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 Post subject: A Collection of Sam Stories for NaNo [Complete]
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:00 pm 
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Watchful Dragon
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Well, as some of you may know I've chosen to work on backstories for some of my Sams as my NaNoWriMo writing. And since these stories are about Sams, some of which I've been RPing around here, I figured I'd go ahead and post the stories here as I finish them. Keep in mind these are still rough, unedited works. They may never be edited actually... I'm writing them as much for me, to have a general sense of where the characters came from, as anything. So be warned, they do ramble somewhat and may be a tad disjointed in places.

I'm not sure how many stories I'll wind up writing, so I'm not going to try and save posts. Instead I'll post a list here and link to the post containing that story so that they can all be easily found without having to scroll up and down what's likely to become a very lengthy page of posts. If there's any of my Sams that you'r particularly interested in reading about feel free to let me know! That will help me decide who to work on a story about next.

So...enjoy my look into the Samanayr world. Sushi, do let me know if any of this doesn't really work in the Sam world you've envisioned so I can go back and change the stories to something that does work after NaNo is over.

Tale One: Backstory for Bloom of the Spring Desert and Searing of the Sands Aflame

Tale Two: Backstory for Hum of the Waiting Embers
      Part 1: The Grandparents
      Part 2: The Parents
      Part 3: The Childhood

Tale Three: Backstory for Scrap of Windblown Mischief

Tale Four: Backstory for Hiss of the Faded Coral

Tale Five:Backstory for Pining of the Poison Arrow

And that's it, NaNo complete! Enjoy the stories! And remember, the Sams who walk out of these backstories as they leave their birth Songs behind may be slightly different from the Sams I RP as there are a few more years of life between then and now for all of them.

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Last edited by Origami_Dragon on Fri Nov 27, 2009 2:01 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject: Searing/Bloom Backstory
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:01 pm 
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Watchful Dragon
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The sun rose, blazingly hot in the sky. The winter rains were long since gone this year and the hottest days of the summer had arrived. It was a bad time and a worse year for foals, but two of the mares huddled under the meager shade of the scant desert trees were heavy with young. Their stallion, Bounder of the Blazing Sun, watched them uneasily. Time and time again he had suggested that they leave the deep desert and go out to the borderlands where at least the heat wasn't so bad and there was more water. Each time his mares refused. Here at least there was no competition for what little was left. No predators dared the scorching center of the desert at this time of year. No hunters had wandered this far in generations. The desert kin were safe here. This was the land they had been born and bred for and this was the land where his mares were determined to have their foals. Even the youngest of his mares, not in foal herself this year, argued fiercely against the Song leaving these lands. And so Bounder remained, spending his nights scouting out new sources of water and food and shelter for the nomadic Song of the Desert Depths.

Two mares in foal at once...that was something that had never happened in his Song before... How it had happened Bounder didn't know. He would rather not have two young mouths to feed at once, not in the worst season of heat that he had ever seen. But it had happened, and he was determined that both foals should prosper. He wasn't going to let his mares down. And the youngest, the delicate looking little Shimmer of Lost Thoughts... She was tougher than she looked. Much tougher. He'd seen her kick the skull in on a raiding cat once, and the cat more than twice her own size. Bounder feared to look weak before Shimmer lest the lovely little mare decide to seek elsewhere for a new Song. For most mares it would take much to abandon the stallion they had accepted, but Shimmer was not such a one for tradition. At least not for all traditions. She was fiercely loyal to the desert, yes, but if she found her stallion to not be what she had thought him when she accepted Bounder was certain that she would leave to find one who could live up to her expectations. And he didn't want her to leave him. Not only was she a lovely, dainty little thing, pleasing to the eye with her shimmering rainbow wings and her unusual greens and whites, but she was an asset to the Song. She was tough, wirery, fiercely protective. Many stallions had sought to win her and Bounder had been most surprised when she had chosen to join his Song. He'd asked her once and the only answer she'd given was to smile mysteriously at him and flutter away to graze with Light.

Ah, Light, his first mare, his lead mare, heavy with foal. Bounder's thoughts turned away from the uncertainty of the foalings to come and turned fondly towards his lovely lady. Light of the Rising Dawn...just as lovely now as she had been all those years ago when he, a young and bumbling stallion just out on his own had wooed her into founding a Song with him. They were a lovely match in his eyes. His dark, almost black coat with white stripes complemented her deep reds and purples, the hues of the rising sun for which she had been named. They both sported proud draconic wings which had allowed them to fly high and strongly together, migrating with ease to a less populated area in which they had taken up a roving life. His long double horns, her horn nubs...they seemed a match. Even if she was one of those odd mares who lacked the cheek tufts of most desert mares. Many looked askance at such mares for the lack was a telling sign that they had non-desert blood in their veins. But other than having a mane such as was seen on the wetlanders she looked and acted every bit a desert mare. Bounder had never questioned her right to claim the species and had no intention of ever doing so. Light was a desert mare and that was that.

He sighed slightly, turning his attention to the last of his three mares. Pale gold striped with deeper gold Blaze of the Falling Star was everything that Shimmer looked like she should be but wasn't. Blaze looked bold, but she was skittish, a dreamer, and the only landbound one of the entire Song. Oh, she had wings, but tiny ones, too small to ever bear her in flight for even a moment. Too small even to allow her to glide down from the heights. Once they had gleamed gold and white, with fine, healthy feathers. Lovely, even if they were stunted. But the same raid that had seen Shimmer kicking in the cat's skull had seen Blaze's wings shredded beyond redemption. Feathers still clung to part of one wing, but half the other was missing entirely. Life in the desert could be hard. You either survived or let the desert claim you so that others might live on. Blaze didn't seem to miss her wings. But the lack of them bothered Bounder. It reminded him that he had failed them then. He had expected Shimmer at least to leave him then, and possibly Blaze with her. But they had stayed, and stayed yet. With another sigh Bounder turned his wandering attention back from the past to the present and resumed his momentarily broken watch.

It was only days later that Light went into labor. It was the worst time possible. A corner of Bounder's mind noticed that he was using the term 'worst' quite a bit about his mares' pregnancies. But still, it was. Not in the cool of the night was Light's foal determined to be born, but in the middle of the day's heat. It was no cooler now than it had been all this blazing season and Bounder feared for the life of both mare and foal. All three of his mares had joined together and kicked him out of the marginally cooler canyon that Light was stretched out in. leaving him to pace restlessly in the hot sands, watchful for any predators that might be tempted near by the sounds and scents of a birthing. A new mother and a defenseless foal would be quite a find out here, in the middle of nowhere. But nothing came and the triumphant Song of welcome was sounded well before the sun went down for the night. This was far from being Light's first foal and his anxious return was met with good natured teasing and nuzzles. His constant unease about birthing was a source of amusement for his lovely lead mare. They went through this every time any of them foaled.

It was with trembling knees that Bounder was introduced to the latest of his foals. The little filly blinked huge gold eyes up at him and bleated happily, tiny little tufted tail twitching. Little wings flapped aimlessly as though the filly had no clue what to do with them. Or possibly even what they were he thought as she turned to stare in amazement at those flappy things on her back. It was hard not to smile at the cheerful little filly as she wobbled her way to her feet and then around in circles trying to see her own stubby little baby wings, and Bounder made no attempt to restrain himself. The filly almost fell down as her father bent to nuzzle her, and did manage to smack him on the nose several times with her wings. To his slight surprise she seemed to have no horns of any sort, but he put that aside. She was his little filly. That was one birth down and one to go. And the weather didn't seem to be calming down any.

At least Blaze's foal was born in better shelter. A deep, permanent oasis had been found, water levels low, but still enough to feed the grass and stunted trees that clung close to its sides. But while the conditions might be better, Blaze was a more fragile mare than Light. Birthing had always been harder on her than on Light, which was part of why she hadn't had as many foals as the lead mare. It wasn't that he cared for her less...but too many foals wasn't good for her. While Light seemed to glow both before and after the birthing, Blaze was weak and tottery as a newborn foal herself for a fortnight after it seemed. Again, his mares kicked him out, not even giving him a chance to do more than barely notice that Blaze's labor had begun. Looking anxiously over his shoulder as he left Bounder couldn't decide if this happening at night was good or not. Yes, it was cooler, less wearing on her body...but the others couldn't see as well to help the foal emerge. Or whatever it was that they were doing. Even when she had been his only mare Light had driven him away when she grew ready to foal. He'd never actually seen any of his children enter this world.

Blaze's labor lasted much longer than Light's had. It usually did. Bounder paced with increasing anxiety as the sun began to rise above the horizon and paint the sky red. Red skies were not a good omen. The longer the silence from the oasis wore on the worse the stallion began to feel. How long had it been now? Too long surely. Shouldn't the foal be here by now? What was wrong? Why hadn't they called him back yet? As the day continued to wear on and the sands began once more to blaze underfoot Bounder determined to go back. It had never taken this long before. But he was turned back by Shimmer, insisting just as determinedly that it had taken this long before and longer and than he would not go fret over Blaze and make things harder for her. She relented to allow him to drink briefly from the trickle of water running out of the oasis, but she wouldn't let him back in to see Blaze. He tried to argue that it was no place for a foal and that he should at least be allowed back to deal with the little filly. That too was countered with the insistence that the filly was sleeping quite happily under a tree and that it would be worse for her to have to deal with her father's frantic pacing and fretting. Defeated Bounder returned to his restless vigil outside the oasis.

The sun was sinking below the horizon again when finally a tired but still triumphant Song could be heard from the oasis. Bounder almost tangled his legs together spinning on the slippery sands in his haste to return and make sure all was well with his Song. Slipping and sliding on the sands as he almost never did the stallion staggered back into the oasis, eyes wide with concern. At the sound of his stumbling footsteps Blaze wearily lifted her head and smiled up at him, though she made no move to stand up. Curled up on the ground beside her was a light gold baby, seemingly just as exhausted as she was. Bounding lowered his head to nuzzle Blaze comfortingly (though for his comfort or for hers was hard to tell). Safe...she was still safe. Only after reassuring himself of that did Bounding turn to examine his youngest foal. His eyes went wide with surprise as he realized that this was not another filly but rather a colt. Only the second colt his Song had ever given birth to. Still not entirely believing it Bounder dropped his head to nose the sleeping foal. Bleary gold eyes opened to blink sleepily at him once then close again to sleep the sleep of the exhausted. Bounder's eyes traveled over the tiny horn stubs, the equally stubby little draconic wings, the fluffy mane, the stubby legs fading from pale gold to deep, deep rusty brown. His son, just as perfect and healthy as the little filly. All was well. With a sigh Bounder's eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed, asleep before he hit the ground to the great amusement of all three mares.

The next few moons were...interesting to say the least as the two foals became more and more mobile. The filly was easy enough to keep an eye on as long as you had something pretty or shiny to attract her attention with or a story to tell that was interesting enough to hold her there, waiting to hear what happened next. She was a sweet little thing, always cheerful and playful. Unfortunately that sometimes meant being woken in the middle of the day by a little filly who had decided she'd slept enough for now and would rather play with you (or your wings) now. But at least she showed no sign of wanting to run off from the rest of the Song. Her half brother on the other hand...

It was a good thing that the Song was nomadic and almost constantly on the move from one water source to another. Otherwise they would have had even more difficulty with the young colt. Unlike his sister, who was easily entertained, the boy wasn't terribly interested in staying still for any reason. He wanted to constantly be on the move. At speed. Even though he was the younger of the two foals he was the first to be truly steady on his feet and capable of keeping up with the adults at their traveling pace. While the filly often would begin to beg for a ride on an adult's back after a few hours of traveling, the colt fought tooth and hoof to be allowed to travel on his own four feet. Get kicked enough times by a protesting colt and eventually you stop trying to make him ride. The boy was allowed to run at his mother's heels as they moved from spring to oasis and on to other places. And even though his legs were less than half the length of those of the adults, when they were ready to stop for the day and settle down to graze he was still dancing in place, wanting to run some more. Only hunger drew him to nurse, and even then he would break away to trot around their resting place and sometimes try to engage his sister in mock battles. Where he got all that energy Bounder had no idea. But he wished that the colt would be willing to share it with the rest of the Song instead of wearing them out trying to keep up with him. At least he was still young enough to not want to run too far away from the Song...

Because of their nomadic way of life and the fact that the two youngsters had been born outside of the usual season for such things they didn't have very many other youngsters their own age to play with. Many of the other Songs that they met in passing looked somewhat askance at the Song of the Desert Depths and Bounder knew there were murmurs and gossip about just why his Song had not one but two foals born in such inhospitable times. But the desert folks being who and what they were, such things never went much further than quiet words when two Songs met or as drowsy mares chatted while grazing in the shadows by day. It didn't matter anyways. What would they do about it? What could they do about it? Nothing really. So he ignored it as best he could and focused on seeing that his Song had what they needed to survive and raise the two foals.

Gossip or not the foals continued to grow, as foals will do. The boy showed no signs of outgrowing his seemingly endless supply of energy. The girl remained endlessly curious, but was more willing to be entertained by a story now instead of growing bored and wandering off halfway through as she had been known to do when younger. By the time they were six months old even the colt began showing more interest in the stories the mares told. Gradually these stories switched from being made up, lighthearted little things to being oral histories. As it began to sink in that these stories his mother and 'aunties' were telling were about real Samanayrs who had lived before, had been just as real as any member of the living Song, some of whom had been among the first to come to love the desert and call it home, the little colt became more interested in them. He still had a difficult time staying still, and would usually listed while trotting in circles around the story teller rather than flopping on his belly and staring raptly at them the way his sister would.

At first it unsettled the mares to have him running circles around them. They were accustomed to facing the young foals they were telling stories to. Or to having a half circle of older Sams in front of them as they told their family histories at the rare gatherings that the desert Sams held, whether by chance or by design. Very rarely, when desert Sams mingled with outlanders there would even be a full circle with the speaker in the center. But none of those was quite like the sensation of having one Sam traveling in a circle around you, in constant motion, hearing the steady drumming beat of hooves on sand or stone. But since he showed no inclination of giving up his peculiar method of listening, and since he did indeed seem interested and less inclined to go see what was over the next dune while they were speaking, the mares adjusted.

Only one thing concerned Bounder about either of his foals. Oh, the boy was always running, sometimes too far away, but Bounder could recall a certain other colt back in the day who had done much the same thing. Though he had to admit that he himself had not had nearly as much energy as this young fellow seemed to possess. No, the thing that worried him was that while the little filly's wings were growing longer and stronger and her flapping began to have more purpose to it and often was enough to whip sand up into the rest of the Song's faces and lift her forehooves off the ground, the colt's wings remained as stunted and short as those of a newborn foal. In fact...like his mother's. Bounder had hoped, seeing no trace of feather in those little baby wings, that his son had inherited the wings purely from him. That they would be normal draconic wings. But as he grew older and older it was becoming apparent that the wings were not going to grow in proportion to the rapidly growing colt. That he had in fact inherited the vestigial wings of his mother, but in the wing type of his father.

Eventually it was time for flying lessons for the little filly, and Bounder watched uneasily as the colt paused in his racing to see what his sister and lead auntie were doing over there with his father. The boy had never seemed bothered by the fact that his wings were so much smaller than those of his sister or father, but what would happen when the colt realized that all of his family save his own mother could take to the sky and travel somewhere that he couldn't reach. Could never reach. Bounder dreaded finding out. But it was hard to keep from the colt what was going on, what with his sister excitedly fluttering over to her brother after most every lesson to tell him all about it whether he wanted to know or not. And the boy would simply stand still for once and listen, then nod his head and say a few words to his sister since she seemed to expect it. A time or two Bounder caught the colt examining his own stunted, vestigial wings. He would tilt them this way and then that, run a few steps with them spread, close them, open them again, flutter them, flap them, run with them held at odd angles which he changed as he ran. He looked to his father as though he was trying to teach himself to fly with wings that were far too small. It threatened to break Bounder's heart.

Finally he couldn't take it anymore and had to go confront his son, break the news to him that if his wings hadn't grown any by this point they weren't going to, tell him that he would never be able to fly. So troubled and unintentionally stern did he look that the boy stood still, eyes wide, expecting a horrible lecture. Bounder was too preoccupied to notice as he reluctantly began to try and break it to his son gently. By the time he was finished the colt was staring up at him with his mouth opened. Gently Bounder lowered his head to apologize, then started back at the unexpected pronouncement that his boy didn't want to fly. He watched, stunned, as the colt demonstrated how he was teaching himself to use his stubby little wings as rudders to help him steer while running at speed. The principle was much the same as that used to steer while actually in the air, but it had never occurred to him that it could be applied on the ground. But at least he wasn't having to deal with a heartbroken foal who had dreamed of the clouds only to be told his life was on the sands. Instead he found himself bemusedly looking at a colt who wanted nothing more than those same sands; to feel them underfoot, to know their every nuance. And while he'd been busy showing his daughter how to leave them behind his son had been learning to master them, running faster and more securely over the shifting surface than most adult desert Samanayrs did.

The foals' first year came and went too quickly. It seemed like only moments before they had been tottering around, trying to learn how to master their own legs, and now they were shoulder high on him and starting to molt into their adult coats. The little filly was developing faint spotting all over her back and her dull legs were brightening into green. Where that color had come from he had no clue. But it was on her legs, tail, wings, and even her ears and muzzle. Her mane remained a fluffy crest along her head and neck; like her mother she never grew in the fluffy tufts on her cheek that most mares had in place of the full neck coverage of a desert stallion. Her eyes remained a brilliant gold, alight with her inner eagerness to see everything. Dusty purple tinged fur deepened to a rich coppery color, though it was hard to tell at the moment if it was all going to patch out or if her fur would remain mottled with both colors under the darkening spots. The colt's horns were growing longer and sharper. His neck was getting shaggy as his leonine mane grew in. The wings remained stunted, but turned a rich gold. His pale gold fur lightened in stripes, and between the golden fur and the cream thin stripes darkened until they matched his rusty feet. Both foals grew strong and healthy, and soon would come the day of their naming. Bounder had seen Light and Blaze and sometimes Shimmer gathered together or lost in thought and he knew that they were debating names. A time or two he even went and joined them, but he respected the mare's right to name her own foal.

It was decided that even though the two foals were a fortnight different in age they would be given their names and begin their yearling lessons at the same time. And so with the midsummer sunset blazing bright behind them the two stood side by side, shifting a little in eagerness to hear their names for the first time. Side by side it looked as though there should be a greater difference in their ages. The filly was tall for a Samanayr, already as tall as either of her parents though she was not yet fully grown. Her brother was more averaged sized for their age and the top of his head barely reached his sister's chin. The fact that she was prancing about, half rearing, sometimes even lifting off her feet for a moment, wasn't helping. For once it was she that was more restless, more in motion. The colt stood in one of his rare, motionless moods. When these came upon him he could stand as steady as one of the rocky outbreakings that dotted the desert sands, barely seeming to breath. He twitched when a wing or tail came too close to his face, but otherwise stood fixed, watching his mother and auntie approach to face their foals. Soon he would no longer be nameless.

As Light's filly was the elder of the two she was to be named first. For awhile it looked as though neither foal was going to be named after all as Light insisted that she would not name her foal until the filly was standing halfway still on the ground with her wings folded. But eventually her fidgets wore down her energy enough that she was willing to settle, and Light decided that dancing from foot to foot was still enough. For her unusual green coloration and sunny but never harsh edged temperament Light had decided to name her filly Bloom of the Spring Desert. While the newly named Bloom was turning this name over and deciding that she quite liked it, Blaze stepped up hastily to name her colt before Bloom went off into aerobatic displays or some such. His golden eyes turned to fix on his mother as he held his breath, wondering what he would be answering to for the rest of his life. Unlike Light, who had made a small speech about why she had chosen Bloom's name, Blaze quietly told her son that she chose to call him Searing of the Sands Aflame because he ran as though he wanted to set the desert sands aflame. Golden eyes, so like those of his father though set in a much lighter face, blinked, then the young stallion grinned and ducked his head. He liked his name. It fit him. He might not have liked it so much had he known that searing was also something some hunters did to the flesh of their prey before eating it...but since he didn't know that he liked his name.

The second year was much different than the first had been for all concerned. Lessons were different. There were still stories of the family history being passed down to the next generation, and Bloom's flying lessons continued, but now was when the real survival training began. The two had been taught practically from birth that there were some things you didn't eat, didn't touch. There were some scents that you turned and ran from. Now they began to learn what the creators of those scents were. Bloom shuddered and almost gave them away as they watched a Sa'krien from a distance, with Bounder wishing they had been able to do something for the poor Sam whom it had brought down. The wild beasts of the desert, from variations of Oquiesas and cats that ventured this far into the heart of the desert and might yet make a meal of an unwary Sam to other herbivores who cautiously tried to avoid all encounters were pointed out. It was dangerous sneaking close enough to the predators to make sure the yearlings knew what to avoid, but that was how the Song had trained their foals to survive so far. Some dangers could only be described. It had been generations since a hunter had been seen this deep in the desert. Or a Sharian, though they were the opposite of all that the hunters stood for in the Song's mind.

Bloom giggled at the idea of hunters. Tall, skinny, mostly hairless things that went on two legs? And draped themselves with enough cloth to smother a Samanayr? She couldn't take the idea seriously. Not surprisingly since she took very little seriously. Searing shook his head doubtfully at the notion of either hunters or Sharian. Bounder rolled his eyes at both of them and continued with the lessons. They'd learn eventually. Not that he'd ever seen a hunter, and he'd only seen a Sharian once or twice, mostly at a great distance.

But perhaps the biggest difference in the second year of the yearling's lives was heralded by Shimmer's plumping up. Neither of the youngsters knew what this meant. Bloom had been far too young when Searing was born to remember Blaze as pregnant. The weather was much milder this year than their first had been, and as the summer heat began to fade and the winter rains began to approach Shimmer was getting ready to add one more foal to their Song. It was always chancy, having a new foal born into the Song before the yearlings had grown to adulthood and left to find Songs of their own. Oh, it wasn't too bad having foals a moon or two apart, and especially not within a moon of each other as Searing and Bloom had been. But as Shimmer drew closer and closer to term all four adults began watching the yearlings a bit more closely. Bloom was oblivious to it all. No one really expected her to cause any trouble either. On the handful of occasions where they had encountered Songs with youngsters of their own she'd had to be rescued from overly rough playmates more often than not. Searing on the other hand watched his elders back with a puzzled frown. He was the one that they were concerned about. How might the young stallion react to a new foal? Mares usually wished to care for the foal; as part of the Song makeup a mare was expected to help care for foals not her own. But all foals in a Song were to be those of the Song's stallion. And as Searing began to border on adulthood it was possible that he might object to a sibling.

At least for once Bounder had company on his temporary exile from their watering hole this time. And took the time to finally actually sound the young stallion out on his feelings about the pending new arrival. Searing's first reaction was one of relief. Finally! Now at least he knew why everyone had been looking sidelong at him. Well, everyone except Bloom who'd had no more idea what was going on than Searing had had up until this point. After the relief of finally knowing what was going on Searing was...quite simply confused. The talk at least convinced Bounder to walk back with his son to meet the new arrival together once the mares began to sing, Bloom's voice joining hesitantly but joyfully with those of the older mares. After Bounder had met his newest daughter all eyes turned to Searing. Slowly he approached, bent down, sniffed the filly, then looked up at his family in confusion. Shaking his head at them he walked away, muttering under his breath to himself about what did they expect him to do, trample it?

The presence of a younger foal than themselves to help raise was a good experience for both Bloom and Searing. It also made the remainder of their second year with their birth Song go by much faster. All too soon it seemed like it was time to say goodbye. Letting the foals go was always so hard. And yet holding them there would be even harder. Oh, a young mare might be able to stick around a bit longer, especially with younger siblings to help raise. But a young stallion? Well, Searing had already taken to wandering farther and farther afield from the Song. The question was more of would he say goodbye before he left and failed to return. He had a wanderer's spirit, always wanting to see what was over the next dune, what lay beyond the horizon. Trying to hold him there would be impossible. It would take something special to tie him to one place. Nomadic he'd grown up, nomadic he seemed destined to remain. Bloom though, Bounder could see her settling down. He wondered if he'd ever cross paths with either of them again as after one last nuzzle the two set out on their own. He watched them go long after there was nothing left to see but a cloud of dust fading into the distance and an all but invisible speck high in the sky overhead. Finally, as the moon began to set he turned back to his Song and newest little one to start the cycle all over again.

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Last edited by Origami_Dragon on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:28 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Hum Backstory Part 1: The Grandparents
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:01 pm 
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It was dusk. The light of the fading sun cast red shadows over the world, painted everything in shades of blood. Just the way the stallion liked it. He snickered to himself as he watched, as he had been doing for the past several hours, a lone mare trying to puzzle her way out of the series of traps he'd rigged. He'd done it more for his own amusement than out of any real expectation of catching anything. Imagine his surprise and delight when he had strayed into this part of his territory late in the afternoon to the sound of hooves on stone, rustling leaves, and the site of hoofprints leading right into the tangle of bushes he had hauled into position in that little canyon. Oh, it looked like a perfect way to cross through these rocky hills. The perfect shortcut. Nice and easy to get through, none of the strain of scrambling over loose rock and down equally loose rock with the risk of falling on your rump either way. Or on your nose. That was always fun to watch too. He'd taken care that there were plenty of loose stones littering the hills around here just to insure that he had the joy of watching trespassers do just that. But that trap... All those deadfalls and thorny bushes he'd rigged to hinder the way. The natural cracks and pits that had made him choose that canyon (after all, it was useless to him as a passthrough; the thing had been impassible even before he'd tinkered with it), all that had been more to amuse himself than out of any expectation of success.

And oh, what a success! The red tinged light now made it hard to see what the mare in there looked like, and the grime his traps had coated her with had made it impossible to tell just what color her coat was when he'd arrived, but she had been quite the pretty little thing when he'd arrived. Not so pretty now with her mane and tail all matted and tangled with leaves and thorns, her fur caked with mud and worse. But it was still possible to see those lovely gleaming antlers, as yet unsullied by the events of the day. And determination was writ large upon her entire body. This mess was not going to defeat her if she had her say. Maybe he'd even let her out, play with her in person for a bit before deciding just what to do with her. After all, he'd just had a nice meal. No harm in toying with the pretty. And if she got away, well, with her he wouldn't even mind that too much. Nice to see some spirit in a mare. With any luck it would still be there when he showed himself. Ah well, if not he could always leave her here. Sooner or later she was bound to trip one of the lethal traps. He'd get around to digging her back out eventually.

With a languorous grace the tall stallion stood and stretched in an almost feline manner. Long red spikes glittered on his shoulders, more ran along his back. Sharp teeth were bared as he grinned in anticipation as he briefly flexed equally sharp claws, digging them into the loose stone underfoot. It was no trick of the light that turned his eyes red either. Red was...quite the predominant theme with this stallion, one Blood of the Dying Sun. Just as well it was his favorite color he'd always though. He thought that again now as he grinned savagely down into the canyon. Such a perfect time of day for a little fun... Even the stone seemed to be stained red, lovely lovely red... Perhaps this mare would be red as well under all that muck. He'd certainly have to let her live if she was. Even if she did squeak like a tree mouse and flee.

The mare remained unaware of her admirer pacing along after her up in the hills above. She was tired, she was thirsty, she was hungry, she was /filthy/ and she wanted out of this cursed pass. It had looked like an easy passage through some unsettling territory when she had first seen it. The hills on either side were slippery and treacherous underfoot. But after she'd ventured a fair ways into this pass things had grown worse. She would almost certainly have been better off going over the hills themselves. At least there she couldn't imagine small boulders loosing themselves and thorn bushes hurling themselves at her the way they did here. At least there she'd be able to see what was around her. The straight path had quickly become a tangled maze, doubling back on itself, branching, forking, deadending. And she was either more lost than she thought possible or the exit had vanished.

Yet another clatter of small stones falling sent her leaping backwards. Already there had been too many close calls where the falling stones had heralded the arrival of something big enough to crush her if she didn’t get out of the way and quickly. Instead a wickedly grinning stallion landed gracefully in front of her and posed, showing off his lean, muscular body and too sharp teeth. Sa'krien then. The mare snorted and braced herself, not daring to look away from him though she was instantly on the alert for others of his kind sneaking up behind her. Damned if he was going to take her down without a fight. But the stallion just stood there, the fading light painting every hair on his body blood red, slowly darkening. With alarm she realized that the sun was fast going down and that soon she would be alone in the dark with him. He who must surely know this land so much better than she did. He who presumably saw her as his next meal, conveniently delivered to him by her own four feet. Still he didn't move as the sun continued to sink from the sky.

Blood was quite amused at the way things were turning out. Oh, she was frightened of him alright, he could smell it even over that muck, see it in the tense, taunt lines of her body, see it in her eyes. But behind that fear was a fiercely determined spirit. He could see that in her eyes too. Delightful! He could play quite the game with that combination. How long could he play her fear and her anger against one another? He prowled forwards slowly, long tail flicking from side to side, the sun gilding the red spikes over his shoulder so that they appeared gold tinged. Bloodied gold. He knew what effect the fading light had on his redness, and he quite enjoyed the effect. And watching how others reacted to it. Oh, that was even more fun than admiring his own reflection, and easier to do as well.

The mare tensed herself as finally the dangerous stallion decided to advance things a bit more. He remained silent, eerily so as he began to advance. Each clawed foot was set down delicately, claws splayed wide. Shadows were beginning to cover the canyon floor, making those red claws wink in and out of darkness, dancing from gilded red to black tinged bearers of death. Lethal no doubt. But he was toying with her. And that was fast becoming irritating. Maybe most that he ran across were terrified more by this slow, stealthy advance, by the smooth play of muscles under his skin, by that… She shook her head sharply, sending flashes of gold off her own antlers and snorted angrily. “Is it not enough that you plan to eat me, but you must seduce me first,” she screamed, wheeling away in distaste.

Abruptly the advance stopped and bewilderment replaced the malicious pleasure that had been in those gleaming red eyes just moments before. She hadn’t found the path, if path there was, that would lead her up onto the heights he had clearly traveled to reach here, but she had found a place that would give her the high ground for the moment, putting his head in easy kicking range should he attempt to come at her again. Scrambling up onto it she wheeled back to face the bemused stallion who was now watching her warily as though she was some new and strange creature unlike any he had ever seen before.

And indeed, that was what she seemed like to Blood now. He didn’t back down, but the menace was gone from his pose now. It was…hard to continue to menace someone who had just accused you of seducing them. Or rather, it was hard for Blood to manage any such thing. He’d been accused of many things over the years, called a monster in all sorts of ways, and that had never bothered him. But no one had ever informed him that he was a seducer before. How was one supposed to react to that? He raised one foot, started to advance, then stopped and swayed in place. “Seduced?”

His voice was not the harsh growl that the mare had expected. Instead it was rich and deep, almost musical. Also very, very confused even just in a single word. She glared at him from her perch partway up the canyon wall as the Sa’krien flicked his ears back and forth and continued to sway. He looked almost as though he might break and run for a moment, perhaps even leading her out of here. But then he steadied himself and glared right back at him. “I know not this ‘seduction’ you insult me with mayre. I am Blood of the Dying Sun and all these lands ayre mine! No one cyrosses them without paying the pyrice and the pyrice is that you do not live to cyross!” His voice grew louder and slightly shrill as he stomped one clawed foot in pique. Just how young was he, she wondered briefly. For a moment she almost let down her guard, almost went to push past him with a sneer. Almost. And then she saw the ruby eyes flash once more as he watched her. She drew herself up and tried to hide the trembling. She didn’t trust her voice just now, so settled for a fierce glare, tossing her head ever so slightly to make her antlers catch the rapidly fading light.

His eyes swung up to follow the gleaming tips of her antlers, and for a moment what she saw in them frightened her more than anything he had done yet. Raw lust glittered in those eyes, possessive, desirous, attractive, repulsive. What was wrong with her? She knew what he was, he was a monster! A killer, cannibal, carnivore. He’d as good as admitted that he killed anyone and everyone who attempted to cross through his lands. Given the nature of Sa’krien, those sharp teeth and sharper claws, most likely he ate those who ventured here as well. So why did she find herself wanting to go down to him, answering the desire in his eyes? He’d only take advantage of that to kill and eat her too! And yet…and yet there was a part of her that was attracted to him. Overlooking, if such a thing could ever truly be overlooked, the fact that he was a vicious, savage killer, he was attractive. Strong lean body, alert eyes, bushy tail, dominant personality, cunning, clever, handsome… What was she thinking? It was hard to think with those fierce red eyes burning into hers.

As she simply stood there on the little ledge on the wall, making no move to flee, offering no more challenges, Blood simply stared back at her. His eyes roved over her body, trying to imagine what was concealed below that mud and muck. The clean lines of her form showed through well enough, unhidden by any trembling. Her eyes gleamed with anger, or had before her own confusion had taken over. Him? He didn’t feel confused anymore. Oh, he wanted this lovely little mare all for himself. Now…how did one go about reassuring one of the soft little Samanayr-kin exactly? He knew little about them other than that his mother had scoffed at them, called them soft, weak, unworthy of notice or life. Presumably his father had agreed with the idea. He’d never said as such, but then again, he’d never really said much of anything. Ever. He’d been fairly well dominated by his mare. She’d broken his spikes when the mood took her, slashed at him with tooth and claw. Blood had concluded some seasons earlier that his mother had probably at some point ripped out his father’s voice as well. All the more reason not to go seeking another such as himself for a mate. Why go looking for some foul tempered mare when this lovely thing was here?

After a moment more of admiring the little mare Blood turned to leave. “Come if you like. You won’t find youyr way cleayr of heyre on youyr own.” He didn’t look back to see if she followed. Either she would, or she wouldn’t. After a moment his ears told him that she would. The sound of hooves on stone was so different from the sound of his own claws…

The mare didn’t trust him, didn’t trust him at all, but what choice did she have really? Either follow him and hope that she could evade his eventual lunge and strike or stay here and starve. She was sure that he was telling the truth about being stuck here without him. Hadn’t she spent the better part of the day already trying to wind her way through the maze of boulders and brambles that seemed to fill this canyon? Anyways, surely whatever he had planned would be quicker than starving to death. She followed. Every now and then he stopped, tugged a particular vine from the tangled mass of brambles before them, and somehow pulled it back out of the way. Some he shoved back to the walls, some he just moved enough to allow him to slip by. Once he stopped at a boulder and actually glanced back over his shoulder at her as though checking to see if she was watching him. That time he seemed to shove the massive stone aside as though it was nothing. She tried not to look impressed. It wasn’t as easy as it should have been.

Finally, after a scramble over loose stone and earth that his claws handled much more readily than did her hooves they were out of the canyon. As they broke free Blood glanced over his shoulder once more at her, looking to see if she would flee or follow now that they were out of the trapped canyon. The mare hesitated, eying the steep hillside as though ready to bolt up and over the stony hills and away. For a moment it seemed she would run and Blood’s eyes narrowed. The mare would either be his or no one’s. But then she turned back and her own eyes narrowed in response as she glared back at him. Angry golden eyes met hungry ruby and held. It was Blood who looked away first, turning from the mare as though unconcerned as he resumed heading for a nearby stream.

The mare was highly suspicious when Blood stopped beside a narrow, fast moving stream and gestured towards it with a toss of his head. “A wash peyrhaps sweet thing?” She huffed irritably at him as he grinned mockingly. He had been annoying, frustrating, frightening, teasing and toying with her since they had left the canyon. He roused conflicting and entirely wrong feelings within her and she was tired of it. With another snort she charged at him, catching him in the side with her antlers, tangling them in his shoulder spikes, and plunging both of them into the icy water. The shock of impact broke them free from each other again, and also snapped a single golden prong of her antlers off, leaving it trapped between spike and shoulder on Blood. As both resurfaced the mare tossed her head, flinging droplets of water from her mane into Blood’s eyes and putting those gleaming antlers uncomfortably close to them as well. For a moment Blood only stared, conflicting emotions tangling within. Had that been another stallion glaring damply at him from inches away there was no doubt that one of them would have died there in the stream, staining the fast moving waters red with life’s blood. Instead it was a fascinating mare, now washed free of most of the muck but instead damp enough to still hide her true colors from him. So feisty, so fierce, perhaps even worthy of him.

Meanwhile the mare was gathering herself for another charge. Something smoldered in the depths of those red eyes as they glared back at her. She didn’t dare to think about what it could be lest she loose her nerve and flee. She expected to die, most especially after that defiant stunt just now. She didn’t want to die, wasn’t ready to die, but what other fate awaited when you were in the claws of the Sa’krien, deep within their territory? And so it took her completely by surprise when the stallion’s eyes suddenly sparkled and he flung his head back and laughed and laughed and laughed. Not the mocking, cold laugh of one about to slaughter her, but a deep, rich laugh full of delight. It shocked her more than a snarl and a counter charge would have. Finally the laughter stopped and the stallion shook water from his own thin crest of a mane, though he still chuckled from time to time. When his eyes met hers they sparkled in the last of the light, bright gems fixed firmly and warmly on her. “Oh, such a splendid show, such spyrit! What would it take to keep you heyre?”

Perhaps not the delicate words that a mare would love to hear, the verbal dance of courtship that many of the young mares she had met sighed in longing over. He wasn’t the stallion that she had sighed over in her dreams. Her birth Song would have been shocked and horrified to find her even considering this fierce, wild, predatory stallion, and yet considering him she was. But it was late and she was hungry, tired, and irate. She was in no mood to play games. Scrambling out of the icy water in search of someplace warm and sheltered to graze and doze she called over her shoulder, “If I’m still alive in the moyrning I’ll think about it.” The last thing she heard as she stiffly paced into the woods was a dark, rich chuckle.

Blood remained in the stream for some while after the mare had left before the icy chill began to penetrate his pleasant dreams. With a snort he too scrambled out of the stream and shook the water from his coat, still half lost in dreams. What did one offer a Samanayr mare as a token? He rather doubted that she wanted a nice haunch of meat of any sort. A lovely skull was probably out as well. Flowers? Too sissy; he wasn’t going to go fetch any of those unless she asked for them specifically. Now what else was there… He prowled off into his forests in search.

Much to her surprise the mare did indeed wake in the morning, very much still alive and well. A damp chill still lingered from the night before, but she seemed to have escaped unscathed. Or perhaps not. Within moments of awaking she became aware that the dangerous stallion was out there, lurking nearby. “What, no fun playing with sleeping styrangeyrs?” Her voice was heavy with sarcasm to hide the twinge of fear that rose at finding him still there. Death still lurked nearby, she might yet meet the darkness of eternal sleep before she escaped these woods. With a faint rustle Blood made himself known. As smoothly as he moved through the tangle she had no doubt that the sound had been intentionally made to alert her. But why? What manner of game was he playing with her? She squared herself, ready to confront him. Her neck ached with the tension that built as she tracked his slow, steady progress towards her. As his head appeared through a break in the trees she could see something dangling from his jaws and began to pull away, a look of shock and disgust beginning to appear on her face.

Then the thing moved. Bright eyes blinked at her from an orange and white face, little wings flapped, then the thing squeaked as Blood’s jaw dropped open, sending it plummeting towards the ground. The little dragonet continued to voice an ear piercing array of protests even as the little wings blurred to hold it in a hover. Blood seemed to hear none of them as he stood as though stunned, staring at her. After a moment the dragonet, with one final defiant squeak, darted over to sit on her back, rubbing its face in her mane and occasionally glaring at the dazed looking Sa’krien.

Blood was aware of none of it. A rival Song could have come charging up behind him and trampled him at that moment and he’d not have noticed until they came between him and the gleaming gold and bronze mare standing so delectably near, so untouchably far. Her antlers gleamed gold, as did her hooves and eyes. Gold and bronze blended seamlessly over her hide, shifting and shimmering as the light played over her smooth fur. A single patch of cream bloomed at her throat, a patch in the shape of a rose. Suddenly flowers didn’t seem so strange of a gift.

The intensity of Blood’s stare began to unnerve the mare after a time. As his gaze went vague, seeming to look into some other time and place, she took advantage of his distraction to retreat. His head turned to follow her, but he made no more to give chase. She left, taking the little patchy dragonet with her. Left, but not to go far.

Thus began Blood’s courtship of the golden mare. He hunted her in a way he had hunted no other thing. He followed her throughout his lands, letting his traps go unattended, even letting some interlopers escape untouched. Sometimes she knew he was there, other times he came and went like a ghost, not alerting her to his presence. His pursuit eventually won him her name, and for some days after he did not follow, simply turning the name over and over, enjoying the feel of it in his mouth. Heart of the Golden Sun. A lovely fit with his own name. The symbolism there could occupy him for quite some time. But he didn’t let himself get lost in the contemplation of her name for too long. It would be such a shame to loose the lovely lady herself and keep only the memory of her name. He found gifts such as might please her. She had seemed to enjoy the dragonet, but he couldn’t keep giving her those. For one thing that had been the only hatchling he’d been able to grab before the entire flock took off for safer pastures. For another, while she liked the one he rather doubted she’d be so pleased with a dozen. Though if she would be he was willing to find them.

No, the gifts he found for her now were not living, nor had they ever been. A cluster of berries from high in the hills was met with approval. More followed. Bright and gleaming stones, though no rival for her living beauty, found there way to where she spent her nights. Long flight feathers, often plucked from his own meals, were offered, and several found there way into her mane. He noted those that did and sought more things of the same colors. He himself had taken the broken point of her antler and after much labor managed to bind it to a roughly braided length of cord so that he might wear it as a necklace. And all the while Heart remained in his land, never seeking him out, but less and less seeking to avoid him.

Eventually the day came when she allowed him to touch her, and then to possess her. As the foal came ever closer it was more and more difficult for Blood to remember not to bring her a hunk of bloody meat as an offering, or a stunned wood rat, or anything of the sort. More than once he narrowly escaped being kicked or gored as a sudden mood swing made her react even more strongly than usual to a Sa’krien’s idea of a suitable gift for his lady. And then the day came where she took herself off to one of the little caves riddling the hills around them and refused to let him near. That night there was blood, and something not quite blood in the air. More than one predator attempted to draw near and learned the fatal lesson that it is never wise to threaten that which a Sa’krien holds dear. At least he’d eat well, though Heart had made it quite clear that she wasn’t touching the stuff, nor would she allow the foal near it. Not unless the foal proved to be Sa’krien as well.

Blood was sharpening his claws when Heart returned, her normally glossy coat slightly matted with sweat, a tottery little filly at her side. Blood was charmed. Little nubs on the filly’s head and shoulders indicated she had inherited both her mother’s lovely antlers and her father’s imposing spikes. Her feet though bore oversized and clumsy hooves rather than sharp claws. A hybrid, not Sa’krien. He loved her anyways.

The little filly grew swiftly. Clumsy bumbling steps grew more sure. Much to her mother’s dismay she displayed much of the bloodthirsty territorialness of a Sa’krien and in fact seemed almost worse than her father at times. Though Heart was quite sure that Blood was holding back and holding back hard for her sake. She didn’t ask about the times when he vanished into the depths of his (or rather their) territory and returned humming contentedly to himself. Not even when the little one began to follow him out there. She grew apace and all to soon it was time to be thinking of names.

Heart sighed as she watched her young filly get in a loud, one sided argument with…what was it now? A tree apparently. No, one of the birds in the tree. It was hard to tell just what the bird might have done, but the little beast was lucky that the filly had no wings. Else she’d have been right up there after it. Poor thing… Heart shook her head and continued her internal debate over what to call the argumentative filly. All her father’s snap bundled into one small red and gold package. Turning away the mare paced deeper into the forest, murmuring to herself as she went. “If she had been a colt I’d call heyr Quayrrel. I still may have to call heyr Quayrrel. At least then she’d wayrn otheyrs when she inytroduced heyrself.”

In the end she decided to call her filly Quarrel of the Forest Rose. Blood was somewhat bemused, having expected their daughter to have Sun in her name as well. But Heart held firm. It was the mother’s right to name her foal whatever she pleased and she was not inclined to relinquish that right just to carry on the pattern of their own names. Blood had taken her for her spirit and she wasn’t going to loose that and back down now, not over something like this. Anyways, Forest Rose was a fine name for the forest bred filly. She even looked a great deal like one of the climbing roses that dotted the place, red petals fading to gold at the edges much like her red body faded to gold on the legs, ears, and muzzle. Young Quarrel had no objection to her name and quite readily took her mother’s part in the argument with her father. Heart shook her head and left them to it. Since she had come to live here Blood was somewhat less…bloodthirsty than she suspected he had been. But the Sa’krien nature was not denied that easily. If he had to argue over something let him argue with their daughter while she was still here. The both of them would enjoy it much more so than Heart would enjoy being caught in an argument with either of them.

The second year of Quarrel’s life was rougher on Heart in some ways, easier in others. Harder because Quarrel was living up to her name. Easier because she was more self sufficient. It was hard to say what sort of an education the yearling was getting as well. Heart did her best to teach her filly what she recalled her mother teaching her, but Blood had his own ideas of what a young mare needed to know when she headed out into the world on her own. Very…odd ideas at times. He didn’t quite seem to get that Quarrel was not in fact a Sa’krien. Though sometimes Heart wondered if a little thing like a lack of claws really made that much difference. Quarrel seemed so very much like her father that sometimes it was no wonder that Blood forgot she was not his kind.

Of course, if Heart had known Blood before he began courting her she’d have known how much of a difference there still was between Quarrel and a true Sa’krien. Even if she had seen some of what Blood was still up to when he took it into his head to go off on his own for a few days… Having come to know the doting stallion she had come to believe that the stories exaggerated the ferocity of Sa’krien, overestimated the savagery, the bloodthirstiness. If she’d seen a Sa’krien who didn’t love her she’d have known that a snappish temper and tendency to fight and argue did not make one the same as a Sa’krien. As it was, she still was both dreading and looking forwards to the day when Quarrel left to go find her own life. It would be good to have a bit of a breather, though it would also mean that she’d have to deal with Blood’s mood swings and argumentativeness on her own, with no quarrel loving daughter to step in.

But ready or no, happy or no, aging doesn’t stop. It seemed like no time at all before Quarrel was nuzzling her parents one last time, making one last attempt to argue with her father over nothing much, and then setting her sights on the edge of his territory. A fire seemed to burn in her scarlet eyes as she set off into the greater world, preparing to take it by storm. Get ready world, Quarrel is coming!

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Last edited by Origami_Dragon on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Hum Backstory Part 2: The Parents
 Post Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:22 pm 
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Take the world by storm… It had seemed like such a wonderful idea when she’d left the forest of her birth. Her talks with her father had left her feeling as though she could take on anything, conquer them all! The reality was far from her dreams. Not that she couldn’t shake this place up if she wanted to. But they were all so…boring. Every time she got into a good argument, just as things really started to get hot and heavy, the other Samanayr always seemed to loose their nerve. She scared them. Her! Of all things to be afraid of… She was nothing compared to what she knew was out there. Unlike her mother, who seemed to live a life of denial with her Sa’krien stallion, Quarrel knew full well that the horror stories most younglings grew up about the Sa’krien were fully true. Hadn’t she stood and listened to her father proudly talk about how he had ambushed this traveler, trapped and tortured that one, sat on the boulder that was half crushing someone who’d almost made it free of his traps and chatted with them as they slowly died? He’d shown her what he’d done to their territory to insure that no one made it alive through his lands without his consent. And yet all these strangers were afraid of her of all things?!

Quarrel hadn’t realized quite how much like a Sa’krien she looked when she lived alone with mother and father. Out here she could see just how much color variety the Samanayr species truly had. She’d always sort of assumed that she was the odd one, having more than one color. Mother was all gleaming golds and bronzes, like some of the glittery rocks that father pulled from the hills. Father was nothing but shades of red from his wickedly gleaming eyes to his sharp claws. Dark red and light red sure, but all red. Surely she had been the odd one, half red, half gold. Red spikes, golden antlers, red eyes and hooves, red body, golden legs. Red and gold, not one or the other alone. But out here…it was her parents who would be out of place. The monochrome look was virtually unheard of it seemed. Some of those she met were a mad riot of colors. Why some of them had more color on their legs alone than her entire family had! Wild, clashing, neon markings in every shade of the rainbow! Muted or bold, pale or dark, some of them enough to give you a headache just trying to look at them.

And yet for all that variety, something about her simple, plain coloring seemed to unsettle many of those she encountered. Thrice now she had come upon wandering herds of young mares gathered together for safety while they sought stallions of their own. Her mother had told her about those. She’d also mentioned how dull they could get, but it had still seemed like a good idea, a way to find out about the world beyond her parents’ forest. But three times she had found one and three times they had bunched together and tried to drive her away amidst panicked squeals. The first time she’d let herself be driven off in confusion. The second time she’d stood her ground and glared at them until they finally fled. Now, the third time she was mad.

“What IS it with you?! All of you!” she screamed at them as she dropped her head to a charge position and readied herself to ram the first one who dared to try and drive her away. She wasn’t going! Not this time. “I was heyre fiyrst! Why should I leave? Just because theyre’s a mob of you and only one of me!? I’ll fight you foyr it!”

The Song of young, unattached mares shuffled uneasily, all of them trying to be in the back, away from the crazy, red-eyed mare before them. None of them would meet Quarrel’s eye either. Frustrated, tired, and getting mad at the timidity of these young mares Quarrel gave one more wordless scream and charged anyways. The Song scattered in panic. One of the Song however froze instead. She was right in Quarrel’s path and staring wide eyed at the golden antlers and wind-blown red mane charging straight at her, unable even to think about moving until it was too late. A dull thud marked the impact, though as much of the sound was from the mare falling to her side dramatically as it was from Quarrel actually striking her.

When the mare went down Quarrel leaped her fallen form and pivoted to face her again. The mare flailed, struggling to get to her feet and flee but too frightened to actually manage the feat of standing up. “Please don’t kill me!”

Quarrel lowered her head until her red eyes were staring straight into the panicked eyes of the fallen mare. Slowly she lifted one foot, one hoofed foot, and placed it on the other mare’s nose. The mare went cross eyed trying to see it. Quarrel had heard enough of the comments made behind her back to have a good idea what these fluffer heads thought she was. It was doubtful that the silly mare could think straight enough to notice the lack of claws though. After a minute Quarrel huffed at her and turned to stalk stiffly away. “You ayren’t woyrth the botheyr.”

So it always seemed to go with her. Every group of mares wanted to flee her. Every group of stallions either wanted to impress the mares by driving her off, or if there were no mares to see, to sidle nervously away from her too piercing red glare. They saw the red eyes and spikes and overlooked the golden antlers and the lack of claws. Everyone thought she was Sa’krien. And so everyone fled. As the years went by Quarrel grew more and more bitter. The cheerful joy of a good argument faded; no one who argued with her did so for the love of it. The fights were nasty things, full of hate filled words and bile. Often those who didn’t flee tried to attack her. Approaching them casually was met with suspicion and savagery. The love of her parents seemed a long distant thing and it grew harder and harder with each passing day to continue to hope that there was someone out there for her. She didn’t want a true Sa’krien; most of them wouldn’t take her anyways. They were an antisocial lot after all. And anyways, for all her growing bitterness she still took no pleasure from a physical fight.

The seasons turned and years went by. Quarrel found a lonely place, far from the normal haunts of her forest loving kin. The grasslands, wide open spaces with nowhere to hide, were far down on the lists of good places to live for most. That was what attracted her to them in the first place. Predators in plenty roamed here, but that didn’t bother her. It meant she was less likely to have to deal with anyone else. And if they managed to catch her? Well, she’d go down fighting if she could, but at least her misery would be over. Some days she toyed with the idea of seeking one of them out, of walking to her own death, but her will to live was stronger than that. She’d just be miserable.

Then one morning she woke to the sound of someone…humming nearby. Quarrel instantly snapped awake and alert, wary of yet another attack. Every now and then someone still came through here. Some of them seemed to be looking for her, or for Sa’krien at any rate. Some of them simply took her for Sa’krien and went after her in what they thought was self defense. From what she’d gathered Sa’krien were apparently relatively common in this part of the world. Strange then that she’d yet to see a one of them since leaving home. Everyone else seemed to think they were lurking around every corner, behind every bush.

The humming continued, a bright and cheery tune all out of keeping with the way Quarrel’s life had been going lately. With a low growl she pushed herself to her feet and went stalking off to go find the source and just get this over with. If she was going to be harassed yet again she was certainly not going to lounge around and be serenaded first. Even if it was a pleasant sound. That would only make the change back to the normal way of things that much worse. Tall grasses swished and rustled around her as she made no attempt to cover her approach. Even so, she saw him before he ever noticed her. If she’d been a killer the way everyone seemed to think, well, he wouldn’t survive an encounter with that sort. It wasn’t until she stepped out onto the rocky ledge that lined the little stream that he noticed her. His antlered head swung up and warm silver eyes met hers as water dripped down his chin. “Gooood moyrning good lady! Sleep well I tyrust? Would you like some of the lovely cyress I found?” Without waiting for a response the strange stallion in her stream waded out and began gathering up some of the large tangy leaves of watercress. He seemed oblivious to the fact that she was staring at him, unable to believe what she was seeing or hearing. When he turned back, a cluster of wet leaves hanging from his mouth, it was to find himself practically nose to nose with an angry looking mare. “Ummm…no cyress?” he managed to get around his mouthful of plants.

“Who ayre you? What ayre you doing heyre? And why ayre you offeyring me my own cyress!?”

The sudden angry outburst didn’t seem to bother the stallion terribly much, though he did shrink back slightly and make as though to carefully put the gathered leaves back where he’d found them, but it seemed to be less out of fear and more in bewilderment. Her irate snort made him abort that line of action and carefully set the leaves down on the rocky ledge where Quarrel could get at them if she chose to eat them after all. Then he equally carefully trotted off some distance downstream. Quarrel thought she’d seen the last of him and glared at his retreating back, only to be surprised as he shook himself off, turned, and trotted right back to her.

“Beg payrdon good lady, I didn’t know anyone lived heyre. I thought you weyre a tyraveleyr such as myself. This is hayrdly the place I’d expect someone to live, all alone out heyre. Theyre’s Oquiesas out heyre you know.”

It was all Quarrel could do not to laugh in his face as the stallion looked at her with such open, concerned eyes. “Oh aye, Oquiesas and plenty moyre,” she said in a bitter, mocking tone. “But let’s face it, no one cayres. If they weyren’t such cowayrds they’d leave my body for the scavengeyrs anyways. What do you want?”

The harsh, bitter tone made the stallion blink a few times at Quarrel and a puzzled frown appeared on his face as he tried to make her angry words make some sort of sense. It wasn’t working so well. He hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. “Beg payrdon?”

Quarrel laughed, a harsh bark with no amusement in in. “Oh, don’t play the fool. Eveyryone who comes heyre wants to kill me oyr dyrive me away, neveyr mind that they don’t even live neayr heayr.” Since he wasn’t attacking her or saying anything she continued, making a point that she’d wanted to make for years to her tormenters. “Neveyrmind that I’m not Sa’kyrien. Do you think you all would walk away if I was?” She showed her teeth, the flat teeth of a grazer rather than a Sa’krien’s sharp pointy teeth, in a mocking grin.

“No…still don’t undeyrstand lady. Theyre’s only one of me still, isn’t theyre?” The stallion turned to look nervously around the grasslands as though he expected a clone of himself to leap out of the gently waving grasses at any moment.

By this time Quarrel was seething. Wasn’t it enough to taunt her and attack her and make things miserable? Did they have to mock her now too? With a shrill angry squeal she pivoted and fled, leaving the bewildered stallion standing there staring after her. The stream was a nice place, she quite liked it there, as much as she liked anything out here. But it didn’t mean enough to her that she’d stay there and deal with this absolutely frustrating stallion as he played dumb. Quarrel knew most every part of this stretch of grasslands. There were plenty of other places where she could be just as comfortable. And none of them had irritating stallions lurking.

By the following day she had found another source of water, this time in the form of an even smaller stream trickling out of the marshes bordering the grasslands. Or into them maybe. It twisted and snaked all over to the point where unless she traced it back she couldn’t remember which way this one was actually flowing. But it didn’t really matter. She was alone again.

But that was only true for a few days. Two mornings after she arrived at the tiny spring she woke to hear a soft humming that had nothing to do with the insect life from the nearby marshes. Slowly she opened her eyes, already glaring at what she knew she would find. The sunny yellow stallion with his odd silver eyes was there again. As he saw her wake and notice him he twitched his tail in an almost hopeful way and nudged a pile of dandelions towards her. “These ayren’t alyready yours too ayre they? I tyried to find them fayr enough away that they wouldn’t be. Would you maybe explain what happened last time? I’m afyraid I still don’t know what you weyre talking about.”

Quarrel’s jaw dropped. She’d thought of this stallion as crazy before, but now she was beginning to wonder if he really was mad. Why else would he be following her like a little lost foal who’d decided she was mamma? It didn’t make any sense! “And you don’t undeyrstand me? What do you want? Yreally. Can’t you just leave me alone foyr once?”

Again with the confused look from the stallion, but this time he seemed to wilt slightly as she stared at him with rather wild eyes. “You don’t like me eithyer?” he asked rather sadly. “Is it the gyreens? Don’t you like these? Should I have found a beyrry bush instead? I passed some, I could go get you beyrries instead if you’d like those.” His ears lifted hopefully as he looked at Quarrel. She stared back at him, eyes wide, half afraid of this strange stallion. He wasn’t like anything she had ever met before and she had no idea how to deal with him.

It was an odd feeling, being the one in retreat. But Quarrel wasn’t thinking too hard about that as she slowly backed away from the stallion as though he carried some strange disease she might catch if she lingered too long with him. And why not? Certainly he wasn’t acting in any way that she recognized as normal. Maybe he did have something. Admittedly she’d never heard of a disease that made you friendly like this, but what did she know. She’d never spent much time in the company of other Samanayrs. Not when they didn’t want to either hurt her or run away before she could hurt them anyways. With one more look over her shoulder at the stallion Quarrel fled again, skirting along the edges of the marsh this time. If he followed her this time he was certainly crazy. Or maybe she was the crazy one. Who knew? Who cared?

This time it didn’t take nearly so long for him to find her again. As she settled down for the night, nervous and jumpy, Quarrel heard a soft trill out in the night. The sound brought back flickers of memory, of her parents calling back and forth to each other. Day or night, it hadn’t mattered. Her mother hadn’t always wanted to be in her father’s company, and he himself had often desired to go off where he could be a Sa’krien without upsetting his mare. But periodically the two had called back and forth to each other, reassuring the other that they were still there, still safe. Without thinking about what she was doing Quarrel softly answered the trill with a whistle of her own. Out there in the dark another trill answered her back, hesitant and surprised but still joyful. When she didn’t reply to that one another trill sounded, questioning and almost worried. His third call was more of a hoot, much like that of an owl. Reluctantly, not entirely sure why she was doing this, Quarrel whistled back. She heard a rustling in the grasses nearby and one more sighing call, the sound of one ready to sleep. Bewildered she responded in kind.

But Quarrel found that she couldn’t sleep. The stallion kept her mind occupied and restless. What was he doing out there? Why was he following her? Why wouldn’t he answer her questions? It was a long and restless night for Quarrel as she turned over her thoughts and feelings and tried to make some sort of sense out of them. By the time the sun rose her mind was no more settled than it had been when she had settled in for the night, but she had decided on one thing. She was going to go find that stallion and make him give her some answers!

In the morning that proved to be harder than expected though. After giving up on her attempts to sleep Quarrel had made no attempt to move quietly. In fact she made in quite clear just where she was, fully expecting the mysterious stallion to show up yet again. After all, she knew he’d been close enough last night that she’d have been able to see him if there had been enough light. So she waited for him to come trotting over. And she waited. And waited some more. By midmorning she had reached the annoying conclusion that this day he was not going to come. Just when she thought she’d figured him out in part he changed his approach on her! Muttering irritably under her breath Quarrel stalked off to get a drink. And there was the stallion, sipping from the slightly muddy puddle. At her approach he lifted his head and stared at her for a long moment, then turned and leaped away into the grass, still watching her over his shoulder. Quarrel gave chase.

It was soon apparent that whoever this odd stallion was, he was as much at home in the grasses as she was. Quarrel saw just enough of him to tell that she was still on his trail, but never came close enough to call out. Her determination to track him down and demand some answers only grew the more he evaded her. Whether she admitted it or not there was Sa’krien blood in her veins. She might lack the bloodlust and drive to kill that her father possessed, but she did still possess the urge to hunt. Maybe not prey, but there’s more than one kind of hunting after all. And being the hunter was much to be preferred over being the hunted in her books.

Quarrel had pursued the mysterious stallion over and around the grasslands for a fortnight before he let her catch him. And she had no doubt about the fact that he had let her. Normally he would have been running long past midday, barely stopping for food or water until past sundown. There was no reason why he should be still standing there at the shallow pond other than that he had decided to stop fleeing. She stalked out of the waving grass, heading straight for him. And for all that he had spent the past fourteen days running from her he showed no sign of being afraid. Instead his head was up and his eyes bright and hopeful. Before she could say anything he spoke. “Why do you follow me so lady? I thought you wished nothing moyre than that I leave you be.” He tilted his head to one side, awaiting her answer with a bright curiosity.

That question drew Quarrel to a pause. Why was she following him so determinedly? As she opened her mouth to snap out that she wanted her answers he interrupted her again. “The yreal answeyr lady. Think about it befoyre you answeyr me. While you think, would you like some wateyr? Gyrazing?” He swept his head to indicate the clear, if shallow, pool of water surrounded by fields and fields of grass and clover. Quarrel glared at him and almost turned away from his challenge until she realized just what he was doing. He was challenging her.

“Like toying with dangeyr do you,” she grumbled as he flicked his tail hopefully when she didn’t turn and flee again.

“No, but I like you.”

The simple words might have been overly blunt coming from anyone else. But with him standing there swishing his short tail and beaming at her they sounded sweet. They also caught Quarrel completely off guard. The last thing she had ever expected to hear was someone telling her that they liked her. Especially like this. His voice, his pose, everything about him indicated that he truly meant what he said. No shadows, no layers of meaning, no games. He liked her. And she hadn’t a clue why. It appeared that he had simply seen her and decided that he liked her. And that made no sense whatsoever.

Though Quarrel had been speechless at first she regained her tongue soon after. All of her torrent of questions were met with shrugs or simple answers that seemed both undeniable and completely impossible. After some time of him dancing around the question it also came out that he had been quietly watching her for a few days before deciding to approach her in the only way he knew how. It was clear that his upbringing had been completely different from hers. She had never seen a Sam other than her parents for longer than a few moments. His Song had been travelers, moving from established territory to established territory and entertaining the resident Songs in exchange for grazing rights for the few days they were there. Her parents, though loving, had always seemed a little distant. His family had been smotheringly close by her standards. Hers had been frighteningly distant from his point of view. They shouldn’t have anything in common. And yet…

Quarrel didn’t flee. She wasn’t going to run away from the challenge this stallion represented. He intrigued her and annoyed her, attracted and repelled. And he wouldn’t go away. He seemed determined not to let her sink back into the deep gloom that she had been living in before he ventured out onto the plains. And, as she found one day when she had wandered off to sulk about her loss of privacy, he wasn’t above forcibly knocking her out of her glooms. Her thoughts had turned sullen and angry, not so much with him in specific as with the world in general. She’d seen him lurking at the edge of sight trying to catch her attention, but she had deliberately ignored him, closing her eyes and turning away. Even when he spoke up she refused to respond. But it was impossibly hard to pretend he didn’t’ exist when he snorted and charged at her, antlers thudding once against her side, knocking the air out of her but otherwise not hurting her.

All her life Quarrel had heard the tale of her mother ramming her father into one of the icy springs that twined their way through Blood’s territory. How that had been what made him decide he wanted the feisty mare who had strayed into what he claimed as his own. The parallels between that story and what was happening here now were incredible. So much so that Quarrel lost it and broke down laughing, though in a slightly hysterical manner.

This clearly wasn’t at all the sort of reaction that the stallion had expected to get when he’d charged her. He was standing off to the side looking at her with worry in his expressive eyes when Quarrel finally mastered herself enough to get back to her feet and mostly stop laughing. Shaking her head slowly at her own thoughts she approached the stallion. “Too bad you didn’t chip off a bit of antleyr foyr me to keep.” She sighed as he gave her a blank look of polite confusion, then continued on before he could politely ask for an explanation for that they way he did for so many other things. “I am Quayrrel of the Foyrest Yrose.”

The stallion chose to let this odd change of topic pass for the moment. He’d go figure out what she meant about the antler later. Right now he had the first sign that she might be even considering accepting his advances and he’d as soon not drive her off again. Or have her turn and drive him off. Instead, now that he’d finally learned her name, he dropped down in a sort of half bow. “And I am Laugh of the Joyous Spiyrit lady. May I hope that this means you might consideyr yremaining with me?” His head tilted back up to regard Quarrel even as he remained down in his half bow. His ears were pricked up hopefully and his bright eyes were even brighter than normal as he waited to hear how she would respond.

Quarrel looked down at the bowed stallion with a look of bewilderment. “Did… Did you just ask…” She almost didn’t dare to ask what she thought he had asked. When she finally managed to get it out it was in a rough, hoarse whisper. “Did you just ask to stayrt a Song?”

Laugh in turn regarded the mare in front of him, examining the nuances of her response, trying to decide how best to reply. He wasn’t really that good at it. “Maybe? Yes…if you want to. I’d like that. Yes?”

The hopeful look in his eyes, the tone of his voice, the words…they all took Quarrel by surprise. No one she had met since leaving her parents had ever thought her worth even a moment’s conversation, much less that melting, hopeful look and spending the rest of their lives with. How do you say no to that? How? How do you turn down the sweetest stallion you’ve ever met? Even if you don’t think you are worthy of finding such a one? Quarrel didn’t know either. She accepted.

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Last edited by Origami_Dragon on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Hum Backstory Part 3: The Childhood
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:23 am 
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It had taken Laugh two weeks to coax the mentally battered hybrid mare he’d fallen for to accept him as her stallion. He should have known it wouldn’t be quite as easy as that. Oh, she’d joined his Song, started it with him rather, but a lifetime of wariness and distrust are not forgotten that easily. He stood and watched as once more she paced out into the grasses, still unconvinced that he wanted her, still not quite trusting his motives. She would come back. She always did. Following her would only make it take longer. Best to just keep an ear out for signs that she had found something she couldn’t deal with alone and let her have her head. Quarrel and her behavior towards him put the stallion in mind of something he had overheard a Sharian say to another Sharian once when they hadn’t realized anyone was listening. He wasn’t sure just what they had been discussing at the time, but the words fitted his relationship with Quarrel perfectly.

There had been an entire story to go with the little quote he recalled, but what that story had been had been lost in the mists of time. Anyways, he hadn’t been paying attention until the last. He’d only been a foal at the time after all. But as best he recalled it the quote had gone something like, ‘If you truly love them then you let them go. If the come back, why then it was meant to be and they are yours and you theirs. If they fly free and away then you had no right to hold them back.’ Or at least that had been the basic meaning of things anyways. Every time Laugh saw Quarrel take off to be by herself again he remembered that quote. Don’t chase her, let her return on her own. She belongs here. It’s just taking her some time to adjust. After all, she had been living alone and shunned for almost as long as he had even been alive. Give her time, give her space. She’ll come around soon enough. Or that was his hope anyways.

Love is a great force. Regardless of if Quarrel loved Laugh from the beginning or not she couldn’t escape the fact that he loved her, and that love was slowly eroding the barriers she had put up around her to protect her from the scorn, hate, and fear she so often had faced. Two weeks was all it had taken for him to win her verbal acceptance. It took the better part of a year to coax his way into her heart. They had met in late summer. In their second autumn together Quarrel finally accepted Laugh’s gentle advances, and the following spring a foal was born. Quarrel knew that Laugh was lurking somewhere in the tall grasses nearby as she cleaned their young filly, but she had insisted on being left alone with the foal for the first day. Laugh just had his own interpretation of alone.

Ignoring the lurking, unseen presences of her stallion Quarrel looked over the new foal. Her heart sank slightly as she failed to find much of her mate in the suckling newborn. The red body and golden legs were so much like her own. The hooves? Still red. Eyes? More red. Tiny stubs of antlers showed on the baby’s head, but it was too soon to say just what color they would be. But save for the lack of spines on the filly’s back she looked so very much like her mother. Quarrel could only hope that as the foal grew to a yearling she would begin to show more color, that perhaps her eyes or hooves would fade to something that did not shout her heritage to the four corners. That she would be able to have a normal life.

The one time that Quarrel had expressed her hope that their coming foal would have a normal life to Laugh he had given her an odd look and asked her just what she meant by that. Apparently he didn’t believe there was any such thing and that the trick was just to learn to love the life you lived. Failing that, you changed your life to something you could enjoy. Anyways, he seemed to think that if there was such a thing as normal then it wouldn’t suit either of them. He’d pointed out that normal would likely not include verbal jousting, frequent antler wrestling matches, running through the grasslands, making your home in the grasslands period…practically nothing of the life they had here and now would fit into what most Samanayr would considerer normal. That didn’t make any of it bad Laugh had been quick to point out. It just…wasn’t what most of the Samanayr he had encountered in his travels wanted. So why wish for normal?

Quarrel’s counter was that she wanted better for their foal than what she’d had. Laugh had no quarrel with that at least. He didn’t pity her the life she had led, he was bright enough to know that she would react poorly to an outpouring of pity, but he could and would certainly sympathize with her wishes that their foal not have to go through what she had. And now that the foal was here and looking so much like her mother…Quarrel could see her hopes for the little one vanishing like the night’s mist in the early morning sun.

It wasn’t until Laugh was nudging her anxiously awake again the next morning as she lay curled around the still sleeping foal that the mare’s fighting spirit began to kick back in even a little. Neither of them had expected the pregnancy to be as rough on Quarrel as it had been. Neither of them was aware of the possibility of depression following the birth of a foal. As such Laugh hadn’t the right words to say to bring his pining mare back around to her usual self. None of the things he had learned about her in the past two years seemed to apply anymore. She was broody, prone to watching the youngster with troubled eyes, leaving the raising of their foal mostly up to Laugh. This troubled him, troubled him a great deal. But there was still the foal to raise, and without his mate’s help the little filly was demanding most of Laugh’s energy throughout the first few months of her life.

Laugh would have made an excellent father if he’d had a mare who was willing to step in and be the disciplinarian. He was entirely too soft hearted otherwise and could hardly bear to deny his daughter anything, especially as her mother scarcely seemed to pay attention to her, and as often as not, when Quarrel did take note of their daughter it wasn’t in a positive way. She seemed almost obsessed with trying to lessen any resemblance to a Sa’krien. Once he caught her trying to coax the foal to coat her hooves with black muck from the swamp in hopes of staining them a less brilliant color. When the filly entered the first stages of speaking and began to love the words ‘No’ and ‘ Why’ was when the trouble really began.

“But why mamma?” was the first thing that Laugh heard one late autumn morning. “Why?” The tone was childishly innocent, but Quarrel’s face as she stared down at their foal did not bode well. From the stormy look his mate was wearing those were not the first words she had heard already today. Or rather, not the first time that she had heard them. He hurried over to try and get between the mischievous young filly and her increasingly irate mother. This was the third time in as many days that this scene had played out, though never this early in the day before. Laugh knew that Quarrel was older than he and felt the autumn chill more strongly. Mornings had never been her best time either.

Laugh got there just in time to deflect Quarrel’s ire onto him instead of the foal. After she had finished attempting to verbally flay him he watched his lady stalk off into the grasses, tail lashing angrily. While he was still staring he felt something warm against his leg and looked down to find his little filly pressed up against him, big red eyes staring anxiously up at him. He hastened to bend down and comfort the frightened girl and distract her with stories.

It was fortunate that Laugh knew a great many stories and tales from his life as an entertainer’s foal. As autumn turned to winter and the weather worsened Quarrel grew more and more touchy. She could barely stand to look at her own foal. And since Laugh had no intention of letting so young a foal go off alone in these conditions, that meant that Quarrel could hardly stand to look at her mate either. Always it seemed that the little one was lurking underfoot, watching her mother anxiously and begging her father for another story. As the winter deepened Laugh led them off the plains and into the hilly country that bordered the marshes. Here at least there were shallow caves in which they could shelter from the worst of the wind and the cold.

Unfortunately leaving the grasslands for a more hospitable place to winter over also brought them into closer proximity with their neighbors. Normally they saw next to nothing of the Samanayrs who lived on the edges of the plain, but a young foal couldn’t deal with the harsh climate as readily as an adult could. Being so near her tormenters upset Quarrel even more than the presence of her daughter. Increasingly she spent more time leaving the safe caves and returning to the plains. Laugh was at his wits ends trying to keep their daughter alive and healthy when her mother kept taking off and denying the little one her milk. It wasn’t that she was trying to kill the filly, or at least Laugh kept telling himself that it wasn’t (not being able to bring himself to actually ask Quarrel about it lest she decide that she was in fact trying to starve the little one), but he feared greatly that intentional or not their filly was going to starve this winter.

It wasn’t even as though the others were trying to drive Quarrel away now. Laugh had begun to suspect the first winter that at least part of the hostility that Quarrel perceived as being directed towards her was only in her own head. Perhaps she had been met with such hatred and driven out here, but those he had met often didn’t even know her. No one cared that she was red in hoof and eye and spines. Most likely she had fled further from her tormenters than she realized. Those plains were large and largely empty. It was easy to loose track of where you were in them. She could easily have done the opposite of what many a lost traveler did. Rather than walking in circles thinking she paced a straight line he could easily see her as having run straight while she thought she was restlessly circling.

But none of this speculation on his mate’s mysterious past was going to help their foal survive to see her future. It only served as a distraction against the little filly’s increasing lethargy. She was just about old enough to start nibbling at grass and leaves and such at need, and he encouraged her to do so every time he found her tentatively trying them. But she was still young enough that she needed mother’s milk as well. She wasn’t old enough to live only on what she could graze! She couldn’t be! But Quarrel was increasingly disinterested in the filly, though when his mare did come back she was showing an increased interest in him again.

Laugh could feel the happy life he thought he’d found for himself falling apart around his hooves. He had a mare who…seemed to still love him even though she was avoiding him. And he had a filly who loved him and needed him if she was going to survive long enough to earn herself a name. And he loved both of them. But they could barely stand to look at each other. Every time Quarrel came near him the filly would hide behind his legs trembling. Every time Quarrel spotted the filly she would glare. Sometimes she would turn and stalk back off into the frozen plain. Other times she would seem as though she was trying to actively drive the filly away. He thought he was going to explode or be torn to bits between the two of them.

Finally, one cold day as he felt he was about to finally break down and go mad one of the older mares approached him. “Let me watch the little one foyr awhile. You go see youyr lady. It’s not good to let the mayre gyrow too jealous of the little one.” For a moment Laugh just stared blankly at her, halfheartedly taking in the graying muzzle, the broken tip of one of her double horns, the roughened coat. He blinked dazedly at her, trying to make sense of all this again. With a sigh she paced forwards and shouldered him aside. “Go. Leave heyr with me. She’ll be fine, won’t you little one?” The last was crooned at the little filly who, as usual, was tucked behind Laugh’s legs. He turned to watch his little girl. She seemed interested in this strange older mare. There was a little spark back in her dulling eyes as she lifted her little muzzle to watch the mare. He still wasn’t entirely sure what had prompted this, or if he could trust this stranger with his only child…but he almost had to. If he had to stand alone between the two ladies of his life for much longer it was going to tear him to pieces. Bowing his head reluctantly he took himself off to find Quarrel, leaving the little filly behind, though not without anxious glances over his shoulder.

For her part the filly didn’t have the energy to do more than show that vague interest in the mare and to grow slightly fretful at her father leaving her alone with the stranger. With ease the old mare took the little filly under her wing and led her gently off. “Silly fellow youyr fatheyr, luyrking in these chilly caves when nice hotspyrings are so close.” Around the warm water of the springs there was still tender vegetation to be found. None of the dry, scratchy pine needles and old twigs that the filly had been trying to nibble on. Leaving the filly standing there staring at the steaming water the older mare carefully plucked a few mint leaves to tempt the youngster’s empty stomach.

When she turned around the older mare’s heart leapt and thudded dangerously. The filly had vanished! Just as the older mare started forwards in horrified shock she heard the sound of splashes. Pivoting with a speed that defied her age she found the filly again, splashing one hoof repeatedly against the hot water. The faint splashing was the only sound the filly was making as she intently stared at the steaming water. Splash, splash, splash went the hoof. Then a pause as she stared at the water dripping off her hoof and trickling into her fur. Then splash, splash, splash again. And another pause. Another set of splashes was starting when the old mare hesitantly approached the filly. “Ayre you alyright deayr?” The splashes paused again as the filly turned to look up at the mare instead, but she said nothing. At least she took and nibbled at the mint leaves when they were offered. She didn’t gobble them down as the mare had half expected one so starved looking would, but then again, from what the mare had seen of the little one’s father he hadn’t made any attempt to get her eating solid foods as yet.

Once the leaves were eaten the repetitive splashes resumed, though they paused again a bit more readily when more leaves were offered. And this time the mare was able to coax the filly away from the water and over to where she could nibble on the mint and other plants at will. And nibble really was the right word to use on the filly. She didn’t eat the way most weanlings did. She didn’t grab the leaves and pluck them away to chew on, dropping half of them in the process. Instead she took little bites out of the leaves and chewed on them for a while before swallowing and taking new bites of leaves. But, looking at her, that might just be for the best. One who had gone without food or with too little food for too long could swell their stomach and do themselves serious harm by eating too much too swiftly. And so the mare made no effort to encourage the filly to eat more swiftly.

And so the winter went. Every night the mare would take the filly back to the cave where her father was living. If he was alone the filly would spend the night with him. If Quarrel was there the filly went back to the springs to spend the night with the local Song. Laugh was still looking drawn and nervous, but no longer on the edge of a breakdown. The filly was…not exactly plumping up, but certainly you could see her bones less than you had been able to before the older mare had taken it upon herself to make sure that the mother’s delusions and fears did not slay the daughter. The lessons that should have come from her mother were coming from a mare of no relation to her, not even the ties of Songmate. But her father still managed to show that he cared. On those nights when the filly stayed with him in the cave he still told her stories and sung her songs. He told her about the powerful Elementals, weaving together bits of remembered stories and his own fanciful imaginings to make sweeping tales of magic and majesty. He waxed eloquent on the benevolent Mystics with their less flashy but more useful magics. He sang old warnings against crossing the path of a Misery and even dredged up the memory of a rare old song about the legendary Mysteries.

Mixed in with the tales of magic and danger were other tales, of more normal life. The filly had already seen enough of life to know better than to believe him if he sang of nothing but happy endings and peace, so young though she was he added the songs of caution and warning. He sang of bitter rivalries between Songs, of the rare clashes when two stallions battled over a single mare who wouldn’t declare her preference. And gently he introduced the Sa’krien to his daughter, his little girl, in whose veins the Sa’krien blood still flowed.

Each tale of a new and exotic species had included the markers that identified them as what they were. The unique names of the Elementals, the flowing strands sported by Mystics, the mane running the length of the Miseries backs, how Mysteries combined the traits of both Mystic and Misery in one Sam. And now as he broached the subject of the Sa’krien he told of the red eyes and claws, the spikes and horns always in red. He tried to make clear that red alone was not enough to make one feared and hated. He tried to make sure that his little girl was not going to follow in her mother’s steps and go mad with the thought that her blood set her wickedly apart. He tried, but it was her mother’s example of how not to live that struck home the hardest for the little filly.

When winter finally ended the little family was…not exactly intact, but at least they had survived. The local Song who had cared for the filly through much of the winter as her parents struggled to try and rebalance their lives, offered to have the three stay and live here. But Quarrel was far from mentally stable still. She wanted nothing to do with any Samanayr other than her stallion. Since the price of his attention was tolerating their foal she would do that, but not even for him would she live so close to another Song. And they were not willing to force so unbalanced an individual to remain with them. After all, only one of their mares was past the age of foaling and two of their number were in fact showing signs that they would be having foals later that spring. And so they sent the family on their way with half wishes of seeing them again the following winter.

Quarrel made no secret of the fact that she still disliked her first child as the family settled back into their semi nomadic life on the plains. Every time she looked at the filly she shuddered at what she saw. The filly tried to shove aside her mother’s hatred, reminding herself that she had caught her mother shuddering at the sight of a red flower as well, or a particularly red tinged sunset. Admittedly, nothing red besides her daughter caused quite the same look of revulsion to appear on Quarrel’s face.

As winter was fading the differences between Quarrel and the filly had begun to increase, but they did nothing to lessen the feelings that seeing the near yearling roused in Quarrel. The fact that her daughter was thin, leaner than her mother with more of a wiry build only reminded Quarrel of her own father. The sharp points to her antlers brought to mind claws and teeth and long red spines, even though the antlers were growing in mostly golden. Even the fact that the filly had considerably more golden fur on her legs and face than did her mother wasn’t enough to dampen the memories that the sight of her roused. The piercing, fierce red eyes and the red hooves were more than any amount of other color could cover in Quarrel’s eyes.

As she reached her first year the filly was rapidly becoming more independent as well. Her fractious temperament only served to further drive in the wedge between the filly and her mother. During the winter she had picked up the habit of humming; no one quite knew from where, but the sound irritated Quarrel. Too often it meant that the filly was plotting some mischief. She never did anything where her father could see or catch her at it, but bit by bit she began to strike back at her mother in little ways. None of it was anything that could be proven, but all of it seemed determined to upset. Actually, the filly was not in fact doing much, but rather taking advantage of her mother’s paranoia and deliberately humming in her mother’s presence when she had noted something that would upset Quarrel. Or maybe when she had helped something minor to become a bit more than that.

Leaves covered over a favored sunning spot? A sudden storm changed the course of one of the little streamlets? All the clover from a particular patch eaten down to the stems? Regardless of what had caused it the not so little filly would take the blame. She didn’t care. Her mother was going to be upset with her for one reason or another regardless of what she had or hadn’t done. She might as well have some fun with it. Increasingly it seemed that her father didn’t understand her and her mother understood her all to well but wished she didn’t. Her sense of humor was rather dark, much to her father’s bewilderment. He had had most of the raising of her, and yet the older she grew the less like him she was becoming. Where Laugh sang out joyfully the filly hummed softly to herself. Where he bordered on the naïve she seemed old beyond her years in sarcasm. He was almost impossible to upset, the filly was quick to anger and increasingly aggressive in response. And she was not in the least beaten by her rough start in life.

It was nearly summer, well past the filly’s year date, when Laugh realized that Quarrel’s disinterest in their foal, now yearling, extended to not having the least desire to give the filly a name. As far as she was concerned this was no child of hers, she refused to acknowledge that she had given birth to the red and gold youngster, she wasn’t going to be convinced for anything to name the filly. No way no how. If he wanted the yearling to have a name then he could do it himself. She was quite thoroughly distracted by something anyways. All Laugh saw was that she was putting weight on again nicely after the lean winter. Perhaps a bit too much weight. Another foal on the way never occurred to him, not with the near complete lack of interest she had in the one they had now. The fact that she might be trying again to have a foal who didn’t show the signs of her father’s blood failed to occur to Laugh. He just sighed and went to go think of names that might suit the yearling.

Laugh remembered well how excited and nervous he had been as the anniversary of his birth day came around for the first time. His parents and the other mares in the Song, as well as his older half sister who had chosen to linger a bit longer to learn more of the lore the Song knew, had all teased him with possible names. They had hinted at thoughts his mother might have as she sought for a name, suggested possibilities that were just plain silly, in general had a grand time with the approach of his naming day. And yet…as important as that day had been to his young self he hadn’t even taught his daughter that she was to be named then… Laugh wasn’t sure how that had happened. He’d lost track of time so badly with trying to be the go between for his mate and their child. And…naming had always been the mother’s right. It hadn’t occurred to him that Quarrel would go so far as to refuse to name the filly, no matter how little she liked the youngster. Laugh hadn’t even thought of names for her.

At least since the filly didn’t realize she was supposed to be named on her first birthday she wasn’t upset that it took him until midsummer to come up with a name. Part of it had been easy. As often as she was to be found humming to herself for one reason or another he was determined to work that into her name. Inspiration for the rest of her name came one clear morning as he lay watching the sun rise. The fire that seemed to touch the horizon as the sun slowly rose started his mind thinking of his daughter and how she seemed to have a fire within just waiting for the chance to break through. Fire in her temper, fire in her heart and spirit, fire that flickered out at her mother when she thought he wasn’t there. But he was resigned to the fact that mare and filly weren’t going to get along, and so long as they didn’t hurt one another he looked the other way.

Early summer, earliest summer actually as if he had counted his days right it was the first day of summer, Laugh was ready to name his daughter. It was still more than an entire moon since the day she should have been named, but considering that her naming day had already passed by the time it occurred to him that he needed to find a name for her himself Laugh didn’t think that he’d done too badly. Now he just had to go find his filly and share her name with her…

Finding the filly was easier said than done. The plains were large and she mostly had the run of them since she was as good as he was at sneaking through the grasses and avoiding detection. One would think that vivid red coat would stand out amidst the green and tan grasses, but somehow it didn’t. It took him the better part of the day to track her down, and when he did she gave a guilty start as though he’d just caught her doing something that she shouldn’t be. But Laugh had planned out what he wanted to say to her and he wasn’t going to deviate from it now. He’d find out what she had been doing after she had her name.

“Now foal of mine, by yrights youyr motheyr should have chosen a name foyr you and given it to you a yeayr afteyr you were boyrn. That is to say oveyr a moon ago now. But I feayr that she is…somewhat unreasonable about you.” The filly started to cut in with some comment, but Laugh cut her off with a sharp shake of his head. As he was not given to sharpness of any sort the filly subsided and let her father continue. “Since youyr motheyr will not name you the task falls to me. I am soyrry to have not considyered youyr motheyr’s reluctance soon enough to name you on the yright and ypropyer day, but I hope you can foyrgive me that.” He ignored the filly rolling her eyes at that. “A name is something special. It tells the woyrld who you ayre. Some payrents don’t give enough thought to the names they choose, but I have thought long and hayrd about what to call you. I hope you like it.”

Now Laugh looked nervous. He’d never expected to have to name a foal on his own and wasn’t really sure how the mares normally went about it. He hadn’t had any younger siblings being named in the year between getting his name and leaving the Song. He coughed and cleared his throat before continuing more nervously with his planned speech. “Theyre ayre fiyres luyrking within you daughteyr mine, waiting to be unleashed. Foyr those I name you; foyr those and foyr youyr softness of song. Of humming yratheyr. Fyrom this day foyrth you shall be known as Hum of the Waiting Embeyr.”

There was a long moment of silence after Laugh named his daughter. She had blanked out slightly as her father rambled nervously on, her thoughts turning back to that which had drawn her out here to lurk alone and to start guiltily when her father had shown up. After a moment she realized that he had stopped talking and was looking at her expectantly. Hastily she replayed the last few minutes of conversation through her head and mulled over the name. She hastened to assure her father that she did indeed like the name and that she didn’t mind it being late. After all, if he hadn’t said anything she never would have known that she was supposed to have been named earlier. Though it was nice to know for the future…just in case. Not that she intended to settle down and have foals of her own anytime soon.

Hum was about to sneak off, pretending to be going off to mull over her new name, when her father spoke up again. “And Hum? What weyre you doing out heyre anyways?” She hadn’t quite mastered the art of hiding her guilt, and so Hum’s eyes darted towards the grasses blocking their view of a small clearing of shorter plants. With a curious look at her Laugh paced forwards and parted the grass she had been looking through not that long ago. He started to walk on through that curtain but then froze completely, stunned. Hum took advantage of this to sneak away.

What Hum had been spying on and Laugh had now discovered was Quarrel. She had only just recently given birth (part of the reason Hum had decided against foals for the moment; getting them out looked nasty and uncomfortable) and was currently curled up around the new little filly, crooning contentedly at her as she never had for Hum. Slowly Laugh crept into the clearing. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. Quarrel had never said anything about having another foal on the way. He’d thought she hadn’t wanted another foal ever, not after the way she had reacted to their first poor little girl! “Quayrrel…what? How? Why…” Why hadn’t she said anything to him about this?

Now it was Quarrel’s turn to look guilty, though only slightly. She had hidden her pregnancy from her stallion as best she could, though truly she hadn’t expected to be able to hide it all the way up until she gave birth to the foal. As she stumbled and stammered her way through an explanation of how she’d wanted to surprise him Quarrel tried to hide even from herself the thought that had this foal turned out with the red eyes and hooves she had come to hate so she likely would have abandoned it, refusing to raise another throwback. But this filly was perfect in Quarrel’s eyes. She looked so much like her father! Most of her body was a warm cream, muted from his gold, but still lovely. Her legs still faded to a brighter gold like those of her mother and sister, but without the red body Quarrel found that quite striking. Obviously it was much too soon to tell what if any patterns she might sport, or if like her sister she might remain plain solid colors with no spots or stripes or unexpected patches of color developing as she reached maturity. No little nubs of spines marred her back, and antlers, well, those were expected. Antlers didn’t bother Quarrel. Sa’krien didn’t have antlers, they had horns. True, both antlers and horns would look similar at birth, but Quarrel had no doubt that this foal would have the antlers of both parents, lovely and gold to go with the rest of her lovely coat. Neither parent, as they stood talking as they hadn’t talked in quite awhile over the sleepy body of their new foal, noticed Hum returned to lurk and spy upon her new sibling.

Even though Hum was barely a yearling and ought to remain with her birth Song for at least another year learning more survival tricks and general history, Quarrel was beginning to react to her as though she was some strange stallion, not a young mare out of Quarrel’s own body. Any time Hum tried to approach and meet her new sister she was driven back with angry squeals. If she ignored those then Quarrel would lash out with hoof and antler, physically driving her away. It was becoming quite clear to Hum, if not to Laugh, that her mother had not given over her delusions and ridiculous fears.

Throughout the summer months of plenty Hum lingered near her parents, following them at a distance, watching, ever watching. It was quite clear that this foal was everything that she had never, would never, could never be to her mother. And though her father tried to leave and spend time with her, Quarrel was quite good at manipulating him and finding something to distract him with whenever he was ready to go back and visit with their elder daughter for a time. But the plains were wide and plentiful, and Hum simply snorted, rolled her eyes, and continued on her way. Which just happened to be the same way they were going. She wasn’t quite ready to be thinking about leaving home just yet. Summer was an easy time, but it went by all too swiftly.

The approach of autumn, the return of frosts and chilling days, heralded another change as well. While the weather was changing, it was still a time of plenty. Oh, the center of the plains where tall grass ruled and choked out most other plants was no longer so fine a place to graze, but further out berry bushes and even small fruit trees could be found with their sweet treats in abundance. Now was the time to gorge yourself and build up as much of a fat layer as you could to see you through winter’s slim pickings. That was just what Hum wanted to do, but it seemed that Quarrel had finally decided to notice her elder daughter again. Unfortunately, the way Quarrel was noticing Hum was to seek to drive her away from every bush and tree she chose to pluck fruits from and declare that precisely that tree or bush was the one she needed to be eating from to produce the best and sweetest milk for her foal or to introduce the little filly to her first tastes of solid foods. Every. Single. Bush. The first few times Hum had simply glared but given way to her mother. But it kept happening! Every bush she found, her mother followed her to and drove her away! This had to stop.

Laugh was of no help with this. He was not nearly so good at distracting Quarrel as she was at distracting him. Particularly not when she was in the grip of obsession like this. And he hadn’t figured out yet that if he could manage to distract the little filly away to show her something that Quarrel would anxiously follow, not wanting to ever let this foal out of her sight. And so, finally one day Hum had had enough of this harassment. When Quarrel came bulling over to chase Hum away from yet another crop of delicious berries it was her turn to suddenly find herself confronted by a pair of antlers lowered and ready to charge. And while Quarrel’s antlers were relatively blunt at the tips, not so much so as Laugh’s rounded ones, but still blunt enough, Hum’s two pronged antlers were quite sharp enough to do some serious damage.

“This is my bush, I was heyre fiyrst. YOU can find anotheyr place to gyraze this time. I am not leaving.”

Of course, this rebellion was met with indignant looks and much talk of how she owed it to her mother to yield way, at which point Hum launched onto an angry raging rant about how Quarrel was no more her mother than this bush was in any way other than the purely physical which hardly counted since if Quarrel had gotten her way Hum would by now be nothing more than a bleaching skeleton of a half grown foal, picked clean by the scavengers and abandoned. Quarrel had no claim over Hum, no right to dictate anything to her, was scum as far as Hum was concerned and had better leave Hum alone or there would be trouble. Hum was only a season shy of being forced away anyways, but she might as well leave now for all anyone cared. But she wasn’t going to because she wasn’t about to let her mother push her around that way and she WAS going to stay here and graze until the autumn rains gave way to the first snows of winter. Then and only then would she leave the plains for good and go seek out her own life. Hum was done with being pushed around! Like it or not Quarrel was not the boss of her and never would be again.

Rant concluded Hum stalked stiffly off before she deprived her sister of a mother’s love as well. Hum had no quarrel with the little foal, just with their mother. And she wasn’t going to force this filly to go through what she herself had. Though a little bit of her wanted to make the filly suffer, but Hum kept that bit choked down, as much for her father’s sake as anything. He’d tried for her after all. It wasn’t his fault he wasn’t the brightest fellow around, or that he’d fallen for so unstable of a mare as Quarrel. He didn’t deserve to loose his younger foal or his mate that way.

After that confrontation Quarrel pointedly avoided her older daughter. If Hum showed an interest in a particular bush Quarrel was sure to leave the area. For the sake of the stallion that they each loved in their own way the two of them carefully danced around each other, avoiding each other whenever possible, ignoring one another when they couldn’t avoid each other. Laugh had given up on trying to reconcile the differences between them and was simply glad that the two of them weren’t fighting, but simply verbally sniping at one another when forced to deal with each other.

It was almost a relief for all concerned when they woke one morning to find a light dusting of snow covering the plains. The young filly, though she was fascinated with this falling white stuff and wanted to play in it, nonetheless kept close to her mother’s side. Even she could feel the tension in the air as her older sister approached. Hum’s head was held high as she fiercely regarded her family one last time. Without another word she turned and walked away into the increasing snow, heading for the hot springs where she had spent her first winter. With any luck the resident Song would be willing to help her one last time before she left these plains forever to find her own way in the world.

For a long time after Hum had left silence ruled the motionless tableau on the plains as snow slowly gathered on their backs. The filly was the first to break the stillness, and with her sneeze the spell was broken. Life would go on…life would always go on.

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 Post subject: Scrap Backstory
 Post Posted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 4:48 pm 
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Watchful Dragon
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Spring comes late in the mountains. In fact, in the highest reaches of the mountains it never truly comes at all. But this year as spring arrived it brought with it an abundance of new life to one of the isolated mountain Songs. Like many of those dwelling in the higher peaks of this mountain range the Song was composed primarily of Sa’grisayrs, their semi-carnivorous diets allowing them to more easily eke out a living amidst the scarce vegetation of their high homes. While plant life might be scarce there were plenty of fish in the streams and insects buzzing around the lower reaches of their range. Despite the height of their mountain home from the forest floor far below, this Song had a hot spring just as nice as those to be found in the forests and jungles of their more equine brethren. Or at least that was how they felt about it.

Back near the founding of the Song, when its lead stallion Caw of the Tawny Crow had held only a single mare, they had sought out one of the Sharian to help them in finding a suitable place for the two of them to settle down and attract more young mares. They wanted a place high in the mountains that they loved, a place that would remain cool enough even in summer that the mare, Tumble of the Winter White, wouldn’t overheat with her fluffy coat, and yet able to be warm enough to keep younglings and Song members with less thick coats comfortable through the long, hard mountain winters. Such a place did not seem to occur naturally, though they had looked long and hard before seeking aid.

Indeed, the first Sharian they had approached had shaken his head and spread his hands as he regretfully informed him that he was unable to help; he didn’t have the magic to create such a place and doubted that it existed without magic. Not here anyways. But he had helped them to find a mage who was both young and agile enough to reach the mountain heights were they wished to start a Song and powerful enough to shape them a spring such as they wanted. And now, they had what the entire Song agreed was a fine place to live. From outside it didn’t look like much. A small hole in the wall, just big enough for the tallest Samanayr to fit through, leading to a long and twisty tunnel. When you reached the end of the tunnel though it seemed well worth the efforts of following that tangled path with all the seemingly pointless backtracking.

As you began to reach the halfway point you would begin to notice that no matter how cold it was outside the air in here was beginning to warm and grow slightly humid. At this point there began to be a few branches off of the main tunnel leading to cozy little nest chambers, well lined with moss and shed fur and feathers. By the time you reached the end of the tunnel it was quite comfortably warm and it was possible to see the source of the heat. A large natural cave dotted with multiple small pools of water, most of which gently steamed was dimly lit by some sort of glowing crystal that spotted the walls and ceiling. Outside the winds might whistle and howl, but in hear little disturbed the still. It was easy to winter over here, dozing away the chill moons, telling stories, playing lazy games, living mostly off of stored fat and the moss and lichen that surrounded the steamy pools. A single icy stream, untouched by the magic, provided a source of fresh water to drink and a way to cool off should you manage to overheat.

This spring the normally quiet main cave was filled with noise and activity. Tumble had already given birth to a noisy little filly and two of Caw’s other mares were heavily pregnant and expecting their foals at any time. The only mare in the Song not expecting was a slightly nervous young Lamanayr mare who had stumbled into their territory just this past winter and chosen to stay. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to tell them yet just what had sent her fleeing to the mountains during the worst season of the year, but the easy going company of the Song was slowly relaxing her, and the young mare was more than willing to help the new mothers out.

Right now most of the noise was not coming from the Song’s first foal of the season, who was in fact napping with her mother in one of the little nesting caves lining the entrance tunnel. Most of the sound was in fact being made by one of the two pregnant mares, a pump black and white Sa’grisayr called Patches of Mountain Sunlight who was bemoaning the fact that her pregnant state meant that it was too much effort to waddle her way to the mouth of the tunnel and squeeze out to see the spring sunlight. Most everyone else in the cave was ignoring her, though Caw and his Sa’grisayr-Lamanayr hybrid mare Sparkle of the Laughing Stream looked as though they were considering heading for some of the empty nesting caves as well. But the little draconic winged Lamanayr was new. She had yet to experience the pain that was Patches in the last stages of pregnancy and was trying to sooth and comfort the grousing mare. Which, in accordance with Patches’ nature meant that the mare was only hamming it up more to her attentive audience.

Caw was rising with a sigh to tell the nervous Lamanayr mare to just ignore the attention seeking Patches so that maybe they could have some quiet again when her string of chatter was broken with a harsh squawk as her eyes pinned and she rolled awkwardly onto her side panting heavily. By nightfall there was only one mare left in the Song who had not delivered her foal, and Patches was happily sprawled out beside Tumble in the nesting cave. Tumble was pretending to sleep, though twitches of her short ears and the occasional grumbling snort gave away her pretense. Patches was, as usual, chattering happily if sleepily away. Tonight the subject of her chatter was little nestlings, as her family apparently had referred to their foals. How sweet they were, how much she loved having them, how much she wished that you could get a nestling without having to spend so long getting big and waddling around awkwardly. Did Tumble think that Sparkle would have a third filly or would she throw a colt?

Finally as Patches rambled on to the subject of names and wanted to know if Tumble had given any thought to the matter of names for her filly yet the fluffy mare gave up the pretence of sleep. “Patches, she be less than foyrtnight old, no, have not thought of name! Is wyrong tyry name so soon! Go sleep.” This command was emphasized with a bat from one black barred white wing as the snowy owl mimic mare rolled over to glare fiercely at the patchy chatterbox. With a trilling laugh Patches complied, snuggling contentedly with her new little nestling.

By the end of the week there were three shaky little fillies romping clumsily around in the main cave, carefully watched by all four mares and the stallion to insure that they didn’t romp too close to the water and go tumbling in. It was safer to let the little ones romp and play in here than to take them out into the last breath of winter winds and perhaps have one go tumbling over the edge of the cliff. But oh was it noisy with three little ones shrieking playfully and filling the cave with echoes. It was much too early to tell just what the three youngsters would look like when they grew up, but the mares were indulging Patches and speculating idly on how they might grow as they drowsily kept an eye on the playful foals.

Tumble’s filly was already showing signs that she had inherited her mother’s fluffy coat and looked like little more than a white puffball tumbling around on creamy gold legs. Her wings were all but lost in the fluff, as were her ears and beak. Bright golden eyes peeked out from the fluffy head. At Patches’ coaxing Tumble amiably wondered if the filly would acquire some of her father’s striping the way the last foal had. Darker tawny stripes across a white body would be nice. Or maybe the filly would come out with a paint pattern like Patches herself had. Hadn’t Patches had a mostly black mother and a largely white father? Or had it been the other way around? The heat was making Tumble drowsy and she couldn’t remember.

Patches didn’t seem to think it was important and instead coaxed Sparkle into thinking about her nestling’s future. Did she think the nestling would acquire her own sparkling coat? Wasn’t she such a pretty shade of slate blue now? Wouldn’t it be nice if she would stay that color as she grew up? Were tufted tails useful the same way a regular tail was?

The last question was slightly anxious as Patches turned her attention to her own filly without waiting for the quiet Sparkle to actually bother answering her. Tumble and Sparkle were both of the opinion that all this questioning was mostly to give Patches an excuse to introduce the matter of her own little filly. She had her mother’s paws on the hind feet and she didn’t seem to have nearly as much fluff on her legs as her half sisters, implying that she probably had her father’s tuftlessness as well. But what was worrying Patches was the fact that her foal had been born with a tufted tail, like that of Sparkle or the Lamanayr mare who had managed to forget her own name.

Even as her mother worriedly asked about tufted tails, the tail of the filly in question was seized by one of her sisters, triggering the loudest squall yet as the orangy foal turned and tried to gnaw her sister’s wing in return. Tumble simply chuckled and closed her eyes, fluffing out her wings and crest and clacking her beak contentedly. The tufted tail in question swished around and flicked at Patches’ ear. “Be at easy Patches. No hayrm will come to heyr because heyr tail is not so shaggy as is youyr own. Since you be so yrestless why don’t you watch the nestlings foyr a time and let us sleep. Peyrhaps they could chew on youyr tail until you have a tuft to see how you like?”

Soon the hybrid mare was soundly asleep, head resting on her hooves. Tumble was well on her way to following, leaving Patches more or less alone with the romping foals and the nameless Lamanayr. Caw had taken himself off, leaving the mares to the watching of noisy youngsters while he escaped to go stretch his wings after the long winter and see how their mountain crag had survived. With any luck he would also find some nice fish or little rodents to take home to his growing brood. Or their mothers anyways as the new foals were still too young to be eating meat.

After a pause in her chatter while she went to shoo the tumbling mass of foals away from one of the pools Patches settled down beside the nameless mare again and turned somewhat worried eyes on her. “Tell tyrue, you think my nestling will be fine with heyr tail like that? Youyr tail be like that. But mine be not and noyr be Caw’s. Why my nestling have tail like you and Spayrkle you think? I live so long with Spayrkle that my nestling be getting heyr tail instead of mine? Next nestling have hooves instead of talons? What you think?”

The Lamanayr mare gave Patches a wary look. She had a hard time following the speech of these mountain Sa’grisayrs as it was. Their accent was different enough from anything she had heard before finding herself wind tossed here in their mountain even at the slower pace that the rest spoke. But an anxious Patches tended to talk fast. And slur her words slightly. And the unconscious flexing of talons on Patches’ part was not helping the nervous mare’s state of mind. Memories danced just at the edge of recollection, triggered by those flexing talons. Patches had to repeat herself a few times, eventually nudging the other mare with her beak to get a response. One more time she repeated herself, finally going slowly enough that the Lam mare could get the gist of her questions. She shrugged.

“Sometimes foals ayre boyrn with yrandom mutations. I…I’m suyre that’s all.” Black eyes peered cautiously at Patches as the Sa’grisayr began gnawing on one talon as her worried eyes continued to watch her foal. Or ‘nestling’ as she kept calling her. That as much as anything had confused the Lam mare. She hadn’t been here long enough to have learned of Patches’ odd name for foals. The Sa’grisayr mare didn’t seem to be paying much attention to her at the moment, but the Lam mare still rose nervously to go over and move closer to the foals. All three of them were starting to show signs of wearing out. Little crests were starting to droop, as much as feathers still in the pin stage can really droop, bright eyes were barely able to stay open. They might all have beaks and talons, but right now the mare felt safer among them than with the full grown adult mare. After all, the baby beaks and claws weren’t nearly as long or sharp.

For the next month or so things continued on mostly as they had been. Tumble and Sparkle were inclined to doze in the warmth of the cave and Patches seemed to need only a minimal amount of sleep each night despite spending most of her time keeping up with three rapidly growing fillies. Caw had little interest in foals this young, and would escape the cave each day as soon as possible. And the young mare who had found herself in this odd place, accepting the invitation of the bright eyed stallion to join his Song without really knowing what she was getting herself into, well, she had her good days and she had her bad days. On her bad days she retreated to one of the little side caves, or even outside as the weather steadily continued to improve. On her good days she remained in the main cave and helped out with the growing foals.

When the foals were almost three months old they were at last deemed old enough and steady enough to be taken outside for the first time under the watchful eyes of their mothers. Patches’ foal was being watched the most carefully as she had emerged as a ringleader already in mischief making. None of the foals were speaking yet, though all three were wordlessly babbling happily quite often, her more than her sisters. All three of them were babbling right now as they tried to push ahead of their parents and race down the long tunnel. This was exciting! None of them had been allowed anywhere near this far before! Even when they had been taken to the nesting caves to sleep rather than sleeping in the main cavern, they had always slept in one of the closer caves. And now there were no more caves to pass and they were close enough to the entrance to feel a breeze for the first time in their young lives, and all three of them were eager to get out there and go explore and play in this strange new place their parents were showing them!

When they finally reached the end of the tunnel the mares allowed the frisky foals to race out ahead of them in a tumble of little bodies. Caw was out there waiting for them, yet another new thing for the day. He usually only returned after the fillies had gone to sleep for the night and quietly enough that they didn’t wake. They might wake in the morning to find little playthings left behind for them, but they rarely ever saw their father. As the three raced joyfully out into the sunshine, Patches’ foal in the lead, their father suddenly reared up in front of them with a raucous caw, startling the fillies into tumbling backwards again. Sparkle’s little girl ran eeping back to her mother as the four mares emerged into the light as well, but Patches and Tumbles fillies recovered swiftly and went racing out to their father, crying out happily in high pitched voices.

“Papa papa papa,” began to emerge from the meaningless babble of chirps and shrieks as Patches’ orange filly bumbled her way towards Caw, tiny wings flapping furiously as she made tiny leaps with great enthusiasm. Tumble’s fluffy white foal was close behind, and soon was echoing her younger sister so that both foals were chirping ‘papa’ as they surged towards him. Seeing her sisters’ enthusiasm the youngest little filly began to totter more hesitantly out onto the ledge after them, though she wasn’t peeping words just yet. Caw went down theatrically as the first of his daughters reached him, taking care to roll away from the edge as the two foals pounced playfully at him, tugging at his facial fluff and crest.

When all three fillies had worn themselves out and were curled up in a heap against the cliff face under the watchful eye of Tumble, Caw surveyed them proudly. This was a fine batch of foals this year, all growing strong and making him proud. The middle one was a bit rambunctious and the youngest a bit shyer than he would like, but there was time yet to outgrow those things. With a satisfied croak he nodded at his mares and then took off again to patrol his territory and hunt for food to fill growing tummies.

The nameless Lamanayr mare watched him go with a puzzled look. She had seen little more of him than had the foals since joining his Song, and that wasn’t how she had thought things would be. “I-is he always like this,” she tentatively asked. Patches and Sparkle looked at each other and shrugged, while Tumble rolled her head almost upside down and looked at the young mare in a slightly disapproving way. She clacked her beak harshly, then softened slightly as the mare started back from the sound in fear.

“Ach, don’t let him be botheyring you. ‘Tain’t the most social of stallions is ouyr Caw but he does well by us. Ye’ll see moyre of him when the wee ones ayre a bit biggeyr. No easy task putt’n food afoyre so many hungeyry beaks, ye ken? ‘Grisayr foals need moyre than just a gyraze, and sooneyr’an otheyr foals be need’n solids. ‘Tain’t easy nuyrsing a beaked little’un. We’ll be a’wean’n them afoyre long. ‘Til then we canno hunt foyr ouyr own selves. Caw’s a gyreat deal on his claws yright aboyt now. So you be lett’n him be till the wee ones gyrow a bit moyre and fledge, ye ken?”

Tumble’s voice had gone rather motherly as she spoke at length for her, but there was steel in her gaze as she fixed the nameless mare’s eye with her own at the finish. Tumble had been with her stallion for a long time now and wouldn’t take any bad mouthing of him. She’d already driven off more than one potential mare, though not in quite some time now. And she didn’t intend to drive this one off, but she would if she had to. Tumble might look soft and bumbling and harmless, but there was a fierce warrior in there when there was need for such. And right now it was the warrior looking out through her tawny golden eyes.

The confrontation only lasted a few moments, during which Patches and Sparkled busied themselves with fussing over the napping foals. It ended when the unnamed mare bowed her head and softly trilled her acceptance of Tumble’s words. Keeping one wary eye on the fluffy mare she circled around Tumble and joined the others with the sleeping foals. Already Patches’ orange filly was beginning to stir fitfully. She didn’t look as though she would be asleep much longer. The mare could see why Caw would want to escape from these bundles of near endless energy, though it didn’t seem quite fair that he expected his mares to stay with them all the time with no breaks either.

But even as she thought that Sparkle moved away and leapt over the edge of the cliff, wings catching the air and sending her spiraling back up and away. Patches glanced over at her, bright eye sparkling. “Off t’stuff heyr own belly now, lucky mayre. You’ll get youyr turyn to styretch youyr wings and gyraze soon enough. Though I’m a’thinkin you’ll be going fuyrther afield than do we. Not so much gyrze to be had up heyre, no siyreeah.” She winked at the mare, then turned away to stick her beak between her foal and Tumbles before her little one could wake her still sleeping sister.

All in all this day had given the Lamanayr mare much to think about. Her memories of her time down in the forests below were vague, but nothing in them really matched up with what she was finding up here among the Sa’grisayr. And every time she thought she had figured something out about this rather relaxed yet predatory Song they went and did something against all expectations. She was beginning to feel that she would never understand them. Even their speech continued to elude her half the time. Tumble at least tended to speak as she did most things. In a slow, deliberate fashion. Of the three mares she was the easiest to understand. Patches was the worst. As with Tumble, her speech patterns emulated the rest of her actions. Unlike Tumble though, Patches tended to rush into and through things. She seemed to always be in motion. It as hard to place Caw and Sparkle though…they spoke so seldom, at least to her. At least Sparkle was there though. It still seemed odd for the Song’s stallion to be so seldom at his spring.

The advancing of the season through the brief summer went quickly. The foals continued to grow rapidly, and before too much longer they were beginning to stretch their wings and flap in earnest. They were still too young to have hit their yearling molt, but as longer, stronger feathers grew in the rest of their coats were starting to show a few more colors. The little orange one’s head was darkening, and the white one was going more gold around the legs, beak, and crest, while their youngest sister’s legs were fading almost to black except for her toes which seemed to be lightening instead. When all three, now almost half adult size, started flapping at once things in the main cavern grew quite windy. And noisy. None of the foals, especially the middle one, seemed to be able to exercise their wings without much chatter and commenting on how much better they were doing than their sisters.

There was beginning to be a hint of crispness in the air of a morning when Caw examined his daughters and declared them to be well enough grown to begin learning how to fly. The outbreak of chirps and whistles and high pitched squeals that this pronouncement brought as all three began to flap excitedly reminded him, too late as usual, that such pronouncements were best put off until he had gotten his brood outside. Fortunately the mares were between the fillies and the exit, otherwise at least one of them might well have gone over the edge as they all tried to race for the exit and their first real attempts at flying. Instead they were corralled and reminded that their mothers were still fully capable of sitting on them until they behaved, and if they goofed around too much that was exactly what was going to happen. Flying was serious and a fall from as high up as they lived would hurt. Perhaps even fatally.

As usually happened at this time in the life of the Song’s foals Tumble took over from Caw who even after all these years didn’t quite get how you needed to start youngsters off. Rolling her golden eyes at Caw the lead mare herded the fillies to the back of the cave where a series of ledges ran up the wall. All of them had played on these ledges whenever they could sneak away from parents’ watchful eyes, and all of them were surprised to now be taken to the very ledges they had formerly been forbidden to play on.

Stopping at the base of the lowest of the series of ledges Tumble turned and sat, watching the youngsters until they fidgeted themselves out and sat watching her curiously. “Now, y’all be wanting to be leayrning to fly. We be wanting you to be flying too. ‘Tain’t safe foyr you up heyre, all flightless. That be why we leayrn you in heyre where the gyround be not so fayr away. Now I want you to be climbing this ledge and be jumping off flapping. When you no be tumbl’n into heaps on the gyround then we be moving to the next ledge. When you be able to land on the gyround fyrom the top then we be letting in outside to fly. Ye ken little ones?”

Three fluffy heads nodded eagerly and the sisters scrambled over each other to be the first to reach the lowest shelf. Tumble had to reach up and grab the tufted tail of Patches’ foal to stop her from climbing right on up to the next level. Thus began a regiment of leaping and falling, sometimes forgetting to even try flapping or gliding on the way down. After all, it was so much fun to try landing on your sister’s back. Especially as far as the middle daughter was concerned. Her sisters didn’t seem so thrilled to have her land squarely between their wings and chirp shrilly at them, but that only made them more determined to land on her in return. Repeatedly one or another of the mares would have to break up scuffles between the three.

The nameless mare mostly stayed out of the flight practice. She had begged off from the beginning, claiming that since her wings were not feathered the way the rest of the Song members wings were, the way she flew was different and she didn’t think she could help feather winged foals learn to fly. Not without at least watching this crop of youngsters and seeing how different their training was from what she had gone through. But as the three fillies grew more and more proficient at flying and began to be able to hover around the top of the cave a bit before gliding down, the orange filly began to target the Lamanayr mare. The first the mare knew of it was one day near when the fillies would be allowed to go flying outside. She had been dozing beside one of the cooler pools of water when suddenly an ear piercing whistle sounded. She had looked up just in time to have a happily shrieking filly swoop over her and land with a splash in the middle of the pool. While the mare stood there, stunned, Patches waded in and wearily fished her half grown foal out and hauled her off to sit in a corner for awhile.

That had only been the first of the dive bombings. Usually they ended with the filly soaking wet and the mare splashed and startled, but on occasion the filly managed to land on her the same way she normally did on her sisters. After the third or fourth time she tried to get the Lamanyr mare the filly was taken aside and her father demanded to know what she thought she was doing. It turned out that she had decided, all on her own, that the mare was too sad and needed to play more. It had never occurred to her that the mare might not like this sort of play. Even after being informed of this fact by her father and his lead mare the filly still chose not to accept it. After all, the mare wasn’t protesting. So that must mean she was really having fun! Right?

In reality the mare just didn’t have the heart to ruin the filly’s fun. And she was still slightly nervous of the beaks and talons of her Songmates. Odd then that she chose not to enforce the other adults in discouraging the filly from landing on her repeatedly. After all, the filly had claws and a beak just as much as any of the others in the Song did. But she seemed so…happy with her game. And soon enough they’d be flying outside. Surely with the entire mountain to fly over the filly would loose interest in pouncing off the ledges onto one of her father’s mares. Surely.

Soon enough the day came when it was time to go outside and truly spread their wings in real flight. The air inside the cave was still except for when the wings of its occupants stirred it into motion. Without moving air to ride on and winds under the wings it was hard to stay aloft. The point of these exercises had been to build up strength in the wing muscles so that when the true flying lessons began the wings were ready for the work that was about to be demanded of them. And it was going to be work, make no mistake about that. But as they cheerily trooped along behind their parents to that first real lesson all three foals were cheeping and chattering excitedly, very much too fast to easily catch their words. The oldest and the youngest spoke with the thick accent of their parents, but the middle child had chosen to imitate the lowlander accent of the mystery mare who had come to dwell among them. She seemed to think it was quite fun, and it was easier to chatter really fast in. Though the Lamanayr mare understood her more readily than she did any other member of the Song, the rest of the filly’s Songmates found her even more difficult to understand than the Lamanayr did them. It was entirely possible that the fillies didn’t understand half of what their sisters were saying as they joyfully headed out to real flying, but that was ok. They were each too busy talking themselves to listen anyways.

The tunnel out of their cozy cavern had never seemed longer. That was one bit of information that did come out of all the chatter. Maybe this time it was never going to end. Maybe it had somehow been magically altered overnight so it ran in a continuous loop! That notion caused quite a stir among the three fillies, and much eye rolling among the adults at the impatience of youth. They almost had to stop the middle filly from trying to pluck her sister’s crest feather out to leave on the floor so they’d know if they passed this spot again. But neither sister was willing to let their feathers be plucked, and the orange filly wasn’t so thrilled with the idea of plucking herself. Fortunately they reached the exit just before the shrill voiced little fillies went from arguing to fighting.

The sudden swirl of crisp, cool air smelling of pine needles and fallen leaves broke off the argument as all three squealed happily and darted for the outside. This time though there was no parent waiting out there on the ledge to stop them. Two of the three stopped themselves and stood peering over the edge, beaks gaping open in awe. The middle filly however launched herself straight over the edge with a joyful cry. There was a moment of panic among the adults as all five of them tried to catch sight of her again, and three of them were actually in the air when she came bumbling back into view. Her flight was highly erratic and resembled that of a drunken butterfly more than of a respectable Sa’grisayr, but she was flying. Nonetheless, her mother quickly swooped in and herded her back to the ledge, scolding fiercely for giving her such a fright. And when Patches got talking that fast almost no one could understand her.

The filly simply nodded her head and made sad sounds at the right points and waited for her mother to wear herself out so that they could go back to flying time. The first genuine sound of regret came when Patches implied that perhaps her overly hasty nestling shouldn’t be allowed to go flying today after all if she couldn’t wait until the adults were ready. If she was going to go and risk her little neck on a whim, maybe she wasn’t ready to start flying yet. By the time Patches was done scolding she had fluffed up to the point where she looked almost as fluffy as Tumble. The little filly clacked her beak and looked up at her mother, golden eyes big and sad. She whimpered slightly and clasped her talons in front of her pleadingly until with a snort her mother relented and sent her over to join the flying lesson.

Tumbled nodded as the orange foal slipped in between her sisters and made a show of watching the lead mare intently. “Despite what youyr sisteyr heyre be playing at, that not be how Sa’grisayr supposed to fly. You watch now.” With another nod Tumbled turned and made a short charge towards the edge of the ledge and gathered herself to leap. Unlike the filly, who had plummeted some distance before recovering and rising, Tumble made a shallow glide down, then turned it into a sharp rise upwards. Her wings didn’t beat in the frantic fluttering pattern of the filly, but rather strong and smoothly. She curved high into the air above them, and then demonstrated why her mother had long ago chosen to name her Tumble. She pivoted and wheeled and danced through the air smoothly and gracefully and seemingly without effort. The three fillies were entranced, beaks hanging open as they watched her soar above them. Her foal chirruped proudly and puffed up her fluffy fur, imagining herself flying just as well as her mother. All three were twitching their wings eagerly as their father rose into the air to dance along side Tumble.

After Tumbled landed and the fillies were given permission to attempt to take off it didn’t take them long to realize that flying was a great deal harder than Tumble had made it look. Tumble, Caw, and Patches took it in turns to be in the air, ready to dive and catch up a falling youngster. Sparkle and the nameless mare sat and watched, lacking the nimble talons that would readily allow an adult to grab hold of a foal. Not that there was much need to be able to capture them. Though their flight was clumsy and awkward to begin with, all three were rapidly improving. Or at least they were when they tried. The drunken butterfly flight pattern first demonstrated by Patches’ filly was popular with the three fillies, and they attempted to manage it every time their parents turned their backs for a moment. Caw shook his head, but indicated that his mares should let them play. If nothing else the furious pace the activity set for their wings would strengthen them and improve their lung capacity.

Life for the fillies changed after that first successful flight outdoors. Now, instead of being confined to the cavern most of the time they were outdoors almost every day. Only storms or heavy fog would keep them inside. But those kept everyone inside. Caw was the only one who normally braved the elements in those conditions, and sometimes Tumble with him. They did still have to eat after all, regardless of the weather. Yes, there was moss and such in the cave, but that wasn’t very tasty, and was usually saved for the worst of the winter when conditions were too bad to dare venture outside. The fillies had no idea how nasty a mountain snow storm could get…they just knew that they didn’t want to eat the yicky moss unless they had to.

As flying was increasingly mastered, hunting lessons were added to the daily activities as well. Fishing lessons would come later, the following spring most likely, once the fillies had the endurance to fly to the nearest river of a size to support fish. The youngest filly showed markedly less interest in hunting than her sisters, showing her Lamanayr blood. While her sisters snapped up little bugs and rooted around looking for lizards, she slowly and methodically plucked berries off of bushes. Every now and again one of her sisters would join her. As the season progressed and the berries sweetened the others joined her in plucking berries more frequently. The nameless mare accompanied them on these berry hunts, teaching them more about the names of the plants and which ones were safe to eat than any of the other adults in the Song knew. After all, she was in no part carnivore and thus could be expected to be more familiar with the local vegetation.

But all too soon the rather idyllic days of autumn began to give way once more to winter. Winter was the longest of the mountain seasons after all. The first snow flurries had all the fillies watching from the tunnel mouth in awe. Every now and then one of them would dart out and try to catch the falling flakes, then retreat in confusion when their ‘prey’ melted into icy water on their claws. For the first few days of the flurry the foals were allowed to remain snug in the cave, but soon they too were expected to go out in the milder winter weather. The number of trips it would take to bring enough food back to feed three hungry little mouths was far too many compared to bringing the three of them out on a single trip and letting them feed themselves.

At first one or another of the fillies would baulk at going out in that weather. But as it became obvious that if they didn’t go out then all they would have to eat was moss and whatever tidbit a sister thought to bring back, well, going out in the cold suddenly seemed like the better option. After all, sisters were hungry too, and all too often a well meaning snack would wind up being devoured on the way back home.

The rough and tumble play of their first months was long gone. Winter was too harsh to burn that much energy to no purpose. The entire Song spent most of their time either dozing in the cave or out hunting for food. The long stretches of time with nothing much to do also meant that it was time for some of the less practical lessons in life for the three half grown fillies. Now was the time for the sleepy telling of tales and recounting of histories. Now was when the three learned for the first time why one of the mommas didn’t have a beak, why two of them had no talons. Until now they hadn’t know that they were only one kind of the Kin. The mare who still could not, or perhaps would not, remember her name, found herself the object of some rather intent scrutiny as the foals added up the differences between their parents and her. Sparkle came in for some lesser scrutiny as a hybrid, but she looked too much like a Sa’grisayr to attract quite as much attention. And anyways, she didn’t react nearly as interestingly to being stared at by three sets of little eyes.

One day near the end of winter the middle filly approached the nameless mare and sat there staring at her. The filly tilted her head from side to side and even turned it almost upside down as she appeared to be turning some idea over and over in her head. Finally, just as the mare felt like she was about to have a nervous breakdown under this focused scrutiny on top of the general stares from all three fillies all winter long, the filly spoke. “You don’t have a name. But you’yre a mamma. Why don’t you have a name? Don’t you want one? I do. Mamma says she’ll name me when the sun comes back and eats up all the snow again. My sisteyrs ayre getting names then too. Will you get one? I think you should let mamma name you! You need a name. I’m going to go tell the mammas that they need to think of a name foyr you too! You’ll like having a name again I bet!”

With that the orange filly scampered off to go wake each of the other drowsing mares in turn and pester them with her idea that the Lamanayr mare needed to have a name. Finally, under the eager eye of the filly, Tumble rose slowly to her feet and drowsily made her way over to the Lamanayr mare.

“And so, I be scolded and yrightly so by th’ youngsteyr foyr lett’n you go this long with no tyrying to help you be yremembeyring youyr name. Be the name something you aught would stay foyrgotten?” Tumble’s sharp yellow eyes watched the other mare until she hesitantly nodded. “Well, we be naming you with th’ foals ‘less you’d yratheyr be choosing a name to youyr own liking. Decide by spyring and the wee ones’ naming day oyr we be naming you. I be telling yon otheyrs to be thinking on you as well as theiyr foals.” With a sharp nod of her head Tumbled returned to her dozing spot beside the coldest spring in the cave, leaving the nameless mare to ponder over whether she would allow herself to be named anew or if she would take the matter into her own hooves.

The rest of the winter passed relatively smoothly. While the Lam mare and the fillies found it to be a bit cold and harsh, to those who had been living up here for most of their lives it was fairly mild. Food was scarce, as was to be expected for the winter months in the mountains, but never so scarce that starvation was a risk, even with three hungry young mouths. They might never get as much as they wanted, but there was enough to keep them comfortable. Especially when they chose to follow their parents’ examples and doze rather than trying to wrestle one another out of boredom. Curling up in a heap with your two sisters was warm and cozy and didn’t make you nearly as hungry as tumbling around romping and playing did.

Eventually, as it always does, winter gave way to spring once more. The snow would stick around much longer up in the mountains than it did down in the lands below, but the storms faded out. Flurries of snow still occurred, but those weren’t unheard of even during the summer months. Not up in the peaks. Further down the slope where the Song hunted and grazed the snow was ending though. And with the return of spring came much excitement on the part of the three fillies. They were almost a year old! Almost time to be considered yearlings, young adults rather than silly little foals! Though Patches’ filly was teased quite often by her sisters and the days lengthened that she was still a silly little foal. To which she responded alternately with mock outrage and attempted dignity, or with exceptionally childish antics as she flaunted the fact. But no matter how much she might be enjoying acting the silly little foal, she wanted to have a real name every bit as much as her sisters did. And in between being excited about getting names, all three spared a bit of excitement for the idea that the only mamma without a foal of her own would be getting a name too!

In fact, the Lamanayr mare was to get a name before any of the fillies. She had after all been with the Song for longer than they had. The foals were greatly disappointed that they didn’t get to go with her when Tumble took her aside to resume the discussion of who would be naming her. They only got to crowd around her and beg to know who she was now. They didn’t like being softly told that she was the same mare she had been all winter, and turned around and insisted on knowing her name. She led them on for quite some time, dancing around the subject and pretending at misunderstanding them quite a few times. She really would have preferred to go off and sit quietly in one of the side caves and think about her name, get used to having one again, give over the idea of ever admitting to her old name. She had told Tumble, cautiously, that she did remember a bit of who she had been and why she had fled to the mountain. But when Tumble had pointedly asked if she liked any of what she recalled, the mare had been forced to admit that she didn’t. And since there was very little chance that that which she had fled from would follow her this far, Tumble had seen no harm in moving on. The old name would only bring pain with it. A new name could pay tribute to the past without lingering overly much on it. But she would never forget it… Eventually with a sigh she gave in and gave her name to the eager fillies as Shadow of Forgotten Paths, a name that Tumble had chosen for her. As the three fillies turned the name over and examined it, she made her escape to ponder it herself.

It was a few weeks later when the fillies themselves were ready to be named. In order to avoid fighting and taunting over one being named but not another, it had been decided that all three would be named at the same time, despite a good few weeks difference in actual birth dates. The eldest, who despite being quite willing to go along with her younger sister’s playful pranks and games, showed a more inquisitive mind and a desire to learn the lore her parents had to teach far more than her sisters did, Tumble chose to name Flight of the Wise Bird. She expected her little filly to travel far and learn much in her life, and to become a wise old bird indeed. Even if, as Patches joked, she did not have the owl mimic colors that her mother did. Still chuckling over that, Patches took her turn to name her own little one. Her nestling was, as she put it, a little scrap of mischief, tumbling where the wind took her. And still hadn’t given up that bumbling, drunken butterfly flight pattern which continued to amuse her so. And thus she was given the name Scrap of Windblown Mischief. And Sparkles’ foal? Well, the Song had always said that she had an odd taste in names. When asked why she had decided to name her filly Romp of the Moonlit Meadow all the reason she would give was that she liked the name. And the filly did too, so why did it matter?

With new names in the Song came other changes as well. Even with a name that should have been a constant reminder of what lurked in her past, Shadow began coming out of her shell more. Perhaps it was only that after a year the fear that her new Song would turn around and devour her when food ran short seemed silly. Or perhaps being nameless had left her feeling as though her worth was gone as well, and the return of a name, and with it the implication that someone cared enough for her to think of a name, brought back a certain confidence. But whatever the reason, she began taking a more active part in Song life and in the education of the rapidly growing fillies.

For the fillies themselves, along with new names came new coats. As they shed their long winter fur, the shorter summer coats revealed their patterns. For Flight, her formerly white coat darkened to cream, except for on the legs. Golden barring covered her wings and back, fading away midway down her sides. Or at least the barring faded away at a casual glance. A closer looked showed it fading to a lighter color, until on her belly she actually had white barring. Scrap’s orangey coat turned out to not be very orange at all as her adult colors patched in. The black that had began to cover her head had spread to cover much of the rest of her, and white patches formed as well, leaving her with a calico coat instead. Except for a circle around each eyes and her entire front legs anyways, both of which were bright yellow. And Romp was unexpectedly dark as well. She looked like a starry sky, with shimmering silvery speckles scattered over her back and sides and a deep blue coat. Why two of the three foals were darker than either parent, no one knew. But pragmatically, no one let it bother them overly much either. Though there were a few sidelong glances at Sparkle, wondering if she had somehow known her foal would look like a nightscape when she chose the name.

There were other changes besides just the new fur patterns. As summer approached and brought with it the brief time of plenty all three fillies put on growth spurts. They could fly faster, and with more grace than before. At least when they wanted to. Half the time Scrap still flitted through the air like a mad thing. But now she could keep it up far longer than she’d been able to before. Oh, the first few times she tried it in the spring her muscles protested and cramped, but as she stretched the winter stiffness back out of them things became easier. Flight and Romp began to steady and mature, growing into fine young mares. Scrap remained a wild bundle of mischievous energy, though she too was growing into a fine young mare. At least physically. If you could get her to sit still and stay clean long enough to admire her anyways.

Near the end of the short summer an unexpected visitor came to the mountain peaks. Word of her arrival had proceeded her, carried by the mouths of incredulous and awed wanderers; those semi-nomadic mountain dwellers who traveled from peak to peak, and peak to valley as the mood and the weather moved them. A Mystic! A Mystic was traveling this mountain range! Fancy that, wonder what brought her out here? Strands the colors of the mountain, grey and brown tipped with green. Earth Mystic probably, maybe Stone. Ever heard of a Stone Mystic before? Does such a thing exist? Wonder what brings her up here anyways? Can’t recall there ever being a Mystic ‘round these parts before.

Now, at that news Flight had perked right up. Their winter lessons had included the Mystics, as well as the many other varieties of Samanayr-kin that the Song knew of. And one thing that had stuck in her mind was that Mystics were wise. Surely if this one could be persuaded to stay for a little while…oh, the things that could be learned from her! And an Earth Mystic was sure to know even more than Shadow did about the plants around here! But countering that eagerness to see what the Mystic might be able to teach was a deep worry about what if the Mystic thought she was a little nothing, not worth spending time on, much less sharing knowledge with. The other two yearlings weren’t nearly as impressed with the idea of a Mystic paying their Song a visit, though they still found the idea interesting. It was something quite, quite new after all.

The arrival of the Mystic caused a bit of a stir among the adults in the Song. She had…no wings. And yet she was climbing her way this far up the mountains with no more concern than if she was walking on the level ground! To the yearlings this was of considerably less interest than the simple fact that she did not have wings. For all they knew all Mystics could climb mountains this easily. But they had never in their entire lives so far, ever seen a Samanayr who lacked wings of any sort. Only their awe of this strange, majestic, regal old mare kept the fillies from swarming up to her to exclaim over her and examine her sides to see if she had somehow lost her wings.

In her turn the old Mystic turned warm eyes fondly on the three fillies who were huddled together staring at her, in once case with a beak gaping open in excitement. She graced the younglings with a solemn nod before introducing herself to the Song’s adults as Mystic of the Mountain Peak. She was, as the wanderers had speculated, a Stone Mystic, a subset of Earth Mystics who specialized in the stone itself and had little rapport with growing plants. She was growing old, and found herself little content with staying in a single Song’s territory. And so, when her stallion had died, she had mourned his passing as was proper, seen that the earth took him back to itself, and set out to travel. It was her intent to visit parts of the world where few traveled. Partly she wished to see those places before she herself moved on from this life, but she also wanted to insure that the message of the Sharian’s safe haven was spread to the more isolated parts of the world.

At that Caw puffed himself up proudly to tell all about his encounter with the Sharian. How he and his wanted to be up here, how all of his mares save one had chosen him because he could offer such a fine place high in the mountains. Caw couldn’t see his mares rolling eyes and chuckling to themselves behind his back, but the Mystic could. She only smiled and agreed that surely that was it. But, she was quite interested in seeing this home that one of the Sharian had made for them so that they might more comfortably live in the place they had chosen. And indeed, she was quite impressed with the cozy little home they had inside that mountain. And not one that anyone would ever suspect to be there. No scavenger was likely to notice the little hole in the mountain unless they were watching the area. And in the middle of winter…few would linger to watch if they didn’t see signs of inhabitants right away.

All too soon though the Mystic was expressing her regrets and moving on. She wanted to visit as much of the mountain range as possible before the winter weather returned. She was sorry she hadn’t arrived here later in the season, when she might have felt comfortable with wintering over here. But winter was too far away and she too restless to settle down before it arrived. However, when she left she took with her Flight. The reasons she gave included that old eyes were not so keen as they had once been and that a winged companion would be a boon in the mountains. What she didn’t tell the filly was that Tumble had taken her aside briefly and shared Flight’s desire to learn from the Mystic. After all, each reason that she gave for asking if one of the girls might accompany her when she left was true. She just had more reasons than she shared. And so when she had informed them that she would be leaving soon, the Mystic had asked if one of the fillies might be interested in traveling with her for a time, and if so, would the parents be willing to let her go? She had already known the answer, and had been hard pressed to hide her smile when Flight had all but leaped up with eagerness and then nervously drawn back.

The lack of one yearling at home didn’t make things any calmer. The two siblings who were left seemed determined to make up for her absence by being even more rambunctious than before. Part of that might have been that Flight had been the calmest of the three, and without her calming presence the remaining siblings were less inclined to hold back or settle down once they got going. And as they were now just about fully grown, their rough and tumble play was considerably less welcome in the cave than before. Most particularly by Shadow, who unnoticed by the foals was beginning to grow plump around the middle, as was Tumble again. But Tumble had seen many crops of youngsters come and go through this cave and was more comfortable around the rough housing pair.

Though as autumn faded into winter even Tumble’s temper began to be tried by the fillies, and more than once she swatted them, cuffed at them, smacked them with her wings, snapped at them either verbally or on occasion physically. On occasion her temper even grew hot enough that she took herself right out of the cave and tunnel to go sit on the ledge outside until she simmered down. Patches and Sparkle did work to get their foals to settle down and stop irritating the pregnant mares, but it seemed the calmer they convinced the fillies to be, the shorter Tumble’s fuse grew. Normally the lead mare took being pregnant well enough, but something this time around was irritating her especially strongly. And already she was as plump at midwinter as she usually was when the foal was ready to be born. Thoughts of twins were sneaking around Caw’s head, never quite building to a suspicion that she might be carrying more than one, but lurking there nonetheless.

This year the winter cold didn’t slow the foals down nearly as much as it had the previous year. Their coats were thicker, their wings were stronger, and their hunting and scavenging skills were better. At least all this meant that their parents felt less guilt in increasingly kicking them out of the main cave during the day. At least being out in the elements much of the day meant that when they came home at night all they wanted to do was splash around in the warm water for a little while, groom themselves a bit, then curl up in a favorite sleeping spot and sleep soundly until the following morning. With the lead mare being increasingly cranky, there were fewer lessons this winter than there had been last winter. The only reason that the fillies were still at home instead of being encouraged to set out on their own a bit early was that the weather outside was entirely too unpredictable and chancy for the Song to want to send them off for good. Even when they spent the day outside one of their mothers accompanied them, getting them to give over play enough to hunt food for the increasingly cave bound Tumble and Shadow.

It was a great relief to see the first signs of spring’s return. Nothing had changed yet in the Song’s home territory, but lower down the mountain and in the fields surrounding it the snow was fading back, revealing the patchy brown and green earth beneath. Further out it was even possible to see tiny spots of color appearing as early flowers began to peek their colorful heads out. Slightly larger moving patches of color were distant Samanayrs. The sight of those was increasingly attractive to both youngsters. No longer could either of them really be referred to as a filly. Both of them were now young mares. And in her aggravated state, the presence of so many mares in one space was starting to bother Tumble even more.

Things all came to a head on the first truly mild day of spring. It was still over a month before either mare was due to deliver, the warmer weather was really stirring the blood of the two youngsters, making them frisky and playful. The entire Song was out on the ledge, enjoying the mild sunshine of early spring, when a playful pounce by Scrap put her too close to Tumble. The lead mare snapped at her, slicing off one of her crest feathers and looking to be ready to do more damage. Even though Caw had never given the least sign that he was looking to replace his mares with younger mares, or would ever even consider such a thing, his moody lead mare suddenly had decided to try and drive these young interlopers out of her territory. Never mind that they were Caw’s own children and hardly a threat to her place.

Patches, Caw and Sparkle all hastened to get between the lead mare and the exuberant young mare who seemed to think that this was all still a game, and in her attempts to play along was doing a very good impression of challenging Tumble. Once the two had been separated and were both being watched carefully by another mare who was determined to see that they did not give her the slip and go after one another again, Caw stalked up to his daughter and glared fiercely.

“What cause have you to go afteyr my lead mayre, youyr lead mayre until you leave my lands? Thyrowing you off my mountain I should be little minx!”

Without a doubt from the look of him Caw had far more to say to Scrap than that, but his further thoughts were derailed quite badly as the young mare, after staring at him intently for a few moments, chirped happily.

“Oh, would you? That sounds fun! How many times will you thyrow me off? Will you thyrow me off now?”

The bewildered Caw was left to sooth the ruffled feathers of his lead mare and try and sort his own thoughts back out while Patches took her daughter aside to try and explain what he had meant. When Patches finally managed to get through to her daughter what Caw had meant Scrap was rather disappointed.

“So pappa won’t thyrow me off the cliff? Can I thyrow myself off then?”

Patches rolled her eyes, but agreed that when Scrap left the Song to go find her own home she was welcome to throw herself off the cliff on the way, so long as she made sure that she spread her wings and flew down rather than simply plummeting to the ground below. And with tempers running the way they were, it might be a good idea to leave today. Tomorrow at the latest.

Within the hour Scrap had nuzzled everyone goodbye one last time, with the exception of Tumble whom they still didn’t quite trust to be near either of the youngsters just now. For Tumble, Scrap had a cheery whistle and a happy wave. No hard feelings on her part certainly. In return Tumble growled under her breath and tucked her head under her wing.

Trotting to the edge of the ledge Scrap turned to face her family one last time. Rearing up on her hind legs she spread her wings, and with a merry trill tumbled off the cliff backwards. Romp raced to the edge and peered over, just in time to see Scrap wingover in midair and come racing back up, gaining height as she swooped away with a loud, “YEEE-HAAAAWWW!” The youngest foal watched her sister soaring off towards the plains below and the great unknown, knowing that any day now it would be her turn to head off into the greater world as well. What wonders awaited out there? With any luck, Scrap would find them. And if she didn’t…knowing the young Sa’grisayr, she would make up plenty of wonders of her own.

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 Post subject: Hiss Backstory
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:18 pm 
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Watchful Dragon
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(Be warned; this is probably the darkest story here. Hiss did not have a nice childhood. Her family was alternatly abusive and negligant. I believe this story still stays within the forum ratings, but it may be upsetting. Read at your own risk)
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The desert is a harsh place to live. Many of those who live there are willing to share what little they have though. After all, if they were the one in need they would hope that one they met would do them a similar good turn. But there are also those who live on the fringe, hoarding all the resources they can find, driving away those who might be competition for the scarcity. Even when they themselves had built up a hoard that could hardly be considered scarcity anymore. Snap of the Angry Claw was the latter sort of desert dweller. He was a sneak, a rogue, a thief and an opportunist. He lived at the edge of the desert lands, moving from place to place as he consumed what he cared to and found himself in need of fresh supplies. He took what he needed and anyone who didn’t do the same was weak in his eyes.

Most life in the desert took place by night, when the temperature was more moderate and the sun didn’t heat the sands until you felt they could bake you alive if you lay down on them. Snap felt himself to be better, stronger than that. He chose to live by day, prove to himself how much more he deserved these things since he could and did face the worst that the desert sands could offer. Or so he felt anyways. Never mind that he avoided the deep desert, sticking to the fringes. Water was more plentiful here, as was graze. The scrublands were never far away. And he didn’t have to face the worst dangers of the inner desert, sandstorms among them. The one time he had seen a sandstorm in the distance he had fled. That memory was long buried though. As far as he was concerned, Snap of the Angry Claw was the rightful ruler of all he surveyed, and those other desert dwellers who passed through on occasion were only suffered to do so because he was feeling generous that day.

Ever since he had left his birth Song of nomadic wanderers who just eked out a living on the edges of the desert, refusing to leave for the sake of pride, Snap had made a point of proving that he could do better than they had. Not for him the sharing of a watering hole. No asking permission from anyone who already was there either. Drive them away, run them off and claim it for himself. And if they had been particularly stubborn, he had been known to foul the water after he was done using it to make sure that they couldn’t return and reclaim what he had taken for his own, however briefly he had wanted it. All in all, Snap was not by any stretch of the imagination a nice fellow to have around. He didn’t have friends, didn’t want them either. What use were they? None at all save to try and steal from his precious resources.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that no mare was interested in forming a Song with Snap. And unlike friends, mares were useful. They were breeders, creatures to be caught and held so that he could pass his genes on to the next generation and insure that he would leave his mark on the world. But since none of them were willing to settle down with him, Snap had to make do with what he could find. No lone mare was safe while he was around. The local Songs learned that quickly. When it was time for the young mares to leave their birth Songs, all the Songs attempted to find each other and send the mares off in large bachelor herds. For despite all his bluff and bluster, his vicious nature and tendency to drive anyone he could away, Snap was also a coward when faced with determined opposition. He only chose to go after those he was sure he could beat. And a herd of nearly a dozen young mares, often with a handful of young stallions tagging along, eager to show off for the mares, was far more than Snap was willing to handle.

For a good many years Snap lived that way, sneaking up on mares that he found along and felt he could take advantage of. More than once he was driven off, sometimes by the mare herself, sometimes by a stallion he had failed to notice. But he still wanted a mare of his own. One he could own, that no one else would ever be able to touch. His and his alone. Every night as he settled down to sleep Snap dreamed of such a prize. At this point he wasn’t even concerned anymore by what she looked like, just so long as she would be all his.

Now the desert is a harsh place, even for those born and bred to it. When those not accustomed to its ways stumbled into its sandy reaches they find it even harsher. Such a one was a young mare, bold and brave and willing to dive into the desert on a dare. Unfortunately for her, those who had dared her to live in the desert for a week hadn’t stuck around. And so when she slipped on the treacherous surface and went down, not quite breaking her leg but certainly injuring it enough that she couldn’t stand or walk on it, she was all alone. Young things are often convinced that they are immortal, that nothing can hurt them. Certainly she had felt that way when she boldly charged into the unknown environs of the desert. But now, alone in the sweltering heat in a part of the desert that seemed quite, quite deserted, the mare was faced with the probability that she was going to die here.

For much of the morning the mare had fought and struggled, refusing to give in. But as the day wore on to the hottest part of midday her strength began to give out. She had to admit she was dying. There was no water anywhere that she could see, and no desert dwellers to show her where to find it. The killing heat made the sand shimmer and the air ripple in odd, distorted patterns. One of them seemed to form itself into the shape of a Samanayr. So these then were the mysterious mirages for which she had been named, were they? At least she got to see one before she died. She had always wanted to see a real mirage… That was half the reason she had so readily accepted the challenge to enter the desert. The scent of sand and heat was everywhere. And yet a hint of Samanayr rode the hot breezes coming from the mirage now too. Amazing, you could even smell a mirage… And it cast real shade too… She looked up at the shadowy figure standing between her and the sun. Nothing but an outline was visible to her cloudy vision. “Ayre you…Death?”

The vividly colored young mare stood out amidst the tawny browns and golds of most desert dwellers like a single flower in a field of grass. She had caught Snap’s eye from miles away. There were few things that brought such vivid hues into the desert, and all of them should be able to profit him. A stray softlander from outside the desert would prove vastly amusing. A bundle of rare and exotic plants could be either eaten as a delicacy or traded away to others for even more useful things. Those dazzling fabrics that he had rarely snuck peeks at…oh, wouldn’t he look splendid adorned in such? A walking advertisement for what he had to trade. Perhaps those would even lure the mares in for him to snare.

As he reached his goal Snap was savagely pleased to find that the sad bundle of color was indeed an outlander, and a mare at that. Unaware that she could see nothing of him save a dark shadowy form he smiled wickedly down at her prone form as she weakly lifted her head to look up at him. She was in worse shape than he had thought though, and seconds after gasping out her odd question she collapsed again, lying limply on the hot sands. Well now, this was interesting… She had nowhere to go and no way to escape him. Snap quickly determined to make her his. After a quick look around to make sure that no one else was near he reached down and callously grabbed her by the tail and began hauling her roughly across the sands.

The mare came to near dusk to the sensation of water being splashed forcefully into her face. Weakly she coughed and wheezed, trying to clear her throat before the water could trickle down into her lungs. Where was she? Was this where the dead lived? But it looked so much like the desert she had left… While she was trying to figure out what had happened a harsh voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts. “Dyrink,” it growled at her. “Dyrink damn you. I didn’t save youyr soyrry soft hide to have you die of thyrist anyways.” She looked weakly around for the source of the voice, afraid of it already. And when she found it, she cowered away, much to Span’s savage delight. Good, good, this was good, already the mare knew her place, below him and subject to his whim. “Dyrink!” As he barked out the order one more time the mare hastily turned to drink.

Even while turned away from him she couldn’t help but shudder though. Clearly she was dead and some wicked spirit had claimed her. She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind. He glittered and gleamed in the sun, covered not in fur as a living creature would be, but in scales like the serpents of the jungle. Like them his eyes were cold, though red rather than black. Sharp spikes and spines grew out from his head, back, even his tail. And that tail…it only added to the serpentine look of him. Like the rest of him it was covered in that scaly skin, but it was long, as long as the rest of his body, and it ended not in a tuft of hair but rather in a cruel triangle. But though all of his appearance was formidable, it was the eyes that kept lingering in her thoughts. So…cold… So greedy. In even the short time she had watched him look upon her she had seen greed lurking hungrily in the depths of those cold heartless eyes.

Span was delighted with what he saw, and as the mare had noticed, hungrily eager to make his claim on her. She looked to him to be a delicate flower, his for the plucking. Her fine, long legs were clearly visible as they lacked even the reduced tufts that most Samanayr had. As such, the swelling that marred one of them was similarly visible. Well, she’d just have to get over that. His eyes narrowed as he tried to think if there was any way to make that go away sooner. Until it was gone she wouldn’t be able to stand steadily enough for him to do as he wished with her. If she could even stand at all. Briefly his thin lips curled back in disdain. Proof enough that mares were the weaker gender. He was sure that he would never get himself into such a sorry state. She needed a master to protect her from her own silly self. He would do nicely. The sneer turned into a leer as he contemplated their future together. It was probably just as well for her sake that the mare hadn’t the nerve to turn around and look at him again just then.

Eventually the mare did heal, more or less, though she would be forever lame from her injury. This both delighted and infuriated Span. Delighted because, well…a lame mare would never be able to escape from him, and no other stallion was likely to want her. Infuriated because it meant that Span now owned damaged goods so to speak. But he’d been long enough without any mare that he was willing to overlook the defect, to a point. He made sure that she knew and knew well how low he held her in his esteem due to the fact that she hadn’t been able to save herself the fate of a lame one. And she couldn’t escape. Could never escape. He’d broken her spirit, and for her the world no longer held any bright sparks. After the first few times she had encountered others in the area, and especially after bearing her first foal for her captor, the mare had come to the sorry conclusion that she was not in fact dead, but simply in a living nightmare. She had simply become resigned and mostly numb. She listlessly followed Snap as he meandered his way through the stretch of desert and scrublands that he patrolled. Having determined that she was still alive, she clung to life, though not even she could say why.

It seemed like most every year there was another foal. As soon as one was a yearling and mostly weaned she was carrying a new sibling for it. There was seldom a time when only one foal was in tow. She mostly ignored them, save when Snap forced her to pay attention to them. After all, he refused to let her teach them anything. Or rather, if she tried he would keep breaking in with corrections, telling her how stupid she was and how little she knew. Over time it just seemed easier to not even try anymore. The one right she did still have over her children was the right to name them. It amused Snap greatly to see what manner of names she would come up with. Even though most of the names she gave her foals were less than complementary, he quite liked seeing her meekly try to rebel.

And so over the years a great many young adults left Snap’s little forced Song and set out into the world, taking with them his twisted and stunted set of morals. The one stallion he sired, Snap drove away early, proud of his son but refusing to take the competition from another such as himself. The mares went out to try and snag themselves handsome young stallions and either drive away any other mare he set eyes on, or else lord it over them and ruthlessly rule the entire Song. The mare, whose name Snap never bothered to remember, nor did he care what it was, paid little heed. Oh, she knew that she was providing a seemingly never ending series of little monsters to go out into the world and ruin the lives of others, but she was sunk too deeply in her own misery to even bother pretending to care anymore.

Years plodded by and Snap was slowly wearing his mare out. Not only was she almost constantly pregnant, but the pace he set to live his life by was faster than the lame mare could easily keep up with. It didn’t help that almost every time she did give him a foal, shortly after discovering that it was yet another filly Snap would verbally flay her, sneering and telling her that she was too weak to bear colts apparently, that maybe he should just leave her to die. This would continue until she was begging him to give her another chance, and would end with a bite or other injury to her before he stalked away to go take his frustration out on whatever neighbor he could find, or failing that, on the scenery.

No one ever came to visit them, Snap would never allow it. And so the mare was left without company, save that of her current foal, for increasingly long periods of time as Snap took to leaving her and going in search of other mares that he could lay claim to. It was almost a relief to be out of his company, even if his children were little better. And the older they grew, the more like their father they tended to become. As soon as they learned that their mother was held in scorn and that no punishment would ever be given to them by their father for anything they said or did to her, many of them took to tormenting her, denying her even the simple pleasure of a quiet moment in which she didn’t have to do anything, not even think. Some of them simply ignored her, or played more normal foal games, but under their father’s influence these were few.

The mare actually preferred to have as little to do with her foals as possible. Almost ever single one of them had their father’s snaky tail or creepy scaly skin. Some of them she could barely stand to look at, so much did they remind her of him. Even the ones who didn’t go out of their way to try and get a reaction out of her bothered her, simply by existing and looking the way they did.

She had long since lost track of how long she had been here in the desert. She barely remembered any other life, and what little she did remember seemed like nothing more than a vague, rather pleasant dream. Something to think about in the few moments of relative peace she had. Something to hug close when she slept and hope that perhaps if it was a dream she could dream it again. Sometimes that hope was even realized, though the dreams she dreamt were never quite as nice as that elusive old memory. She could barely even remember her own name. No one ever used it. Every now and then she would sleepily murmur it to a foal just to make sure it wasn’t forgotten entirely. But none of them ever used it. She was the only one who ever bothered to remember that she was called Shade of the Vanishing Mirage, and as time went by even she recalled that fact less and less often.

Once more Shade was in foal. Her last foal, a particularly nasty little filly who looked entirely too much like her father, right down to having his colors, though with her mother’s markings, was getting underfoot. Quite a task for one almost a yearling and more than half as large as her parents already. Shade was trying to drowse in the shade of a cactus and sourly thinking of names that she might give this one in a moon or so when the girl reached her birthday. It was hot, but then it was always hot. She was doing her best to ignore the filly, but this one in particular reacted poorly to being ignored. There was only so long you could get away with it before she would bite you to force you to pay attention to her. The mare could hardly wait until she was old enough to be sent away to go bother someone else. Of course, most likely before she left she would teach the new foal to be just as bad. Such was life.

Shade had become largely numb to Snap’s rantings and ravings when she dropped a filly rather than a colt. It actually gave her a small touch of bitter pleasure, knowing how much he wanted colts, and seeing him react as once more he sired a filly. Yes, colts were rare anyway, but he seemed to have worse luck with getting one than was normal. At least it was one little blow she could strike against him. And she wasn’t surprised in the least when this foal was born to hear Snap growl angrily and watch him stalk off again ranting about yet another filly. The only surprise was that he didn’t spend any time yelling at her, just stalked away angrily, their last foal left standing there, torn between following her father to watch and learn or staying to taunt her mother. Finally she decided her father would be more interesting than some stupid baby (and said as much) and galloped off after him.

With the rest of the ‘Song’ gone, Shade was free to finally risk a glance at the latest foal. The first thing she saw was a little bald head, gleaming dully in the light. Scales again… She shuddered and turned away, though not quick enough to miss the long thin serpentine tail. At least this one didn’t have the spines like her older sister did. Shade looked away and refused to acknowledge her foal as it started to nurse.

Given how seldom Shade wanted to look at her foal and how irritated Snap still was with yet another girl, the first one to notice that the little filly completely lacked ears was her older sister. “Little mutant fyreak! Look at heyr, little fyreak! All white and no eayrs, bet she doesn’t live to get named!” The wickedly delighted crow from their yearling caught Shade’s attention, and Snap’s too. Both adult heads snapped around, the first time that either of them had really ever looked at this foal. Snap stalked forwards and shoved his foal this way and that, making the frightened filly scream shrilly at the harsh treatment, eyes wide with fear. But no matter how closely he looked there wasn’t the slightest sign of even the smallest of ears. Only two little dimples, one on either side of her head where ears should be. He stared at the little earless head for a long time, trying to decide if this was somehow a good thing, or if the older foal was right and this one was just a mutant freak. Shade quickly looked away, sickened by the lack of ears. Yet another sign that something was horribly wrong. As if the skin and tail weren’t enough already.

The arrival of a new foal had sent the older one into a series of fits and tantrums as she imagined that the baby was taking all the attention away from her. Never mind that neither parent particularly wanted anything to do with the seemingly albino earless foal. As such, when it came time to name her, Shade snapped at her that she would be called Sulk of the Angry Stormclouds after being pestered relentlessly for a name, NOW. The newly named Sulk went of to…well, sulk when she wasn’t pampered and petted and told how long and hard her mother had pondered over the perfect name for her. Having a name just thrown at her to make her go away didn’t make the filly very happy.

Unfortunately for her little sister, Sulk decided that it was her fault their mother had so uncaringly named her. It never occurred to Sulk that he mother liked her no better than the youngster. It didn’t occur to her that the young filly was too young to be actively competing for attention, or that if Sulk played her cards right she could have her little sibling following at her heals, hanging on her every word, and practically hero worshiping her. The little one was so starved for attention that had Sulk shown her the slightest bit of care she’d have gotten all the attention she could want from her little sister. But it wasn’t Sulk’s way to think about anyone but herself any more than it was their father’s way. And so, when faced with the notion that her sister might possibly be steeling even the slightest scrap of attention from her, Sulk decided that the filly had to pay.

And so the younger filly’s life went from merely sad and uneasy to outright miserable. Snap wasn’t in the least bit inclined to interfere with Sulk’s tormenting of her little sister. The white foal was too skittish, to frightened. She needed toughening up. And Sulk was honing her own skills in the process. Win/win situation in his mind. And Shade, while she didn’t particularly care for seeing another being tormented, also wasn’t inclined to bring Snap’s wrath down on herself for interfering in something that he approved of. So Sulk was left largely to her own devices as she continued to make a misery out of her sister’s early life.

Now, Sulk wasn’t exactly the most…creative Samanayr ever. Coming up with new and inventive insults or tricks required thinking too hard for her taste. So most of the insults were similar to the very first ones she had ever thrown at her younger sister. Freak. Mutant. For awhile she sneered at her sister for being albino before finally finding out what albino meant and deciding it wasn’t a nasty enough insult. And anyways, it was just another sort of freak, right? Sulk was very careful though not to in any way reference the foal’s hairlessness as an insult. She knew full well that doing so would bring down their father’s wrath on her, for wasn’t he just as devoid of hair as the filly? Even if Sulk herself did have a mane and a hairy tail, most of her body was covered in the same scaly skin anyways. And she wasn’t inclined to insult herself either. No, she felt she was perfect looking. So it was the lack of ears or any color save the red eyes that drew the insults.

As for other torments, Sulk had tried briefly to resume nursing and thus deprive her sister of the milk she needed to grow. However Shade was having none of that. Not for the sake of her younger daughter mind, she just wasn’t going to put up with a more than three quarter grown yearling trying to twist around and find a position where she could nurse again. Sulk still tried until Snap shoved her aside and forbid her to do it anymore. He might think that his newest foal was practically worthless, but she was still his and he wasn’t going to put up with anyone trying to kill her. Toughening her up was one thing, killing her was finally crossing the line. For almost a week after that Sulk was off sulking, leaving her sister and mother alone as she angrily brooded over the unfairness of it all. What did the little freak do to make her deserve life? Wasn’t she just a little waste of food? She was never going to amount to anything, she’d never be able to grasp and hold a stallion’s attention so that he never so much as glanced at other mares. She was weak, even weaker than their mother! At least their mother had the excuse of being lame now, though getting herself lamed in the first place just went to show how weak she had been to start with.

That brief week without her sister paying attention to her was sadly one of the happiest times in the filly’s life. Yes, she was being almost completely ignored, but most of the attention she ever got otherwise was bad and made her feel worse. Unfortunately for her, during the time that her sister was ignoring her spitefully, unaware that the ignoring was not in fact any sort of punishment, Snap began to notice that his youngest filly was starting to reach an age where she too could begin learning the things he desired to teach to his foals. About the time that Sulk started to pay attention to the youngster again and resume plotting against her, she found that her younger sister was being included in HER lessons, which up until that point had been her very own special time alone with their father. And worse, he was paying more attention to the new foal, putting Sulk’s protests aside with the comment that she knew most everything she needed to, while this little one knew practically nothing.

Thus followed one of the worst periods in the life of the young foal. The older she grew the less attention her mother paid to her, not that there had ever been much to start with. At the same time her mother tried less and less to hide the revulsion she felt for her entire family of scaly Sams. One might think that now that her father was paying attention to her that he might show some sign of affection. And indeed, he might have. If she had been the sort of individual he approved of. Which she wasn’t. In the slightest. Snap wanted rough, argumentative, determined foals who would seize what they wanted with no concern for who was hurt along the way. He wanted little bullies, he wanted her to stand up to her older sister, defy her, give back as good as she got. He did not want what he had, which was a shy, nervous little filly who spoke with a slight stammer and a hissing accent. He did not want a daughter who shrank back if you looked at her harshly, who sometimes fell down from trembling when you snapped at her. Unfortunately for all concerned, that was what he had.

After only a month or so Snap gave up on his youngest in disgust. He stalked off into the desert, with Sulk trailing along after him, pausing only to snap over his shoulder that his mare had better train the worthless thing herself. He still couldn’t bring himself to destroy something of his, however worthless it seemed to be at the moment. And so with a bitter look Shade was forced to once more acknowledge her daughter.

The teaching that the youngest foal received was scant. There were no histories save her mother’s own shameful one, starting with being found in the desert. Nothing about life outside the desert. Only the most scant information about the species of Samanayrs as a whole. From Snap she had acquired the notion that desert Samanayr were somehow evil and wicked, denying him that which should be his. However he had completely failed to provide any way to recognize a desert Sam, so she was left with the vague idea that they were huge monsters with wicked teeth and claws who would try to eat her on sight. Her mother did little better with describing things. Mostly she just listed the species that she knew of. Mystics with their magic, completely unlikely to pay any attention to a little nothing like her. The desert Sams who lived ‘out there’ with out there being indicated by a toss of her head towards the greater desert. The Northerns who lived in a nasty icy place where she’d die if she even tried to reach. Aquatics who lived in water and which she would also never see. Some tree dwelling species; no explanation of what a tree was or even what the name of the breed was. Some sort of winged species. And then, as far as Shade was concerned, most everyone was just a regular Samanayr. She had no idea what species the scaly ones belonged to, but she refused to accept that they were simply regular Samanayrs who happened to have a rather unusual trait.

The rest of what the foal learned from her mother was similarly vague. Much of her survival skill was simply picked up by watching, especially as mother’s milk began to dry up and her sides to round out once more. Her white hide was actually a boon, given that it reflected the harsh light of the sun away. And she had no fur to trap heat. Of course, this meant that she shivered her way through the nights as no one was willing to curl up with her and sleep together. Not that she would have really trusted them if they had been willing. As her mother grew rounder and rounder she slowly began to stop what little teaching there was again. And this time Snap made no effort to force her to start again. Instead he watched his mare with a greedy eagerness that made the little filly grow sick whenever she caught him looking. His manner turned cloying yet threatening. She understood nothing of what he was saying to her mother, but Sulk delighted in explaining it, just to see her react.

“You might not have a motheyr much longeyr if she doesn’t do betteyr this time than she did with you,” Sulk gloated. “Maybe without that woyrthless old nag he can find a yreal mayre.”

“You…but…ssshe’ss youyr motheyr too…”

“Speak up byrat, not that anyone can undeyrstand you anyways.” With a harsh bray of laughter Sulk pranced away, her spirits oddly high. She was almost free and she knew it! Once this new foal was born she would be free to leave and seduce herself her own stallion, maybe even corrupt one of those fool desert dwellers! Soon she wouldn’t have to put up with a worthless little sister or a pathetic excuse for a mother. She could hardly wait.

The arrival of the new foal brought changes to the shoddy excuse for a Song. Sulk did indeed leave, singing her joy in leaving in an off-key, harsh voice that she clearly fancied to be melodic and almost divinely attractive. Snap went off in another rage at being presented with yet another filly. Shade withdrew even more, going stony and cold. Every now and then though she glanced back at the nursing filly, taking in the tawny coat of fur that covered her, comparing it to the scaled skin of her last gangly foal. And the filly, now a yearling, though still lacking a name or even awareness that she was supposed to have one, was even more alone. Snap had given up on her. Shade vastly preferred to pay attention to the furry foal rather than the scaly one. And the young filly was too young to do more than peer curiously at her older sister, which she soon gave up as the only response she ever got was her sister shying fearfully away. And the young foal was not yet old enough to have interest in this as a plaything.

It was almost a month later that Shade realized she still hadn’t named her white foal. A reluctant glance over at the yearling who was nervously plucking at the dry grass nearby revealed that the white foal was white no longer. At some point her adult markings had slowly faded into being, unnoticed by the rest of her family. Oh, the majority of her body was still white. But somehow, without anyone noticing, red and yellow stripes had appeared all over her. And the sight of them thoroughly creeped Shade out. Combined with her lean build, lack of ears, and serpentine skin and tail, those stripes made the foal look entirely too much like a white version of a certain snake that could sometimes be seen on the edges of the desert. Snakes of all sorts had always bothered Shade, it was part of why she could barely stand to look at most of her family. And so the idea that she had given birth to a snake mimic almost made her sick.

One night, when Snap seemed to be in a good mood, Shade happened to mention the resemblance between their foal and the serpent. He gave her an irritated look at first, then turned, still annoyed at being bothered by this pointless bit of trivia, to regard his daughter. “Coyral snake. Woyrthless cowayrd yreptiles. No wondeyr she’s so pathetic,” he sneered. Perhaps not the most accurate of portrayals, but it was true enough that the coral snake was hardly as aggressive as other species. It didn’t matter to Shade though; she couldn’t stand snakes of any sort. But long after Snap had lost interest and gone on to play with their newest filly she remained, tiredly turning the name of the snake over in her head. Coral, such a pretty name. What a pity it had to be attached to such a loathsome creature as a snake.

The name coral stuck in Shade’s mind and refused to leave. She knew that somehow, some way she had to work that into her daughter’s name. Which meant that she had to actually think about this one, not just throw together some random name with unpleasant connotations on a whim. After much thought, and more gazing on her serpentine daughter than she really liked, Shade was ready to name the foal. Gruffly she called the foal over, noting with a tinge of sorrow how the yearling flinched at the sound of a raised voice and how meek and frightened she looked as she shuffled over with her head hanging down.

“It’s time and past you had a name. With two of you ayround I can’t just keep calling you filly and having both of you answeyr me. I’m going to call you Hiss of the Faded Coyral now.”

Shade turned away, not even waiting to see how her filly reacted to this news. For a moment Hiss looked confused. She had been under the impression she wasn’t important enough to have a name. Apparently she’d been wrong. Vaguely she could remember Sulk not having a name either though. But Hiss didn’t quite dare ask if she was really supposed to have a name lest it turn out that she wasn’t. And then they might try to take it away from her. And a name was the first thing that she had ever had that was really her own. So she said nothing to anyone about it. Her mother already knew it, having told her what it was, the baby was too young to be talking, and Snap was completely indifferent. He never asked about her name, didn’t care. She wasn’t anything like what he wanted in a daughter, she was a disappointment to him. And so he was ignoring her every chance he got. Given that Hiss was not the sort to want to draw attention to herself, from anyone, much less from him, it was quite easy to ignore Hiss.

In fact, it was so easy to ignore Hiss, even with her pale colors standing out so much from the dark stone and sand around them, that almost three more months went by without Snap realizing that she was still hanging around, lurking at the edge of sight, not really wanting to be there but not having the slightest idea of how to manage out on her own. But when he did finally notice her again Snap was outraged. How dare this worthless little foal, this pale cowardly runt stick around wasting his precious resources! Who did she think she was anyways?

The first that Hiss knew of her father’s resumed notice of her was a fierce and angry shrilling challenge. She attempted to cower away, looking all over for the rival stallion or the attacking desert monster who must have prompted it. Her muscles tensed, ready to run away from the threat. After a moment she caught sight of her father, head down aggressively, shrilling angrily at her. Slowly she began to back away, pale red eyes wide with fear at the sight of her father turning on her. His angry Song screamed to the world in no uncertain terms that he was fully ready and willing to attack his own year and a half old filly as though she was a fully grown rival stallion.

One step back, then two. Hiss retreated, frightened eyes fixed firmly on her father, suddenly even more of a stranger to her than he usually was. For every step away from him Hiss took, Snap took two steps forwards. The look in his eyes was wild, fierce, lacking even the touch of sanity he usually had. As he drew closer and closer Hiss’s nerve broke. With a frightened squeal she reared, pivoted on her hind legs, and took off at a gallop into the desert sands. Watching her flee Snap stomped his foot in grim satisfaction. Let the desert deal with her, far from his lands. The fools who lived there weren’t likely to share what they had with one of his brood. Let her die now. He’d thought she could be salvaged, but she couldn’t be. He wanted no claim on her anymore. As the pale shape vanished into the shimmering heat of the desert Snap turned away with a grim smile. She’d find out just how cruel the world really was soon enough and wish she’d learned her lessons from him. Now he’d just have to make sure he did a better job with this new foal. As he thought that he smiled cruelly down on his current youngest. The youngster blinked curiously up at her father, having no idea just what her life had in store for her.

Only Shade spared even a moment to look out over the desert after than and regret what had happened to Hiss. Only Shade… And not for long. Her own life was too harsh to spare a thought for her daughter for long. Soon enough Hiss was forgotten. But out in the desert her real life was just beginning.

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 Post subject: Pining Backstory
 Post Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 1:59 pm 
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Watchful Dragon
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The deep scent of pine trees and fallen needles filled the air for miles around. Up here the air was always crisp, even in the middle of summer. Scorching temperatures never touched this place, and yet the winters were mild enough for the local Songs to continued foraging in comfort all season long. Yes, they had to grow somewhat thicker, shaggier coats to manage, but nothing to rival the lands not too much further north where only a Northern Samanayr would be able to live in comfort. It wasn’t the perfect place to live; natural hot springs were few and plenty of predators found the place quite cozy as well, but if you kept your wits about you, you could do well in this place. And honestly, you’d have to keep your wits around you in most any environment.

Every place had its own challenges, but for Flight of the Forest Arrow this was the perfect place to start a Song. His mare, Twirl of Fallen Leaves, was a little less enthused about the place, but she would come around, he was sure of it. There were still a few leafy trees mixed in with all the evergreens. They’d make sure to found their Song as near to some of those as possible. But this sort of forest was where Flight had been born and raised, and it was where he loved. Surely Twirl could get used to the fresh green year round instead of the depressing sight of naked tree branches reaching for the sky. She had agreed to come here after all. Oh, Flight had left the pine forests for the sake of seeking out a mare or two, but when he’d found one who was quite willing to live outside of the sweltering heat of the tropical forests that so many seemed to prefer he had been delighted! Unfortunately, his dream forest didn’t quite match up with hers, a fact he only came to realize after he had happily brought her here to one of the handful of pine forests.

Twirl sighed as she looked out over the unrelenting greenery that faced her. No, this wasn’t what she had expected when the handsome draconic winged stallion had come a courting. His splendid wings and tail so like her own had drawn her to him even before she had found where he wanted to live. But the image he had painted in her mind had failed to include the little fact of just what sort of trees she could expect to see in her new home. She knew that the sight of all those leafless trees, sleeping away the winter, had bothered him in some way. But in the same sort of way, the sight of all this greenery during the winter seemed almost unnatural. Oh, the odd pine tree mixed in with the rest of the leafless trees wasn’t so bad. But here the ratio was reversed. And how could it be autumn without the falling leaves to dance with and pretend that she was flying? With a sigh Twirl followed her anxious young stallion deeper into the forest. For him she was willing to try this.

The first winter the young pair spent in the pine forest was an odd one for both of them. Twirl was a slightly older mare, she had been away from her birth Song for almost two years now. She was used to being mostly alone by now, never really having joined one of the bachelor mare Songs. It was having the near constant company that was odd, as well as the strange forest that she found herself in. But Flight had only just left his own birth Song that spring, and he had kept himself in the company of various temporary Songs as he traveled the lands beyond his pine forest home. But now he was the stallion of his own permanent Song, complete with a new territory to defend. That meant there weren’t as many visitors, even if they were on friendly terms with the neighboring Songs. And while these were pine forests, they weren’t quite the same as the one he had grown up in. So for both there was a fair amount of adjusting to do.

Things had been off to a somewhat rocky start when the young pair had first arrived at the forest. The discovery of a warm pool of water, warm enough to not freeze in the winter though not as hot as either would really have liked, half surrounded by leafy trees had eased things a little. The forest around it was almost evenly split between the type of tree that each preferred. The main drawback to this area was the relative chill of the water compared to what they were used to. But no other unclaimed place in the forest had seemed as fitting otherwise. And perhaps, once they were a little more established, it might be possible to coax one of the Sharian to help with raising the temperature of their pool. But future possibilities didn’t help right now as the weather was getting colder and the water wasn’t warm enough to keep the clearing cozy, and just barely warm enough to soak in comfortably. If the weather grew much colder they likely wouldn’t be able to soak themselves at all unless they wanted to risk catching a chill after. All in all, while the place looked pretty, it really wasn’t nearly as suitable for starting a Song in as the pair had thought.

Unsuitable home or not, the pair did manage to make it through their first winter. They were chilled, too thin, and considerably less than happy by the end of the winter, but they did make it through. But the sight of the first buds of spring starting to form on the trees didn’t bring the sense of joy to Twirl that they once had. She was far too worn down by the winter to have the energy to spare. She said nothing, but when Flight tentatively suggested that perhaps they look for a new territory and try again, she heartily agreed. Neither had realized just how rough a winter without a nice hot spring to come back to could be. And so, with a quiet explanation to those they had been living near, the pair picked up and moved out to find a new home.

Twirl had hoped that, since they were moving anyways, Flight might be convinced to give her sort of forest a try. Not that hot springs were any more common there than in the pine forests around here, but fallen leaves made a far cozier bed to spend the winter in than prickly needles that sometimes were hiding even more prickly pine cones. Warmer too. Of course, Flight did have a point that pine trees, especially the fluffy looking ones with the branches that drooped all the way to the ground, made a better shelter than the leafless branches of other trees when the snow or rain was falling. She sighed and continued to trot through the spring forest, absently seeking some place where she might be able to feel comfortable, even surrounded by pine trees as she was. Flight was stubbornly insisting that they take a closer look at what this forest had to offer before they made the trek off to find another forest entirely. After all, they had arrived late in the year, with winter already almost upon them. Maybe without the stress of having to find a place to stay in such short order they would find the perfect spot.

This was hardly Twirl’s idea of the best way to spend their early days together, nor was it the most promising start to their lives together. She only hoped that this was not an omen of how things were going to be. But now that the first flush of love was wearing thin, Twirl was no longer quite so certain of Flight as she once had been, or as she wished that she could be. Not that she was ready to leave him or anything, but if he found another mare that he liked, she was certainly going to consider trying to pass on the role of lead mare. Though at the moment they didn’t seem to be encountering anyone at all.

Looking up from her thoughts Twirl noticed that they had managed to move deeper into the heart of the pine forest, far from any deciduous trees. The sight of all those looming pines, even taller than the ones around where they had tried to make their first home, was eerie. The green was oppressive here, the needles darker than she had seen before and the bark deep grey and festooned with moss. With a thin squeal she pivoted and fled, heading back to the warmer outskirts. After a puzzled minute Flight followed, though he wasn’t quite sure what it was about the pure pine forest that had bothered his mare so greatly.

All of the spring and most of the summer was spent looking for a new place to live, one that would be comfortably inhabitable now, not at some nebulous time in the future when they managed to locate a Sharian and ask for aid. They looked at many places, some quite seriously. But in the end, all were rejected. Twirl was beginning to think that she should have held out for an established Song, continued to look and wait until she found a stallion already settled and proven. This business of founding a Song and finding the right location to live was harder, much harder, than she had expected it to be. Flight was trying, she could tell that he was trying, but he didn’t understand her nearly as well as she had originally convinced herself that he did. No, she’d been a fool of a mare, coaxed into accepting by the first stallion promising new adventures to the north. No one from his area had ever come down to her former home before. He had been…different, exciting. It didn’t hurt that he was also one of the more handsome stallions she could remember seeing. But beauty wasn’t all there was to look for. She supposed that she should be glad he was at least a decent guy under that, just not the perfect match she had thought she’d found. Sweet, but naïve. Not interested in the same things as she was. Not who she’d thought she was founding a Song with.

More than once during their hunt for a place both could accept living in for any length of time Twirl debated asking to break things off. After all, until they found a home they hadn’t really founded a Song, had they? Oh, she knew in a vague sort of way that there was such a thing as a nomadic Song, but that wasn’t what she had joined for. No, he had promised a set territory, a home of her own with him. Until he provided that, things weren’t settled, were they? Over and over Twirl kept debating with herself as to just how that worked. This wasn’t really where she wanted to be. Not really who she wanted to be with after all. And yet…she couldn’t quite bring herself to tell him that she was leaving, that she’d changed her mind, that this wasn’t going to work out. She kept sticking around, hoping that somehow, despite all odds, it would. She wanted it to work. She just didn’t think that it was going to.

It was late summer and the birds were starting to swirl in flocks overhead as they began to feel the urge to migrate to warmer climes rising by the time Twirl and Flight found a place that they could settle. Actually, it was Flight who found it. As Twirl grew increasingly twitchy and irritable he had taken to flying ahead and scouting out the region, getting a feel for which directions were or were not possibilities and worth the effort of walking to. He wasn’t thrilled about leaving her, especially since she seemed to be putting on some weight, but it was better than the alternative. He did still want her to be his mare…but he also wanted her to be a bit less…moody than she had recently been acting. He kept telling himself that it was just the strain of not finding a home that was getting to her. With any luck that would be settled soon, hopefully they would find a place to live. He didn’t want to spend another winter like that last one.

Flight was on another of his scouting forays when the sound of rushing water caught his attention. It didn’t sound quite like any rushing water that he had heard before. This place was considerably more hilly than anywhere he had been before, and plenty of things around here were new and different. This one intrigued him. Tilting his wings he soared off in the new direction, heading for the unusual water sounds. The trees here were tall, but widely enough spaced that he could manage to maneuver around between the tops of them, still low enough that they blocked his field of sight. And they grew right up until they were practically on top of the source of the sounds that had attracted him. When he finally broke free of the trees and could see the source of the noise Flight nearly fell out of the air in shock.

His landing was awkward, but at least he managed to keep his feet and not go down in an undignified tumble. Not that there was anyone there to see him, but it was a matter of principle. Once he was secure on his feet Flight took a good look around, expecting that things wouldn’t look so splendid on closer inspection. But the place looked just as suitable from here as it had from the air. No, surely there had to be something wrong here. It must already be occupied and the inhabitants simply gone somewhere else. The place looked like it had been shaped specifically for Samanayr habitation. The ground here rose in one of those little hills that looked like it hoped to someday grow into a mountain. From the side of this hill a stream emerged, burbling and tumbling merrily down the hillside. A few levels further down a pool steamed, sending its own miniature stream flowing down to mingle with the cooler waters of the main stream. Parts of the hillside showed clear signs of having been sculpted to form comfortable couches and even slides. A dark spot level with the steamy pool hinted at the existence of a cave to retreat from the worst of the weather in. And yet, all of this was heavily overgrown with moss and covered in fallen branches and leaves. Leaves, not needles. Pines surrounded most of the area, but here, clustered around this seemingly ready made Song, deciduous trees clustered.

This place was too good to be true. It had to be a trap somehow. But there was no scent of predators. No scent of other Samanayrs either. Nothing. Just the crisp scent of pine and the musky scent of old leaves. Cautiously Flight approached one pile and dug at it with one hoof. He was no expert on leaves, but these didn’t appear to have been disturbed since they had fallen. The leaves on top broke apart at his touch and those underneath were already unrecognizable. An earthworm or two squirmed away as he exposed them at their work. But how could such a fantastic place have been left abandoned for so long? Were there really so few living here?

Rather than return directly back to Twirl, Flight opted to do a low flight through the area surrounding his find. There must be someone in the area who could tell him why the site was abandoned. What danger lurked there that they would stumble upon if they attempted to move in? Did serpents winter in the cave? Did serpents even live this far to the north in such a cool climate? Was this on the migration route of some dangerous creature? What was wrong with this perfect place? A scanning flight revealed…nothing. He couldn’t find any sign that anyone lived in this region at all. That worried him. Surely they hadn’t traveled so far north that they were leaving the regions inhabitable by those without the thick coats of a Northern, had they? It didn’t feel any cooler than he would expect for this time of year.

In the end Flight ended up heading back to Twirl to tell her about the place and see what she thought. Perhaps she would have better luck than he had in finding some reason why the place had been abandoned. He found it hard to believe that it could be as simple as the old Song growing old and no one ever replacing them. Such a place seemed like the sort of thing that you handed down to one of your foals when you grew old. Or, failing that, a neighboring Song moved into the better location once you were no longer there to defend it. Except…here there didn’t seem to be any neighboring Songs. Though his quick flight through had found a handful of other carefully crafted living spots. But those had only left him more puzzled than before. What caused the population of an entire stretch of forest to just vanish?

Twirl was less than enthusiastic about Flight’s find, especially once she heard how far away from her current location it was. She was already huffing and puffing along slowly as it was. She was quite ready to stop for the night, or just to give up. But Flight was so convinced that the place was absolutely perfect. He wasn’t about to give up until he managed to coax her into coming to see. Though not all his fast talking could keep her moving once the sun went down, especially not when they had just found a stream and a nice clear spot to graze in. He had to accept that it would be the following day, or perhaps even later before they reached the spot he had found. Flight tended to forget how much slower it was traveling on foot through the forest compared to flying over it. And Twirl was moving even more slowly than normal.

In fact, at Twirl’s current pace, which seemed to be getting slower by the day, it took them almost two days to reach the spot that he had been able to fly back and forth from in less than half a day. Though the discovery of a miniature river too wide and fast to easily wade across didn’t help. That was the sort of thing that Flight didn’t notice so much from the air overhead. Another thing about him that exasperated Twirl. It took him quite some time to scout out a feasible crossing point, and even then Twirl hesitated to trust herself to the old fallen tree that bridged the river. But Flight couldn’t carry her and there was no other way to reach their destination other than crossing.

Eventually though, despite Twirl’s reluctance and slow pace, they did reach the potential new home that Flight had spotted. But it was nearly dark when they arrived, and Twirl was tired. There would be no looking around closely that night. All Twirl wanted to do was flop down by the warm water and go to sleep. And having determined how close they were to reaching the place she had refused to allow Flight to stop them early so that they wouldn’t reach it until the following day. She had given Flight no choice really. Twirl had simply kept walking in the direction they had been heading. Flight could either go with her and make sure she stayed on the right path, or he could settle down for the night by himself and catch up to her in the morning. He had opted to stay with her. Dense and naïve as he could be, even Flight had noticed that Twirl was not exactly thrilled with the way things were going. And crabby as she was getting…what if she decided to just keep going? No, best to give in on this and just loose the first impact of seeing the place.

When she woke in the morning Twirl was in a much better mood. The leaf covered sculpted stone that she had slept on overnight was one of the most comfortable beds she could remember sleeping on in quite a long while, if not ever. She was comfortably warm from the steamy water, the leaves had padded the stone, and the stone itself was shaped almost perfectly to fit a sleeping Sam and covered with a soft layer of moss to boot. Not to mention the sun was shining and somewhere off in the distance the sound of birdsong could just be heard over the tumbling water. Yawning and stretching but making no move to get up just yet Twirl took the opportunity to look around and see just what it was that had gotten Flight so worked up.

By the time Flight himself woke it was to the sound of hooves clattering over stone as Twirl industriously trotted past hauling on a fallen branch full of leaves. He lifted his head and blinked, then closed his eyes and shook his head until his ears flapped. Then he opened his eyes again. The scene hadn’t changed other than now Flight was trotting past in the other direction, eyes fixed on another of the fallen branches. Even as he watched she reached it, picked it up, and began heading back to wherever she had taken the first one again. On about the third trip past with a fallen branch Twirl noticed that Flight was awake. Stopping in front of him she dropped the branch and gave him a look, then demanded to know why he wasn’t helping her. Hastily Flight scrambled to his feet, and at Twirl’s direction grabbed the nearest branch and followed her bemusedly. Presumably he would eventually find out what the purpose of this was. But until then, it was the best temper Twirl had been in recently, so if hauling branches around would keep her in it, well, he would haul branches.

Flight never did exactly get an explanation of why exactly Twirl had him hauling those branches into the cave near the hot pool of water. She never exactly told him what she thought of this place either. She simply settled in and set up housekeeping, puttering around and doing her best to turn the abandoned site into a livable environment for the two of them. By the time winter set in she had the cave well lined and padded with any number of leaves and every fallen feather or tuft of fur she had stumbled across. Flight was fairly certain that a few of the tufts of fur had been tugged out of her own sides, and a few looked suspiciously like his fur. But she was happy. In the process of filling her cave with leaves she had also managed to clear out most of the debris surrounding the pool. Once that was gone it was even more cozy looking with the soft cushioning moss and the clear flowing water. Flight didn’t ask too many questions about his sudden good fortune lest it suddenly change again for the worse. He just settled down to the idea that this was now his Song and set out to define a good sized territory for himself.

Mapping out in his head just where his new territory was kept Flight occupied and busy while Twirl became increasingly reclusive. It wasn’t that she was snapping angrily at him any more, no, more that she was simply spending more and more time inside the cave, coming out to graze briefly and soak in the hot water. Sometimes Flight even took food into the cave for her. That was met with the sort of attitude that he had rather thought mares treated their stallions with and made him feel happy. So he took food into her more often, particularly the sweet fruits and berries to be found further from their Song. He was slightly concerned still since she didn’t seem to be loosing all that weight she had mysteriously put on, but she also didn’t seem to be gaining any more, so he set the concern aside for the moment. It was good to have a bit of extra put by for winter. Time enough in the spring to try and help her get it off.

This winter was considerably easier on both of them than the last had been. In part because of the isolation of this spot and the lack of any other Samanayrs nearby that they could detect, there was more plentiful food here than in the last place they had attempted to winter over. They also had the cozy cave to wait out the worst of the weather in, a definite improvement over standing out exposed or huddling under the drooping branches of a pine tree. And the constant warmth of the quiet little pool was the final perk. Even though they had traveled further north and the winter here was in fact colder than their last, they suffered fewer hardships.

Nonetheless, Flight was quite happy to see the snow start to melt and spring begin to arrive. At some point during the winter Twirl had gone from the cranky mare whom he had led to this place into a clingy, cuddly mare who kept trying to pin him down and make him listen to her ramble on about the strangest of things. It was with relief that he told her on the first really decent, sunny day that he was going to take a flight and see if anything had changed in the area over the winter. It felt good to stretch his wings and really take a good look around the borders of his Song. To his complete lack of surprise everything was pretty much the way it had been on the last day he’d been able to safely fly before the snow and ice made it too dangerous. Oh, a few trees were down here and there, the rivers and streams, including the one running right past their home, were full of melt water and likely icy cold. Once, on the far edges of his territory he encountered a young Oquiesa which he promptly ran off. Lucky for him it had been one of the smaller sort, smaller even than he was at this age.

Strangely in Flight’s eyes, Twirl showed no signs of wanting to leave the cozy little cave and go explore as the weather grew nicer. Attempting to draw her out resulted in her flattening ears at him and baring teeth defiantly. Yet more behavior on her part that Flight just couldn’t understand. And since she wasn’t exercising, all that winter weight wasn’t coming off again. Though her winter coat was, and with a vengeance. She seemed to be using that to further pad the floor of one section of the cave. And now he was quite sure that she was plucking out his loose winter coat while he was still sleeping because more than once he had woken up to find her standing there with a mouthful of his fur. He just…didn’t ask. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know.

And then there came the day when Twirl, if anything plumper than ever, gasped one morning as she woke up and drove him out of the cave. Oh, she had some excuse, a search for the first tasty buds of a certain flower which he was fairly certain didn’t actually grow up here anyways. But that didn’t change the fact that she had bulled into him and all but shoved him out the cave mouth before he was even properly awake. His attempts to return were met with increasingly frantic demands that he go search for the plant and not return until nightfall, regardless of if he found it or not. At last, with a shrug, Flight allowed himself to be shooed away and went to go hunt for the plant.

Of course, as he had expected, Flight found nothing that even remotely resembled the warmer weather plant that Twirl had sent him looking for. As a consolation he did bring back some other tender young shoots. When he returned home, shoots in tow, Flight was surprised that Twirl still didn’t seem to have left the cave. Nervously he approached the cave mouth and peered in. What he saw within made him drop his haul as his jaw dropped in surprise. Twirl was…not alone in there! After staring for a moment at the soft grey body curled up against Twirl’s side Flight’s eyes rolled back in his head and he keeled over in a faint.

When Flight came to again it was to find his mare standing over him with a rather sarcastic look on her face and his new foal sitting right in front of his nose staring soulfully at him. Twirl shook her head at him as Flight gazed dazedly up at her. “Flight, how in all the woyrld did you not know that I was pyregnant? Yreally? Sometimes I just don’t believe you…” Slowly Flight’s eyes went wide as realization dawned on him. The increasing mood swings, the pudgy belly, the building of a nice little nest… All those things had been because at some point in their apologizing to one another they had managed to create a foal inside of her.

It took some time for Fight to fully come to terms with the fact that he was now a father. For the first month of the little filly’s life he would keep starting every time he saw her, thinking that someone had somehow snuck a foal into his territory and left her. It didn’t help that her grey color was so…different from either Twirl’s or his. Yes, she was young and not showing any patterns that she might eventually grow into, but the fact that her body was a solid grey save for the vivid green eyes and hooves continued to throw him. How his own greens had mingled with his lady’s lovely red and oranges confused Flight. But eventually Flight became accustomed to the appearance of his little filly, though until he did so at least he was amusing Twirl. Though now that the filly wasn’t inside her anymore Twirl seemed to be in a better mood. At least now he had some idea of what she was like when pregnant, so if it happened again he’d have warning.

However, about the time that Flight finally began to grow accustomed to his filly, he and Twirl began to notice something else…odd about her. Flight had not had any younger siblings born before he left home and it had been a long while since Twirl had last had anything to do with a foal. The fact that their filly was born with no mane that they could see hadn’t bothered either of them at first. They had just assumed that it would grow in later. The lack of a fluffy tail was even less of a concern since neither of them had such a thing either. In fact, they would have been more concerned if she had had a long fluffy tail rather than the draconic little thing she had. But as the little filly grew older, there was still no sign that she was going to grow a mane. It wasn’t that she was hairless, no, she had a fine coat of fur and perfectly normal little tufts on her legs. Instead, one summer day as Twirl was inspecting the filly’s head for some sign that the short coat was going to suddenly going to take off and grow into a long mane, or even a short bristly one, she found something very different starting to grow instead.

Twirl’s squeal of surprise instantly attracted Flight’s attention and brought the stallion over at the trot. When he arrived it was to have his daughter turn and look soulfully at him, the same as usual, though there was a hint of confusion in those huge green eyes as well. He stared at her for a moment, then turned to look at Twirl. The mare was standing some distance away with her ears flattened back and her own eyes wide and wild. “She has bumps on heyr head! And heyr back!” Flight blinked slowly at Twirl’s outburst. He didn’t see how that was cause for the sort of alarm she was displaying. They were probably just bug bites. That was one thing he envied those with the hairy tails; they were able to keep biting bugs away with flicks of those long hairs. His own tail didn’t bend that way.

Leaning down to see just what these bumps on his daughter were, Flight blinked again. Well, they weren’t bug bites after all, that was sure. Not unless bug bites suddenly had become multicolored. The little girl’s skin was a shade or two darker than her fur. These bumps were either the same green as her hooves or else a blue that was found on neither of her parents. Bug bites were usually red, maybe purple. Not blue and green. And bug bites itched. Flight had long since noticed that his filly was quite serious and quite. But still, surely she’d have made some move to scratch the little things if they were itchy bites. Anyways, there were far too many of them to be bites.

With his nose practically touching the filly’s back, Flight looked her over, trying to find a pattern in the location of the bumps. A thin stripe of them ran down the back of her head and neck to the shoulders. There they spread out to cover the shoulder area and a few more scattered over the rest of her back. Just to be thorough he continued on to examine her little tail. He wasn’t expecting to find anything else, but to his surprise the entire bottom of her tail was showing the same little bumps. When he finished Flight looked up, thoroughly confused. “I think she’s gyrowing spines. But how?”

That was indeed the question. Neither parent had spines of any sort. Both of them recalled their own parents quite well, and none of them had possessed any spines either. Obviously neither of them was very well acquainted with their grandparents, tradition being that a young Samanayr left their birth Song at two years of age and made their new home somewhere else, seldom if ever going back home once they had settled with a family of their own. And neither of them could remember if their parents had ever hinted at their parents having some sort of spines. But even if they had, was it the sort of thing you told your foals about? Especially if those foals didn’t ask about their grandparents? So it was possible, barely, that she could somehow have gotten those little bumps from someone in the family, wasn’t it? Flight was quite sure she had to be his, he wasn’t at all concerned about his mare possibly having made her with some other stallion. Flight felt too strongly for the little one for her to be someone else’s as far as he was concerned. Anyways, they’d hardly seen anyone else and no stallions had come close enough. Flight wasn’t quite sure how you made a foal exactly, but he was quite sure you had to touch the mare to do it.

Soon enough it became obvious that the filly was indeed growing spines. And that her mane was apparently going to be made of spines as well rather than hair. After all, that row of spines down her neck was exactly where a mane should be growing from. Flight had looked closely at Twirl’s neck to see how her mane grew to make sure. He was still a bit bemused by the whole spine thing, but was willing to overlook it. Other than the odd growths the filly was a fine healthy young girl. A bit quiet, sure, but that was probably just as well since Twirl seemed a bit…unnerved by her. Something about those pretty little spine buds bothered her. Flight could see her trying not to let it show, especially to the filly’s face, but the unhappiness was still there.

One day late in the summer, while the filly was off splashing in the cooler waters of the nearby stream to help sooth the itchiness of her growing spines which had started a few weeks after they had first been noticed, Flight decided to ask what it was about them that set Twirl off. Her answer took him completely by surprise. He never, ever would have thought of the sort of explanation for the spines that Twirl had come up with. And when she blurted out her reasoning it was like the floodgates opening on a pent up river of pure nerves.

“Don’t you see? Don’t you see Flight? It’s this foyrest! All those pine tyrees! I told you it wasn’t yright to live undeyr so many of them! They’yre affecting ouyr daughteyr! She’s gyrowing pine needles out heyr back! And it’s all youyr fault! If you had just listened to me and let us live in a proper leafy foyrest this wouldn’t be happening to heyr! See what youyr selfishness has caused? She’s a mutant now! No one will love heyr, no one will want heyr, she’ll be all alone! And all because you just had to live undeyr the pines! Now they’yre in heyr blood and gyrowing out heyr back! How could you?”

When she had finished her rant at Flight, Twirl stood staring defiantly at him and breathing heavily. Flight in turn simply stood there, stunned. He’d had no idea that Twirl still felt so strongly against living in a pine forest. She had seemed so contented here, living under the deciduous trees that dotted this hill mixed in among the pines and other evergreens. And yet she was apparently still harboring quite the grudge against those trees. He didn’t think it was even possible for what she was claiming to happen. Certainly he had never heard even the slightest gossip while growing up about a foal being born with pine needles growing from any part of their body. While Flight stood there staring at Twirl, trying to comprehend just what she was saying, trying to make it suddenly turn around and make sense, she got fed up with standing there. With a huff she turned and stalked away from him, heading off to go stand under one of her favorite trees with her head pressed up against its bark while she breathed deeply and tried to get her emotional balance back.

It took some time for Flight to find out that Twirl did in fact like this place that they now lived. There were enough of her kind of trees to make the mare happy. But the foal had not been conceived here, under those leafy trees. Only born here. The place where she had first been conceived was far from here, in one of the stretches of unbroken evergreens as near as Twirl could figure. And it wasn’t that she didn’t love her daughter, spines and all. But she was never entirely comfortable around the filly who seemed to bring a touch of the eerie quality of the pine forests with her in her solemn little stare and quite movements. She tried, yes, though she had her moments where she just had to go leave the filly with Flight and go off to lean against her tree, but she tried.

At first the filly was obviously too young to find anything odd about one parent abruptly leaving sporadically. But she was growing fast, as Samanayr foals tend to do. By the time autumn arrived she was looking up questioningly at her father every time that Twirl did this. And all he could do was shrug and either pick up the lessons where her mother had left off or resume whatever he had been teaching her when Twirl had abruptly left. The filly’s gaze would linger intently on him for a few moments longer before loosing that piercing quality as she turned her attention back to the lesson as well. At times Flight could agree that she was a rather unsettling little filly, but he still found it hard to believe that the pine forests could have anything to do with that.

By the time winter arrived Twirl had more or less stopped periodically freaking out over her daughter and was beginning to be concerned about her for another reason. The filly was over six months old and still had yet to say a single word. In fact, she almost never made any sound at all. Even when she walked through the forest she was unusually quiet, especially for a foal of her age. She seemed to have an innate talent for remaining unnoticed and more than once scared a parent half out of their skin by approaching them from behind and remaining unnoticed until they happened to turn in her direction. This hadn’t made it any easier for Twirl to get used to her or get over her insistence that the pine forest had influenced the unborn filly.

There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the filly. Yes, she didn’t talk. Yes, she had unexplained spines over large parts of her body that were growing steadily. Yes, she seemed rather too old for her real age. But she still seemed to be a perfectly healthy young Samanayr filly. Just an odd one. Nonetheless her parents did worry, especially Twirl. By the time the first snow was falling Twirl’s anxiety had managed to overcome her unease about her filly enough that she would hover anxiously over the little one trying everything she could think of to make the foal talk. The most success she had was managing to startle a little eep out of the foal by jumping out and scaring her. Otherwise the filly just looked back at her with an odd look on her face, those huge eyes too solemn for such a young face.

By the time that winter was heavily enough on them that most days they didn’t really try to leave the little cave other than to go soak in the warm waters of their pool and graze, even Twirl had given up on trying to make the foal talk. Flight had given up some time prior, deciding that she would talk when she was ready and trying to force her would just make her baulk out of youthful stubbornness. He continued to talk to her, but did so without any expectation that she would actually replay to anything he said. If it made her happy to just follow her parents around and watch them, then that was fine with him. Talking was overrated.

Winter passed smoothly again, though still with some tension. As with last winter, the tension centered around their daughter, though in an entirely different way from before. And at least this year Flight knew that he had a daughter and more or less why Twirl was on edge. He didn’t understand most of it, but at least he knew. To be honest, he didn’t really think that Twirl understood exactly why she was so upset by some of the things, she just was. And the filly, the center and source of it all, seemed to be oblivious.

Unknown to Flight and Twirl, their seemingly calm, unruffled, solemn little girl was a tangle of emotion inside. She saw and noticed more than they thought. After all, half the time they didn’t know that she had approached them, so they seldom realized how often she watched them. They didn’t realize how many quarrels she had observed, or how much of their discussion over what might be wrong with her she had overheard. They didn’t know how many times she had ghosted out into the forest and tried to speak. She knew full well how much they wanted her to be able to talk. She wanted to be able to talk too. There were so many things she wanted to say, so many questions she wanted to be able to ask. But the words wouldn’t come. They got caught in her throat and came out stumbling and slow, not with the ease or pleasant sounds of her parents. And so she had to rely on her eyes to convey her questions and feelings as best she could. Which often didn’t’ seem to be a very good best. And now she was afraid that the little progress she had made on being able to speak would be lost. Winter didn’t allow one to get away and be alone very readily, particularly not when you were as young as she was. Her parents were hardly going to allow her to walk away from them out into the cold icy forest without a reason. And since she couldn’t really talk…she couldn’t exactly give them a reason why she was leaving. Which mean that she was getting more and more out of practice and probably loosing what little skill she had gained.

All this combined was making the filly rather depressed. She began to droop and pine, spending long stretches of time laying in the entrance to the cave and staring silently out over the snowy white forest. None of her parents’ attempts to cheer her up met with any success, because all they did was remind her that she couldn’t talk and was too afraid to try where her parents could hear her clumsy attempts to make her throat form the words. By the time warmer weather began to arrive she was too thin from lack of interest in food. Her fluffy winter baby coat was beginning to patch out in clumps, but the new yearling coat was nearly as dull as her foal coat had been. Only a few greenish patches were appearing amidst all the grey. As soon as her parents were willing to let her wander alone again she took to spending as much of her time as possible out in the forest, alone. All her mother’s old concerns about what an unnatural foal she was continued to echo through her head, leaving her with little desire to resume her speech practice.

It came as a surprise one morning when, as she attempted to wander off unnoticed once more, her mother stopped her. It didn’t really look like Twirl particularly wanted to as she kept glancing back over her shoulder at Flight who would nod quietly at her. For a long moment Twirl remained silent, one front hoof scraping absently at the ground, looking for all the world like a misbehaving young foal waiting to find out what her punishment was going to be. After a bit she cleared her throat. “You’yre a yeayr old now.” The filly nodded slowly, uncertain of what this meant or why it was important. “That means you ayre old enough to have a name.” Now things were beginning to make a bit more sense, though the filly felt her heart sink a bit at the news. She feared just what her mother might feel was a suitable name for her, since she had never really been able to communicate with her parents at all.

“I wasn’t suyre what to call you foyr the longest time. But this winteyr it came to me. Youyre mood and the foyrest both pine. The yrest, I had yratheyr not explain it. But you will be known as Pining of the Poison Ayrrow fyrom now on. Even if no one else eveyr knows it since you won’t talk…”

During most of this speech Twirl was looking anywhere but at her daughter; up at the sky, down at her hooves, over Pining’s shoulder. At the last she cast a glance out of the corner of her eye at Pining. The yearling filly was just…standing there, staring at her mother. “Mu-mu-muh-my n-n-nu-na…” Both parents turned to stare at their daughter, shocked, as she began actually making sound. It seemed that their stares alerted Pining to the fact that she was doing so, and under her dark grey fur her skin reddened with an embarrassed flush. She turned and ran, bolting for the forest, trying to outrun the shame of having revealed to them how incapable of speaking she was.

Behind the fleeing Pining her parents exchanged shocked looks, then Flight took off after her. “Wait, Pining, come back!” It was impossible to say if she heard him or not through the rushing winds of their passage and her own despair. Certainly she didn’t stop running. She didn’t stop running for quite a long time, not until she was gasping for breath and aching in most every muscle in her body. As she slowly sank down to the ground under one of the many pine trees a flurry of wings made her look mournfully up. Her father landed in an awkward rustle of wings, overly rushed and rather abrupt. Abrupt enough that he wound up sitting down rather than simply landing from the sheer force of impact.

Whatever comforting words Flight might have intended to offer had to go unheard as he was just as winded as his daughter. For a long while they simply remained there staring at each other, each Samanayr panting heavily as they fought to get their breath back. Pining lacked the drive to make herself look away, though her large eyes were filled with grief. She recovered first and slowly tucked her legs in under her body and lay her head down on the ground, eyes closed now as she waited for whatever scolding her father had chased after her to bring. He might not be much on scoldings, but surely she had one coming now.

“Eyrm…well…I suppose I can’t ask you why you neveyr told us. Well, I guess I could, but I don’t need to since it’s a little obvious. I wish I knew how to fix it. But talking isn’t eveyrything you know. You’ve done pyretty well without it. Theyre’s always finding a Healeyr. Oyr maybe a Mystic. Even the Shayrian maybe. If you want to talk. If you don’t that’s fine too. Just eyrm…”

Under Pining’s disbelieving stare Flight’s rambles faded off and he pawed the ground uneasily. He really didn’t know how to comfort someone who couldn’t talk. There were other ways to communicate, but none of them were as easy to understand for something like sharing your name or asking a question. And until just today he’d hardly heard her make any sort of sound, no whistles, no chirps, no wordless singing. A silent Samanayr was a very strange thing to contemplate. Vocalizations were the way they communicated. He knew, in a vague sort of way, that other species, including the Sharian, had other ways of communicating with others, but they weren’t anything that he knew about enough to offer them to Pining. And anyways, it apparently wasn’t that she couldn’t talk…she just couldn’t do it very well.

It took Flight some time to coax Pining back home, and even longer for them to be able to trace her panicked flight back to the Song and Twirl. During that entire time Pining would scarcely even look at her father and kept her head hanging down in shame. At first Flight had continued to attempt to cheer her up, but as nothing even raised a grin or acknowledgment his chatter slowly dwindled down to nothing. When they finally managed to return home both were silent and unhappy looking. Pining because she thought her parents would reject her now, Flight because his daughter was miserable.

For the next few weeks the Song was unusually quite and miserable. No one quite knew how to deal with the extreme stuttering and stammering that Pining went through whenever she tried to talk. Now that the possibility of one day managing to learn how to do it properly and managing to say a perfect first word to her parents was gone Pining no longer really tried. They’d already heard how much trouble she had getting out even a short little word like ‘my’. Why bother anymore?

Surprisingly, it was Twirl who broke the downwards spiral of depression that Pining had sent herself into. For awhile she had taken to avoiding her daughter, but finally, one day she just bulled up to Pining and demanded to know just what was so bad? Ignoring Pining’s startled bleats as she attempted to say something Twirl pushed on ruthlessly. Pining was in good health, she had enough to eat, she had all her limbs, even if she also had odd spines. Pining had a family, she had a home. Just what was wrong with her that something as stupid as not having a voice could make her so miserable? Once more tears were welling up in Pining’s eyes, but they were as much angry tears as sad ones this time. There were so many things she wanted to say in response to her mother’s angry ranting. But she couldn’t, because she couldn’t talk! She could never counter anyone’s bad words about her, never deny or admit to something. Never do so many things!

Finally Pining had had enough. Pivoting away from her mother with a wordless angry squeal she started to run away, only to be followed by her mother’s parting words. “So woyrk hayrdeyr on talking if it botheyrs you so much! Don’t just quit like a cowayrd!”

It was several days before Twirl or Flight saw Pining again after that. Flight was almost certain that an unrepentant Twirl had gone to far with her outburst and driven their daughter away from them for good. He was right in the middle of waxing eloquent to Twirl about how he’d never even gotten to say goodbye and how there were so many things he still had wanted to show Pining before sending her off to seek her own life when Pining returned. As usual she didn’t make enough noise to be heard as she approached. The first sign either of them had that she was back was a quiet “N-n-no.” in response to one of Flight’s complaints. Both parents twisted around to face Pining as she stood half defiant half defensively a foot or two away.

Flight rushed forwards, almost impaling himself on several of Pining’s longer spines as he tried eagerly to nuzzle her all over and reassure himself that this was indeed his wayward daughter. While he was doing this Pining stared in angry yet fearful defiance at her mother. Finally she spoke again, still stuttering and stammering over the words a bit, but managing to get out just a few words. “Puh-p-pining u-of th-e P-poi-son Ay-ayrr-ow.” All the time that she had been gone she had been determinedly practicing those few words, the words she felt she most wanted to be able to share with others that she might meet. For a long moment silence hung in the clearing after she had finished, then Flight erupted upwards with a triumphant shout as Twirl slowly nodded once.

The remainder of Pining’s last year at home was still a tense time for her. Pining had never been quite sure what to think of her mother, and that feeling had only gotten worse as she got older. And now there was a very direct sense of being challenged by Twirl at everything that Pining did. Suddenly nothing was good enough, everything could be better, Pining was never trying hard enough at anything at all. Even when winter arrived things didn’t slack off in the slightest. If anything, they got worse as now it was much harder to escape for some time alone, and even if she did the snow left a clear track to her for Twirl to follow.

Pining would never admit it, but that winter of being constantly challenged did improve her ability to talk. Not because Twirl was challenging her to talk, in fact that was the one area that Twirl didn’t directly go after. But the only way to get her to stop for even a short time was to say something to her. She didn’t take hints at all. It was either a direct request, a demand, or nothing at all. Which in turn did encourage Pining to get over her fear of trying to talk since in the heat of anger it was easier to just let the words come exploding out, regardless of if they were right or not. It defiantly didn’t make for an easy winter though. Especially not for Flight.

The poor stallion was caught in the middle. On one hoof, he knew what Twirl was doing (though only because she had told him what she planned in the autumn for the sole purpose of preventing him from well meaningly interfering with her plans) but that didn’t mean he liked it in the slightest. He did what he could to bring a bit of cheer back to Pining, but every time he went further than Twirl wanted his mare would turn her tongue on him instead for a bit. It wasn’t a tactic she had planned on using, but it worked as well. Pining was faster at coming to her father’s defense than she was to her own. Twirl still had a delicate balancing act to maintain though. She knew full well that if she pushed her daughter too far all at once it was very possible that the reaction she eventually got would be physical rather than sticking to verbal.

Despite all this Twirl managed to keep her little game up all winter long. By the time spring brought the melting of the snow and the return of young buds to all the deciduous trees tempers were worn thin and patience was nearly at an end, but the family had managed to survive. Near the end Pining’s temper had given out and she had lapsed into sulky silence, refusing to rise anymore to her mother’s taunting, but her speech had vastly improved over what it had been the autumn before. She still stumbled over the words, especially words that she seldom used. She still preferred not to talk but rather to let her eyes communicate her feelings to others. But at least she could talk when nothing but words would aptly get the meaning across.

It was somewhat before her second birthday when Pining left her birth Song to strike out on her own. She loved her parents, especially her father, but she just couldn’t stand to be around her mother any longer. Not now, so soon after that horrible winter. And so, as soon as the snow had melted leaving the way out of the forest clear she said her goodbyes, very carefully nuzzled her father one last time, and headed south. Maybe there she would find someone who could do what her mother couldn’t and accept her as she was.

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