Featuring Rhinestone and Felina
Autumn Year 752 of the New Age
Silver Vale, Silverthorne
The pale doe had never known anything like the confusion the news she had just received. Her ears were flattened against her neck, fear coursing through her. Daddy wouldn’t just disappear and leave them would he? The perlino filly had grown, she was long legged, with a grace about her already despite her young age. Her mane was a short crop of wavy curls now, and her tail feathers were already long for her age. Where was Rhi? He would know what to do, wouldn’t he? Loping towards the herd, ears pricked and looking for the familiar dark coat of her fawn hood friend.
The little hind was built tall, and delicate. Breathing in all the scents, confusion hit her. She was too young to fully understand what the fall brought, but old enough to understand her older friend would be off chasing does. Rolling her eyes, she pranced around for a moment, trying to pinpoint his scent. More concerning, was her mother’s reaction. Her golden mother had never blinked in the face of scary situations- but.. the news of the massive stag that was her father going missing? Juno had crumpled to the ground, just silently staring away as though her world had just shattered. The doe had only turned dead eyes on her daughter to smile weakly, “Daddy’s just on a special patrol is all..” She had assured the young hind.
Fel’s heart raced, Rhine always made her feel better. Ears forward, the little hind stopped a hoof. She wanted to play and forget and pretend that Daddy was just on a patrol! Her mother had told her to tell no one; and so the little hind would obey as she had been taught to do. But news spread fast in this herd, even with rut in full swing- little did the filly know. Ears pricking with excitement as she saw her dark coated friend prancing for some other young does, and the little hind bounded over, “Rhine!” She called, hopeful blue eyes locked on him. Her childish voice was happy, excited- already masking her despair and fear over her father. Tail flagged out, unaware of what she was interrupting, she danced over. Rhinestone
This autumn had brought changes about Rhine that he hadn’t even known would happen. He’d filled out, no longer that little lanky thing with ribs poking out of his sides and hip-bones slightly showing.
The lankiness was replaced by muscles, which quickly began to cover his ribs and hide his hip bones. He’d lost his scraggly look, his chest and belly hair growing long, his once stubbly little beard growing out. His coat didn’t look ragged anymore, it’d taken on a slick sheen. He’d begun to be attracted by the does, more than he had before, and they seemed to be more attracted to him.
The way he understood it was that this year, his 5th year, was the age that he could sire fawns, causing his appearance to change and his hormones to run wild.
So, that’s what he was doing this fine autumn day. Out prancing around for the girls, even though he had no desire to sire any fawns as of yet. He just felt like flirting. It was his favorite game.
He had the complete and total attention of the two does that he was flirting with. They were two beautiful pale does, with shiny coats and long manes and tails. They were watching him prance about. One of them looked thoroughly impressed, as if she was about to approach him and talk to him. The other looked somewhere in the middle, glancing from Rhine to another, paler colt off to the right a little ways, who was also trying to capture the attentions of the does.
Rhine let out a low snort at the pale buck, ears pinning to his skull. What the heck was he doing, trying to steal his thunder!? Letting out another snort, this one louder, he raised himself up onto his hind-legs, forehooves pawing at the sky.
One of the fillies approached, a soft smile upon her lips. She was impressed. Rhine couldn’t help but be drawn in by the soft sheen of her coat and the length of her creamy eyelashes. With a satisfied snicker the dark buck let gravity take him back to the ground, forehooves landing with a dull thud.
He opened his mouth, about to start saying sweet nothings to the beautiful doe, but was abruptly interrupted as someone called his name. He recognized that voice automatically, he’d been around Felina enough to memorize her coat and her voice.
The dark buck’s ears lopped to the sides. Oh, great timing Fel. The doe he had been wooing was looking at him questioningly, though she said nothing.
“Hello.” he called to Felina, watching his friend bound over to him. “How are you… Sis?” he cut his eyes towards the pale doe he’d been flirting with, making sure that she knew that he and Felina weren’t a thing. Besides, Fel was only three.Felina
Fel skidded to a halt, frowning at the does he was attempting to woo. Glancing at Rhinestone, her ears pressing against her neck. Looking at the other doe, the small perlino hind felt suddenly small and immature. “You promised we could play today..” Her voice was soft, sad. A look of uncertainty and shyness touched the little filly, looking at her bigger friend- his ears lowering as though she had just made the intrusion of the century. “You shouldn’t lie, Momma’ll get mad at you.” Fel felt low for wielding Juno as a threat, especially when her mother was so frail.. but.. Rhine ought not to lie! And she knew Rhi had always been uncertain about the pale mother Fel loved so.
“We were waiting for Daddy to get back from patrol..” She mumbled, her ears lowering, trying to act as though nothing were wrong. Maybe if the pale filly was careful- they could just play, no questions, no need to worry! But, Felina knew Rhinestone was so accustomed to her, and she to him, eventually he would know something was amiss. Her bright blue eyes were wide and innocent, looking up at the dark young stag with trust and hope. The leaves had just begun to fall, and they swirled around them. “If you’re too busy…” Her frown was deep, and filled with worry.
Her tail began to furl and unfurl anxiously, wondering where she would go. She hadn’t meant to interrupt him. The pale female began to turn away, “Sorry..” Felina added, looking at the pretty, tall does. All in their prime, ready to be fought over and enjoying the attentions of all the young bucks- Rhine was old enough to participate in all the fun afterall.. Though Fel didn’t think it was very fun herself.. She just wanted to go find her Daddy and snuggle up next to him, and bring him home to Momma, so she could be happy again!
Her best friend since early fawnhood was busy, she shouldn’t interfere should she? What would the mighty firebringer that was her mother say? Rhinestone
Rhine glanced at the pale doe that he’d been flirting without shame with. She looked a bit irritated, as if she wanted the perlino nuisance at the stag’s side to go away. Rhine wanted to continue with his flirting and wooing of the doe, but.. but Felina was more important. ‘Sorry’ he mouthed to the doe, turning to Felina now and smiling softly. “You don’t have you use your mother as a threat, Fel.” he said with a low laugh. “I wasn’t trying to lie to you, I was just entertaining myself while waiting for you to get here.”
Rhine didn’t really remember telling Felina that he would play with her today, but it didn’t matter. Felina was important to him. She always came first. “I’m not too busy, Fel.” the silver blood bay buck said sweetly, his tail tapping gently on her side. “I’m never too busy for you.” His ears flicked back slightly and his expression changed from sweet and loving to neutral once again. “So.” he said. “Your father is still out on patrol?” he questioned. That seemed a bit odd… From what he could tell the soldiers usually went out on patrol early in the mornings so they’d get back and be able to spend the rest of the day with their families.. But they were already well into the afternoon… What was taking the stag so long?
Rhine frowned deeply, but quickly covered it up. Did Felina know and understand that something could be wrong? He could tell that she was upset, even though she didn’t completely show it. He knew her more than anyone, besides her family of course, and she knew him better than anyone too. She knew him better than his family… She even knew him better than his own beloved sister Meena.
“No, don’t go!” he exclaimed as Felina turned away. He quickly bounced forward to catch up with her. “Come on, lets go play something. What do you want to play? Tag? Hide-and-go-Seek? Blackwoods-n’-Soldiers?” he winced slightly at his own unintentional words. He shouldn’t have mentioned the last game, not with Felina’s father missing.
“Nevermind… How about we just go for a little walk?”Felina
Fel’s ears dropped as he mentioned Blackwoods and Soldiers. Daddy was along the Blackwood border he said today, her father had smiled at her when he left this morning, laughing and nuzzling her forehead telling her not to worry and that he’d be home soon and he loved her. Looking at the stag that bounced alongside her, the younger filly swished her tail uncertainly. “A walk sounds nice.. Momma’s not.. not feeling well.” Her mouth felt dry and her tongue felt heavy as it rolled over the little lie. Rhine didn’t need to know the devastated state Momma had crumbled into. Other does had come to console her, assuring her that the large soldier would be back soon.
Smiling sweetly, Fel was unaware of all the changes going on around her. Juno was grooming her into a fine specimen of a Silverthorne doe, and already soldier stags were beginning to notice the little hind. Soldiers’ sons inquired after her, asking for play dates and for walks. The small, delicately built filly brushed it all off. Rhine was her best friend- she didn’t need anyone but him, afterall. Bumping his cheek with her forehead, her peach fuzzy mane had begun to turn to silky curls. “Thanks for agreeing to come along.. Sorry for using Momma..” Her ears lowered guilty as she glanced up at him from under her lashes.
Suddenly, a mischievous, almost unlike Felina smile touched her as she bolted forward, tail flagging out as she raced forward, kicking up clods of dirt as she raced forward. Feeling the heat of the sun radiating down on her back, reminded of Grian and of the gods who protected them, the perolino couldn’t help but laugh delightedly as she ran to escape her thoughts and fears, the nerves that roiled in her stomach like worms in the earth. No! She would have a nice day with Rhine, he wouldn’t ever let anyone hurt her. He’d keep all the bad things away.
And then the filly noticed the heavy set stag ambling towards her, his rack lowered as he looked at her. His pelt was covered in old cuts and scars, his voice rattled and shook the ground like thunder. Authority went without question, a soldier. “Felina. Come here, little one. Your mother sent me to get you.” His voice was a rusty rumble. The stag cast a glowering glance at Rhinestone, “If this riff raff is bothering you, young miss, I can send him away.” Giving a protective toss of his antlers, the older stag snorted. Lowering her ears, Fel watched the familiar stag. He’d been one of daddy’s best friends. Lowering her head, the little doe glanced at Rhine, and loyally went to the soldier of a chestnut coat. “He’s my friend, sir.. Is everything alright? Where’s momma?” She asked, her eyes round as globes.
Her heart thrummed, dropping to her belly. Why was he getting her? Where was her Mommy? The stag lowered his head to gently touch Fel’s forehead, pain and sorrow welling deep in his eyes. “Your daddy isn’t coming home little one..” Just like that, her whole world seemed to be shattering. The little filly shook her head, ears flattening against her neck. “No, no! He’ll be home later today! You don’t understand- he promised!” Fel bleated back to the stag, scrambling backwards, tears welling up in her eyes. Fel couldn’t imagine a day without her Daddy. His laugh echoing, playing and frolicking with her, snuggling down for an afternoon nap in the sun, walking to the Winterflame.. No.. He couldn’t be! “You’re lying!” She shouted, turning to her friend desperately, insisting, “He’s lying! Daddy’s going to come back home! He has to!” Desperately, the little filly clung to the hope, it was all just a bad dream. Rhinestone
Rhinestone frowned slightly at her. “I would say not, but I’m sure that she’ll be ok when your father gets home.” Atleast, he was hoping that he would come home… But, he would try to soothe and comfort Felina the best that he could, even if he didn’t know what was to come. “She’s probably just very worried about him.” He glanced down at the perlino filly, frowning once again. Never before had he seen her so darn upset and distraught.. It made him feel upset and distraught. Felina had always been the sunshine in his life- besides his sister Meena- and she always brightened up his day. She was his sunshine, even when clouds darkened the sky and thunder rolled in the distance.
“It’s ok.” he said, smiling softly at her as she apologized for using her mother as a threat. “You were just afraid I’d turn you away, that’s all.” the dark buck’s tail swished slightly and he looked rather amused. He opened his mouth- about to say something to her, but didn’t get the chance, for she took off, digging those little hooves of hers into the ground and shooting off like a rocket. Rhine looked after her in surprise before quickly bounding forwards after her. Man, she was fast! He was older and bigger, with longer strides,and he was beginning to catch up with due to this only, but he was rather impressed. They’d both grown so much since they’d met three years ago.
Suddenly Fel came to a stop and Rhine slammed on the ‘brakes’ himself, skidding through the dirt, letting out a rebellious “whoop whoop!!!!” as he sprayed dirt, torn grass, and rocks every where. When the colt straightened up he let out a loud laugh. “Hey, did you see that, Fel!? I just totally….” his words dropped off into nothingness as he saw the large stag moving towards them. He fell completely silent and still, not being able to help the feeling of dread that settled inside his gut. Something was wrong… He could tell by the look on the big stag’s face.
When the stag called him a riff-raff his ears slicked right against his skull. Who was this big slug calling a riff-raff!?!?!??! The blood bay colt let out a loud snort of disapproval, opening his mouth to snap out a defensive retort along the lines of “I may be a riff-raff but at least I don’t have an ugly face like yours.” However, he was stopped when Felina said that he was her friend. That made him hush up.
Rhine’s face fell at the stag’s words. Felina’s sire wasn’t coming home… Never. His stomach dropped and his head lowered. Poor Felina… He said absolutely nothing at first, hoping that she would just accept it, even though he knew she was going to be upset… But, no she did what he’d prayed not for her to do… She swung around towards him, tears welling in her normally bright blue eyes-which were oh so dark now- and spilling down her little cheeks. She insisted that the old stag was lying… But… Rhine knew he wasn’t.
“Felina…” the dark stag said softly, stepping towards her, unsure whether to embrace her or not. “Fel, I’m so sorry…”Felina
“Felina… Fel, I’m so sorry..” Rhine said, stepping towards her. He believed the old stag? But Daddy never broke his promises- Momma said so! Real stags never did! Scrambling backwards, Fel shook her head desperately- running square into the old stag’s solid legs and pitying eyes. “Little one.. Your Daddy is with the gods now.. “ His voice boomed. Whimpering, the filly shook her head. “He can’t be gone..” Her voice trembled and cracked as she stared down at the ground. Her tears fell in little droplets, spattering the dusty and leaf littered ground. Looking between the two stags, shame filled her heart. Mommy wouldn’t want her to be crying in front of anyone. She was a filly of Silverthorne, with the blood of fire purely in her veins. No daughter of Grian should reject such a soldier’s word. Felina would uphold her heritage, and make her Mommy and Daddy proud!
Lifting her head, sniffling and trying her best to push her tears away the youngster tried her best to brave. “C-Can you take us to my mother, sir?” The gods should be honored to have such a stag among them, the filly was certain. Looking at Rhine, with pain and tears bright in her eyes, she took a step, tucking her head beneath his in a brief embrace. Her smaller frame trembled as she stepped away and looked towards the larger, older stag who watched her so carefully. “Of course. I promised your father I would look after you, Miss Felina.” The stag rumbled, turning and beginning to amble towards Juno’s den. Looking at Rhine, Fel tried a brave smile. “Maybe it’s all just a bad dream, maybe we’ll wake up soon. I don’t like this dream very much, Rhi. But at least you’re here, right?”
Lowering her head, the little filly tried her best to hide the pain that writhed away in her heart. Smiling sadly at Rhinestone, her dark coated friend, and tucking her nose neatly to her chest as her mother had taught her. It was all just a bad dream. That was the only thing this could be. She would wake up, and Daddy would be home and smiling, blocking out the sun and laughing with Mommy. They were lying! It had to be some sort of test from the gods, it had to be! Their gracious god Adhar would never take such a strong, wonderful Daddy so soon would he? Fel’s little body trembled with fear and sorrow barely contained, and listless blue eyes watched the familiar path as they walked it. Her tail absently twined with Rhine’s- reaching out to the only thing she could feel was real right now. When was she going to wake up? Rhinestone
Rhine’s deep, dark brown eyes lowered to the floor. He didn’t want to look at her like this. His heart hurt for her and he desperately longed to help her… But, there was nothing he could do. He could only watch her suffer. He couldn’t bring her daddy back for her. The dark young buck nudged the filly softly. “He’s right, Felina. I’m really sorry… But, he has been chosen by Adhar to come home early. It means he’s needed in Adhar’s domain. That’s a high honor, Fel.” He licked her cheek gently, trying to comfort her. “I know it hurts, but just think of all the fun times you had with your father. Think of all the beautiful memories. Be thankful for the time you had with him” Rhine couldn’t help but feel a small pang of….jealousy? He choked it back down though. He shouldn’t be jealous… It was just that Felina had had such a great father that truly loved her...and he was stuck with a possessive control freak of a sire that’d rather kick him in the face than give him a loving nuzzle.
He fell silent when she asked to be taken to her mother then quickly followed suit. He dreaded what he was about to see. Juno would be, no doubt, devastated. He wondered what it must be like to have that kind of love for another… To think that a bond could be strong is incredible…and when that bond was broken.. so were hearts. Rhine smiled sadly at Fel as she said that it could maybe just be a bad dream. It wasn’t a bad dream… But, he didn’t say that to her. “I’ll always be here, Felina.” he said softly, not minding as she intertwined her tail with his. He just walked alongside her, supporting her every second of the way.Felina
Fel trudged behind the older stag, head tucked neatly to her chest. She was crying silently, but acting as if the tears weren’t real. Rhi was right- Adhar’s domain was an honorable place to be- but her Daddy didn’t need to be there right now, he needed to be with her and Momma. The chestnut stag cleared his throat, stopping and lowering his head as if uncertain. Fel passed him and stopped- hoof still in mid air at the sight before her.
Juno was crumpled in a heap, shaking and sobbing silently, herbs littering the floor around her. Cuts and scrapes from slamming against the walls littered her body, her eyes were dead. Turning, the pale coated doe looked at her daughter, eyes not even registering her. “You..” she managed to choke, her voice hoarse from screaming, Juno continued, “You were his favorite..” And then the doe began to shake, and crumpled back to the ground. The older chestnut stag couldn’t stop Fel from seeing her mother wolf down herbs as fast as she could, or the way her body convulsed with them. He put his body between the small, fragile Felina and her broken mother, looking at Rhine, “Get her away from here.” He ordered softly.
Fel had never seen such pain before, and her eyes had gone wide. What was Mommy doing? What had happened to her? Why was she covered in cuts and bruises? Taking a half step back, the filly shook her head. Just a bad dream, just a bad dream! Fel couldn’t ignore the noises, of her mother demanding her father’s return, of her screaming and cursing, cursing the gods, cursing her father, the broken hearted lamentation of the doe shattered Fel’s little heart. This wasn’t her Momma. It was some.. some monster. Juno’s tears had run in rivulets down her cheeks too. She had sounded so sad.. so desperate and lonely. Why did Daddy have to leave? Why had Momma eaten those herbs?
Lowering her ears and turning to Rhine, fear and misery bright in her eyes, Fel barely stopped herself from bleating like a newborn fawn out of despair. She wanted her Daddy! She wanted it all to go away! Momma wasn’t supposed to be sad! This wasn’t her Momma! Her Momma was beautiful and strong and polite and a proper doe of the herd; Daddy wasn’t dead! He wasn’t with the gods. It was just some bad dream! “I don’t like this dream Rhine. Make it go away.. Please..” She pleaded brokenly, looking at him as though he could save her from the pain. Rhinestone
Rhine lifted his eyes off the ground as they came to a stop, dreading what he might see. Just as he dreaded… it wasn’t pretty. It was almost...shocking. Never before had he seen someone so broken down, in such a deteriorated mental state. He’d seen his mother break down before, but never, ever like this…. Never… This was the breakdown of a doe who’d lost her world- her beloved mate that treated her right and had loved her with all of his heart.The dark young buck’s ears flicked back against his skull and he looked away as Juno saw her daughter, telling her that she’d been his favorite…
His eyes lifted up once again, just in time to see Juno lunge forward, gulping down the herbs that were scattered apart the ground. His eyes widened with disbelief, jaw dropping open as the buckskin doe began to convulse, flailing wildly upon the ground, limbs jerking, eyes rolling into the back of her head. The next thing he knew the old chestnut stag was telling him to get Felina away. He didn’t respond at first, still in shock but what Juno had just done, until the stag’s words registered and he acted upon them.
His eyes went down to Felina. “Ok, Fel, let’s make it go away. Come on, follow me. We’re going to get away from here and go back to our run.” he nudged the little perlino tenderly, trying to get her to go forwards.
He started forwards, glancing after her to make sure that she was following. He fell into silence, thoughts tracing back to Juno again. The doe had always been strong and beautiful… In a way he’d feared her… But, now she was only just a shell of her former self…