Under the Willow

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Posting Elemental
Posting Elemental
Posts: 2756
Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2005 9:50 am
Location: Utah

Under the Willow

Post by Songhue »

So much had changed, yet still she came here. The willow, the one that had been the wife she had shared with her mate; but that, too had changed. She had known she loved this place, had known she would sit and glance in the water to check on the cubs playing through the woods; she hadn't realized why she had felt such a connection.

Lost memories returned, a pain too great to bear and thus, a life forgotten. The loss. Oh, it had hurt too much. Better to forget. Safer. Except had it been her choice? It had been forgotten in the dark times, while she danced with madness. The memories of that came to her readily enough and there was some small part of her that still waited for the moment she would return to that state.

Songhue breathed deep of the crisp smell of bark, closing her eyes as she tried to still the collision of memories. There was a lot to remember once you got to be her age; and she was only middle aged, as it was, halfway through the lifespan of her kind. No wonder they chose to fade, to lay down and become a part of the land, the realm, the sentience that sustained all of them. She had only just begun to understand.

There were so many things she was beginning to understand, foremost her own foolishness. It didn't help - or rather, it did - that there were times where both her guide and the willow would laugh at her, the branches rustling with stern amusement. Trust what was left of their beloved to call her out with all the blunt love she held.

There was no council, now. Home was repaired, refugees found and brought back, healed from the mutations and disfigured stunting of spending the lives of ten stars in a realm that was not made for them. Ten stars born and flickered out; a third of her life, and the entire life of three of her four cubs. But it wasn't as it had been. She had hoped to restore things; she should have known better.

No council of High Elders that would meet from the various Clans. No Clans, not properly. None of those who gravitated towards one another's company had the structure of a Clan. They were united as a species, and that had in itself been terrifying enough, had appeared to muddy and shrink the boundaries of their realm. They had been disparate, before. It ensured peace. Now, without Clans, without Elders, without a Council of Elders to confer, they were tied together as if a single Clan had spread across the whole of Enchantra.

So much had needed done, so many things had to be established, and once again it was she and her mate that took the task in their teeth. Because it was what they did. If it needed done, they took care of it. Home needed repaired, the land healed, the fractured pieces restored, and so they set about doing it. What use to hide as a refugee in some other place when there were things that could be done? Someone had to organize their people, remind them of their ways, so they did. Those who were older became a part of the realm as soon as they returned; lay down and rested, unwilling or unable to take up the mantle of Elder, of leader, needing only to be home in the deepest sense of the word. Most of her and her mate's own age had died in the original, rending attack. The rest were too young, too naive. It would be cruel to leave them fumbling alone; it wasn't their fault that they were raised as outcasts, rather than within the heart of their people's culture.

So, they had come together. And then someone had determined that all the spellwork, all the weaving of bonds between not only others of her own species as she found and established those with the talent to continue their traditions and continue the lessons, the bindings on behalf of other species and with the new creatures that had come to the realm while it was being repaired (and oh, weren't they a fascinating discovery - already they had revealed more of her own people's history), someone had declared that it wasn't enough. No, if she was going to run things, if her mate was going to run things, if her aunt was going to run in circles with him as he organized the Warriors and help delegate which talents shone brightest, well then they would have to be officially bound as being in charge.

A coronation, some species called it.

Whoever had suggested such a thing had done so quickly enough that it was difficult to pinpoint the origin of the idea. Once she did, however, she would make a point to share her thoughts on the matter of having someone else decide which bindings would tie to her soul.

The first reaction had been complete panic. She had tried to resist it all, declared she had never once asked for any of this, never expected anything like this. She'd just wanted it all back the way it had been. She saw the foolishness now; she still struggled with the admonishment that her actions and choices had indeed asked for this. Songhue, at least, felt that the two of them were being credited with far too much. They had help, along the way.

Now, the reality accepted, the spring storms already halfway prepared (the work to shift the seasons and mark the changes with a Wild Hunt had begun early as a precautionary measure), a new concern squeezed her. This was a massive binding, a spell across the entire species. There would be a minor compulsion laid within, an urge to comply and cooperate, to acknowledge them as King and Queen for lack of a better term, and there would be cachets upon cachets to tweak into it for no such spellwork would work upon her kind within the boundaries of totality; they would not, could not, be chained. There would be no risk of loss of will, but such a fact vastly complicated the process beyond the base complication of working among the realm of soullight. That realm they existed in beside their own, a multiplanar species capable of seeing what others thought incorporeal, it took a special touch. And this was to be across their whole species. At least her kind numbered merely in the hundreds of thousands now; once, they had been trillions.

So many things could go wrong. So many horrible consequences could occur. She had so many to teach, so much to show those who would help with this weaving, and everything, everything had to go perfectly. She didn't even want to think about the various things that could happen if they didn't. Of the possibilities, the death of her entire race would be the kindest, of herself and her mate perhaps the most just. There were far, far worse things that could happen.

The quiet state of panic that lingered in the back of her mind eased when she came here, when she sat beneath the willow and watched her four cubs tussling with the Elkin. Her youngest had come in their form - the fawn of a great elk woven of the auroras in the sky, born of a wee whitetail doe made of wisps of sunlight. It had been a hard birth, made all the harder by the weight of the power the girl held. Now this one - she was meant to be Queen. It was for her that they were clearing the way. It was for her, for the future she could bring, the changes she could see wrought, that made it all worth it.

It was easier to remember that when she stopped and simply watched. When she was able to relax for a moment, rather than being in charge of so much. Not in charge of it all - there were so many more things she didn't need to trouble herself with, things her mate, her aunt, those they had all found with the skill and the ambition to become assistants for her lessons or their tasks took care of. But enough, all the same.

And yet... And yet.

Perhaps Shiro was right. He had, the sweet stallion who loved so deeply he wished only to please, been insistent as of late that those of his circle shake themselves up. He'd been picking at Hybrid, in particular, although Flint was beginning to look a little bit pecked as well. Shiro's claim was that it was frightening, of course it was frightening to run blindly ahead. But he couldn't stand seeing them hiding away in a corner, too afraid of tripping to move forward.

She had done what she could to help. A call had gone out seeking those of their kind who sought companionship and she had brought them forward, had given them the chance to make the most delicate and precious member of their circle happy once again. It would be up to them, now.

Perhaps that was her trouble, as well. She hadn't wanted to move forward, not like this. She'd wanted to go back.

Songhue would have to remember to bring some extra sugar for that pink-winged stallion for the reminder that the only way to keep from tripping as you move forward is to move in the right direction. It didn't guarantee that a stumble wouldn't happen, of course. But it did vastly improve one's chances.

Perhaps it was time to embrace what she had wrought, however unwittingly.

The willow murmured beside her, contented. Her dead wife, at least, agreed with him. That was good enough for her. Her mate had probably already reached that conclusion, although he would give credit to Shiro if she mentioned her own inspiration. He had a particular soft spot for that stallion, himself. A Warrior's instinct to protect, in part, but mostly it was just Shiro himself. She could almost see that smirk her mate would get if she mentioned that their wife had instantly agreed; the same one he wore when she was still alive and helping her to find the obvious answer, the one he had been trying to explain. Warriors think differently, process things differently, and both of her mates had been warriors. It often led to her being the last one to catch on, and he always found it adorable. She was too flattered to be frustrated.

One of the memories she had lost. She loved these shining moments when they poked her again. Oh, yeah, her heart would whisper, that's right. Hard to believe she'd given up the knowledge of such joy for the sake of running from the pain of loss. But then, she held bondeds who needed to do the same. Shiro would understand, for one. He was very good at understanding the ways of the heart.

Maybe she should bring him two sugars.

Posting Elemental
Posting Elemental
Posts: 2756
Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2005 9:50 am
Location: Utah

Re: Under the Willow

Post by Songhue »

Much had happened, and many changes had begun; and yet, things were still as they had been.

She sat and watched the little elk calf that had sprouted from her as she sniffed around in gentle curiosity. The twins were off exploring the strange dwellings of the new fae-shifters in a playdate adventure, and her oldest was practicing her art with the other warriors. Quality time with dad was needed, and for those warriors, quality time meant that they would pretend to kill each other. It was her turn to relax, a moment of peace with her youngest; or at least it was meant to be.

A sense of disquiet had settled in her bones, making her thoughts turn uneasily. One of the recent changes to their society was that there had been a ceremony to have her kind acknowledge her as queen and her mate as the king, one where they bound themselves to the pair in fealty. It would take quite a lot to break such a binding, but there were failsafe measures all the same; they retained their free will. Still, a new binding was to take place soon that would bind any young that came from intermingling with the new kind of shifter as their people were bound. There was a proposal to add to this binding, and it was this that was disturbing her as the youngest sneezed from a sparkleblossom and laughed as the glittering pollen floated up to make fanciful images.

Among all the changes that had happened to her kind, none were so disturbing to her as the one now proposed. Previously, when some wrong had been committed that set one of them against their own kind, the perpetrator was simply banished; exiled from the realm, all previous ties severed. It was starkly similar to the abandonment that the Serians knew, those creatures whose company she so enjoyed. Now, rather than abandonment, someone - possibly her mate, but by this point, it was difficult to trace the origin of the thing - was suggesting the notion of death.

They had never before held the notion of murder within her species. Disputes happened between individuals and there were times that settling the matter involved a fight to the death, but a battle was different than the concept she was now given. The logic was that exiling those who had lost their balance was precisely what had led to the loss of their home to begin with. Had they been killed, the damage would never have been done - but that was a paradox in itself, as such a concept was only brought to their kind after having lost their realm, as they were sent scattering through the cosmos. A species, a legacy, nearly lost forever.

She was a healer, a nurturer; the thought of tasting the blood of her own kind in a death sentence made her stomachs clench. It would be an easy excuse to claim that such a chore should fall to her mate, the warrior king, but that would be worse than cowardice; it would cause imbalance. While she offered a different kind of protection, it still fell to her to protect the realm and her people just as much as it fell to him. Likewise, he had to nurture and restore in his own way, just as she did. Their strengths were in opposite areas, but they could still support and complement one another's work.

With a sigh, she flicked her long tail and sent more sparkleblossoms into fits of pollination, both for the joy of her youngest and for the sake of encouraging growth. She had found no easy escape from this unease that plagued her. Even in her core form, the centaur-based shape that all of her kind shared from their original ancestors, there remained a disturbance within her; and this was her most central self, the facet that reflected the heart of who she was as a creature.

Sisarra was too young as of yet to have discovered who she was at her core. Of the twins, only Rielthon had found his; his base was that of a raven, and as odd as a raven centaur may seem to some creatures she found him elegant and beautiful. He would be a wonderful potion master one day, especially while he worked with his twin, Sethelu. Sethelu was still learning who she was as an individual; Songhue found herself at a loss on how to help. She had tried to pull away from the sweetling for a time, to encourage her to stand on her own, but the young energy wielder seemed all the more lost. Songhue was looking forward to seeing who it was that she grew into. Faelynn had found her core self some time ago, once she began to embrace who she was as a warrior. She had always wanted to be as her father; strong, bulky, seemingly invincible. For Faelynn, however, her core shape was of a silvery mountain coyote; it was so beautifully fitting, for a svelt warrior who relied on speed and stealth. She could move as if she were no more than the flicker of a pale shadow, her abilities far outstripping her father in many of his forms - and her father, Songhue's mate, held the rare and mythical chameleon gene that allowed him to take any shape he desired. The rest of them were bound only to those few reflections that displayed their inner facets.

Her own was equine-based, but far from the humanoid that many realms thought to pair with her hooved lower half. Her mate's core form was based on a bull, and that creature even went so far as to have something very close to a bull's head topping his upper half. Rielthon had a subtler blending, yet his beak was still beautifully deadly; Faelynn favored her father more, as she did in most things, with very little in her face that was humanoid (to be fair, those ears certainly didn't help very much, nor did his horns, but they were still impressively beastial).

What the youngest would become was a complete mystery. She had come into existence as an elkin, and it had been both difficult and dangerous to bring her into being through the portal that she could provide of her body. She herself had a doe made of light and a wolf of starfire, but the elkin were made of a mixture of each - auroras given shape and life, as solid as her own elemental and glowing forms. It wasn't quite a proper match.

It was for her that all of these efforts, all of these bindings, were happening. It was Sisarra who would eventually take over, the other three already having their paths to walk. What would she make of this trouble, when the time came? Hopefully, Songhue pleaded, she wasn't making a mess of things for her daughter to clean up later.

She brushed her fingers through her hair at the very thought, reminded all too well of the mess her own mother had helped to make - the one she was even now trying to recover from. Spring was slow in coming and everyone was hungry; they had to be careful not to overtax what the land could grant them. It was livable once again, thank all the gods and ancestors, and yet it was still frail. No, she would not wish such trouble on her own young. She had to be wiser. But what was the wise decision?

Watching Sisarra, she tried to reach for the realm of time, the golden sea that stretched for eternity in all directions. Hers was not the ability to cast into the future, although she was desperate enough at the moment to try. Perhaps if she followed the thread that was her youngest...

Reaching without moving her three-fingered hand, she stretched into the awareness she held of the cosmos, of energy and life, and the threads that bound all. All things had energy; stone, water, air, and especially the creatures that shared the space they created. There was an essence to the energy, an ideal of what they could be, and for the most part everything held their energy tightly bound to their own existence. The water and stone could interact and even change one another, yet in the core that designated each there would remain the ability to return to how they were; water could remain water, the stone could recompress from sand back into stone. Sisarra was no different, nor was she herself exempt from this energy that many thought of as life or even a soul. If such was the case, then the river near the willow held a soul, although it was not the soul of an ancestor gone to land. The two suns held souls that they warmed the realm with, and the three moons were the same. In the smallest particals, the tiniest atomic level of existence, everything hummed with energy. It was all throughout the cosmos. And it was her specialty, that which would have the Serians deem her an elemental.

Reality was layered with these energies. Time existed amidst all of it, for the most part, yet there was one place where energy existed in its purest aspect. It was spoken of with a wistful fondness by her mate on a fairly regular basis; a sense of light and of floating, an awareness without a coherent self to tie it to. Some of her Serians were similar, in that they were not so tightly bound to their own existence. Their energy, the core of what made them, bled into the ether. It was inspirational, fascinating, and beautiful to see if one had the ability to follow the threads of life as she did. It had proven useful, too; her kind had never been able to speak over great distances. It was not the distance, but the interference that had proven troublesome. That had changed now; rather than being able to shout into the open air of a forest, as her Serian friends could do, they were required to poke their head around the tree and speak to someone's face, but the simple idea of doing so had finally been inspired by having these fascinating new additions join her bondherd. It was honestly rather embarrassing that they had been attempting to shout through 'trees' for all these eons. Of course it made sense to bypass all of the interference, the myriad hum of life and awareness that separated those who were far apart. It didn't have to be done in a purely physical manner; they could filter the link that her kind all shared in, bypassing the noise to speak to the individual.

It had taken practice, and the talent was still being learned by quite a few. Her realm was layered upon itself in ways that most other places could never experience. A simple step to the left and she would be in a different layer of the forest, a tree suddenly standing where none had been. There were three layers in this realm, three forests sharing the same space if one were to but step sideways, and it had complicated the idea of bypassing interference to speak at a distance. Yet it had not made it impossible.

The thread of energy that was her youngest pulsed under her awareness, tied intimately to herself, her mate, and her other young. Disentangling the intricacies of family was careful work, yet she was well-practiced. She could sense the excitement of the twins as they played amid the dwellings of the other species they were slowly merging with, the ones whose young she would bind to her own rule. The forest had been encouraged to walk into their plains a little bit, bringing a scattering of trees to help her own kind feel more comfortable in mingling among them, and those of her species that held forms which were more comfortable in the open - such as the alicorn forms that she and Rielthon shared, along with her mate - had begun to make themselves at home. There had been uncertainty for a time as it seemed the division would be insurmountable, yet now there was a spark of hope. The others would not be coming into their forest and sharing their dens; the adjustments had to come from her own people in order to bring the two species together as one.

Sethelu had made a new friend, from the feel of things; the thread of her life pulsed with vibrant and erratc joy, interspersed with spikes of insecurity. The sweetling always worried so much; this was fairly stable considering her usual fluctuations. Rielthon's attention turned her way as she sifted through the interwoven threadwork, causing her to pause and send him a sense of reassurance; she wasn't calling them home, not yet. Her warrior pair didn't even notice her, or if they did they pointedly ignored it - it was hard to tell with those two.

She 'touched' the thread of energy that was the essence of Sisarra, the ideal of all that she held within her; the very energy she was created from. It was tightly self-contained, even as it spilled across dimensions. The energy was here, within her senses; it was a part of the rippling sea of time; it was a tether for the realm of light where essence existed freely. Layers of reality interwoven, realms hidden behind realms, and all she had to do was to brush aside the vibrations of one to reveal another.

It was for naught, as she had thought, tracing through the great sea towards any of the many possibilities open to her young daughter. She could sense that she would be powerful, as she had before, and that she would bring great change and unity among their species - but nothing more. It was not her talent to see specifics, to garner images, and collect prophets. She could sense the energy of it; nothing more.

She could feel the unique touch of her youngest's thread as well as she returned her awareness to her own self, attending her form once again. It had been a small diversion, to consider that she might seek the answer she needed from her newborn calf, but the truth was that even if the attempt had proven successful it would have been little help to quiet her discomfort. The essence of her core was created from the energies of earth, and she was slow to accept change. Her daughter, though - she did not feel of earth-bound energy. She felt of fire and wind, a great storm raging with lightning, but surely that was mistaken. Lightning, perhaps, she might share binding energy with, but it was too much to consider that she was a full storm. Even still, she was left with a strong impression of fire and wind - a duality that was unheard of. Could it be that Sisarra's core energy was bound similarly to lightning? Songhue recognized nine elements, and lightning was among them as one that shared properties with wind and fire, and still, this did not feel like any lightning she had known.

When she thought about it the power she sensed for her youngest in the future was different than what the newborn held now. She had thought it simply to be a matured form; it could be that what she touched now was comparable to lightning taking form within a storm before it exists as an element. If she looked closer she might be able to tell for certain; so far, she could only speculate.

Sisarra squirmed as Songhue tried to submerge herself in the feel of her core energy, hoping for clarity not only in regards to her youngest, but possibly in regards to how to address her dilemma. She wasn't performing the duties of queen for her own sake, but on behalf of this small creature; she wanted to determine what her daughter might do, and trying to sink into her skin was one way of learning more about what that might be. She couldn't know who her daughter would become - not yet - but she could better sense the path this way. And yet Sisarra squirmed as if she was being tickled, bucking at a sparkleblossom with a small cry of restlessness, and Songhue found herself aborting the effort with a sigh of resignation. She had sensed the denial from the realm as the ancestors whispered through the ties that bound all of her kind to the land, the ties that allowed them to become a part of it when they past from this stage of life, and it had been mirrored in Sisarra as well. This was not for her to learn, but a part of her daughter's discoveries. As she grew and began to know herself, she would have to uncover the core of who and what she was; it was nothing for her mother to meddle in.

It seemed she was on her own when it came to finding an answer. She was no closer to figuring out a solution and had granted herself only more questions about her enigmatic youngest - although as she was sticking her nose in the pond and blowing bubbles at the moment she wouldn't seem very enigmatic to anyone who might see them. It was easy to forget, sometimes, that this young one was destined for greatness. At other times, it was all too clear. Whenever she spoke to the little one there was an awareness in those bright teal eyes that often gave her pause. She had only seen such attentiveness in AuraSidra before; in time, as they grew together, she thought the two might become as close as she was to Eternal.

She could ask her friend for her thoughts on the puzzle - exile had lead to their ruin, and yet she was unwilling to condemn death and taste the blood of those she was responsible for. It was not her way to lay her troubles at the hoove of her companions, however, as she was also responsible for them. She was supposed to ease their problems; not give them her own.

What's more, there was little that the rogue could probably offer by way of advice. This problem was rooted in the history of her own species, and it was history that put her at such odds with herself. So many things had changed already; must this also change? Must they lose themselves to the ways of other creatures? The High Council would have been appalled at the very notion, and yet it was the High Council who had condemned the unbalanced to banishment and ultimately brought destruction upon them all.

They had needed healing, those who had gone mad, and instead, they were turned away and left to fester and rot. Of course it came back to cause harm. There was a point where healing was no longer possible and those became an entirely different species: the ekthroi. Somehow, in the course of their dark insanity, they had changed the very essence of what they were as a creature. And it had been the rejection of their own kind that had allowed it to reach such a point of corrupted and mutated energy. Even she couldn't comprehend the essence of what granted them life, she who held it as her main talent. In another place, they had a name for such a thing: antimatter.

She couldn't allow that to happen again. It was always possible for something to go wrong. To have spent so many eons, the lifespan of so many white dwarf stars passing almost uncounted, struggling to restore what had been lost only to allow it to become lost again; no. It could not be.

She had found the old High Council in the heart of a hidden grove not long ago - and yet so very long ago at the same time. She had walked with Eternal, and the two had spoken for a timeless stretch of nights. They spoke of the Council of old and she explained the banners that were wilted by the dead beds of moss, once grown of the plants that each individual clan had held the strongest affinity for. Each banner represented a different clan - and each clan remained well outside the territory of the others, although they would cooperate for whatever their needs were. They were not unified as a species back then, although those decisions that would have influence over more than any single clan was brought to the high elder of the other clans that ruled their lands - and so the High Council came to exist. Eternal hadn't pushed for all of the history and Songhue loved her dearly for it; some things were private. But it had sparked countless other conversations, from explaining her own talents with life energy to examining auras - which were simply the energy that bled out from the life essence for others to sense. Having an aura was about as close as any other creature came to the privilege that her silent song alter Serians knew, and besides that, it was academically interesting to the rogue that shared time with her.

She had thought, at the time, that her mate had even forgotten the place. Instead, he had turned his back on it, and on all the mistakes of the High Council. It was their foolishness that had brought about our ruination.

She found she couldn't take the same stance, and yet she was created for healing. She could see the life energy of all things and repair it, weave it together until it was as it was meant to be. When she revealed her darker aspects it was nothing that held passion and anger as a warrior's did; instead, it was absolute cold, an absence of warmth or mercy. And still - still - she could not tolerate the thought of simply killing those who would become their greatest threat.

She was no warrior made for killing.

And therein lay the problem. It would never sit well with her, for who she was could not allow it to do so. It was most likely the very reason that the High Council had agreed to banish the crazed ones, hoping to simply send their problems away.

They had needed help, not abandonment. They were crazed and unbalanced, but it had taken time for their essential selves to wither into something that even she could not recognize. It was possible to heal them, in the beginning. It was a specialty, something that few could do, but there were a few different skills that allowed various techniques and options for restructuring the collapsing essence within them. Hers was not the only option; Sethelu would have skills perfectly designed for that very need, once she became stabilized herself. Even a warrior could help to heal some of the madness, offering a hard sparring match to allow them to exhaust some of their rage and make it easier for a healer to introduce more of what was thrown out of balance. Yet none had any knowledge of such a problem before and what's more, they were scared. The madness seemed to spread as far as the plague that had struck before it. We did not abandon our ill as they withered and our numbers thinned, for while it was horrifying they were our kin, our loved ones. And it was not as heartwrenchingly abhorrent as the madness that followed. We could not watch that. It was too much, to watch those we had left deteriorate into... Into that.

She couldn't add the death of those who were unbalanced into the binding, but as a healer she could still help. There would have to be precautions - until recovery was assured they would all need to be careful that no harm was allowed to come to any other. She would have to carefully screen anyone who wished to use their talents to help bring their kinsmen back into who they were meant to be, lest they become unbalanced themselves. It would be a lot harder to plan than a simple death, but a lot easier for her to live with. She was thinking with a healer's heart as much as a queen's compassion, and it might cause trouble down the line; but that's what she had her mate for. She could count on him to look after her mistakes, just as he could count on her to help him recover from his mistakes.

Some of the unease in her stomachs unknotted as she came to a decision, replaced with a mild fluttering of adrenaline as she began to consider all the implications. There were places that regularly confined those that had digressed; confinement was also foreign to her species, and yet perhaps something similar might be useful. There was a concept called a "safe house" that sounded appealing; unlike the idea that she coined the term from this would be a place of healing and recovery, where the afflicted couldn't bring any harm to others until they had returned to themselves. It had been granted to her, after all, when she had fallen into madness herself; perhaps that was also part of what drove her so desperately to reject the concept of murdering to prevent a return of the ekthroi. Her mate had caused her damage, and when he discovered it he had brought her to a place where she could harm none else and did what he could to heal her. It had been a long process, with his own skills being superior for a warrior and yet paling when compared to a true healer; there had been many instances where her own death would have been justified, especially if he thought her too far beyond the point of corruption. Had it been anyone else he would have killed them; she knew that. And she knew that if he ever did give up the hope of bringing her back to herself, he would have killed her, too. If he could find a space for her where he could hold onto the stubborn hope of her recovery, surely she could offer a similar opportunity to others.

Constructing such a place would be quite a project - and would most likely involve the assistance of the fae-shifter species that she was attempting to envelop into her own people. The advantage of furthering the efforts to join them into a single, inter-bred society only added excitement, validating the hope she had in finding any answer besides abandonment or death.

Folding her legs to lay down, Songhue placed her hand to the ground and hummed a low note, sending a call through those bonds closest to her - Eternal, who was now nobility in truth among those in this realm; her mate, who would always bring balance to anything she attempted on her own; the few weavers she had found to work as her assistants, her handmaidens, while she adjusted the essence energy of the realm; and the fae-shifter that lead the rest of them, the one that had helped with restoring (most of) her people from a distant refuge. One day she would have to see how that distant colony evolved, cut away from the essential piece of themselves that the realm itself was for all who dwelled here. For today, she had plans to make.

Sisarra stopped following the trail of a bubblefish as Songhue climbed back to her feet, preparing to meet with the others. They would join her in the glade that served as the central point for their clan - although clan was no longer accurate. At some point, she would have to think of a new word for the small groups that tended to reveal themselves. Some simply preferred the company of one another; that was the only semblance to the clans of old. She might ask AuraSidra for ideas; it was that young one who had invented the term bondkin, after all.

"Come along, dear one," Songhue told her youngest, and flicked an ear as those eyes fixed on her with an attentiveness that made her very certain that everything about her was being actively noticed. For some reason, she found it comforting rather than disconcerting. It was a trait of all adults of her kind, and normally it had to be learned as they discovered how to listen with all of their senses - they spoke not through telepathy, but directly through empathy, easily sharing the vaguest of concepts. The young normally had to have the upper thoughts meant for communication pushed towards them in order to properly notice that the emotions were meant for them to receive, but not Sisarra. Sethelu had also been sensitive, yet her sensitivity was in how reactive she was; Sisarra, on the other hand, grew still.

Maybe it was comforting because Songhue didn't see a newborn in the manner that some species thought of it, but an individual life. One she was responsible for, but nothing that was in any way "less." She could respect someone who heard as much as this one did. Still, the youngling would most likely fall asleep curled against her father's large side while they were still discussing the practical implications of what she was hoping to add to the new binding. Respect did not change the facts of youth.

"We have much to decide."

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Re: Under the Willow

Post by Songhue »

She had work to do.

The willow had rustled with concern when she came to work in peace, and that had made her pause for a moment. Her dreams had been confusing, slippery and unreasonable, but not horrid. A blessing from a friend of long ago seemed to be holding true; protection from night terrors, and forgetfulness upon waking. Yet the willow sensed the changes in her.

She trusted the judgment of her former companion, as she always had. But "former companion" wasn't the right term, nor was the idea of a second mate. A den keep warrior, she had simply adopted Songhue and her family for her own. Both she and her mate Rakakesh had adored the creature, but they held no claim on her; it was she who had claimed them.

Even still, Songhue returned here, to the last of her heartkin's conciousness, for clarity and protection. With her mate overseeing a tournament-cum-grudge match for his warriors and with a trusted friend placed over the task of helping the magma gnomes figure out how to avoid blowing everything into ash, she was free to focus on examining the damage she had done to herself. Her thunder horse friend Kri'Kauli had been kind enough to keep an eye on the cubs, easing the last of her worries.

And when the former guardian of her family had shown concern, new worries had come to call.

She shifted, allowing the part of herself that was reflected as a wyvern to come to the forefront with the aid of mediation, and finally the damage was made manifest. She hadn't seen physical evidence in any other shape, but that made sense; it was this part of her that had attached to her madness. And it was in this part of her that her side revealed a raw, seeping hole. By all appearances she had clawed out her own flesh, leaving the tenuously glistening film that contained her innards open to the air. For all intents and purposes, she had.

Healing herself wasn't one of her talents, and even then this was a different problem entirely. This was a true reflection of damage to her inner being, so attempting to reconcile the state of the flesh to reflect the truth of essence wouldn't achieve anything. And even when considering the damage on a physical level, this wasn't something that could be pulled closed and made smooth. She would always have an unnatural hole in her side, even once skin covered it again. Creating new flesh would be the only option.

Creating flesh in this instance meant creating essence, and to create the substance of being was well beyond her skills and honestly thought to be impossible. However... she wouldn't be creating it in the true sense. Only copying what was already created. Copying might be possible. But even that was new, experimental territory.

It was good that she was here, in that case, as she could practice expanding her skills by self-experimentation. Having someone else trying to figure it out by messing around with her essence wasn't an option that made her comfortable, yet here she could test options on herself and attempt the first steps on the small-scale potential of expanding a single blade of grass. Mimicking the damage to herself would give her a good comparison to begin with. Then she would just have to figure out how to do anything to herself; but that was a headache for later.

You can be so foolish.

The voice caught her by surprise, as she was used to this corner of the realm offering solitude, but it brought a smile to her gruesome features. Her Guide had come to visit, a creature that very rarely indulged in physical form that helped to watch over her kind. Legend held that they were waking portions of the conciousness within the realm, a thought given life by unimaginable magic. Her own Guide didn't visit often any more, and even then she usually looked to be a miniature lightning dragon. This time she was in her other form, a shape that was almost impossible to describe and yet, to Songhue, seemed beautiful.

I will show you, child, what it is that you need. But first, tell me, how do you plan on casting a skill that is not housed within this facet?

That... was a good question. Each time Songhue used her abilities it pulled other aspects of herself forward. That could prove troublesome, as the damage was more than reflected within this particular form, it seemed to be housed in this facet. Even if she did manage to figure out spiritual healing, which was by no means a minor undertaking in an attempt to grow her abilities, she wouldn't be able to break through the limitation of being unable to assist herself.

Open yourself to me, and we will begin, her Guide instructed, nodding subtly once she saw the realization in Songhue's features.

And so, the wyvern closed her eyes and opened her heart, expanding her awareness until she felt her Guide merge with her consciousness and take control. And they began.

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Re: Under the Willow

Post by Songhue »


She had no idea how long she had been there already, only that she would be there for longer, still. Her Guide had instructed her into binding her spirit to the grass as more than a reflection, but as a two-way influence. Whatever she did to the grass would be reflected upon herself. It was rather similar to the beautifully intricate mate-bonds that her young assistant was so skilled in, yet in this instance it was more of a crude mockup than her finished works.

It had taken a while for Songhue to adjust her form again. Hers was not a species that shifted at well, although with effort it was possible to discipline itself well enough to gain some influence. Her Guide had been right, of course. She was not within her weaving talents while in this wyvern aspect. Preparing herself to work again had taken a long time by itself, especially as this work was one she had not done in some time. Altering energy was completely different from spiritual healing. Normally, when she helped to settle the essence of a being she was untangling a knot in their energy. The last time she had needed to truly heal a spirit had been during her descent into madness, and there had been so many that she had failed at that time.

With patience and instruction, she began to try to do this same work on the grass, to reflect into her own being. As a safety measure, she had set up two links, and she began first on the patch that had been made to mirror her state before having the tie to her essence severed.

Even that had taken time. She realized that she had lost track of everyone else that had been tied into her being once she was ready to begin work, the bonds more than set aside; they were nearly forgotten. This would have nothing to do with them. For the first time since she was very, very young, Songhue was alone in her soul.

Her focus had been absolute while her Guide eased her through the stands of being which created her essence. Time was on longer relevant. All that existed was the energy of creation.

Eventually, it became clear that creating new strands to cover the damage was not an option. The pieces which had been torn off would sail be damaged at their tips, although covered up and bound to fresh creation. To heal would mean to have the severed parts become smooth, not to merely cover them up.

Yet she knew nothing of the creation and extension of the energy within the essential being. She could only "heal" damage on this level by soothing pain and tying off pieces that still spilled out life. It was all she had been able to do when her species had first been exiled from their home. She could seal the parts that spilled the life of their soul, soothe the pain of having the bond which tied them to this land and allowed them to hear her ripped out of them, but beyond that she had been helpless. She could hope that the damage could be survived, once she got the life to stop spilling from their essence, stabilizing them enough that they were no longer fading away. But she could do little more than hope.

So few of them survived the trauma.

This time, the damage was significant, but it didn't threaten to end her. Not yet, at least, although she could see that it was not a clean cut. There was tearing, places where damage could spread and unravel her. If she was careful, she would have time.

And she began.

She had never before had the ability to fully immerse and explore the threads of life that she worked with. Knowing how to alter them was different than viewing them on their own, not as a piece of a creature but for the life they pulsed with on their own. Harmonizing the internal life of the spirit with the form that housed it was what allowed her species to shift. Now, Songhue had the opportunity to wander the halls that determined who she was.

She could find the threads that hummed with the life and energy of each of her forms. Each piece melded seamlessly into the next, flowing from hummingbird to owl with the same invisible ripple as was seen when she shifted. None of them were entirely completed by themselves. They all sprang from a shared core, the vibrant glow of life that burned throughout the entirety of essential energy.

Until she came to the wound.

The flow of life-energy swirled around the disruption, creating a knot of turmoil. Smoothing out the damage that dammed the flow of life from flowing smoothly throughout her being would require restoring the original pathways. It was the substance that defined this energy which she was to work with, rather than the energy itself.

Somehow, she had always pictured it as something that simply was. Much like the stones that created the shelters of the kindred shifters that had taken up residence on their fractured home, she'd thought the essence of energy was formed from pieces of life and simply came together in a way that made the essence she worked with. Life, creation, will, they came to form the strands she knew. She had never thought that any of them could be made, just as the kindred shifters were limited by the stones around them.

She had been wrong.

None of that which created essence was as stationary or fixed as stone. It was more akin to the climbing vines that had created the tabards which hung as tapestries in the old Council Hall (what was left of it). Just as the vines grew, made of stem and leaf and bound through root, so to was the basis of life essence. And, as with vines, when she looked further she found that it grew.

She had begun the growth that would repair the damage before she had fully realized it, without even understanding how. Just as the vine harnessed the suns to grow, spirit harnessed love. Love spilled from the bonds she had set aside, love of every type and shade, and it flooded through the river of energy that was life, pulsing brightly as it flowed over her, through her. She could only see it after the fact, only make sense of it once the shredded ends of her spirit began to regrow, yet once she saw it there was no mistaking the source of the growth that would heal her.

She thought to control it; to guide this growth as her kind had guided the growth of those vines so long ago. Deep within the glow of bonds, she heard a laugh as the thought came to her. Her Guide, whispering to her, the voice that others called "inspiration" or their "gut." Songhue made a point to listen closer than that, to recognize when she was given guidance, yet the whisper had always seemed to be that of a feeling or knowing. Now, as she worked, she heard clearer than she ever had before.

This is not yours to influence.

That worried her. How might it change her, this wild growth that was not to be directed? Would it influence the bonds that she had tied to her soul? If her soul changed too much, would the bonds fail - if she was no longer the creature that had once been tied to, the ties themselves may break.

My gentle fool, her Guide whispered fondly, Change is not to be feared. It is only new good things, and new bad things. Your bonds will reforge.

Some may change with her, and that was as it should be. Her bonds with others would change over time, regardless, as time brought change to all of life. There may be some she could lose; bonds that have long since withered, tied to a past that no longer exists. Others would grow stronger. Her matebond blazed brightest with the love that fueled this growth, and it reached deepest into her; it would become more than a bond, after this was done, as it grew and melded into the fabric of her life energy. She could feel his heartbeat.

Her Serian friends' bonds were shifting as well. She had been able to sense their presence within her, but now she could determine their emotions. There was no clear thought, no communication, yet before she had only been aware of pain or desperation, a summoning for her help. She could sense their joys, hopes, and anxieties now, a depth she had never before known. If she was not careful, it could easily become a tangle of emotion, overstimulating her with all the input and making it difficult to determine what came from herself, and what was from another.

She would have to take time before returning. Meditating, exploring, mastering these changes within her would be vital. So would discovering all of the changes.

For the moment, she watched in hypnotic fascination as her essence grew, repairing what was ripped from her and swallowing the bonds that had already reached deepest.

She wondered if part of the changes would be a loss of her history. There had been damage there before, the scar of her madness, yet she was not growing a scar. She would become whole again. Undamaged, never tainted. What would that be like?

To have never suffered as she had, for it to not leave such a mark upon her. For her mate not to have left her behind in the Shimmer realm, where their kind had fallen as refugees, as he tried to battle the corrupted and salvage home. Not to have watched the fractured remnants of Clans, those that remained of her people, fading and eventually dissipating, without their land to welcome their essence. For her young twins, only just born when all had fallen, not to pass the death of their first three stars without knowing their father. Not to feel the matebond stretched so thin that she couldn't be certain of more than having been mated. Maybe they were right, those few survivors who remained; maybe he was lost to her. Their kind were not meant to know such isolation as he was - they needed one another. For eons to pass, then the death of one star, then another, without any sign of returning was enough reason to worry. For him to be hunting, battling, facing the rage and pain of madness, all while severed from the ties of Clan and Kin - it was too much.

The uncertainty, the loneliness, and the constant doubt from the remnants of those few who had remained had weighed on her until she believed that everything had been lost. Her home destroyed. Her people withering, the High Council a shambles, and so many lost. Her cubs weaker than they should be, growing without the essential magics and special plants at home. She would watch them fade, as well, if they grew that far. Even her oldest, only having seen six stars by then, had begun to weaken, her budding skills suddenly disappearing until she convinced herself she was never meant to be a Warrior.

Everything was lost to her. Everything was dying. It was too much to deal with.

When she felt herself beginning to change, to succumb to the twisting that turned her pain and loss into rage and destruction, she left. In the last moments before she lost herself, she used what presence of mind remained to her to ensure her young were safe with those others who had outlived their parents; adopted by the survivors as a whole, with each adult their new parents. She took them to these other cubs and told them to play, as she had before, and she left.

She found a world where she could wait to lose herself. She didn't have to wait long. How long she ravaged and tormented the creatures there was still something she couldn't know. The poison barbs on her wyvern's tongue had peeled the flesh from her prey, numbing the pain and preventing shock from killing them too soon, keeping the blood fresh for longer. She became a legend, a god, a demon, devouring and destroying and spilling the pain of her loss into the suffering of everything around her.

She had still been able to remember the pain, before. When she thought of it, that period where she had lost herself, she could still feel the burning anguish that caused her to destroy the hope of others, hope that had been robbed from her. Once she ripped the scar of her history from herself, it had become a shallow story. Would it even be a story, once this new growth was complete?

He had found her, her missing mate. She could still feel the memory of that time, where he battled and controlled her rage, pleading that she not make him kill her, like the others. He would, if he'd had to. If she removed all hope of his mate returning to him, the creature he had known rather than this twisted and rotting version. They fought constantly, the rage of her pain exploding against him, and he had never once wavered in his love. It was the vibrant glow of this healing energy which eventually reshaped her, repairing the torment within her, forming a raw scar on her being.

He had won the battle against her madness and reforged their bond into something stronger. He had always been more powerful; now, he had shown he could control her. Songhue was not made for such darkness within her and couldn't always control it, herself. At times she would slip, defying him and striking out, spiraling into rage and battling with him for no other reason than to hurt something. In time, he got better at controlling her, often digging his claws into her flesh as he insisted she comply. The first resistance, the first spark of dark and aimless anger, would be enough for him to use pain to clear her head. If that didn't work, which at times it wouldn't, he would control and correct her, thwarting her efforts to lash out. Often, at those times, his main goal was to keep her from hurting herself. When she spiraled that hard and that fast he knew better than to indulge the dark desire to destroy by battling her. He became adept at having the punishment be thwarting her efforts, his claws taking her flesh as he pinned her, forced her into helplessness, then forced her to endure it as she raged.

He'd been strong for her. Pieced her together again, until finally she could cry instead of scream. And he'd allowed her battered spirit more time to regain strength before returning for their cubs, who had only just begin to question if something was wrong.

To lose the pain that had damaged her didn't diminish the sweet ache of being put back together. She would still follow him anywhere; she had followed him after that, her and the cubs resting in one realm after another as he hunted those that had ripped apart their own realm, finding those parts he could salvage to begin to rebuild. They explored so many different worlds together, and she was always there to heal him after he'd found his target. And still, he controlled her, stabilizing the shadows that pierced her heart.

Would he need to, after this? What would it be, truly, to have never suffered the madness?

She watched her spirit grow and repair, knitting new essences where the old scar had been ripped from her, hypnotized by the sprouting tendrils of energy, and wondered.

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