Scene Challenge (finished)

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90

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:36 am

“I don’t need you.”
754
Jon-tai pressed himself against the ground, trying to stop the shivering. Somehow sleeping under that dark open sky was so much colder than the end of a dark alleyway. But he didn't regret giving that girl his blanket and spot in the tent. However, he did wish a little bit he had gone and gotten some of that soup.

A sudden warmth pressed against his shoulder startled him into sitting bolt upright and he found himself staring up at the crippled otter cook.
Jon-tai pulled away "Leave me be, old creature."

Unfazed by the blatant insult, the cook shook his head "You should be in a tent."
"I don't need a tent, I'm fine."

The cook shook his head "You can't be out here all by yourself."

"I don't need anything, leave me alone!" Jon-tai threw himself back onto the ground and curled up. Hopefully the cook would go away and mind his own business.

A strong grip hauled the boy to his paws and a power that belied the weathered frame pushed forwards him forwards.

"Let go of me!" Jon-tai shouted.

"Hush, please," was the quiet, unconcerned reply "Don't want to wake anyone up."

"MMmmm," the boy growled angrily, squirming helplessly against the grip.

After a moment they came to the lee of a tall tree, with a small white figure curled up against one of the large roots with only a brushy tail for warmth. Across from the curled up form was a small pack with a worn blanket on top.

The cook shook his head when he saw the small form "Oh, Freetaaa..."

He tapped Jon-tai's shoulder as he release his grip "That blankets' for you. Do you have a name?"

Defiantly, the otter boy crossed his arms "Nope."

"I'm Lionel," the cook replied as if the boy had actually given his name. "Is there anything else you need?"

Jon-tai scowled at Lionel, but a shiver ran through the boy as a stray breeze toyed with the fur on his shoulders. His gaze strayed to the folded blanket and he shivered again. It couldn't hurt.... Not for just night anyway. Could it?
"No," he replied to the cook's question finally "The blanket's good."

A bit of guilt twisted in his gut at the sound of his own voice. He sounded so mean even to himself. This otter had only been trying to help. Even though Jon-tai clearly hadn't needed it.

The crippled otter smiled warmly "Good... If you need anything later, just go ahead and wake me up."

Jon-tai forced the guilt to leave and disgust hurried to fill its place. He didn't want this stranger's sickening sympathy.
But he had already agreed to sleep there. So, he reasoned, he'd have to.
But the attention had been unwanted and totally unneeded. It was a lie he convinced himself to believe.

All the conflicting thoughts dimmed as he pulled the blanket around his body and as the cold air was blocked sleep overcame everything. He curled up, pressing himself against the bole of the tree.


Dawn was not far away when he woke, a cold wind blasting through the camp and roared around his head.
It was unbearable. Even if he tugged the blanket tightly and tucked his tail across his nose the wind still refused to blow around him as it should've.

Hopelessly he raised his head, wondering if he could find a more sheltered place. Without thinking he edged closer to Lionel. A little better.

Come morning he was pressed against Lionel's back.

Freeta sighed as she looked down at the scrawny child. Then gently poked at Lionel.

Slowly the cook's eyes opened and squinted "What?"

"Another one?"

Lionel twisted his head and smiled down at the little otter boy. "Maybe. He didn't seem to like me though."
"If past experience is any example that won't last long."

"This is very different than Achran, Avery and Adrian."
"What clued you into that? The mass of homeless creatures? The sickening amount of orphans? The war planning sessions?"
"Free- that isn't funny."
"Do you see me laughing? All I'm saying is... you've got another little lost one on your tail."
"He'll only be around until I can find him a tent. He won't want to be here. I sorta forced him to come over here."
"Forced? That doesn't sound like you, Lionel."
"He was sleeping uncovered, just in a clearing. All shivering and such."
"You didn't stand a chance. What where you doing walking around at that hour anyway?"

"Checking on everyone"
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:37 am

“You deserve better.”
795 words
"You're all lazy good for nothing outcasts. Do you hear me?! But it's my job to turn you slobs into something useful for the Empire."

The badger continued to rant at the group of dejected draftees.
They kept their heads down, partially because of the miserable drizzle, more to not make eye contact with the bellowing sergeant.

He paused a second, sizing each of the motley assortment up. They where of all different sizes. The smallest being a tiny grey mouse and the two largest being tigers who where of identical height.

The badger stepped towards the tiger nearest to him, challenging her by clearing his throat loudly.

She shuffled back and forth on her paws but didn't look up.

"Look at me!"

She flinched and yanked her head up to look at him with wide yellow eyes
"You two are the most pathetic of the lot, you know that? Big strong cats, my paw, you're little more than sniveling pussycats. What's wrong? You afraid of the water?" He took on a mocking high pitched voice "Is the wittle kitty afraid of the wain?"

The second tiger raised her head, green eyes blazing and a growl in her throat.

He turned towards her abruptly, a snarl in his voice "You will not growl at me girl."

She wasn't cowed and the growl continued to rumble.
"Jade, stop it!" Her sister hissed "we're going to get in trouble."

"Oh, no. You two are already in trouble. You like to eat? Well, neither of you are going to touch a vegetable peeling until you learn respect!"

Jade's brow furrowed and her lips pulled up to reveal her long pale teeth.

The badger was about to issue another punishment, but the voice that spoke when he opened his mouth did not belong to him.
"Sergeant Chio? Are these the new recruits?"

The change over the badge was instantaneous. His ears flattened back respectfully and he drooped his shoulders as he turned to face the newcomer.
"Yes, Master Hreth. These are them."

Every eye fixed on the elf in awe and superise.

Master Hreth nodded, his strange violet eyes trapping the animal folk in a crystalline gaze.

"A sorry group if I do say so myself, Master."

The elf shrugged lightly "Nothing that couldn't be fixed with a hot meal, Sergeant."

Chio drained his neck to look up at the elf "You're not thinking of taking any of them into the scouts, are you?"
"As a matter of fact..." The elf's voice trailed off as he began to walk down the line, carefully gauging each of the draftees.
At the end, he stopped, in front of the tigers. "I believe these two would do quite nicely."
"But, Master Hreth!" The sergeant stamped "I was going to have them as close quarters combatants. Not scouts!"

"Why not scouts? Cats make wonderful trackers while at the same time instinctively covering up their own tracks. Yes, I do believe these two will do nicely."
He smiled at them "Follow me, if you please."

Glancing at each other, then at the sergeant, then quickly followed the elf.

For a few steps they trailed behind him in silence, then he cleared his throat.
"You seemed to have an attitude towards Sergeant Chio... Miss?"
"Qui, Qui Jade and yes I have an attitude. I volunteered for my country, my life and time. I expect to be treated with normal decency."
The elf smiled faintly "You've set a high standard. I hope you will not be too disappointed."
She shrugged "He also went after my sister. That is not allowed."
He nodded, his amusement growing "And your name is?"
"Qui Jasmine."
The yellow eyed sister whispered her name, not lifting her head.
"Twins are you?"
"Yes," Jade nodded "Surprised?"
"Hardly."

He eyed their appearance. Not the identical traits that marked them as sisters, but the eternally downcast shift of Jasmine's eyes, the way their clothes hung off their bodies as if they hadn't had a full meal for weeks, the matts in their fur and the dirt mixed in with it, grime coated their whiskers, and the rebellious glint never left Jade's eyes.
The pair looked like they'd faced down a hurricane and come off the worst for it.

"You will need to go through several things before being admitted to the first classes; health evaluations, uniform fittings, and such. But first I think a good washing up and a meal would be the best line of operation. Honestly, the majority of necessary functions can wait until tomorrow."
Jasmine looked up at the mention of a meal and Jade's stance relaxed slightly as her sister seemed to smile.
They may have been strong animals in general, but they needed better treatment than Chio would've given them.
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:38 am

“We’re gonna be parents…”
866 words
Viper stood in the hallway, leaning against the wall, panting.
Her head spun with Rolland's words, until there was just a whirl of unintelligible sounds ringing on the inside of her ears.
But the distortion of the sound could not rearrange reality.

She closed her eyes and dug her nails into her palm, trying to force her thoughts to come to a stand-still. Trying to pull herself together.
It wasn't the end of the world.
It wasn't the end of anything.
It was a beginning.

So why did it feel like everything was about to come crashing down on her head?
Why did it feel like the world had come out from beneath her feet and she was tumbling end over end into another void.

"Viper?!? Viper are you alright?!??"

Her eyes flew open and her head whipped back as she saw Townly standing over her.
Realizing that she had somehow sunk down in a pitiful puddle of whimpers, Viper began to stand up, but Townly pressed her back down again, crouching next to her.

"I'm going to get the Doctor, you stay here."

"No," She managed to get out and she stopped him by plucking at his elbow "No, I already went to see him."
"About that stomach-ache? What'd he say?"
"It's not a stomach-ache."

His paw reached for her shoulder and gripped tightly, concern raidiating from his eyes "Are you alright?? Are you sick? Is something wrong?"
She swallowed hard and shook her head.

"Then what is it? Why are you so upset?"
Several times she opened her mouth, struggling to tell him, but each time shut it as her breath escaped.
"Viper, what is it?" Townly looked genuinely terrified as she balked against speaking.

She pulled in yet another deep breath, forcing her quivering paws to steady and her tongue to roll out the difficult words.
"We're going to be parents."

It was several very long minutes that Townly stared dumbly at her, his jaw totally slack.

"Say something," She whispered, reaching up to touch his paw, which had gone totally slack against her shoulder.

Slowly he closed his mouth and shook his head, still at a loss.
"I... don't believe it."
She nodded weakly.

"I mean..." He stood up, running his paws through his fur, "What kind of parents could we possibly be. Look at me Viper, I can't be a father!"

She tipped her head back and did as she was told: looked at him.
At the dark grey fur, the coalfire eyes, the scars across his face, the cloak.
But somehow she didn't see the assassin he had been.
She saw the fur that stuck to her pillow, the eyes that smiled at her in the morning, the cloak that had become more of a security blanket than any tool of intimidation, the scars...
Lessons learned.

He paused in his silent panicking as he realized that she had a faint smile while she looked up at him.
"Now what?"
She shook her head "Actually, I don't think you'll be a half-bad father."
"I don't know how!"
She shrugged a little and slipped further down along the wall "Like with Wesley, but smaller."

A slight twitch tugged at his right eye "If you'll remember, I could hardly keep him alive."
"But he's not dead."
"It was my fault he was hurt!! Rolland's the reasons he's alive."
He collapsed again, burying his head in his paw "We can't do this, Viper. It's not responsible. We shouldn't be parents."

"Well, what do you suggest? There isn't any getting out of it now."

"I don't know..." his voice wavered slightly "I don't know."
She closed her eyes, gritting her teeth, and they sat together in confused silence for a few minutes.
"Have you told anybody else?" He asked after a little while.
"No. Why?"
"Just wondering," He sighed "Well, what now?"
"Decide on names?"
"Oh. What about Teresa for a girl."
She rolled her eyes, unamused "Well, your sense of humor recovered quickly."
"I'm not joking. I like Teresa for a name."
"And what if it's a boy?"
"Timothy."
"I think you're feeling better."
"I'm trying to be positive."
"We're positively not naming them Teresa. That's my name and no one else can have it."
"No one else even knows it. If we name them Teresa it can be in your honor and no one will get you mixed up."
"No."
He sighed "Alright. What names do you like?"
She smirked a little "What about Wesley."
"No."
She paused, thinking a bit more seriously "Riley?"
His mouth opened for a second, then he closed it again as he considered it "Maybe."
She was about to offer another suggestion when a gentle strain of music filtered through the halls.
A sparkle returned to Townly's eyes at the sound "You said you haven't told anyone?"
"Only you and Rolland know right now. Are you going to go tell Wes?"

Grinning now, he nodded and stood up, a slight stagger in his step as he walked towards the source of the music, calling out to his brother.
"Hey Wesley! Guess what!"
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:39 am

“I didn’t think you knew.”
789

Chunks of snow tore up from beneath Hagia's paws, flinging into the ruthlessly cold air and creating a trail she could ill afford to leave behind her.
Her legs ached and burned like logs being eaten in a fire and her chest heaved like a bellows, sending massive steamy breaths into the air. There was a pressure building in her head as she continued to force her body far beyond any standards she'd ever been set before.
But the ones who set the standards were pushing behind her, intent on blood. Step for step they would match her, but she was a breathless step ahead.
It had to be enough.

As she raced through the snow burdened trees, the thought of what they would do if they caught her... Oh, if they caught her!
She would make them pay over and over in blood before they took the life beating in the sling along her chest. They had taught her to fight, how to kill like a Sykan, And kill she would: her father, her sister, her mate as they pursued to end the child. But only if they caught her.
She broke free from the snow and skittered down onto a frozen stream, splaying her legs out to keep her body from collapsing and crushing her pup before they even had chance to set tooth and claw in him.
The stream offered a route of escape, running due south. Towards the borders. They couldn't lay their filthy murdering claws on her beyond the borders.
But she couldn't run forever. Soon the pain in her legs and chest would spread, become crippling.

As she slipped along the icy stream, she began to slow, her body screaming for relief and the child began to cry, weak sobs leaking out from his tiny mouth.
That convinced her to stop. Just for a few minutes. She had that.
She stumbled off the frozen waters and back down into the snow, curling her body around the weak life as she slipped him from the sling.
Frost tipped his soft grey fur and his eyes squinted against the light reflected by the snow. His withered paw stretched up, the inward curled fingers trying to reach out to her face.
Without her permission tears began to form, blurring out the sweet innocent eyes and she wiped them away with her thickly scarred palm. He began to whimper again as a few stray drops touched his nose.

"Shh, baby, shh," she crooned, running her finger along the side of his thin face and brushing away some of the frost from his fur. With his good paw he caught at her claw and tried to pull it to his hungry twitching mouth.
"Oh, you're hungry."
She held him up to let him nurse, hunching herself against the wind as she tried to preserve any amount of warmth that the little body in her arms let off. Nameless, but imperative beyond anything she'd ever been taught. Nameless...
It was tradition that a child wasn't named until they have survived their first three months. Yet it was tradition that demanded the blood of the ill and imperfect. It was tradition she was fleeing from with every fiber and strain. If it caught her it would tear her and the child limb from limb, then forget them in the crimson snow.
She would name him, even if it was only so she could whisper to him as they died.

"Hamish," the name hung on the air like a slow drifting snowflake.
As if he approved, the pup squeaked a little then returned to sucking as if he was close to starving.
For the first time in weeks she let the thinnest laugh slip from her mouth. It wasn't alright, it wouldn't ever be again. She cut herself on the shards of a tradition that ruled her country and her life. It was a death unto herself as she betrayed that child who had been so in love with the long strains running through time.
But if Hamish lived, then so would she. The choice wasn't one she wanted to face, but it had been heaved onto her shoulders and though they were strong through training and battle they couldn't hold the weight of willingly letting her child die.
Her Hamish.

Her ears pricked at a shift in the wind from northeastern to due west, a west wind was a summer wind, not a winter one.
Perhaps it was a sign or perhaps a warning.
She slipped Hamish back into the sling, ensuring he was close enough to benefit from the heat her body let off before climbing back onto the stream with a sense of determination overriding her previous desperation.
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:39 am

“I’d be lost without you.”
847

Alistair peered up at the sign that declared in blazoned letters "Dezontie City"
"What do you say boy? Shall we see what we can see?"

The dragon wolf growled softly, but followed obediently at his master's heels.

It took just a few minutes walking for the signs of civilization to show.
The road changed from hard packed earth to cobblestone, low walls sprang up from the green turf, and small huts with sleeping travelers could be found every ten minutes of steady walking.

Alistair's eyes flicked with amazement from one thing to another and he wondered what the city would be like. Could it possibly be more fascinating? Where there more people?

The question answered itself as a massive wall reared itself out of the horizon. Warm gold light tinged the edges, giving it an impossibly majestic look.

The d-wolf growled again, but Alistair was too absorbed in the view to notice.

The city was just beginning to wake up as Alistair passed through the wide gates, feeling infinitesimally small as he tried to see the ceiling arched high above him.

Wandering aimlessly, simply in awe of his surroundings, he eventually found himself in a place with stalls and booths displaying a wonderfully diverse amount of things; he could hardly take it all in.

Trying to see everything at one go, he ended backing into a cloth merchant's stall.

Exclaiming apologies and scrabbling to snatch up the gauzy bits of silk before they could be spoiled on the ground, Alistair accidently let his sleeves fall back.

The merchant raised an eyebrow at the white scars across Alistair's arms. "Dragon wolf rider are you?"

"No," Alistair muttered.
The merchant snorted softly "I know a d-wolf rider scars when I seem them. And there's also the fact that there's a d-wolf standing next to you."

Alistair felt his cheeks flush and muttered something intelligible.
"Here to scope out the track beforehand ehh?"
"Something like that."


Alistair hurried off, bewildered.
Was that what he'd been?


Eventually he found his way out of the market, his mind worrying over the idea of what he may have been.
He was so distracted, he didn't realize where he had wandered until the dragon-wolf began whining.
He glanced down, concerned. But the creature wasn't upset. Instead he was eagerly straining forwards.

Alistair followed its line of sight, and felt his mouth dry out.

A huge white columned building was ahead of them. Guarded by strange cloaked men. And a dragon. With armor. And a huge hammer.

"C'mon boy, time to go."
The dragon guard lifted his head and his coal black eyes widened when he saw the young man and dragon wolf.

He stooped, growled something to the nearest cloaked guard, then leaned the war hammer across the ground.

Alistair turned and began walk away as quickly as he could without breaking into a full out dash.
Before he had gone three steps a rush of wind filled his ears, then steel clamps encircled his torso and drew him up with a terrific yank.

His shouts and screams of protest where lost in the hurricane of sound that the dragon's wings generated.
Blood trickled from his knuckles as he pummeled the razor scales in anger. Then he caught a glimpse of the city below. Tiny boxes marching in narrow rows. And he thought that perhaps, he didn't want the dragon to let him go, just right then.

It was a few seconds of rapid flight and the city melted into forest, the forest turned to grasslands randomly dotted with huge rock outcroppings.
At one of the most massive rocks, the dragon began to tilt downwards, and came to a landing at the base.

"Alistair what where you thinking? You could've lost your head you stupid human!"
Thick smoke poured from the agitated dragon's mouth, making it impossible for Alistair to breath.

After coughing and rubbing the stinging tears out of his eyes, Alistair realized the dragon had put him down.
"I'm waiting Alistair."

"Who are you?"

"Don't play games with me young man."
"No," Alistair wobbled to his feet, using the dragon-wolf as support "You don't play games with me! Who are you and what do you want with me?"

There was silence as the dragon guard stared down at the man, eyes bright and sad.
"They got you, Alistair, didn't they?"
Alistair crossed his arms "I don't know."

The huge head dipped down "I know you don't. You don't remember anything do you?"
Alistair paused, biting down hard on his lip, remembering the note he had supposedly written to himself. This dragon could very well be one of "them"

"Well, maybe I do remember something's. What's it to you?"

"Alistair, you have no reason to trust me. But you're just going to have to."

Alistair looked down. The dragon-wolf looked back up at him, red eyes glimmering unconcerned.

He looked back up at the dragon guard and gestured at the d-wolf. "What's his name then?"

"Zephyr."
The ragged ears swept up and the muzzle turned towards the dragon guard with a friendly bark.
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:40 am

“Oh no, we fell asleep!”
875

"It's sure chilly up here, inn't mate?"
Martin nodded, pulling his over large jacket closer and tipping the brim of his hat down "Y'think it's going to snow?"
"Maybe," the fox shuddered peering up at the unfriendly grey blanket of clouds that seemed to hang just inches above their heads "Hope is doesn't though. It can be well near impossible to sail if it turns into a whiteout."
"You're telling me? I got caught in one once a nod we didn't get home until about a day later. It's like fog, it is."

"Aye, it's no joke."

Martin rubbed his paws together trying to bring back a little life to his numb fingers. "How long do we have to stand up here?
"Until the Skipper waves us down.

The young otter laughed drily. "Which could be in five minutes or noon tomorrow."
Rusty didn't laugh "Skip made me do that once."

"For real? He made you stay up in the lookout all night?"
"All night," the gypsy confirmed "No dinner, breakfast or lunch."
"What'd you do to deserve that?"

"Well... I was mouthing off a bit to Jenna, but I think it was supposed to be another one of his endurance building things."

"You didn't have to stay awake all night did you?"

Rusty raised an eyebrow "Oh, you,can bet I did."
"How'd you manage?"
"They sang horrible, off key, shanties all night."

"That doesn't sound like a pleasant experience." Martin hunched down as a chill breeze began to blow.
Rusty hunched down next to him "No, and I never want it to happen again."

"What did Lady Aberdeena have to say about all this?"

"Mum was ashore that day, dunno what she was doing. I don't think anyone ever told her."

"Mm," Martin's interest had waned from the story and he had become more focus on trying to hold the telescope with shivering fingers.

"You're not going to be able to see anything, y'know," Rusty said, burning his own paws deep in his pockets.

"M going to try, at least," Martin forced his paws to stop shaking and held the scope up to his eye.
He turned in several full circles before finally giving up and crouching back down.

"Told ya," Rusty mumbled, his eyes half shut.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Martin stuffed the scope inside his jacket and started blowing in his fingers again.
Rusty growled a little, but his snout tipped down and his ears drooped sideways.

Martin tried to turn his back to the wind but it seemed to come from every direction. He squinted against the tears that began t form, finally closing his eyes completely.

He only meant to shut them for a moment, until the stinging went away. But he found that his eyelids had grown too heavy to support and his mind dimmed as the wind turned into a soothing white noise.

Sleep was warm. Like a blanket woven from the softest cotton and a cup of steaming bitebark tea.
He could smell the sharp scent of the drink. His mother would always make it on the coldest days, when they returned mostly frozen after a day on his father's fishing vessel.

They'd all cram into the kitchen, sitting on top of each other, or in a tangled mess on the floor.
Inevitably he ended up crushed between Yvette and Wiljkes. It was always a win-loose situation. He loved his older sister but hated Wiljkes.

Yvette was like what they're mother might've been as a girl; adventurous, humorous, kind.
Wiljkes was how their father was; loud.

But at the end of the day, they were much too worn out to squabble.

Though sometimes, Skipper Lorange would start yelling...

Martin paused... The Skipper didn't belong there, in that memory, or was it a dream?

A jolt ran through him. He wasn't asleep, was he?

His name eyes opened and connected immeadiatly with the otter captain's furious gaze.


Heads hung with guilt, the boys shuffled under Lorange's tounge lashing.

"Why can't the pair of you stay awake for even one hour? One hour! We're lucky we didn't get attacked-"

"Skipper," Lady Aberdeena broke in "They know. That's enough."

He retreated slightly, muttering through his whiskers for a moment "Fine then."
He nodded towards the boys "You two can fill the water barrels by yourselves, we'll drop you off by the nearest river."

"Aye, sir," the fox and otter replied dully.
"Until then, you can get down to your quarters."

As the boys clomped below deck, Aberdeena faced Lorange.

"What?"

The gyspy shook her head "Martin looks up to you, Lorange."
"Well, he needs to learn."

"Yes, but I do believe that the punishment without the yelling would be sufficient."
"Y'know, you never fussed when I yelled at Rusty."
"No. But Martin is different, if you want to keep him here, you'll have to be softer spoken."

Lorange grunted "I'm not going to do anything different for the boy. That just isn't life."
She shrugged her shoulders lightly "Do it your way then. He'll run away, just like he ran away from his father."

He scowled at being compared to a drunkard "It's different."

"It is not, and you know it." She turned on her dainty heel and walked away.
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:41 am

“Is this the life you wanted?”
770
The waves did as they willed with the raft. For hours teasingly drifting it closer to shore, then brushing it back towards the open sea with no regard for the condition of the fading woman clinging to the disintegrating sticks.

Finally, maybe with just a touch of sympathy, a current surged and carried the damaged raft up onto the beach.

The sudden movement brought consciousness fluttering to the still eyelids, until they shot open with alarm.

Immediately they shut again in pain from the blinding starburst, both from headache and the sudden exposure to the blazing sunlight.

After several minutes the ache hadn't abated, but her desperation for clean water drove her to her knees, then to crawl through the wet sand up the beach.
The sand seared her bare forearms but it was nothing compared to the drive for cold clear water. She staggered to her feet as she reached the summit of the sand hill.

Raising a shaking hand to shade her brow, Vine's heart dropped as all that greeted her sight was an endless stretch of more burning white sand.

A weak cry of agony she fell to her knees, a dry sob pulsing in her chest.

Behind her was a sea of salt, ahead was an ocean of sand with no hope in-between.

It was only a dim impulse that sent her forwards, something deep that cried out to keep going.
Not much that was sane was left in her near empty mind, just the desire to see the shadow of a tree again and hear the cool whisper of the breeze in the leaves.

Bleary eyes caught sight of a dim smear across the horizon; mirage most likely, but it was all that was there.

Somewhere between nothing and suspension her legs gave out and it was just a faint windmill crawling that signaled life in the parched form.

Before the sun had reached it zenith, all movement ceased.


Something sweet, unbelievably sweet ran over her swollen tongue. Just a few drops. But it brought her eyes wide open in an instant.

Her hand reached up, trying to tip more water down her throat, but something stronger than her restricted the flow to barely a trickle.

After swallowing the grit down and feeling her headache ease, Vine dug her elbows into the cooling sand and managed to lift her head up.

"Well you took your sweet time waking up."

Blinking rapidly, she managed to focus her eyes on the silhouette of the speaker. They appeared female, but she had already judged that from the voice.

"I suppose you want some food now?"
A dark irregularly shaped object was shoved in her face and without question she took it and began to chew ravenously.

It was meat. Dried meat. Fish maybe. Most certainly the best thing she had ever eaten and she hated fish.

"Thank you," she gasped as bolting down the food "So much."

"Yeah, yeah. Well, get up, the night's not lasting any longer."

"W-what?" the words didn't process in the still dizzy head.

The stranger let out a sigh of frustration "Do you want to walk during the day? Beneath the blazing sun? Hmm?"

Reeling Vine let herself be pulled to her feet then led by her grudging rescuer through the cooling night. Barely able to keep her head up and legs hardly able to churn, her mind dragged down and refused to take any account of where she was being taken.

When she woke up, she could sense the heat, but it wasn't directly beating on her skin.

She tried to sit up, but found even that minor exertion beyond her.

"Hey. You awake?"

The familiar voice floated down to her.

"Yes. I am."

Sand scraped underfoot as the girl knelt and her face came into view.

Tanned deeply, framed by ragged yellow hair, it was obvious she'd spent most of her time in the desert.

"Thank you, I-"
"Yeah, yeah. Hey, listen, I'm not really interested in your gratitude or anything. The only reason I bother is because I have this stinking thing called a conscience. That's the only reason you're not a piece of toast."

Vine's brow furrowed in annoyance. She'd seen this type of person before, most of them at this age, but none of them desert-dwellers.

"Well then," she said, clearing her throat "As soon as I can, I'll be out of your precious space."

The girl sniffed "You know nothing about deserts. It'll be a week before you can even stand up again."

Four months of isolation and this had to be the first person she met.
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:42 am

“GIVE ME THAT.”
791 words
Up the breast a hill covered with sunlight unmerciful, trudged a young raccoon maid, her back bent steeply against the earthwards pull of the water bucket.
She struggled the last few steps to the dusty top and fell down breathless, the bucket clanking against stones and water splashing onto her faded flour sack dress.

Why did the river have to run dry?
And why did the well have to be so far, so deep?
Why did the sun have to be so bright and hot?

Maria didn't have answers for these all important questions as she sprawled agains the hot crusty earth squinting up at the bright blue sky and wishing it would magically fill with gray storm clouds that would pour down sweet refreshing tears, each one more precious to her than diamonds.

She closed her eyes against the intense brilliance of the above and wished with all her might that it might come true.
But before she had wished with all her strength, with all her might, something hard bounced off her forehead and landed with a clank in the water bucket.
She helped with pain and superise, her fingers flew up to rub away the throbbing pain between her eyes while she shot to her feet, angry.

"Who's throwing stones?!" She demanded of the empty hilltop "Come out! Come out I say and I'll teach you to throw stones at girls!"

Her breath was short and ragged from her efforts of keeping back tears. Whoever had threw the stone at her had thrown hard and a headache was already beginning to take over her brain.

Still angry but unable to exact any amount of revenge on the stone thrower, Maria knelt next to the water bucket to scoop out a few precious drops to drip against the bruise that was forming beneath her fur.
But before she reached in for the water she realized that there was a pale luminescence emanating from the bottom of the bucket.

She gasped softly and withdrew her fingers quickly from the water's surface.

She looked around, once again searching for the culprit.
"Mr. Stoner thrower, you sure you don't want your rock back? It's glowing."

But he or she didn't show any interest in retrieving their glowing specimen.

Maria breathed in a great breath to brace herself against whatever consequences might follow and slowly pushed her hand beneath the water.
Her fingers brushed around the bottom of the bucket before coming into contact with an unbelievably smooth round object. Still quite nervous she plucked it out of the water and balanced it in the center of her palm.

It a huge pearl, far beyond the hopes and dreams of any diver there ever was. Big as an egg and perfectly sphereical, with rainbows dancing over its shingling surface. But less remarkable was its size in comparison to the light it emitted, so bright it light up Maria's fingers even in the full summer sun.

Amazed by it, the young raccoon stared into its shifting reflections, the mirage of depths entranced her and she forgot about the sun, her headache, and the water bucket.
Only when a disconsolate growl rose from her stomach was she reminded again of the tactile world.

She looked up from the sea jewel and with a squeal of shock realized that the sun was beginning to drop below the horizon, casting long dark shadows across the sky.

Dropping the pearl into her pocket, she snatched her bucket up and raced down the hill that she had climbed hours ago and towards the dry river bed where a water wheel stood silent next to a cottage with windows that seemed made of pure gold.

Breathless and dress mussed Maria reached the front door and with a sharp tug sent the golden light that painted the windows spilling out onto the stones.

"Maria! Her Mamma shouted as the young girl tumbled inside "what's wrong?!Where have you been child?!"

Maria set the bucket down with a clang then collapsed to the floor herself as she desperately tried to regain her breath.
The mother raccoon hastily came to her daughter's side "Maria answer me! Your father's gone looking for you, did you see him!"
As if to allay Mama's worry, Papa came stumbling through the door much in the way his daughter had not a moment before.

"Maria! What's going on, do you realize how long you've been gone?"

Gulping in a final breath, Maria nodded and wobbled to her feet.
"What happened?" Mama pressed guiding her daughter to one of the table chairs.
"Are you hurt?" Papa asked.
In answer to both questions, Maria pulled the massive pearl from her pocket and let it roll onto the table.
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:42 am

“YOU DON’T SAY.”
753
Terra looked down at her sister in disgust "There is no point in grieving them now, they have been gone for many years."

Freeta wished that cold unemotional voice would fade in the dark. That she herself could go unconscious for a very long time.
That she could forget them again.

An unmerciful grip pulled her to her feet and Freeta found herself staring into her sister's cold face.
"Listen to me! You remember the past, now you must let go of it to continue forwards. I wish to speak to you about taking a place among the warriors once again."

A jolt of panic coursed through the little white fox.
She couldn't fight. Not again. Not like that. She wouldn't be a murdurer.

Terra growled quietly "Freeta. A warrior is what you where born to be. Protector of your kind."
"No," Freeta gasped out "I'm never going to. Never again."

Terra released her sister's shoulders and took a step away.
"I should not have rushed you. I see this was too much too quickly. Forgive my over eagerness. You will eat and rest. We will speak of this in two days time."

Wordlessly Freeta nodded.
Terra paused, seeming to consider something "If it will ease your mind, the otter will eat with you. Afterwards... Perhaps you would want to meet your granddaughter."

Eyes blank Freeta stared at her "My... Granddaughter?"

"Yes, Freeta, have you not been listening to anything I've said? She is your daughter's daughter. Do you wish to meet her?"

Freeta nodded her eyes concerned and confused.
"Good, for now you eat."

Freeta was led away by an attendant.
As she walked she was torn between trying to think and trying not to think.
Between trying and not trying, she ended up thinking very little and felt empty but not hungry by the time she reached the place where she was to eat.

Lionel was standing there with four guards around him.
He lifted his head when she entered and his eyes widened.

She mustered a faint and weary smile. He'd help her. He'd understand.

She sat and gestured for him to do the same.
The questions where evident in his eyes, but he kept his mouth firmly closed.

She was grateful for his silence. She didn't have the strength to answer his questions. Later.

The food brought even more memories, mixed and varied. Sometimes she wasn't certain where she was, so strong the memories were.

She finished quickly and waited for Lionel to finish his.

He took the last bite and the guards hauled him to his feet.

"Wait," Freeta snapped " I want to talk to him."
The four guards obeyed immeadiatly, releasing the confused otter.

He stared at her, the questions burning in his gaze, but he still didn't speak.

Freeta nodded at the guards "Leave."

They' turned and marched away.

"Freeta?" Lionel's voice was soft and full of worry "Are you alright?"

Her thin set of shoulders sagged "My family. My family is dead, Lionel."

He was silent, his mouth hung open slightly.
"I... Was a mother and a mate and now... Now I'm not."
A sob shook her body, but there were no tears left in her eyes.

She felt his arms wrap around her, his voice soothing her.

After a few minutes, she regained control of herself, pushing away the sadness and Lionel.
"I'm ok. I'm ok." She took in a deep breath and looked up at him "you have questions."

"They can wait."
"No, let's... Let's clear this up now. While I'm still reasonably sane."
He frowned, but nodded "Alright. Where are we?"

"In the... We're in... In the temple of Yond. It.. Honors the spirts."

Lionel made a face "Well... That's concerning."

She shivered as thoughts of dark thing crept through her head "You don't want to know."
"But there is one thing I do want to know. How are we planning on leaving? Will they let us leave?"

"I don't know," she answered "I'm not... I'm not ready to leave yet."

"Alright. It's OK." He rubbed her shoulder "Is there anything else important?"

She wasn't ready to talk about the murduring and she couldn't think of anything else...
Oh, wait.

"Yeah... I'm a grandmother."

"What?"
"I'm a grandmother. I have a granddaughter."
"But how? You were barely fifteen when you ended up at Greenshade!"
"I took a mate a twelve. Things are very different here Lionel."

"You're telling me," his voice held more disbelief than she had ever head there before. "Twelve...?"
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Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:43 am

“And yet, you love me anyway.”
878 words

With fingers still dull from sleep, Darkmoon tried to button up the vest while blinking at herself in the mirror.

"It works better if you start from the top and work down."

She paused to stare into the mirror at the phantom brown figure who seemed to hover just behind her shoulder.
"I know how to button my own shirt."

Strong teeth flashed in that familiar grin "You're not making the best job of it."
"That's because you're distracting me."

He pulled his shoulders up in a helpless shrug, the smile still perfectly intact "It's all in your head, dear."

She hissed a little at him, but without real conviction "That makes it all the worse."

"Yes," He nodded in agreement "Your head could be quite a frightening place if I remember."

"Well, I'm glad you remember what its like," she returned to fumbling at the buttons "Because I've quite forgotten."

"If you forgot, then how am I-?"

"Because I can't forget you. No matter how hard I try, you won't shut up. Even though you're dead I can't get you out."

He cleared his throat loudly.

"Seriously. You were never this loud when you were alive."
"Well, when I was trying to wake you up-"
"This is different."

Fingers that weren't really there descended on her shoulder
"I know."

She peered into the imagined reflection of his brazenly blue eyes, then buried her face in her paws.

Dimly in her head she could hear his voice echoing comforting words, feel where his strong touch had once laid.

"You're only making this harder on yourself, Vale."

I know. She whispered in her mind. I know.
But I can't let go.
You know that.

She looked up from between her fingers and glared at the mirror with defiance and love.
"I'm already crazy, Path, if talking to my bedroom mirror adds to that, I'm fine with it."

"Alright, my love, alright."

She could imagine the slightly exasperated sigh that would follow the words and let her tears gradually dry.
"And besides, you're the only one I can fight with, without needing to make up with."

He pulled a face at her in the reflection "Only you could get so involved with a fight that you mentally bring back your opponent, refusing to let him lie peacefully in his grave... Is this about the grapes? I'd get you some more if I could."

A breathy laugh escaped her lips "Yes. I'm mad about the grapes ten years later. Its not like I'm lonely or anything."

The light in his eyes faded a bit "Well, I can't keep you company anymore."

She ran her fingers along the face in the glass "You did for a time and I'll never forget that."
"Well," it seemed that he lifted his paw and slipped it over hers "Obviously."

"That could've been a nice moment."
She dropped her paw back down to her side with a frown
"It still is."
He reached for her paw and she imagined him twining his fingers with hers.
"No. You ruined it with your sarcasm."
"I thought you liked my sarcasm."
"It's too early."
"Well, you started it."
"According to you, I always 'started it'."

"Well..." he paused and she watched his brows knit "That's because you did."
"I did not!"

"Sure...?"

"Browntrout!"

They both began laughing and, as long as she focused on the reflections, she could hear him.
"So... I might've started a few times."

"Might've!?"

They giggled a bit more, both keeping their eyes focused on the mirror.

When his voice had steadied, the phantom pointed down at her vest "You still haven't buttoned it."
"I know," she flicked a finger at the hem "Maybe I should try out a new look."

"Hmm. I like the old look best," his fingers traced over the scar on her face "Even with this."

"Oh, be quiet," she snapped and began rapidly trying to fix it.

"Dark-"

His voice was cut off abruptly as there was a gentle tap on the room.

Her head whipped up and for a second she stared at the mirror, where only her face stared back at her.

"Mama?" Brilliant blue eyes blinked at her from around the door "You ready?"

"Almost sweetheart, just let me get my hat."

The little girl slipped through the door, a giggle in her whiskers "Mama."

"What?"

Tiny fingers reached for the buttons "You have it all funny."

Darkmoon laughed as she realized that in her hurry she had indeed gotten the buttons "All funny."

"Thanks, sweetheart, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"You'd go around with your shirt all wacky, that's what."

Shyshie stepped back and looked at the rest of her mother.
Apparently Darkmoon had managed to obtain a look that satisfied her daughter as the pointed chin bobbed up and down in a satisfied nod.
"Am I fit for public?"
Another smile touched the girl's face and she tipped her head up with a pretense of nobility "Well I suppose. But not in my presence."

"Oh. Really."

Before she could dart away, Darkmoon grabbed the girl and tossed her on the bed, tickling her.
Squealing with glee, Shyshie tried to wiggle away to no avail.

As they tussled on the bed, Darkmoon caught a glimpse of the mirror, where for a second, blue eyes smiled at her.
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