Frozen Over AphelionGoblinKing 11 0 Solstice AphelionGoblinKing 7 0
From parched earth and jagged rocks, a spirit hailing from thirsty lands strolls through a garden singing with water. Morning dewdrops had barely begun to form. These, Súice reflected, were but a drop in the ocean when it came to the gardens - for what can one drop do when you’re practically swimming in ponds and lakes? But it meant more to her than anyone else knew. Almost anyone, that is. As the foggy dew flecked atop lily pads and collected upon the miniscule petals of water hyacinth, Súice’s heart gladdened to witness such a glorious sight. It was good to go exploring the world once more. It was good to be here. The last time she was invited here had been long, long ago. Too long. To Súice, who found there were not enough hours in the day to look after her canyon-dwelling friends, it felt like eons. Not any more, though! She’d leave these water gardens empty no longer but fill them with laughter and song. But there was something else she had yet to see… Or, rather, someone. Splash!What was that?A single ripple appeared in the middle of a pond. Then another. And another. Splish splash splish! Marvellously, gracefully, a perfect stream of water arced through the air and went SPLOOSH! bathing Súice in the first shower of many to come. “SÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚÚIIIIIIIIIICE!!!!” “Chupi!” As her nearest and dearest friend launched himself joyfully at her face, Súice caught the tiny esk and spun him round and round. Naturally Chupi began giggling and squealing “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” while his longtime friend whirled him all about, sparkling droplets flying everywhere. She only put him down when they were both thoroughly drenched, both laughing fit to bust and both overjoyed to see each other after so long. “Chupi! How are you, old friend? You’ve - wow, you’ve changed!” Indeed he had! She’d never seen him quite like this before. Privately Súice marvelled to herself at the wonders time could create; though she ran into him less frequently than in their youth, she had watched Chupi embark on his adventures and noticed every time he came back, he grew. This year and the last had been unsteady so far, fires ravaging the scrub and joshua trees, but this renewed her confidence in the winds of change. “Súice Súice Súice Súice Súice!! You made it! You really and truly made it! Oh, I’m so happy, I could just-” Chupi resorted to making delighted squeaks and chirrups as he wiggled about, long tail wagging as it shortened once more and he schwooped into a form more fitting for land. As fat water baubles circled his head in sheer happiness his friendly bumblebee dipped its nose into a drop, combing its fuzzy face with tiny paws. “Yeah, I did! I’ve changed and now underwater I can go SCHWOOP and I go all long and flowy! You gotta see it!! Oh boy oh boy I’m-” Chupi caught himself before his telepathic voice ran out of breath. A quick glance at Súice confirmed what he knew all along. “Look at you! You haven’t changed a bit! -But that’s not a bad thing! You’re the same old Súice and you’ll always be my very best friend!”That was also true. Súice’s eyes crinkled in that memorable way she smiled - not with any mouth to speak of, but with her whole body. “In the end, no matter how much we change, we’ll always be the same best friends forever.” She knew full well that throughout her existence she had seen many esk grow and transform but had always kept the same herself. But there was no harm in that. Having something to hold onto was always good: a reminder of her roots. Just like Chupi. -Oh hang on, she was still holding him. Oops. Once she gently released him and he hopped onto her back, she gave a lively little shake to hail the dawn. “I’m so glad you invited me over. Except for one thing, actually.” “Oh no! What’s that?” “I was planning to sneakily invite you over first! But you beat me to it, silly!”“Hehehe! Guess I’m just that much more schwoopy and zoomy!” “You certainly are.” While Chupi did hops, skips, and jumps all over the place and his bumblebee (and beeflies - Súice never did get to ask him why he kept those of all companions) rushed after him, his oldest friend lifted her head to the sun. The sun… Now the days had stopped growing shorter and the nights lower, she felt a shift in the world beneath her paws. Something was approaching and fast. “Remind me again what the special occasion for such a reunion is.”“Who needs special occasions?! I have you!” “Aww. Thanks, Chup-Chups.” And though you couldn’t see it Súice suddenly found the end of her tail VERY interesting. “But!! There IS a special occasion today! And since it’s all about the sun, it’s an even better time to have you over!” Chupi puffed out his chest with pride, kicking his back legs almost clean over his head to send more spritzes of water cascading onto them. “Today is the day of the summer solstice!” he chirruped, knowing full well Súice knew all of this but happy to oblige her for an explanation. “It’s gonna be the longest day of the year and the shortest night of the year! And longer days are good because it means I can spend even more time with you! Isn’t that great?”Súice nodded once, twice, three times in remembrance of her canyon live-forevers bowing in the breeze. She missed them, it was true, but she felt so much lighter without them - and Chupi was quite a beautiful flower on his own, ha ha. “The real question is: What do YOU want to do, Chups?” “What do I want to do?” Why, wasn’t it obvious? Chupi didn’t even need to think about it before answering. “Everything! Duh!” “Everything?” “Everything.”“Then what are we waiting for?” “You! So- uWAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOO!!!” And Súice plunged into the pond without a second thought, Chupi clinging to her fluff and so immensely happy he could squeak. What does love mean to you? Love is spending the longest day and the shortest night of the year with the friends you made for life. As leaf-dappled shadows shift and the light turns into yellow pollen, yellow fur, blue fur, let me show you in these swift glimpses what it means to love and be loved. Love is splashing your best friend by turning your back to a waterfall and letting the spray pelt off your fur. This was a sensation Súice chose to feel, nictitating membranes fluttering in contentment as the hard rain eased what little worries and strife she carried. Chupi was nearly bowled over by the water time and again but valiantly paddled through it nonetheless, leaping and somersaulting head over paws as he frolicked and kicked little armadas of waves back at Súice’s nose. Love is kissing a fish with the knowledge it will never turn into a prince, and being happy with that knowledge. Hiding under a ginormous lily pad in a game of hide and seek, Súice came face to face with a fat friendly koi who proceeded to give her very wet smooches. “Found you! Found you!” Chupi burbled as he rocketed up behind her, bubbles fizzing all around as he used his elemental horn to “swordfight” her and frightening off a whole school of fish in the process. Woops.Love is watching your friend dance in the wind in a performance sweeping him higher and higher amongst the birds, twisting and twirling in ways you never even dreamed were possible. From below (since she hadn’t quite gotten the hang of levitation just yet) Súice admired Chupi’s skill, agility and sheer vivacity. She’d never get tired of seeing him zip and zoom and show off for her. Just for her. Between his all-knowing hooded crow and sunshiny conure he swung like a monkey from his tail, raced feathers in spiralling breezes, flew like a kite and soared like her hopes for this year. How could such a small soul contain so much love for life? She had yet to find out, but Súice oohed and aahed over it nonetheless. But a day cannot last forever, no matter how long it is. Eventually Súice led Chupi back to her canyon, promising him a sight he’d never forget, and they waited for the night to cloak the sandstone pillars in robes of golden and blue. Her merry band of crickets began chirping as the liquid sunset finally dipped below the horizon and Súice’s eyes crinkled once more. Oh, to be at harmony with the world… Chupi, however, was not content to sit and wait forever. “Súúúúúúúúce. What are we waiting for? I wanna know!”“Patience, Chups, patience. Not until the rain clouds clear and the night sky is perfect will you see the surprise.” “But I want to know all about the surprise!!” “Well then, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you all about it, would it?” “True.” Chupi pouted for maybe half a second before he bounced around again. “Now tell me tell me tell me!!!” “Look.” And Súice pointed, and Chupi looked. Wash away the fog and you will see, glimmering in the reflection of Súice’s dewdrops, a gigantic strawberry supermoon rising into the sky. “Woah…” That was all Chupi was capable of saying for some time. Just “woah” over and over and over. Finally things clicked in his head and he squealed “WOAHHHHH!!! Súice, this is AMAZING! Did YOU turn the moon pink tonight?!?” “Haha, I wish I did. No, it truly is a special moon, one we only see as the seasons change and celebrate their passing.” “Well, I’m going to believe you did because you’re just that magical!” Before Súice could protest: “It’s very… Pink.” “I know, right? What do you think?”“I think pink is absolutely perfect!” Chupi declared, his tail wagging so vigorously he nearly swept all the crickets off the cliff they were perched on. Naturally he simply HAD to tell Súice all about his thoughts on the color pink; as he wound himself round and round into further tangents he never noticed Súice tiptoeing away and returning with a whole pile of… stuff. Only when the pile grew bigger than him did he cotton on. “Ooooh~ What’s this?”“Well, Chupi…” And for the first time that day Súice felt a pang of nervousness stirring in her chest. But she fought it down, spurred on by their friendship. Be brave, Súice! “I know we don’t see each other every day like we used to, but we’re still friends. Best friends, the very best! And when we went on that big adventure way back at the beginning… I still think fondly on what we got up to. Now we walk separate paths but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember each other. So… I got you something to take back and think of me when you’re sad or lonely or scared. Here it is.” “Oooooooooh~ Um… What is it?”“Not too long ago, an old joshua tree had a spark touched to it. It nearly started a wildfire if I hadn’t put it out; I had to do something with the dry wood so it wouldn’t start more fires, so I gathered it up and braided these little twisty bark pieces together. Smell~” And as Súice pushed the kindling towards Chupi, the smell of home briefly brought tears to her eyes.“Wow, thanks!!” And what did Chupi do? Take a big sniff, of course! He clutched the little braid of joshua tree bark as if his very life depended on it. Then he glanced back at the much larger pile. “You sure brought a lot of gifts!” “...I may have gotten a little carried away…” “It’s okay! I can put them all around the water gardens, then I’ll think of you wherever I go!” But Chupi surely could not bring ALL this back on his own. After a great deal of “hmm”ing and “huh”ing, he perked up with a brilliant idea. “I got it!” He summoned a bunch of tiny glowing wisps - one! two! three! - each a different color: passionate purple, outrageous orange, glowing green. Chupi’s entire body shook with concentration as he made them float onto the pile of kindling, then set them aglow (but not ablaze!) with a myriad of color: A mock bonfire of sorts to celebrate the summer solstice. Here they sat, the two best friends, admiring a strawberry moon as big as their hearts.Love is spending the summer solstice in a haze of dizzy memories and not remembering a single thing about the entire day but treasuring those flashes of light and dewdrops forever.
If last winter has not been kind to us, summer is shaping up to be no exception either. Where did last year go? Our stolen summers seem but a fever dream now. Gone are our hopes for lazy days and nights entranced by fireflies - these are the times when reality really started to sink in. That and the wet-bulb temperature. There’s no denying the ugly history of climate change; the world is running hot and cold, stretching and shrinking, shrinking and stretching until things fall apart and it implodes on itself. Angry red welts strike the land, rupturing in the humidity. Cracked lips and blistered palms beg for water, water, water… Grass blades snap at the slightest hope, brittle and brown. Predator and prey alike gather in an uneasy truce to drink the few drops left, the fight for survival suddenly paused over aqua vitae. The very air steams - and when the rain is merciful enough to come, it falls as a single sheet smothering us in heat. If you were hoping for a hot summer, prepare to have your hopes and dreams dry up and leave you desperate. Unfortunately, the burning prairie is far from spared. It, too, is at the mercy of the heatwave. And mercy is a long, long way aways. Summer swings its sickle and reaps all that has been sown, wildflowers crumbling in its wake; huge swathes of land have fallen to the brutal harvest and left wanting. Heat is both sharp as a double-edged sword and soft as the embrace of someone you should have left behind a long time ago. Carving its way under your teeth. Prising your sternum up to take hold of your ribs and see what’s inside. Soft and sticky, clinging to the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. No exceptions. Everybody suffers from the small to the great: songless meadowlarks, worried foxes, thankless teachers, moping children who dream of the time it was safe to go outside. All life is equally valuable. All life is equally trivial. And yet… And yet. The flowers of the field may wither and die, but hope never does. This is not the first summer the prairie has weathered. It will not be the last. Though the heatwave has claimed many, ghosts playing in a long-forgotten paradise where ethereal flowers grow, this is the nature of living. A cycle of catharsis and fire. The world will bounce back, more spring up to take their place. It must. There has to be.But one can’t help but worry about the state of the world in the face of mass extinction.Wending its way through the prairie is a river. Truth be told, it is neither particularly wide nor exceptionally deep. Nothing to write home about. But it is the only source of water for miles and miles around - and now the only source of relief for prairie-dwellers whether they be burrowers, baskers, or the children of man. And we all know what summer means for children… That’s right. Summer break. Vacation. Some vacation this is turning out to be, nowhere to go and roasting alive. Do they dare to step outside and bolt for that sweet, sparkling water? Some do. The laws of nature are suspended as wild animals wade into the shallows and paddle to safety, their love for life transcending their fear of humanity. Further downriver towels are unrolled, floaties are blown up and barely clad students go running and cannonball into the water they now know to hold dear. Most of them are young and foolish, but not all. Plenty of swimming. Plenty of floating. Lots of disregard for nature - and their own survival in general. Is it really worth it? Certainly not with Frankie around. Try not to look too closely at the edge of the water. A pale shadow glides upon the scent of your fear, coils undulating as pits in place of nostrils and a tongue tastes the frivolity. And on the riverbank stands a terrifyingly lanky cryptid with his wild dreads whipping around him. “Huh. Y’all folks seem to be havin’ fun.” Those words pierced through his already paper-thin patience. Frankie stamped as his snake friend (some would argue his only friend) slithered out of the shallows, field mice scattering like he wanted to stamp out their life. And that wasn’t true, because if Frankie had his way he’d stamp out any life who came too close indiscriminately. Had he a mouth, he was sure he’d be foaming at it. Champing at it like a stallion raring to go. For a moment he regarded those who dared play in the water edging into his tolerance like this river edged into the place his spirit was shackled. You could hear the sneer in his voice when he spoke next. “If these fellas can mess around and dirty up these here waters, I don’t see as to why I shouldn’t have some fun of my own~”Uh oh.Here comes trouble. When you’re dealing with an outcast ghost and his absolutely draconian temper, then you’ll really start feeling the heat.Time heals all wounds? Pah! Tell that to Frankie. If anything he’d grown even worse as summer roared on, ravaging the sunburnt wooden grave marker he so ferociously guarded. But he could not protect it from time of all things, and so time bore down on him until it scraped his nerves raw. He’d already had a short temper before - though Sparrow helped, sometimes - but now the fuse on that stick of dynamite had been lit and sliced down to the bone to boot. The heat clinging to his dreads no matter how hard he shook it out. The intruders it lured perilously close to his domain, enough to make him see red and his enchanted arrows spin once, twice, three times. And worst of all, the insufferable lengthening of the daylight. Too many hours in the day… How would Frankie know what to do with himself? It was abominable, this harsh light of reality, baring the ugly truth he could never reconcile his screaming soul with.The bitter tang of copper and salt. His own failure, his trembling hands. And the blood blossoming from the throat of the first and last lady he loved. Time to rustle up some malice of his own. It’s never a good thing when Frankie is in high spirits. Not one little bit. His sparkling, spluttering temper exploded at the very sight of humans enjoying a hot summer day he’d never love again. Not without… Her. Heartache was the closest thing he felt to pain as the arrows buried in his shoulder blades let off brilliant sparks. Once! Twice! Three times! And just like that, the bitter tang of copper and salt flooded the river as it headed downstream, a haze tinged with a sulfuric fugue of resentment and spite. It felt like how old pennies smell and taste. Cheerful whoops and whoas died in their throats, children clenching their fists with baleful glares. Some petty goblin whispered to the grown-ups that someone - it mattered not who, but someone - must be meddling in their business. Not long after there was a great splashing as raucous students shoved each other face first into the banks and flipped their floats. Hair was pulled. Fingers were jabbed. People shouted to no avail - and Frankie? He watched and gloated at the uproar, glad to see his commotion had rained on everybody’s day.But that wasn’t the end of it, oh no! Not by a long shot. In the midst of this turmoil, the shadows of Frankie’s past life were not the only things he’d upset. Then again, could you blame him? Seems like the heat was driving everybody mad, and if Frankie was going down he’d take them all with him. Mindless arguing turned to unholy screeches and howls - not of rage, but fear and pain. The poor fish that once swam frightened from crushing feet and careless hands turned back and began nibbling whatever they could reach (and a fish’s bite is not fun, let me tell you). From the grass enraged squeaks and chitters could be heard as people found their ankles and fingers being attacked most viciously. Worst of all, a whole horde of gnats rose up from the dead grass, humming savage war cries as they blanketed all in their path. Again the laws of nature had been defied, but any semblance of merriment and tranquility was now shattered. As the prairie-dwellers hounded the humans for blood sport, Frankie capered in mad glee, the scar on his nose standing out like a brand as he reveled in how low the living had fallen.“FRANKIE!!! What are you DOING?!? You can’t just- did- just- why did you do that?! That was mean of you!” And Frankie was a child again. Wide-eyed, he stared back at the little lady on the other side of the river. The bandana that bound up his tail and all his repressed emotions was a kerchief round his neck again, the scar on his nose soft from a chaste peck of commiseration. He reached up to fiddle at the leather ties strewn across his dreads - ah, but instead of a callused hand he found a dainty paw, and Frankie came back down to earth with a bump. Ouch. There was only one kindred soul on god’s green earth that could do that, and that was… “Sparrow?” Although his rich burr made her name sound more like Sparrer. “What business is it of yours, lil’ lady? You gonna call ‘em back?” “Nonsense! They were mucking up the creek, I’m not having any of it! None of it, I tell you!” That’s Sparrow for you. Hopping hither and thither while her nasty little copperhead buddy bared its fangs at Frankie. It was worth it to hang out with her, though. Even if he blatantly blocked out her incessant yammering at times. Honestly, he’d no idea why Sparrow stuck around, she played with lightning and crackled with energy way out of his league - but he didn’t mind. “But you needn’t have done that! That was very rude of you, you know! And now all the animals are upset and everybody’s hot and bothered, so nobody can enjoy the river!” she declared as she sauntered straight up to Frankie and poked him in his fetlocks. “Good. I ain’t a fan of no mortal man who thinks he can tromp into my territory an’ sully my waters,” Frankie huffed. When Sparrow shot him a glare he did his best to look appropriately guilty. He didn’t do very well at it. “Look, lil’ lady, what’s done is done. I ain’t sorry for it neither. Ugh! This heat is killing me!” “Well, have you thought that it might be killing those poor people too?”“Yep.” “Frankie!!”“Who cares? They can git outta my stakes and go somewhere else!” “Name one place in all the prairie other than here that actually has more than a puddle of rainwater to splash in.” A veeeeeeeeery long silence followed before Frankie simply grumbled “Damn…” Sparrow had a point. A rare occurrence, to be sure, but a point nonetheless. The part of him that wanted to be selfish and sullen, however, was still immensely overjoyed he’d caused such a hullabaloo. Bless little Sparrow. Out of the goodness of her heart, she thought Frankie came around to her point of view for once. “Exactly! Besides, you never do anything when it comes to water! It’s like you’re scared of it or something!” she chirped as she gallivanted figure eights around him.“Wha- AM NOT!” “Are too!” “Am. Not.”“Are. Too.” “I said am not!!” “Then why don’tcha ever go swimming, eh, tough guy?”Now that stopped Frankie dead in his tracks. He shuffled forward and made as if to dip a paw into the calmed waters, then drew it back. Such a thought had never occurred to him; he disliked the goobly, out-of-body feeling he got when leaving behind the land he’d claimed with his death and usually Sparrow was the one who dragged him on an adventure. “I don’t like water!” he snapped and crinkled up his face, turning away with a haughty flip of his dreads. Him? Go swimming in a creek? One and only one childhood playmate of his could get him to do that, and he sure as hell wasn’t starting now. Like that ever stopped Sparrow. Frankie hadn’t even finished turning his back to her when he heard a “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” and an almighty SPLOOSH!! When he whipped round he found Sparrow had plunged into the river, her head popping up as she bobbed and doggy paddled in circles. “Frankie, I’m telling you, you’re missing out! Have you any idea what a great way this is to beat the heat?!” “Nope. I sure don’t intend to either.”“Oh, come on! What’s the worst that could happen? Get hit by lightning?” “Sparrow, that was ONE TIME!”“Soooo come and swim with me!”“No.” “It’ll be fun!” “No.”“Yes.”“No!” “Yes!!”Aaaaaand that was how Frankie ended up standing stock still in the middle of the river, all four legs splayed and looking like a drowned rat while Sparrow swam to her heart’s content. How did he get himself into this kinda situation? Sure beats him. But Sparrow warbled and trilled in joy at getting her partner in crime to cool off, and that was - well. Not great. But it was enough. For chrissake he was sopping wet and looked even more like the bogeyman, head down, sodden dreads spattering the surface of the water while he grumbled. As long as Sparrow was happy, this was… doable. For now. Whaddaya know? The water did feel nice after all. Maybe some day he’d find it in himself to laugh and play again like when they were children. ...Maybe.But today was not that day, and Frankie ended up tucking his long legs under him and letting Sparrow use his back as a waterslide, some small part of his sour mood abating as they whiled away the summertime.Olivia… In the shadow of a smooth, flat river rock, two pale snakes coil up together, Frankie’s timid little rat snake and Sparrow’s nasty copperhead finally finding peace in each other.
[TWWM] Frozen Over
The city was cold and nearly frozen over as the serene esk wandered through its streets. Humans covered in mountains of clothes clogged the sidewalk Mira was traversing. Some had their hands stuffed in their pockets. Others were cradling a mug of a hot liquid to keep them warm from the harsh winter air around them. The crescent moon that sat on her forehead caused the humans around her to glance up at the sky. Each one searched the mildly cloudy space, looking for where the moon sat today. It was a strange sensation for all of them. The sudden urge to learn about the moon came just as quickly as it left. A small, glass wind chime swung from the long branch that sprouted from her head. The blank strip of paper that hung from a piece of string at the bottom fluttered in the crisp morning air. Each step caused it to bounce lightly. Although, it never made a sound. She was headed towards the southeastern outskirts of the city so she could meet up with her father. They were planning on traveling to Lake Arimine, where the water should’ve frozen enough to support their weight while they ice skate. “Mira! It’s wonderful to see you again.” The little white esk hummed, voice bright and cheery as he greeted his only daughter. Rem had to tilt his head back in order to gaze at the face of the taller female esk. “I was worried you had lost your way.” He said softly, worry coloring his tone as he waddled through the thick snow that reached his mistletoe covered chest. “My apologies father. The road to get here was blocked by snow and fallen trees. Finding a way around took me a while.” Mira responded, feeling a bit guilty that she had worried her father. The deer-like esk lowered her wisteria covered head to be at eye level with the other traveler. Mira’s fur was drenched from the snow, chilling her to her ghostly bones. Most of the flowers that adorned her branchlers had fallen during her trek to Toyama City, and the potato vines that made up her tail weighed her down from the snow that had become trapped in the tangled mess. “It’s alright. Next year will be much better. We won’t have to worry about traveling after we visit the lake.” Rem chuckled, giving his best impression of a smile. The fur covered skin by his eyes crinkled, imitating crows feet. The taller white esk nodded her head in agreement. Being able to teleport to the lake is a convenience she’ll never take for granted. Walking and hovering across Japan was exhausting work! They walked slowly towards the forest. The only sounds between them were the crunching of the snow beneath their feet, and the occasional grunt from Rem when he had to jump in order to take another step. As they trudged through the forest path that wound its way through the maze of trees, a shrill screech echoed through the forest, making every animal within the area bolt, fearing the cause of such a sound. The fur on Mira’s neck stood on end as the anguished scream bounced off the surface of the trees once more. She hesitantly glanced down at her father, finding that he was already searching for where that cry could be coming from. They both stood in silence as they listened for the sound once more. This time, she was able to pinpoint the scream. It was far ahead of them, and slightly to the right. Mira couldn’t figure out what was making the sound, but whatever it was, was definitely in trouble. Rem wasted no time. He dug his little paws into the ground, and launched his way through the icy forest. Mira followed her father with the swiftness and grace that her long legs allowed her. Each petrified scream only made her stomach twist more and more. What could be making such a horrible noise? Does she even want to know…? The sound was getting louder and louder with each step. The sounds of birds were now audible as they reached the place the creature was calling from. A path lined with stones and moss covered statues came into view, giving the two worried beings an easy way to the wailing animal. In the distance, Mira spotted a bright pink creature perched on what looked to be a dilapidated shrine. A Torii gate with chipped, fading red paint sat at the entrance of the shrine that was a similar color. In front of the creature seemed to be a circle devoid of snow, and as Mira and Rem got closer the esk-like being, they realized that she was completely drenched, and covered in what could be assumed was the snow that was once in that spot. The bird-shaped beams of light fluttered around chaotically, tweeting and chirping in fear, reflecting what their creator felt. One circled the esk quickly as if unsure of what it should do, and the other repeatedly dove, then flew upwards again, and dove once more, like it was trying to escape a predator. Despite the terror the brightly colored esk exuded, a calming sensation cast over the other two travelers. The light trickling from the succulent that hovered above her back made Mira feel warm and at ease. Small specks of white twinkled around the beams of light, momentarily distracting her from the fevered calls of the stranger before her. “What’s the matter?” Rem asked as he hopped along the statues to avoid the cold ground beneath him. The pink esk went silent and watched Rem intently. Her false ears bounced with the movements of her head as she followed his jumps. Whatever had her in such a state seemed to have been forgotten, at least until Mira climbed the steps that led to the shrine, each step causing the snow to crunch beneath her feet. Yuli threw her head back and let out another blood chilling cry, causing Mira to shiver uncontrollably. The tall white esk looked over at Rem in confusion. It didn’t seem like this esk was in danger, or had any need for fear, so what was causing her to act like this? Rem looked back at Mira with a contemplative look before a lightbulb went off in his head. He raised a paw, and placed it back down in a spot that was covered in snow.The two watched the pony sized esks fur bristle and tremble as her body shook when she heard the noise of snow being stepped on. “I see... Are you afraid of snow?” Rem wondered, making Yuli once again go silent. This time, she tilted her head to the side, causing orchid petals to flutter to the ground around her. Mira’s eyes widened slightly. She could see right through the pink esks head. Yuli gave a soft chirp, with the end going higher in frequency, as if it was a question. Rem hummed, not fully sure of what she meant, but it seemed she was listening to him. “If you’re asking what snow is, it’s frozen water that falls from the sky during winter. It’s just a colder version of rain. Since snow is considered solid, it makes a sound when stepped on.” The fatherly esk explained before he lifted his paw and placed it back down to show what he meant. This time, Yuli didn’t scream in terror. She only tilted her head repeatedly, focus locked on the spot Rem had placed his paw. Even her sound enchantment was quiet. “I don’t believe they knew what snow was, and that’s what caused the panic.” Mira said softly, glancing from her father, then to the bright esk that stood out against the snow. Yuli chirped and whistled, lifting her dainty paws off the ground and trotting in place, as if excited. The three five yen coins that dangled from a string around one of her underdeveloped legs jingled in unison from the movement. It felt as though Mira had hit the nail on the head. “So… you were only recently transformed then? This place gets lots of snow this time of year.” Rem told her as he jumped off the statue and approached her. Yuli’s fur stayed down this time, any trace of panic now gone from the new esk. “It’s alright. The snow may be cold, but it won’t bite.” He chuckled, gesturing with his head for the esk to get off the poor, decaying shrine that could probably barely hold her weight. Yuli hopped off, only to jump like a cat and cry from the shock of the cold that met her paws when she landed. “See. It’s not that bad.” Rem hummed, watching as an assortment of flowers bloomed around the pink esk. They squeezed through the cracks in the floor and reached towards the sunlight above before they started to wilt from the cold. The blind esk lifted her front paws and smashed them into the snow beside her, causing snow to fly upwards. She chirped and chittered in excitement over the new experience. The sudden, and unexpected cold and wetness she had awoken to no longer affected her. It was a shock for sure, but now she understood that it wasn’t a creature trying to freeze her. “By the way, my name is Rem.” The cat-like esk said from his spot beside her. “And this is my daughter, Mira.” He explained, making the excitable esk turn her attention towards them. Yuli tweeted and bobbed her head up and down in greeting. Although, she was unable to tell them her name due to her lack of human speech. A strange sense tickled the back of Mira’s mind. Something was telling her to call this esk Yuli. “Perhaps, we could call you Yuli?” Mira asked, causing the abnormal to whistle and buzz in delight. It seemed that Mira could understand bird chirping a little more than she thought. Or maybe someone was relaying that information to her. “Well, Yuli. Would you be interested in exploring the lake not too far from here with us? It could be a chance for you to learn more about the winter season.” Rem asked, watching her enchantment become active again. She hopped around, scattering snow with each leap as she expressed her excitement. Mira couldn’t help but giggle at the expressive esk before her. Her attitude was rubbing off on the taller white esk. After her obvious acceptance of Rem's proposal, he turned and began leading the other two towards the lake with a bit of a skip in his steps....
The Unlikely Duo - Kindness TWWM
As the sun was seen in the distance falling below the tree line and horizon, the moon rose high into the sky and became fully visible within the forest alongside the stars. Rustling of leaves, shrubs, and the chirping of birds could be heard within the forest as a soft, calming, warm light could be seen bounding through the forest. A lithe creature about the size of a pony, pink in color, and a white mask was strobing through the forest. She had what looked to be a crown of pink orchids, a large, shaggy tuft of fur on her head and neck, a pink echeveria floating off the center of her back, and three coins that looked to be five cent yen coins dangling from one of two small appendages on her chest.Yuli was exploring the forest as she usually did, hoping to have something interesting happen tonight. Each time she touched the forest floor, flowers would burst into bloom, full and bright with color. She had ventured farther than usual on this night, in the hopes of coming upon something new. It was then that she had heard a strange noise, and could smell the putrid smell of human pollution. Though she disliked the smell of pollutants within the air, she was curious as to what she might find. Springing forward, Yuli began to trot her way through the forest to the smell of pollutants and a sound that came about in spaced intervals. As she came upon what she had found interest in, she found that it was a path of black stone that gave off a smell of hydrogen, carbon, sulfates, and other chemicals. It was then that she could pick up the scent of something else that was different from anything else she had caught a scent of so far, She was instantly intrigued and bolted to investigate it, weaving through the trees and brush. As she came upon this new scent she found that it was another Esk. “Hi, it is nice to meet you...I’m Yuli. Who are you?” Yuli chirped cheerfully as she slowly strutted closer to this possible new friend. This esk that Yuli had come upon was black, hunchbacked, and quite large, about the size of a horse. He had a very large tuft of black fur on the back of his neck that was filled with strands of blue fescue, giving it a striped appearance. As he turned to look upon Yuli, his tuft of white fur on his chest became visible, and his shoulders and hind legs showed a striped pattern. A low, yet audible growl could be heard coming from him due to her sudden appearance and her slow approach toward him. “What...Why do you care? Stay away from me! Plus, what are you even doing here? Get out of here!” Grim said to her in a low growl, watching her as she got closer to him. He seemed visibly agitated due to this new being that had begun to approach him. He slowly backed away from her as she got closer. “I’m just curious as to who you are, and maybe get to know you a little more. Anyway, I was just exploring the forest when I came upon something interesting and new. I wanted to see what it was, and low and behold I came upon you.” Yuli chirped to him, moving ever closer to him. As she stepped onto the highway, flowers grew through the crack of the asphalt. Grim felt anger building up within himself as he saw her still slowly advancing toward him, but it was then that he noticed that as she got closer to him, he felt a sense of calmness begin to wash over him. The tenseness that had seized his body began to quell itself as the waves continued. He slowly began to stop backing away from her, finding himself drawn to her somewhat. His eyes showed that he was confused, yet surprised at how being around this woman that his emotions and apprehensiveness to others seemed to be quelled to near non-existence around her. “Just what are you…?” Was all that he could manage as Yuli had finally closed the distance between the two of them. She seemed to have this air of cheerfulness as she finished getting close to this new esk. They were now on the other side of the highway, and Yuli sat on the asphalt that quickly sprouted to life with a circle of colorful flowers and grass began to grow through the cracks of the rock as they had done so before when Yuli was walking across the highway. “I assume I am something like you. Anyway, why are you here? Is this where you reside?” Yuli began, quickly getting up and getting into Grim’s personal space. Grim felt uncomfortable at how close she had gotten and moved around her. “Yes, this is where I reside here. Where do you reside?” Grim asked, as he began to amble down the side of the highway.“I reside deep within the forest that you saw me coming from. What are you doing at the moment? What do you plan on doing? Do you have any plans? Ah, and you never answered my question as to who you are.” Yuli chirped as she quickly turned to follow Grim, coming up beside him. She matched his pace as they leisurely walked. “As you can see, I am walking down this highway, and I don’t have anything planned at the moment for right now or the future. Also, my name is Grim.” He responded as he continued on his path down the highway. “Oh, that is what this is called, I didn’t know that. Plus, your name is really cool...Grim. It definitely fits your look. Also, since you don’t have anything planned at the moment or have anywhere to be, would you like to hang out with me? I can show you some cool spots I found in the forest. It could be fun.” Yuli chirped as began to walk a little faster, jumping in front of Grim, turning to face him. “Sure, I guess. Not like I’m doing anything at the moment anyway.Plus, you're probably going to keep bugging me about doing something until I agree. So, how far do we have to go to get to one of these spots that you want to take me to?” Grim said in a defeated tone as he stopped and looked at her with a tired expression on his face. “There is a spot that I found that is not far from here. Just follow me, I will show you where it is. I think that you will like it.” Yuli chirped as turned to the forest that she had come from and began to make her way back to it. Grim begrudgingly followed behind her. He was sceptical that what she was going to show him would be to his liking, but decided to see what she was speaking of. As they left the highway, entering into the forest, Yuli began to pick up the pace to that of a gallop. Grim followed suit, easily keeping up with her due to his large strides. After running through the forest for what felt like fifteen minutes, the duo came upon a section of the forest that opened up to a clearing. The clearing was filled with flowers and in the center of the clearing was a large rock, large enough so that the two of them could sit on it comfortably. It seemed to come up to Yuli’s chest and had a flat top. As the two entered the clearing, they slowed to a trot as Grim looked around. He was surprised that something like this wasn’t far from the highway. Continuing to move toward the center of the clearing, the duo climbed onto the rock and sat there taking in the sites. The moon was large and high in the sky, accompanied by the many stars that dotted the black canvas of night. They watched as something unexpected began to happen. It started with a single streak across the sky. “Did you see that?” Grim asked in awe, looking up to the sky. “Yeah, it looked like something shot across the sky.” Yuli chirped as another streak appeared. “I think those are called shooting stars.” Grim said as a smaller one appeared. Another shot across the sky, then another. Before they knew it, there were many streaks of shooting stars appearing as they watched in awe of the beautiful display above them. “Thank you for showing me his place, Yuli. I will never forget today and the kindness you have shown me.” Grim said as he stared at the sky. Yuli only looked over at him and gave a little chirp of happiness before turning back to the sky. As the surprise show came to an end, Yuli rose to her feet and looked at Grim.“Well, I think it is time that I head back to the place that I call home. It was nice meeting you, Grim. I hope that we can see each other again some time.” Yuli chirped to Grim, who remained seated and looked over to Yuli.“Yeah, tonight was pretty good. Thank you for dragging me along with you. Till next time, I’m going to stay here a bit before heading back.” Grim said, to which Yuli nodded and turned to leave. She jumped off the rock and began to make her way back to the forest. Meanwhile, Grim turned back to look up at the sky. The waves of calmness that had been washing over him this whole time had finally begun to reside from him. He wondered what had happened to him, but wasn’t upset about what had happened that night. After about half an hour, Grim finally rose from his seat and turned where he had come from. Jumping off the rock, Grim began to meander his way back to the edge of the clearing. As he got to the edge of the clearing, He looked back one last time before continuing on his way back to the highway he had come from., Base Score: 34 AP (Writing: 1709 words)+10 AP (Monthly Prompt)+1 AP (Accessory: 1 AP * 1)+2 AP (Enchantment: 1 AP * 2)+5 AP (Elemental: 5 AP * 1)+5 AP (Personal Work Bonus)+10 AP (Other Esk Bonus: 10 AP * 1)+20 AP (Esk Interaction Bonus: 10 AP * 2)+16 AP (Storyteller Bonus: 8 AP * 2)Total AP per submission: 103 Yuli Base Score: 17 GP (Writing: 1709 words)+1 GP (Monthly Prompt)+1 GP (Accessory: 1 GP * 1)+2 GP (Enchantment: 1 GP * 2)+5 GP (Elemental: 5 GP * 1)+12 GP (Storyteller Bonus: 6 GP * 2)Total GP per submission: 38 Grim Base Score: 17 GP (Writing: 1709 words)+1 GP (Monthly Prompt)+12 GP (Storyteller Bonus: 6 GP * 2)Total GP per submission: 30...
Socket - Long Days
“This reminds me of the steam,” says Socket. He’s referring to the Warming Stone, and he’s talking to the deer who had not been there for the strange adventures with the stones, but the deer never seems to mind being talked to about anything or everything. It turns an empty-eyed head towards him in solemn contemplation, a bit of green twig being worked slowly in its rot-exposed jaw. There are mushrooms sprouting thickly around its feet where it stands in a patch of moss, in what seems to Socket to be a pleasant forecast of what the ground will look like in a day or two. Experiments to produce steam from his own vacant eye sockets have hitherto proved unsuccessful, but tests will continue. The ground is steaming, however. Rain has fallen on the stones on which he perches, a brief intermission of relief in the searing heat, but as the sun once again assumes its punishing brightness, at the edge of the cliffside where there are no trees to shade the fresh puddles, steam rises in thin grey wisps and dissipates a few inches above the ground. Socket prods a puddle with a curious paw, then lifts it to see if he can produce his own steam this way. Nothing obliges him and he must, he suppose, be as hot as the stones in order for this to work.Perhaps he will be, he thinks. He feels uncharacteristically sluggish, unwontedly languid, in a way that is quite alien to his usual unflappable nature. In general an experience that might objectively be called unpleasant is merely an opportunity for observation to Socket, for learning some new trick to make himself as disagreeable as he can be, which is very disagreeable indeed. Perhaps it is because the heat does remind him so much of the stone, and how uncomfortable that little jaunt had been. To this day he has never returned to the strange hot springs, and feels an instinctive mistrust for any water that rises above the level of slightly chilly. He feels as though he might melt like sap where he sits, and so he slides down to his belly, and then keeps sliding. With his hindquarters planted firmly on the steaming rocks he lets his body stretch out and out, a string of melting wax, until his limp head and forelegs slide over the edge of the cliff and dangle, a dozen pairs of little feet paddling languidly at the air. Even his flies seem too lazy to swarm properly, offering half-hearted buzzes as they crawl into and out of his head. He twists to look back up towards the cliffside, and the deer pokes its head into view, still chewing its twig with an equal expression of exhausted ennui despite not having much face left to emote with, and Socket lets out a gusty sigh which he cannot help but feel would be more satisfying with a mouth to expel it from. “You look silly,” Socket informs it solemnly, as if delivering bad news. It continues chewing, unaffected, and Socket flops backwards with another sigh, letting himself sway to and fro like a pendulum from the edge of the cliff and gazing out over his boundary. The customary bowl of trees seems inverted over him from this angle, with the blue sky, still studded with black clouds, sprawling out beneath him. It’s pleasantly dizzying, and the vertiginous view and his own gentle swaying puts him in mind of Arden. He wonders if it is hot in the salt flats; if the water has all dried up and left nothing but a dull white blankness, and he wonders if she is lonely in her vast wilderness. He could go and ask her, he thinks--but when it is cooler. When the salt will not be hot to the touch. When the moon rises, perhaps. Somewhere in the sweltering forest Keryn tends her books, probably fretting over the combined rain and heat and what the humidity will do to all her prized pages. Somewhere to the south Founder is reclined on a too-warm wave, stretched out under a baking Florida sun and thinking of the death of her reefs. Dot, perhaps, reclines in a meadow, her fur warm to the touch. He runs over the list of friends--he uses the term universally and perhaps inaccurately--and for some time none seem to promise any respite from the inexplicable dreariness of the heat. He remembers Slip’s reptile house and how he’d delighted in the close and oppressive heat as he wandered from enclosure to enclosure, admiring anacondas and axolotls and arowanas swimming in riverside dioramas. It had been pleasant, then, to move from the cool autumn air to the exciting dark heat of the reptile house and out once more. The thought of visiting now makes him feel sticky in a way that is unpleasant. He is just thinking that perhaps he might find some frost-rimed wing of the conservatory when he suddenly pauses in his restless swaying, and watches the dizzying vista of inverted mountain forests swim into stillness. “Oh,” he says aloud, remembering one of his newest friends: one of Founder’s progeny, introduced to him by the cantankerous old Esk in a place of vast, wind-swept stillness. The tundra had not excited him so much as playing with his new, silent, blank-faced friend--he had not realized it, but Founder had dropped him off with her much as one might be rid of a troublesome toddler by arranging a playdate, and had then quietly made her exit before Socket could notice that she did not join in their games--and it might now, he thought, be a good time to return and enjoy the chilly view. He begins coiling himself back up like a millipede, rolling up onto himself and then retracting his legs as he uncoils, until he flows seamlessly into a jolly, rolling trot. Much like a lightning bug that needs to crawl to the top of a stem to fly away, Socket does not like to move himself from one place to another until he has found a nice open clearing to--figuratively--launch himself from. The deer lurches after him, and the twig, now thoroughly demolished, falls through the open flesh of his throat and onto the ground. “Let’s go visit Doll,” he says aloud, half to himself and half to his familiar. “Let’s go to Siberia.”...