Sun Mote Copse On the 858th day...
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...they said she is not here, she has risen. 

Waking up in the world Wraen had left almost three years ago was odd, but not very surprising. When you are no longer tethered to the material plane and the confines of your mortal body, the perspective on things changes. Nothing feels impossible anymore. You have access to the secrets of the ethereal world, they no longer feel mysterious, inexplainable or unlikely. You even have the freedom to shape your own bubble of imagination land and time from time cross into someone's elses. 

Which after some stretching and yawning, and taking in the surroundings more carefully, was what had happened. The forest, the place looked very much like Sun Mote copse, the home of Firebirds, except here and there one could see inconsistencies in the otherwise picture perfect image. Blurring of the edges, vibrations in the fabric of the fantasy, when a new thought or idea came to the sleeping mind dreaming this. She could see distant figures of people she did not recognize talking with one another, there was a small pocket of sub-reality playing out a scene from, what appeared to be somebody's childhood. 

This is new. Wraen thought to herself, when she began to walk. New in the way that, while she knew she was her own being, she did not really know, whether she had been invited in somebody's dreamland or was she someone's figment of imagination. She would find out eventually.
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Towhee fell asleep within view of Meerkat and Njord, though when she jolted awake to the sound of someone talking nearby, there was nobody there. “How do tortoises fuck?” a voice asked nearby, causing Towhee to turn her head, all the while not questioning the fact that she was overhearing a conversation. “Doesn’t the shell get in the way? Like, seriously, how the fuck does that work?” Then silence fell, followed by the sound of slapping flesh.

She pushed onto her feet and crept toward the noises, slipping away from the familiar sleeping space through a couple of thickets before emerging on a familiar slope. Towhee barely registered that she was somehow back on the caldera as she suddenly found herself feet away from a couple of wolves clearly enjoying the afterglow, exchanging sappy “I love you”s and everything.

Towhee stared at them rather blankly for a moment, at which point the swarthy male glanced up and locked eyes with her. “Hol—!” he shouted, jumping to his feet, prompting her to reflexively backpedal. She moved faster than was really possible, soon disappearing back into the brush as she heard the stranger say to his partner, “Did you see that?” only for her to reply, “See what? You sure you aren’t imagining things?”

She found herself back in the copse again, Wraen suddenly standing beside her. Towhee blinked. She was starting to suspect she was dreaming. And furthermore, she had another suspicion creeping over her just now, which she decided to share with the apparition of her dearly departed friend, just like she would’ve in the good old days when Wraen was alive.

Hey, Wraen. I have a weird feeling I just witnessed my conception.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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"You did? Geez, I do not know, how you will ever recover from that trauma," Wraen remarked grinning and rolled her eyes. Time had passed since she had seen Towhee - her grumpy/blunt/straightforward/no nonesense friend, who save for white hairs here and there had not lost an ounce of her will to live. Out of courtesy Wraen did not ask, how many times the old gal herself had told Death to... go and do better things with her time, because every meeting with a maker is a deeply personal one. 

"Yeah, I always have wondered, why the hell they call it "love-making" - have you not?" she said, looking in the distance, but feeling glad that guests of dreams did not have to witness every single thing their hosts conjured up. "It is messy and there are no aesthetics about it, really," she went on. "And those fruits of the process are also very painful to have in the end," she side-eyed Towhee. "But, what do I know," I died a virgin. "You tell me."
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Yeah, Towhee replied, still looking where she’d left Peregrine and Fox—she was pretty darn certain, anyway—behind. The good news is I walked up on them after they finished, er.

Wraen mused about the term “lovemaking” and Towhee listened, glad that her eyes wouldn’t end up aching this time. She smiled ruefully and finally turned to look at her long lost friend properly. She looked exactly the same as Towhee remembered. She even sounded the same, which made no sense at all.

It’s pretty messy, Towhee agreed, recalling fondly, especially when your pack mate tries to tear you a new asshole during. She smirked. And if you think about it too much, it’s really fucking weird. Pun intended. As for childbirth, well, it isn’t easy but it has nothing on child-rearing

Of course that made her think of Caracal’s plight and her expression clouded, ears flattening. She swallowed, then wondered if she could ask Wraen about him. Would she know? Towhee couldn’t bring herself to speak. It seemed taboo, somehow. Wasn’t this just a dream? Wraen wasn’t really here, this was all just a figment of her imagination. She couldn’t trust any answers she gave.

Sighing, Towhee’s mind inevitably flicked through her other deceased children, which prompted her to share suddenly, Just so you know, I kept my word and named a landmark after you. She paused. Huh, I guess you kept yours too. You did say you’d haunt me…
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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"Well, them finishing is, when the most awkward part begins," Wraen pointed out, scrunching her nose. "I wonder, how many pairs have been attacked and eaten or seriously wounded, while they still cannot detach from each other. I have never heard of any - therefore it may be so that no one survived to tell the story," a shiver ran down her spine, which was funny. All things considered - death was the last thing she should worry about. You could not die twice, right?

"Well, in that case your ass is probably the most boring thing in the world if no one else has tried to tear a third hole in it during all this time," Wraen shot back, laughing, remembering the event as if it had happened only yesterday. Those had been fun times. "But - frankly speaking - those guys were not good enough for you anyway. Towhee - you are a prize that has to be earned. If they needed just a warm body to hang on to and take off some frustration, there are plenty of moss covered trees in the woods."

"Is it, really? Meerkat was a very easy kid to have, wasn't she?" she furrowed her brow trying to remember any details about the girl, but save for the sand-coloured coat, nothing really came to mind. "But Bronco was a real pain in the ass. A kid more full of himself I had never met before," she recalled. "I wonder, how he is doing now," she thought to herself, making a mental note to find him next. She caught change in Towhee's expression as she mentioned children, which made Wraen wonder, what it was that was weighing her old friend down. 

"OOOH - where? What?" Wraen asked excitedly, stomping her forepaws, tail wagging.
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Wraen said several thought-provoking things and Towhee didn’t say anything, just happy to listen to her friend for a bit. She did laugh at Wraen’s remark about warm bodies. Didn’t she realized it was Towhee who’d used them, more often than not? But her friend was right. In the end, nobody had been able to keep up with her.

When her friend floated some less rhetorical questions her way, Towhee laughed again and answered, Meerkat was and still is the easiest. She’s resettling this place, you know. She has a great guy and some awesome kids too. I have, like, a hundred grandchildren now, can you believe that?

If Wraen really was just part of her, she already knew everything Towhee would tell her and vice versa. That gave Towhee pause for a moment, before her friend’s enthusiasm distracted her. She looked like an excited puppy. Maybe it was just a dream but Towhee hadn’t laughed this much in a while.

I lived in Northstar Vale for a while, with a pack called Epoch, Towhee shared, not mentioning her mate and children lest she become melancholy again. There was a beautiful meadow there. It made the perfect rendezvous site. I decided to call it Wraen’s Nest. And it actually caught on. I hope they still call it that to this day… She paused before adding an explanatory, I don’t live there anymore. I don’t live anywhere, actually.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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"No, I can't," Wraen shook her head, smiling, but feeling very happy about Towhee, who had continued to live the life she had been given to the fullest. Being a ghost, having any regrets about things she had not accomplished in her life here was pointless. To her death had simply meant one chapter of her life ending and another one beginning.

Though, if asked, what it was like and what she was doing today, she would not be able to explain. Death has always been and will always remain a mystery to those on this Earth. In a way she was and was not figment of Towhee's imagination. In a sense that she could not tell her anything that her friend did not already know or could comprehend about death. Just as it is with love, childbirth, death of a close person, your own death is also something you have to experience to truly understand.

But having always been the most pragmatic of the two, Towhee did not ask any of those questions. Instead she told about naming a landmark after her. "I love it! Would you want to go there now?" she asked excitedly, disappeared for a moment and then appeared again, looking a bit disappointed. "Sorry, apparently teleportation is only available to the ghosts," she said. And while Towhee was alive, her spirit was tightly bound to her mortal body.  

"Why so - what happened?"
Wraen asked, feeling sorry for her friend. "Your old, grumpy cantankerous self could not catch up with the youth, who understand nothing of life?" she teased her gently.
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When Wraen abruptly disappeared, Towhee’s heart sank. When she reappeared, her brain shut down for a moment. She could not compute, especially when her friend actually said the word “ghost.” Was that really what was happening here? Was she awake right now? Towhee decided she didn’t particularly want clarification on the matter.

Moving on, she shook her head at the sad look that stole over Wraen’s familiar features and replied, Sort of the opposite, actually. I spend all my days running after my babies and their babies. They’re spread all over the place these days, so I bounce from village—sorry, the Moonboys have me calling packs that—to village, visiting for a bit before moving onto the next one. Then rinse and repeat. It’s not a bad way of life, honestly. It’s pretty fulfilling.

In an everyday waking conversation, Towhee would ask Wraen how she was doing. But of course she couldn’t ask that. She supposed they could continue reminiscing. She took a moment to think of all the experiences they’d had together—and apart, only to tell one another after the fact—and a question floated to the top of her mind.

Wraen, now that it’s all said and done, what was your favorite memory from your entire life? Or did you have more than one?
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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"My favourite memory was... is..." Wraen stopped short, brow furrowed, clearly making an effort to find something specific. However, the more time passed, the less convinced she seemed until with an utter look of confusion, she met Towhee's golden gaze and said: "I don't know. Really. It is strange, how I lived to see many springs and had so much going on, but there are not any details left. I kind of know that things happened, I recall feeling happy, sad, angry, frustrated - all of the myriad of emotions that are there, but I can't remember why and how it happened. 'Cause... when you are here - it no longer matters. It mattered that you were there for a while and that they are people that still remember you."

This had turned out very long, but it was no clearer to her than it was to anyone else. She had been proud of being good at keeping a library worth of information inside her head. Now... it was not exactly gone, but not readily accessible to her either. "You know... at the place, where I am... you kind of exist in a state of permanence. It is just one very, very, very long moment for me and the longer it lasts, the more my life as a being here fades," this was a sad thing to come to terms with. Though until Towhee had asked about memories, Wraen had not been aware of this. "You are here and you remember me and being here with you means..." she fell silent and then lifted her paw to touch Towhee's forehead.

The scene around them morphed and changed and all of a sudden both were looking at a scene beside a lake and much younger selves. "This is, how we met for the very, very first time. Look at us! I have to admit you did not impress me much then," Wraen said. Towhee was fuming and angry, Wraen had no clue, what was going on and was trying to comfort the perfect stranger. Neither cared, nor liked each other very much at the time. And who would have thought that they would become good friends years later. "I think that I can go through memories, where you are also playing a part," she explained her earlier experiment. "But it seems that you can take me to any corner of your dreamland. Where to next?"
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Towhee wondered if Wraen couldn’t answer because she was really just a figment of her own imagination, thus she couldn’t actually access any of her memories. She chewed on that while she listened to the specter’s given explanation. Her own mind must be much more powerful than she knew, if she could conjure up a vision this realistic and true to her memories of her dearly departed friend.

She jolted a little when Wraen placed a paw against her forehead. It was warm to the touch, slightly heavy, just like a real paw. That was stranger than anything else so far. Whether she was a dream or a ghost or a vision, she wasn’t supposed to be corporeal, was she? Towhee raised her own paw, as if about to start feeling up the ole girl.

But then everything began to spin around Towhee. It was disconcerting and dizzying. It stopped quickly and Wraen spoke about their first meeting. By this point, Towhee had squeezed her eyes closed. She didn’t open them as Wraen described the scene. She knew the one, vaguely. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant memory for a variety of reasons. Towhee wasn’t very keen on revisiting it, to tell the truth.

As much fun as it is tripping and stumbling down memory lane, Towhee said, eyes still firmly shut, I would rather just sit here and talk to you, like we always used to do. And enjoy the fact that she could actually hear for once and give her poor eyes a rest. You can tell me more about this life after death business. Or you can just tell me a story. You were good at those, weren’t you?
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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"I cannot tell you any more than you already know," Wraen replied. "Being dead is just the same experience as being a living being. Words do not do it justice and interpretations may go very, very wrong," she smiled at Towhee, knowing that were she in her friend's place, she would hate the vague description. How was it possible not to tell? A more younger and impatient self would even assume that they knew, but simply did not want to tell. That greedy witch!

"What I can tell you is, that universe is a big place and you get either the paradise you deserve or you choose. Making sense of it is pointless. It is... a well functioning chaos there, so, when you are good and done with everything happening here - though I have a feeling that the Earth might die long before you decide to kick the bucket,"
she grinned. "Then be prepared to the next big adventure. You do not have to fear it at all. It is easier than falling asleep," in the end she had revealed more than she had intended, but it could also be that the very same ideas might have entered Towhee's mind and she had picked out the pieces that corresponded to, what she felt. 

"A story... a story... ain't you a bit too old for that?" she teased her gently, glints of humour dancing in her eyes. "I think we should rather find that frog prince of yours," she got to her feet, inspired by a sudden idea and a memory. A long, long time ago, involving them three - two spinsters and a young mom - having a hags-only evening in a nearby bog. "Though I have to admit, I would rather like to dare you to lick a frog. Leave the prince stuff to the young folks," she stuck her tongue out playfully and winked. "I will need something fond to remember you by, when I return back to, where I came from. AND, whenever YOU will see a frog, you will always think of me. That way I will be immortal," how do you like this diabolical plan?

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Towhee very much doubted that being dead was anything like being alive, otherwise why was there such a distinction between the two? In truth, she believed that all consciousness ceased at the end of life, therefore this must be a dreamscape of some sort. But a small part of her—a part that grew with each passing year and, more poignantly, every lost loved one—wished for something to come afterward. Towhee would love the chance to be properly reunited with Wraen and all the others she’d lost over the years.

I’m not afraid, Towhee found herself saying. There’s peace in simply ceasing to exist, of falling asleep and just never waking up. That’s kind of what I’ve always believed happens. I think this is just a dream. I might not even remember it when I wake up. But I wish I could believe that there’s some sort of life after death. I wish I believed this was real…

Wraen teased her, said they should search for a prince instead. Towhee pulled a face at that. She thought of Maxim, her heart suddenly moving up into her throat. Why hadn’t he come to her tonight, rather than Wraen? Not that she wasn’t happy to see her old friend but some closure might’ve been nice. Maybe this meant he was actually alive out there somewhere. No, her mind refuted, not convinced by this ethereal place. You don’t know what happened to him, so your brain can’t even conjure it. That’s all.

I would lick a billion frogs before I’d kiss another prince, she quipped, wrinkling her nose again. I was never cut out for romance. I knew that, when I was young. I had to relearn that lesson the hard way. I’m happier this way, though, I know that much for certain. I’ve had a lot of love in my life, even after losing two mates. Friendships are just as meaningful. Take you, for instance. I’d be happy to eternally associate frog sightings with your memory. Let’s do it. Or did I already do it and that’s why I’m having this vision?
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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"Well, where you end up is entirely up to you," Wraen shrugged. Funny really that even a dead person still has very little clarity about the secrets of the universe as the living. She could talk only of her experience and having a chance to bend and twist the fabric of reality to her liking, meaning that her paradise was not necessarily, what others wanted to be. "I always liked the idea of me becoming one with the earth again. I think it is kind of neat to think that there is only one version of you and, when you die, there won't be anyone exactly like you again," she mused, looking up to the sky, which - now that you observed it carefully - was in a very interesting perpetual state of sunrise and sunset, with moon and the sun facing each other and thousands of stars between them. 

"Do you know, what is the funniest thing of all? That never occurred to me, while I was away. Whether there is some sort of a next step for dead souls? I exist now, but, who knows for how long? What if... slowly and surely I too will fade away and - I dunno - become a stardust or something like that. What then? Will I as stardust remember being a Wraen or will that no longer matter to me,"
she spoke her mind and then realized that Towhee, who was of more pragmatic sort, would find these kinds of musings that led nowhere useful. "Well, this is your party - you make the rules," Wraen laughed, enjoying the idea of being Towhee's frog. "Maybe I could become your next familiar, mhm? You had a bird before, right?" she asked. "Except as a frog I would not be able to live for too long without water. Which means that in order to have me around permanently, you would have to become aquatic," she laid out the plan in a serious tone, while her eyes were fullof laughter. 

"Do you know what - never told you, when we were living, but I always thought that with your looks and your bad temper, you would make a perfect Hag of the Swamps," this almost rhymed. "You would turn men into toads and you would lure little kids in with promises of sweets and food, and then... turn them into little turtles. In case they got greedy, disobedient or started to talk rude stuff to you, of course," and as she said this, the scenery around them changed. Now the she-wolves were sitting on a small, grassy island in the midst of a forest with tall, moss-covered trees, stagnant, green water full of algae and some other nasty stuff. Even the sunlight that managed to break through the crowns of the trees had a greenish hint. And in the background you could hear a chorus of frogs and birds and occasional soul-shattering screeches of an unknown type of animal. 

"Like it here?"
Wraen asked, closing her eyes and thinking hard. The light dimmed and all of a sudden thousands of fireflies lit up like little stars. "I think this is a bit better," she looked up at her friend and smiled. 
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Towhee decided she could do without the spontaneous changes in scenery. They gave her vertigo. But she did not say that to Wraen. She just listened to the sound of her friend’s voice and took comfort in her companionship.

I had a hawk, X, for a while, Towhee acknowledged, and, more recently, I had this little bat… She didn’t really want to dwell on yet more losses. I don’t mind swimming but I’m hardly amphibious. Maybe we should pick something more fitting… like a wren, maybe?

She let Wraen muse on that while she continued chewing on everything her companion had said just now. Towhee still didn’t believe this was actually happening, though she found it comforting, seeing that AU!Wraen was happy and at peace. She lived in a heaven of her own making, by the sound of it.

So, how come you’ve never visited me before? Do you think you’ll ever visit again after this? Or is this, like, a one-time deal? And will I even remember it? When I wake up… or whatever?
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Wraen had always liked the idea of familiars, but she had never formed such a close relationship with any other species than her own. When you were one of the apex predators in the area, your choice of friends was very limited. Anyone smaller and weaker than you or simply something you usually hunted and consumed for sustenance had a potential to become prey, when hard times would hit. There was always an option to spare your friend, but then what would happen, if you ate his aunt, uncle or a close friend by accident? No, better mix with your own kind only.

Anyone bigger - let's say a bear - meant that you could become their dinner dish and she did not think that any friendships could last for very long, if you had to always wonder, whether that best friend of yours was looking through recipes of, how to cook you best. And then there were cats, who despite their small size, are claimed to be plotting murders and world domination plans. It suddenly occurred to her that Towhee had not specified the way her alien friends had died and, while she suspected that it was not likely of her deciding to snack on them one day, she did not dare to ask either. What if that was true? It would spoil the mood of the dreamscape!

"Well, if you want to have a long-lasting friend, choosing a bird - does not matter, whether it is a wren or anything else - is not a good idea. They are notorious of dying of heart attacks suddenly. Just scare them the wrong way and they will drop dead," Wraen said, thinking now that the paradise of the birds must be full to the brim. The winged critters were just as good in reproduction as they were in dying. "I would rather... well, what do a ghost know," she cut her attempt in giving an advice short, laughing. After all it was Towhee's own business on, why she preferred the company of animals of other species. "Care to tell, how you communicated with them? I have always had a feeling that they must have some sort of language," why else they would have brains. "But I had never thought that there may be a universal language that all animals understand."

The next question left Wraen silent for a longer time, because she did not have a ready answer to that. Her green gaze followed the flickering lights of the fireflies above the green and brackish waters of the swamp, and tried to come up with a feasible explanation. Had it been lack of wanting? No, not really. Had she not cared enough? That was far from truth, why else would she have sought Towhee out now. Had she not been able to? Truth to be told, trying to push through the veil had never occurred to her before. "I do not have a satisfying answer to give," she sighed, giving her friend a look full of sympathy. "Dying for me meant cutting all the ties with this world and disappearing in the next. I cannot say that "life"," funny way to put it, because it was not exactly like that, "is the same as it is here. You kind of let it go. Accept the fact that this is it and then just go with the flow." 

"Umm... I think the best way to put it - at least to understand my experience - is the difference between you and your reflection. When I died, I became that reflection. Almost like myself, but something very important missing,"
she went on. "And the longer time I spend here with you, in your company, the more like my old self I feel. The emotions, feelings are more real, the memories are more acute. But you do not realize the difference, when you are there. There... you are always content, peaceful, existing in permanence," she told and then grinned slyly. "You know, what - maybe I am a ghost vampire that feeds off your life energy!"
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I talked to Batman but he never said anything back. I felt like he understood me but maybe not, Towhee said. Toward the end, he started biting me to get my attention, which is something X did too. But X and I communicated much more effectively, basically using a rudimentary version of Ptero.

Wraen’s attempt to explain the circumstances of this spectral visit prompted a thoughtful frown. Would she care if Wraen fed off her energy to become more and more herself? What if Towhee’s life force could make her old friend more corporeal? But that was a silly, stupid hope, Towhee realized quickly.

I should probably try to wake up, for a couple of reasons, she mused aloud, including preserving my mental state. But a much bigger part of me wants to savor this, especially in case it never happens again. And I do hope I remember it, even vaguely, like most dreams…

So she would enjoy the present, especially since it was a bit bittersweet to dwell in the past. Towhee supposed there was always the future. Wraen didn’t have one, so to speak, but as the Redhawk sat there ponderously for several moments—hopefully Wraen wouldn’t mind her thoughtful silence—a strange idea floated through her purportedly sleeping mind.

Do you think you could reincarnate? Like, come back as a newborn pup? Towhee wondered, eyes widening a little at the sheer absurdity of the idea. But it was fun to think about, right? What if you came back as my kid? That would be pretty wild. Although I’m not sure I’ll have any more, to tell you the truth…
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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Ptero had always perplexed Wraen and she was glad that in this plane they could communicate with each other more easily. She wondered, whether Towhee truly had hearing in the dreamscape or, since this all was probably taking place inside her friend's head... maybe they were not talking at all in the regular sense of the term. They were exchanging thoughts with one another. She had a quick idea to suggest them trying to talk without opening their mouths, but Towhee had already changed the subject and she let the idea go. 

"If a mad person is a very happy too, I would choose madness," she quipped. "Because reality of life is grim and boring enough. You have to exist in a world, where it is far too easy to do bad things. Being good costs you nothing, but it gets tiring sometimes..." she sighed. "Oh, do you know, what is the best thing about being dead?" she gave a dramatic pause, the sound of drumroll in the background would have added to the effect. "You no longer have to work there. With no body that demands you to sustain it, you have an awful lot of free time to decide, what you want to do and when? And a lot less stress too," she grinned. 

"As much as I value the honor of becoming one of your kids in the next life, I am not sure I believe the concept," Wraen said, thinking about the offer. "I mean, even if I came back, I would probably not remember anything of my previous life and I would grow up to be a very different person. I think... I still have no idea, how the universe works, but having another chance at life... I don't know... And with you then turning to dust, when you die," she referred to Towhee's earlier mention of her own belief in non-existence of the afterlife. "And having no intention of returning... nah. I will rather you offer this - you postpone your cessation until you have seen my paradise first. IF you do not like it, I will bring you to the best stardust gritter there is and make sure that your former self is scattered everywhere. What do you say?"

This would also solve the issue of Towhee not having any more children. Though Wraen had her reasons not to believe her. Meerkat had already been one kid more than Towhee had ever planned or expected to have. 
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Can’t wait, Towhee joked darkly when Wraen described the afterlife as much less demanding. I don’t mean that, not really. I’m not in any rush. It’s just that life is so difficult and tiring sometimes. There’s so much to live for but, the older I get—and the more shit I go through—the less I fear the oblivion waiting for me.

Wraen urged Towhee to consider haunting the place rather than eternal sleep. Was it really optional? She didn’t really believe it, though she saw no harm in agreeing to her friend’s proposal.

I mean, sure, why not? For the record, I plan on living as long as I possibly can, despite how much shit life throws at me. I don’t want to miss out on any grandkids, great grandkids or, hell, maybe even some great great grandkids? Not if there’s any chance of meeting them, knowing them…
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Life was not an easy walk in the park. Wraen yet had to meet a person, who could claim the opposite. She was tempted to counter Towhee's argument with a "but without darkness you would not know, how to appreciate light" type of uplifting quote, but she felt that this was not the right moment. After all, if your life is a dumpster-fire with new tires and trash thrown in to feed the flames constantly, the last thing you want to hear is the many uses of fire. Such as "oh, you are not cold at least" or "when life is like a trash-can on fire roast some marshmallows". In fact, such statement would make things even worse, because you would be more aware of, how much better life was before all the shit happened. 

She also suppressed the urge for Towhee to specify, what the problems were. Firstly - had she wished to load this on her, she would have done it already.  Secondly - Wraen could not help solve any one of them. She was just a ghost and an old person too. She suspected that the troubles of younger people or those of the future (Towhee was such, because she had continued to live good two and a half years longer by now) were similar, but not the same. "I wil say something that is totally over-used, but there are worse things than death. When you die, your problems are over," she told her, but no one had never really come up with anything better that had the same essence. "Isn't it so that the older you get, the less agitated you get about issues? I mean, you are now older than me," she stated and realized that this had come out a bit teasing. "But, when I was five, I had feeling that certain events were bound to repeat themselves. Because people in their very core do not change," she said.

"Just promise me that you won't go on living alone like a hermit,"
she told her. "Hags are not good on their own for too long. Because first they start to cackle and the next thing you know they are building dens of meat and bone in the forest and luring little kids in to eat them," she referred to a wolf equivalent story about "Hansel and Gretel". "I do not mean you marrying again, just keep visiting people and socializing - that's the best way, how to live well and avoid cackling."

Cackling reference is from Terry Pratchett's witch series.
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I wish I could say that, Towhee replied heavily, but when I say ‘shit,’ I don’t mean the petty kind. I mean, like, losing kids. And no, no matter how old you get or how many times it happens, you don’t get used to it. It doesn’t get any easier.

Wraen made another sales pitch. There was no danger of that, she was pretty sure. Sure, she didn’t have a home but that didn’t make her homeless. She thought of all her children and grandchildren scattered across the map and how she was warmly welcomed at every homestead.

Not that any of that sounds so bad to me, but, Towhee replied with a dry laugh, don’t worry, friendmine. Like I said before, it’s fulfilling. Truly. I’ve worn many titles over the years but nothing tops grandma, with mom a close second. I told you, I have a crapton of grandkids. And my family tree will only keep growing as time wears on.

She paused thoughtfully, looking skyward at the full moon. Towhee was no astronomer—she left that stuff to @Phox—but she was 96% sure it had been a few phases shy of full when she’d gone to sleep. So this was a dream then… or, well, some alternate reality, in any case. It wasn’t the real world, a realization that had her exhaling a little sadly.

You know, even if this is all just some dream and there’s absolutely nothing waiting for me after death, I’m going to live forever, Towhee said, turning her eyes back to Wraen, through my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren… well, you get the idea. I am already eternal.
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#21
Wraen's understanding of crap in one's life was broader and - yes - it also included death of children and good friends. She had been spared the first, though she had witnessed the anguish Eljay had gone through, when he had lost first his wife and then his first-born son as well. Death - of course - hit you hard and came as a surprise most of the times. But let's draw parallels with grannies, who are 60 and older. It is a time, when your friends start dying and by 80 you visit more funerals than birthdays. It becomes so common that in the end you may spend 5 minutes shedding tears for the dead and the rest of the funeral comparing, criticizing and discussing the choice of flowers, pastor, flowers brought and - of course - the food. Because people will come and go in this world, but a good feast is a certain way to make them eternal. Again Wraen did not say any of this, because as a dead person she could not longer fully understand the fears of the living. Everyone was dead in her reality and as far as she knew - no one could die twice. 

"Well, I am very happy of you, my bad-tempered hag-friend," she pressed her shoulder against Towhee's as she said this. "I think most do not achieve one third of that in their lifetime," she told her. "Which reminds me - I never asked you - what are the names of your kids? When I left, you had..." she took a contemplative pause, trying to make the math work. "I am 100% sure of a Meerkat and... OH, weren't you..." married to a man three times younger than you?  Wraen decided not to ask that, because Towhee had said that she had given up on men and married life. "Yeah, I have not the slightest idea, how many kids you actually have. I have been gone for - I don't believe for that long - and you are already a grandma. Geez, how time flies," she chuckled. "Toss in some of your grandkids as well, so I know, who to haunt next," she grinned. 

Towhee's declaration of becoming "eternal" made Wraen smile and she let out a deep sigh. If her friend was this, what had she left behind? It was disheartening to realize that no particle of hers had a direct connection to her and that her story had had only one volume. What's more - the moment her sister passed away - she liked to think that Maia was the one to remember her the longest - Wraen's presence in this world would shrink even further. Two years on from her death and her whole 5 years of life, full of adventures, emotions, growing up, colours, friends, ups and downs, a lot of everythings, had already shrunk to "dead aunt Wraen, who liked stories". One more generation down no one would probably even remember her name or that she had ever existed. After all, hadn't this happened to the great Redleaf matriarch March Owl as well? How much she could tell about her? Save for random facts that may or may not have been true?

Then she wondered, should she care about this at all? It was not like she was going to return here, right? Even if she was, then it would not be the same life. And she would not be the same person. How many hundreds and thousands of wolves before her had lived and had died and no one thought about them at all. The universe was full of souls and not once had it occurred to Wraen to ask, what their experience was, what they thought? Because now, realizing that she was not "eternal" in the sense Towhee meant it made her immediately question, what was she then? Temporary? "You know, when you are dead you no longer search for meaning of life," she said, when she noticed that the silence between them had dragged on longer than it was polite to keep the conversation going. "The more vampirize your life force, the more I feel those doubts and questions creep up on me," she shuddered. 

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#22
Wraen brought up her theory about being a succubus again, this time with a shudder. Towhee opened her mouth to suggest it might be time to say their final goodbyes. As the thought crossed her mind, she realized she’d never had that chance in reality. Wraen’s death had been a terrible shock. Whether this meet was real or imagined, Towhee felt a sense of closure.

Instead of saying farewell, she said instead, Meerkat was technically my firstborn, though remember, I was Fig’s and Fen’s mother first. Phox’s second batch of kiddos was partly mine too, so that includes the twins, Alyx and Quetzal, and Primrose. Almost nobody knows this but I don’t mind sharing with you that I had two premature babies born sleeping, Blackbird and Butterfly. They were from the same litter as Caracal, Marten, Tierra and Sphyra. I don’t really know Phox’s others but I still count them: Vesper, Prevost and Peregrine. Then with Maxim, I had Leona, Jack Snipe, Sable and last but not least, Towhee Jr.

She made no distinctions between who was alive and who wasn’t aside from the preemies, although there might’ve been a slight quaver in Towhee’s voice when she said their names. Nevertheless, she found herself smiling at the end, admiring what was really an impressive list.

Don’t make me list out the grandkids too or we’ll be here for all of eternity, Towhee quipped, which reminded her of her earlier thought. And as much as I’m enjoying this spectral rendezvous and all, maybe it’s time to get back to our lives… or our afterlives, as it were.
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"Time does not exist for me, so whether it is an eternity or just matter of seconds - it does not matter," Wraen pointed out laughing, but there was a hint of doubts in her voice. She was no longer sure, if it was a good thing. Having your own hourglass with sand trickling down gave one a sense of belonging. Unfortunately outside Towhee's dreams Wraen no longer belonged on this side of the veil. This was painstakingly clear to her after this conversation. There were no regrets in dying, but she yearned to feel, what it meant to be alive. Even here she could feel life pulsating right next to her, while she was just a faint echo in comparison.

A tremor went through the dreamscape - Wraen looked around startled, as the background featuring night-time swamp began to fade away at the edges. It probably meant that Towhee may be about to wake up. Or - as she had said now - their conversation had come to a close. If Wraen did not want to be trapped inside the folds and pockets of her friend's mind (though she would not be totally against it, for the sake of fun of it), she had to prepare to leave as well. "Well, the world became a better place, when Meerkat was born. By being mom to so many more after that, I am sure that you have all your karmic debts of previous lives settled," she smiled. "Of course, if you believe in that kind of stuff," she added. 

"It was good to see you, my old friend," Wraen got to her feet and stretched. Not that she needed it really, but out of an old habit. "I won't make you a promise that we will see each other again. The universe is a big place after all," she said, looking up at the starlit sky that was still clear and visible, even while the ground and the forest around them began to disintegrate and disappear. "But I will give you a blessing - have a good rest of your life. Live it well, do, what you like, and have many more sunny and happy days than those with rain and sadness," she moved to give Towhee a hug, if she let her. "Have a good death as well. Without pain and suffering. At your favorite place, belly full with meat, surrounded by loving family members and the sense of completion," it may have come out a bit more complicated.

"And the last one - wherever you end up after dying, may it be a very good place to be to await the next big adventure."
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I don’t, Towhee replied with a huff of laughter as she playfully reminded, and neither do you! But I still think it’s fun to think about you reincarnating as my kid. Hell, I get such a kick out of that idea, I may have more just in case we’re both wrong.

She hadn’t noticed the flickering, though Towhee had the sense that the end was imminent, even apart from Wraen’s clear readiness for departure. She listened to every last one of her friend’s final words, committing them to memory in the hope that she would remember them when she surfaced from this crazy dream.

Sense of completion, she couldn’t help but repeat with a snicker, eyes casting sideways as if she might catch another glimpse of her parents enjoying their afterglow. Kind of like my dad? Towhee quipped under her breath, then added louder, I can only hope I’ll be so lucky.

Towhee somehow knew there were only seconds left to them now. She took a breath, staring hard at Wraen’s face, soaking in its familiarity. They hadn’t touched much during this encounter, so she decided to change that at the very last minute. As she went in for the hug, she smiled into Wraen’s neck, glad that for once she would be able to embrace someone and continue the conversation at the same time!

Thank you for everything, Wraen. You were a good friend and I will never forget you, or let you be forgotten, and in this small way, she too would live on forever.
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"If that is, what you want - why not," Wraen laughed, burying her muzzle in Towhee's soft fur and sighing. Tears were welling up in her eyes as the emotions spilled over her heart and flooded her being with both great love for her friend and the grief of having to leave her. At this moment she would give up anything to have a chance to wake up next to her friend, greet the new day and see, what it brings. But as a ghost, she had no god to turn to, no power of doing anything. She was just a reflection of what she had been.

She did not wish to break the moment, therefore she did not say anything for a long time, hoping that this would never end that their paths eventually diverting in different directions would no happen. But then she could not stop time. Not for her friend, who had still so much to do. Sniffling she retreated and wiped away the tears. "Why are goodbyes so damn hard?" she asked rhethorically. She did not want to be remembered as a sobbing mess, but this was exactly, what she was now. 

"Thank you for this," she thanked for the dream, her form slowly disintegrating and then just like that the dream was over and she was gone.