Ouroboros Spine pijannituk ⩅
Moonglow

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#1
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staying vague about details, just assuming sis & co have been next door for several weeks

@Lótë had suffered so much in these last months. 

kukutux wished she had not let adrastus return to them. it would have spared her sister this agony, at least. each day she brought meat and herbs to the woman's hearth, spoke with her when lótë wished, and watched the four children for any reason, offering her own milk if permitted to nourish them.

they had already been kin to her own daughters, but now so close, she felt that they had moved beyond nuaq into something like sisters and brothers.

today she brought the fresh flesh of a fish to lótë, entreating her sister to eat. she was silent in those moments, and then her jade eyes at last darted to those gems belonging to her kin. "you have always been my sister. if the ice man had not come back, i would have asked aiolos to give you and your children his status."

she pushed the fish closer. "this has not changed. it is a hard time. there surely are many cuts in your heart. but you will be well-kept, and your children will not suffer."
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Moonglow

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#2


weeks passed. neither relented. whether adrastus remained or had left the village, lótë could not have said for sure. she tried not to think of it. 

she mourned but this was a grief she had never known. it was tangled up with anger and betrayal and humiliation. she had settled into the routine of life without much preamble -- already accustomed to the pain that squeezed at her heart and the loneliness. it was silent, as if to talk about it would only make her feel more stupid. but there were things yet to be cherished. 

there were no secrets as the children toddled between lótë's home and kukutux's and no shame either -- only acceptance. at times she might glance about her and find herself tearing up at the sight of their two families mixed up together. ocasionally she wondered why that was so hard for her former mate to give but banished the thought whenever it intruded. the forlornness only came at night.

her eyes brightened at the sight of the moonwoman as she entered the den, widening slightly as she processed what her sister offered. 

once, she had thought they might be joined together in such a way -- with adrastus, no less. now, she was only grateful that they had not both been subjugated to his unkindness. a shudder pulled at her to think what he would say of kausiut's paw. 

"i would accept and i thank you for your kindness," she murmured softly, touching her nose to kukutux's shoulder briefly in consolation. it warmed her heart to think of their children alongside each other. and yet..

"but i do not think i can stay here much longer." the admittance fell as a heavy secret, voice dropping low as if afraid someone might be listening. "soon my children will be weaned and i do not trust adrastus to stay away from them once they are old enough to move about the territory."

it was not his place, nor hers, to decide who ink was to be. to change them for the sake of preserving appearances or for the opinions of others. to hell with others. she would not allow the pale hunter to confuse the poor children, tell them who and what they could be. her worst fear was that he would spirit them away when he came to grips with how serious she was. 

"i love you -- simple as that," she smiled, knowing she had never said it aloud before. "but aiolos makes you happy...i do not wish to intrude on that. you deserve the kind of love you have found in him."

"i would do it even if i didn't love both of you like family if only to keep my children safe." there were advantages to such an arrangement, kukutux had not lied about that. the bird-watcher thought that perhaps in time, maybe the three of them could even grow to love each other as all husbands and wives did. even if custom dictated that she would always be second.

but she did not truly believe that even the safe harbor of aiolos and kukutux could stop the darkness in his voice. 

"i think it might be best if i took the children to the caldera -- further if they haven't got the room or don't want us,"  her eyes moved to the dewdrop's, her regret buried in her spring gaze.

"i will return someday," she promised, "perhaps when my children are grown." 
"in the top of the tower, the devil he waits, the devil he waits for you."
Moonglow

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kukutux parted her jaws to protest softly, first. lótë spoke of moonwoman's deserving but not her own — she wanted to say that only delight must now open its sunlight into her life.

and then as if it were ice crystals, the last words broke upon the face of the moonwoman's heart, and she grew silent. closed. the greenery of her eyes for a moment arranged with pain and panic; she shut them and took a breath.

of course lótë would wish to leave this place! moonglow had been greatest joy and harshest pain for her sister.

they had walked the same path in this.

kukutux grew strong with the desire to keep her sister close, for herself. for them all. "i love you," and her throat was caught by tears that had yet to fall. "moonglow has strength to guard you, lótë," moonwoman ventured. "my own teeth took flesh from the mouth of a demon. adrastus is is not stronger than that."

"soon the snow comes. your little ones have not yet reached their third moon. i — am afraid if you make a path away, he may follow. it is a hand of days to the caldera."

she paused. "ruenna of redhawk is a friend to moonglow. i will ask for you, so that you do not ... choose a plan without full knowing." so that lótë did not draw her children into the night, and all of them fall prey to sickness or malaise or a terrible wrath. "stay here, please," kukutux urged, though there was no forbidding in it, only worry. "until the new green on the other side of the winter moons. after this, if you still must go, then you will not walk alone."

for she must accept that though the cloudberry painter gave words now, in her heart it was already decided.

"but if you must do this thing, we must — i will ask now, soon. before the first ice comes to kill the earth."

she did not need to wind stories of young children trapped in the storm. she would not seek to frighten lótë, who had already been so harmed and grieved. "this is your home. it will always be so."
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Moonglow

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#4


she had not considered this -- that adrastus might just follow her. if it were so, then was there truly any place she could go? helplessness crawled along her flesh. her children were too young yet to travel very far and by the time they were old enough to make a trek to one of their further allies, the season would set in and make such a journey impossible -- with children at least. another group could not provide better protection than her own loved ones. here, at least she would have kukutux. sialuk. shikoba. aiolos. keyni, should she ever decide to return to the spine. the twins. kigipigak. in another place, they would be surrounded by strangers and just as vulnerable. she would be naught but a disowned woman, fleeing in fear of her husband. 

"i promise you, i will not whisk them off rashly," she reassured softly, leaning into her friend both to provide and draw comfort. it felt she was being cleaved in two. she hated hurting kukutux but she needed to protect her young -- even from their father if the need arose. "it will be some time before they are old enough to leave the spine though i hope we won't need to." however slim it was, there was a chance that the disgraced first-hunter would see the error of his ways. that he might be willing to put the children's feelings and needs before his own. 

"the union you speak of...how can you be so sure it will work?" her voice had thinned, dipped, until it was tiny. the mother couldn't quite raise her eyes to the wisewoman's own. "i have come to think of you as sister and aiolos as brother through you. i don't know if i can make him happy," she admitted. the sun seemed a kind patriarch over his family and pack but then, so had adrastus. and she was sure that he saw her in much the same familial light -- she could not imagine that he wanted her as his wife nor that he would ever be able to view her as such. 

a sliver of her also feared for the future. she was young yet, she would count the same number of years that kukutux did now when her children were yearlings. what if their hearts never warmed to each other and someday, the artisan fell in love again -- however unlikely that seemed in her current state -- with someone who was not aiolos or kukutux? 

"in the top of the tower, the devil he waits, the devil he waits for you."
Moonglow

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kukutux let out her breath. a sunlit sound was upon her mouth. "i am glad that you will stay for a time. we will put flowers upon my altar. we will ask that the spirits guide the ice hunter back to the place where he was." it was all she could say for now. she believed truly, after seeing him so silent and gone from even his wife or the children she had borne to his hearth.

lótë inquired again after the way of two marriages. kukutux was silent for a short while. "i will be his wife. and you will be his wife. he will take your children to his heart. they will have the status of sun man and also moonwoman." she paused for a moment, the jadestone eyes glowing with a low and delighted affection.

"there is a woman called eldritch. she is spirit-talker. inkalorë and kausiut — i think that they have been chosen to learn these magicks and the secret words. i think i will send my daytime star to her when she is many moons older. when she is ready to be taught." the duck meant so much to say that the child so spurned by the ice-heart had a path forward that was true and possible.

"aiolos would have two wives," she said softly, returning to their first point. "each with rights to his sleeping-place and to meat from his kills. i will tell to you, lótë, that he has much love for me. you are tied to him by kinship. it is for protection we make this marriage."

kukutux fell quiet for a handful of seconds. "the matter of children, sister, is only for the ears of you and aiolos. that also is the right of a wife." there were other things: the right of first wife over second, but she saw no reason to use those things against lótë. aiolos gave her the sacred places of his heart. she was confident in them, and loved lótë fully.

it had not occurred once to the duck that the cloudberry woman spoke also of being her own.
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Moonglow

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the mousy agouti fell to silence, deciphering the poetry of the moonwoman's words and listening. it was not so different as things in her homeland, though there were more underlying customs in the northern ways than the woodlander's. in the land of many elms, there were a handful of hearths with more than two partners -- some wed to each other altogether or in situations similar to what kukutux described. 

"i understand. i meant only...you have both found so much happiness in each other. i do not wish to be a dark cloud on the sun-filled days, a stain on your happiness. i know you would never see it as such, you have always been gracious and welcoming to me," there was no small amount of gratitude in her voice, the smile that flickered across her lips. "but i do not wish to burden aiolos. six children...that's quite a lot of meat to provide, a rather crowded sleeping place for him." it was not his fault adrastus had turned away from them nor was it his responsibility to take care of children who were not his. she did not wish to make him unhappy.

"i am not sure i could ever ask such a thing of him. or you." she demurred gently. she did not wish to appear rude. but she would go childless before she posed such a question to the islander. 

some part of her, a great part of her, was relieved in this. that he would not touch her. she was not sure she was ready to give herself in such a manner, or that she would ever be again. her heart did not trust so easy anymore.

"if the sun is agreement...then i will be second wife to him, second mother to your children if permitted. perhaps it would be best to stay, to give them the family they should have been raised with." she considered this, glancing to her children. it did not matter if she did not know the same love her husband and sister shared. it only mattered that she followed the best path for them.

but in time they would be grown. her wounds would heal, she hoped. she could not say for certain that she would not long to know what that love felt like -- a truly unconditional love.

"all i ask is that someday, when my children are safe, if there should come someone..." the botanist trailed off for a moment. her feelings had been knotted up for some time. there had been a period, long ago it felt now, where there could have been something more for the moonlit spiritualist. it was not uncommon in her birth village. such emotion had since blossomed into sorority. she did not know if such could be changed with time, or if she could feel anything for aiolos beyond the love for a brother and tribesman. she did not know if someone would come. if she would be ready when they did. she did not know if amicable divorce existed within the ways of moonglow.

"i would like to find what you have found someday." just because the last marriage the alpha had arranged for the dove had gone awry didn't mean she'd lost faith in the ostrega's matchmaking skills. perhaps kukutux might someday know of a man in search of a wife with children to bring to his hearth, a man who would not turn them away because they weren't good enough.
"in the top of the tower, the devil he waits, the devil he waits for you."
Moonglow

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it was a bad thing, that lótë spoke of herself in such a dark way. she shook her head. "aiolos does not see children as a burden. when we made our first meeting, i carried the children of the blackfox, and he was already taataa." the duck was caring with each word that she chose to say aloud.

"sialuk hunts for us. shikoba hunts for us. kigipigak hunts for us." zane had faded from their borders, a fact that moonwoman knew. but that had always been the speaking between them. bitter grass knife stayed only until it did not.

she hoped that her kinsman would find delight for himself. and perhaps a purpose.

"we will share two sleeping places. when the aniqdus have found their place inside moonglow, maybe then it will be a time to find an ulaq that is larger, for sun man and his two wives." the thought thrilled her. it was as if lótë's acceptance of her way, of a true way she had known for all her days, brought a deep joy to the duck.

the cloudberry painter spoke of love. moonwoman breathed out in reverence and reached to brush the gentle cheek, gone slim now with pain and tiredness. "if a man comes to us who moves your spirit and your body, then go to him first. and when you have decided he is fit to be angutik, you will bring a great respect to his hearth: that you are favoured by sun and moon of this village."

a large dowry, their regard to be added to the skills cultivated over these long months. kukutux knew the finery that her sister was able to create; she had seen the delicate pieces of cured leather and the way that always, the painting-woman had kept her ulaq composed and herself well-held.

lótë would be well within her rights to ask anything she wished of a new husband. aiolos and the duck would not seek to hold her when she wished to leave them. the happiness of her sister was placed higher above any wish kukutux might have for herself in this.

"you will be wife to aiolos and anaa to our children." she would call herself ajâtsuk, but these words would be used forward and back. "i will speak to him. i will ask him formally. and then i think that aiolos would wish to share words with you."

but it would be some time. kukutux breathed a long breath. "you do not need now to sleep alone, lótë." for the long dark would come, and those nights were the most silent among them all.
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Moonglow

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she could see how happy this made her sister. the doe could not help smiling when the duck painted the future in her melodic turn of phrase. 

she would need to speak with aiolos. she wanted to be sure this was something he wanted, that a second wife and four stepchildren would not be a strain on him -- or his marriage to the moon. more than anything, she wanted them to be happy. aiwe's heart would only splinter further if the islander wed her out of pity and her own malfortune spoiled her friends' joy. as she had said, their village had many hunters and guardians -- not just men either. she could be mother to her children and the village would help her, regardless of her marital status. they could learn the secrets of hunters and women from the moonwolves, there were many here who could teach. they might even learn the ways of spirits from eldritch in time.

she had meant what she said to be a metaphor but as kukutux spoke, she mentioned that they all might share an ulaq in the coming spring. there was often hidden meaning to the ways women spoke in the village; the dove wondered what this might hint at. but it was no use fretting over what might be. she had decided. only time would tell what the spirits had in mind for her future. 

"thank you," she murmured the words again, dipping her head slightly. they did not seem to be enough, they could not convey how grateful she was for their kinship.
"in the top of the tower, the devil he waits, the devil he waits for you."
Moonglow

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perhaps if kukutux had not been moonwoman, her sensation upon this matter would be different. but perhaps it would not be, for she loved lótë. aiolos would love her as well, though the duck knew that it would not be in all ways.

but she did not think even her sun man would resist if his second wife wished more children. the cloudberry painter would be his wife, and be embraced by spring.

yet this would be a choice made then between them.

she kissed the other's cheek and stood back, inviting lótë to be alone with her thoughts but wrapped gently in the abiding love of moonwoman.
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