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#1

what's the point in all this screaming
Weak morning light trickled through the canopy, washing everything with a faint, silvery-gold gleam. The earth was moist and smelled of it: wet dirt and moss, dew-drenched leaves, sodden wood. The birds seemed quiet this morning. Cairo had been unable to sleep, and so she wandered a wayward trail with exhausted, restless paws. She had been gone a week. Neglected her duties for a week. Left her mother and her brothers and Ilios for a week. All for a reason she couldn’t help, a reason she despised and she wanted to bury deep within herself. She suspected that it, unfortunately, did not work that way however.

She and Ahkoris had gotten back to the forest the night before, and he had escorted her to her den. He told her to rest. Cairo had argued, wanting to see their Mother immediately to explain herself— but Ahkoris had suggested against it. Apparently, their new siblings had been born. The Matriarch would need her rest, and her time with them. That was one of countless reasons for Cairo’s insomnia. She’d gone over the list over and over and over again as she trailed the woods aimlessly: her absence and explanation, her illness, Ahkoris and his knowledge, Nassar and her fury, new half siblings, a distant king paired with her mother, Sinai’s children, Sanada. Her mind could not linger on one bullet point for too long, and instead just became overwhelmed and moved to the next problem, with again, no solution or comfort.

Several scents caused the timber girl to pause momentarily in her tracks. Without intending to, she had found her way to Nassar’s densite. The smell of the new little lives was heavy in the air; it caused her nose to wrinkle briefly. There was also a strange scent, one that clearly did not belong— surely, the one who had put his seed inside her mother. The girl rolled her shoulders uncomfortably, and when she stepped through a curtain of ferns, she stopped again. Nassar was out, sitting in a pool of light with her fiery pelt gently aglow. Whatever wayward thoughts went through her brain, she still could not help herself stand in awe, if but a moment, of her beautiful, strong Matriarch. She regained herself and dipped her head, tail dropping limply behind her. “Mother,” she greeted lowly, voice subdued. “Matriarch, I’m home.”

Her eyes lifted briefly to glance at her from beneath dark lashes, searching for the most dominant emotion on her mother’s face. It was not Cairo’s natural role to play shameful, abashed, groveling subject— but today, it was necessary. Not to play it, but to be it. It was deserved, and it was something that she herself would demand if she were sitting in her mother’s spot. “I’m sorry if my absence caused alarm— and for the resources and energy you’ve had to waste searching for me.” She paused, took a breath, dipped her head a touch further. “I was scouting the perimeter of our land in search of any weak points, and I lost my way in the mountain pass between our forest and the Northern wilds.” That was the truth-- more or less. Would her mother would scoff at her for getting lost like a child? Call her inept? Cairo straightened up a bit. “The pass between our Kingdom and the entire North is labyrinth-like: no inexperienced wolf would be able to use it against us. But it does still represent a potential weak point in the mountain barriers that protect us, and I believe it's something we should keep in mind." she had to offer what she had learned. There had to be something to be gained out of her blunder. The girl felt her stomach churn nervously. Her eyes flicked for the briefest of moments behind her Mother, to the dark opening of the den where she now heard quiet mewls of newborns. She felt somewhat sick. "Are you well?" her eyes moved back to Nassar.


"She Speaks"


no one's listening anyway



@Nassar
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#2


A little over a week had passed, though the days were difficult to track. Time had a certain meaningless to it when a wolf reached their second year. For the first few months of life, each sunrise was a moment of rapid growth and ravenous conquest. Something similar occurred when the sun began to set, albeit not on the horizon. It was the subtle dimming of one's vitality that dug claws of fragility into the bone. Such a time had not yet claimed Nassar, though only so many sunrises were left.

Watching her children grow had been the greatest joy of Nassar's life, and so in some ways, time had passed quickly. All three of her living children were bright and lively. The fourth was... lost. Though Nassar did not like to think of Evanora as dead, she had quietly accepted that the child would never return.

A life of upheaval had, however, broken her three pups. Cairo had seemingly taken flight, abandoning her post and leaving her pregnant mother to fend for herself. In truth, the girl had been sparse even before her absence, but Nassar had not pursued and argument. The matriarch's mind had been on other matters, though namely her union with Oberon had occupied her time. Had that made her a neglectful mother? She was not sure.

But, with her young pups sleeping within the den, she felt a strange sense of satisfaction.

Hardship had stained the pelts of her first litter, perhaps this second would offer a second chance. At least, they had not yet broken her heart the way Cairo, Karnak, and Evanora had.

When Cairo melted from the trees, Nassar was not sure what to do. Her chest tightened and, for a moment, and overwhelming rush of emotion consumed her. Fury tightening her belly whilst vast relief flood over her. The urge to cry nearly brought tears to her eyes, yet the iron wall of a queen's ire kept her gaze bright and clear.

For the moment, it was best to let her daughter talk.

As if to divert from the absolute failure of her scouting venture, Cairo dived into what knowledge she had gleaned. Though it was useful, Nassar could not help but feel a small growl lift within her throat. Having had Cairo near, having been told would have been of far more use—or so the furious mother began to feel.

Her muzzle wrinkled as Cairo asked if she was well, and suddenly an emotion won its struggle for dominance. Of relief and rage, the latter had won.

“Do not bother asking.” Gray ears folded back as she rose stiffly to her paws. She was still weak from birth, but not so frail as to restrain herself.

“After the loss of your sister, I thought you would have known better than to get lost within mountains you do not know. Do you not remember what happened to your father?” Air rushed noisily through Nassar's nostrils as she reeled. For many nights, she had thought of her daughter dead. She had worried and she had stressed and she had feared and—

She had been forced to make a decision.

“I have not trained you well enough it seems.”

The matriarch shook her head.

“And you are no longer the obvious choice for the crown.”

Her eyes burned.

“I was forced to begin training for Ismailia and Badari for fear that you would not return.” After all, Cairo had been the last. “For what reason should I reinstate you? What have you proven to me of your leadership, Cairo?” Raw emotion filled her voice and though her words were sharp as a blade, pain lingered there too.

She wanted to embrace Cairo the way that she had embraced Ahkoris, but such a thing was not possible. Cairo was an heir, a crown princess. Such softness would only make her weak.



“my sin, my soul.”

STOCK ➤full credits ART + CODE ➤ twisty
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#3
Her mother listened to her in silence, not interrupting and not hinting at any apparent emotion. Cairo wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing, so she continued on with her apology, her explanation, her knowledge gained. And then the girl asked if her mother was well; it seemed, for some reason, that that questions the breaking point. That question revealed the truth behind her mother’s stoic facade, showing just a glimmer of the burning rage inside. Nassar’s nose wrinkled and Cairo flinched back under her fury. Honestly, though, she’d be surprised if her mother wasn’t angry. She knew the Tiamat flame well, and did not hold it against the Matriarch. This was how their family worked, harsh as it may be.


“Do not bother asking.” she snapped. Cairo opened her mouth to reply, but the Matriarch was not finished. “After the loss of your sister, I thought you would have known better than to get lost within mountains you do not know. Do you not remember what happened to your father?” The timber girl stiffened. Her affronted mind whispered: Of course, Her steadily brightening eyes flicked to the ground at Nassar’s feet, burning holes into the earth there.


“I have not trained you well enough it seems.” the criticism seeped into her, burning her skin and bringing the heat of shame and frustration to her cheeks. Her head bowed further in spite of her faintly wrinkled muzzle. She could take this. More training was required. And she would do it.


“And you are no longer the obvious choice for the crown.”


All other sounds within the forest were silenced, and only her mother’s words echoed eerily loud within her ears. Cairo’s sun-sparked eyes shot up, utter shock bright in her round gaze. “What?” Cairo sputtered, feeling the need to hear it again— surely, she must have heard wrong. But her mother went on ceaselessly. Ruthlessly.


“I was forced to begin training for Ismailia and Badari for fear that you would not return.” Now her mother’s voice was not so clear. With each word she spoke, it faded further into a fuzzy ringing within her head. Still though, she heard every word. She could feel her heart pounding heavily in her chest, breath quickening as adrenaline swept violently through her body, as if she were about to face a fearsome beast in a fight for her life.


In a way, she was.


“For what reason should I reinstate you? What have you proven to me of your leadership, Cairo?” The call of her name stopped the white noise, and her eyes refocused on her mother’s again. She stared at her, shock still swirling with in her gaze— but now other emotions were beginning to join the fray. Shock melted into confusion which mixed with hurt, and then finally settled on a mixture of betrayal and fury. What had she proven to her mother of her leadership? Quite suddenly she was now supposed to be proving herself for the crown— all because she had been gone for a blip of time.


“You were forced,” she repeated, and there was a sudden, thorough bitterness that pulled at her lips to reveal her young teeth. She couldn't help but scoff. “You would have one of Sinai’s bastard children to lead the Tiamats into the future instead of your own daughter? Because of one mistake?” she demanded.


“I was gone for quarter of a moon— is that really all it takes to lose the faith of my Matriarch? My Mother? Her fur was bristled, and the ends were quivering beneath her tension. Her mind was reeling, and it began to whisper very unpleasant, very vicious things.



“my sin, my soul.”
ART ➤Andiliion CODE➤ twisty


@Nassar
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#4


She felt her heart breaking with every word. Her body was a forest, her bones the trees. Each fur upon her body was an autumn leaf and the rage that curled within her belly was a fire. It ate along the seasoned wood, igniting a furious blaze that burned fiercely from toe to tail-tip. Amber eyes reflected the fury that rampaged within—though the more she spoke, the more her emotions became the smoke that brewed above the flame. Cloying were those mixed feelings, ones of uncertainty, of loss, of neglect, of revenge. Cairo had always seemed so militant, so perfect. She had been the perfect mix of Sinai and Nassar, the destined ruler for their people. And yet—now Nassar felt doubt, and that very feeling was a sword within her side. She wanted to yank it out, but she knew not what would happen once her insecurity was banished. Would Cairo be the crown princess? Could Nassar bear it if she wasn't?

Her chest constricted as a myriad of emotions reflected within her daughter's eyes. Hurt, confusion, alarm—each one was a tongue of flame to capture yellow eyes. Kohl's eyes.

Nassar's heart pounded furiously in her chest, its broken shards like kindling for the fire.

One mistake. Cairo's fur bristled as the young woman questioned her sentence. In Nassar's ears, she heard Karnak's voice: what about a fair trial? The matriarch had exploded then and she still did not regret her actions. However, the memory left a bitter taste upon her tongue.

“It was not one mistake.” Amber eyes flashed and the muscles jumped within the matriarch's jaw. “You have been reckless, Cairo.” In this, she felt her voice break slightly over her daughter's name. A hint of desperation, of motherly concern, colored the words in a warm golden hue. “The bear cave, hanging around that belligerent fool you seem so attached to, and now getting lost in the mountains,” Nassar began to unravel all that had worried her for so long.

What happened to my daughter?”

Her muzzle wrinkled and then she snapped her mouth shut. Of course she did not wish to choose one of Sinai's unlawful brood. And yet... Ismailia and Badari both had shown more dedication to their way of life than Cairo had. Their little family was breaking apart, tearing at the seams.

“Do you even want to be a part of this family any more?”

Nassar had been pregnant when Cairo had lost herself in the mountains. The matriarch could only assume that she had left, in part, as a means to escape. After all, the pair had never spoken about Nassar's union with Oberon. Mention had never been made of the younger siblings, and ultimately, Cairo had gotten lost when Nassar had been heavy with pups. The crown princess could not have been truly naive of the vulnerability in which she had left the matriarch. So... why? Why?

It was an accident, or so Cairo seemed to say, but it felt so... deliberate. It was not like her daughter to get lost unless she had ultimately lost herself.

“my sin, my soul.”

STOCK ➤full credits ART + CODE ➤ twisty
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#5
“It was not one mistake.” That’s news to me, her mind snapped in indignation. What else had she done? “You have been reckless, Cairo.” The speckled girl stood rigidly against her mother’s accusation and against the break in her voice. Cairo heard it— she could even hear the glint of desperation— but paired with the crown being ripped from her skull and insults thrown at her paws, Cairo could not believe any concern to be genuine. More, it felt like a Matriarch whose plans were, somehow, being compromised. “The bear cave, hanging around that belligerent fool you seem so attached to, and now getting lost in the mountains,” At the mention of Sanada, Cairo’s eyes hardened and her pelt bristled further. Why did her mother fail to see his worth? He was a valuable soldier and ally, and he’d been Cairo’s friend since they arrived in this hellish land.


And why was she being judged so harshly for her mistakes when Nassar’s had been ignored? Resentment in her heart grew.


“What happened to my daughter?” Cairo’s teeth were clenched, jaw resolutely shut as her eyes fell to the ground at Nassar’s feet once more. For some reason, her throat began to tighten. She felt as if she had disappointed her— what happened to my daughter — as if Cairo were no longer her daughter. She would not cry here, not in front of Nassar, not when she had to show he strength and defend herself. She swallowed, opening her mouth to respond. ‘I’m sorry,’ was perched upon her tongue, ‘I’m right here,’
But Nassar beat her to it.


“Do you even want to be part of this family anymore?”


“What?” Cairo said in disbelief for the second time in their conversation. “Why would you even ask that?” her voice was tense. She couldn’t fathom why her mother would think that she wouldn’t. “I didn’t get lost on purpose,” she said, almost exasperated. “I didn’t know what was in the cave, and you fought the bear too,” Defiance. We’re not so different, “And Sanada has trained me and has protected me and remained more loyal to me—,” than you, apparently, but she couldn’t finish the sentence. Even in her defiance, even in her indignation, she could not blatantly lash out at her mother.


Actually— no. She breathed out harshly through her teeth.


“What about your mistakes?” she questioned after a pause. “Why do we never get to talk about those?” Now-gleaming eyes met the fires of her mother’s, a fire she normally bent to— but she stood resolutely in her spot. If she was to be judged, so would her mother. “Fleeing our home, betraying Ankh, Father dying because of it.” She’d never explicitly blamed her mother for Kohl’s death, but the logic followed if Nassar wanted to be so picky about accidental happenstances based on choices. Words were meant to be blades; she wanted to flay her, to see something other than anger and judgement. She wanted things to be fair between them. And she wasn’t done. “Marrying a man who belongs to another kingdom, who isn’t loyal to you or Ilios and would gladly choose his kin over you if it came to it— who isn’t even here to give you the support a Matriarch deserves. Informing your own children about it at a pack meeting, never bothering to ask how we’d feel about it. Replacing me with Tiamats who shouldn’t even possess our name, but do because you changed the rules.” She let her own words tumble, the collection of everything that had been dwelling in her heart. “Do you still even want your family?” She challenged. “Or are you happy to build a new one and replace us one by one?”


Several heartbeats passed and she was filled with sudden regret. Her accusation about replacing them was outlandish, she knew that— but Nassar’s question had been equally so. Cairo’s eyes were burning now with guilt and rage and she couldn’t control the tear that slid down her muzzle. “We’ve stood by you without question. We trusted you and every choice you’ve made. Why can’t you do the same for me?"





x“my sin, my soul.”

ART ➤Andiliion CODE➤ twisty


@Nassar
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#6


Excuses.

Cairo didn’t know what was in the cave—(ah, so she had no nose and no sense of direction?). Nassar fought the bear too—(as though an adult warrior had the same risk of fatality as a yearling). Sanada had trained her—(had he? Evidently fighting lessons were not what the whelp needed). He protected her—(oh? He did a poor job in the caves). He was loyal to her—(oh? If so, he would have given a rat’s ass about Cairo’s future and brought her back).

Gray ears flicked as her daughter launched into mistakes of Nassar’s own. Though the matriarch had been prepared to rebuke her daughter for all of the arguments given, Nassar had not the time.

Fleeing our home. Betraying Ankh. Father dying.

What was a fire without orange and yellow? Together, they were one flame, yet both sought to burn the other.

Marrying a man who isn’t loyal, who is different, who was chosen without the consent of her children. Nassar forced a slow breath fill her lungs, though already she felt a growl rising within her chest and throat. She would have spoken if she had not felt each word be snuffed by an insufferable rage as every insecurity was aggressively pressed upon. Had bruises littered her skin, then Nassar’s daughter was gouging her finger into each one she could find.

Replacing Cairo with false Tiamats.

Building a new one and replacing the children that she had worked so hard for.

A tear slid from her daughter’s eye, but alas, it would not be enough to douse the fires. Her words, too, only salted the wound. If this was trust, if this was confidence, then it was a mockery of the sentiment.

“I have made mistakes, but I live with them, I stay with this family, I do my best to fix them.” A growl rumbled through her voice as she grit her teeth, forcing out each word. “Accuse me of what you like, but you have no right to accuse me of neglect.” What had her daughter done for this family? Linger in the shadows? Gallivant with a man that could not witness what Ilios was for her daughter’s livelihood and future?

The mere words had made Nassar wish to vomit.

After everything? After losing her daughter in the fire, going hungry to try and find her, after forging this mockery of a pack in an attempt to rebuild, after watching her daughter on death’s door for weeks, after sparing that peasant’s life, after scouring the forest during the final term of her pregnancy… everything she had done had not been enough.

“You have no right..”

The bridge had burned, the last cord had snapped.

Nassar shook with rage as she repeated herself, still reeling from the very accusation.

“Leave.”

“my sin, my soul.”

STOCK ➤full credits ART + CODE ➤ twisty
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#7
“I have made mistakes, but I live with them, I stay with this family, I do my best to fix them.” her mother growled, her body tense— and Cairo knew the fire was just beneath paper-thin skin. Identical fire burned beneath hers as well. Perhaps once Nassar had thought that Cairo had possessed pieces of Sinai— some semblance of softness. But no… it seemed, as the two flared hotter and brighter at one another, their fires were all too similar. And it was bound to create an explosion. Cairo scoffed again. I do my best to fix them -- was she really? What, exactly, was she doing? The timber girl would have demanded the question, if her mother had not continued.


“Accuse me of what you would like, but you have no right to accuse me of neglect.” Was that Cairo had been accusing her of? “Oh, none of us accuse you of that,” she glowered back. “You have made mistakes, and we live with them.” She supplemented. We stick with you in spite of it all, because that’s what we do.” She’d never heard her mother admit to any mistakes she made, never heard her apologize for them like Cairo had.


“You have no right..”


Indeed, the bridge was burning brightly. The last string that connected them, mother and daughter, was fraying and fringing. It was smoking, singeing--


“I have every right.” The girl snarled, her own fury, her own indignation shaking her body. “I am a Tiamat.”


“Leave.”


-- it was crumbling to ashes—


A single word with the weight of the world. Even with their smoking bridges and ashen cords, Cairo hadn’t expected this. But maybe she should have. She started questioning her Mother, and she was told to leave. To leave. He lip curled, her eyes burned brightly. She’s weak, take her, her mind whisper, but she stomped down the venomous thoughts. No. Cairo still had honor. Her blood was still golden, even if her mother’s had turned black.


“You’re making another mistake.”


And with that Cairo whirled around, leaving her mother just as she demanded.



- exit cairo // unless stopped-


x“my sin, my soul.”

ART ➤Andiliion CODE➤ twisty


@Nassar
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#8


“You do not, evidently,” Nassar snarled, barely allowing her daughter to finish a barbed retort. “You get lost in mountains.” Vitriol dripped from her tongue as she regarded the lost princess. Mere moments before, Nassar had been bathing in the sun, more or less at peace despite the stress that had worn her down. Cairo had returned home, though Nassar had not been informed. When first the girl had approached, a sense of joy had burned within the matriarch's heart before fury had torched it, blackening it to a crisp. Cairo had seemed so dutiful, so "understanding" of the resources Ilios had wasted in looking for her. Now, the raw entitlement flooded forth.

Cairo did not care about the pack or her family, she cared about her crown. Give her that, and peace would be restored.

Which was why she had every right to stamp her feet and tear apart what little of the relationship that still remained.

“You are a Tiamat no longer,” Nassar seethed.

As her daughter turned tail to leave, the matriarch felt the urge to leap at her and tackle her into the dust. However, she was still weakened from birth. It was infuriating, and she felt a growl rise within her throat. It thundered through her chest and reverberated through her belly.

She was making a mistake? No. One had already been made.

“I know,” she hissed at her daughter's back. “And that mistake was ever crowning you.”

- exit nassar -




“my sin, my soul.”

STOCK ➤full credits ART + CODE ➤ twisty
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