Long ears twitter-twitch. Phooka does not like Ba'leilon. Too much of his pony instincts telling whispers from the time eternal. Cannot let the big faeries ride, no, no. But in other forms, Phooka is not so insistent. As a rabbit, he hides from some, the opportunistic meat-eaters. Not because they would mean to hunt Phooka, of course not, but rabbit form is very convincing.
Green, green eyes turn left and right. Something is out in the night, a presence any reasonable fae ought to hide from. Some great thing, bigger than the living realm. That which is god-touched.
Phooka does not intend to mess with the Otherworlds, nothing good to come from peeking at the beyond, no, not at all. His spring-flame orbs are glowing bright again, catching moonlight and casting the glow back on the forest, illuminating the large rippled leaves shushing back and forth on the ends of long, silvery branches and twigs. He looks across the trees and sees other Phooka nestled high in the canopy. She nods, black-on-black ears flattening backward, nose a-wiggle and whiskers fluttering with her jittery nerves. She feels the same thing which Phooka has sensed, and she is spooked enough to leave.
Their Ba'leilon, the bird-one, she-who-is-different, she is in the epicentre of all the swirling, strange energy. Phooka would like to depart as well, to race away, find a safe haven deeper in the magical woods, yet their Ba'leilon, the bird-one, is thrashing on the floor of her home. The cottage interior is darkening, even to Phooka's sensitive gaze. He feels the massive presence churn and broil, stealing the white light until it has become the thickest of blacks, as rich and solid as his own fur. He spares a moment of attention to inspect the comparison, looking at his wrist, narrow and most-natural for Phooka. Not one of his manyforms, but his birth body. Wide palm and long, sturdy fingers connect to his arm, all so inky dark, perfect for the night.
Phooka suppresses one of his ready chuckles. Now is not the moment for laughter. Now is for silence. Now is the watching time.
She-who-is-different is coming back into view through the Otherworldly veil. All the collected light has condensed into two solid forms deposited atop her hair. They are marks! Marks! Phooka knows of this. He snorts his instant, angry mistrust.
Not fair, not right, their Ba'leilon, the bird-one, cannot be taken by their old gods' ways! His whiskers quiver as he leans forward. The cold branch he clings to gives off a gentle rustle of movement like the sigh of wind. His strong tail curls around to hold his place as he is easing out over the open air. Phooka trusts his tail to hold him safely, and the patient old elm under his gripping feet. Long toes, long soles touching the wrinkled silver-grey bark. Phooka never falls.
His thin wings flitter, ticking and tapping as the translucent edges flick against a nearby branch. They move in excitement, agitation. He can see other wings now, moth wings at her brow, clear as anything, destined to take away their Ba'leilon. He knows! Oh, he knows. She will be gone.
The outcome of the Otherworld power is stark and unavoidable. His days will change, a new life to live tomorrow.
Phooka spends much time in eagle form, circling this cottage, ridding the storeroom of mice and rats, watching ever vigilant with shining green eyes. Phooka will miss their Ba'leilon, the bird-one. He shall pine after the fine hunting
ground and peaceful place, because he cannot allow things to remain the same, not when she-who-is-different is away from here. A location touched by too much power draws other things, stranger and dangerous things. He shivers under the mingling asperity of dismay.
His mind begins swirling, as it does when his manyforms crowd in to help make decisions. Pony is violent and impulsive. Eagle is wise. Rabbit is impatient and more than a little fearful. Phooka's birth body would like to make this judgement without so much conflict, but the heightened emotions make it hard and harder, until he realises their Ba'leilon, the bird-one, she-who-is-different, is already running.
He blinks round green eyes, twice, and catches up with the sudden chaos left in her wake. She has torn through her cottage, removing few things, disrupting many. He sees the dull gleam of oiled leather swinging at her side, the sheath of her weapon, obvious in that precise moment as though she did not flee but rode off to make war with this injustice. He is mad, so indefinitely furious at the Otherworld. Phooka found one good Ba'leilon, and this happens, struck down by the gods' disregard! Long ears swivel and pick up
rough sobs from she-who-is-different as she weaves between trees, leaving behind the place where such magic distilled and altered everything important.
He shares in her sorrowing with an unexpected voracity, the dewdrop tears of Phooka turning to liquid fire on his furred cheeks. He catches the embers in his hands and cradles his burning remorse, keening as though he grieves for a dead child. He rocks the cold flames, wordless. Phooka would know the Name of sadness before the night was through.
Long fingers roll his tears around in an automatic, instinctual motion. This emptying part of his essence being shaped in the same way he would mold his flesh into one of the manyforms. The droplets of flames combine to transform into something glimmering bright, a will-o'-the-wisp, green light holding back the deep darkness.
The wisp bobs just above Phooka's skin, almost alive and alight. Cleanse the acrimony and misery. That thick stain of power needs to be driven from the land. A proper send off, now that their Ba'leilon, the bird-one, has left them behind.
Phooka must judge permanence in other measures. The urgency. A screaming obligation to be gone. It is done. The power of the lightmoths define changes by the old gods which cannot be returned or rescinded. Phooka regrets the departure of she-who-is-different, but embraces action. He unwinds his many limbs from the tree branches, enough to slide his way down the rough trunk while supporting the will-o'-the-wisp in one hand and then the next. He swings back and forth from his handholds and footholds and tailholds, a graceful descent, a controlled collision with the ground. His body reacquainted with gravity after those breathless, weightless moments.
Phooka approaches the cottage, dry-eyed from pouring out his grief, able to do his last duty to their Ba'leilon, the bird-one. A heroine's last rites. The goodbyes of a beloved.
His angular face turns, tilting left and right. The unpainted door hangs askew, fractures running along the rough planes of wood where her fear made her strong. His flat nose, most akin to pony and rabbit forms, though far less velveteen in his birth body, takes in the many scents of the cottage. He breathes down familiarity and the comforts of a well-lived home.
He notices a whiff of contentedness, and satisfaction found in a simple life of tending one's own land, petrichor rolling heavy and rich over the incoming chill of autumn. Phooka revels in the smell of their Ba'leilon's abandoned life as it holds all the connotations of her presence. Although he never met her in his birth body, and she did not consciously understand their encounters when he took eagle form, the twist of her lips always said she suspected something different about Phooka when she watched him wing across the skies. Her unsaid wondering did not change her gentleness. She loved.
Now Phooka shall expunge it all, the great goodbye.
She-who-is-different could not stay. He could not keep her from slipping away. Fingers, four fine joints in each lengthy digit, twist and clench and squeeze into the cold embers of his green burning wisp. The flames dance up between each black furred finger and curl, first caressing, then with brighter, brighter, frightening intensity. Phooka's pressure goads the fire. Phooka tells the power to whoosh, and so it does.
The will-o'-the-wisp bursts outward. Flames
become liquid again, illuminating the empty cottage a sickly green where each drip falls and spreads. Glowing tendrils creep like a terrible, unnatural vine chasing away the darkness and consuming everything which reminds Phooka of the grief. Purification, purging the gods' unseen fingerprints from this place. He unclenches his taut muscles and drops the remaining parts of his wisp to allow it true freedom. His narrow wings fan the flames higher.
Fires play together. Green gives way to licks of yellow and orange. The colours meld and cavort, crackling into the floorboards and winding gleefully up chair legs, armrests, curtains billowing before open windows. Once-cold, now the inferno changes. The enchanted spring-flame gives off no heat. Its autumnal kin spews ever increasing temperatures into the air, roaring a kind of victory.
Phooka's prehensile tail droops in softening misery. Trails of blackening smoke curl around his melancholy limbs, a brush of carbon, oils, and ash. He exits the blaze, sooty velvet nose relishing the new scents, giving rise to other emotions over his remorse.
The moist ground beneath his feet rumbles with
an unheard groan, nearly, nearly. His willowy form sways with perfect grace under the concussive wave released as the bones of the cottage crash down. Signs of their Ba'leilon, the bird-one, she-who-is-different, will soon have been lustrated, along with traces of her last power, the gods mark. Their magical forest will remain protected. She will be gone. And the stars will turn.
Long ears perk up, hearing a new cadence to the forest. His birth body shivers, fur rippling, to shift Phooka to sleek pony form. He gallops away, green, green eyes burning bright with reflected moonlight and ever-ready, man-like laughter creeping out of his equine mouth.
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