Witch's Marsh the cry of a loon
November 07, 2019, 01:20 AM
Kukulkan
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His time in these lands had been idle. And it had sickened him.

Too long ago he last saw another wolf, truly saw them and spoke with them, filling that void of social necessity. K felt his soul festering, starving, with madness tickling at the edges and starting to grow impatient with the wait. A chill of a different sort had settled in his chest, aching his limbs and bringing the tall boy out of his seclusion in the groves to the east. But it wasn't from the transitioning seasons, the crisp breezes that shook the leaves from their perch. It was deeper.

Tonight, under a clear sky that left the earth cold and deafeningly silent, the wolf lumbered slowly across the soaked lands. Much of his torso shone a brilliant blue light under the moon, though his head stayed hidden in its dark mask. Muds had frosted over, leaving Kukulkan with a thin crunching noise with each step he took. Nighttime, he figured, would be the best time to travel into this new land. He no longer knew anyone, or at least not in this region, and the advantages of both darkness and sleep cycles gave him the benefit of smelling others before they noticed him. Friends he would eagerly seek, interesting strangers too.

But he had learned well from his family - stupidity should never come first.

The low, echoing cry of a nearby loon caught his attention, bringing his idle march to a pause as he looked up and to his left to search for it. Lips pulled back in a warm smile. Oh how critters brought him comfort. A slight pause left him longing for more, and with a low snort he lowered his head to creep ever so carefully into the darkness, into the drenched, cold marsh.

@Ibis
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November 07, 2019, 01:38 AM
Ibis
Reneian Empire
Queen *
[Image: Qes8Gd2.png]

It was hard to tell exactly when Okeanos' scent had vanished from her coat, but it had, and she took notice of its absence with a heavy heart. Whatever had drawn him away must have been something good - Ibis refused to think that something ill had befallen her beloved brother - and regardless of the state he might've been in, she kept herself very busy in the daylight hours so as not to think too deeply on it. If she did not focus on the many necessary tasks then her new friend Awol would go hungry; perhaps he would leave for some place better suiting him, and take Bhediya away too? The girl hoped that they would stay; she was alone without them, and she had never really, truly, been alone before.

The daylight hadn't been squandered. Ibis had made sure to retrace the terrain she knew the best as she hunted for signs of life within the mire. She ventured in to parts unknown just as the light began to dim; by the time the night had fallen she was investigating a series of small hills bordering one of the deep-set bits of marsh; far off came a haunting melody she had never noticed before. Maybe it wasn't hopeless to camp here after all, she thought --? The girl paused and cocked her head, listening as the loon sang to the drumming of her pulse, slowly coming to an end.

Then there was stillness.

Please keep singing, she murmured in to the night air. She waited patiently, imploring the creature for some sign of life — and then there came the reprieve; the sound did not lift Ibis' spirits as much as she had hoped, but a small smile passed across her face all the same.

There was something else too, on the tail end of it. A deeper sound, and very close. She spun on her heels in the mud and made to intercept it, not knowing where exactly it came from or how far — running right in to the burly shape of another wolf. Her face brushed up against his stout chest and she gasped — ooph! — and she slipped back in the mud.
November 07, 2019, 02:08 AM
Kukulkan
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His ears perked up before anything else, eyes widening ever so slightly as he noticed a sound again. But it wasn't what he had heard before, that eerie but entrancing song, nor did it seem to come from something as light as the bird itself. Someone was here. By the time this thought had processed in his mind, his head picking itself back up, that particular someone was bursting through the reeds and tall grasses.

And for the briefest of moments, that horrible tenacity that ran rampant through his bloodline triggered a quick snarl across his face. Almost just as fast it fell as Kukulkan found himself again, and found himself staring at a younger, smaller female. He felt a flutter in his heart, though whether it was because he found genuine infatuation in her or merely the excitement of finally seeing someone again, he couldn't know. But a smile spilled wide across his face as he stepped forward, closing the already tiny gap between himself and this fallen girl.

"Well shit HIYA!" Though his voice was quieter - it was still night, after all - it had definitely come out louder than he anticipated. To be frank, he hadn't much anticipated running across anyone tonight. Let alone someone running into him. And someone so... tiny. He must've been at least twice her size... "Didya hurt yerself?" His dual-colored eyes scanned a cursory glance, up and down, before settling back into those brilliant emerald eyes. "Ooh, sorry," quieter words whispered as he took a deliberate step back, actually giving the poor thing some personal space.

"Damn ya look like ya never eaten in yer life," A warm chuckle as he mused aloud, before giving a dramatic dip of his head and brief wink - before quickly realizing oh shit and trying to play it off by blinking fiercely for half a second - and collecting himself to force a more calm, civilized question "Whats yer name?"

Ah yes, that's what a normal wolf would ask. Perhaps it would even have been the first thing they asked...

@Ibis
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November 07, 2019, 02:24 AM
Ibis
Reneian Empire
Queen *
[Image: Qes8Gd2.png]

For someone with a terrible sense of direction (and a terrible sense of balance to top it all off) you'd think she would be accustomed to running in to things and bouncing right back. This wasn't the first time Ibis had ever collided with a fellow wolf and it certainly would not be the last; however, in this particular instance she had not been anticipating a body to be standing there at all, and the ground wasn't so forgiving. There was no grass to cushion her fall — just mud, and frozen mud at that! She went down hard enough that even her lightweight body was briefly winded.

She looked up at the object that had come in to her path with a glazed expression. The sharp color of her irises illuminating in the moonlight with a pale sheen, almost like tears, which she hastily blinked away; the longer she looked at the shape the more canine it appeared to her, and the wider her eyes got. Soon enough Ibis was stricken with a look of utter shock upon realizing it wasn't an object, but a person! Oh, she'd gone and run in to another person again! The girl sputtered a bit and tried to rise to her nimble little paws, flustered and humbled, if it were the most heinous of crimes.

The stranger fussed over her frantically. His voice was booming at first; so loud she thought the quaking earth had awoken again and she tensed, but as her ears adjusted to the gravel of it, she came to appreciate the enthusiasm. He reminded her immediately of her family — except, where Okeanos was often subdued by contemplative thoughts and somewhat withdrawn, this stranger was anything but. It was hard to tell if he was putting on a show or if this was his natural state — either way, Ibis couldn't help but smile and feel her apprehension melting away.

He shrank back from her with a swift little apology, and the smile which dawned upon her face was eclipsed by concern and apology again, and she opened her mouth to bumble, Oh no it's okay— but was caught by his question, —Whats yer name?

I-Ibis! The girl squawked almost like her namesake, utterly hopeless in the charisma department for the time being. Almost immediately she followed up with, You? as she tried to catch her breath. He'd knocked all the sense right out of her!
November 07, 2019, 03:10 PM
Kukulkan
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A flush of guilt washed over the boy as he noticed the obvious disorientation in this new friend, doubt soon trying to flood his ears as quickly as he could force himself to ignore it. As always the only way for K to silence any negative thoughts was with a beaming smile, his snaggleteeth glistening bright against the pearly white moonlight. The chill of the night seemed to slip away with each passing moment, her own smile soon joining his, and a quick sigh of relief sent a soft plume of white from his lips into the cold. Already he felt warmer, a long-lost comfort nestling itself into his chest, his core.

"Oh no it's okay, I-Ibis!" Her gentle enthusiasm resonated with K, and he felt it turn into added enthusiasm of his own. A subtle puffing of his chest and the male stood ever so slightly taller, confidence brimming. "Like the bird?? I really love birds, heard one jus' a second ago," Words rambled and ran without pause, K finding himself looking to the side where he had heard the loon, and then he was brought short by her voice again. "You?" Oh oops.

An awkward grin and a short shrug later, Kukulkan cleared his throat briskly before taking a step closer and giving his dramatic bow again, "Kukulkan at yer service, lady Ibis! Prince of pirates and empires alike!" A quick pause as he pursed his lips, clicked his tongue, and then added a short, "Though m'brotha could never say it right, so he jus' called me K."

The weight carried in his bragging was bold and proud, as though he had forgotten how irrelevant his family and their conquests were in this region. Sea-loving tropical bastards had little stake in a world filled with tundra, taiga, and dark winters. Pride, however, seemed to be the greatest sin in his family, and he was no exception.

"Been on a sorta pilgrimage I guess ya could call it, been 'round these parts for a year 'r so. Dunno how ya stand these winters, heh -- Ooh oh lemme help ya there," Outstretching his neck, he'd offer his towering form as leverage to hoist the frail thing off the filthy ground, "Yikes sorry 'bout that. But yeah you should go south sometime, it's like yer summers but yearround!"

@Ibis
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November 07, 2019, 04:08 PM
Ibis
Reneian Empire
Queen *
[Image: Qes8Gd2.png]

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the sight of him; her heart a-flutter, and his exuberance caught in the glimmering moonbright shafts of light, he cut a swarthy, imposing figure next to her. He was more animate than anyone she had ever met! But in a good way, with a booming voice (even when he was trying to be quiet) that shook through her core; in all, he was utterly charming and totally alien at the same time. The way he so eagerly launched in to conversation was refreshing for the newly crowned ambassador; shocked as she may have been from this abrupt introduction, Ibis had spent far too many nights on her own within the marsh and now it seemed as if fate had taken notice, tossing new friend after new friend directly in to her path — this one being the latest, and most intriguing.

Kukulkan, he had said. Before she could parse that bit of knowledge, the stalwart rogue went on to call her a lady — himself a pirate! Did that mean he came from the sea? Had he seen the ocean before, then? Oh, her mind buzzed with questions! She almost forgot about the mud clinging to her legs and the chill of the oncoming winter, imagining what life must be like for someone so — so — ohh, she didn't have words for him!

Suddenly she was being helped back to her paws; Ibis gracefully accepted his aid although it wasn't at all necessary, her puny self being light as a feather and unbroken by the collision. He had felt so solid, she thought — what an odd thing to think of another person! In thinking this, her face flushed with warmth beneath the pale admixture of her fur. The girl tried to shrug off his apologies.

—you should go south sometime, it's like yer summers but year-round!

Yes, that -- that sounds -- wait, but south? You said you were a pirate, doesn't that mean you live by the sea? She hurried to catch up, he didn't seem to stop for breath ever and his words tumbled from him like a gale, leaving her a little dizzy. Maybe that wasn't his speech at all but his general affect. The sea is north of us. Unless you come from very, very, very south! Oh, I would love to travel so far! You've probably seen so much more than me. Ibis didn't sound at all jealous, rather, she was gathering the enthusiasm from the boy and beginning to mirror it.

I've travelled all over this valley and ended up here, but... Never been anywhere outside of it really, as far as I can remember. What is the south like?
November 07, 2019, 06:57 PM
Kukulkan
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If his mind hadn't had a cacophony of thoughts running every which direction, he might have taken more note of her flushed cheeks. He might have felt his own blushing in return, or noticed how his throat tightened ever so slightly, changing his pitch a tad. Perhaps he even could have maturely processed emotions like an adult. But instead he did as he does - move onward, eagerly and with all hope to progress the encounter.

As full as he may be, an adult in appearance, he had the fluttering, boundless heart of his youth.

Lady Ibis spoke of the sea, but when she spoke it was with a different tone than he had always regarded it with. To him, his family, the sea was an immortal, eternal entity, the foundation of all they were and had accomplished. Every victory, conquest, and bragging right, though accomplished through blood and sweat, was owed to the waters that exhaled the winds they breathed. When he spoke of the seas, it was with an unending awe, borderline reverence, and intimate familiarity.

Her tone seemed more whimsical, as though it were a distant object and not yet her own kin.

The thought to frown flashed in his mind, but instead he nodded, closing his eyes for a moment as he sat down. "Yes yes, y'think the sea is only t'the north, but that's only her chest. The sea..." he lost his breath in thought, brilliant orange-red eyes staring in earnest to the south, a soft smile on his lips, "she is not bound by yer lands. The lands are all at her mercy, she reaches everywhere!"
She was the key to life, and a master of death.

Warm words and a kind energy brought K back from his moment of reverie, his gaze blinking as he turned back to face her. "Haha, well it sounds like yer better off here than me, I ain't seen too much." Surely she'd be a helpful guide if he wanted to avoid unnecessary confrontations. "Damn... the south? It's..." a distant memory. A comforting dream that hurts to wake up from.

A pang, sharp and resonating, struck his heart as he thought of his brother. His mother.
But aside from a glimmer in his eye, he would not let this pain show. It was not pain to be shared.

"Imagine... so far away, it seems yer whole adolescence was swallowed whole just by travellin' up to here... Down there, we don't got massive prey, 'n hardly any bears, but there's beasts lurkin' in the waters, just as great, covered in skin as tough as bone. Marshes s'far as yer eyes can see, everythin' green all year, an' ya never have to deal with snow..." How could he possibly describe what was, essentially, a completely new world?

"But don't get me wrong, that heat can kill ya just as easily as yer cold can. Itsa different way t'live..." And the thought made him homesick. For a moment that smile would fade, his head tilting down as he tried to hide it, and a soft chuckle escaped. "I'd love t'show ya one day."

Not just for herself, but for him as well.

@Ibis
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November 07, 2019, 07:17 PM
Ibis
Reneian Empire
Queen *
[Image: Qes8Gd2.png]

Everywhere — he was so emphatic in his description of the sea, with a tone to his voice Ibis couldn't place but she quite enjoyed. The same exuberance, but tailored to the story as he told it; she wondered deeply about this place he came from, this deep southern green place, and wished she could transport herself there to get a glimpse of it herself. Maybe one day she would see the sea herself and finally understand why he spoke so fondly of it, yet carried warnings on the same breath.

She would likely never get the chance to witness his ocean though, this faraway place he spoke of, but ohhh how she wished she could! Maybe he anticipated such a reaction, because soon Kukulkan was speaking of the future, of showing her, and Ibis' excitement grew as if she were a little kid again being promised the stars by her father — I want to see it too! She all but bursts, and realizes how loud she is being. The stillness in the trees briefly erupts with her voice; she's not usually so loud, oh dear. The loon has long since stopped its song but that's okay, she much prefer's this rogues voice -- One day, I mean, maybe, if... If I ever leave this place.

But that's when it hits Ibis: she'd been focused so deeply on reuniting with her brother, with feeding her new friends, and in keeping her little slice of almost-paradise safe from the chaos everywhere else - she hadn't been thinking about the future at all, or what to do next with her life. At some point the marsh had become her home; it wasn't an idealized space, not like the seaside, and yet she found herself pining for the eden he spoke of. Ohh, but she couldn't go anywhere. Not with Okeanos in the wind. Soon she's a mess of these dizzying "what ifs" and she is quieted by them. Silenced by doubts and worries, enough to contend with Kukulkan's excessive merriment.

When she finally drums up the energy to speak again she sighs first, something that tugs at the weight settling deep down in her bones; she doesn't feel light anymore, not with all that she's been through during this season. She smiles to him thinly. It does get cold here. I'm usually okay because I have my brother with me, and he's big like you. But... I haven't seen him in a while now, and I'm admittedly getting worried. You said you've been here a while - so you've felt the shaking of the earth? Ibis didn't want to voice her true thoughts: that maybe Okeanos was buried somewhere, or alive but injured and in need of her, because maybe that would make it real. The implication was there, though. A darkness to her oceanic eyes she could not hide. This is the only place I've found that's been safe enough. Nothing has fallen here, nothing has broken. It's safe in case the world goes mad again.
November 07, 2019, 10:10 PM
Kukulkan
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"I want to see it too! One day, I mean, maybe, if... If I ever leave this place."

Within that moment, the warmth began to leak. The squint in his eye from his smile dissipated as he watched hers do the same, but with a knot beginning to twist in his gut. The chill that seeped in was foreign and almost seemed to mock his discomfort with its unfamiliarity. The air hung damp, heavy, and frigid but also without breath, without movement, and that's what was most disconcerting of all for him. How could he be expected to breathe in such a still, stifling environment as he felt the walls of guilt begin to close in.

Kukulkan felt his gaze drop to the ground. Even with the brilliant moonlight from above, it seemed particularly dark and abysmal in this instance. He clenched his jaw, the strain tensing and mirroring the emotional distress into the physical.

Sharp inhale.
Slow exhale.

"I'm... sorry..." He hadn't meant to hurt her, then again he hadn't meant to bring back such somber memories for himself either. Leaning forward, he paused for a second before stepping forward gently, trying in a meager attempt to offer some sort of comfort, some consolation, but at her sigh he flushed and stopped. "Your brother?" He'd half a mind to ask about him - where was he? was he okay? - but the air was still heavy and he managed to catch himself before doing something else stupid.

"Ya, I felt 'em..." He felt a shudder down his spine at the thought. He hadn't known them by the name earthquake - they never happened back south. "It... it was like lightnin' was strikin' in th'ground, and made it thunder..." Had the earth gods taken a page from the sea goddess? Their wicked fury had been made known, and despite some time having passed, the thought of it allowed anxiety to tickle the edges of his mind.

Kukulkan was no coward, no challenge was off-limits, no enemy too great.
But when the ground growled and rumbled beneath him, he knew when to sit the fuck down.

Words speaking of safety, of madness, and then the quiet came back. Internal instinct begged for a dose of humor, but when K looked down into Lady Ibis's eyes, the weight silenced him. And, where he hesitated before, he now took that step forward, turning about-face so as to sit side by side with the girl, though he left a respectful distance between them. For a soft moment, he let the silence loom, his thoughts collect - as they rarely ever did - and their breaths collect as fine mists in the late autumn air.

"Y-... ye can't ever... depend on safety..." It was one of the hardest, cruelest lessons of life. But it had been one his mother had relentlessly ingrained in his training, speaking from years of first-hand experience. Though life had brought limited experiences of his own, K preferred to believe that, though these learned lessons, he somehow would gain the coping skills. "It'sa fickle thing, y'know? But..." a soft exhale, "... safety in numbers, yeah?" A small smile returned, his eyes warm as he looked over to her. "I mean, y'seem to know this land, and like y'said I got size on my side. I wouldn't mind helpin' ya..."

Pause.

"If'n ya want..."

@Ibis
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November 08, 2019, 12:23 AM
Ibis
Reneian Empire
Queen *
[Image: Qes8Gd2.png]

She did not immediately delve in to the topic of her brother. It weighed to heavily upon her. Okeanos was a constant; in all her life, no matter where she travelled or how far she got from home, she always knew he was back at Elysium, safe and sound. And then he had followed her to the Hollow for the purpose of recruiting her - to find his friend - and being with him again felt good, it felt right. They were so strongly bonded that Ibis thought -- no, she knew, if something foul had happened she would just know. Which was why she felt so dreadfully worried now. The world was such a dark and lonely place without Okeanos; she hoped he was alright, wherever he happened to be. Selfish as it sounds, she would not handle the loss of her closest, most beloved, and last remaining true family member. He was everything and Ibis did not know who she would become without him.

Such things flooded her mind, filled her soul to the point that she felt the weight of everything begin to suffocate her. The boy moved to sit beside her and she was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't immediately notice; he was a giant beside her, just like Okeanos. He was warm, just like Okeanos. His coat was more ragged and it held scents she had never noticed before, and when he spoke his voice was rough but pleasant, setting him apart from the perfect imagining of her brother — drawing her away from her worries as she sought the comfort of his presence. Not her brother, here. Not a replacement either - she hurriedly thought, feeling guilty that such a consideration would grace her mind.

Y-... ye can't ever... depend on safety... Kukulkan explains beside her, and she hears him well enough but doesn't say anything. It's a far cry different from how she had been acting before. It was hard for Ibis to be happy all of the time, goofy even, when heavy thoughts so often crowded her mind. The shaking earth was but a single component. She had to focus - listening to Kukulkan as he drawled onward, his voice softened with what she presumed was compassion, and Ibis was so thankful all of a sudden to have someone like him with her in that moment. It was much easier to slog through the darkness with someone at her side.

I wouldn't mind helpin' ya... If'n ya want...

What — ?

You -- you mean, stay? This surprised her. The stunned look was evidence enough. The sharp manner that she lifted her head, as if hearing a familiar voice after a long time away from home, drew her slim shoulders up taut. It was a big thing to ask of a stranger. There were others here too, now - Bhediya, Awol, - and Ibis still couldn't fathom why they had chosen to stay beyond their different needs. Awol with his interest in trades and the woman, the sweet mother, trying to find a place to start over... It almost sounded like Kukulkan was willing to stay for her.

Are you sure you want to? You have.. Nowhere else you want to be? What about the sea, or -- the south? She was animate again; hope lilting in her voice even though she tried to hide it, trying to control herself. Anyone who knows Ibis knows she is emotional and as such, has a hard time controlling anything about her reactions; she does a poor job in the heat of the moment and deep down she knows it. She wants to ask him to stay, if only to learn more about the southlands and to get to know him better, but the very thought makes her face warm again. He's close enough now that he might notice.
November 08, 2019, 01:07 AM
Kukulkan
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With the extended isolation for the last year, it was no marvel that Kukulkan was rusty, to put it kindly, in his normally brilliant skill of reading the room, of being able to bring it to life and laughter with the simplest of efforts. When they had first run in together, K felt those insecurities drift away as they two connected almost instantly, despite the literal clumsy start.

And yet here he was, a prince to be, with the weight on his shoulders, a song in his heart, and he feels helpless at the inner turmoil of his newly-found friend. The son of seas was never helpless - this did not suit him well. A burning in his chest began to swell, countering the nips and stings of the chill around him, as he felt a tension wave down from his neck to his limbs. He... he could fix this. He would.

"You -- you mean stay?" Any other moment and off-white teeth would glisten and twinkle from the biggest of grins, the deepest laughs shattering that silence that pulled them down from their throats. But not this moment. Something lingered in his mind, a reminiscence of what it meant to stay, and the true reasons behind his necessity to do so. Instead, that smile simply glided back on, snaggleteeth poking as his gaze brightened and warmed. Arching his neck down to her, K let the very tip of his nose carefully, barely rest on the crown of her head. One second. Two. Slowly pull back an inch.

"Yeah, Lady Ibis." Though the warmth, as always, lingered in his words, there was something new. Something subtle. Solemn. I... I'ma here fer many reasons, but nothin's really that... pressin' or anythin'. No deadline..." It wasn't a lie, though his guts knew it wasn't exactly the full truth. Completing his mission meant leaving and, hopefully, coming back. But Ibis was hurting now. His... his only friend was in need now...

Matters could afford to be postponed, right?
But then her final question...

"Aha well ye see," He'd burst in with a layered chuckle, trying to buy himself a second to both hide his true worries - he couldn't share them, no, not to further burden the poor Lady - and come up with something convincing enough for her. Lady Ibis, there're many places I need'ta see, wanna be, y'know. Curse f'a bein' a pirate 'n all." Dramatic shrug. "An'--" Lump in his throat, emotion suddenly coming and threatening to break, but he expertly shoved that doubt back down and maintained that carefree, reassuring tone, "This jus' happen t'be one of the places I need'ta be..."

That grin beamed all the same, his head whipping up and giving itself a thorough shake as though trying to disperse the tension that had cloaked the two of them. Kukulkan was never one to allow misery to wallow if he could help it. Especially not for others.

"I promis'..."

@Ibis
[Image: murdermuffin666_by_etkri-dc1wf3p.png]
November 08, 2019, 01:39 AM
Ibis
Reneian Empire
Queen *
[Image: Qes8Gd2.png]

Trusting in the goodness of others was an easy thing for Ibis, and often led to people singling her out as being somewhat vapid, or at least too innocent and mindless, but she really did look on the brighter side of life. Lately it all felt different; but she was confident that things would settle and the world would right itself, she merely had to survive until it did. She wanted to trust that her brother was safe - and she wanted to trust this boy, charming and warm and compassionate Kukulkan, when he said he would stay. Maybe he wouldn't. He could've been lying for all Ibis could tell, but she trusted him as she trusted the kindness of Bhediya and the genuine, frank nature of Awol; she wanted to believe in the people around her so very, very badly.

So when Kukulkan softly confirmed that he would stay, that he promised, nothing more needed to be said at all. She listened to everything as he tried to allay her nerves and found comfort in the enigmatic manner of his speech, the dramatic motions of his body jostling beside her — felt her whole body flush with warmth when he surrounded her in that brief, poignant embrace. Oddly, her mind flit back to the memory of a silver-clad boy she had met once and the fluttering sensation that he'd made within her — and back again, to the unique depths of Kukulkan's somber promise.

Ibis didn't think anymore. It only made her feel worse when she did, and it wasn't fair to the kind boy she had met - it painted her in the wrong light, in this haze of greyed sorrow, and she didn't want that. She wanted to be bubbly and free again. To bask in his enthusiasm and be infected by it. The girl opened her mouth to say something more prompt but as she did, a yawn escaped her and she chirped softly in surprise at herself, ducking her nose with an embarrassed, glassy glint in her eyes.

oop -- gosh, it was so dark! And so warm here, nested beside him. She took a quick breath and forced the yawn away before another could arise, and tucked herself neatly against his burly shoulder. He was so much larger and darker than her, especially with only the moonlight glimmering off of him — and warm, which was a comfort.

mm... thank you, kukulkan. The girl -- no, the lady, murmurs sleepily beside him.