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Rebirth

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It's time to come out, little one.

Stonemover sucked in a breath as a voice jolted him awake. He blinked, slow and confused, inspecting his surroundings through a fog of sleep inertia.

Candlelight flickered as his movements perturbed the non-existent airflow of his stagnant enclosure. Stalactites continued to drip to an inconsistent rhythm and his heartbeat thrummed in his head. He craned his neck to look behind him to see if perhaps Sunny had come to visit him, but only his shadow loomed at the entrance to his cave.

No one else was here.

He shook his massive head. Of course no one else was here. It had been a dream. An exceptionally vivid one nonetheless but still just a dream.

He sighed and lowered his head back down to rest against his stone talons. Their cold coarseness was almost soothing and he wondered if he should go back to sleep or not. There was really nothing else to do. He lowered his lids and let his mind relax but sleep would not come.

His thoughts returned to the voice. So familiar and gentle. Perhaps even loving.

Was it from a memory? But if so, who from? Who would be calling to him like that?

Exhaling through stone-crusted nostrils the animus decided that figuring out this mystery would perhaps be a little more interesting that just sleeping again. With calm focus he concentrated on the voice, shifting it through different contexts and faces to see what fit right.

Eventually a distorted imagine came to mind, but it left Stonemover with more questions than answers. It was like a fire-damaged scroll, section burned away with time leaving only a fraction of the original information.

In this memory he saw another NightWing. He knew instinctively that it was female but didn't know how he knew. She was huge, standing over him with green eyes that were so large they could have swallowed the sky. They were green like his. She spoke to him softly but whatever she said had been forgotten, all he could recall was the fragility of her voice like a spring flower, yet a heavy fierceness settled behind it, giving it weight.

Suddenly he was being picked up by the giantess, his tiny talons dangly in the air. She held him against her chest and said more soothing words that Stonemover couldn't remember, but eventually her voice came to him again, vivid and powerful:

I'll name you Stonemover.

His eyes shot open again, the inertia vanished.

That voice – had been his mother's.

His chest tightened painfully. His mother had died of starvation a few days after he had hatched. This long buried memory was the first and last time he had seen her alive. The rest of his life had been mandated by his strict father, who had only really shown interest in him when it was revealed he was an animus.

Stonemover's desperate eyes scanned the room as if hoping one of the rocks would come to life and explain all this to him. Why had he suddenly remembered all this now?

How many times in the past had he desperately tried to recall his mother only to find nothing there? Why had she revealed herself to him now? What had changed?

The logical part of his brain told him nothing had changed. He probably just has a bout of indigestion that was giving him strange hallucinations and that everything would go back to normal after a good night's rest.

Yet deep in his chest Stonemover felt something thrash and stir. Something that didn't want things to go back to normal. For a moment he felt the urge to rest a talon against his ribs to see if he could feel this thing moving inside of him, but his talons remained stubbornly fixed to the floor.

Ah right, Stonemover thought, they're made of stone.

Usually that idea relieved him. On the nights where nightmares of death and loss plagued him, where vision of his twisted smile shone white while talons black as ash sliced through bodies like butter, he would awake panting and find comfort knowing his magical shackles were still in place.

I haven't lost my soul. I'm still in the mountain. Everyone is safe. He would repeat this over and over like a chant. Sometimes it took him the rest of the night to calm down, and even then he was on edge for days.

That was sort of what he was feeling right now, but instead of terror induced energy this felt...different. There was no fear behind this buzzing in his head, only a desire to know more. A hunger he had long since repressed. A craving for new things and undiscovered realms that floated on the edge of understanding. He felt like he was trapped in an egg again. His weak limbs pressing against the barrier that separated him from this destined land.

He could do it. He could leave there now. The words he needed to free himself hovered on his tongue, ready to be spoken in instant. They tasted like the promise of starlight.

No, his mind rumbled. You cannot leave the mountain! You are a danger! The only way to keep Pyrrhia safe is to remain in here, where you will never be able to harm anyone.

Stonemover sighed. Mixed with this yearning was the fear that came to him through his nightmares. He couldn't leave, not if he wanted to protect Sunny and the rest of dragon-kind from his powers.

With well-rehearsed strength he swiftly stomped out the aching sensation in his chest. He stretched his neck and yawned. It was probably just indigestion. A good nap ought to fix him right up. He would have to inspect the food Dinner brought him more carefully. The old fox might be getting lazy and started bringing him carrion.

Sighing, he lowered his head along his back, covering his face with a star speckled wing. He hadn't lost his soul. He was still in the mountain. Everyone was safe.

So long as he stayed in here, everything would be fine.

The last thing he heard before his mind drifted away was the voice of his mother. She said the same thing as before, but this time it sounded more like a command than an invitation.

It's time to come out, little one.