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Armed I am with love. Disarmed I am.
RP Wanted The Portal 
Noah
Currently championing:

Player is absent until 10-9-2018

#1

“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.” -  Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy


The soft, luminous breath of new day was filtering slowly through the trees that surrounded him and the dove, as they forced a path between the overgrown wilds of the old Threshold – the gateway into Helovia’s legendary wonderland. It was an eerie sight, unsettling to the core, and for the first time in over a year, Noah’s skin was crawling uncomfortably with apprehension. The area was not how he remembered it to be; hoof-beaten trails, always lathered in the fresh scent of travelers, weaving like veins through the towering forest of pungent redwoods, teeming constantly with life.

However, this…

Vines, tangled and knotted-together ropes as thick as his forearm, slung between the bedraggled boughs of deteriorating trees; beneath them, everywhere, saplings, shrubs and thistles (he was certain they were indigenous to the like-named meadow that lay, spread out, somewhere ahead). It was difficult to move, hard also to breathe. The taste of decay, of  layers of litter left untouched to rot, flavored every inhale; spores of mold, and perhaps pollen, lay thick upon every surface; as they brushed by, pushed themselves through, the tiny particles scattered through the air, dispersing through the inhospitable forest around them or settling between the warm fibers of mammalian hair.  

The stallion turned towards his lover, a strained smile carved through the already thin expression on his face. “It’s almost like this place hasn’t seen a visitor for years…” he joked quietly. Though a hearty chuckle nudged through his burly, golden shoulders, bubbling out into the stillness of the hot, humid air, the tone of his voice suggested further of discomfit. Something about this just did not feel right.

An ominous cloud of concern was growing in his mind, leeching away the light-heartedness which had, thus far, accompanied their journey from home in Denocte; from Miette.

Sucking in another long breath, Noah lifted his eyes to the sky, at least, the slivers of storm-grey cloud that were discernible through the closed ceiling of foliage above their heads. What can you see? his thoughts queried concernedly, searching the mind of his bond-mate for confirmation that his gut-feeling was off-key, that life brimmed around the next bend, and normalcy lingered on the breast of there-waiting recruiters. Surely, they were there. Here… For some time she did not answer; long enough to spur a startled rhythm in his chest.

Nephele?

Hooves lost momentum as he challenged the wall of silence grown between them.

You are alone… came a tardy reply, finally, and the stallion’s heart was hammering so violently, pulse pounding in his ears so deafeningly, that his eyes were forced to close and mute excess, unnecessary information. There was a tremor in the foliage nearby and a heavily feathered, brown eagle descended through interwoven branches to the earth in front of him; his nose lowered swiftly towards the proud-looking predator, pleased beyond words to see her. Nephele hopped nearer and bumped the top curve of her bronze, hooked beak against her bonded’s velvety muzzle. You were expecting more?... she probed thoughtfully, blinking her intelligent eyes and tilting her narrow skull to the side expectantly; that had been her understanding, the founding reason for this adventure, given the level of their enthusiasm prior. Noah nodded and extended the arm of his wing so that she might remove herself from fetid carpet.

The large eagle accepted his gesture with a graceful bow.

Drawing his wing once more upwards, the stallion’s focus swiveled to find the pretty face of Nora - the white dove too, which shared her thoughts and feelings; it was nestled cozily into a bed of liver feather above the joint of the mare’s dainty, tucked wing. They were both delicate creatures, peaceful and pure, and he could not help a rising sense of possessiveness with, as his eyes settled on the bi-colored gaze his beloved returned. “I’m not sure what’s going on,” he told her openly. She was intelligent, perceptive, the whole package, and without a doubt aware of the queerness of the situation unfolding. Perhaps she too could see that their path could only continue forward, also…

The jungle sealed behind them, clasping together like wooden fingers to erase the rugged channel through which they had arrived. Even if they had sought to recoil, there looked to be no clear way to freedom; neither would find space to sprint nor spread wings, the forest was prisonlike and they were the captives. The land sloped softly on downwards and Noah remembered that a dense forest sprawled out at the bottom - then he thought, perhaps this was the Deep Forest; maybe its shadowy breadth had advanced considerably through their absence (justification, if nothing else). “Let’s continue,” he suggested rhetorically, forcing an air of reinvigorated confidence into his tone for her sake, dancing a kiss towards his favorite cheek (her paler, softer side, of course). With Nephele perched yet upon his forearm, close against his crest, the painted man continued along the same through the wilderness, pausing here and there to dine or rest, until at last the darkness and cooler hue of another night whispered around them.

They covered much ground over the four or more weeks which followed; wandering wretchedly, mindlessly, between unfamiliar landscapes, each horribly devoid of wildlife and strangled by rampant vegetation, never once either, finding their desperately sought civilization. Helovia had become a barren wasteland, wild, wicked, and so hopelessly lonely. The sky remained doused in deepening drear - stagnant clouds that seemed to drip and drape drown, as though the roof of the world itself was crumbling. The gods it seemed had forsaken their child, and with their evaporation (if that were indeed the case), the nations too had vanished. Still, there was a sickening sense of foreboding that would not ease in Noah’s gut.

On the evening of the thirty-third day, the drab, unchanging weather turned suddenly.

As his beloved and her bird slumbered, appeared to rest anyway, on the brink of the under-kept woodland, Noah and Nephele stumbled wearily from cover to investigate the static hum hanging like fog across a marshland, a sound which droned endlessly through every day and every night. Threads of magic in his bloodstream pulsed with excitement, answering the call of the strange malignant darkness, which grew ever deeper through here, the west. Doubt rang like clarion bells through his mind, but already the grip of Kaos, the thrum of his everlasting affliction, cradled him snugly, luring his lowered state of consciousness ever nearer to the formed fissure between realities.

Thunder rumbled through the darkening cloud cover constantly now, bubbling the marshy earth beneath hindered hooves, jarring each joint as vibration ventured upwards through susceptible flesh and on into the twisting, curdling core beneath his skin; he trembled with wild anticipation. So strange was the sensation that nausea befell him and his thoughts began to scatter. The shadows had grown thicker all around them, threatening his capacity to orientate, Nephele’s, luring forth a state of confusion in them both, yet all the same subtler still than the slow rise of quiet, moody-blue night. The illness around the portal of the damned was disease-like, gradually (though ravenously), sedating their senses, suffocating their awareness -

…until it was too late.

There was an inexplicable tightness constricting Noah’s chest. Even as he moved his lips drunkenly to brush the cause of the pressure from his pelt, the shadows shifted cunningly, allowing his muddled mind access only to the stew of swamp ahead. They guided him, them, gathered around behind like black oblivion; a trap with only one route forward. Jumbled thoughts fought the suffocating whisper of ghosts, victims of the trauma which had befallen these parts seasons ago, and his voice, choked from existence, strove to summon the notice of the dove. “Nora!” he winced, sighed, closing his eyes tiredly as the portal drew him nearer; it loomed before him now, fully in view, like a great gaping mouth suspended in midair.

Nephele’s wings flapped and fumbled, cloaked in the same slick of slime that lathered the stallion’s pale legs and belly. She too could not escape the shackle of the curse.

And then… only echoing remorse in strange weightless gloom; a heartbeat and the slow, steady sigh of each breath.


There was no telling how long he slept.

Noah’s sea-green eyes flung open as his saturated frame startled violently and his neck swung away from the waterlogged bed. There was such an ache in his head, throbbing so viciously that he let it plunge back heavily down; his ears were ringing, buried backwards into the sullied ramble of his flaxen mane and though he could see the strangeness of his surroundings well, there was no sound yet to compliment it. Nephele…? The bond was noisy, fragmented, as though the line between them had been broken and so overwhelming was the pressure it caused behind his bewildered glare, that he forced his lashes tightly back together. What was happening? Where was –

“Nora!”

Despite overbearing agony and fatigue that threatened further his frail composure, Noah hurled himself upwards, arriving into the icy sheet of wind-driven rain, trembling and alarmed. “Nora!” he cried out again, this time louder and more frantic. Blurry eyes chased the wandering murk of the mist as it hovered out of reach, the shadows cast down upon him by the gnarled existence of foreign timber. The biting, harrowing sting of fear smothered his thoughts and he began to search anxiously beneath the queer lighting for his beloved; there was neither sign nor scent of her, or the dove, or Nephele, and the stricken eagle could feel the pound of his heart, high up in his throat.


image

Tag: @Nora (before other characters please)
tl;dr: They travel through Helovia, only to be consumed by the portal in Spectral Marsh and spat out in the Rift. Noah and Nora have become seperated, so he is searching the area around The Portal for her.

Portal Notes:
Magic 1
Transformation: Able to transform into a hippocampus; retains forelegs, wings become small fins, hindquarters become octopus-like and tentacled.

Magic 2
Offensive: Able to summon a horse-sized Octopus made of seawater.

Magic 3
Able to manipulate existing water.

Mutation/s
x Seawater pools beneath his hooves, increasing the longer he stands still.
x Edge of golden markings appear to ooze and drip down his body like liquid without making visible progress

Enchanted Item
x -

Companion
Nephele
Wedge Tailed Eagle
7 years old

Normal Items/s
x Plaited leather surcingle with a sheath beneath the right wing and a pouch on the left
x Sharpened Swordfish bill
Rift Presence
Currently championing:
#2
The shadows stir; they come crawling under the mist and the driving rain, a tide of darkness creeping in like an ocean. It's not a fast assault, it's slow, seeping, coming closer and closer and closer

—until it's just there and a spectral head rears up from the dark carpet, a silent roar from a vicious, toothed maw as it leans down to swallow you whole—

cold and clammy and searing and asphyxiating and terrifying

But it goes right through you, falling back into the sea of shadows; slowly, they pull away again.
the Rift
life between worlds
image


[ ACCEPTANCE NOTES: NOAH ]

Magic:
Transformation: Able to transform into a hippocampus; retains forelegs, wings become small fins, hindquarters become octopus-like and tentacled.
The Rift eats your second magic.
Offensive: Capable of manipulating existing water; doing so causes his lungs to slowly fill up with seawater.

Mutations:
Seawater pools beneath his hooves, increasing the longer he stands still.
Edge of golden markings appear to ooze and drip down his body like liquid without making visible progress

Companion:
She goes wild.

Normal items transfer fine! Just link to this post in your profile.
» Presence of the Rift «


Nora
Currently championing:
#3
Ominous clouds are building on the eastern horizon, royal purple, blue and grey; but I don't much notice. Their threat is casual, unhurried; far enough away to feel entirely unimportant. The storm wouldn't arrive until later...maybe even as late as nightfall. Besides...today is brimming with the succulent, captivating flavors of late spring. Lilac, honey suckle and lavender! Two-toned ears press forward, relishing the vibrant noise of laboring life -- bees are humming from their petal vantage, swallows dart and sing merrily as they travel into the sweet, green wheat and return with full beaks to the evergreens behind me. Dutifully, a pair of them work together, tiny acrobats who strive to feed their hidden trio of demanding offspring. Offspring who'd lack for nothing. Today marked the start of feast days; the beginning of plenty. Even the western sky celebrates the last days of rebirth with an early summer sun radiating in a bright, stainless sky....

No... denial pinches my expression into one of perplexity. It was NOT stainless.

The scent of rain barrels over my senses, riding on a cold wind. It was the bite of that coming gale which scatters the bees, they rise with yellowed legs and bottoms, fleeing home. My tapered snout flares warily, instantly resentful of the taste it draws. Decaying foliage and swamp rot...not what I expected of a crisp summer storm. The clouds race inward with their roadways swirling like bruised ribbons. This heart catches, tumbling before thudding ahead, racing like a beaten animal. With frantic chirps of dismay, the graceful acrobats disappear soundlessly into their grove. My wide gaze is stupidly forced upward, gawking. I'm stunned, petrified as the purple storm gallops to fruition. Rolls of thunder drum over me, crashing aggressively like the sound of falling trees. An electric, static fragrance hangs in the air....

Irises widen, rolling...these delicate legs tremble...ready to bolt. But for some reason, they are rooted...they can't leave. Droplets of rain begin to fall; icy fingers run the length of my shivering, fine coat. It slithers downward, leaving snail paths behind, “Noah!?"

-------

Eyelids fling wide – their dark pit are tight, dilated and terrified. The optic rolls, showing white. My head lifts from the soupy ground; I can feel the left side, his favored, is coated with sticky, foul smelling mud. Bits of twig and leaf decorate and prod at the trembling skin. My darker, sterner twin is clean, though wet and shivering. “N-n-noah!” Lips vibrate their plea, but the name is nothing more than a hoarse whisper as my throat hitches and refuses to work.

Tears of panic and fear burn in the corners of my eyes, but these determined legs press forward to claw for foothold on the loose soil regardless. “N-noah?” Stronger now, but those traitorous tears break their cover; as they fall, their salt is mated with rain. These ears work backwards, sideways – listening to the storm and for his returning call. With effort, my shivering abates long enough to rise and take small, uncertain steps. The moment I stop moving, all four toes instantly begin sinking into the murk below. Aaru…his pure face comes to mind. Misery and panic bring a sob to the surface, "Aaru!?" again receiving no response; neither internally or externally.

“Noah,” a solid whisper…childlike almost. My gaze flexes, rotating upward, blinking sharply. 'Aaru...what happened? Can you hear me?!' Nothing...just the cold rain and gnarled, bare boned trees. The memory from before this moment is like a scene immersed in the glare of sunlight. I can distinguish an outline of what happened...but the majority is obscured. One thing was certain...this wasn’t that peculiar swamp...it was… "Where are you?!" Finally, a reply did come…a grating, shuffling noise from behind. It could've almost been missed in the undertow of rain -- my pulse somersaults and resumes galloping. Every sense pivots, turning, “Noah...Nephele? A-are you there?”




Tag: @Noah

Portal Notes:
Magic 1
Transformation: Able to transform into a winged wolf.

Magic 2
Healing: Able to manipulate the cells of a living creatures to cure viruses, infections, knit wounds and mend bones.

Magic 3
Offensive: Can persuade small animals to preform small tasks.

Mutation/s
x Her entire body radiates a soft, pale glow when she’s happy.
x Can walk on water.

Enchanted Item
x – Encyclopedia scroll that has a collective, ever expanding knowledge about medicinal herbs and poison. The scroll will log new information and read aloud if the user collects a sample and places it upon an inked circle inside.
 
Companion
Aaru
Albino turtle dove
5 years old

Normal Items/s
x Tan deer skin purse with a pale, decorative shell embedded in the flap. Her purse hangs against the right shoulder; two thin straps encircle her breast and neck for stability.
Rift Presence
Currently championing:
#4
The maw that effects Noah is nowhere to be scene when it comes for you. Instead of it being the same as what Noah saw, this time the shadows creep back in the form of a lithe panther, watching you with a piercing blue gaze. Suddenly, it appears in front of you, purring lightly as it rubs its head alongside your body and vanishes into a strange black mist.

The mist then encases you, swallowing you from view and blurring your vision momentarily while it searches. And when it is finished, everything returns back to normal… Or as normal as one could be after seeing such an event.
the Rift
life from death
image


| ACCEPTANCE NOTES : Nora |

Magic:
Transformation: Able to transform into a winged wolf.
Healing: Able to manipulate the cells of a living creature to cure viruses, infections, knit wounds and mend bones but doing so causes her nose to bleed.
The Rift eats your third magic.

Items:
Encyclopedia scroll that has a collective, ever expanding knowledge about medicinal herbs and poison. The scroll will log new information and read aloud if the user collects a sample and places it upon an inked circle inside.

Mutations:
Her body radiates a soft, pale glow when happy.
Can walk on water.

Companion:
The companion goes wild.

The normal item transfers fine. Just link it to here as proof! And she was fairly lucky with the rolls, so the enchantment isn’t effected, neither is the first magic! :)
» Presence of the Rift «


Noah
Currently championing:

Player is absent until 10-9-2018

#5

Fluttering movement—feathers? Nay, just leaves—drew Noah’s bulging, bleary eyes towards the vibrant canopy and the sinister gloom beyond those neon-hued leaves, the sky which looked so heavily pregnant despite the torrents of rain pelting down, filled his heart with a horribly ominous feeling. There was no sign of the familiar, though overgrown, forest of Helovia; neither scent nor sound fed his desperately grappling hope, and the shadows that should have been mere shade beneath the trees was moving!

The eagle’s creamy-white chin tucked apprehensively and his well-feathered forelegs thrust down hard treads as he hesitated and reversed. The slow, seeping tide of murk, it seemed, had drawn hither to surround him entirely to discourage any drive to escape, and as he stood—quite terrified—above it, a vision of razor-toothed jaws lifted like a rogue wave above his head. Noah’s ears flattened backwards and hideous horror mangled the painted expression below them; his eyes clenched together along with his densely packed molars, and he wrestled his flailing resolve, entirely preparing for the agony of such a death to descend.

But the end never came.

When those sandy-blonde lashes peeled apart next, the reddened gaze beneath was startled to find no trace of the jaws which had been— still stranger, the blinking, unnerving shadows which had all but engulfed him, were really nowhere to be seen. His gut, twisted painfully, relinquished the weight of trepidation and at once a small pressure was lifted from his shoulders. The stallion released the breath at length, which he hadn’t noticed he’d been holding. Quickly drawing another, forcing his thoughts beyond the booming sound of his own pulse, he staggered forward, yearning to discover the fate of his beloved mate.

“Nora!” he cried out dismally, please, “where are you!”

It felt as though he’d been hunting through the labyrinth of tangled vine and vegetation for many hours (in truth it had been minutes). Hope was bleeding from his mind as quickly as the adrenaline dissolving from his bloodstream, and exhaustion was swiftly drowning his capacity to cope. Tears, hot and bitter, were spewing down his cheeks, blending with the channels of ceaseless, saturating rain, and spilling into the puddles which yet formed beneath his listless stride. In those moments, however, when the savage note of his determination was beginning to waver away, the lilt of her sweet voice touch the burdened lean of his ear.

All at once the fire in his core reignited, and a harrowed smile lifted the corners of his mouth. Nora stood little more than three lengths from his position—he could see her through the timber—encouraging his numbed legs again to hasten. “My dove,” he whispered as his whiskered jawline lunged forward towards her neck; the mammoth stallion (in comparison), sought to bundle her beneath the embrace of his rising throat. “Are you hurt? Are you alright? His voice quivered with concern and his offered touch lingered barely seconds as he recoiled his huge face and buried his attentive eyes beneath her darling contours.

image
Nora
Currently championing:
#6
'It's not him! Run!!' Despite the internal blare of sirens who yell in alarm with ear shattering quality...their recipient is frozen...caged by impenetrable fear. Helpless to do anything but watch as the wraith from our worst nightmare slinks into view. The unmorphed she-wolf bristles inside me; she opens her frothy maw to let fly a terrible scream of defiance. Those beautiful, savage contours become twisted, quivering as they snarl their noncompliance. My bold sister wouldn't, no... couldn’t go quietly; her pointed teeth flash, her bi-colored irises bulge and their cores dilate.

Then...before our bodies could swap, change reins, a heavy, constricting darkness folds over us. It anchors and suspends our transformation with invisible chains, it also holds these quivering, terrified legs into the saturated murk below. Wide, rolling eyes find his jet, rain dappled body gliding closer. A blue-eyed specter; the embodiment of death. My racing heart balks, flying against the roof of my throat. Vocal muscles tighten, narrowly beheading a choking sob in the canal. "N-no," as if sensing my dismay and raw terror...he saunters forward boldly, mischievously. With dismay, these ears register his low, audible rumble of pleasure -- eyelids clinch helplessly, spewing tears. Imaginations of doom are stunned to find the touch of death unexpectedly gentle; a prelude to rape. My hypersensitive skin flinches away, humming with displeasure from being unable to escape. Cream, liver brims widen to scream their desperation, reach for salvation. Help! They want to cry; buck and flail.

But I can't...the call strangles, becoming nothing more than a wet gasp before plunging off just before my feline host vanishes. A cold, wet smog screens over my vision...the cat had disappeared...along with everything else. There was an impossible, tangible sensation of hopeless grief and unquestionable despair...it felt surreal, overwhelming and confidently strong. My heart squirmed, 'surely death would be more...' the notion dies as unexpectedly as it came, fading to the pace of that evaporating bleakness. Lips gulp, mimicking the effect of a dying fish. These trembling, near useless twig legs are abruptly released from their detainment. They stumble ahead, nearly buckling into the ground. I shuffle blindly, pushing between trees, easily ignoring the pangs of discomfort created from jutting branches who rake their claws against me.

A creamy, tawny bulk swims into view -- these eyes blink rapidly, clearing their haze to unveil the beloved eagle. His voice, his concern passes over me with such intensity it brings fresh tears to the precipice. 'NO!' I wanted to scream melodramatically, 'I'm NOT alright,' -- but these trembling lips wouldn't work. So I settle for colliding into him; pressing the lean, shallow length of my breast and swan-like neck into his wide, accommodating shoulder. Whiskered muzzle ascends, squeezing inward to bury itself into the warm, wet swath of feather and fur. Nostrils swell, tasting the salt on his skin and the damp musk of his hot, steaming body.

The devil himself couldn't pry us apart...shuttering, I stay against him for many moments, grounding my anxiety and terror to the noise of his steady pulse and deep, strong breath. When a reply is reached for again, the words are found -- "y-yes, I-I'm," gooseflesh bubbles to the top of my skin, recalling with a measure of disgust the memory of what just occurred, "better." The she-wolf growls approval, smiling savagely, "y-you. A-are you hurt?" Those stumbling notes become solid enough in the end; gaining strength from concern for the well-being of my mate. As he moves to inspect, my red-rimmed, doe wide gaze does likewise.

Noah
Currently championing:

Player is absent until 10-9-2018

#7

Buried beneath more recent and far fonder times, apprehension yet lurked like a toxic cloud in waiting (like the black smoke, there, just beyond his touch), memory of merciless feline hunters and their sharp-toothed slaves lay motionless—but not forgotten—below blankets of hope and revolution. Time and neglect had thinned those defensive, though entirely necessary, layers (for there could be no progress in their absence), and now, as he caressed his beloved’s warm, trembling, wet skin, as they stood baitedly in the neon glare of this new, horrid, alien world, Noah began to think of them…

Noah knew his dove well enough to trace agonised lines of trauma as they ricocheted violently through the beautifully patterned canvas of her skin; so too did her strangled, bi-toned eyes reflect fear unfelt for perhaps more than four seasons. He could only presume the cause of such grief: writhing, living shadow with smouldering white eyes blinking out, sinister, predatory. This gloom’s jaws had engulfed whim wholly only moments prior and ravaged the blessed power bubbling through his veins. Unable to evade the churn of more paranoid suspicion, the eagle's bright eyes ventured thither, scouting the wood behind her for sign of greater devastating strife.

Even the rain could not drown the intoxicating bind of her perfect perfume, and his hide bristled wildly in response, primal, protective instinct delivering a fresh assault of adrenaline through his frame. The stallion stood all the taller, broader above her lamb-like impression: feathers fanning just enough, crest arching upwards beneath shimmying cascades of long, waterlogged mane. Crimson winked warningly as nares thinned and rattled softly against the damp breeze and perched proudly at the pinnacle of his skull satellite-style ears swivelled with incessant vigilance. “I’m alright,” he answered believably, all the better with the weight of delicate bodice crammed in close.

“…I don’t like this place… the strange light and the shadows…” he murmured immediately afterwards, eyes still trawling their unfamiliar surroundings and the note of his voice mirrored the discontent written through his body language. Wherever they had arrived—and however—seemed to have no readily available exit. “Let’s find cover.” Presuming, of course, that the Rift had to offer any refuge, or held any similarity to Loorien, at all…

image
Nora
Currently championing:
#8
Wandering eyes rove his honeyed flesh, looking for any indication of concealment – assuming that bravo couldn’t mask the view of spewing infliction. “I’m alright.” There was a flash of instant relief; gratitude to find his condition as he’d been before…before… those sensations of thankfulness are short-lived; the voice of gratitude is mauled and strangled by the claws of bitter reality. Our terrifying predicament. “…I don’t like this place… the strange light and the shadows…”

Wide eyes flinch toward the cluster of highlighted timber; their leash is meek and helpless to follow where he instructs. Our saturated, over-bright surrounding(s) bring fresh trembling to the surface. Tiny bumps ripple madly across my wet, shivering hide. The pulsing kaleidoscope light made me think of bright, deadly creatures…those that were poisonous by simple touch. The vulnerable, shell-shocked part of me wanted nothing more than to shut it all out; hide beneath his ivory curtain and press my cheek into the sleek, granite mold of his damp, steaming shoulder.

“Let’s find cover.”

His decision to find cover is met with a shallow nod of agreement; my betraying, precipice voice didn’t care to rise to the occasion.  It wasn’t the word(s), or even the gentle tenor of his assurance which held power to sooth my skittish nature and foster reliance – it was witnessing him stiffen the invisible bone in his spine, the pride who contented with fear and shrinking, pitiful weakness. It was his strength, his fortitude that lent me the energy to pull in a great mouthfuls of moldy air and unglue our bodies, slightly.

As we push forward, him leading and me tucked like a newborn against his flank, the ignored panic for our missing companion(s) flails to the surface of my subconscious. My throat lining instantly becomes dry and the muscles tighten to constrict airflow, “Noah,” I plead for him to pause. There was necessity to find a conclusion - despite the sickened apprehension increasingly churning in the nether regions of my belly – these mental fingers reach into the warm darkness, feeling for his fluttering, rapid heartbeat...only to find the severed link. 'Aaru!?' A desperate, internal scream; as if there were some miracle waiting to relieve this agony. There was no reply of course; Aaru is gone. His tormentor is gone.

Cut away; amputated.

Grief rushes forward, hot tears spill their rim; streaming down the canvas of both cheeks, “I-I c-can’t feel A-aaru,” irises twist upward, their brims swimming with liquid, “he…he…” Not even the sensation of death (any conclusion might’ve been preferred) could be touched by those internal, mental prods. There is simply nothing, as if his entire existence had been rewound and snuffed out. “N-n-nephele?” The name comes suddenly, broken on shattered, fractional hope.