through the thick and thin; jay

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Her blue eyes are still bleary with sleep and the familiar haze of Taigan fog doesn’t make it much easier to see when they do finally open. 

Instinctually, her gaze looks first towards the base of a tree where Ruthless rests. Where she normally rests. (The fog can be heavy enough at times that all Lilliana will see is a golden outline, the dark contours of her wings against the silver mist.) She looks and there is only open space - the imposing trunk of a Redwood where a young Ruth should be resting. 

”Ruth?” she whispers into the dawn. Her question goes unanswered and the silence looms like a dread. The pair had grown close since that winter day in the Field and as Lilliana’s pregnancy had become more pronounced, her young companion never seemed to be far away. Her golden lioness, she had once affectionately called the girl. 

Lilliana searches the Taiga though it takes her almost all day. Her Redwoods remain empty. There is nothing on the wind from the North that she had gone to Nerine. When she finally does catch Ruth’s stale scent in the breeze, it (thankfully) blows past the Common Lands and there is relief in knowing that she at least hadn’t returned there. 

She continues to follow the trail - goes as fast as she can while an ache settles between her shoulders and each step feels heavier than the last - until it reveals the last place that winged-girl had gone. The Mountain. When it looms into view, the Ambassador slows and guardedly watches it from the two trees she stands in between. Outwardly, it was no more or less remarkable than any other Mountain. (It could have as easily been one of the sentinels of her childhood - one of the Protectors that had guarded Paraiso against the outside world.) 

But like so many things she has learned over the years, she knows that it is no simple Mountain. There is Magic embedded in the stone and it flows through it like veins in granite. Lilliana has been to that Mountain - learned and paid a price - and when she learns that is where shining Ruth has gone, she lumbers on. (Why would she have gone there? she worries, for what reason did she have a need for Magic?

There is one that Lilliana can think of. 
(One of her sons gives a kick from beneath her ribs, as if resonating the thought.)

Her eyes go dull with that realization and then refusing to let herself become afraid in the shadow of the peak, she continues on. It grows darker and darker, the brush denser and denser. The branches brush against her rounded copper sides and then the world vanishes, swirls away in a veil of magic before she has a chance to realize where she has wandered.

It isn’t the Dreamscape - it isn’t a world like Kagerus can create nor is this completely the Mountain’s creation. It is a place that exists. It is a world in its own right. It’s just not hers. She catches the last silver scent of it - of the Magic that had pooled and pulled her here. It rolls out like an ocean tide and leaves her stranded - a castaway in another place she doesn’t know. 

Her dark nostrils flare when her eyes adjust and the landscape reveals itself; something beyond wild and strange. Had her circumstances been different, she might have found the ordeal wonderful. But Magic, she has learned, commands a price. For everything given, something must be taken.

So why has she been taken here?

@[jay] baby sister finally showed up <3