Nebulous Nomad Gold Naolys
Bonding: Blessed Be The Gods — Saiph
Mindspeak: Italic FFAD54
Written by Lish and posted here with her permission
Late spring on the plains west of the jungle was a sight to behold. Tall grasses rolled over the semi-open landscape, dotted only here and there by massive old trees, too stubborn to give to the creeping dominance of grasslands. Rivers snaked here and there, and life exploded from every direction, nourished by sun and fresh air. With gentle teal eyes, a damp, rose-tinged golden creature stared in wide-eyed wonderment at the world around him. Exhaustion overtook him briefly, and he reclined against the shivering side of his dam; when next he opened his eyes, he found himself staring into a pair of inquisitive amber eyes not far from his own. Oh! Speech came without really meaning to, as he realized that he had lost the protection of his mother at his side. Casting eyes around wildly, he was moderately comforted when she nuzzled his side gently. Oh. Not-his-mother parroted, eyes widening a little. Oh! She crowed, and curiosity overrode the colt’s sense of wariness. He tilted his head a little and nudged at her muzzle, watching the ash-dark mirror of himself mirror his blinks. Amused in spite of himself, he laughed; liking how it felt to laugh, he giggled helplessly, then took one large step towards the smaller vision of what he must look like. She took a playful step back.
Soon, they chased after each other under the late afternoon sunshine, under the warm, watchful brown eyes of the white figure who he knew without hesitation was his mother. The tall grass tickled them as they capered about, gaining knowledge of what it was to play. After a fashion, they returned to their dam and had their first meal, hungry for their roughousing. Not long after, both of them collapsed into a pile of ashen silver and rosy gold legs next to her side, asleep almost instantly. When next he awoke, the male foal found himself being observed by a grass-gold creature who his mind automatically categorized: father. His father had kind green eyes, and was watching he and his sister sleep with an emotion he had not experienced yet and didn’t know, but that automatically filled the colt with affection. Come, son. Murmured father, amusement evident in his tone. You should see this. Rough like the dry ground beneath his small hooves, his father’s voice was much deeper than his own; the foal wondered, would he ever be like his father? Would he one day be as tall as the trees? Yes, father. Obediently, he responded, slowly disentangling himself from his heavily-sleeping sister. Though he had been aware of much before he arrived in the world — the presence of his mother’s mind, of his sister’s, occasionally his father’s — it was still incredible, so full of things that something deep in his mind needed to see.
Following at the heels of the great golden stallion, the young colt wobbled up the hill after him, trotting to keep up. Pre-dawn was warm and breezy, the moons casting everything with a silvery light that made him wonder just what caused it. At the top of the hill, they stared across the rolling plains, quietly for some time. In the distance, tall moonlit-white clouds poured rain on the plains nearer the mountains, and flashes of bright light strobed. Wonderment filled the colt, and he wondered; what must it be like to be in the middle of that? Would it be scary? No, he decided, glancing up at his father. Father would not be afraid. He wouldn’t, either. The world is wide, Naolys. He had been aware of his name since before he could remember; certainly before yesterday, but to hear it spoken gave the colt a thrill. He stared up at his silver-struck father with wide eyes. Larger than you could ever imagine. You’ll see things, as you grow. You’ll see things that make your heart sing. You’ll see things that fill your soul with despair; our lives are filled with both. Naolys nodded eagerly, waiting for the stallion to continue. Our kind must do what we can to keep the balance. Do you understand, son? Quiet like the distant thunder, the elder gold watched his young son calmly. The colt scuffed one small ashen hoof through the dry dirt of the ground and eventually turned his eyes back up, sincerity plain in his expression. Not really, father. What can I do? I’m not very big. Ruefully, he replied, dark tail flicking. He didn’t like feeling small. The world is very big. Will I even see all of it?
His father chuckled warmly. His laugh seemed to drift on the rain-scented breeze that brushed past them, as he turned silvered green eyes down on his son once more, gently nuzzling the colt. One day you’ll see for yourself, Naolys. All of it. Good, bad. You will know what to do. Our kind has ways. Calmly, he bolstered his son’s confidence. As the rose-touched colt watched the storm rage over distant hills, heading in their direction slowly, he nodded. Yes, sir. He responded quietly, not knowing what else to say.
Oly, Oly! Come look! You must see this.
Like the gentle cry of a bird, his little sister’s voice excitedly met Naolys’ sleep-addled mind. After nearly three months of living, he probably should have been unsurprised by the wake-up call, but it still brought him to his feet swiftly. Stumbling only slightly over ever-growing hooves and long legs, he plodded down the ravine they had settled in and up the path to the top. What is it, Lleyla? He couldn’t quite keep the whine out of his voice as he picked his way up the steep path, following the sound of the smaller foal’s voice. She laughed somewhere overhead, carefree and bright, and his mild annoyance vanished. For all that she liked to awaken him at odd hours just so he could join her in staring in wonder at a butterfly emerging from its’ chrysalis or the sun setting over the distant, oddly-shaped mountains, she was his sister. He loved her. So slow, Naolys! Your feet are like great boulders. Why could you not be my size? She teased brightly, and he huffed. Ask me next time you get in trouble with the she-goats, Lleyla. The gold reminded her with amusement; who else would make sure they didn’t head-butt her off a cliff? She laughed again as he finally rounded the top of the steep path, and stared at what his sister had found.
On the plains below, there were people. A great mass of them, all bedraggled, very few in any state to be moving; and yet they were. They had herds of scrawny animals with them, packs of barking dogs, donkeys carting squalling and sickly children behind the main rush. Apparently his smaller sister hadn't seen that — she was all wide sunshine eyes and barely-withheld joy, tail switching back and forth. He blinked slowly, scuffing a too-large hoof through the dirt. I don't think we should go see them, Lleyla. They're not — No! They're not dangerous, silly. Humans love us! We're young Unicorns; they'll be honored to meet us. After all, we're old enough that one of them might be our Own. She breathed delightedly, and he shook his head. It wasn't right. There was something…it wasn't…it wasn't right. He couldn't have told her how he knew, he didn't even know, but it wasn't a good idea. Before he could explain anything, though, his little sister charged down the hill, whickering loudly at the oncoming caravan.
Helplessly Naolys followed her. He sent a mental summons to mother and father; they were nearby, as always. It was good, too. Apparently, there are cultures who don't revere a horse with a horn. In those cultures, a charging silver and gold foal and her brother might be seen as a threat. Or lunch. Or maybe the sickly humans were hallucinating and didn't even see them for what they were; the gold colt would never know.
He knew that as he threw himself in front of one of their spears, his father had charged into the fray — then a flash of light —
As it turns out, you grow up pretty quick when you're left to your own devices in the middle of a high, dry mountain range with a spear sticking out of your side. It had been pretty complicated, finagling the thing out of the muscles in his shoulder, then fighting the infection and effects of the poison that had been left on the spear's tip. If he had been a lesser creature, a creature not possessing of innate magical ability (and fortitude; it had not been pretty, and the puckered scar on his left shoulder would likely never disappear), he would have died. As it was, he had lived. He had not thrived. He had survived, though, searching mentally and physically for the little sister he adored and the parents who'd saved his life. What had befallen them? He did not know. All he knew concluded with the fact that mountains were not his friend, and while he was quite alive, living was harder than it sounded. Food and water were scarce, and when they could be found…well, humans think they don't enjoy Montezuma's Revenge. All equines have delicate systems. Delicate systems that don't appreciate certain injustices.
So nobody would be surprised that the scrawny Yearling who finally found his way to a strangely alive land, months later, was more versed in life and life's injustices than your average yearling. He wasn't as tall as he could have been — though he was still larger than any horse; he was a Unicorn after all — and he wasn't nearly as grand as the sleek, shiny Unicorns of the Weyrd were. He was, in fact, kind of pitiful. Within a few days, though, he had managed to get a little more presentable. It had been nothing short of heavenly, playing in the massive river that seemed to be the area's lifeblood. Drinking freely. Eating all of the succulent fruits that he could pluck from the trees, from shrubs, from along abandoned fence-lines. And the company! Oh, the creatures. He felt awkward and unused to contact, but the birds and the deer didn't seem to mind. They followed his every move with wide eyes, like he was some sort of walking miracle. Did they not see the hipbones that he saw in the still lagoons? Didn't they see the sunken teal eyes, the fact that his mane and tail could have done with being shaved off wholly? Naolys wasn't certain what to do about that, but at least they spoke to him. They didn't leave him to the ghosts in his head.
After a week, though, the ghosts…well, they wouldn't leave him. One, specifically. He wasn't sure where it originated, but it was a powerful pull. It settled into his chest, warmed him when he settled down in the safest place he could find at night. It felt…it felt familiar. Like mother. Like Lleyla. Like those first few months, safe and happy and…whole. Yes. The fleeting, flickering, faint sensation that drove him a little insane felt right. So he followed it. He stopped sleeping. More and more urgent, the final day's pursuit pushed him to a shambling run — he still wasn't healthy, still bony and lacking in all but lean muscles not meant for long treks. The jungle passed loudly all around him, and even at another nightfall he did not stop. The tug was painful, now. Whoever it was, they were in pain — so much pain! He couldn't take it. He couldn't let them stay like that.
He knew just what he had to do.