Call of the Darkness

/ By Nullification [+Watch]

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When Juniper finally entered, it'd gone somewhat dark outside already because of the thick clouds. Snow dwindled down in spades now, covering the Earth in white. Taog watched, dazzled by how serene it looked. He watched Juniper concede and her words forced a head-shake from him. Sure, the snow was nice, but Taog really disliked getting wet. It was one thing to choose it himself, like when he needed to wash, but another to deliberately brace the elements. He watched as Juniper bundled underneath her blanket like he had done the other day. Taog smiled, "I'm alright," he said. Today's sunshine was enough to rejuvenate his magic enough for him to feel comfortable. More?
Tao cocked his head.
"More what?" he asked softly. Fir was telling the youngsters in their carriage a story, keeping the distracted from the cold quite aptly. They'd shared blankets and all, keeping pretty warm. Fir said him being there made it warmer somehow. Taog figured he would, but the carriage's clothes were ill suited to guard against this sort of weather.
Actually, they were so ill suited, that it was hard to believe there wouldn't be more people out there at the other end of their journey. Or at least a place where they'd stashed clothes and gear to deal with these conditions better.
Juniper seemed cold. Of course, sitting outside would give anyone a chill.
Taog sighed. He'd said not to warm her up, but knew Juniper wouldn't sleep if she didn't. He debated giving his cloak or blanket. Maybe they could share. Mirriam told him not to use his magic today, but the day was almost already over, wasn't it?
"Are you cold?" Tao asked. He still had some of the wine Fir gifted him, but it was with the horses. Taog wondered how the beasts would fare. He'd caught them standing close to one another, near the other life-stock that was travelling with them. Surely such big beasts would be alright? It wasn't that cold, Taog thought. Nothing his innate flame couldn't handle. As long as he didn't have to touch the snow, he'd be more than fine. Better than most of the others, probably.
"There must be a place we're going to," Taog said, eyes focussed on the snow outside. It was growing thicker as it was getting darker. The world turned into a black and white landscape, unlike anything Taog had ever seen before. He yawned, feeling sleepy now that they were sat down.
"...do you think Mothra will come after us?" The shriek of Mothra's pained cries would haunt him, Taog felt. He wasn't sure what they could do if they met again. Mothra had been surprised, but a second encounter was bound to change the rules on them. Tao sighed. They'd think of what to do when they came to it. He hoped the snow would deter anyone who tried to follow.
He eyed Juniper's posture.
"You can have my blanket, if you want?"
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 24d 12h 51m 31s
Juniper watched Taog and gave a small smile as he clambered inside the carriage. It was cold but Juniper did want to see the snow fall for a little longer, holding out her fingers to watch some flakes melt on her fingertips and she smiled to herself. She knew Taog wouldn't want to warm her up and that was alright, she would manage just fine. She watched as the others clambered into shelter and a few sat by bright campfires to keep watch and she figured she had stood out there long enough. Her eyes swept over to Ren's carriage and she stared for a moment, trying to catch a glimpse of him but there was no movement and she figured it was too cold. Juniper clambered in the carriage and smiled a little, rubbing her hands together and shedding her cloak so it would dry as she sat down and looked over to Taog.

"Maybe you were right." She said to him with a breathy laugh, warming up her fingers and unfurling her bedroll and blanket, wrapping her blanket around herself and eyeing Taog over.
"Are you feeling better?" She asked him, propping herself up as she let the carriage warmth seep into her. It wasn't much, it was at least dry and she thought for a while.
"Do you think there's more?" It still seemed early to sleep and Juniper knew they were so used to late nights after travelling but she figured this gave them some extra hours. The wind was picking up and it was biting through the carriage and the gaps in the cloth now and then. Juniper bundled down in her blanket and watched Taog, wondering if this cold was affecting him or if his own fire kept him comfortable and the chill at bay. She moved some of her hair from her face and sat as comfortable as she could. Juniper figure it would be difficult to sleep in this cold, even the slightest breeze would wiggle into her and she sighed a bit. Snow was pretty, she concluded, but no good long term.

Juniper clasped her hands together and thought for a short time, wondering how much colder it could get. She missed the caves, honestly. At least the heat was trapped inside each night and the folded her arms finally, conserving her heat and thinking for a bit,
"More means more safety." She mumbled to herself, confused by why Taog wasn't as enchanted by the snow as she was, surely he at least found it pretty to watch. Maybe not, he was a fire spirit, cold likely wasn't his strong suit but she didn't know. She would struggle too, finding fresh and live nature under a heavy frost.
  Juniper / Nullification / 24d 13h 54m 2s
North. The wind picked up. Taog watched as others huddled in their cloaks, but now that the sun had been out, he felt reasonably warm again. Was that why Juniper had seemed worried? Because he'd gotten cold? Tao noticed their horse's breathing was visible on the air. He'd seen that a couple of times, when the weather turned colder. Usually it was paired with rain and Taog shuddered at the thought. He rather find shelter from the rain, but with a caravan such as theirs, that wasn't possible.
Barut called for them to stop though.
"Why are we stopping?" Tao had noticed the shifting in the weather, but he wasn't sure what these signals heralded. He was used to be keen to rain, to sun and fierce gusts of wind, but he couldn't have predicted snow.
Fir laughed at their confusion.
Frozen water, was it? Tao was still sat on his horse and raised his hand, palm up, to try and catch some of the flakes. Rather than snow, the frozen water melted in his vicinity, making it as if it was rain instead. Oh. Taog shook his head free from the droplets and raised his hood.
He disliked rain.
"No, I haven't, but it's just like rain," he complained.
Colder, maybe. They were to set up camp near a carriage? Taog pulled a face, but reluctantly started to untie some of his things from his horse. Barut reconsidered, fortunately and Taog was grateful they'd be given a spot on the carriage itself. He carried in his blanket, but left the other things out in the camp Juniper had started. She wanted to stay outside?
Toag cocked his head, "you can watch from inside the carriage," he reasoned with her. She'd go cold. "You'll grow cold," Taog said. It wasn't a pleasant sensation and yesterday's events had pointed that fact out to him again rather harshly. He wasn't used to feeling cold. Actually, he noticed Barut put some of the youngsters in with them.
He looked at Barut. The man shrugged.
His natural heat was being abused once more. One of these days he ought to tell Barut off, but for now, he didn't mind. Maybe they ought to light fires. Taog wondered how they would protect them from the frozen water from the sky though. They'd cool the fires quickly, dousing them. The elders amongst them hurried to set up the carriages in a way Tao hadn't seen before. The flaps were all angles. Actually, now that he looked around, Taog noticed not all snow was absorbed by the ground. Some stayed, sticking to branches, leaves and grasses. He hesitated for a bit.
"It'll get worse," Taog reasoned.
"The snow will stay, won't it?" It'd be hard to recognize the plants they ate, but Tao figured hunting would be easier, considering there would be tracks. Oh. Juniper wouldn't like that much.
"Well, I'm not heating you up if you freeze," Tao told Juniper and climbed into the carriage just to be out of the wetness. His cloak was already starting to become spotty with how he defrosted the snowflakes. He found a corner to sit in and stared out, nice and dry.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 24d 14h 32m 16s
Travelling was more exhausting than training for the most part and Juniper had learned as much as she could whilst on the road, still none the wiser as to where they were exactly heading. Mirriam had guided her with her healing abilities which would no doubt come in handy, it did on several occasions whether it be to ease the passing of an elder or to ease a mother struggling to bring new life into the world. They were getting higher, the air a touch thinner and Juniper could have sworn that it was colder. She looked to Taog with a smile when he addressed her, she had no idea where they were going but she did know she would need a thicker cloak soon.
"They keep saying North." Juniper said quietly and looked to the grey clouds above that the sun managed to peek through. She didn't know how far north, maybe there were others up here, more numbers. Juniper pondered what would happen when they arrived and what the end goal really was.

Another hour of riding, the wind got cold and she bundled into her cloak, surprised she could see her breath on the air especially as the sun went down. The Vale never really experienced harsh winters, it was sheltered from harsh winds for the most part. Juniper flexed her fingers as she rode on and looked over to Barut and the others were looking a little flustered with the change of weather as well.
"We'll set up camp, this might hit hard." What was going to hit hard? She raised an eyebrow but did as ordered as she dismounted right as flakes began to fall from the skies above and she smiled a bit as she looked up, confused but no less enchanted.
"What is it?" She asked and Fir laughed as she came by,
"Snow, dear. Frozen water falling from the sky." She explained and shook her head a little at the bewildered expression on Juniper's face as she watched the skies.
"It'll get colder, set up near a carriage to block out the wind, the trees are all well and good but-" Fir shrugged and hurried on to make sure everyone was bedded down and warm enough.

"Have you seen this before?" She asked Taog as she went about setting up a small site for them both near a wagon and she couldn't help but watch as the snowflakes fluttered down.
"Better inside." Barut said to them as he gestured to the carriage and shook his head at the youngsters and Juniper gave a nod. It would be more sheltered than the outside but she did want to experience this.
"Go ahead, I sort of want to watch." She said to Taog with a glint of curiosity in her emerald eyes. She settled for leaning on the carriage and watched as the snowflakes drifted down between the tree branches above and it was so quiet. Barut didn't seem to be enjoying the change in weather, in fact all of the older members look concerned. Juniper wrapped her cloak around herself and tucked her hands inside to stop her fingers feeling the chill.
  Juniper / Nullification / 25d 11h 17m 40s
Taog looked up at Juniper. Didn't want to wake him? Why not? Then again, he'd been tired. Tao brushed a hand by his eyes and pushed his hair back, scratching the skin next to his horn out of habit. A hand was pressed against his and Taog looked at Juniper, a little confused. Whatever she found seemed to have been a relief, because she retracted her hand with a small smile. Taog recalled Juniper had sat close, so close that they'd touched and he hadn't moved then either. Now she seemed self-conscious.
Not travelling meant more training. Taog looked down at the mug he held in his hands and he sighed. He got to his feet, feeling a little dazed still, but Tao made an effort to fold his blanket and bedroll nice enough for his horse to carry them easily.
"Yeah, I'm okay," he reassured Juniper with a smile. "Are you? Barut carried you to a carriage," Tao said. He put his saddle on his horse and tied the straps. Was Juniper well enough to ride today?
Barut urged them on and Taog secured the last straps before mounting his horse. He commended their fight yesterday at least. It felt good knowing they hadn't done anything wrong. They had to be ready though. Mothra had been hurt and Taog doubted the Council member would be as forgiving. Just thinking about their meal at the castle made him shudder. Taog was glad they'd left when they had. Staying would've felt wrong.
He looked at Juniper. She'd grown much in the last few days. More than him, maybe. Taog took a deep breath and steeled himself, willing his mind to wake up a little more. They didn't have time to rest. Mothra would be back with a vengeance if they let her. Was it because the Seers weren't actively watching? Moving was dangerous. So was staying rooted in one place. No wonder they'd never found a way to fight back. As time wore on, the elderly weakened. New young joined and they needed to feed everyone too.
Taog tried to see where they were headed, observed how the group moved as a whole. The sun on his back was a welcome guest. Tao hadn't realized how much he'd craved the warmth of the sun until it was suddenly there. More than the sweetened drink, small fires and food, it was the sun that rejuvenated him. Taog noticed that they were higher up now. They were climbing. Not exactly mountains, but there was definitely an incline they were moving up to. Taog wondered whether they should've destroyed the bridge yesterday. To prevent others from pursuing them that way.
"Where do you think we're going?" Taog asked Juniper.
How much more training would they have to endure before Barut thought they were ready for whatever plan he could hatch? Maybe moving was part of that. Tao wondered whether Tian knew where the Council's castle was. No one had made a secret of the Great One's location, though Tao started to wonder about that too. If it was like the Council's castle, then the real location was likely somewhere else entirely.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 25d 11h 51m 31s
Juniper shifted slightly in the dawn’s light and she had expected to be woken up but no one really did. She looked over to see Taog still sleeping and wiped sleep from her face. Juniper followed a small trail down to find water, rinsing her face. Yesterday seemed like a blur almost, it still lingered with what Mothra was exactly. If Mothra was so heavily corrupted then she supposed the rest of the Council were, maybe that was the gift from the Great One in exchange for constant sacrifices. Juniper figured she should try and help, they’d done nothing yesterday and she kept to herself as she helped to load back up the wagons and carriages with the small amount they had lost.
“Not much further to go.” Fir said with a smile as she looked over the girl, inspecting her to make sure she was rested enough.
“Try not to use your magic for the next day or so, just in case.” Fir remarked before going off to saddle up some horses.

Juniper figured at least they weren’t in trouble for what had happened and she glanced over to see Mirriam with Taog, who was awake. She approached and took a drink from Mirriam and looked to Taog before sitting down beside him once more,
“I didn’t wake you this morning.” She said to him softly, “I didn’t want to.” She murmured as she looked him over. He looked rested and she reached out to press a curious hand to his, he was warm again. She gave a small smile when she retracted her hand precariously, knowing Taog didn’t like being touched.
“Fir said we won’t be travelling too much longer.” She remarked and finished her drink before getting to her feet and saddling up her black steed.
“Do you feel better?” She asked him, adjusting a few straps and she watched Taog before she mounted up and fixed her cloak.

The council would send more next, she knew that but she was worried about how she had tracked them down.
“Come on, you two. We’re making up for time.” Barut said as he approached on his own stout and tall horse.
“Nice work yesterday but we know the Council is watching. Be ready.” He remarked warily and Juniper nodded quietly. They couldn’t use their magic though, Fir had recommended resting it for a day or so and Juniper figured she had the bow and the others could chime in with their own magic. She stuck close to Taog, quite unwilling for now to let him out of her sight.
  Juniper / Nullification / 25d 13h 23m 28s
Juniper was okay. Taog also abused Mirriam being distracted by Juniper to curl back into his blanket. He was tired, as he expected Juniper to bee too. Still, he watched the half-Fey with tired eyes. A yawn stretched his jaws and when Juniper offered him more of the sweet drink, Tao didn't have the energy to resist. Her fingers felt warm to the touch. The sweetness of the sugar-water eased off some of the shivers. Finally a sliver of warmth returned, though it was nowhere near to what Taog was used to.
"You should've let Mirriam help," Tao said.
She'd bled. Fir cleaned it away, Taog figured. Or the other Fey that was inside the carriage with her. He'd been too tired to really grasp what they'd done. They'd openly defied and hurt one of the Council. It was as if they'd declared war on them. Tao was glad Juniper had finally found her path however. Mothra's soft promises might have been able to tempt Juniper back into siding with the Council, but no. Her arrow had soared true and hit its mark.
Taog wondered whether Barut would now let them stay. He'd said not to risk anyone, but by fighting they had, in the end.
At the same time, Mothra finding them was a death-sentence in its own right.
How had she found them in the first place? Ren?
He was tired still, despite having slept, eaten and drank. Juniper sat close. So close that they touched. It would've been uncomfortable, but Taog felt too drained and comfortable to move now that the worst of the cold was easing from his limbs bit by bit. He'd feel better after some rest, he was sure.
Then they'd think about it more and act.
Taog decided he didn't regret his acts. Mothra wasn't from this world. If she'd been alive and Fey at some point, she no longer was. The rot he'd seen was in Mothra too.
Tao succumbed to sleep not long after settling. Where Juniper was wary enough to wake, Taog's sleep was deeper and more absolute. Much like the sleep he'd gotten after being given the herbal remedy to mute his visions, Taog was only aware he'd been asleep when he woke again. This time it was to the glaring light of day. He was warm now. A little too warm maybe, but comfortable still. People were already packing up and hauling things into the carriages.
The fire beside him had already turned to embers and soot. Taog slowly sat up, a little dazed, trying to come to grips with what had happened yesterday. More travelling today, he realized, before yesterday even fully settled in his memories. A stiff breeze made him shiver, but he was nowhere near as chilled as he had been yesterday.
"We thought you wouldn't wake up today," Mirriam teased him. Taog watched the woman, but aside from a few additional lines in her face Taog didn't quite recognize, she seemed the same. Did that mean they wouldn't judge them for what had happened? It'd all gone so quickly. Barut would know more about what to do next, Taog figured. Again the sweetened drink. Taog took it and steadily drank.
Apparently pleased, Mirriam walked off again. "We'll leave soon, best get ready," she forewarned. Taog breathed out and sat there for another while, listlessly watching everything go by before searching for Juniper. She'd been there when he'd fallen asleep.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 25d 13h 37m 14s
Juniper warmed up enough that she looked around. She had stuck close to the carriage for the most part but just behind they were setting up for Ren and she didn't want to hang around. She pushed herself to her feet and looked around for a while, catching sight of Mirriam gifting Taog something to drink and she watched for a few moments. Something was wrong, why was he so bundled up like that? Usually he was the first to shed his cloak and relax by the fire but Juniper was almost sure this was the first time she had seen him wrapped in a blanket and a cloak and beside a fire. She caught her balance and she knew she couldn't use any magic to help him.
"Hey." She said softly and looked to Mirriam who only smiled softly before tucking Taog back in and Juniper sank down beside him.
"Make sure he drinks." Mirriam said as she handed over the liquid for him. She needed to see to others and she figured Taog and Juniper would be fine once they rested.

Juniper took the liquid and looked to Taog, bringing the bowl to his lips, reaching out to gently feel his flesh. He was cooler than normal.
"You did really well." She whispered quietly, worried that he was cold. Cold for Taog was normal for others but he was born of fire and flames, his magic warmed him up and Juniper looked him over. The fluids would help a little, she felt a bit perkier but she knew that rest would be more the preferable. No more magic for at least a day and Juniper couldn't share her magic, she felt tapped out of it and instead she shifted when he finished the drink to sit closer to him. She would keep watch if it was needed because she had rested in the carriage for a while. The least she could do was try to share her body heat, it was likely nothing to Taog but better than nothing. She had been terrified back at the bridge, knowing Mothra was not natural, she had been once no doubt.

Was that what the Great One did to his favourites? Turn them into some sort of twisted creature that wasn't even Fey anymore, even if Juniper had become his little pet she would have suffered a monstrous change like Mothra. It would never be worth that. Juniper rubbed her temples and settled for the quiet with Taog, she didn't want him to exert himself by speaking or even having to think if she could help it. Instead, she kept quiet watch over everything going on for as long as she could before it became too easy to sleep, shifting to get comfortable beside Taog as she half dozed, still wary enough that if anything or anyone got too close she would be startled awake. Their horses stayed close by, as if keeping their own vigil over their strange companions.
  Juniper / Nullification / 26d 11h 35m 27s
The day seemed to wear on. Taog felt miserable, too cold to sleep, too weary to focus on much of anything. He let his horse follow the caravan virtually unguided and swayed listlessly with the motions of the animal as it walked. When they stopped, Taog couldn't have been happier. He was beat and slid off his horse. Tao remained like that for a while, leaning against the warm animal, which worried at his hair with its lips.
A hand on his shoulder had him look up. Barut motioned him to the fires the others were building. Barut had him light the first fire, but Taog let himself fall next to it and refused to move any further. Sensing his weariness, Barut left him. One fire was enough to easily ignite the others.
In fact, it was Fir who had to help his and Juniper's horses free from their saddles and she unfurled Taog's bedroll. With some nudging, Fir got Taog to lie down underneath his cloak and she covered him with the blanket his horse was lumbering around too. Unlike before, Taog didn't seem to resist the additional warmth. In fact, Taog curled as close to the fire as he possibly could without setting anything ablaze and was still shivering. Unlike Juniper, it seemed the backlash for using his magic was the loss of warmth. Fir felt Taog's skin, but it was cool, almost normal. Knowing how warm the young half-Fey usually ran, it was a little concerning. She'd discuss it with Mirrian. Surely she'd know how to help Taog replenish his magic.
She feared however, that it would be limited to sunlight and food. Food, at the very least, was something she could do.
Fir busied herself with preparing a hearty soup and woke Taog to have some.
Tao himself was reluctant to sit up, but the soup was warm and he cradled the bowl closely, eating sluggishly. Once the food was finished, he set the bowl down and laid back down. He didn't care for what was going on around him this time around, but still felt too cold to rest properly. Not even the soup could completely absolve his shivers, so he stared ahead with dim eyes, just looking at the fire. He felt half tempted to drain the flames and have that comforting heat to himself again.
In the end exhaustion won out over the cold, the proximity of the flames enough to return some warmth to his limbs. Taog slept hard while they let him, not waking when night fell or when soft music danced on the wind nor when stories were told around the fire. Others moved around his sleeping frame when needed, feeding the flames so that the fire would keep burning brightly. Mirriam roused him in the end, to feed him sweetened water. Taog sat half-dazed, sipping the liquid at her urging. He hadn't seen Juniper, Taog realized. Was she still asleep in the carriage?
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 26d 11h 49m 58s
Upon Taog's warmth coming into her, so gently, Juniper drew in a shaky breath and reached to take hold of the hand upon her cheek before it was wrenched away. There were echoing voices and she could feel Taog's presence, his warmth. It trickled away as he left, breaking the contact and she wanted to protest but her lips wouldn't formulate the words properly.

The carriage rocked slowly, Juniper felt warm and it was a familiar warmth. It wasn't her own and as she came to, she realised it was Taog's. She didn't know how much time had passed but she figured her bridge had held up, small victories. She felt the carriage come to a halt. She could hear movement and a brief moment of panic filled her. Who's carriage was she in? She opened her eyes and looked around wildly, drawing in a breath of relief when she realised it wasn't Ren's wagon. She grumbled something to herself as the carriage came to a stop.
"Oh, welcome to the waking world silly girl." Mirriam said as she poked her head in, offering some sweetened water. It was some sort of herbal remedy and Juniper didn't refuse as she drank it down greedily. Mirriam spent a moment to clean up Juniper's face gently with a warm cloth and Juniper felt a little fuzzy headed.

"Come, warm yourself by a fire." Mirriam commented, "I'm sure Taog will be glad to see you back." She said with a smile. Juniper tried to recall what had happened,
"Is he alright?" She asked quietly as Mirriam helped her out of the carriage.
"Fine, you both did well." Mirriam praised softly as she lead her down to a campfire and sat her down.
"Drink plenty." Mirriam encouraged as she handed over some soup and Juniper eyed it over. She wasn't hungry, just tired. Mirriam was watching though so she tok a small amount to keep her happy and Mirriam nodded,
"You shouldn't have expended that much when you were tired, you and Taog." Taog had burned the bridge, Juniper remembered with a flash of memory and she knew they had both been tired. Whoops...

Mirriam went off to speak with Barut, everyone on edge now the Council knew the two had made their decision to stay with the rebellious forces. Juniper closed her eyes and relaxed for a moment before she could really do anything. She had to help a little with something, but she felt spent, emptied out almost. She reached her fingertips out to warm by the fire and wrapped her cloak around herself.
  Juniper / Nullification / 26d 12h 50m 22s
Juniper's words were enough. Taog wasn't sure how quick his flame would be, or how intense, but he let it go wild and free. Flames immediately caught onto the rope and onto the dry planks underneath Mothra's feet. Taog felt how the heat of his magic incinerated the rope and planks in seconds. He still fed the flame, even as the integrity of the bridge was starting to sag. A hand pulled him back by his cloak, which snapped his focus. Not that it was needed any longer. The bridge fell, cinders and embers falling into the river far below. So did Mothra. He hadn't even seen the arrow fly, but Taog had heard it.
All of them saw it; how unnatural Mothra's movements were. How estranging her shrieks and cries of pain. Taog swallowed down his unease and tried to catch his breath. A cold shiver rushed up his spine. There was no way to take back the flames he'd spent.
His heart was still pounding when Juniper touched his shoulder. They'd openly defied the Council now. Taog let himself fall on his ass, knees trembling still and gaze fixed on where Mothra had gone off to. He hadn't hurt Mothra, but he could have. The bridge was the only obvious victim of his powers this time. Taog watched Juniper work and pulled his cloak a little closer to ward off the sudden cold he felt.
The bridge grew steadily, but after a while, Tao could tell it cost Juniper too much strength.
"June..." he started.
Her nose was bleeding. Taog scrambled to get to his feet, but Barut was quicker. Stubborn as ever, Juniper tried to climb onto her horse, which nickered in worry too. Barut caught her as she fell. Taog put his hand to Juniper's cheek even as Barut held on to Juniper. Barut watched as the young half-Fey pressed his forehead against Juniper's. He didn't stop Taog.
Tao knew his flames were gentle now, after having used so much of it on the bridge. He was unafraid to embed Juniper with some of his magic this time.
"Enough," Mirrian pulled him away. Taog stumbled a little, feeling cold now.
"Not with Ren, please," Tao said, disgruntled Mirriam had stopped him.
"Don't put her with Ren."
Barut nodded, then shifted and put his arms underneath Juniper's knees, carrying her bridal-style over to another carriage. Fir and an older member of Haven reached out to take her in and make her comfortable. Taog could only watch. He destroyed, Juniper created. That was their balance. It left him even colder and heavier than using his magic.
When they'd settled Juniper and the caravan started moving again, Taog returned to their horses and tied the black steed's reigns to his saddle with trembling, numb fingers. Mothra wasn't impervious to their weapons. She'd been injured. The Council could be harmed. Taog ducked deep into his cloak and was glad for his horse's warmth as he fought sleep.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 26d 13h 17m 25s
Juniper stared at Taog as he moved forwards, feebly trying to grab his hand and pull him back but she was too late. He blocked Mothra’s path and Juniper watched the exchange. She looked at another’s when she addressed her, Taog was unmoving and so she would be too.
“You lied.” She said, voice cracking uncomfortably and she figured it was easier to be quiet so she didn’t appear as some over emotional little pixie. Juniper could see Taog’s flames dancing and she tried to figure out a plan. She could make the bridge but Taog was on the bridge and at risk of falling. Juniper drew her bow but she had no intention of firing at another right then.
“Do it Taog.” Juniper said quietly and as soon as his flames burst on the bridge, Juniper reached forwards and grabbed his cloak, pulling him back and beside her, raising her bow as Mothra gave an animalistic his, wings glaring and Juniper marked her shot.

She let loose an arrow and it tore straight through one of those valuable wings. Mothra might have been able to fly before but now she staggered and spiralled downwards, landing on the cliff side at a jutting out rock. Her features seemed to contort and become more feral as she scurried you the rocks, hissing out as she bled from her wing and Juniper stared. Something was wrong with how she contorted like that and Juniper realised it was unnatural. That’s why she had felt so awful around them, so dead. They were not part of the natural order, nature was absent from them. Juniper watched her crawl like some insect along the rocks and up to the other side before vanishing with a sickening screech. Juniper let out a breath she had been holding as the bridge collapsed and fell to the bottom of the crevice. Juniper looked to Taog, touching his shoulder for some grounding as she looked to Barut and the others. Her adrenaline was thumping through her body and she felt accomplished.

The bridge. Juniper looked to Barut,
“I’m going to need a minute.” She said quietly as she sad on the edge and touched the rocks, thankfully they were in nature and she didn’t have to work very hard to summon anything up. Juniper knew that she had now made an enemy with Mothra and harming a Fey woman’s wings no small thing. She worked for almost an hour, her nose dripping blood by the time she had finished making a bridge of broken pieces of wood and entangled vines. Juniper slowly got to her feet, wobbling a little because expending that amount of energy was exhausting and taxing. It was also new to her and Juniper fumbled to get on her horse.
“Easy.” Barut said quietly as Mirriam finished up Juniper’s work. Barut nearly caught Juniper as she almost slid from the horse,
“Alright, let’s find her a carriage.” Barut remarked.
  Juniper / Nullification / 26d 13h 54m 37s
They stopped. Taog sat up a little straighter, trying to see what was going on from his higher perch on top of his horse. Barut called on them and Taog dismounted, moving to the front. A bridge in front. And on it: Mothra. Taog felt like he'd been struck by lightning. No. How had she found them so quickly? He'd seen a lot of things in his dreams, but not this. Juniper breathed Mothra's name with the same kind of edge that he felt.
All-out conflict on the bridge was a no-go, they needed the bridge to cross. Tao glanced at Juniper. If he failed to burn her wings, she would be able to easily glide to the caravan. Taog knew a lot of them knew how to fight better than they did, but their magic was probably stronger, in its own, untapped way.
No. That wasn't it. He eyed Barut.
The man was saying that he wouldn't lose all just for the sake of two. Taog nodded. Rather than wait until Mothra had come over, he moved forward. Of all the futures they had seen, this wasn't such a bad way to go. At least the Great One wouldn't be able to utilize their magic this way. He didn't think Mothra wanted them dead, perhaps that's why she'd come to them. Taog tried to think what Mothra's magic might entail. Taog held still at the mouth of the bridge, but then stepped on. If he could get close enough, he would be able to burn her wings and the bridge. They'd both fall, perhaps, but it would be worth it.
Mothra was powerful. She exuded it in the confident way she strode forward. Taog decided he wouldn't be intimidated. He felt how his fire reared, even more so than at the castle. His arms turned dark underneath his gloves. One hand rested lightly on his pole.
"You have come for us," Taog said.
Mothra merely smiled. "I have come to set you on the right path, child," she said.
The hairs at the back of his neck rose with discomfort. It was as if he'd been caught by the eyes of a predator.
"It is not too late. Continue your journey to the Great One and you will be forgiven," Mothra promised.
Her eyes looked beyond him. There was still some distance between them.
Mothra was looking at Juniper. Taog was harder to convince, but Juniper might fall for this if she hadn't seen Tian's visions. On the other shore of the bridge, the warriors of Haven shuffled uneasily, weapons at the ready.
Taog decided then. He would trust Juniper.
She would use her vines to create a bridge. Flames danced across his hands, small still, but they would grow at Taog's wishes.
"Poor Taog, so tempted by dreams, you have lost sight of reality," Mothra said. She was almost too close now. Tao glanced behind. He would burn the bridge, but he needed Juniper or Mirriam to help him once it fell away.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 26d 14h 15m 55s
Juniper watched Taog and she felt bad for waking him but she knew if she hadn't then she would be tired. She was tired regardless when he jostled her awake and she groaned some sort of protest like a child as she sat up, rubbing her head, hair sticking up in all sorts of interesting directions. She slowly got to her feet, not quite awake. Half a night of sleep proved to keep her exhausted and she severely hoped that they wouldn't be expected to train or anything whilst like this. She helped to load up some wagons and she got herself mounted on her black stallion. She stroked his neck as they started out on the road again, struggling to keep her eyes open as she plodded along at a slow pace. There was some chit chat going on around her and she nestled down in her cloak, holding onto the saddle of her horse as she bobbed in and out of sleep. She was tired and she figured the next stop they made, she would be asleep.

After a couple of hours, they stopped and Barut called Taog and Juniper up. They were at the mouth of a bridge and in the middle stood a woman, a familiar one.
"Mothra." Juniper breathed as she woke almost instantly, on edge. She was alone, no backup or so it seemed.
"What does she want?" Juniper murmured and Barut shrugged his broad shoulders,
"You two, most likely." Barut remarked, "We can't risk all out conflict on the bridge with the others." Barut remarked, at the very least this could be tactical for them both.
"We can't split the bridge, then we have no way to cross." Barut said and Juniper looked to Taog,
"Unless I can use vines." She said quietly. "If you burnt it, or her wings." She murmured and watched as Mothra came closer to the middle of the bridge, sauntering like this was the easiest little game of cat and mouse she had ever played.

Juniper wasn't sure how to play this and why would Mothra come alone like this? She was so brazen with her beautiful wings outstretched and in plain sight. Barut looked to the two youngsters,
"Whatever happens, protect yourselves and the others." They had women and youngsters in the wagons, ones that couldn't fight or protect themselves and Barut knew they needed help. Juniper watched with fierce eyes, wary almost and ready for whatever trick Mothra was playing.
  Juniper / Nullification / 26d 14h 51m 16s
Send them off alone? Maybe. They weren't more or less than any of the other Chosen. Perhaps they would have a part to play in Barut's bigger plan too, which required them to operate without the community.
"Maybe," Taog said with a shrug. He put his arms behind him and rested back, staring into the flames. Juniper got up and climbed a nearby tree to find a higher perch. He cocked his head at the half-Fey and rested on his back instead, hands behind his head. Realizing he wouldn't get a full night's sleep without Juniper sleeping at all, Taog got out his bedroll and made a comfortable spot to lay down. A sip from the sweet wine soothed his insides with a different heat than he was used to and Taog fell asleep easily after journeying all day.
He woke to Juniper's voice in the night.
Things had quieted down. Only gentle murmurs could be heard of others changing shifts. Fire crackled still and Taog slowly rose. He was sleepy and would've rather kept sleeping. A yawn and a stretch got him to sit up.
"Yeah, okay," Tao grumbled, trying to rouse himself further by taking a few deep breaths. His amber eyes ventured over to the resting people around them, each having found a place to sleep. As always, Taog listened to the animals to guide his watch. Mostly they were quiet. The horses grazed what they could reach, as they were tied up and several of the life-stock they kept shifted. Other than that, it was quiet. Taog got up at some point, adding some wood to their fire and several of the others. He drank some of the wine and sat back down near Juniper. Night weaned into dawn. Tao yawned at the sight of the sun, but relished in the peace and quiet. Slowly more roused. Breakfast was prepared, the animals needed to be fed. Taog put a hand to Juniper's shoulder.
"You should wake," he offered. "We'll leave soon."
Taog got up and stretched. His mind felt a bit hazy from lack of sleep and the heady wine. Unlike at the feast, Tao had decided not to drink too much of it. He'd wanted to think, not be lost. He started to put away his things, made sure his horse was done up and ready to leave. Breakfast was some bread and fruit. None of it was fresh, Taog could tell. Hopefully it would only be for a few days. Soon the caravan was ready to move again. Taog appreciated how efficient they were at it, used to the whole travelling, he guessed. Would they move with the seasons in order to have food all year around? Barut made a round and Taog mounted his horse. Sleeping only part of the night made him drowsy. He yawned, even on the horse, and pulled his cloak a little closer to ward off morning dew's discomfort.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 26d 15h 44m 24s
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