Full Version: Autumn Unending
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She had always been partial to the season that seemed everlasting here. Though a woman born in spring and wrapped in its essence, it was the season often attributed to change and death she felt more attuned with. Beneath what appeared like heavy paws leaves that should crunch to announce her passing made not a single sound. Their frail edges perhaps frayed by her passing - a tiny mark of her existence - yet indiscernible from the natural decay of their ilk. For a woman of her heft this seemed impossible. How could she move through the world as softly as she did? Was it the fact that the earth seemed to have wrapped her in it’s grace? That the strength of rock and the beauty of plants helped her to go unnoticed? No. Though the earthen woman bore the mark of one attuned to the stations beneath her feet it was other things that helped her to glide as she did, to walk as though she were among the dead herself. No sound to make, no mark to leave, to scent to find - truly she did not seem to exist. And yet she walked freely, openly among the white trunked trees top with golden leaves. It had been weeks since last she walked in the open as she did now. Sure there were silent paths and hidden shadows she could cling to as she so often did...but this place felt as though it deserved a better look than what she often granted to those she passed.

Under the boughs of earthly giants the sunlight grew dappled. Pouring in to reach the ground below and ultimately herself. In shadow she appeared the lush chocolate color that gave her the ability often blend with her surroundings far to well. While in the light the shimmering of green hues could be detected. Coming and going from sight at the whim of a muscle movement or the brush of a breeze against her thick coat. The air was chilled here, a welcomed freeling from the suffocating heat of summer - allowing her to feel less confined than she had for months prior. It was under the branches of a darker tree with lightly greened leaves that the dame pause. The autumn wind came rolling through the trees, rustling about to fill the void in her ears where before nothing gave way. Not even the song of passing birds. Observant eyes cast their gaze out among the trees, admiring the quiet tranquil of nature’s dance. One golden leaf fluttering to the floor below after another, only to be interrupted by the random thump of something nearby. Corpulent head turned to the source of the sound only to spy a large ruby apple lying on the ground now. Sapphire eyes turned upward to the branches where it must have fallen from only to be left in awe when a bloom appeared on the branch. Quickly walking through it’s life cycles before wilting and from it’s carapace forming a smaller green apple that only grew in size until another fully matured fruit sat in the place of the discarded one. ”How odd.” She mused to herself softly, allowing her gaze to linger for a short time.

The world here seemed to be in a constant state of peace. A sort of tranquil solace that for the earthen woman was difficult to come by. Already it had drawn her out of hiding. Invited her to walk openly among the wood and enjoy it’s quiet pleasures. Now it showed her secrets willingly. Maybe it wished her to share a secret in turn? To be was a little tempting. At least, until overhead a screaming crow took off as though to escape something. Instantly her attention was drawn to the direction the crow came from and a moment later the vibrations hit her. The slight tingling sensation that hummed through the ground and largely went unnoticed by most. But not by her. It came like the steady beat of a heart, foot falls of an unknown stranger approaching. It had been...months since the last time she permitted herself the joy of communing with another intelligent being. In that time she had traveled very far and these lands were new to her...Perhaps it best to seek the knowledge of someone more experienced if it was here she may end up remaining for a short time. Yes...a short time. She could never afford to remain in one place for too long. For no matter how far she walked she could never escape it. A hunter who dogged her every step. Yet that was no worse that the memories that plagued her. The guilt the wracked her very soul. How long had it been since she heard her name? So long now that it almost felt like a dream. Sapphire was gone now. All that remained was San. A wandering soul with no place to go but far to much to live for to lie down and die. The dangers the land here might pose were far more a problem if she continued blind than if she permitted herself to speak to a single stranger today. So the Living Ghost remained manifested in clear day. Unmistakable to the one who neared.

An inky stain both ravished and blurred stained the honeyed sky. The edges of her frame seemed to wisp into smoke, painting her as an abstract illusion rather than a flesh and bone monstrosity. Four wings, all moving independently of one another, flapped in erratic patterns but kept her small, lithe frame perfectly suspended. The only abstract of gold was seen in the pads of her paws and the sharpest iridescent yellow of her eyes. No familiar plodded along at her flank but that hardly seemed to bother her. While she was no native, the darkness enveloped her, embodied her and tended to her fears, her wants and her dreams. Her skull twisted, gazing down at the sea of trees beneath her baited wings and with one graceful movement, she tucked all four of her wings against her ribs and careened down. Twisting, twining, spinning through the air in a vortex of ever increasing speed, she shattered the plumage of the tree tops before those monstrous wings branched out like ambidextrous arms, ensnared the breeze and sent her gliding above the undergrowth.

Her dimensions were incredible, she consumed empty space like a devourer of light and yet, her wings were so ambidextrous, they didn't brush a single piece of foliage. She was graceful, she was elegant, there was a warm empathy to her golden iris's and yet, underneath the underneath lay something terribly wrong. A rage, a malice born of cold betrayal. The Heretic always waiting, always lurking, always prepared to shut down it's counterpart and consume her consciousness should a genuine threat present itself. Dahlia was unaware of it's presence, her split persona hadn't always been there but traumatic experiences had a fascinating way of shaping survivors and she was no exception. It was in the way she moved, the way her wings curled subconsciously. Innocence pure and untainted but edged in violence.

She dropped and her wings struck the ground, knobby bones, tearing into grass and soil without hesitation or pause. Acting as independent limbs, her feathered wings, bent and twitched, galloping along while her torso remained suspended, hoovering several feet above the ground. It was grotesquely fascinating how dexterous her wings were and yet as they carried her through the trees, Dahlia laughed, a soft whimsical sound as her forelimbs outstretched, seeking to ensnare a gorgeous red apple from a high branch. She stretched her wings, the knobby joints of bones crackling as she stretched but ultimately ensnared her prize. Keeping the apple between her paws, her teeth merrily divested the fruit of it's nourishment as her wings slowly lowered her torso to the ground. Her back paws touched down first and she hoovered, finishing her sweet treat and setting her forelimbs down before she ever noticed that she was being watched.

Her four, monstrous wings fanned out, framing her but Dahlia smiled and the flower tucked delicately behind her ear was hardly threatening. “Would you like one? The top branches hold the sweetest treats, I can fetch one for you if you'd like?” Her voice was gentle, a lovely soprano that carried an almost lyrical quality. She was pure empathy given physical form. “Ah, where are my manners! My name is Dahlia, who are you?” Her countenance had never matched the sheer grotesque abnormality of her wings but that had never phased her before so why should she start now?

It was the sound of a wing beat meant to go unheard that the nearby trees didn’t care to oblige by. Their leaves rustled and their branches groaned at a passing wind too narrow to be a normal breeze. Among all the glittering leaves that decorated the golden wood, it did not become apparent right away what scared the bird off and what made the forest react as it did. Sapphire eyes roamed the surroundings out before her and caught the moment the canopy was torn in twain at the entrance of a pitch, inky creature. The outline was defined, yet somehow smudged - as though movement meant the shadow of the creature was too slow to catch up. Forever chasing the corporeal form that cast it in the first place. It was the act of the wings opening that allowed the lithe thing to slow, nearing the forest floor with an almost silent landing. Albeit not upon golden sowen paws. The earthen woman was held there for a moment if only by sheer curiosity. The sight of wings upon a wolf was nothing new, not even the number by which adorned this female’s back, but the fact that it was the wings she moved with like the long legs of feathered spider that had San watching for more than a moment.

The moment of the ebony and gold dame landed was the moment ghost felt the vibrations in the earth. How they echoed off every object nearby and reverberated up her very legs. Still as the stone with which she was so attuned, San watched further as the creature stretched herself out and caught for herself one of these magic apples. Held between her free paws her jaws made short work of the fruit's crisp white meat. Within moments all that was left was the bitter core - tossed to the side while on the branch it had come another had already grown to take its place. Truly a place of eternal giving, it would seem. It was only upon finishing her treat that this creature of black and gold turned a seemingly luminous gaze upon San, the flower by her ear catching the earthen woman’s attention for a short moment as she was spoken to. The stranger offered to gather an apple from the top branches for her, seeing as how her access to the sky would grant her such an ability - and they were the sweetest from such heights. Really before San could even consider to accept or decline, the unnamed female deigned to fix that mistake by offering up her nomenclature as none other than Dahlia.

Her voice was sweet like the juice of the fruit she had devoured, and for a moment San let its sound echo in the air between them. To savor it, to remember it, because it had been such an awfully long time since the last s he had heard another’s voice. Unwilling to kill the sweet afterglow of such a gift the other likely did not realize, San merely nodded her head in a show of acknowledgement only to then turn her gaze toward the top of the apple tree they were near. Off to San’s side a blur of something moving far too fast to properly identify shot upward from the ground. It vanished among the branches and leaves, but a moment later from the top of the tree came another apple to land squarely at mocha giant’s feet. Lowering her skull San tapped the apple enough to roll it toward Dahlia in offering. ”You appear to enjoy them far more than I would.” Despite her size and build, there was a softness to her voice. A whimsical sort of nature that made her seem less real than what she was. ”Well met, Dahlia. I am San.” She offered her name up willingly, choosing at this point to take a seat by the apple tree where they pair had come to pause. A green shimmer ran down the course of her earthly coat with such movement, a thick tail wrapping itself around her paws to sit in a rather cat like fashion.

It would seem this time her weakness had gotten the better of her again. Drawn out of hiding by the beauty of the world she could not help but to admire, trapped her in another more than welcome interaction. Perhaps it had not been intended, but the fact that she had been going for so long now meant it was likely she had crossed into new lands. If such was the case, gathering information pertinent to the realm was hardly a bad idea. Especially for someone whose entire goal was not get caught. Queary, miss Dahlia, do you call these lands your home?”

Suspended by the dexterous momentum of her wings, Dahlia's golden gaze shimmered in the trickling light and scavenged the world around her with wonder. The darkness of her element was bellied by the innocent curiosity in her eyes and the delight at procuring such a succulent treat. Her emotions weren't just worn on her sleeve, they were projected, infecting the very air around her with gentleness. Much like any predator, Dahlia would always derive pleasure from the succulent squish of meat and muscle between her teeth, but she'd always been hard-pressed to resist the sweetness of fruit and her prize was thoroughly enjoyed as her velveteen paws were slowly set upon the forest floor. She was almost startled by the presence of another, the wolf whose space she'd unintentionally invaded and yet, it didn't change or harden her countenance, if anything she softened and her wings shifted in a warm manner, almost inviting the stranger closer.

Dahlia took a moment to observe the striking woman and starred with no shortage of wonder at the soft vegetation that not only seemed to wrap around her but root inside of her. Was this a new magic? A new element? Or was it merely a product of exotic enchantment that she had never been privy too? She wanted to ask, but that felt dreadfully rude so instead she offered what she could, the promise of an apple plucked and stolen from a branch well beyond the reach of animals devoid of wings.... and then quickly corrected her faux pas by offering her name. Despite the space she consumed with the width of her wings, there was a gentleness to her that made her the farthest thing from intimidating. Dahlia was too gentle, too soft, too kind. It was The Heretic that absorbed her negativity and fed from all the malice in the world.

The chocolate furred wolf nodded but didn't speak and instead tilted her gaze towards the towering branches of the tree. Dahlia followed the woman's line of vision only to gasp when something sped into the tree, knocked an apple loose and then dropped it unceremoniously at San's paws. Dahlia's wings fluttered in surprise but she smiled, delighted by the trick. She was even more enthralled when that succulent looking apple was nudged her way. “Are you sure? Goodies are meant to be shared, not hoarded. Not that I would ever say no to such a sweet treat.” A soft laugh, warm and gentle trickled from her throat and with reassurance, she dipped her skull, teeth ensnaring the succulent prize and devouring it with the same gusto that she consumed the last. “Lovely to meet you San.” She rumbled after she'd finished her second treat. Opting to join the woman, Dahlia moved beneath the thick branches and sprawled out onto her belly. Her wings blanketed over her frame and hid the vast majority of her torso from view.

Dark ears twitched and her skull turned upward as San voiced a question. “No, my home is quite far from here. Beyond the mountains and the ocean. I... almost died and I thought it was time for a change so I left. I've only been here for a month maybe but these lands seem to hold wonders I've only begun to understand.” There was a pause and she smiled. “And you? Is this your home, San?”

The pitch wings of the elegant female before her fluttered in shock, and then perhaps delight upon seeing the apple fall from its perch. Upon offering the treat to the Dahlia she asked if San was quite sure, she didn’t want to hoard them all for herself. It was a remark that pulled a small grin to the earthen woman’s face. Her features somehow defined yet soft, a hum of a chuckle echoing in her throat. ”I am sure. Enjoy friend.” San offered yet again, relieved with the fact that this one did not appear overly aggressive. They were the least of her favorite to entertain and drag information out of. Dahlia’s laugh was like a playful breeze before she devoured the second apple as quickly as she had the first. Leaving nary a thing of it behind, thus suggesting her love of the fruit. A bit of information that most might find...well, pointless. This was not the case for San. Even though there was a serious indication that they may never come across one another again - San could never be sure. It was not impossible for her to cross paths with wolves more than once though she did her best to avoid when possible. The more someone remained around her the greater their chance of being harmed. That...was not something the mocha giant desired in any form. Enough lives had been lost on account of her. No more need die for her pathetic life.

Once the apple was gone betwixt bright ivories the gold and ebony woman moved as though to join San under the boughs of the apple tree. In a graceful manner she laid down, soft wings flared out around her and making her more a blob of utter pitch than anything else. She was a sort of black that seemed to eat light and denounce definition. Dahlia appeared to, in a way, be built for the shadows in the same manner than San was built for nature. To vanish among their element and be found again only when it suited their whims. The dark woman returned San’s greeting politely before her ears twitched upon catching the question the earthen dame inquired of her. To answer her question plainly - this Nidria was not Dahlia’s home. Instead, she had come from a place from beyond oceans and mountains. A place where she had almost died and presumed to start anew here in lands that by her own confession seemed to hold many wonders. Yes...wonders. It was in part what originally drew San to Nidria in the first place. ”I am terribly sorry to hear that.” San offered softly, her voice holding a more sincere empathy that was genuinely no lie. Though she would never share her story with a strange and all the sorrows that came with it - to a degree - she knew what it was like to be forced to leave your home. The one drawback to this instance is that it mean Dahlia likely knew nothing that could be of help to San’s mission. It was not impossible of course, but it seemed more unlikely than when this interaction began.

A chocolate ear flickered when it was then time for Dahlia to ask a question, mirroring San’s own inquiry right back at her. It was a question that had been posed to her by strangers in the past...and yet it never ceased to hit her in an emotional sore spot. One that after all these years still did not heal. It refused to. In fact...the wound felt so damn profound within her chest that the passing of time only made it deeper. Sapphire eyes were pulled from Dahlia’s visage and turned them out among the golden wood that surrounded them. It seemed like for a long moment she was contemplating something. A far off look in her eye as though remembering something dear before her jaw parted to speak again.  “At the end of the day, it isn’t where we came from. Maybe home is somewhere we’re going and never have been before.” She replied. The implication being that no, Nidria was not her home either without going into specifics. It appeared both women had no real desire to speak of their past and already San had grown much closer to the truth of it. That was dangerous and she needed to get a hold of herself. With a calming breath, the tranquility devoid of the sadness that seemed to hit her suddenly returned. Quiet and peaceful before meeting Dahlia’s glowing gaze once more with a small smile. ”I enjoy traveling. This place is but one stop on many locations I may see in my life. Hopefully, that will be many.”

Dahlia did not need to be told twice. Her wings shifted, ambidextrous and forever moving while her skull dipped to ensnare and sample the succulent treat offered by the Earthen-hued femme. With a delicate crunch, the fruit gave way to ravenous jaws and with an eagerness rarely found in adults, she sampled and savored the delicate treat. Apples were a rarity, kindness even more so and somehow, or so it seemed, she'd stumbled upon both. Lapping the juices from the onyx fur around her jaws, Dahlia lifted her skull and bobbed her head. “Kindness so often feels like a luxury instead of a commonality. Thank you.” Low and soft, her voice remained melancholic. Empathy bled from her like an open wound and it was hard to underestimate the genuine quality of her words. She glided forward, the movements graceful and practiced but she didn't invade what most would consider personal space. The shade of the tree beckoned to her, but awarding this kind woman with intrusion was not her intent, so instead she laid down and let the shadows stake their claim, siphoning her down and blurring the edges of her frame all the more.

“You are not to blame and your empathy is not meant for me but rather he who caused it. I was a distraction, a seer that made him remember morality. So broken was he that he felt compelled to end the cause of an emotion that would upset the delicate balance of masochism. There is more sorrow in that motivation than there ever could be in my death.” Her words were sampled, pulled from her heart in poetic prose and yet they held no self sorrow, only empathy. How broken did someone have to be to see kindness and to think it stood as unfathomable cruelty? One of her wings twitched and her tail curled around her haunch. “And you? What drove you from what was once familiar to this land? Have the trees and flowers always been apart of you or was that a new development once you arrived?” Curious, she canted her skull, golden eyes crackling with quiet curiosity.

Her inquiry of home was answered by what felt more like a riddle than an answer. Dahlia turned her gaze to the vegetation, allowing the words to peculate in her skull. Strange, how perceptions were altered, mirrored and changed based on one's perception of the world. Her wings shifted, a tapestry of bleeding ink that cracked and twisted like macabre legs while her skull lowered to the Earthen floor. Her wings always did have a mind of their own. “Damaged souls are dangerous. They know how to make hell feel like home.” A response, equally as vague, but no less ominous. As the darkness bled into her, filling the torn sinew and bleeding bones left by a monster, she felt peace, an irony that was not lost to her.

Kindness for San was a requirement. This world they lived in was so terribly wicked. Housing evil souls with evil intentions...and how terribly common it was to see the suffering of innocent. To this day she had promised herself to never add to the woes of others if she could help it. For all that she had taken part in, perhaps showing these uncommon kindness’ were her way of trying to make up for what wrong she had done herself. Regardless, violence, hostility, animosity - these things did not live in the mocha woman’s heart. To hear that this stranger, though of no personal attachment to her nearly lost her life to something foul did sadden San to listen. Most might believe her to be lying but that wasn’t the case. Everyone deserved to die in their sleep of old age, happy and content with their life and those they leave behind. Yet life and the world were under no obligation to give them what they wanted.

Once the apple had vanished down the darkened maw of her current companion, Dahlia moved a little closer. An act that might set off a more timid wolf, but for San she didn’t even flinch. The closeness of others had never bothered her, even when it could be dangerous. In her experience more wolves were willing to jump when others showed their discomfort, thus she always remained calm. Not that the ebony woman appeared hostile of course, but one could never be too careful. As the mistress of shadow moved to seat herself in the gloom of the tree sapphire eyes suddenly found it difficult to determine where she started and the ground began. It was almost as if she’d melted into the very earth where she lay and only her golden eyes really told San where her face was anymore. What a peculiar ability. One that would work well for assassins and spies no doubt, forcing the earthen dame to wonder if such was not in Dahlia’s repertoire of abilities. A soft brown ear twitched when Dahlia began to speak of what it was that drove her to Nidria, that San’s empathy would be better placed in the one who ran her here than for her near death. Apparently she had done something to upset someone so badly they would attempt to end her life, if only to preserve some balance they had become beholden to. ”I see.” She began, still attempting to pick out the defined line of Dahlia’s form and still having trouble. ”At least you escaped. There is good fortune in that.”

Then, it was the dark woman’s turn to ask of San where she’d come from. Where her leaves and earthy appearance may have come into play. A rather direct question that would not be the first time she’d heard since wandering into new lands. ”My mother was a traveler.” San began, watching Dahlia for a moment more. ”She met my father one winter and convinced her to stay for a time. They were smitten but the Alpha of his pack didn’t care for the fact that someone besides himself had bred. So my parents left.” There was a slight shrug of her shoulders, indicating that there couldn’t have been much done in her fictional parent’s case. ”I was born in a litter of three. We stayed in an unclaimed grove for a while, but once we began to learn how to hunt my parents began to move again. I haven’t really been in one place since then.” From there she glanced down at herself, picking up a large paw to inspect the small tuft of leaves sitting by her ankle, the shimmer of green rolling through her fur as the light moved across it. ”As for these...distinctions...They began in my youth when I stumbled upon magic sensitive areas. Such as this place here.”