Emberflame Ridge there's no turning back now
All Welcome  November 10, 2019, 05:12 PM
Séamus
Lone Wolves



        Losing a parent was a difficult thing.  Losing both was worse.  Grief was something that Sam had never really had to tackle; to have come home with the expectation of the warm embrace of his family and to have been met with what he had found instead was almost too much for him to bear.  He could barely think of it, for the image alone was enough to cause his stomach to turn.

He could find no comfort.  Every time he looked over his shoulder for Eleuthera, he was met with the bitter reminder that she was gone, too.  Perhaps not in the same way that his mothers were, but her absence stung in the same way.  She was out there somewhere, alone but unburdened with the knowledge that — well...  He hoped that when it was her turn to find out, that he would be the one to tell her — or at least, that she wouldn't find out the same way that he had.

Ice slicked over the mountaintop.  It was dangerous to travel, but moreso when one's mind was not on the journey.  Climbing gave him a focus that ambling through the willows did not.  It was a welcome break from the truth that lie before him: winter, alone.

Eventually, he made it to the flat-top ridge and found a spot to rest. He cleared the snow from beneath him to lay down, his back against a rock.  The sky above was clear; absently, he wondered if his mothers were watching him from above.

November 10, 2019, 05:26 PM
Ibis
Pledged
Uaine Gorsedd
Okeanos had been missing for far too long and finally, Ibis had the gall to hunt for him. There were enough bodies back at the marsh to keep the peace - and to keep everyone fed - so finally, Ibis felt confident enough to make her way back towards the ruins of Elysium. She did not know what she would find. She didn't know if she would have the willpower to climb among the willows on her own, especially after the last time she had visited. The sadness of finding it barren, and of telling Okeanos the pitiful truth: that she had been too much of a coward to visit after Lily's passing.

The forest around her gave way to the familiar sight of the mountain, just beyond. She moved at a good pace; soon enough the hillside inclined upward, and her progress lagged as she felt the burn of her muscles. Ibis had never been a particularly physical creature; she had been desperate to hold on to her weight for as long as possible what with the famine, and each step made her flood with doubt along with the muscle strain. What if all of this was for nothing? What if she didn't find Okeanos - or what if she did, but he was -- Stop that, you. She murmurs to herself sharply, He's fine. He's fine, wherever he is.

But Okeanos had never been apart from her for so long, not by choice.

As she hiked and the path diverged at a fork, she had to decide on her next step. The nights came quickly of late; the days shortening considerably, to the point that the light faded by mid-afternoon and left a chill behind. Ibis wasn't sure if she wanted to fight against the cold night as well as the mountain, remembering how dangerous it had been during the shakes -- so she had to choose between sleeping now and continuing in the morning, or taking a chance. In the end she sought the path creeping along a forested ridge. It was cold here too, dark, but sheltered and it would serve her well for the night.

Thus she began to slip between the trees; she could smell the light, frail scent of the willows. It was a washed-out floral scent which tugged at her nostalgia, distant though it was. The girl took a few deep breaths of the crisp air and thought she smelled something else - something deep, warm, familiar. Her heart thudded in her chest as she immediately thought of Okeanos. The scent woke her up from whatever stupor had settled upon her, and she began to hunt through the trees for that scent - that path - until a pale shape seemed to materialize in the gray light.

It wasn't her brother - well, not Okeanos, anyway. They were too fair-haired. Smaller, too. Round and soft and -- it hurt to think about, but, Ibis was reminded immediately of Olive. The wolf was busy digging at the frosted earth and as they fwumped! against a hollow they had made, Ibis clicked back to reality. She moved carefully in her effort to get closer without disturbing the stranger, her mind buzzing, wishing, hoping — and then when she paused in a shaft of light, she called out softly: Olive...?
November 10, 2019, 05:41 PM
Séamus
Lone Wolves



. . . "Olive?"


        A voice so foggy-familiar it could've been conjured by his own mind.  His ears swiveled and he turned his head 'round so fast he nearly made himself sick.  The boy staggered over his own too-large paws as one of them caught on a patch of ice when he turned around.  He caught himself at the last moment before he fell, then leaned against the rock he'd been using to break the frozen winds.

The girl in front of him was colored just right that she could've been Seabreeze, had he not seen her frozen body entwined with Olive's.  And her eyes, too — Ibis?  He said her name before it had even clearly registered in his head, and as it tumbled from his mouth it seemed to catch him by surprise.  It had to be, though — who else would know his mother?  Who else would look like home?

But oh, she'd spoken!  No, sorry, he said, glancing down at where he had slid to take a step closer.  I don't even know that you'd remember me, because truly, had she not looked like his mama, he wouldn't have recalled her, but we grew up together.
November 10, 2019, 06:08 PM
Ibis
Pledged
Uaine Gorsedd
Ibis..? For a moment she heard her mother's voice, crisp and clear, and she thought her heart would leap from her chest. The stranger shifted and came a little bit closer, and in those fleeting moments Ibis realized it couldn't have been Olive - this person was larger by far, big enough to be like Okeanos or Kukulkan; but the soft edges and those eyes, so warm and so familiar, made Ibis freeze in place. She didn't know if she should close the distance or run, spooked somewhat by this oh-so-familiar (but also so foreign) face.

They spoke; their voice was youthful but masculine, further dashing the girl's thin hope. Still, she was left with questions. We grew up together..? He said, and Ibis' first thought was Mali but she knew he was in the woods to the west... And her memory did not produce a name. She struggled a bit with it, and then shook her head in defeat. I'm sorry, I don't -- who are you?

You look like... My mother. One of them. Ibis offered this freely, sadly, her face crunching in a little frown. Her last visit to Elysium when it had been lively had been... Summer? Spring? There were children, but this boy looked older than that. How could she have forgotten. Then it seemed to hit her. The rugged figure, the pale complexion just like Olive, the soft blush of color in his coat -- Eleuthera had been like that, and -- Seamus? Click.
November 10, 2019, 06:34 PM
Séamus
Lone Wolves




        She didn't seem to recognize him and his heart dropped — but why should she, when they shared only a few spare months?  And why should she remember him, the stupid, fat little boy when she'd also grown up next to Eleuthera?  He'd never resented his sister for being the center of attention, but he couldn't help how it would sting to be overlooked next to a beauty like her.

Whatever hope was in his face fell as hers scrunched.  You look like my mother.  One of them.  His ears faltered as the tip of his tail swayed once.  Maybe there was hope after all.  Yes, he began to say, and then she said his name and he could've leapt in joy for all the fondness in his heart.  They'd never been close, no, but knowing her at all was closer to anyone than being alone!

Yes!  He took another step closer.  D'you know what happened here?  Elysium's gone.
November 10, 2019, 06:51 PM
Ibis
Pledged
Uaine Gorsedd
If she had known what was going through his head she would've felt guiltier than she did. As a scout she'd learned to commit faces and names to memory, and yet most of the children from her early life had blended together - except Eleuthera. Remembering the soft rose of her coat and the affection Ibis had felt for the girl (even when they often argued their childish points to one another) made Ibis' chest ache but her belly flourish with the fluttering sensation of her old crush. No, she didn't remember the round-bodied brother; he must have been one of the quiet kids, overshadowed during Ibis' early development.

Elysium's gone, the boy mentioned. He sounded pained, and that pain was something she knew well. Ibis sighed so deeply it was like her soul was leaking out of her. Yes, I.. I know. A lot has happened. She commented without realizing how ominous it sounded; but she scooted closer after a second or two, eager to embrace her sibling even if he was estranged and now unknown to her. She carefully nudged at his burly shoulder with her tiny snout, as she might if it were Okeanos, and felt a little strange in doing so.

You.. You left, didn't you? With Eleuthera. I remember that she was home with us one day, then gone. It had been a plan of some kind, she thought. Olive might have had some plan in place for the kids to return after some time abroad, but Ibis couldn't be sure. She remembered feeling intimately jealous and deeply disappointed at the vanishing of the sister. As for Elysium, there was some kind of accident months ago. From what I heard of it, Lily -- if you remember her -- well, Lily died. And then when autumn came so did the quakes, so... Things fell apart from what I can tell.

The way she spoke of it, it hurt, but there was still hope trailing beneath her words. Ibis had no idea just what horrors awaited her among the willows - the bodies that Seamus had found.
November 10, 2019, 07:16 PM
Séamus
Lone Wolves



She knew!  Oh, she knew, and maybe he wasn't so alone at all!  His hope was quick to rekindle — after all, wasn't a grief shared between two souls halved?  She came close to him, and he realized that she stood barely at his shoulder.  Would that have been where his mothers reached, had they made it long enough to see him grown?

His throat seemed to swell shut with sorrow, so he let any words that might've come up lie dormant, choosing instead to rub his chin over the thin bridge of her muzzle.  It felt good to hold someone again — she wasn't Eleuthera, but they were family, after all.

We did, he supplied quietly as she began to speak, his face twisted in confusion.  Had their mothers not told the other children that they were on an adventure?  That they'd always meant to come home?  But they were so young!  Maybe the girl had just forgotten.  

And then she told him of all of the hardships that Elysium had encumbered in his absence.  He felt shame rise up in his chest; even though he knew that it would have made no difference if they'd stayed home, he still... I'm sorry.  His mouth flattened and he swallowed hard.  He remembered how she had called him Olive, and his heart dropped straight into the molten core of the planet alongside his stomach.

Mama's gone, too — mama Seabreeze and mama Olive.  He let it hang in the quiet winter air between them, bracing himself for whatever reaction might come, hoping that she might take solace in the fact that in this grief she was not alone, and totally unaware of the fact that Ibis knew that they were "gone," but not of the fate that had came upon them.
November 10, 2019, 07:34 PM
Ibis
Pledged
Uaine Gorsedd
If she had been told of the full plan, now it was lost to history. Her memory had drastically improved as she'd matured and put her mind to use, but as a little girl she'd been pretty mindless. Nothing carried over from one point of her life to the next - nothing except the deep love she held for her family. The loss of the two kids had hit her hard at the time but now Ibis struggled to remember.

And then he was apologizing, and Ibis couldn't figure out why. It hadn't been his fault that Elysium had fallen; if he had been there, or if Eleuthera had returned in time, they'd have been at risk too. It was better that they were away when it happened, Ibis mused to herself. She had come to terms with the loss of Lily as best she could - focused as she was on so many other losses and traumas.

But when he mentioned her mother - both of their mothers - as gone Ibis didn't know how to take it. Her brow furrowed again. She blinked a few times and said, Yes, I know -- they left the willows afterwards. It didn't sink in that the topic of death was the gateway to this shift in the conversation; she was resistant to its suggestion, choosing ignorance rather than truth. I had hoped Okeanos - my brother, if you remember? - I had hoped he'd come this way. I haven't seen him in a while either, and I'm worried.

Yes, run from the possible truth the boy carried. Hide from it, as she hides from so much. She segued the conversation away from their mothers out of a deeply rooted fear; now she focused on Okeanos, unwilling to let herself think of Seabreeze or Olive as truly gone as he had implied. Denial, it was a superpower.
November 10, 2019, 07:50 PM
Séamus
Lone Wolves




        Séamus had never lied before in his life.  No, he'd never even withheld parts of the truth.  Truthfully, he was bad at it — it didn't feel good to keep secrets, and he wasn't smart enough to not let something slip out eventually anyway.  Still, he made a split-second decision: let her believe that they'd left the Willows, and that they were all the better for it.

I see, he said quietly, before letting the conversation steer away from the thing he wanted to avoid in the first place.  I'm missing 'Leu, too.  I can't 'member what happened, all I know is I woke up and she was gone and I could hardly breathe 'cause there was so much rocks 'n dirt on top of me.  

He looked to the ground (bad, dirty liar) as he told her, Speakin' of which, you might not want to go down that way.  The tunnels are all closed up now, 'n I don't know what's left of the Willows themselves.  Once he was finished fibbing, he turned his eyes back to her.  Maybe we can look for our siblings together.
November 10, 2019, 08:00 PM
Ibis
Pledged
Uaine Gorsedd
It was useful to Seamus that the girl was so bad at discerning lies; she never considered that a wolf could lie easily to her at any point and she would just accept it, believing and trusting in the goodness of others. It was a kindness, this little lie. A sparing of her feelings. In the days to come maybe Ibis would reach her own conclusions - but for now she was content in her belief, smiling at the very thought of Eleuthera; then thinking of Seabreeze and Olive, off on an adventure together. The lie was better than whatever grim truth Seamus carried with him - and Ibis was blessed in her ignorance.

Hearing that the willows were not a safe space made her sigh deeply. I would love the help - and to help you, of course. Um, I only hope that Okeanos didn't go home to Elysium... If something happened to him, I think I'd lose it. She chuckled softly, but it sounded strained, forced. The last piece of her heart lay with Okeanos and if he was hurting somewhere she'd never forgive herself - but if he was gone, totally and wholly gone in the sense she doesn't want to think about, Ibis knew her heart would stop.

The girl nestled in next to Seamus, dwarfed as she was by his size and eager for the warmth his coat could produce. Much as she would have done with Okeanos, really. It was late and dark and too dangerous to head back to the marsh right now, but they could at least spend some time catching up as they waited for morning. What sort of places did you see? Do you remember where you were, or what you were doing, when you woke up? He must have been somewhere close to the Wilds - but Ibis didn't know where the quakes began nor where they ended, only that they were everywhere for a long time. It meant Eleuthera might be closer than either of them might consider.
November 15, 2019, 10:18 PM
Séamus
Lone Wolves

I would've seen him when I came up the mountain, or smelled him at least, the boy supplies, eager to wash away the worries of his sister.  He has to be out there somewhere.  Maybe he found Eleuthera, and they're sitting out there somewhere under the same sky doing the same thing we are.  One could never be too hopeful — right?

He situated himself against her, using the large ridge as a windbreak.  Though she was small, two bodies were always warmer than one, and the nights were starting to get cold.  It'd be nice to have someone with him again, if only for the night.  Oh, we saw just about everything.  Great wide plains as flat and far as you could see, spread for miles in every direction.  Mountains so tall they dwarfed the sun.  Great bodies of water so deep and blue it looked like the sky had swallowed the earth.  But as for what I was doing when I woke up... I don't know.  Leu was gone already, and I can't remember why.  She wouldn't have left me if I were in danger, I'm just sure of it.  Maybe she went to go get help and got lost on the way back.  Or maybe I had gone out on my own for something.  Whatever I do, I can't remember.  But I recognized some of the surroundings, and with winter coming... it felt safer to come home.
November 17, 2019, 06:28 PM
Ibis
Pledged
Uaine Gorsedd
Imagining the soft-hearted bear keeping company with the blushing rose made Ibis smile, though she still wished desperately for her family to reunite, her worries ebbed a little. It was a good fantasy to keep her mind off the more realistic possibilities. Wherever Okeanos and Eleuthera were, it was better to think of them as together and whole, even, dare she think it, happy] — with or without the siblings who missed them.

As Seamus went on to explain what he'd seen, every little bit of description brought Ibis' imagination to focus; she thought of how desolate a place must be to have nothing for miles and miles, but also how grand it would feel to stand in the middle of such an expanse. She thought of the lake were she'd met Pirrup and then tried to envision what the valley would look like flooded with deep blue water, and she gasped, wondering if perhaps her brother had found the ocean — but before she thought to ask about it, he mentioned his accident and waking up alone, and Ibis frowned, but gave a friendly nuzzle of her snout as compensation.

That sounds magical, but also frightening—the waking up part specifically. I'm glad you came home, Seamus. At least they were together, she thought; it was odd to imagine roaming the valley with this blonde boy in tow rather than her giant of a brother, but... Okeanos wasn't her only sibling, and the fact she had to remind herself of that made her feel deeply, intimately guilt-ridden. It wasn't her fault she didn't know much about Seamus considering the adventure he went off on, but it made Ibis think of the others — of the rest of Elysium's children who were likely lost in the Wilds, and of her step-siblings at the Hollow.