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Home » Search » Roster » Whitepages » Records » Guidebook

Diamond or coal?
Open Uwaritace 

The latest object of curiosity was entirely impossible to miss. Giant, skeletal arms clawing for the sky like an exclamation mark; like the terrible horns of a monster. Though…this tree couldn’t be called ugly…the dreary elder certainly wasn’t beautiful. It was…heartbreaking. My cool, detached eyes regard this site dutifully, giving homage by offering it the attention it demands. This tree was, by far, the largest of any even seen. Inwardly, my head made no attempt to fiddle with the age of said elder – or mull over the thread of heritage it hailed from.

“Hile, old mother," in her impossibly long life, she might’ve been a guardian. Not one from our homeland(s) – but still. The corpse stirs my forgotten sense of tradition and honor. Irises glide upward, drifting to follow the maze of empty branches – trying and failing – to imagine her full canopy. Had it been draped with a vibrant, royal blanket of green? My heart squirmed with effort to remember the feel of white, gentle sunlight - teasing, darting glances between those blackened fingers like a virgin lover.

Above us, the ominous weather remains constant; weeping softly for the mother, just as it wept for all the other unspeakable things it witnessed. My mind hums numbly, easing itself into a plethora of things…lingering finally upon my companion, her pale expression and blond, tender eyes. She’d taken wing earlier -- as she did on occasion -- though it was hard to tell how long she’d been gone. Time had become garbled, distorted. Dawn is bleak and dreary, same as the afternoon, all the way into twilight. Only the rapid onset of night was true, when grey becomes a bottomless and shapeless black. Burnt, except for the occasional stroke of lightening to remind our eyes that purgatory still exists.
Life is funny, and I say that with all the sarcasm that I can possibly muster.

One minute you're in love, happy, planning a family and the next you're trying to pick up the pieces of your broken heart because the one you were supposed to spend your life with is dead at your hooves. Then, once you've picked up the pieces and put them back together again, life knocks you back down again. Only this time it isn't the death of a loved one that you're mourning, but your entire herd land. But it doesn't stop there, why should it? This time life doesn't even give you time to pick up the scattered remains of the life you'd carved out for yourself before it slaps you right in the face again, and the next thing you know you're watching your friends and your family being slaughtered, then you're thrust into a strange land and forced to raise your children by yourself because their father never made it through the portal to safety -- note the sarcasm.

But this? This is something that I can't even begin to describe. This isn't funny, not even remotely. It isn't some sort of miracle -- I'd learned a long time ago that there was no such thing as miracles. This ... had to be some sort of black magic because there was no way that he could be standing there. I tried to tell myself that it was my eyes and the darkness playing tricks on me.

And then he spoke.

It was a voice that I knew well and it made my heart constrict painfully in my chest. How could this be? How was it possible? Had Helovia's demise given life to those that had died within her borders? If that was true did that mean that Rhoa might also be alive again?

I just ...

"How are you here?" The words flew from my lips before I could stop them -- not that I really wanted to. I had to know if I were mistaken or not. I had to know if he was real or if I had finally lost my mind. "I..." I hesitated, frowning at the man that stood but a few paces away."I watched you die."

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That sober, melancholy hood slides back, serving the uncontrollable chemicals as they flash like a bolt of lightening across my expression. Irises sharpen, jerking her direction, kindling with recognition and wonder. Surprise dislodges my square jaw, allowing a sudden blurt to take a traitorous, suicidal leap, "Ranjiri!?" The name flies out with more force than intended. Behind us, old mother remains unchanged -- easily accepting sudden unimportance.

Nostrils swell anxiously, drawing her identity into the vault. Bittersweet memories froth on the surface of my heart; anointing it with gratitude, fear and hope. These patched legs quiver, ready to canter the distance between us -- they bray furiously at their meager allowance of three steps. "A-aye," agreement comes with wavering pitch, but it gentles as these charred lips pinch into a firm, recoverable line. "The rift grants life," mayhap it was arrogance to entertain the idea that my situation was unique; but it couldn't be known (for sure) if anyone else had come into these poisoned lands from beyond the clearing (a cultural, figurative place of final rest.)

My fascination momentarily takes a detour -- irises glide across her ebon coat, expecting to find damage. The demons who reside here often stole far more than they gave; and without motivation. Moments later, cool relief alleviates any concern. She appears -remarkably- unscathed. But -- as these eyes backtrack -- I wonder if she (like myself) teeters on the edge of a destructive knife; one that could send her plummeting toward salvation or damnation.

Did those blood colored eyes plead for solid, familiar ground -- did they war to retain sanity and evade grief?
There was a small part of me that hoped that I was mistaking and this stallion wasn't my father, but rather someone that looked like him and sounded like him. The very second I saw his eyes and those markings on his face I knew that it had to be him. No one else I had ever met in my life had eyes that looked like those, or markings shaped like that.

Then he said my name.

I couldn't help it. I physically recoiled, my mind unable to fully comprehend and believe that my father was really standing there in front of me. Alive. I could only keep remembering how I stood there watching his body fall from the sky when he tried to escape the Basin. I watched him take his last breath. I watched the God of the Earth claim his spirit. I watched his funeral. I mourned him for months.

And here he was.

I caught myself shuffling backwards, maintaining the distance between us when he began to move forward. I forced myself to stop out of fear of him taking my apprehension as rejection and leaving before I could fully process what it was I was seeing and experiencing.

"The Rift grants life." He said, but I didn't believe it. How could I when I had watched so many die before being forced here? Despite all the death I had seen and every negative thing I felt for the Rift part of me still wanted to believe it was true, because if it was then that meant Rhoa and Gaucho and Hototo could also be here.

"What about Rhoa? And Gaucho? And Hototo?" I asked, because he had to know. He'd been dead with them. "Are they here, too? How long have you been here?"

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Was she baited for a miracle? Did her 'hope' stand backstage, ready to prance into the lead and announce that everything would be alright? The performance was finally done, our long night had passed and everyone could go home, live the rest of their lives in peace and harmony. The white noise of dribbling water grieves our reunion, baptizing our pain. In that moment of consideration, this focus is drawn southeast -- to that accursed place of rebirth. To a portal and the ill destiny it brought to our kin.

Certainly…reanimation was possible; my experience was testament, witness. But…at what price? Gravely, those first two inquiries are met with a simple admission, "I don't know.” Uncertain sorrow bleeds my expression, darkening it...was it crueler to feed hope…or to deny the possibility and starve it to death? My soul couldn’t…nay, wouldn’t answer for ghosts or magic, “none came from the clearing with me.” Africa...for example, had stayed behind out of choice.

Her name triggers memories...of a gentler, kinder world. And from her ashen lips, a misplaced fragment of lost religion, ‘if ka decrees…only then would it be so.’  Gold infused cores refocus and resume their hold upon the blood-stained birthright of my second eldest child, “time here is strange,” an understatement, “but I’ve been here for,” this muzzle gestures south, angling to the overgrown timberline which had been home for… “awhile.”

"I never expected to..." to what? The phrase quiets – suffocating in the back of my throat. Dread, boils in my stomach with sudden intensity. To be alive? To see her again? Or anyone else…alive? Rebirth had been both blessing and curse; it was simultaneously cruel and kind. Unlike a newborn, who was celebrated and could forget their violent arrival, I couldn’t shake the memory of being reanimated – nor could the consequences of my fate be avoided. "I'm…” despite the effort, this voice is cracking…breaking, “glad to see you.” These quivering legs unhitch, daring to step closer...remaining feathers unfurl, emerging to offer their gesture of unconditional love...
I don't know what I was expecting, asking whether or not he knew if Gaucho, Rhoa, and Hototo had been brought back as well, but I was still disappointed when he admitted that he didn't know. "I see." I forced myself to respond, just so I could fill the silence, but after that there was still  a silence that was tense and awkward. I didn't know what to say. I mean ... what do you say to someone that you watched die and grieved for?

"But I've been here for ... a while."

My head turned and I looked in the direction that he had gestured, finding nothing more than overgrown forest. I started to wonder what Ros would say if she found out that my father had come back from the dead. I wondered if she'd wonder, just like I had, if others we had cared about had also come back or if they remained in ... in whatever waited for us once death claimed us.

Never expected to what? I wondered as my head swiveled back in his direction and my crimson eyes found his face again. Never expected to die? Never expected to live once more? Never expected to see me again? All of the above?

"I'm... gladd to see you."

"Me too." I murmured. Once more he stepped forward, but rather than step back I remained where I was. As his wings unfurled I was hit with the memory of being a child and being embraced by those very wings when I would go visit him in the Dragon's Throat, or when he was able to make the trip to visit me in the Hidden Falls. The little girl in me still wanted to run to him and be embraced, but the adult in me remained where I was, wary of this being just a trick of the Rift.

"When you died..." I started, "Did you know that I loved you? Or..." Or did you die thinking that I hated you?

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