Call of the Darkness

/ By Nullification [+Watch]

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She was right there, speaking soothing words. Taog relaxed a little at the sight of Juniper and knowing that he was not one of those unfortunate Dwarves who fought the Great One. But if scores of Dwarves could be so easily defeated, then what were they to do against such a power? Juniper sat down at the edge of the water and Taog sank down too, giving himself a few more moments to take everything in. He'd woken late, compared to most of the others. Some were training, preparing food or washing their clothes, bathing in the springs and just generally performing the tasks they were given within the community. Juniper's magic rippled through the water and a flower sprouted, unfurling its leaves into something remarkable and fragile. Taog sighed out.

"About the past," Tao disclosed what he'd seen in his vision.
He shook his head. They weren't in any trouble. Not yet anyway. Taog relied on Tian to see these things ahead of him anyway. If there really was a threat for all involved, then surely the others Seers would prove more reliable and stronger than he was?
"I saw them fight the Great One," he told Juniper. "The Dwarves, they were making the window I saw, and the dagger. He fought without it. It was painful," Taog confessed. At least he didn't feel as heavy or weary no more.
Let her see what?
Tao cocked his head, curious, but after a moment's hesitation in which he tried to read what sort of emotion was involved with Juniper's request, Taog offered his hand up to her. He wondered what she'd hope to see there.

"Did you eat breakfast?" Taog asked. His stomach had been an empty vessel these past few days. He'd slept and eaten, it felt like, and nothing else. They could gather their own meal today though, he felt. No need to always rely on what Haven provided. Surely there was plenty around to profit from. Taog wondered how it worked for Juniper. Could she grow the food that nourished her? How convenient would that be?
"Maybe we can look for the flames in the dark caves today," Taog suggested. He felt strong enough to carry a flame again now. Barut would have them train, most likely, when he found out that Taog had mostly recovered. Tao wondered where his pole had gone. He'd used it in a way Eritreya would surely frown upon by tossing it at Mothra.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 18d 13h 6m 59s
Juniper looked up when she heard a struggle, glancing over her shoulder to see Taog standing and looking wild. She cocked her head to the side and wiped water from her face.
"What happened? Hey, you're alright." She said as she approached him, warily. His gifts were curses, she realised but then Tian never did seem cursed for her visions, in fact she seemed like the calm surface of the pool she had worshipped back at their old and temporary home. Maybe a time would come when Taog was the same but the fires running through him would likely unbalance that somehow. She wasn't sure and Taog certainly wasn't the cursed child she had grown up hearing stories about, he wasn't feral or wild. Juniper sat at the edge of the spring and dangled her feet over, boots abandoned at her left side.

Juniper swung her legs lazily in the warm waters and looked over to the others. There didn't seem to be any great rush right then. Maybe this was set to be a more relaxed few days before they moved off again. They could wait this out until spring but by then they would probably have more to battle with. Spring was her favourite time of year, new life and flourishing magic everywhere. Juniper reached down and touched the water's surface, a lily pad sprouting up slowly with a pretty flower in bloom. Her magic was easier to control and draw upon now that she had been given some sort of training. Maybe it would training with the pole and bow today, she hoped so because her shots on the ice had been lacklustre for the most part in the chaos of everything. If Taog hadn't acted then Juniper would have been at a loss.

"Nightmare? Well, not a dream but... You know." Juniper said to Taog, knowing better than to assume everything was a dream to him or a simple nightmare. His dreams and visions usually meant something, a premonition or something.
"Are we in trouble?" She asked him a little tepidly because she didn't want this to be another bad turn. Taog looked much better, more colour in his skin and she let her eyes trail down to his hands,
"Here, let me see." She said and offered a hand, smiling a little and ready to inspect if his embers had returned yet or not. She didn't shy away from the flames, not now.
  Juniper / Nullification / 19d 11h 3m 37s
Juniper's words resonated with him for quite a while, because while his body was weary, his mind was quite rested. Taog laid staring at the moon and stars, contemplating why the Great One would want to feed on so many, what gain he had by having so much power and expanding his life unnaturally. Even so, the Great One didn't indiscriminately feed as Barut suggested he had on the dwarves. Somehow, Taog felt the Great One had gotten what he wanted back then. Two people a year was a small price to prevent whole races from being murdered indiscriminately. Perhaps they ought to just sacrifice themselves for the greater good. How many people would they have to convince in order for the sacrifices to stop? How many would die to try and stop it?
A small price.
He could understand why the Council had made the decisions that they did, though Taog felt some might have simply done so even without the gifts they were rewarded. Or was it those gifts which prevent the all-powerful Council to do away with the Great One?

Sleep happened eventually. Taog's body was tired and moved little throughout the night as his magic steadily replenished. In fact, Tao hadn't expected to dream at all, but he did. The columns and pillars they'd seen earlier were polished and marble, the floors smooth and inlaid with an intricate pattern of dark and light stones. Dwarves stood in the large hall, working hard on things Taog knew little about. He could see the fine window however, the one he recognized from the sacrificial chamber he'd been stabbed at.
Had the Dwarves made it?
Taog felt a shiver. Shadows shifted and churned. He found himself looking up at the walls, where from the ground pale hands rose and crawled out. The Dwarves were not stupid, nor were they cowardly, but they didn't stand a chance.
With faces of those they had once buried and thought dead, the shadows attacked those who had remained behind in the living world. Taog found himself defending. He rose his weapon, pushed through the gut-wrenching sensation of having to murder loved ones and fought, hard. And then, when wounds and tears had finally brought him to his knees, there was the emotionless man.
Taog felt how his strength was siphoned. He felt, similar to when he used his flame, how his magic was drained and just when he thought it was all gone and he was left cold and empty, something else was taken. Tao felt a great pain in his chest and the sensation echoed in the other vision, when his chest had been stabbed by the dagger.

He woke gasping and struggling, scrambling to get up. His limbs listened easier now than they had yesterday and he nearly landed himself in one of the springs.
The noises he recognized from Haven grounded him. Tao took a few deep breaths and settled, brushing his hair back to see where Juniper had gone. He could tell the flame was closer to the surface here. It was easier to recover. He felt stronger already.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 19d 11h 25m 43s
Juniper was keen to get out of the cavern that had been the site of so much bloodshed and turmoil. She looked to Taog as he spoke, wandering to find somewhere to sleep. The hot springs would be a good place to sleep, she agreed and tried to find somewhere comfortable.
"I'm not sure, I don't even know what the Great One was before all of this." She pointed out with a sigh. Maybe an Elf or a sorcerer, they would have had to be powerful before all of this to do any of this sort of thing, to completely take another creatures magic was incredibly strong and incredibly powerful. Juniper presumed that it would change someone, it would be like having a dozen life essences shoved into one vessel and that was bound to warp things up. She hummed a little at the thought and found a nice enough place where they could rest and sleep.

It was warm enough without the fire and there was enough little campfires set out around that they wouldn't go completely blind, the moon would guide them too in all her silvery light. She found her bedroll and laid it out so it would be more comfortable than rock and stone.
"If he has been just drinking up magic then that means he's really powerful, right?" She said quietly, mulling it over. He had even given the Council huge gifts, keeping them sweet and making sure they had a reason to spread lies and keep the sacrifices coming in steady supply. His magic could extend to anything and everything and Juniper wasn't sure they could even beat him if that was the case. He would need his magic stripped from him.
"Maybe he needs a steady supply or his magic wanes? I would say we could starve him out but too many people still believe the stories." She knew there would be more creatures willing to give themselves up on the false promises. If the Great One knew there was a battle coming then he would want to strengthen up like Juniper and Taog. Maybe he would be smug and think his Council could take care of it.

Juniper got comfortable and looked up at the unhindered stars in their vast curtain. Lights danced across the skies in blues and greens, ribbons that touched the mountains and Juniper watched them until sleep claimed her, pushing under for rest after the past few days. She shifted now and then, cluing away errant dreams that came to play in the lull. It was early when she woke with a start, the sounds of people using the springs, preparing breakfast and training making their way to her. She rubbed her eyes and pushed herself to sit up. She felt rested even though she wasn't sure if she had slept for very long. She moved to the side of of the nearest hot spring and bathed her face in the warm waters to wake herself properly.
  Juniper / Nullification / 19d 15h 5m 59s
Taog shrugged. Who knew why the Dwarves had left? Maybe they'd been invaded by something, or disease had struck their community. All sorts could've happened, but it seemed Juniper sensed something different. He watched her stance turn from relaxed to tense, even if she herself didn't realize it yet. Tao hadn't learned how to decipher glyphs, so he didn't bother. Could Juniper read? It was rare to find someone who could read in the Vale, but Tao could imagine they'd teach if there was an interest.
Like the stories Drit and Elroch told them, sharing knowledge like that.
Barut's voice started him, but Taog's heaviness didn't allow for a quick reaction, other than a quickening of his heart-beat. He took a deep breath to ease his nerves and listened to Barut's story. A murderer, was he? That didn't surprise Taog, who'd seen the vision. At the same time, wasn't he the same? He'd murdered too.
It made him wonder how the Great One had become like this. Taog knew he could take magic too. Take flame. A curse, they'd called it and maybe there was a good reason to call it thus. If the Great One stole everyone's magic after using them, maybe he shared an affinity with the Great One's element. A rare element. Fire.
In Fey, fire was rare, but Taog wondered if Dwarves were different. Did they have magic in the same strength that Fey did? Other than Sorcerers, Taog wasn't sure. Not all of those travelling with the Haven had magic, Taog had come to realize. In the Vale, it was so common to have magic, that it'd been something of a surprise. And here too it was Fey who taught them. If Barut had magic, Taog hadn't ever seen or felt it.
"How did they forget?" Taog asked. Had the Great One killed so many? Had it been that long ago? How old exactly was the Great One?
Lies. Lies birthed by a hand-picked Council which betrayed the unity between races that had always already been. Split by the Great One, reunited by a fake Council of ill creatures. Barut was done telling them stories and headed back out. Taog watched the man's back for a while, until Juniper's words pulled him back from his musings.
"We can sleep outside, at the springs," Taog suggested. It'd be warm plenty and hadn't Juniper said that nature was abundant there? She could get a good rest. Wait, but if they were at the cusp of Dwarven territory, abandoned or not, did that mean they'd continue further to find any? Barut hadn't told them his plan. They moved, every now and then, to escape detection. Taog decided he would ask Tian about Ren.
"Do you think the Great One lost himself by taking all the others magic?" Taog posed. When Juniper gave him magic, it felt like her. When he took the fire from wood, it felt like a taint somehow. Like something that cost him energy to convert into his own, comfortable magic.
There'd been Dwarves on the Council. Taog tried to recall whether he'd seen them in his dream, when they'd been stood on a battle-field.
"Let's find a place to sleep," Tao suggested, rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand. He wanted to recover, train and learn more. Barut had many more stories he wanted to hear.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 19d 15h 41m 13s
Juniper eyed the different scenes, it was nice here. She wondered why no one just set up and lived here. She kept a close eye on Taog, wary that he was weakened and might just collapse at any moment. She looked over when he stumbled on a cave and she cocked her head. It didn’t look natural and it didn’t feel natural either. Juniper had never really come across dwarves in her time, they were elusive and hid themselves in the mountains and Drit had told her numerous times about their craftsmanship and battle ready ways. Juniper eyed over some etchings on the walls and furrowed her brow, keeping quiet so she didn’t disturb the occupants who were setting up camp. She squinted in the lowlight and glanced over to Taog,
“Looks almost like Dwarves.” She said to him, “But it’s old.” Why had the Dwarves left? Surely this was a wonderful place to stay with the heat and the resources.

Something didn’t feel right, Juniper stepped backwards from the carvings. She had never learned to read Dwarven because there had been no need and it wasn’t like those at the Vale were blessed with great education. Survival was taught, and it usually sufficed most of them.
“Do you think there’s any left?” She asked curiously. It didn’t seem like these had been used as a home in a long time.
“No.” Came a voice and Juniper almost jumped out of her skin as she glanced over, Barut was standing with his arms folded.
“Dwarves left long ago, what was left of them.” He explained as he stepped in and eyed over the old relic. He looked the youngsters over and sighed,
“The Great One was no war hero, he was a murderer. He needed magic, and every creature has some amount of magic. He came here many years ago and asked the Dwarves to craft him powerful items, promised them gold and jewels. When his order was complete, he slaughtered most of them, drained their magic.” Barut explained before looking the two over,
“He went from race to race, it is why all of our species live separately now. He formed his Council and gifted them with great things, materials and long life. They spread the lie that there was a Great War between all species, the truth got lost as most of those who understood what had happened died.” Barut shrugged his shoulders.

Juniper listened, ignoring the faint echo in Barut’s voice as it bounced off of the cave walls. She didn’t doubt his tale, not now.
“Where did the dwarves go?” She asked Barut who only scratched his head.
“They’re an elusive bunch. Territorial too, they fell first to the Great One, then the Elves in the east, he set upon Seers and sorcerers in their caves and forests. The dwarves trust no one but themselves, that’s why we don’t have any dwarves with us.” Barut pointed out and Juniper frowned to herself. She looked to Taog, he had seen a great battle. Maybe their whole point in this place was to recruit for an impending battle against the Great One and his forces?
“It is a story for another time, there are too many stories of how each race fell to their knees to the Great One and we were all split.” Barut explained and eyed the cavern before heading back out. Juniper chewed her lip and thought about it, the countless people who had died screaming in this cave system. It wasn’t a nice thought.
“I might sleep somewhere else.” She murmured to Taog, she wouldn’t be plagued by dreams like him but it was still unsettling to think about.
  Juniper / Nullification / 19d 18h 28m 31s
Take it easy?
"It's okay, my legs are just a bit heavy," Taog excused. He'd worried Juniper, but he did want to move and explore. Just for a little bit would be fine, right? Taog knew better than to exhaust himself, though yesterday had been somewhat of a bad example. Out in the wild, away from others to watch your back, one had to be vigilant at all times for predators and other dangers. Maybe he'd gotten lazy, too relaxed in the company of Haven's inhabitants.
It didn't quite feel the way he did after fighting Eritreya most of a day though. The heaviness was embedded a little deeper, but he'd rested, eaten and was warm again. Somewhat warm, anyway.
In there?
Taog wasn't sure. He'd always been bad at sensing magic, unless it was overwhelmingly thick. Maybe he'd be able to see, in a vision.
"I don't know," Taog admitted. It was vast enough to feel, but not to pinpoint.
Taog ran his hands against the walls of the grotto, took in the unfamiliar sights and sniffed the air. Everything was new, strange and foreign. Tao started to appreciate how big the world was outside of the Vale. Travelling revealed new things around every corner, without end. Of course, some rules didn't change. They still needed to eat, rest and move, hunt, gather and those sorts.
If Juniper was truly an element of Earth, she had a vast source of power all around her most of the time. Was that why Earth-Fey were so hightly regarded?
Moths danced out of the cave Juniper was exploring and the fluttered wildly in the light, searching and fluttering for another safe corner or crevice. Taog watched them move in a wave, almost. He raised his hand and felt some dart around his fingers and hand. He wasn't hot enough to scorch their delicate wings. Not the way he'd burnt Mothra's.
Go inside?
Tao cocked his head, watching the darkness. They wouldn't be able to see much and the shapes of these caves weren't easy to navigate without sight.
"Maybe later," he agreed.
Taog moved a little further, curious as to what else was there. Every now and then sunlight fell from the gaps in the ceiling, worn down over the years. Water flowed in certain places too, each part of what Taog suspected was a bigger current, leading to a river or maybe a big lake. Melting ice, maybe. He stumbled upon a cave that seemed more man-made. It was expansive and there were some fires lit, smoke swirling to an opening in the ceiling. Several of their party were already setting up there, using the cloth from the carriages for tents and to section off places. What was more curious was the columns and the polished looking structure all the way in the back. It looked like something that commanded respect and silence. No one seemed to be using the building though. Most set up outside of it.
Was it dwarven made?
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 19d 18h 45m 3s
Juniper supposed that Taog was right, Mirriam would have tried to recover any pieces of Ren that were left. Maybe that was all they could recover of him and that was a horrific thought. She swallowed a little and finished the soup before looking to Taog when he seemed eager to get going and she pushed herself up as she put the bowls back. She followed along behind Taog, watching his wobbling gait and she tilted her head. A flash of concern spread across her face,
"Hey- Take it easy. We can find somewhere to lie in the sun, maybe." She murmured as a suggestion. He seemed better than he was honestly but she was worried he might just collapse at the nearest opportunity but they could find somewhere to set up their own fire and it would replenish him a little more.

Juniper looked out at the grotto. She smiled a little, it was nice to see some level of relaxation but she didn't feel like she could relax, not even a little because she was worried about what was next. Mothra had been powerful alone, an entire council would be terrifying. Juniper eyed some of the caves with their deeps cracks and crevices and looked to Taog, a glint of mischief in her eyes.
"Do you think it's in there? The great fire beneath our feet?" She asked him, they would have to walk for days she supposed. Earth and soil ran deep and Juniper approached one of the caves as the sun was bright in the sky. She peered inside and ducked as moths came tumbling out in their masses, they avoided her and she straightened up, smiling a little as they swirled into the light of day, white moths pouring out. Juniper's magic didn't extend to simply plants and trees, she had a wonderful affinity for animal kinship. Her eyes softened as she watched the fluttering creatures pass overhead and spilled out into the sky like a blanket.
"Do you want to go inside?" She asked Taog when the fluttering subsided and figured a little exploration couldn't do any harm. It would be dark in there though.

Juniper knew it was risky without Taog's magic, maybe it could wait a night until he was rested and Juniper seemed to give up on the idea as she shrugged a little.
"Maybe another time, when you're recovered." She said. No wild adventures, best not to while he was recovering. Juniper instead opted for checking the entrance of the cave where it wasn't so dark or far away. Juniper squinted a little and she figured some animals must find comfort around here, for the warmth and the waters. The moths had been disturbed by her, so she doubted anything was in this particular cave. If there was fire in the earth then Juniper doubted she would be able to handle getting close to it, Taog seemed to cope with heat differently to her and she knew she wouldn't have a threshold as strong as his.
  Juniper / Nullification / 20d 8h 37m 21s
Why wouldn't he be like the others in the Vale? Because of his curse? Taog wasn't sure whether Juniper's words were a compliment or something more grey, but he decided not to pursue. What did the Vale matter now that they'd joined up with the community of Haven? Here, there seemed to be even less prejudice than back at the Vale, which was supposed to be friendly to mixed race. Actually, it hadn't escaped Tao's notice that many of the Chosen ones were particularly stunning examples of their race. He felt a bit of an odd one out here too. Taog wondered who actually did the choosing.
It'd be a question he'd ask Tian. Barut wasn't likely to answer it, he felt. Eritreya would likely say that it didn't matter.
Taog followed Juniper to be handed food by Tian. He sat down, resting on one leg, the other still up, shielding his food as he ate. The hot broth was good and gone far too quickly. Tian's warning didn't seem like much of a threat and more like a jovial foresight she might see fit to share. Either way Juniper's proposal sounded more interesting than hanging around the people of Haven getting comfortable in the grotto's entrances.
"Okay," he agreed, ready to rise and explore, when he noticed a lag in Juniper's response. She was watching Ren. Taog followed her gaze and furrowed his brow. Why was she so interested in the Elven male?
Taog looked at Ren. He didn't think Ren's magic was what kept the Elven male from responding naturally. Or maybe it was more like the source of his magic had been taken, like the source deep inside his being that produced the heat he'd missed the last few days had just been ripped out or disconnected. Either way Ren's presence felt wrong and empty. Hollow.
"Don't you think they would've tried when they found him?" Taog offered.
They were only just learning about the world around them and while sharing their magic was something he'd caught Mirriam and Tian be curious after, they would've thought up a similar solution to aid Ren, right? At the very least Tao liked to imagine Mirriam would've tried to heal Ren. It was the same as giving magic, honestly. To be healed or to just be gifted the magic.
"Maybe if it's magic native to his element," Taog said and shrugged.
He didn't care to be dragged into dreams like the Elven male again, though it might offer him up some clues. Taog didn't recall seeing Ren use his magic in any of the visions triggered by the hollow other.
He wandered slowly, legs still heavy and a bit unsteady because of it. Taog didn't mind having to pace himself a little. There was plenty to see, after all. The waters stretched out into the grotto's, grasses unveiled by snow stretched out into the mountain ring surrounding their small patch of valley. They were sheltered here and quite secluded.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 20d 9h 25m 14s
Juniper watched Taog with lazy eyes obscured by golden hair, listening to him. He hadn't wanted anything? She guessed that was why it was so easy for him to simply part with the idea of something everlasting and fulfilling. She furrowed her brow in doubt at his words about her wings and shifted slightly. They were dried off well enough and she was grateful he seemed to think of her wings as beautiful but the world wouldn't agree with him and neither would Juniper.
"You couldn't compare, anyways." Juniper said as she propped herself up again, "You're not like the other males from the Vale." She remarked, "You're different, and not just because of your magic." She said before stretching slightly and pondering his words. Taog wasn't alike to anyone she had ever met from the Vale. The males were boisterous and loud, some perhaps too indulgent on the wine and others too indulgent with the females, Corin had been a nice balance for the most part. Taog was resigned, serious at times.

"Food?" Food sounded like a good idea and she got herself sat up properly at that notion. She slid from the rock and landed on her feet, wings doing a good job of balancing her.
"C'mon, we should go see what we can find." She said to him and gave a bright and brilliant smile of encouragement. He was probably tired still but he would need to eat and it was too early to sleep. Juniper had forgotten her cloak and she figured given the heat in the air she didn't need it right then. Food was being handed out, hot broth and Juniper eagerly swiped a bowl from Tian,
"Don't stray too far, these caves are like a maze." Tian knew curiosity when she saw it and the Seer just smirked a little, remembering being that young once upon a time. Juniper just nodded, before she would have been less cautious but with the Council landing their attacks she knew that it would be dangerous to simply wave off warnings. Juniper ate some of the broth as she looked out across the hot springs, she had never seen anything quite like this before.

"We could go looking for your earth fire." She said to Taog, "If it's so close to the surface." She said to him with a smile, only joking a little about the fire but she wanted to be carefree just for a while. Taog was more confident, she didn't know why but he had always been bolder and Juniper was slowly finding her feet. Juniper shifted her eyes and saw Ren standing lamely, watching and silent. Juniper felt a chill run up her spine and she finished her broth. Why was he still there? If the Council were using him to locate them then surely his use to the Half-Fey was over with and he had become a danger, like a beacon signalling out their position. Juniper averted her eyes back to the hot springs and sighed out, it was best to trust Barut and the others for now until it proved too threatening to carry around Ren. Was he even still in there?
"Do you think we could give his magic back?" She asked Taog, "We share magic, maybe it would take a long time but-" She cut off and wasn't sure how foolish she sounded right then.
  Juniper / Nullification / 20d 17h 10m 58s
"Hmm," Taog replied, drowsy and floating somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. His skin still felt a little tight from the transition from hot into cold, his muscles heavy and weary. Tao didn't think he could ever remember feeling quite this exhausted. People walked by below their perch, voices drifted on the air, calm and relieved voices. There seemed to be a general sense of safety in this location for some reason. Perhaps one of their magic-users gained some strange protective ability simply by being here. Taog certainly felt that he might flourish, once he'd recovered, but fighting another Council member wasn't something Tao wanted to actively seek out. They were strong. Mothra had already been twisted from her fall on the bridge.
She'd been mean and devious.
Taog didn't want to kill again, but he was glad Mothra was dead too.
Juniper's voice brought him closer to the surface of wakefulness. What he wanted? Tao moved his head so he could watch Juniper, but her head was resting on her arms and the angle didn't really allow him to see her well.
"Elroch never said I could want anything," Taog explained dryly. But what if he could've chosen anything he'd like? What would he choose then? To have great horns like the elder Fey? To have beautiful intricate markings, like the other Seers? To have powers that weren't considered cursed?
"Even without their colours, I think your wings are beautiful," Tao said. Corin would've chosen Juniper, Taog was sure, if she hadn't been Chosen. Availe was content being second best knowing Juniper could never tempt Corin in her absence. Taog raised his hand and shielded his eyes from the sun.
"Living in excile, I never had to compare who or what I was with anyone else," he muttered. With only Old Elroch and animals to compare himself to, or the occasional rare sighting of one of the members of the Vale, Taog wanted for very little. He had no one to impress. There was never a need to pretend being anyone he wasn't.
"I wonder what Barut's plan will be," Taog said. If they didn't like it, they could always leave, but Taog also appreciated that there was strength in numbers. If it'd been just him and Juniper alone against Mothra, they wouldn't have stood a chance. Hunger finally stirred Taog into sitting back up, dazed and drowsy, but warm. Some spark was back in his eyes, compared to yesterday. No more shivers crept up his spine either.
"I wonder what food is around here," Taog said. Maybe he'd have a look and explore. Curiosity motivated Taog to get up and have a better look at where they'd been taken. He felt like he'd rested all that he could right then.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 20d 17h 26m 17s
Juniper wasn’t expecting that kind of answer. She wasn’t sure what she had expected in all honesty but not that. She figured maybe he would take pride in killing such a fearsome foe, like the males back at the Vale when they killed a stag. He seemed ashamed of it, Taog just seemed half traumatised by what he had done and the image of Mothra’s deformed and scorched face as she flailed for sanctuary was painted vividly in Juniper’s mind. Juniper didn’t know what would set his mind at ease, he still looked downtrodden and weakened but more alert than he had been the past few days since the incident.
“She would have killed us, or worse.” Mothra would have handed them over to the Great One probably and let him drain them. Taog’s actions had saved so many lives and she wondered if he even realised that he had committed an act of heavy heroism. Juniper just nodded at his apology, she didn’t want to watch him die such a cruel way and it had frightened her how fragile mortality was.

Barut interrupted her thoughts and she looked to him. Sleep had been evasive lately and she wanted to just rest in the sun. Taog seemed to have the same thought as he rested back on the rock surface and Juniper folddd her arms and rested her head on them as a makeshift pillow for now. It seemed surreal for there to be such calmness so soon after everyone almost perishing to icy waters but Juniper wasn’t going to deny it.
“Here?” She commented as she closed her eyes. Nature was strong here too, she figured there had to be heat and fire from somewhere to make the springs as hot and relaxing as they were. This was a good place for Taog to recover his losses and Juniper was just glad it was warm.
“It’s warm.” The cold nights in the carriage forgotten about almost. Questions still littered her mind and her curiosity got the better of you.

“When you were Chosen, did you ever think upon what you would have wanted, if it had all been real?” She asked him. Juniper had always been so adamant that she wanted beautiful wings and Fey features, like the beauties of the Vale. The real beauties who had colourful and bright details about them. If she hadn’t been Chosen, she likely would have set out a life with Corin, but he had moved on with Availe which was to be expected. Juniper may once have been the Pride of the Vale, but Availe was the true beauty and could have passed as a full blooded Fey any day she pleased just by her looks. Life could have been different but she wondered what Taog had hoped to get out of the fantasy if it had ever been reality. He knew male fey usually sprouted impressive horns or antlers, charming features and he lacked the former. He wasn’t displeasing to look at, not at all in fact he was quite attractive. He has striking facial features and was unique, different. Juniper pondered if he would change anything, like she so desperately wished to change so much about herself.
  Juniper / Nullification / 21d 5h 24m 20s
Taog felt his eyelids grow heavy with the weight of them as he soaked up the sun's rays. Here, out of the wind and close to the hot springs, the sun was actually quite warm, but the majority of the heat actually came from the rocks. Tao dozed when Juniper came up. He watched her climb next to him and make herself comfortable. This close, in the broad light of day, Taog got an excellent look of Juniper's wings. There were fine veins and a wide variety of browns staining her wings, a subtle rainbow shimmer just underneath each droplet of water that rested on the surface. Even if she didn't have the wild colours any full-blooded female Fey would have, Juniper's wings were still as complete and delicate as one. Tao was shook from his musings by Juniper's soft-spoken question.
His eyes cast down at his hand. The appendage was limp in his lap, just as worn and heavy as the rest of him felt. Soaking in the hot spring water had helped, but it couldn't just replenish his flames just like that. It'd take time. Taog felt he would feel a whole lot better after another night's rest, hopefully.
"I-" he sighed. "It felt horrible."
There hadn't been any other option, he thought. Mothra would've hurt Juniper and the others too, if she'd have been allowed to keep attacking them. He'd seen an opportunity in her pride and there hadn't been much time to execute his plan.
"I'm sorry," Toag said. Without having said as much, Taog felt Eritreya had conveyed that he ought to rely more on the people around him to help. He hadn't drowned though. Tao breathed out and let himself rest on his back instead, arms on his chest and stomach, eyes closed again. The sun felt good on his face. He could finally forget the cold.
"I just remember wanting her to look as hideous as her true form," Tao muttered softly. He'd stopped Mothra's lie.
"She would've hurt you. And the others," he said. It wasn't an excuse, but it was his reason for attacking Mothra the way he had.
Taog zoned out a little then, watching the sky.
Barut came by, hauling some things. He set it down and huffed at the sight of the two half-Fey dozing in the sun. Taog looked at the man and opened his mouth to speak, pushing up on his elbows. He had the sense to look guilty. Barut sighed out and shook his head.
"Enjoy it while you can," Barut said.
Taog watched Barut walk away. That'd mean training would resume soon. He let himself fall back again. Taog didn't think he could fight with how he felt currently, but with a little rest, he hoped he could again.
"It's close to the surface here. The flames in the Earth," Tao told Juniper. He wished he could get better at taking fire, without it costing him energy to make it his own. Maybe then he'd be able to use the fire he could control.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 21d 11h 44m 0s
Juniper just relaxed and let the world fade away, nothing really mattered right then and she felt safe for the most part.
“Don’t fall asleep in there.” Mirriam remarked and knew things like this had to be taken as indulgences rather than habit and Juniper would feel the cold worse the longer she stayed in there when she came out. Juniper grumbled something and just let the water wash away the past few days of travel and the slaughter at the air. Mirriam wasn’t kidding when she worried about the cold and Juniper dried off and got redressed, feeling refreshed and the air was cooler but not really cold. The caravan of rebels arrived slowly and Juniper took it as a cue for her to make herself scarce and let them all revel for a while. Juniper dried out as much of her hair as she could before braiding it and fixing herself up. Her wings quivered with droplets of water, she figured the cloak would be a hinderance to them drying off properly in the sun. She turned her gaze to the sun and caught sight of Taog sunning himself lazily and he certainly looked better. The golden haired half fey clambered you on the rock beside him, wings outstretched as she let them catch the heat from the sun. Wet wings were useless and heavy.

Juniper rolled onto her belly and propped her hands under her chin to keep herself upright as she watched the revellers roll in to enjoy the sun and the hot waters. She wasn’t quite sure what to say, taking a life was no easy thing, Juniper didn’t eat animals for a reason and she looked Taog over, scrutinising him almost.
“You killed Mothra.” She said as she gave him a look before looking back over their little viewpoint.
“How did it feel?” She asked him curiously and she felt clean, replenished a little. She looked better too, more satisfied and less intense. Her green eyes surveyed her surroundings, lazy and enchanted by the area. It was difficult to think some scant hours ago most of them could have been dead, if it wasn’t for Taog.

“Next time you want to pull some fearless move like that, give me some warning. You could’ve drowned.” She pointed out. There was no point and she just wanted to sleep it all off. More would come, Juniper knew at some point she would need to make that judgement call some time too and she pondered if it was something that should be discussed. If they were both going to throw themselves into dangers way all the time, it was inevitable that one of them would tumble from grace and possibly from the living realms. Juniper figured that sort of thing just needed happen, as opposed to planning it out. Besides, neither of them wanted to see the other fall and she sighed out heavily.
  Juniper / Nullification / 22d 10h 38m 0s
His motions were stiff and cost him a lot of energy. Nevertheless, he was curious and Taog entered a cave at Mirriam's coaxing. The water was steaming. Inside the cave was actually surprisingly warm. Actually, the very rocks they walked on were heated. Taog clumsily stripped down the scratchy clothes he'd borrowed and carefully put them on the side of the pool. He sat on the edge for a bit, dipping just his feet in. His cold skin pricked and protested the sudden heat of the water. Tao was content to just sit like that. Eritreya came in, carrying a bundle of clothes -his clothes, and some of his own, Taog assumed. The teacher, who Taog recalled had carried him out of the icy lake, also stripped down and gracefully slipped into the water with a content sigh.
Eritreya was a full-blooded Fey and it showed.
Tao looked away, embarrassed about his half-blood body. The warmth of the pool steadily crawled up his legs. Taog could feel the heat rise up in his body.
He closed his eyes and relaxed a little.
Slowly, ever so slowly, his body filled with the heat, until finally, Taog let himself sink into the water completely. His sore muscles relaxed with the warm pressure of water pushing against him from all sides.
He regarded Eritreya. The Fey was relaxed now, eyes staring dreamily at the ceiling of the cave.
"Thank you," Taog spoke.
Eritreya's impossibly blue eyes shifted to watch Taog and he smiled languidly.
"For helping. Your arrows-," Tao said.
"You're welcome, young Taog. I would be a terrible teacher, were I not to help my disciple," the Fey said.
Silence grew between the two of them and Taog let himself drift on the water. Now that his senses were returning to him, he became aware of the source of this heat. Underneath him, below. Deep below the rock. He could feel it thrum, much closer than he ever could in the Vale or at Haven. It was that heat which replenished him.
Finally the cold seemed to dissipate from his bones and core. Some others joined them after a while. More ventured deeper into the caves. They were to meet up with some of the other Chosen near here, deeper into the grottos.
Taog folded his arms onto the edge of the pool and rested his head there, content to close his eyes. Finally his body had stopped shivering, leaving only a heavy tiredness in his limbs. If he hadn't slept all through the night, Taog thought he might do so again now, but he heard Eritreya step out and dry himself.
"Come, Taog," the Fey invited. Taog looked up at the extended hand and sighed. He couldn't stay in the water indefinitely. He let Eritreya help him up and found that moving was easier now. His own clothes were there. Taog dried and dressed. He would wait for Juniper, Taog decided and ventured back into the sun, sitting down on a warm rock to rest while he did so. It would give him some time to think and come to terms with what had happened. More of this was to come, on the road they started on.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 22d 11h 11m 53s

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