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Dream, Memory, and Blood (Olkhon Island | Baikal Lake, Siberia)
#11
She didn’t offer reassurance; he was right that he didn’t belong in this place. Whether her exclusion was intentional on his part she was not sure, but it was poignant all the same. “I feel strange in here,” she agreed, “like a fast-moving current is tugging all my thoughts in a direction I'm not sure it's safe to go.” The latter she murmured mostly to herself, glad to finally rid herself of the confession as she ruffled papers in an ineffectual, distracted manner. Indecipherable diagrams and a language she could not read elucidated, well, nothing. One scrawled symbol she did recognise, but its gentle squeeze upon her heart felt like a warning. She could slip away easily here, disappear into an oblivion she was not certain she could return from.

The blood pounded in her veins, thrumming in her temples. The allure of it was tempting; just one more small step on an already strange journey. Tempting, and terrifying.

Her hand jerked back from the table when she realised power was roiling out of her in disturbing waves. Nothing happened but a world that dimmed when she abruptly dropped her hold on it, but for a moment her heart skittered about in the cage of her ribs. Tristan spoke into that surprised and silent horror, dispelling it like mist, and she blinked, realising he had retreated all the way to the hearth like he claimed stake to a lonely island of one. She hadn’t considered dreaming as a prospect, actually; her fears had been more cutting, and perhaps more mundane. The rumble of his cleared throat and consequent grin loosened a laugh from her, and she slipped back into a moment that was only here and now. How he made it all sound so ordinary; it soothed something in her she hadn’t known needed soothing.

Thalia pressed away from the desk and its secrets. The blanket slid about her shoulders, its pattern catching like starlight, and she drew it closer. Beneath its folds her thumb skimmed the cool, damp skin of her chest, but it just felt like skin, as it always had. “The beautiful thing about questions is that we don't have answers,” she mused. Patricus had been evasive in the face of her care for him when he’d spoken those same words, but she agreed with the sentiment nonetheless. Days felt like a lifetime, but the changes wrought since she had run from him down the church steps had been monumental. She wondered where he was now.

Padding steps finally drew her to the warmth of the strange flames, and the man who surveyed its fiery kingdom. Curiosity pulled Thalia’s gaze up at the giant structure of the surrounding hearth as she sank to sit beside him. “I'm not looking for answers. I rather like the mystery,” she admitted. “But the life I had before… it was a good life, Tristan, but it was not enough.” The blanket pooled in loops and waves about her lap as she settled, crooked legs stretched out to the fire. Her ankle was an angry red where the tentacle had wrapped, but it was a negligible nuisance, because,Ohh,” she breathed, distracted in an emphatic moment of bliss. The heat tingled a flush of warmth back into numb skin, reminding her she did indeed have toes. Contentment flooded from that small comfort, liquefying muscles that had given past protesting weariness. She had not stopped since her feet touched Olkhon soil, not knowing if she was chasing or running. She still wasn’t sure.

His words sank like stones into the depths, weighty with burden. She let them settle around her quietly, solemn as she listened. It sounded utterly fanciful, but she never questioned its truth.

The wolves left their legacy in his eyes and senses. It seemed probable the trolls also left a mark of their own, and she wondered what deep shadows it must cast for him to be so resigned to his warring fate. In the cabin she had thought his use of ‘monster’ was a reclamation, an easy comfort in his own strange skin that had fascinated her, but now she was not so sure it was born of confidence. He told her it was better to accept, yet she wondered at how he seemed to hold the moniker like the sword of damocles above his own head. She knew nothing of trolls, even less than she knew of wolves, which was little enough, and so she took his solemnity straight to heart. Yet she might easily dismiss any of those aspects before she’d label them as monstrous – as easily as she saw a mother before she saw a monster when she looked at her drawings of the creature.

As she drifted into that contemplation she leaned to rest against him. If it was like leaning into the unyielding rock of a mountain, she did not seem to mind; she let that trust speak what words would only offer as hollow comfort. Her body relaxed and her breathing deepened to the soothe of rest, though she didn’t close her eyes; she was still watching the curling flames. He was warm underneath her cheek; blood and flesh, not ink and paper.

It would be a simple thing to tell him all the ways he was not monstrous, but he could not be blind to those kindnesses in himself, and they seemed as obvious to her as the point of a fixed horizon. She’d never wanted to be soothed like that: fears dismissed because they held no power over the comforter, the matter closed. It was never you’re not crazy she yearned for Aylin to say in her own darkest times; Thalia was too aware of her own oddities, too enamoured of them even when they made her afraid. What she longed for her sister to say was: it’s okay if you are.

It was better to seek peace than battle yourself forever, she thought. Though that wasn’t a gentle journey either. And it wasn’t her decision to make for him. But she wondered if it was not comfort he really needed, but reassurance that it was okay to explore something he thought he should not want.

“What do they say to you?”
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
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#12
Sierra woke up and leaned against the tree but time still slunk by like molasses. She was getting worried. Had they drowned? Did they get eaten by this creature that had harmed Thalia?

Sierra started pacing with Never at her heels.

[[ just reminding myself Sierra is in this thread too ]]
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#13
[[The place they’re stuck in is a vacuole and time runs differently in it (why everything inside appears super ancient but isn’t dusty). Not much time should pass for Sierra outside. That’s just fyi. I think I already told you but it was probably ages ago and may have been chat rather than pm, and it’s a useful note to have in-thread anyway. I hadn’t forgotten the wolfdream she was in with Howl and Sure Foot btw but wasn’t sure what else to add to it]]
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