a thump, the pale powder hissing beneath his feet. As his wings settle against him, he twists in head around, a uniquely avian swivel, to eye Malik with a beady gaze. The laughter in them is unmistakable. With the vibrant plumage of his crest lifting slightly, he trills, “Is that any way to greet a friend?”


    The shrill scream becomes a laugh, and at the laugh Malik frowns.

    He knows that laugh.

    It has been a long time since he had heard it, but he knows it. He recognizes the sound, the voice, the face of the blazing phoenix as it soars overhead, pawing at his bright shield. That shield grows dim as he turns, and his smile does the opposite.

    There’d been no word of Vital since the sinking of Hyaline. Malik had tallied his friend among the dead, knowing that a thousand leagues of magic sea might be the only thing capable of quenching phoenix flame. To see him here, very much alive?

    His heart warms, as if the fires of the burning creature had reached inside his very chest.

    “I thought you were dead!” He replies, shaking his head with happy incredulity.

    The night that stretches beyond them is as dark as it had been earlier. It seems smaller, somehow, and Malik spares it only a glance before looking back at @Vital.

    It had been a very near thing, his death. He hadn’t been prepared for the world to crash so suddenly around his ears into a watery grave. Though his training with Malik had given him endurance, had moderately improved his ability to shift, the violence of his near-death had proven just how weak he had still been.

    He hadn’t been sure he would ever fully rid the sea from his lungs when he had finally washed to shore some untold time later. His lungs had burned for days afterwards, and no matter how he coughed, it had still felt like the ocean was trying to rise from inside his chest to claim him once more. It wasn’t until he had been at his weakest, when he was certain death would claim him, that the phoenix had risen to burn the illness away. That moment of surrender had been the moment he had truly found his freedom.

    The moment he had finally accepted all the parts of himself was the moment he left fear and weakness behind.

    So when Malik exclaims his disbelief, Vital tilts his head as something almost like madness lights his eyes. Abruptly, he shifts, leaving behind the familiar ember hues of the stallion he has become, the wide and wild grin on his lips matching his fire-bright gaze.

    “For a time, so did I,” he replies easily, the lightness of his tone belying the darkness of the admission. “I never once doubted you would survive though.”


    The blazing bird transforms into a fiery stallion, and though Malik has never seen his childhood friend in this final shape it is still somehow familiar. Vital as a true adult, grown up from the colts pretending to be stallions they'd once been. Malik had never thought to see him again at all, let alone grown and (seemingly) thriving. it brings a warmth to his chest, one that is mirrored in the temporary appearance of flames on his own body, a brief and incomplete shift of his skin to match Vital's. 

    "I'm glad you aren't." He replies, both earnest and somber. That Vital had survived - that any of them had survived - is a miracle. His friend's faith in him renews his previous smile, somewhat self-conscious but also pleased. He had not had quite as much faith in himself.

    "Have you seen what we survived for?" Malik asks, gesturing to the broader world around them. He has not ventured far, preferring the safety of the place that he already knows. With someone else, with Vital, perhaps there is some value in exploration. 

    ooc: i wrote this at work and was interrupted every 3rd word. i know this thread is old so if you wanted to wrap it or start a new one or whatever i am down for anything!

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