Posts by Mercy Reaver

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    For once, the molly didn't carry an air of grief as she entered the meeting room. Her strides were purposeful and her head was held high, her brow furrowed. She didn't look upset, per say, but... perhaps just a little troubled. So much had been going on lately, and she would admit that things had been fairly stressful, but... Mercy couldn't help but feel like she'd been handling herself much better these days, keeping it together with more ease. She liked to think it had something to do with her heart to heart with Ver — her confession, their declarations of love and loyalty, the reminder that Ver would always have her back no matter what. Did she deserve it? Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. But no matter what, Mercy was grateful. She would always have the support of Ver — and the rest of her beloved Shadow Veil.

    "Please gather for this week's meeting." Her voice was strong as she sprang atop the customary rock, the shadows clinging to her face very still. She had to resist the urge to shuffle to one side and leave a space that would forever remain empty. Once her clanmates had seated themselves, she went on. "A warm welcome to NINE-S , D. FABER , GHOSTPEPPER , Adelaide R.E.A. , Cadis , and Rami , and welcome back to my daughter, ALLIE . I'd also like to formally welcome mine and Charlotte's kids: LITTLEPAW. , vanillapaw !! , shiningkit , wintersoldier. , HONEYKIT , and ABSINTHEKIT- . Shadow Veil's happy to have all of you here with us." There was a gentle smile on her face as she spoke, seeking out each face in the crowd through hollow eyes.

    ooc: retro to the attack & the rest of the meeting will be posted tomorrow afternoon/night! i've been really busy lately, thank you for your patience!!

    /retro to attack

    At this point Mercy was used to her first litter being at least a little out of reach — though to be fair, Cass was still fairly close, but it would never be the same as living alongside her. So she liked to think that Lovedove's departure hadn't impacted her as deeply as it could've, but she would've been lying if she claimed not to have been upset by it. "Lovedove!" A purr rumbled in the molly's throat as she hurried over, leaning close to nuzzle her affectionately. "It's so nice to see you again. Y'know, you've got a bunch of little siblings now."

    She'd headed out that morning with an empty satchel and the intent of collecting herbs at the Waterway; there were certain plants that only grew in damp, sunny areas that she liked to have at least a decent supply of at all times. It was a trip she frequently took — the walk wasn't terribly long, and she always made it back within a few hours of leaving. The sun was beginning to set and the air was growing colder, though, and the infirmary's empty shelves still had yet to be restocked. Mercy's scent was stale, with no sign of the molly anywhere on the territory.

    Until, finally, she stepped over the border on shaky paws. Her satchel was missing, long forgotten in her panic. The shadows clinging to her face were churning rapidly, making her vision swim more than it already was from the pain threatening to overwhelm her.

    Blood gushed freely from a deep gash in her flank, where the flesh had been violently torn away. It coated her throat as well, dripping somewhat less generously from a set of deep puncture wounds. Her breathing was ragged, her gait uneven. It was a wonder that she'd managed to make it back on her feet, but it wasn't long after entering the Whispering Pines that her trembling legs finally gave out and she collapsed in a gasping, bloodstained heap.

    The scent of fear was practically radiating from her, and stronger than that was the Hyperian Isles.

    Mercy's eyes were heavy-lidded as she idly watched her daughter play with the office's toy, leaning back in her chair with her arms crossed. She hadn't been sleeping much lately on account of her nightmares, which only seemed to have been exacerbated by Lily's... situation. Waking up tired was something she'd grown used to, but it never helped her ignore the weariness that stubbornly plagued her. Maybe she ought to look into starting on sleeping pills or something.

    She checked her phone every now and again, scrolling through social media or sending Charlotte and Ver a quick text to check in. Overall, though, her efforts to entertain herself proved fruitless until she eventually stood up. Her gaze lingered on the office's large fish tank for a moment before she took a few steps forward and crouched down beside her daughter with a gentle smile. "Mind if I play with you?"

    It was rare these days that Cassiopeia visited the Pines; more often than not, Mercy was the one to seek her out. She'd accepted the fact that these woods made her daughter uncomfortable — she could understand how some might find the dense undergrowth claustrophobic and the intense gloom oppressive. Even if it was strange to her, considering how much of a comfort those exact same qualities were to her. It saddened her deeply that Cass would never be able to live here with her; all she wanted was for her entire family to live happily together with no worries at all. But at the same time, she knew she herself could never manage a dual alliance — leadership was immensely demanding and it felt as though she couldn't look away for one second before something went wrong or someone got hurt. How could she spend days away from this place when so much could happen when her back was turned? So many things she could prevent if she could only stop being so neglectful.

    Naturally, suddenly catching the scent of her eldest daughter in the heart of the forest came as a surprise. She furrowed her brow as she breathed it in, confusion written across her face before she set to following the trail. How urgent was whatever this situation was that she'd marched right across the border? Was Wind Haven under attack? She picked up the pace, slowly realizing that wherever Cass intended on going, it wasn't the camp. Unless she's lost; I don't think she's ever been to the ruins. But...


    The scene she came across was heartbreaking. Twilightzone's grave, freshly tidied up, and Cass hunched over it. The clearing was quiet, almost unnervingly so. She was so used to the sound of her own pitiful sobbing reverberating off the trees as she mourned her late partner.

    On one hand, she'd expected Cass to be moved by the loss of one of her mothers. On the other, a part of her was almost surprised by this; Cass and Twilightzone had never been especially close — their relationship was nothing compared to that of Cass and Mercy. Then again, nothing could quite match what the two of them had.

    A fresh wave of grief washed over her as she slowly approached her daughter and sat down beside her. Shadowy eyes drifted to Cass' face, which bore such a pained expression. In spite of the younger molly's boundaries, she reached out and moved to gently place her forepaw on top of Cass'. Admittedly, she wasn't entirely sure of what to say. "I miss her, too," she eventually decided on. "Is there... anything you wanna talk about?"

    Hours had passed since her and Ver's return from the Painted Brigade, and though she'd been seething just earlier that day, her anger had fizzled. In its place was... a strange, unpleasant feeling. Guilt danced about in her mind, coupled with a nearly overwhelming sense of worry. The more she thought about it, the more clear it became that she really had been more aggressive lately, more impatient, more eager to jump into wars. Perhaps it was the stress of leadership and politics; Feliks, Kingpin, and Sal were truly grating on her, with their condescension and deplorable actions. But... she'd never dealt with conflict like this before — she'd always prided herself on how level-headed she was, had often questioned Littlestar when her friend was too hasty in the name of skirmishes and wars.

    How interesting it was that Faisal was the one to make her realize that. She couldn't stop thinking about it — this man that her beloved girlfriend absolutely despised, a man she'd heard so many unsavory tales about was making more sense than any of them combined. His words still echoed in her mind; his stance on the conflict as well as his outburst directed at Ver alone. He really isn't the same man. She supposed it was easier for her to digest than Ver, whose family had suffered so much because of him. Right? Uncertainty plagued her as she approached the coyote, whom she'd spotted alone in the woods, unsure of what exactly she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. Faisal almost felt like forbidden, uncharted territory. Something she wasn't meant to interact with. "Faisal...? Can we talk?"


    Perhaps Hyperion was oblivious to the name uttered by this man, but Mercy was most certainly not. ShadowClan. It sent a chill down her spine as she approached. At this point, after all that had happened, it felt like a different clan entirely. Such a different era — one she associated with war and bloodshed, treason and loss. There were very few people nowadays from that time, and she much preferred it that way; reminders of her birth clan and potential connections to the people she'd betrayed were never a good thing.

    A part of her was tempted to inform this stranger that ShadowClan no longer existed; it had been lost to time, reshaped into something so much better than the anti-clan monstrosity it had once been. But that might give him an opportunity to ask questions Mercy didn't care to answer, and so she kept her mouth shut and simply waited for him to answer Hyperion.

    Ver was quick to counter Faisal with thinly-veiled aggression, and Mercy only watched as the Shaderunner approached and addressed him. She didn't pull her punches, showing no patience for her old enemy — and Mercy couldn't say she blamed her. Even if he hadn't been directly responsible for what happened to Sangria, it had still happened under his watch, and she had no idea what else had occurred between the two of them. It didn't feel like it was her business to snoop and find out. Either way, she would support Ver through this, just as she always (and perhaps inexplicably) supported Mercy.

    Eventually Ver made her way back to Mercy and Junepaw, extending a comforting gesture to the both of them. It so starkly contrasted the gruesome promise she made, which sent a chill down the molly's spine. "You'll be the one to slit that bastard's throat." How terribly familiar that was. It didn't sit well with her, instead sending discomfort pulsing through her as old memories slowly threatened to emerge from the depths of her mind once more.

    Hyperion's attitude was much tamer in comparison, but his sentiment was similar enough. Still visibly thrown off, Mercy looked up at him for a moment before her attention was recaptured by Faisal. His temper was flaring and he spoke with such startling ferocity. Innocent members. With a furrowed brow she thought back to the young girl who'd openly challenged both Kingpin and Sal, who'd apologized for her clanmates' abhorrent behavior. Sal had easily shrugged her off and Ver had been cold toward her, refusing the apology. Had she been punished for her words? Or at least come under scrutiny? Standing up to two older clanmates, one of them being her leader, in front of enemies must have been incredibly daunting. She... she didn't deserve to be caught in the crossfire over something that was out of her control, something she undoubtedly opposed. The Painted Brigade isn't a hivemind. No clan is.

    The alignment of a clan or the opinions of its leader didn't speak for all of its members; she knew that full well, having been impossibly peaceful during her childhood as an anti-clan kitten surrounded by violence. But more and more she found herself pigeonholing entire groups of people, boxing them into tight little categories to make it easier for herself to call for their slaughter. All she'd done lately was jump headfirst into conflicts and arguments, wishing war upon so many people who... probably didn't deserve it. There were good people in every clan; one bad apple didn't spoil the bunch. Laika made it clear that she disagreed with Feliks' actions, after all, and Mercy had nearly declared war on the entirey of the Thunderlands for the misdeeds of one man. And Shadow Veil was much larger than the Painted Brigade, could easily wipe out their clan if they called upon at least one ally for assistance, and that thought just seemed so tempting... what was wrong with her? It felt like she was falling deeper into a violent mentality, an anti-clan mentality. I'm not like that. I'm not like Sango and my murderer and everyone else. I'm a pro-clanner. But then why was she so hesitant to break off the alliance with the Sanguine Ruins? Why was she so willing to sentence an entire clan to death for the wrongdoings of two people, even though she'd seen for herself that their mindset wasn't unanimous? All her life she'd tried so hard not to be the person she was expected to be as a child — why was she slipping now?

    Faisal's sudden shout made her jump, and all she could do was watch with round eyes as he marched off in anger. Adara swiftly filled the silence, and her first question seemed almost inappropriate after what had been said. "I..." What was she supposed to say? What was she supposed to do? Suddenly, launching a full-blown raid seemed far less appealing and far more barbaric, but she knew that simply demanding for Sal to be handed over would get them nowhere — just as it had last time. "Faisal and Hyperion are right," she said finally. "We need to be focusing on Sal and his supporters, not the whole clan. But... how? What do we do?" There was discomfort in her expression as she spoke. Regret as well. Maybe it wasn't professional or reassuring for a clan leader to be asking such a thing, but it was all she could think to do.

    i can see these two becoming good friends! she could educate him on the veil's history and/or herbs - and if he knows a lot about astronomy then she'd be interested in learning from him :0c

    In the midst of a particularly quiet afternoon, Mercy emerged from the infirmary with pricked ears and glanced around the camp. "Everyone, I'm holding a first aid lesson, so please join me in the infirmary if you're interested." She figured this would be easier than moving a boatload of supplies back and forth as she normally did for this sort of thing. "I'm also looking for a new Spiritcaller student or two; let me know if that's something that interests you. But I recommend everyone attends, even if you don't wanna be a Spiritcaller." With that, she ducked back into the building and took a seat among everything she'd laid out.

    Mercy had been sleeping lightly when she heard the creaking sound of the door. Soft voices soon accompanied it, and after a few moments she blinked her eyes open to see a few figures at the stone house's entrance. Still fuzzy-headed, the molly slowly sat up and focused her shadowy vision before realizing just who she was looking at. Right! It was Littlekit's first day out. She quickly got to her paws and padded over to join the group, relief written all over her face; it had been immensely difficult to watch Littlekit suffer the way she had for so many months, and she was beyond grateful to whatever god was up there for her eventual recovery.

    She hadn't expected such a tumultous beginning for any of her children, especially not Littlekit... she'd thought naming her daughter after Littlestar would give her more strength, in a way. But then again, one needed to be very strong to overcome such terrible illness at this age — perhaps the girl deserved more credit.

    Reaching out with her plumy tail, she lightly stroked Littlekit's back. "It's good to see you out and about," she murmured, and then flashed her older clanmates a smile. "Hyperion's right — the entire clan is your family. He and Adara especially are good people to go to if you ever need anything." Her words were genuine; the two of them were some of the more reliable Veilers she knew, even if she wasn't especially close with either of them. Perhaps that needed to change.

    It was a good thing that Mercy hadn't been there to see Honeykit playing with the snake, or else she would've swiftly cut the kitten's fun short. Even if they weren't a venemous species, she did not like the idea of one of her children messing around with an animal that could bite, or maybe even eat them if it tried hard enough... Maybe she was overreacting, but it was just so easy to worry.

    She emerged from the infirmary as her daughter's voice rose up, glancing around before her gaze rested on the kitten's fluffy form. Honeykit appeared to be shouting at something with vigor, and by the way she spoke and dramatically collapsed it almost seemed as though she were acting in some sort of play. An amused smile crept onto her face as she approached. "Oh my!" she gasped theatrically. "My dear sweet daughter! What ever has happened to her?" As she spoke, the molly dropped to a crouch and reached out a forepaw to lightly poke Honeykit's cheek.

    It was a relief to get away from the canyon, and an even bigger one to have brought Rami along with her; she couldn't stand the idea of children being subjected to the Exiles' brutality, even if all they did was witness it. That alone could be immensely damaging — she knew that well enough through her own experiences. "This is the Whispering Pines. It's where Shadow Veil lives," she explained, and then furrowed her brow at his next question as she thought of all of the recent attacks. "Well... sometimes bears lurk on the border, but as long as you stay around the camp or stick by your older clanmates, I promise you'll be safe. One of our clanmates is actually a bear, but he's very nice and won't hurt you."

    "Wow, these look really nice." The molly's tone was appreciative as she approached, curiously studying all the intricately made baskets with pricked ears. The bows were certainly a nice touch — she'd always had an eye for aesthetics, and Sylvan was certainly appealing to that. "I could take one to Volary Flights since I'm their ambassador. You're free to come along if you want."

    Maybe there really was no such thing as a truly good or truly bad person. It was something she'd understood as a child, growing up with the burden of knowing that nearly everyone she loved had tortured or killed at least one person in their lives for hardly any reason at all. No one was infallible and no one was pure evil; even the most abhorrent people had someone they cared deeply for, something they would protect at all costs. And even those who seemed to be able to do no wrong had their dirty little secrets, things best kept hidden. She'd seen the best and worst in humanity during her youth, had watched those she loved create such havoc and terror and the people she despised show such startling tenderness. Her own parents had been that way; Sans had even criticized her for crying over a freshly killed pro-clanner when she was a little girl, and Sango had, of course, demonstrated personally to Mercy just how brutal she could be if pushed too far.

    Somewhere down the line, though, this lesson seemed to have been lost. She always found herself so startled by Exilers who showed her any semblance of humanity, ranging from Breakdance's affinity for peacefully conversing with her on the border to the generosity Angelkisses had shown in giving Mercy food and water while she was locked away in a prison cell. Despite all she'd acknowledged as a child, it was almost as though she didn't want to think everyone had at least a little bit of good in them; it was so much harder to demonize the enemy that way. How else was she supposed to call for the Exiles' slaughter when she knew they laughed and cried and loved and lost just like Shadow Veil? Just like her?

    It went the other way as well; even if the atrocities she'd committed were far in the past, they had still occurred. They still tainted her — one couldn't just come back from murdering their beloved relative and generating such devastating collateral damange. She would forever be a traitorous, amoral sinner, no matter how hard she tried to convince the people around her of otherwise. No matter how hard she tried to convince herself. She'd certainly done a good job at that; for so long she'd foolishly believed that everything she'd ever done was perfectly justified. For all she'd known (or thought to have known) to rapidly crumble around her was more overwhelming than anything in the world. She almost wished she could have remained ignorant to her own transgressions, for Barghest to have stayed dead a second time like he was supposed to, like Sekhmet had sworn he would—

    For the umpteenth time she stopped herself from thinking such terrible thoughts, guilt ferociously washing over her. I'm such a horrible niece. I'm such a horrible person! For so long she had wished nothing but suffering upon Barghest, and she was trying so hard to strive for peace with him — it was too easy to slip back into old habits, like second nature. She absolutely despised that about herself. She'd spent nearly her whole life hating a man for acting in the best interest of both Mercy and their entire clan, and it disgusted her.

    I'm so disgusting. Ver had always cherished her family and loved ones so deeply — even if she and Barghest were enemies beyond a shadow of a doubt, even if she wanted Barghest dead herself, how could she not find fault in Mercy for slaying her own kin? Someone she was supposed to love herself? Someone she had loved and idolized as a child, someone she so desperately wanted to love once more?

    She flinched as Ver started toward her and reached out, expecting to be struck for real. Maybe I deserve it. But all she felt was a gentle touch. She drew away despite herself, breaking the contact with a remorseful grimace. I don't deserve anything but pain. She already had such an intimate relationship with suffering, had always wondered why fate seemed to be so cruel to her. Maybe it was some sort of divine retribution for all the terrible things she'd done throughout her life. And this would be the nail in the coffin, first Ver's loathing and then Charlotte's, and then the rest of the Veil before she had no choice but to leave, or perhaps they would chase her out—

    Her eyes stretched wide at Ver's outburst. With her jaws slightly parted she gaped up at the other, stunned by this response — a polar opposite to what she'd been expecting. There was no repugnance, no anger, no regret. It was a declaration of loyalty. Why? Ver knew so much — too much — and yet she still wanted to stand by her side. Either Ver had no morals or she was terribly, terribly naive. She just doesn't know the full story. All she has to go off of is whatever Twilightzone told her, and she probably wasn't even all there when she told her. A part of her now wanted to tell Ver the full story herself, just to prove to her that she was a person beyond redemption, someone Ver had no business loving. But that would mean she would lose her, and Mercy didn't know if she could handle that. At this point, she wasn't fully certain of what to think about anything. So many conflicting emotions danced around in her whirling mind, steadily eating away at her, threatening to drive her off the deep end.

    What Ver proclaimed next was immensely jarring. Why wouldn't he deserve me? It's the other way around. I... She had to remind herself that, despite their relationship, Barghest was still the leader of the Exiles. It was such a strange thing; she hardly ever counted him as a true Exiler even though he'd told her himself that they were his people. The Exiles, her enemy. Everyone's enemy. Why did he have to do this to her? He wanted peace, wanted to be a family again, but here he was romping about with the only clan that was so far out of reach and always would be, the clan that would forever be locked in a war with her own. I'm blaming him again. I need to stop pinning everything on him. But it's true. Why did he join the Exiles when all they do is hurt people? Why does he want to be my family again when all I do is hurt people? Maybe she ought to run off to the Exiles and join up with them herself; she'd be a perfect fit, wouldn't she?

    She was getting off track. Her thoughts were straying here and there; her mind felt like a hurricane raging about, making it impossible to focus on one thing at a time. It felt like she was coming apart at the seams. Why couldn't she just break already and be done with it?

    "That's just it!" she yelled right back. "All I've ever done is tear my family apart! My mom wanted me dead for what I did to Barghest and— and maybe she was right! I killed my own uncle! And for what? For doing what was best for the clan..." She'd initially been able to match Ver's crescendo, but as she went on her voice fizzled out, overtaken by sobs. Her legs gave out and she fell back into a sitting position, hunching over with her head hanging shamefully. "I punished him for doing the right thing and my whole family suffered for it. Sango, Candy, Fayina..." With a trembling lip she looked back up at Ver, her face a mask of fear. "What if I hurt you next? Why stand by me when all I do is destroy everything?"

    Mutual silence followed the confession, deafening in its intensity. Fear sprouted in the midst of that lull, sending waves of anxiety through her and nearly making her tremble. What was she so afraid of? Admitting relation to a man widely viewed as abhorrent? Admitting that all of this was her fault?

    ...Was it?

    If she hadn't killed Barghest, would he still be a loyal Shadow Veiler? Had he felt so haunted by his birth clan and all that had transpired that he'd felt it necessary to leave, same as she had as an adolescent? And if none of this had happened — if she hadn't been so weak and heartless and tore her family apart — and he'd still wound up in the Exiles, would he have been more inclined to leave and come home to her? To a niece that wasn't a sinful whore of a woman, a niece who had done nothing but love him unconditionally because, in the end, all he'd really wanted (and all he'd had no choice but to do) was to put a stop to a little girl's suffering?

    And then he paid the ultimate price for it.

    A dreadful sinking feeling in her stomach accompanied the realization. I'm not like Barghest. I'm worse. She wanted to flee, wanted to run and run and run until she reached that horror of a canyon and beg for the retribution that Barghest deserved. He wanted peace and despite what she'd been telling herself, she seemed to be so inexplicably resistant to it — was the only way to achieve that to return the favor and let him vanquish her? He would be free of her draining, destructive influence, and she would no longer feel that soul-crushing guilt at having turned two close friends against one another, at having taken away a beloved father to so many (Candy, Fayina, Calina, and countless others), at having murdered an uncle who'd done nothing but act in her own interest until she gave him no choice but to turn his own heart to ice.

    But then what? She would die and return to the torturous, tumultuous existence that was the afterlife, and Barghest would have to live with the trauma of killing his niece for a second time after the first brought about so much suffering in its own right. Ver and Charlotte and the entirety of Shadow Veil would throw themselves at him with so much more ferocity than before, screaming for vengeance in the name of a woman they'd mistakenly placed their faith in. They all thought she was a pure-hearted person who wanted only the best for everyone, when all she'd ever done was tear down the people she was supposed to love.

    That aside, she didn't want to die. She'd built so much for herself; she had a devoted wife and girlfriend and a bounty of children, all of whom she adored. Shadow Veil as a whole was her family, and the thought of losing it or leaving it all behind broke her heart. But did she deserve all of it? What right did she have to this wonderful life? Was it selfish of her to keep it?

    Selfish or not, she found herself feeling so unbelievably lucky as Ver sank to the ground before her, laying her paws down on top of Mercy's in such a tender gesture, a silent reassurance that everything would be okay. If only.

    She didn't want to answer the first question. So much had happened; it would take an eternity to explain it all, to properly translate the nuance of this delicate situation. And above that, no matter what sort of explanation she managed to come up with, in the end someone would be the bad guy, the villain in this tragic tale. Herself or Barghest. Which did she want? Barghest absolutely did not deserve to be further demonized after all she had done to him. But the former would shatter her; from the very beginning she'd been terrified of anything getting out in the event that she paid the price for it. This was why she'd been in such a panic when she first collapsed on Shadow Veil's border that day, this was why she'd been so hesitant to reach out and form any sort of bond with these people. In the end, life always had a way of stealing everything away from her, and she had never wanted to hold anything closer to her than her beloved Shadow Veil. This clan, one she'd once despised with every fiber of her being, was her rock, her lifeline. And now everything was hanging in the balance. This conversation truly would change everything.

    More than she had initially expected. The next two questions hit her like gunfire, sending her stumbling back as though she'd been struck across the face. "What?" Twilightzone told her about that? Betrayal rose up within her, coupled with sheer horror. When had she mentioned that? And why? What had she been thinking? She'd always known how sensitive of a subject it was for Mercy, and she would assume not discussing the way your girlfriend sent a hitman after her own uncle would be common fucking sense. What else did Ver know? The way Twilightzone had been paid? The reasoning behind the job? No, even Twilightzone didn't know that. But Ver had proven herself to be extremely perceptive with these two questions — why did she have to make that slip up with Ivorybones? — and Mercy was beginning to wonder if the woman she loved would ultimately be her downfall.

    But there was no anger or disgust in Ver's gaze, nor in the way she spoke. She just... wanted to get to the bottom of it. Mercy could understand that; she had every right to want to end her ignorance, especially after all she'd witnessed. But how long would this passive desire last before it morphed into revulsion?

    "Twilightzone— she was delirious before she died. Sh-she— used to be a Cartelian hitman; probably got her names mixed up while she was telling you ab...about an old job. Why would I want anyone dead? Why would I want my own family dead?" She spoke shakily, stuttering all the way through, terror steadily seeping into her tone. The last sentence came out sharply, though, almost like an accusation. It wasn't at all convincing, not even to her own ears.

    I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself—

    The shadows were churning again, making her vision swim. She couldn't see it for herself, but she knew there were tendrils creeping along her face again, giving her the appearance of a glass statue about to shatter into a million pieces. She certainly felt like one. The fact that it had taken her this long to fall apart was almost surprising, but she'd known this day would eventually come. She just... hadn't expected it to be so painful.

    It wasn't long before Ver approached of her own accord, without being beckoned. Mercy knew exactly why before anything was even said; it wasn't as though she'd been particularly subtle about any of this, try as she might, and Ver was bound to run out of patience eventually. To be completely honest, the fact that it had taken this long was a little surprising. To be fair, she'd made a handful of attempts at gleaning some information thus far, but in the heat of the moment when she was so caught up in the chaos, the stress, it was too easy to shut Ver — and everyone else — out. She was just so tired of being such a crybaby, openly bawling her eyes out over every little thing as she'd done in her youth. But then again, was zipping her lips and closing herself off entirely really any better?

    Ver's greeting was tender. A ghost of a smile danced across her lips at the kiss, but it quickly faded as the request came, delivered just as gently. Mercy looked up into her girlfriend's eyes, holding her gaze for a few silent moments. Ver had an air of inquisitiveness about her, and there was a sense of urgency as well despite the simple question. But it wasn't really so simple. It never was.

    "Of course." Her voice wavered ever so slightly. Drawing in a slow, deep breath, she started walking on silent paws through the trees. The woods felt almost too quiet. Everything felt a little off, in fact, as did she; apprehension was rapidly beginning to blossom within her, its pallid petals almost choking her as they unfurled, leaving her with a tight feeling in her throat. An unspoken question hung heavily in the air, and she was so unbelievably terrified to address it.

    There was no danger in confessing to ever having slain Barghest, that much she could deduce; he was an enemy to Shadow Veil regardless of his prior allegiance, and these people who'd only lived in the present would never see him as anything else. That realization had come as an immense relief to her — she wasn't guilty of treason, not in this era. It was the personal aspect of it that posed an issue: he was her loving uncle, and she had murdered him. And then he came back and never let my torment end. Once again, a bitter feeling rose up in her throat like bile at the thought, but an icy wave of guilt quickly washed over and soundly drowned it. It was a constant back and forth, had been so since the previous day's ordeal, and it was exhausting. She didn't know what to think or who to blame. Who had truly brought about this mutual hell? The answer was beginning to feel increasingly obvious, and she didn't like it one bit. It went against everything she'd ever known. Everything she'd convinced herself to believe. How blind was she?

    Abruptly she stopped walking. The shadows clinging to her face, normally so still, were beginning to pulse again with a steady rhythm. It was making her vision swim, as though she were looking out from beneath a dark sheet of rippling water. First she looked to Ver, taking in her beautiful face, and then her gaze dropped to a lone flower off to the side. Why was it so difficult to meet her eyes?

    She was afraid of what she would see in them once she revealed the truth.

    But there was no going back now. Maybe it was for the best that she was finally confronting her past head on instead of running away like she always did. Avoiding reminders of what her life had once been had ultimately gotten Twilightzone killed. Mercy was so sick of leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. Just once, she wanted to truly do right by someone.

    Ver could be that someone; Mercy was done stringing her along, hoping and praying that she would keep her mouth shut about an issue that could in no way be ignored. Ver didn't deserve that stress, not in the slightest. She'd always been such a loyal partner, never once losing her faith in Mercy despite the fact that she'd been given so many valid reasons to do so. Through thick and thin she remained unwaveringly supportive, and day after day Mercy realized over again just how lucky she was to have someone like her in her life. She needed to stop taking her for granted. She needed to return the favor and trust her.

    And so she finally looked up again with such a sorrowful look on her delicate face, and she finally stopped running.

    "Barghest is my uncle."

    Though Mercy would of course accept her children in any and all forms, she'd honestly been hoping none of them would possess any strange characteristics. Or, perhaps more specifically, there was a single attribute she'd been worried about: shadows. It wasn't that she would judge her children, of course — she couldn't imagine looking down on them for anything in the world. It was their own well-being that concerned her; the shadows clinging to her eyes had caused her enough grief to last a lifetime, ranging from embarrassment resulting from strange looks to desperately wishing not to look so hollow. Seeing that none of them had been born with the same affliction had come as an immense relief.

    As such, Vanillakit's eyes had caught her completely off guard. Starkly her opposite, the angelic glow almost reminded her of a... purer version of herself, perhaps. What did it mean, she often wondered? Was it a sign that there was hope for her yet? That she wasn't only capable of hurting others? Instead of cursing her son, he'd been blessed with such an ethereal sort of beauty.

    It hadn't taken her a very long time to figure out that this blessing may have been more akin to a curse in disguise. Her son's blindness had broken her heart — not that there was anything inherently wrong with having such a disability, but she bemoaned the fact that he would never be able to experience the world like his siblings. At least he'd been born with it instead of losing his sight later in life; he was already confident in his movements, navigating with ease. It was all he'd known, after all, and of course Mercy would love him all the same.

    That wasn't to say she wouldn't worry, of course. Even if he could navigate, a young boy who couldn't see was at risk of being stepped on, or getting lost, or anything else a worrywart of a mother could think up. As such, she was quick to stir when she heard Vanillakit's inquisitive voice, quickly accompanied by more of his siblings. Lifting her head and blinking the sleep from her eyes, Mercy cast her shadowy gaze downward at her children — goodness, they'd already grown so much — with a furrowed brow. Honeykit and Littlekit were peering into Littlekit's parted jaws. "What're you three doing?" Shifting closer, she craned her neck to get a look for herself, her brows shooting up at the sight. "Oh, your teeth! It looks like you're growing little... you're bleeding!" She jumped to her paws as the realization struck her. "How badly does it hurt? Let's run to the infirmary to get you some medicine. Maybe I could make you tea?" She knew a good one to ease the pain of a toothache, but did this even count as a toothache? It was either that or giving him a poppy seed, and she didn't want to make him drowsy first thing in the morning.