[DND] [P] suck in a breath
backdated to 23rd Nov., 2021
He floated in darkness, the world cold and upside-down. His ears burbled, as if water had filled them to the brim. Between the gurgles of the deep, he could hear a seagull cry or a wave smack the rocks of the land-bridge. It was peaceful, in a way, but unpleasant in its stillness. The world was too cold, too distant in this place -

But something shot through it. Energy, emotion, need. Electricity prickled through invisible veins, leaving his body full of pinpricks. Flinging himself forward, the phantom went up and through shallow, salty water. The tide pool he'd been floating in was now around his haunches and feet, spiked with white from light above. Small fishes darted from the sudden coldness that surrounded the beast.

His eyes opened, though he didn't materialize. Pulling the warmth from his surroundings, he hungrily searched the rocky shore. His nose twitched for a scent on the wind. Whoever was nearby was so full of raw, burning feeling that he swore he was standing by a furnace. Getting on all fours, he padded through stone and water, urchin and seaweed, and up to a large rock. With a deft jump, the phantom was on top of it, hoping to get a better look from that new vantage point.

The little caravan advanced only for as long as the frailest among them could, which was the pregnant mare, Rojin. Not yet heavy with foal, it was still in the interest of the family to keep her and the unborn safe and healthy. This meant they rose with the Sun and made camp a few hours away from sunset, huddling together for warmth, although their ene usually stayed up keeping watch. It all made for an awkward journey that dragged on and on trough the wind and snow. They were only thankful to have passed Northern Tides, as crossing the rivers had been the most difficult obstacle so far.

Three days ago, in the mist of morning, the Feriqis departed from Del Cenere Gang, officially no longer Ashen. Mahigul was still processing that. Their mom's decision came out the blue, was not received well, and left the daughter in a bitter mood from then to today. It all just felt so unfair. Unfair unfair unfair.

But, she opted to hide her feelings. The deterioration of relationship between mother and daughter didn't feel possible to stop, but for the sake of her twin, her better half and only living sibling, she would not provoke their mother. Instead, the girl-turned-woman silently fumed, kicking pebbles on the road or gnashing her teeth, iron grip on her horse's reins. When the family slept, she nuzzled into Kili, arching her back away from Azade. Little ways of rebelling.

Still, she would not let any of it affect the joy of being days beyond the borders she never crossed before, breathing in the scent of unfamiliar places and beholding the wonder of new sights.

It was the sea that truly made her forget her worries. They glimpsed it as they reached Fundy Crossing, and its scent washed over them as they travelled over the landbridge. Azade's hope was for them to cross and make camp on the Isle, but an accident with a snapped strap had them pausing to fix the horse tack. As the Sun began to sink, it became evident they'd need to spend the night on the Crossing.

The twins were promised that they'll be allowed to go play in the sea after the camp was set up, but Mahigul simply couldn't wait. Lying that she desperately needed to pee, the tri-coloured Feriqi disappeared behind a rocky outcropping. There she stripped, shifted down, and on all fours, in her secui form, ran to the shore.

Sea spray tickled her nose even before she set paw into the water. The borzoi mutt ran along the shoreline, dodging the crashing waves, failing to suppress her barks of laughter, a sound her mouth had not made in weeks. 

Tempting her luck, Mahigul waited for the waves to hit and retreat before stepping into the sea. It was frigid, but it was living in the way Moosehead Lake had never been. For a long moment, the child closed her eyes and thought what it would be like to swim out into it, let it claim her and sink her, turning her spirit into a vengeful wraith of brine and wind. It would certainly be an unlife free of indignation and unfairness, her very being freed to express itself the way the confines of flesh never -

The wave smacked her with its weight and cold, and the child of open field inhaled water out of shock. She fought its pull as it retreated into the sea, fantasies of becoming one with it forgotten for the love of ground, warmth and air. 

On the rocks, freed from its clutches, the Feriqi daughter coughed and panted, then shook herself, dappling the rocks with dark spots. Next, as if cued to come at the most unfortunate moment, the wind blew trough her, and she trembled like a newborn fawn, raven mane-hair of her middling form sticking to her face. She panted, suddenly miserable. The opposite of what this experience was supposed to cause.

Worse, another chill came, this one unrelated to the corporeal. The girl-turned-woman looked to each side. For the first time in her life, she felt another's gaze upon her, but could not find the source.

Her wet hackles rose in dread.

717 // sorry 4 the wait <3
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Anger. Alienation. Anguish. All of them familiar, and so powerfully delicious - they were blood in the water to an invisible shark. The cold feeling grew as the specter approached, only beginning to form once he was a few steps away. The tricolored female would see the outline of a canine, filling in with a glowing, swirling mass -

Oh, forget the dramatic entrance. One minute he wasn't there, and the next, he popped into existence. The sound he made wasn't unlike someone sucking in a breath and popping their lips. He dug his claws into the black rocks of the land bridge, tilting his head to the side. Golden eyes rolled out from his head, sliding down to settle where eyes ought to be, one by one.

He was aware this would be terribly disturbing to the average being. By now, he didn't really care. Still, he had enough couth (and genuine concern) to frown when he saw how young the tricolor was. He was only a foot or two away from her (unless she moved), and cleared his throat a little to announce his presence.

"Ah...'ello, love. D'ye need to talk?" He couldn't help but lick his lips hungrily. Already the air started to cool again as he began to drink in her emotion. The beast's jaws parted a little, a golden glow emerging from the gap.
Location: Seabreeze Brink, Broken Occident, Fundy Crossing Date: 23rd November Time: Sunset NPCs: - WC: 393

She felt his approach, his growing presence, the way one could feel a storm coming. Her tongue flicked out to lick at her nose and her tail tucked, but she could not know what it was that was causing such a thick fear to sprout within her. Not until he appeared.

Her eyes bulged open, her jaw went slack. Something she had no words to describe nor reference to compare to was happening before her. For a moment, it looked like heavy smoke rolled up to her, then adopted an ethereal, quadrupedal outline, anatomically familiar, filling in with light and incomprehensible mass--

And then there was a canine, appearing with a soft "pop" out of nowhere, yet still ghostly, like thickened mist, two wisps of flame rolling from the back of its head to take the position of glowing, golden eyes.

Instinct, the thing that in the ages past made humans wary when their pets barked at nothing, growled at unoccupied corners, refused to pass the threshold of houses - made Mahigul's hackles rise and a shiver go up her body. At once she knew what stood before her, yet she was so terribly confused about it. Her mother's beliefs aligned with the existence of spirits, but the girl never thought them corporeal. They were something abstract and metaphorical, and yet what stood before her was certainly no figure of speech.

It spoke in a cavernous echo.

Her lips were parted, but no sound came past. She was still struggling to grasp the sight of it, the impossible appearance it had. Surrounding air grew colder, but not from sudden seaside wind or her own internal chill. Despite standing taller in her midling form, the young woman hunched and tucked as if child small, fearful.

And still, the tickling candlelight of her curiosity burned in the back of her mind.

"...Papá?" Mahi whispered, but her vocal cords weren't even done vibrating and she knew he wasn't it. The speech, now that she moved past the way it reverberated independently from the acoustics of the Crossing, did not fit

But surely, her padre's burial and this eldritch being were related in some way? Did her grief summon it to this reality? Was it a messenger, a guardian? Did it at least know her father?

Please, oh please, give her some closure...

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And now, he felt awful.

Her one word and expression told him enough. The specter frowned at the girl, looking away for a moment. The guilt was across his face in a flash, and then gone again. His stomach made a growl only he could register, but he didn't dare drink in more emotion. He couldn't, looking at a face as innocent and broken as this girl's.

He thought of the black sighthound in the woods, from weeks before. He thought of ruby-red eyes, rich and dripping with tears. A sigh passed from him into the wind, carried away by breezes that rustled his form. He glanced back up at the female, hesitating a moment.

"...No, lass," he said, finally turning his face to fully hold her gaze again. "I'm not yer Pa. But maybe...maybe he sent me. Maybe I'm 'ere because o' yer tears. They brought me 'ere, after all." It was truth enough, wasn't it?

God, he was already losing his appetite. He never lost his appetite. The beast supposed he should be grateful for this small mercy his conscience had given him.
Location: Seabreeze Brink, Broken Occident, Fundy Crossing Date: 23rd November Time: Sunset NPCs: - WC: 348

That candleflame in the back of her skull burned defiantly brighter, not to banish the fear gripping her but to spite it. The canine instincts picked the wrong skull to lodge themselves in.

She observed the spectre, and while looking for any traces of her father in it, began to comprehend what could've been the former mortal form of if. Fur like a thick smog, ever so slightly wispy, resembling dark clouds ripped apart by wind. The shape of the ghost was broad in face and build, wolflike, strong, but with ears too large to be lupine, and were she in a baser form, would likely be beneath it in tallness. Of the more unnatural features, its eyes gave off a firelike glow lacking warmth, and with its manifestation came the invading scent of burnt wood.

She inhaled, shallowly, her breath previously stolen by the sight of him.

"Did he really?" The girl-woman lowered her head as to keep their eyes on the same level, and almost without thinking took a step toward the unliving being. Her own eyes gave off an internal glow, that candlelight of curiosity showing trough. "Did you... meet my dad?" In this life, or the one you had before. "You sound a bit like the guy from my-- my previous pack." Sean the Boatman had the same sort of accent, albeit his words didn't ring like vibrations trough metal. In the grimess of her mind, Mahigul determined she'd never see him again. Him, or the rest of the Gang. Their mother uprooted their family before it could finish growing.

Her left paw joined the courageous right, although her whole body was still tense with expectation of something. Her tail was stiff and up. "Did the winds bring you here from Eye-r-land?" She attempted to sound out the name of a place that could as well be on the Moon. 

The sighthound mutt slightly canted her head to the right. "Can any ghost be summoned with tears?" An idea, borne of hope, was forming itself in her mind.

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Oh poor soul, full of grief and tears. The way her eyes shone made his heart ache, even though the dead had none to speak of. He lowered his head a little at her next line of questions, one ear flicking as she tried to pronounce "Ireland". It was...familiar, somehow, and also not.

"I...don't rightly know, me dear," he admitted. "I know dere are beasts dat speak like its people, an' dat they live on an islan' ter de norn o' 'ere. Maybe I came from there, or maybe from Irelan'. Maybe I came from de Earth an' de Sea, an' was given a voice taken from de dead. As for yer Pa...."

He hesitated. "De dead don't know what lies beyond. We fall asleep, an' when we come back, we wake from a dream we canny recall. Only Death knows where ya man brings us." It was an unsatisfying answer, he knew, but all he could provide. The phantom had come into consciousness one day, incorporeal and starving, and it was all he knew. He hoped it wouldn't make the girl burst into tears, or some other terrible thing.

Speaking of which: that look in the girl's eye spelled trouble as she asked if tears brought all ghosts to her plane. The beast stared her down and growled, "No, child. Don't mistake dis for somethin' ye can easily repeat. I'm 'ere for a call, at de right time an' place. There are things out there that'll fib an' tell ye otherwise. Don't believe them." He hoped the stern glare and his tone conveyed the seriousness of his words. The last thing the world needed was a little colleen summoning who-knew-what from the beyond on a whim.

His expression softened. "Why ye even askin' these things, love? Do ye not 'ave a pack nigh ter dry yisser tears an' give ye an ear? Is dat why ye came out 'ere?"
Location: Seabreeze Brink, Broken Occident, Fundy Crossing Date: 23rd November Time: Sunset NPCs: - WC: 529

How strange in sound yet stranger in appeal the undead's voice was. The Feriqi child was enthralled, those far-away lands, those forces of nature, seeming so fantastical when spoken of by one no longer of this world.

It struck her then, as he talked - the sheer unbelievability of this situation, of the being before she. Never in the year she'd been living did her mind even touch upon the idea of interacting with the supernatural. Stories of ghosts and religious prattle were background noise to the girl, her attentions ensnared by mundane mortals and their achievements, and the ways she could spin them into illustrations and stories. Now, a new door opened in a hallway she thought she knew...

He spoke of the dead and their plight, how even without a vessel of flesh to stifle them, they were still not privy to the greatest mystery. It made her lower lip tug upward, some odd sense of decorum keeping her from pouting outright before this spirit. That was not a satisfying answer, not at all. What would be the point of dying yet coming back to haunt the earth if you were rendered purposeless and your body reduced to a cold, gaseous consistency? Why not let the spent souls be remade into new shapes, come back as something different, like her mother believed they did?

Another question was just prying her maws apart, when there came an eldritch growl and her wispy little hope was shut down. Oh... But it made sense. Surely, if her theory were true, all the grief the family experienced would have summoned Fernando from his grave thrice over by now.

But it did not bring her solace. Not in the least. Her expression dampened and her gaze went down to the rocky, salt-kissed ground they stood upon, feeling as if that door only led to a room no different than those she'd already explored.

Her golden orange gaze went up when the specter asked her a question, pertaining to her own questions. And there was an assumption he made...

"My family left our pack." This information, for the first time shared with another, came out with an indignatious ring. "We lived in Del Cenere Gang, but a few days ago apa had us pack up and go. She... she thought it'd be for the best. Because papá died and..." Her paws shifted, remembering the way another form would let them twiddle their fingers. "... None of us were handlin' it well." It was a hard thing to admit, never outright stated by anyone as the reason behind their leave, but none of the borzoi brood were deaf or blind. They saw the cracks form, starting from the spot Fernando once occupied in their lives. 

But still, to leave, to uproot their family... that just seemed awfully excessive, didn't it?

... It did, right?

"I'm asking," She swallowed. "Because I want to know if- --if- if I can hear my dad again." Her voice broke. "Please tell me you know how to do it, I need to know who, who killed him." The girl-woman pleaded with the wraith.

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She wanted to hear her father again. The creature couldn't help but sigh sadly at the predicament the girl found herself in. He gave her a sympathetic look, bordering on pitying. The ache in her heart must've been immense, as it would be for anyone in her situation.

"I don't know of a way fer ye ter hear yer Pa again," the spirit said. "If ye tried ter pull 'im back, 'tis more likely some demon would crawl up an' take 'is face ter trick ye. Naw, dere are easier ways ter find a murderer ... well, as easily as findin' a murderer can be."

He stopped there, and eyed her with caution. He watched her with an unblinking stare, incandescent eyes wafting flaming light. The white pinpricks that were his pupils came to the forefront, beady and bright. His ears went back a little and his eyes narrowed, in that way that canines do when they're scrutinizing.

"What do you know of yer Pa's death, lass? Were ye dere?"

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