heaps of broken glass to sweep away

POSTED: Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:09 pm

Frost coated the lake’s surface. It was deceptively solid, enough to trick most that would walk across it, but the two Luperci skirting the lake knew better than to trust ice. In the distance, ducks milled about in the water, dabbing for meager bits of nutrients as the slush swirled away from paddling feet. A breeze disturbed the frost, revealing cracks and patches of open dark water; it was not cold enough, beneath the midday sun, for the ice to freeze solid.

An afternoon like this seemed almost pleasantly warm in comparison to the harsher north. The taller Luperci shrugged a caribou-skin shawl down off her shoulders, revealing chestnut fur. Stray snowflakes freckled her dark, wiry hair; her light blue eyes mirrored the calm sky overhead. She was not smiling.

It was this that her companion picked up on, though the stocky young wolfdog had to crane his neck to look at her face properly. Fidgeting with a coil of sinew and bone hanging off his hip, he signed easily enough with one hand and a cocked head: <What’s wrong, Willow?>

The smile reappeared quickly. Willow glanced down into the boy’s bright eyes and flicked her ears. “Nothin’,” she replied in a chirp. “Just thought we’d a’ reached the border already.” Her fingers moved as she spoke, completely second nature; what she’d picked up as a habit to mirror her signing father had become necessity with Toklo.

<We’re close though?>

“Yup. Real close.”


She felt fortunate he could not hear the note of doubt in her voice. They should have crossed the border of Krokar some miles back.

This was Black Lake.

Willow nervously pulled the furred shawl back around her shoulders.
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POSTED: Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:29 am

OOC: oh goddddd the sadness

IC:
It occurred to Eliza that she could’ve simply sent Sidonia back to the lands that they had – until recently – called home. The eagle was sharper-eyed than most, and she would have fed information back to the Cormier dog with neither preamble nor sugar-coating. Even if those things were dictated by the bird’s lack of fluency in High Speech, that seemed better than sending Fin. Liz’s silver brother would attempt to put a positive spin on things at the very least, even if there was no spinning the fact that Milos and Daisy were still gone.

In the end Liz had opted to revisit the now abandoned lands without Finlay’s rather too cloying company. Another pro to being accompanied by only an avian friend: Sidonia did not ask what it was Eliza was coming here for, or what she expected from the glittering waters of what had once been Krokar.

The dog had the knife she’d managed to rescue from Tuktu Lodge sheathed at her hip, a thick cloak wrapped around her willowy form and a further wrapping around the lower half of her face to keep away the chill. Winters had once meant ice fishing and warm hearths; this one was different. There was a dullness in the dog’s eyes even as she stood at the great lake’s edge and drew in sharp, searing breaths of cold air.

She did not know when she started to cry. It didn’t occur to her that moisture was slipping from her warm brown eyes until she had to wipe them – and then, as the world shifted back into too-clear focus, she saw figures across the lake.

Eliza sucked in another deep breath of frigid air but she didn’t trust the scent it brought her – different, changed by months of absence, but at its heart one she would always recognize.

The dog moved around the lake without haste, subconsciously giving the apparition time to vanish – if it was indeed some sort of vision. Well, it had to be. Even the sight of a lone caribou and a familiar falcon couldn’t shake Eliza’s belief that too many broken nights of sleep had caught up to her.

Because this couldn’t be the truth – this couldn’t be what Eliza Cormier’s eldest child had returned home to.

[396]
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POSTED: Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:41 am

She sighed and began to skirt around the lake, while Toklo watched the ducks and fiddled with the bola at his side. Ice-encased tree branches creaked overhead, and through the forest, across the smooth surface of the half-frozen lake, Willow thought she could see a figure moving. She paused, her ears pricked, then glanced over her shoulder at her companions: the stocky arctic-blooded boy, the small antlered caribou, the falcon perched on the saddlebags on the latter’s back. When she looked back up, the figure had begun to move through the forest, slowly, coming around the lake’s edge.

Very slowly, as she perceived dark brown fur and that beloved shock of orange, Willow started to wag her tail.

Her demeanor and body language had changed entirely by the time Toklo noticed her silence and stillness. The boy cocked his head, lingering back with the animals, while Willow’s hips shifted with the wild wave of her bushy tail. Her mouth was open in a natural smile, the tongue lolling, the eyes bright, and once her mother was within a distance where neither of them could believe in the illusion, she ran.

“Ma!” Her voice was loud, exuberant, and she aimed to fling her arms around her mother’s neck and pull the woman’s face in toward hers. She leaned her forehead against her mother’s head if allowed, her tail thrashing wildly, breathing in the familiar scent — familiar, but different, something was missing, but at its heart it was Eliza.

She bathed Eliza’s rust-colored beard in licks, then her eyes widened. “Oh, Ma, yer face is all frozen,” she said, and lifted her thumbs to brush away icy tears.

Behind her, Toklo stared with huge eyes, his own tail waving with uncertain excitement. The falcon unfurled his wings, looking like he wanted to fly to Eliza, but only shifted his clawed feet on the leather and hide saddlebags, uncertain too.
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POSTED: Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:03 pm

Eliza watched her daughter, her eyes more on the overarching shapes of her than on the details. Willow had filled out in the time she’d been gone. She had aged, but not in the way her exuberant Mother had; two further pregnancies had given the woman’s hips and chest a fullness they had never had before, though those changes were nothing compared to the mental ageing Liz had undergone in the past few weeks alone.

She watched her daughter’s lines turn from rigid caution to rippling excitement and she did her best to prevent further tears from spilling down into her scruffy beard.

When the voice rang out even that single syllable was unmistakeably Willow. It was enough to push Liz into a jog, her paws kicking up flecks of slush from the lake’s edges. Somewhere along the way the woman’s arms were flung wide, ready to offer her eldest child a warm and tight embrace.

Other things had changed – other things would always change – but Eliza Cormier’s enduring love for her children could never be altered so significantly that she wouldn’t offer them a hug after months away from her.

“Will’a,” the woman breathed when they reached each other. She wound her fingers in her daughter’s wiry fur and fought the spike of a sob in her breath.

“’m sorry - ‘m sorry.” Her maple brown eyes flickered over the figures standing behind Willow, the familiar – and the strange. For a moment her eyes hardened but when her gaze shifted back to Willow’s face Liz softened.

“Krokar…” She shook her head. “’m sorry this is what ya had t’come back to, my girl.”
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POSTED: Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:40 pm

[302]

Fingers nestled in her coarse brown fur, and Eliza mumbled an apology that Willow did not yet understand. Her emotional state and cryptic words were enough to strike fear in her heart, like sparks off a flint, but Willow could only hold onto her mother and blink in confusion. Her joy faded slowly, like the snowflakes that melted on their wiry hair.

Toklo, meanwhile, shrank back under the hard stare of the older woman. He continued to wag his tail in appeasement, but sat down in the snow, undertanding that he had no place in this reunion yet.

The name of their pack was one that Willow should have been excited to hear, as frequently as it had been in her mouth these past few weeks. "Wait 'til we get t' Krokar," she had told Toklo countless times, describing to him the rivers teeming with life and character, the proud flags and the bobbing canoes, the fun little haunts she liked to visit as a child. The people, too, their culture, unique to them but enough like Iqaluit in its sense of loving community that she knew Toklo would fall in love with it.

She opened her mouth to ask a question, to say that she did not understand, but though Willow had little experience with tragedies, she was no fool. Halting comprehension came to her, piece by piece, and when she did speak, it was with the weight of a polished river stone.

"Somethin' happened." The borders were no coincidence.

Tears brimmed in her own eyes, brought on by the immediate fear. The dread in her stomach was as deep and cold as Black Lake.

She licked her lips nervously. "The pack ain't still t'gether? Ya smell like -- I smell Uncle Fin 'n' Bramble, where's Gun? Dad? Milos?"
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POSTED: Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:42 am

It dawned on her daughter slowly – painfully so, for Eliza, who had been too aware for too long. She wished, almost more than anything, that she could protect Willow from the realization that hit her. It swept across her features like storm clouds amassing in a darkening sky. It was like watching the sun going down, seeing the way her excitement faded, and Liz hated every heartbeat of it.

“Aye, somethin’ happened.”

The doggish matriarch pushed a strand of wiry hair away from her daughter’s cheek, tucking it up with the rest of that dark mane she so loved.

She was only vaguely aware of the young boy sitting in the background. He wasn’t a threat, Liz could sense that; he was a friend of her daughter’s and perhaps she should’ve greeted him with warmth and welcome – but she had not expected to see Willow this soon. Everything in the past few months had come rushing at Eliza, like flames seizing a dry touchwood.

And, somehow, she had to tell Willow about the actual flames – because she could not allow her to press on through the former Krokaran territory. She could not allow her to find the husk of what had once been a home to them all.

Liz knew she could use the boy as a distraction – her amber eyes flicked to him again as she considered it – but what good would prolonging the inevitable do any of them?

“’Gun, yer Da, Gus – they’re all at Old Ironsides. They’re safe, Will’a. Bramble’s safe, too, and yer Uncle Fin.”

The dog’s eyes pinched closed.

“Stranger came t’ the borders a while back. They threat’ned – promised – death ‘n’ destruction if we didn’ listen to ‘em… spoke for some guy called Omni, or that’s wha’ she said.”

She couldn’t bring herself to open her eyes.

“They promised it, ‘n’ it came fer us – destruction. Fire. Fiskebyn was set alight.”

And now Eliza really couldn’t open her eyes, because she knew if she did then her tears would overflow.

“Me ‘n’ some o’ the others are still t’gether, up in the Chokehold. We don’ - we don’ know where Milos is.”

[371]
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POSTED: Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:06 am

Eliza brushed a lock of hair from her face, a maternal and intimate gesture that made Willow smile a little through developing tears. It did not linger long, but her mother could break through even that moment of shock. Whether it was a magic all mothers had, or if it was just Eliza, Willow did not know, but she found her heart swelling with love and appreciation for the woman who'd borne and raised her. Though her stomach twisted like she was ill, hadn't Liz nursed her through sickness before, too? She felt safer in her arms, and felt the childish impulse to bury her face against her collarbone, to hide away where she felt protected.

The Cormier listed names of those who were safe. It was not a complete list. Willow hoped that it was merely abridged, because so many lived in Krokar who she hadn't asked about, but the absence of one name in particular made her heart race.

Eliza explained there were strangers, strangers who threatened the Krokarans without apparent reason, and that in the end fire was set to Fiskebyn. Pale blue eyes widened in shock, disbelief, at the image of her childhood cabin burning to the ground. She imagined the Krokarans calling out to each other, coughing in the smoke between cries for loved ones, and imagined the caribou stampeding, the horses' sweat glistening in a wild firelight. She remembered a scary memory when she was only a little child, an explosion of glass when a star fell from the sky, because it had seemed so immediate and terrifying and unexplained, too.

She stammered a little, lost for a response, a thousand questions leaping to her tongue whose answers she didn't really want. Eliza answered some with her next murmur, her eyes shut, and another little thrum of fear went through Willow.

Milos.

What d'ya mean, where – where could he be? You would've found him, if, if, and tears spilled onto her cheeks now. Ma, she whined, and gave into her impulse, flinging her arms around the dog's neck and hiding her face away. She squeezed, wanting to give her mother the same comfort she sought, and found herself saying, I'm sorry. It was not quite an expression of sympathy, because Willow had lost everything too – but maybe it was a true apology. Would it have been different if she'd been there? If she hadn't been so selfish as to wander? Or maybe Eliza had considered it a blessing, that her oldest daughter, at least, had been spared this.

[434 words]

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POSTED: Mon Jan 28, 2019 10:48 am

For a few moments it seemed that the younger Cormier woman would not be able to form words. Willow had always been bubbly, fiery and chatty as her Mother – despite having a semi-mute Father – and her Mother knew that for a Cormier woman to be robbed of words was a grievous thing. It made Liz hate them even more; it made her wonder how much more they would take from her family. Had their homes and their livelihoods not been enough to satisfy the mysterious and vindictive Omni?

All of these things had been taken, along with Eliza’s true love. In their place was a thick and unyielding silence she wasn’t used to; there was a coldness that didn’t seem to dissipate even when she sat beside a roaring fire, and a hunger which endured well beyond the times when Finlay sat her down to eat.

Eliza, too, remembered the fall of the Red Star. She remembered how sudden it had been, and how unstoppable the ensuing chaos had felt – but Milos had been there to soothe and protect them. A bubble of anger was working its way through the dog’s chest, but it was pushed down by guilt. She had run Stella off of Krokar’s borders; she had brought this all upon them.

She cast her gaze down and away as her daughter launched into questions. They were questions Willow had every right to ask but still they stung Eliza like hailstones falling on her exposed back. When Willow gave up asking and flung herself against Eliza the dog could only hold her and let out a wobbling whine. She could no longer make any promises of safety or security; that hurt her most of all.

And then there was an apology which had no place in this reunion - but Liz would accept it anyhow, if it made Willow feel better. She ran a parched tongue over her lips and resisted the urge to turn her head away from her eldest child.

“So’m I, my girl – for everythin’, except you bein’ safe.”
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