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Breath of Life — Aurora Heights 
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Played by Shadow who has 875 posts.
Oak Tree Bend I. Leader
Serach Donata
Set a few days after the Donata's arrive in Aurora Heights. This thread is private for Serach's family to respond to if they wish. @Aponi @Ayla @Azra @Kisina. There's a lot of brooding in this thread, so feel free to jump to the last two paragraphs for a TLDR.

Mid-morning, cloudy skies. Light breeze.

He couldn’t breathe.

The mountain air was thin. From the very first moment when they had begun to climb in elevation, Serach had noticed the difference. Every breath was a little bit harder, required a little more effort from his lungs. There were moments, when he was bent over coughing and desperately praying for the attack to stop, that he wondered if he might never take a painless breath again.

The forest-dweller had desperately wanted to return to the Bend. But logic had overridden that desire. He had seen the destruction with his own eyes, and even if the fire had not burnt his beloved trees entirely to the ground, it would take years for that particular section of Spectral Woods to recover. Even if the wolves returned, their prey was not likely too. Especially with the winds of winter bearing down upon them.

He couldn’t breathe.

Serach flared his nostrils, hoping that would somehow increase his airflow to an acceptable rate. But his efforts were futile as another round of the coughing began. This time it didn’t last quite as long, and for that at least he was grateful. Shaking his body as though he was shedding water, he tried to throw off the fatigue he was feeling before setting off to continue his hunt.

Gingerly he made his way through the rocky landscape. He slipped repeatedly, his paws unaccustomed to the uneven slopes. Even the small ones disoriented him, adding to his discomfort. But he trudged on, although the going was slow. Much slower than if he had been in Spectral Woods, he couldn’t help but grumble to himself. If there were any prey hiding among the rocks and pines, they were surely aware of his clumsy attempt at tracking and had made their escapes.

He couldn’t breathe.

Opening his mouth as wide as he could, Serach gulped down air like it was water to save his burning lungs. There was a little more relief this time around, but the crisp mountain air quickly dried out his mouth, adding to his discomfort. With a grunt, he sat down on his haunches against the base of a pine tree. Shifting uncomfortably on the needles, he eventually settled and looked out over the slope below him. He was not a fan of the mountains, but even he had to admit that the view was breathtaking.

It had become clear soon after reuniting with Aponi that his mate had not expected Aurora Heights to no longer be there. But there were no traces of Kyna and her family. Serach had chosen to believe that they had left on their own free will, perhaps relocated elsewhere in the Lore. Something that they would likely need to do soon themselves, he thought glumly. Although certainly not by choice.

They were all coming to terms with the fact that they were now adrift in the world. It was hard on them all, and he was failing miserably at being a rock for the rest of his family. Serach was stuck processing his own grief, struggling somewhere between pain, anger, and desolation. He didn’t even know how to grieve for the loss of the Bend. He’d lost the physical land...the trees he was so familiar with, the three waterfalls named for his sisters, and the den where he and his children were born. They had been the backdrop of virtually his entire life, and anything else just didn’t feel right. But the Bend was also his family, and regardless of what else had happened, he had most of his family here with him. That was the only bright spot in this whole situation, but even his eternal gratitude for that solace could not lift his mood and gear him up for doing whatever it was they needed to do next. And most was not all. Lila was still missing, and even if she returned to the Bend now, she would find no familiar faces there to meet her.

He couldn’t breathe.

The cough racked his body, forcing him fully down on the ground and eventually onto his side. It took several minutes before it finally subsided, leaving his chest aching. Serach panted, his sides heaving like he had just been sprinting. But he could barely lift his head, nevermind run. Shutting his eyes, he resigned himself that there would be no successful hunt today. Another disappointment to deliver to his family...

The plan was for them to make their way down the other side of the mountain and go to Charred Ash Draw. Serach wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but he had no alternatives. If Kisla was still alive, he would have suggested going to Hearthwood...but those days were long gone, and Serach was doubtful that Driftwood would be receptive to taking in his entire family. The same was likely true of their allies in Shallows Edge.

He had briefly considered going to Wild Rye Fields, but that was a long way north and it had been more than a year since he had seen Jessie, and nearly six months since Lila had returned from her trip to the Fields. Serach could not even be sure that Ice was still there, and after so long, he didn’t know what he would say to his father. How could he explain that he’d lost the Bend? Even if he could manage that, he didn’t know if he would have the courage to tell his father the truth - that he was hurt and disappointed that Ice had left him...again. The son had been able to forgive once, but he did not have it in him to forgive his father a second time.

No, he silently admitted, going to the Draw makes the most sense. But it was also not without challenges and confrontations he would rather not deal with. At best, they would only have to answer Treyah’s questions about what had happened. Sahalie would be harder to face, but at least with her, Serach felt confident that she wouldn’t blame him for what had happened.

He couldn’t breathe.

The coughing didn’t last as long this time, but only because his stomach lurched unpleasantly before it could finish. Ever since the fire, he’d been coughing up murky, gray mucus. But this was the first time something more solid came up with it. The exertion left him dizzy, and a weak, pathetic whine slipped out from between his lips.

Triell. Oh if his uncle could see him now. Even the possibility made his stomach twist and turn violently. Last Serach had heard, the Tainn wasn’t even in the Draw anymore, having gone missing at some point in the previous year. But they had never gotten their closure from what had happened...and while the Donata had found it in him to forgive Sahalie her transgressions, he could not bring himself to give her the father the same courtesy. Even nearly two years later, the feeling of betrayal stung so badly that the sheer idea of showing up at the borders Triell had established made Serach’s blood pressure spike.

But they had no choice. And for the sake of his children, the Bend leader (if that’s even what he was anymore) would swallow his pride. For them alone, he would confront the challenge that had underscored his entire life and allow it to be okay. Triell, Ice, his brothers Sceral and Fenru, and countless others - they were all guilty of the same crime of abandoning him without saying goodbye.

He had grown up hearing his mother’s stories about the transient nature of her first mate. Serach himself had been barely weaned when Ice first left. Barely six months when his mother had died. Not much more than a yearling when first his older brother, and then his littermate had left him. It had ingrained in him a profound sense of loss and a stubborn sense of loyalty to the only place he had ever called home. Now that home was lost, and he didn’t know how to cope with losing the only constant presence in his life.

Thank god I have her, a wry smile twisted his lips before another cough racked his body. Lord where would he be without Aponi? Adrift and struggling to accept what had happened, his mate was his lifeline. She had always been braver than him, and now was no different. He had once told her that he would follow her wherever she went, no matter what. Although he had said it in anger at the time, he meant it always. And he had every intention of following through with that promise.

And at least the kids would get to experience something new. Mabel, Corsair, and Ayla didn’t inherit their father’s recluse outlook on life, and while it would take time for them to grieve the loss of the Bend too, he also had high hopes that they would embrace the adventure. And if not...well, he was sure that Mabel would compel her siblings. Serach let out a soft chuckle at the thought. Yes, his eldest daughter certainly took after Aponi in that respect.

He was even more certain that Kisina and Azra would come out of this okay. There would likely be other pups in the Draw, and it would benefit them greatly to grow up around wolves outside of their immediate family. They too would need to adjust - he could already hear Azra’s neverending questions and see Kisina’s excitement at new adventures - but he was hopeful for their future.

It was time for him to start heading back. Wearily he lifted his head off the ground, but slumped back exhausted after his body refused to follow suit. The coughing began almost instantly, each wave more violent and painful than the last.

I can’t breathe.

The realization hit him like a ton of bricks, but he was powerless to do anything about it. His lungs were screaming out for air, but no matter how quickly and deeply he tried to inhale, it didn’t seem to make a difference. Instinct kicked in, every cell fighting for life so he could make it back to his family. His legs were flailing, trying to get him off the ground so he wouldn’t be so vulnerable. But he was too weak and unable to get a stable enough breath to push himself up.

”Hhhh”elp. He couldn’t even complete the word; his body too desperate for air to waste any on words that no one would hear. The only sounds he could make were guttural, tortured whines in between the coughing.Tears ran down his cheeks. They would be dry before anyone found him.

Serach’s final moments were filled with pain and agony. His last conscious thoughts were of his family, their faces flashing in his mind’s eye before everything went black. He was dimly aware that he was committing the same sin that had been committed against him so many times, but try as he might, he could not fight his way back to his family to say his goodbyes. The coughing subsided soon after he lost consciousness, his heaving sides finally still as his body resigned to the inevitable. The signs of his struggle gave evidence to the events that transpired: the disturbed dirt where his body had thrashed in his death throes and the drying blood and mucus he had been coughing up.

In the end, it was the burning of his cherished home that had killed him. He had inhaled too much smoke while searching for his family, permanently eroding the effectiveness of his lungs. But he had done it to save his family, and if given the choice to do the same, knowing what the consequence was, he would have acted no differently.

Thank you all for being RP partners with Serach & me over the past 5 and a half years. He was my imperfect baby, and I'm going to miss him and threading with all of you terribly.
Played by Ghost who has 518 posts.
Lone Wolf No Rank
Aponi Donata



Thing had been quiet since Serach and Azra had joined them on the mountain. They were all still recovering and mourning but for Aponi it had been a turning point. When Lila had gone missing the mother had become reclusive and depressed and now the fire had spurred her on. There was no option for her to mope anymore, even though her missing children count had gone up since Kyna and her family had seemingly disappeared into thin air. The border markings had long since faded and the whole time that they had been there they hadn’t seen any stragglers or scouts.

Aponi knew that soon they would have to make their way down the mountain to the Draw, but she was also aware how her husband felt about this move. So they lingered, even a winter began setting in allowing time for the cream male to come to terms with what had happened and what was ahead. The Donata woman still knew that she wouldn’t be happy to linger as a subordinate forever but it would be nice to take a back seat and allow her wounds to heal. Take the time to re-bond with her children and hopefully come out stronger on the other side, but it would never be the Bend.

The day was grey and dreary, typical for this time of the year but not as cold as it had been even a week ago. It was a nice reprieve and when Serach had taken advantage of it to go out hunting the mother had thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until hours later when the sky began darkening that Aponi realized he had been gone for too long. alerting the children that she was just going to see if their father needed help carrying back any prey - she didn’t want to alarm them - she had taken off at a trot.

His trail had been easy enough to follow and when Aponi saw his cream form laying down from afar she had chuffed in relief. But he hadn’t answered. Her brow furrowed and she barked louder. Still nothing. Now her heart was racing and the trot she had forced herself to carry broke into a sprint, her breath whipping from her mouth as her paws skidded over the stone.

The stone she had been so desperate to get back to. The stone she had wanted so badly she had made the last 6 months of their lives miserable. The stone that she had worshiped ferociously and had forsaken their Oak Tree for. How stupid she had been.

The mother didn’t want to admit what she already knew from the silence that had followed her greetings. She had thought that Serach had been sleeping, but he was too still. Her brain couldn’t process what she had come upon, her eyes blurred with tears she didn’t know were falling. So desperately she tried to unsee the markings of his thrashing, tried not to know that his last few moments hadn’t been peaceful and surrounded with love, with their grandchildren in the den of his home. Instead he had been alone and in pain and she had failed him.

The grief morphed into the familiar sickening rage that Aponi had used to protect herself her whole life. Rage that the Bend had burned down, rage that the world had taken so much from her, rage that Serach had left them and died alone on her fucking mountain. She felt angry at everybody, anyone who was happy and unaware of her anguish, angry that she was going to have to go tell their children they no longer had a father, angry that she was a widow. The mother couldn’t even think of all the reasons her vision was red and her body was trembling. But, mostly she was angry at herself that she let all of this happen, that she had been so ungrateful and so petty. Serach had always deserved better, he just wanted to be happy and love her and loves his trees and she had fucked everything up for him.

Well that ended now. Aponi knew that they needed to give him a proper burial, but the only place she could think he would want to rest was the place they couldn’t get back to. Plus, even she knew how grotesque it would be to make their kids help her carry their father’s dead body back to the home they had just run from. Could she leave him alone on the mountain? In a cold unforgiving environment that he had never wanted? Suddenly her eyes were on the edge of the rock, she could make him not alone with just a simple jump. She knew how quickly it would happen, she had thrown more than one wolf over the edge and left them there. How ironic it would be that her last victim would be herself. She made it as far as her toes curling over into empty air, intoxicating and tempting when a shudder ran down her spine.

Running backwards she flung herself against her husband’s body and sobbed. Grief racked her and left her trembling and wailing in a way that Aponi had never allowed herself to feel before. She sobbed for her father who she had lost, for their home that had burned down, for her missing children. She sobbed for Serach and the loss not only of what had been but of the future they were supposed to have. And Aponi cried for the loss of herself, because though she hadn’t physically died along the Donata man she was no longer truly alive without him. Every day would just be a countdown until she could join him again and neither one of them would be separated and alone anymore.

loving you is fire & then it’s rain.

This was incredibly emotional for me to write and I am going to miss Serponi more than I can say. Thank you Shadow for two years of showing me and everyone else that Aponi does have a soft side and allowing me to explore that.
[Image: AplcUOC.png]
Played by Staff who has 4,576 posts.
A nearby creek is full to the brim with fish. +3 Health
Played by Becca who has 24 posts.
Lone Wolf No Rank
Kisina Donata

She had adjusted slowly. The smoke sometimes still felt heavy on her and her family but it seemed to get a little better with time. Or maybe she was oblivious to it all and was too selfishly focused on the childhood that seemed to crumble down around her. On the cusp of her first winter and the Donata child already found herself away from home. Of course, it had not been willingly and she was not entirely alone in this experience. She still had family members with her.

A life once boisterous with endless childhood activities seemed dull and quiet like the fire smog had only moved to cover the Donatas in a way she could not see nor fully understand, but had accepted nonetheless.

The Donata had considered wandering off when her mother departed to seek their father. She had even considered bothering Corsair to take her somewhere. Not that there was much to see, really. Patches of snow or a dull cold slab of stone that didn't look much different than all the other slabs of stone. She had weighed her options momentarily before she decided that neither of those would do. Surely following after her mother would be best. Kisina was no tiny child now, granted she wasn't entirely full grown yet. She was just the right size to help with the more physical tasks. Such as schlepping back prey, such as her mother had set out to help do. Well, that had been what her mother had said.

Kisina had lingered back far enough to not arouse much attention, distracted by most things. The young girl did not hear the sobs from her distance nor did she spot the scene that laid out on the heights. Kisina would live blissfully unaware for a few moments of her young life. Granted it was destined to end soon when she realized she had fallen too far behind so she pressed onward.

It was then she discovered a particular scene that her brain couldn't piece together. The earth was heavily disturbed. Her father was on said earth, her mother seemed to sob on top.

Something had gone wrong. But what?

She noted that the sadness was different than when they had departed the Bend. There were no voices present to discuss further plans or kisses of goodbye being handed out. Her father did not move despite the shake of her mother's tear wracked form. Her brain had all the pieces and yet it seemed to refuse to put them together. She was not a dumb child. She was not entirely unaware of the wrong scene that had consumed her vision. Her brain just struggled to believe that it could be what it was. There had to be another explanation. A nightmare, perhaps.

"Mom...?" She whispered hoarsely. The Donata figured that if this truly was a nightmare maybe she could stop it with a bit of a disruption. If it was not a nightmare, well...then who better to ask than her mother what was going on?

basically kisina's brain doesn't want to accept what's happening and is refusing to fully make connections in order to "protect" her. if any of the older siblings want to haul her off from the scene i'm fine with pp
# D O N A T A
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Played by Shadow who has 66 posts.
Lone Wolf No Rank
Corsair Donata
If Corsair had known what would be waiting for him, he would not have followed along after Kisina and his mother. If he could turn back time, he would have stayed behind and remained ignorant for as long as he possibly could. But he didn't do that, and now his heart was paying the consequences. He had stopped short behind Kisina, his whole body shocked still. His eyes were glued to his parents, the trembling of his mother a stark visual contrast to the stillness of his father's body. He kept waiting for Serach to lift his head or say something that would soothe Aponi, but as the minutes rolled by, he knew in his gut that there would be no comfort coming.

His own cheeks were matted with tears - he didn't remember starting to cry - but he felt compelled to try and do something. Forcing his limbs into motion, he took a few steps forward, drawing level with Kisina. Leaning into her, he kissed the crown of her head. "It's gonna...it's gonna be okay," Corsair whispered, his voice shaking. He didn't believe his own words, but he didn't know what else to say.

Taking a deep breath, he slowly proceeded onwards. He didn't know what he would say to his mother, and any semblance of coherent thought left him completely by the time he made it to her side. Now that he was up close, he could see the markings in the dirt and could smell the sickness. The sinking feeling in his stomach was the last sliver of hope being extinguished; his father would not be waking up.

The yearling's experience with death had been limited to prey, which had always been associated with the happy feeling of being fed. But this...this was something entirely different. There would be no happy memories associated with this. At a loss for what to do or say, he could only attempt to reach out for his mother and kiss the crown of his head like he had Kisina's, a low whine the only sound of his shock and grief.
Played by Ghost who has 518 posts.
Lone Wolf No Rank
Aponi Donata

Aponi had been so wrapped up in her own grief, this moment that seemed to stretch on forever, an endless expanse with no end, that she hadn’t even heard the approach of others. If she had the mother would later like to think she would have pulled herself together. The silver queen would have stood up, swiped the tears from her cheeks and delivered the news with grace and dignity. She would have had the answers for her children, a plan in place with what they would do. But, that was far from what actually took place on the mountain that day. Instead they had found her sobbing uncontrollably on the body of their father, so delirious that she didn’t hear them approach, didn’t hear the words of comfort that her son murmured to his younger sibling.

It wasn’t until Corsair licked the crown of her skull that she was aware of the presence of someone else. Aponi did not react well. She greeted her son the way a wolf greeted a loner approaching their kill, or a mother protecting her newborn cubs. Silver hackles rose over clenched, trembling muscles, teeth bared rimmed with flushed pink gums, a snarl so vicious that it hurt her smoke scarred throat. Her fangs clacked together before she realized that this wasn’t some stranger coming to take her beloved mate’s body away from her. This was Corsair standing before her, and behind him, Kisina.

Instantly she smoothed herself out, tail tucked beneath her belly. She wanted to shield them from the scene she knew was beneath her paws, the disturbed dirt and the still body of their father. There was nothing she could do. Instead she looked between the two of them, unsure of what the next move should be. Instead she murmured out a raspy, ”I’m sorry.” Before laying back down on the cream coloured pelt of what had once been Serach, burying her nose into his scruff, trying to ignore the stench of soot that still clunch there.

loving you is fire & then it’s rain.
[Image: AplcUOC.png]