Down in the Den

A place to store and observe the texts of the Bonded.

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Songhue
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Re: Down in the Den

Post by Songhue »

She sat alone upon the hill; she'd found that many of these pockets of insight occurred while she was alone. Songhue wondered at that, to some extent, and yet on another level merely accepted it. Perhaps she could best hear her guide when all was still around her. Perhaps she could best hear herself, in the same moments.

Creatures went missing all the time; that was the way the multiverse worked. Sometimes, they were simply gone. No bodies, no farewells; vanished. In some places, within some cultures, they would be searched for; in others it wouldn't even spark a thought.

She was wondering which she might be, should she vanish. Would anyone seek her? Would there even be notice?

It was a fair question and at least slightly more than vain. In was her way that while she could be fond of other creatures, could even love them, she did not lose sight of who they were. She saw them in their entirety; every difference, every perceived flaw, all aspects that came together to make this being what it was. It was merely how she was; she kept the scales, held the balance. None would get so close as to lose the sharp edge of reality. Even her own cubs; they were not merely her precious younglings. They never could be.

In some way they would always mean no more to her than the young of any other, their appeal based solely on ability and behavior.

It was a fact that did not often trouble her; and yet she realized that, in light of the balance, she may not be able to grow as close to others as she may have. Her own natural reserve could easily hinder having anyone truly, blindly care for her. Would this mean that should she be missing, her absence would merely be accepted? In all honesty, she wasn't sure what she thought of such a possibility.

The valley spread out beneath her as she pondered, the shimmering starlight seeming to ripple in time with her shifting thoughts. It was a beautiful land; her aunt's land, deceptively simple looking. For a time her aunt had faded from her life; her mind twisted at the memory, unable to make any sort of sensible impression of the time. She'd thought of her aunt, of course, for a time. But only for a time; eventually she thought the great weaver of community to be sleeping, a rest so deep and long that she forgot herself and all else. It happened; they would enter a realm and become so enamored with their little games of passing through the land that they forgot their reality.

Some went so deep as to never wake up.

She'd thought such was the case; that her aunt had foregone being a Strangeling. So she released her from her mind. Let her sleep, as long as she had peace. Not all wished to hold to their history. Not all had such strength.

Even still she wasn't entirely sure she'd been mistaken. Although found again, the old ties reforged and strengthened, having thankfully never been severed, retaining a talent was not the same as remembering. But it was more than resting dangerously deep.

Songhue loved her aunt; she knew that. She remembered being young and begging for another story. Remembered when anger and confusion were quickly mollified by a simple touch from this monolithic figure of talent. Once in particular, she'd tried to prove herself capable of taking care of herself during her wanderings; she loved to explore while young and would often wander too far in her study of herbs and energies, following the whispers of the wind. She failed spectacularly of course; the memory brought a wry grin to her lips as she considered it. She was decent for her age, and yet the sudden perspective of just how different she still was from those who had fully grown into their abilities had unsettled her.

It was her aunt that had steadied her. She was a bit spacey even then, always with one ear to the stars as she kept a fiercely protective watch over everyone. She could settle any dispute; or so the young Songhue believed. Nothing was beyond this creature's abilities.

Yet she'd simply accepted this cherished figure's absence. There was nothing quite so much as pining for her, which is what she assumed was meant when one referred to 'missing' someone. She noted the absence and would spare a thought upon occasion, little more. The absence simply was; take the fact and move forward. Build a Clan that would take an active interest in more than drifting and playing dressup. She tired of this ill-fitting meatsack, whichever one she wore for whichever realm currently lent her strength; perhaps there were others yet who wished for more than oblivion.

So she wondered; were she missing, had she slept, would she be missed? Did she matter in earnest, or did she drag along those few left to her in her attempt to have a proper home? Would her absence, the lack of such efforts, be counted a loss?

Or could she also be so easily released, a fact to observe, accept, and move beyond as they went ever onward?

A damp bit of moisture struck her shoulder, though she didn't stir; she knew who had found her, even as the questions stirred deep in her stomach. Few could track her down so easily; Kri'Kahli, the Thunder Horse. The mare seemed reluctant to leave her to such moments of solitude; perhaps fearing what introspective occurrences may develop.

The mare didn't speak; she had no need. She, like the Strangelings, had no use for properly formed words. Sensations, emotions, impressions, half-formed ideas wavered through the air, as easily understood as the touch of the wind.

I wonder as well, they said, the emotions sinking straight into Songhue's being as if she herself experienced them. After so much loss, could the absence of one more soul be noted?

The thought came to her that, perhaps, it was the previous loss that would highlight another's absence. Perhaps it would be that another to vanish would be sorely felt indeed, one of precious few. The concept floated in the air, easily picked up by her companion as the massive mare folded her legs to lay next to the Strangeling she'd chosen to serve.

A sense of companionship settled with Kri's blue-gray bulk; each realized that, if naught else, the other would hold their memory. It wasn't being missed, didn't tell them if they mattered in the end. But at least they would not be forgotten, washed away by the tides of time.

They could have that. They could be held on to by their memory, through one another and perhaps still others.

With barely a flicker of movement Songhue rested one long fingered hand on Kri's shoulder as they sat and watched the starlight ripple across the valley; a silent thanks. The pondering had been turned from morose to intimate through her friend's companionship, something that was becoming a bit of a regular event. Part of her considered interference from her Guide; but no, it was her Guide who helped her to make such discoveries. It was Kri who helped to steady her.

It seemed she always needed someone to steady her, be it aunt or others. She smiled, just slightly; she was okay with that. It was what they were for, to rely on one another. She relied on them for perspective more than anything else, something she found no shame in.

Maybe she didn't matter, maybe there would be no withered souls or shattered hearts should she suddenly cease to be; yet she was loved, for all of that. And she was okay with that, too. She'd need little more.
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Songhue
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Re: Down in the Den

Post by Songhue »

I worry sometimes.

Sometimes? the creature snorted, and promptly received a noseful of astral dust.

Do I get annoying? the sprite asked, landing on one of her Guide's ears and fluttering her wings in agitation. So many things tie back to that point for me. It has to get old, has to be repetitive.

Wrong, the creature chided, though her voice was fondly gentle, Those are the moments you notice the most because they reach the deepest. That doesn't mean it's all that happens. Mostly you look forward rather than back.

Do they feel it, d'you think? When I get snagged.

Some may.

Once, all would have, the sprite whispered, letting herself slip down on top of the creature's head. I suppose I'm glad though. How healthy they are, how much they're paying attention; it changes things now. It can help me hide.

Hiding from them?

No. Yes. I don't know. It's just different now. No right, no wrong, no rules - that's what drove her you know, the Mad One. She saw this potential to rebuild things differently. To remake our culture, society, even our history.

She tried changing too much. You aren't trying to change anything; there's no connection.

Maybe I try to hold onto too much. Maybe letting it go would be easier. Better.

Easier than remembering and getting caught here again, the creature agreed, tilting her head back to let the little Strangeling in her hair glimpse the swirling cosmos that had been created, but no better, I think. You've put a lot of your soul into moving forward.

They sat in silence for a moment, each of them watching the stars turn - for that's what they were, each and every one. A little piece of her soul.

Burning. Bright and shining and burning little fractals.

Sometimes you need a bit of the past to keep moving forward.

But this much of it?

You don't overindulge. You just remember.

It feels... It feels like it burdens others.

Because you can't keep it in?

I'm Spirit. I remember, I'm the magic-bringer. It isn't for them.

Of course it's for them, the creature countered, suddenly harsh, they went through the same, in many ways. Don't you even try to deny their claim.

They've forsaken their claim! So many of them, for so long.

That doesn't leave it for you to be the only one. Nor does it mean that when you find the weight heavy you're doing wrong. Stop second guessing.

It reopens wounds, the sprite murmured, wrapping her tiny arms around herself with a shiver, tears out scar tissue.

And until the poison has been bled out you'll need to keep opening that wound, the creature said. She spoke gently again, yet there was no room for argument; it was instruction.

It helps then, she asked, mostly speaking to herself as her voice grew faint, it bleeds the wound for everyone, heals us all - that's why it comes for me so often? I'm healing them?

Just because they may not know when you become entangled doesn't mean you won't know when they do. You know enough to act. So act. Be a Healer, little Shine.

It isn't fair, you know, the sprite grumbled, and she could sense the grin on the creature's face as she added using the others to sway me. Seems that everyone's figured out that trick. Appeal on someone else's behalf, for their sake.

You can be quite easy at times, the creature admitted with a smile in her voice, Now breathe. Remember. And let it go again.

And she did.

And Shine?

Mmm? the sprite asked, flickering half out of existence.

Find the joy in it. Your first step forward. The first time in creating all of this. Taking scraps of nothing and weaving them into sentient magic. The very beginning; the start of all things. Be proud.

And she was.
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Songhue
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Re: Down in the Den

Post by Songhue »

The storms are come.

She stood on a cliff, looking over her lands; the edge of her Den, the beginning of an area that was wholly her own and yet not hers at all. The rain crashed down, storms she'd fueled being built by the Thunder Horses as they crashed into the roiling clouds and carried them on with every thunderous step.

The suns grew muted; creatures sought high ground only to discover that even that would go beneath the deluge. Those who could climbed trees, others played a sort of flotsam hopscotch, bounding from item to item as it was swept along the current; some simply cling to debris. Others were swept away completely.

The Serians had managed to find shelter, for the most part; huddled beneath a tree, braced against rain water that crashed around their chests, or else in a back corner of a cavern. Some didn't want to wait it out; Tribe climbed a wave as it crested, a sight that sent Shine's heart glowing; the mare was truly enjoying herself. Eternal stood upon the top of her waterfall crags, watching as the Thunder Horses heralded the rains and feeding her own Rogue magic as fuel for the storms. Breeze climbed through the torrential rain, cresting the clouds and trumpeting a whinny at the sky-herd before spiraling back down; just his sort of game. He loved the winds that drove them. Caelum followed, then little Nova, and finally even Shiro crested the mist-topped stormclouds; a wave of them, heralding the storm runners onward, wordless calls of greeting and excitement.

Hybrid stood in his basin, head turned to the sky, adding his own lightning to the sparks that flashed off of sky-clad hooves. He wove each to another, creating a web; leaving a trail of sparks and fire. Kri'Kahli shrieked, a wicker that meant so many things and yet said not a single one; she was at her best. It was what she was made for, leading the storms, leaving the lightning fading behind them; a sound of power, purpose, joy, mindless intent.

A stallion, a mare, and two foals followed her. The beginnings of a herd.

Below, a great crack sounded, drawing the eye of any who could see; Sparkle's bird-tree, for so long the start of his home, the heart and key, was flailing wildly amidst the gale. Shine felt a tug on her heart; it had been a source of joy for so long, such an important part of his home. To see it fall would mark a sad day, the passing of the time that had been.

Another crack - a branch, a lower one and quite large, was flung into the air. Not the tree then, merely the weakened pieces. It would be stronger now; without the ill branch it could thrive even better, last even longer. The days were not yet past - it was not yet time.

The rains would pass; the floods would fall. Slowly, life would return to normal, but first there would be the aftermath. Debris to gather and clear, materials she would magic back into the land, allowing each to be absorbed as the realm needed. Areas to maintain; clearing the rivers that led to ponds would be first, else the water grow too backlogged and turn pond into swamp. To change the nature of a place wasn't the point of these storms; it was to strengthen, to cleanse, to grow anew. Altering beyond that would be a bastardization of the ritual.

Path and BlackIce, such strong believers in good hard work, would be the first to begin work. Many would start in their own homes, doing what they could themselves; and then they would join together, working in unison to aid in the efforts of reparation. For that time, in those moments, it would be that the home belonged to none of them for it belonged to all of them; it wouldn't be Thyme's woods or Flint's desert, but a part of the realm that belonged to all of them. Part of the realm they all belonged to.

But first, Shine thought, feeling dizziness swirl through her mind as the waters swirl through her home, I'm going to go have to recover from a hangover.

Magic-drunk; she'd overdone it, fueled too much of the storm, reveled in too much of the raw powers that crashed around her. She'd known there was a reason why she didn't normally do more, go further. She could, Gods knew; she had the power, the knowledge to use it. But the hangovers could be a nightmare. It'd been so long since she'd indulged so deeply that she'd honestly forgotten the price.

No matter. She would take time to gather herself while her bondeds worked in their individual lands; by the time she could see straight, they'd be ready for unified effort. Hopefully; vaguely she wondered just how bad it would be this time.

At least her mate would be able to care for their three cubs in the meantime. It would make things easier. She tried not to hear the sound of their Guides laughing at her.
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Songhue
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Re: Down in the Den

Post by Songhue »

Sometimes things came to her; in a vision or a dream, or a lost memory bubbling back up through the ages. Sometimes she wasn't sure where they came from and only remembered later, well after the fact. It'd taken her a while to piece together the bruising she couldn't remember getting with the pixie that had taken roost in a tree and started causing trouble, for instance. Time didn't always connect properly for her; it was why she couldn't help strengthen her lands in that last key aspect.

Today she was sitting in her Den, watching the cubs tumble and play, and letting her mind wander; it was in these moments that things most often came to her. It was in one of those moments where she put the bruising with the pixie, at any rate. Today, what came was a song.

When all the stars up in the sky flicker out and die
When all the trees that grow so strong wither up and dry
when all the whippoorwills have flown and sang their precious lies
even then my dearest love, you'll find me by your side

when all that's known has been forgot, and time will not abide
when all the rivers have run out, and fire fills the sky
when all has turned to darkest ash, and only death resides
even then my dearest love, you'll find me by your side

Never shall you walk alone through strife or pain or fear
For if you should have need of me you'll find that I'm quite near
Just look within your heart to find the truth you need to hear
My strength was in there all along, with all that I hold dear


She didn't know where it came from; she didn't know if she'd sung it to them as wee little ones, before they could tumble around like little storms of laughter and gaiety. She didn't know if it'd been sung to her; there was much she'd tried to forget about her time with her own mother. She didn't know if it'd been something she'd simply seen, an inspirational moment with another mother. She only knew it was for the darkest of nights, a small head resting close to someone who petted and protected.

She thought it was a good song, though she knew she wouldn't retain it; music came to her almost as often as the memories did, but only the memories honestly remained. And even those grew slippery, confusing her as to what was now and what had once been and the visions of what would be in other places or could be in another time.

It didn't bother her though; her mind was loose, accepting, allowing the moment to flow through her and filter out what needed to be retained. Her Guide was there, as well as her Bondeds, but they were shielded from the odd temporal flux in her head. She could feel them; their joys, their sorrows, their hopes. She could feel her Guide as well, and there was no shielding from that - the creature whispered on the vague sensations that flowed through her, bringing her insight and sharpening some of the visions.

And before her the lost Thunder Horses pranced with little cubs that were storms of light and ferocity, and life sang of simplicity as the love of her Bondeds swirled inside her.
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Songhue
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Re: Down in the Den

Post by Songhue »

Every inch of her hurt, though her kitsune shape was a deceptive one; not a single twitch gave away the ache. The spell, the binding and weaving of the life essence, simple energy that coursed through all of creation, was taking its toll.

Her proposal had gained approval, after some deliberation. She was careful to present the recovery concept as safe rehabilitation; there was even the additional benefit that those that would currently be deemed unreachable may help to grow their understanding, in time. Right now the Eckthroi that had already formed had been removed to a dark realm, placated in their sanctuary, although her mate remained leery of this changing. Nobody else has lost themselves to the madness since home had been made whole, and it would be nice to pretend it would always stay this way; but such thinking was dangerous.

The rehabilitation cove wasn't without precedent. Her mate already used one area with stabilized fluctuations for training sessions with other warriors - of course, as far as she was concerned it was just a bunch of warriors dancing around and wailing on each other to let off steam, but the grotto with the ruins of mountains scattered like the stones of some lost civilization served equally well for any of such antics. Passing between levels on the realm wasn't done intentionally in that one key location, with each layer phasing into the next so that none were damaged. It wasn't possible to gouge out and redirect a river if that river suddenly wasn't there, replaced by the rough stone surface of some ancient collapsed mountain.

She offered the same for her rehabilitation cove, a place where navigation wasn't voluntary or even possible by many definitions of the term. There would have to be a catch, just as with her mate's training area, some stability that kept the chaos from unraveling their world, something that allowed a possibility for healers and keepers to enter and tend to their charges. An anchor would be needed; she could make the corrupted the anchor, make the corruption the source that powers the chaotic fluctuations, just as the power from her warriors playing set off the phasing in their area.

Her body shimmered, rippled, but her work continued; more detailed now, more intricate in how the bindings moved, reaching deep into the life of the land. This was useful, since the other part of her binding involves tying any youth from her kind to her rule, through the bindings that tie both her species and the other shifters to the realm.

It was while she considered the different threads she would need that she noticed small, glowing blue hands before her. She had shifted form as her talent demanded more intricacy in her work: sylph. There would be no hiding the pain and exhaustion in this state. Her mate would fuss. Still, she could shove the bindings of her bondeds aside and spare them the knowledge. They wouldn't notice the strain on the shared link unless they touched upon it, and she would feel that.

Wait - that creates a loop, doesn't it?

She felt that, the intrusion of a thought that was protected, pushed towards her. She didn't answer it in the same fashion, with projected and directed thoughts, but it wouldn't be required. That was a method normally reserved for the very young or done with some intent, such as emphasis.

She had forgotten that she'd had helpers in this work, as she always did while she was deep into weaving. Songhue was still used to working on her own and probably always would be.

Her assistants weren't skilled with an elemental talent for life or reality, like she was, but they had their uses. One was particularly gifted with binding energies; she could create a mate bond that was so beautiful and intricate that if one were to come to harm then the other would bleed as well. Such bonds were unusual, to say the least, yet the skill of binding was for more than destined mate-pairs. Her weakness was anything that handled an individual essense; although she was a healer, she could not heal any single spirit. Instead, her work was through binding the state of the injured to the state of another, allowing the wounded to mirror the health of the other through something of a leech effect. She was useful here, taking the initial work that Songhue began and refining it further, taking her cues from her teacher's focus and allowing the little glowing sylph to detail other aspects. She was young, this weaver, but she showed promise for someone who had only seen the death of 15 stars.

Her second helper was skilled with emotion, and he was everything that Songhue hoped that Sethelu's future might hold. Rather he was calming, exciting, soothing, agitating, or any other of the influences he wielded with such precision, he had the sensitivity to detect and influence the heart-health of a community and to ensure that their current work had the right feel to it. It was comparable to ensuring that the delicate lace that some creatures created was soft enough while remaining durably supple. With him to focus on that detailing it allowed her to sketch together a beginning point and invite him to add his touch to facilitate. He was older, having seen the death of 20 stars, and he was by far the most stable. She would have to look into his mate-bond, soon; most of her kind found their mate near his age, and some found them earlier, at their first heart cycle at 16 stars. The babies usually came at 19 stars, for them.

Another held a talent for reading the bindings, allowing them to quickly filter through the network of energy and direct their work. She was a warrior, though one with more of a basis in magic, her sensitivity granting her the keen ability to detect and direct any needed resources through the realm that held the remnants of their ancestors, as well as those around her that were under her protection. She was also young, only having seen the death of 12 stars, but she was old enough to have been born here before growing up as a refugee. She was also the one that directed her question with intent.

Songhue's main response was a mental flick, similar to swatting away a fly. They were here to help her, not act as a distraction. This wasn't a teaching exercise. If she couldn't refrain from interrupting, she wouldn't be called on in the future. And what's more, the creature had a perfectly functional brain. Songhue was too tired and irritable to consider walking her through what should be obvious by now.

Her Serian friend Eternal would have been immeasurably helpful in this. Eternal was off exploring the lands of Pendar, however, sent to wander by Songhue's own meddling influences, so while she may appreciate how much the rogue could have helped she didn't lament her absence. Eternal was proving to be the exception to just about everything, including Songhue's vow to keep her troubles separate from the Serians she was to care for. It may be a bit strange to consider that she took the responsibility of being a caretaker seriously enough to prevent them from trying to take any of her problems for their own, and yet she had once swallowed Caustic whole. He tasted like yellow banana peppers sprinkled with red pepper flakes and gave her indigestion.

She had never swallowed Eternal, or anyone else for that matter. And Eternal had pushed her way further into their Bonded's life than any other had yet to manage, including Shiro, OakHeart, and AuraSidra. Shiro's love endeared him to everyone and allowed him permissions that few others could enjoy; OakHeart was a walking representation of the lands themselves and beloved for it, his connection with nature granting him a right to be just about anywhere; and AuraSidra was - well, she was simply AuraSidra, not that there was anything simple about her. Yet still, it was Eternal who knew the pulse of Songhue's life. She was the one who actively helped to maintain things, the one Serian that others of Songhue's species knew and dealt with.

She had flown off to have a break from all such things for a time. Well, flown off in as much as anyone without wings could be said to fly away. She did need wings, that one. Songhue had a single chance at altering the base essence of one of her Serian companions to help them meet their potential, and she was fairly certain that when she used the potion it would be to grant Eternal her wings. She thought they may be long and fluffy, as graceful as an egret's wing. Although she could just as easily see some fluffy moth wings manifesting. If they were enough for a moth to use, then maybe a large enough pair could prove just as practical for Eternal.

Songhue had considered helping Caustic to reach his potential, but it seemed that he didn't honestly need it. He was an anomaly, the last thing that she pictured when she considered the venomous magic of the basilisk, and yet his magic-stunted self drew upon that same deadly aura. He held an affinity for snakes and could "borrow" magic from her, through the bond, yet he had no control over the toxins that permeated his aura or the burning death that waited in his gaze. Songhue's theory was that there was a toxin that his eyes secreted, a concentrated form of the weakening neurotoxin that acted as the oils of his skin, and the fine mist which fell from his gaze would ensure the death of any without immunity; especially if it fell into their own eyes. The eyes were ever the weak point, for many creatures. Still, it was only a theory. In truth, while he looked nothing like the creature of magic that was the namesake for his magic-less warrior's talent, he was the anomaly that he was meant to be. It was Eternal who seemed to be missing a part of herself.

Songhue was missing Eternal as the thoughts of her helpers buzzed at the edge of her awareness. She could restrict a lot of the potential distractions, including the bindings that linked her to her family. Her mate was off in the great sea somewhere, trying to ensure that those with a water affinity weren't ignored; unusual for him, as he wasn't normally a sea dweller, but he was fair enough to make a little effort for the sake of others. Faelynn was, rather surprisingly, still here at the den rather than tagging along. She was trailing after Reithlon as he played with more poultice combinations. Sethelu, who normally helped direct the energy in his work, was resting from her adventure in the dwellings of the other shifters and cuddling with Sissarra. These distractions are minor, easily set aside so that Songhue could work, yet her young attendant was more intrusive.

The land fluctuations are tied back into the land - to the ancestors within the lands. And through them into each of us. That would mean that the land controls the stability of itself, it has to.

She was almost right. The key for the range of stability within the rehabilitation cove was in the madness that corrupted her species. Without having a sample creature to tie this corruption into the equation, she had to use the concept of it; and the ancestors remembered what had past. She remembered her own time of being lost to the madness, another reference point. And all within her species, even those too young to remember, knew their history and understood the danger. They, too, could act as a reference point with their understanding. What's more, through the link they all shared with the realm, the ancestors could help to watch for new occurrences. The realm itself would lock away any who lost themselves.

Creating an infinity binding would enable this alteration to reach throughout generations, referencing the knowledge of such events through all who have yet to come and monitoring their state of balance. She had to be careful with how she tied it together at the end; a finite tie would create a finite alteration, relevant only within the changes and creatures she had currently chosen. She would have to leave open an automatic inclusion, and those involve coding for an entire species and are insanely difficult. Even without considering the complexities of targeting a species, species evolve.

It was intricate enough work that any pause, any disruption in the flow of her work, could have drastic consequences. And she had to do this twice, once for her rehabilitation cove and once for the binding of any to-be-born cross-shifters to the society of her kind. She had worked without pause or rest for longer than she knew at this point, although in the last great multi-generational binding she had cast it had taken her a half moon to complete. That had only been a single binding; she was attempting to complete two, now.

It would probably take a full moon turn, even with her added assistants. They knew this before they began their work, as even they could not interrupt the flow of their energy wielding to rest. The fumble to adjust for one of them extracting themselves would leave a raw, untended wound in the realm; just the dropping of several threads while crocheting together forced the others to pause long enough to make sense of the resulting tangle and fix any threads that became misaligned in their work.

The buzzing curiosity next to her finally quieted down, freeing more of her focus as she flitted here and there to grasp and manipulate the essence of a realm, a species, and a memory. Every tiny glowing inch of her ached with fatigue, yet much of this puzzle had already been resolved. While her decision had been deemed acceptable by her mate and had been welcomed by her people, she began the work without knowing exactly how it was to be executed. She knew what was needed now, the ancestors within the land and water having offered up their memories in answer to her uncertain need. All that was left was the doing.
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Re: Down in the Den

Post by Songhue »

So many things have happened.

The cove was created, along with extra safety measures. The corrupted would be released when evidence of healing was detected, for which Songhue herself could provide a basic reference that would be built upon when someone else found their way as she had done. It would be growing and evolving, rather than static and attached to a single entity, and that had taken no small amount of work to accomplish. She had had to cut a piece of herself out and breathe a new life into it as she attached it to the life source of the realm itself. There was a hole where that part had been, leaving a void of memory and emotion. She knew she had lost herself, once, and that she had recovered, but she knew it as one knew a story; those days no longer held any meaning once they were cut from her.

With luck, either the small reference that remained would eventually grow to have meaning again, or the absence wouldn't matter. If she wasn't lucky, she would know a great deal of confused terror whenever she slept, or at worst, repeat her own history once the lesson was devoid of meaning. Her mate was determined that the remaining portion grow to replace the void of meaning and emotion that left her chest feeling hollow, but then he was ever stubborn in insisting on his desires.

He had come to her while she worked. She knew he might fuss over the strain to herself, but she was remiss for failing to consider the help he might offer. He lacked the finesse of those who truly held sway over the gift of reality weaving, yet he compensated for that with cunning strategy and sheer power. He had been the one to do the heavy work, scooping together great swathes of what was needed. It took half of her work and part of the young 12-star warrior who assisted her and had sped the entire process along in such a way that there had been a momentary scramble to keep up.

His stubborn willpower proved useful in other ways, one of which was in keeping her balance while she ripped into her inner demons. Her form had shifted multiple times, pulling her drow aspects to the forefront as she made it clear that she was not asking for the corrupted too be kept in the cove, followed swiftly by her amphiptere's penchant for death, and then the beastly wyvern that had been her only shape while mad, with destructive unmaking a feature aspect. He had kept her from being consumed, helping to distract her with staggering demands for her weaving as he ripped apart their land and flung it in her lap.

It was in this manner that it was decided that if any of the Eckthroi horrors should die unhealed, they were not to be allowed to become a part of the realm with the other ancients, if they even could. The taint of madness would be flung through the stars and unmade through the process of recreating. It would become a birthmark on other species and denote the seers of that kind, those who knew the pain of consuming madness that was not their own. It should cause no harm that way; even serve as a learning tool. They could become wiser for learning the lessons of another.

Know my pain, she had bid, placing the scarred knowledge in her soul as the seed of what this madness could become, and grow stronger for it.

She had ripped that same seed out of herself in the final steps of creating and sealing her cove. Blood had leaked from her eyes and mouth, a side effect of rending her own history from the essence of her soul. There was no gentle way to rip apart a creature's essential being.

That had not been the end of it, however much she could sense the rage of her mate. Another warrior had brought elixirs for their strength before and he had made Songhue drink when she had tried to figure out what the potion was meant to do - that particular warrior had been a true asset for quite some time, however that had only come to pass when Songhue had been pushed to the ends of her patience and began to unmake the creature. She had been a manticore of ice and void at that time, yet as she helped tend to those errands that Songhue's mate asked of her she was a small, glittering black cat. It was this same glittering black form that brought another elixir as the cove came into existence. Rather than question the offering this time, Songhue merely drank. There was no arguing with her mate.

It wasn't a lack of trust in the sincerity of the warrior, but in her knowledge. The cat that brought the balm for Songhue's bleeding symptoms was still young enough to have mostly grown as a refugee, having spent only a few stars in this realm before it had been damaged. Her mate was not shy about his knowledge, however, and as the cat-warrior of potions would follow his instructions Songhue knew there would be very little danger. She drank, then got back to work. There was still binding to be done.

She had allowed herself to be distracted enough to admire the beauty of the little potion-warrior she had nearly unmade in order to make the required impression. The glittering shape she held now was just a beautiful as the manticore of ice and void had been. When she was still, the black coat all but disappeared in shadow. Movement could bring a startling flash as glittering cascades of light sprang to life, however, which could be useful. While the weavers worked, she had been careful to remain very still.

Songhue didn't resent the creature for pushing their confrontation to the point it had reached. If anything, she valued the fact that she had been challenged to prove her abilities; this creature would be invaluable to them for rest of her life because of her faith in them.

With the realm freshly gathered, a new reality just created, and the land itself awakened to their efforts, the time had come to bind the future generations together. Admiration and appreciation for current generations could wait.

When she approached the problem of the next task, it was not the ancestors who answered, but the realm which held them. Songhue had asked that those creatures which were bound to the realm, as her species was, be united. A challenge came in answer, the question on rather she was certain, and her mate answered forcefully. There was push within his yes. A challenge returned.

And that was how she ended up here, staring at the wolfrat with the broken wing. The pinched, rat-like faced and over large ears revealed the uncertainty of approaching her with his problem, yet the ephemeral wing was most definitely broken.

The realm, capricious thing, had not tied the species of the two shifters together. It had tied each of the species that were bonded to the realm's soul under the patronage of a single rule. Songhue had effectively been made queen of the world.

The influx of souls binding to her had seemed in danger of shredding her apart, although in her core shape of a centaur she had been more pliable towards the unexpected onslaught than some of her other aspects may have been. Prisms of light exploded from her joints and both of her hearts had burned hot enough to color her chests, but she had hardly noticed. Revelations struck her; they had always known how to handle the madness that had struck them, just as she knew how to survive this force that ripped at her. Just as her mate knew to welcome and roll with the surging power that tore at and reshaped his hearts. And when it had been forgotten, when they had lost themselves and tried to exile the shadows they all held in their hearts, they didn't have to be alone. There were so many others who were tied into the heart and life of this realm. Not all creatures; the deermouse that had been given some magic simply by breathing the air and drinking the water couldn't hear the heart of the land, nor did the nightstalker that broke the hunting wolfrat's wing for disrupting her sleep. Some creatures, like jackalopes, were magic without any influenc from the magic that pulsed through the air with the breath of the realm, but others, like the Elkin, the dryad that lived inside OakHeart's favorite tree, the water nymphs and wind sprites, the shadow foxes that her mate had bonded with and tied his life force to, and so very many others, they felt the land's pain. It wasn't just the grass and trees that grew or died; the land was alive, and she was sentient.

It hadn't been the end of her, to have so many creatures suddenly stabbed into her soul, though it had left her more than exhausted. She was in her doe shape now, a creature made of summer sunlight woven solid, passive and flighty, and the wolfrat still moved with caution. He knew her, would have felt the connection, just as she had known when his wing broke.

The nightstalker had swiped at the rear of a pack mate when they stumbled into her den, and he had come to the rescue. He was quick enough to get away after his surprise hit, but it had cost his wing.

The pack leader was staring at her hard, and for all of her efforts it seemed that they couldn't hear her, no matter how much she projected her thoughts into something closer to the mind touch that her Serians used. When she tried a gentle lowing sound they jumped, and their leader bared his teeth in what looked as if it should have been a barking snarl - or maybe a squeaking one. It looked as if they were either a silent species, or spoke in some way that she could not hear.

Must we indulge in such posturing? she wondered wearily, and very slowly walked around the protective members of the pack to brush her nose against the offended limb. Their wings weren't for true flight; the trees where they hunted were too dense. They were useful though, and leaving the injury to worsen or grow infected wouldn't do.

This wing was weaker than his other one, something that was unique to him and not typical of his species, if she read the energy right. There was nothing she could do about that, no more than she could alter the fact that his fur was a dark green tinted black with golden dappling. It was as he was meant to be, however different it made him. Still, she didn't feel bad for the fact, as it made his legs stronger and swifter in compensation. Where others fluttered, he leaped. That strength had saved a life today.

The wing repaired, she turned to walk away, although she gave a rather accusing look at those who had crowded close. Really, she thought, as exasperated as any genteel lady, to let him suffer for the sake of formalities. For goodness sake, she wasn't trying to run their pack; or any other, for that matter.

Her rich sunlight glow revealed how tired she was as she walked away, the normal light of midday summer softened into dusk tones. She would have no end of interferences soon, while her mate tried to see to any means of fixing the damage that had brought blood from her, but for now she had a minute. And however tired she was, she still had duties.

She grazed as she walked, which helped restore some of her strength, pausing now and then to press her forehead to the ground. Whatever her form couldn't use as nutrients was returned to the land, the unaltered molecules and atoms seeping from her as she "grounded" herself to the realm. Wherever she touched in this way grew richer and thicker, hiding the sprinkle of dirt that fell from her forehead as she stood.

She came to FireFly's forest glen, first. He and Frolic were playing shadow-tag as they talked of their circles; he had hoped to find his beloved not too long ago, although he returned without success. Frolic had been home for quite some time, though she was never still. Before visiting FireFly she had gone with Torrent to explore the water ways.

She passed unnoticed, as she typically did.

Flint's desert appeared before her next, and she found the current oasis without much trouble; all it took was asking the ancients to guide her steps, and the land unfolded before her hooves. Flint was tending to a nest of young phoenixes, and Scythe stood nearby. That was a bit unusual; it would have been Shiro's idea to help the parents, for one thing, and the unconventional couple was hardly ever apart from one another. Scythe had the ability to sip away the last vestiges of life, but Shiro was the nurturing Lover. The most that she could offer would be a warning if their life began to fade. Of course, with a baby phoenix the most important thing was heat, so that warning could still be useful. Still, it was interesting that Shiro had gone wandering on his own.

The desert soon gave way to rich volcanic soil, although the black landscape could fool those not bound to the realm into thinking it barren. Caustic dripped neurotoxins that withered plants the way that most dripped sweat, but the land itself was made all the richer for the decomposing bits that flaked off in his passage. Bright orange moss thrived in spite the ash-riddled air. He and Thorn were talking; another unusual event. Songhue stepped close enough to find out what was wrong, and a moment later she was leaving Caustic's lands behind. They were speaking of Thorn's new conviction, his role as the Kight to the young filly. In time, it may well be that she and Plasma, who was set on winning her for his own in a way that was perilously close to a battle of wits, may join the circle that Caustic and Eternal shared with Sunspot and Shimmer. Caustic had a mare of his own, Lock, that was supposed to join, and Eternal may find someone as well. If they did join, rather than start their own, what would the Knight do then?

The chance was distant, and unlikely at best. AuraSidra loved Astatre and Spectrum with all of her heart, and OakHeart was a beloved brother. But it would be a good way of tempering the strength of Thorn's new heart, and Songhue no longer felt she had to protect the others from Caustic's ability to corrode their certainties. He knew how to use it wisely; all he needed was to occasionally stop being gentle. That was what his infatuation, Lock, gave him. She wouldn't break under his influences.

When her hooves bought her to a beach next she had to shake off her uncertainties. This was Sign's cove, nothing to do with the will of the realm beyond the shaping of someone's home. Even in the Corrupted Cove - which has somehow become the name of her creation sometime after her mate came - the realm would shift to suit the inhabitants.

Sign and Path were visiting, which made Songhue smile. Each had known their hardships, and Path was welcome as soothing company to the timid seer. They weren't talking, simply soaking up the sun, and that suited each just fine.

Hybrid had gone some time ago, as had Eternal and Tribe. Caelum had been gone for the longest, and Plasma had gone for a restless wander not long after. And OakHeart and AuraSidra were never home for long. She would have to keep alert for any tugs on their bonds. She didn't think she would feel anything from Bubble any time soon, but Torrent had gone off as well; he may reach out to her. Come to that, once Bubble finally did she would be relieved. He was having a hard time settling in. Songhue still wasn't certain why he had chosen to approach her.

She would have to check on BlackIce. He had shown signs of growing ready to face the night without her before she had started working, so chances were good that he'd handled her absence well, but she still had to check.

A drop of snow fell on her nose as she considered it, making her think for a moment that she had found his ice caverns as she thought of them; but no, spring would come to his land. This was a place that never thawed; Breeze's mountain. He, Nova, and Thyme were all busily pawing through the snow in search of something.

Nova and Breeze usually stayed within her sun-baked lands, and Thyme hardly ever left his own corner of forest. The three were so gentle and reclusive that it was easy to overlook where they might be, since it was simply assumed that they wouldn't have changed. Simply being here was odd enough; odder still was that Nova wasn't here in order to play with Breeze through his caverns of crystallized ice, which had happened upon occasion; and the oddest thing of all was the way they determinedly pawed the snow.

She waited. Patience was easy for the exhausted. After an interminable time a loud crack split the air, followed by a cry of both victory and surprise from Breeze. Steam poured out of the ground as they stomped around amid more cracking, and eventually Thyme disappeared from view.

They were too far for her to make out what was said, but observation told her enough. When Thyme reemerged he was both wet and billowing steam; the trio had unearthed a hidden hotspring. A moment after he came back up Thyme scooped up a mouthful of snow, and Songhue had to smile at their creativeness. Thyme was of a more delicate disposition than Nova; as such, the shock of eating snow to slake his thirst would stress his poor body. The hotspring helped to combat that to some extent, and eating the snow helped to lessen the shock of the freezing air when he climbed out.

It was good to see Thyme trying to reconnect again. He wasn't a very outgoing stallion, but he paired well with nearly any company. This small effort to go somewhere new was not only promising, it gave her hope to see him finding unique ways to cope without getting overwhelmed. He was so gentle that he often disappeared into the background. Breeze was good at being a calming and stabilizing presence when he was of a mind to be, and Nova was good at putting him in that mind. Normally restlessly playful and an enthusiastic wanderer, she had snubbed his foolishness and revealed his potential in the process. Nova would never accept someone who ran from themselves, not even by playing the fool.

They were perfect for building on what SylvanSprite, Thyme's cherished mate, had begun. With a little help and some courage, Thyme could find out who he was on his own, without disappearing beside another.

Satisfied, she walked on as Breeze flicked some water at the fellow with his tail, always knowing when a laugh was needed in order to break up sobering work. Those three would be fine.

She would have to see how BlackIce was coping still, and that did concern her. His night terrors had immobilized him for a long time, and she wasn't certain when he might heal. He was taking the idea of a "quiet life" and turning it into an excuse to avoid truly living. It was getting close to the point of needing to give him a push, but she preferred to be encouraging and supportive if it was still an option. The reason she had only ever swallowed Caustic whole wasn't because he was the only one to give her trouble; it was because he was the only one to push things that far.

She probably wouldn't have to swallow BlackIce in her wyvern form, but she was starting to consider some level of intervention.

Before she did anything, however, she needed to rest. She would look in on him and take some time to recover before she made any decisions. Once she did, though, there would be no helping him. She was just as stubborn as her mate when it came to caring for those she loved.

And he would be coming for her soon, too. Ah, well. As weary as she felt, it still wasn't as bad as having Sissarra; or even the twins. She was loved, and had others whom she loved. It could always be worse.
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