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Swan's Lake, The Sleeping Woods.
Sun just sinking below the horizon, Swan slid beneath the surface of his lake, his transformation taking place beneath the water as it did every evening. A swan sank, but a few moments later he was emerging, man once more and making his way towards shore. It was cold and Swan shivered, his wet skin not helping the matter. He made the familiar, short trek up to the cabin, intent on drying off and changing into some much-needed clothing.

Tags: mowgli, swan

From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/12/2007 23:52:08  

There was a lake nearby, Mowgli could smell it. Smell the fresh water, and as he got closer, hear the gentle movement of its undulations slowly growing quieter, as though something had recently disturbed its surface. He was at the shore in moments, crouching to taste with one hand to make sure the water was as clean as it looked. Mowgli was still wary as he drank; these woods were strange, almost alive, and not in the way he was used to. Yes, he could feel the life in the jungle by way of the animals who lived there, watching what came and went. But here it felt like the very trees themselves watched, or creatures he could not see or sense. It should have made him uncomfortable, but instead just made him curious.

He crouched by the lake's edge and drank his fill. When he was finally finished, he stripped off his well-worn loin cloth and waded into the water to wash both himself and his clothes. The water was cold, but Mowgli didn't much seem to mind that much. Though he was planning to cut his bath short due to the temperature.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 07:15:27  

Dressed and at least insulated some from the night air, Swan started to head back down to the lake, but along the way there he stopped as he was greeted with a curious sight.

There was a man in his lake. While this wasn't so strange during the hot days of the summer months, in the middle of winter it was odd indeed. His pace continued again, but this time cautious and near silent. As wary as he was, Swan was also curious. He'd never a man that color before. Oh, the gypsies that sometimes rested by the lake were dusky enough, but he'd never seen any of them quite that dark before. Swan was intrigued. Maybe he was just really dirty? He did seem to be bathing.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 07:22:24  

Had Swan been anyone else, anyone unnaccustomed to the woods, or being so quiet, had Mowgli not been shaking water off himself much like a dog or wolf, he might have heard the other man moving quietly towards the lake. So it was without noticing he stepped out of the cold water, shook off excess water, and hung his wet loincloth over a tree branch to dry.

Despite the fact that it was winter, the woods themselves didn't seem very cold. Oh the water was, certainly, but it was as if the cold winters, the snow and the ice, weren't allowed in this living wood. That suited him fine. Getting the sense that someone was watching him - it had been frequent in these woods, Mowgli paused in dressing himself in another well-tied strip of cloth to search for hidden eyes.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 13:06:15  

The man's actions were curious to say the least, from the way he bathed and dressed to how keen his sense must be to suspect he was being observed. he didn't however, didn't seem to be a threat, so Swan slowly revealed himself, coming out from behind the tree he'd been watching from. Dark eyes were guileless and he offered a tiny, hesitant smile as he guaged the man's reaction.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 13:40:17  

Ah, there was someone there. A man. Mowgli tilted his head as the other man came into view, quietly. Mowgli finished tying his loincloth as he watched the figure in worn-looking clothing come closer, smiling. Smiling, the baring of teeth that meant good things on man, but bad on animals. Mowgli remembered the difference. He liked smiles. So he gave one back, even as he assessed the man before him.

He was fair, much paler than Mowgli himself, than the men in the man-village Mowgli had been sent to, with the exception of one or two who taught something called religion to the men. But wherever he was now, there were more people who looked like the stranger and less like Mowgli. Mowgli didn't mind. No one behaved or thought like him either.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 13:51:15  

Ah, a smile in return. A good thing as far as Swan was concerned, and his own grew a little broader, less nervous and more friendly. He approached still with that carefully pace, but he held out a hand in greeting. to shake as Siegfried had taught him. He'd offer a name or a salutation if he could. He hoped the man would fill in the silence.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 14:05:30  

Mowgli's eyes narrowed a bit in confusion and then widened in rememberance. Ah, a hand shake. How men said hello to each other took the outstretched hand, and shook it slowly, as if not entirely familiar with how it was supposed to work. It then occurred to him, that unlike every other man Mowgli had ever met, this one had yet to start talking to him. Usually by now there were more words than he could follow and a sense of frustration as he tried to reciprocate.

But it wasn't as though he were not understanding this man. His body language was clear. Not a threat, honestly curious, and intrigued. Maybe he was waiting for Mowgli to speak first? He thought so, but the expectant way he was being observed. So he tapped his chest lightly and said, "Mowgli," and then gestured to the stranger.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 14:19:38  

Swan's brows furrowed slightly in confusion, then cleared and his smile brightened. That was his name, then and he mouthed the named silently, mouth forming the syllables as he thought they might sound if he could speak them. It was an unusual name, but then this was an unusual man. By now most people he met were talking his ear off, asking him all sorts of questions - some getting angry when he couldn't answer them.

Briefly lost in thought, it took Swan a moment to realize Mowgli was still waiting for his name in return. Looking a bit sheepish, Swan touched his throat, then his lips and shook his head. He had no name to offer except...Dark eyes lit up with a flash of inspiration and he ran down to the lakeshore, searching the growing darkness for something. Ah, there. He pointed across the lake to a clutch of reeds. Just barely visible were two large white birds, a pair of mated swans settling down for the night. Swan gestured to them, then pointed to himself, hoping Mowgli would understand.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 14:33:08  

Easy enough to understand. The other man wasn't speaking faster than Mowgli could keep up because he couldn't speak. But that didn't mean Mowgli had any trouble undertsand him, especially when he was so expressive in his gestures.

He was pointing across the lake to a patch of reeds where two sawns nested. It might have made more sense for him to be named Reed, but Mowgli noticed animals well before plants and looked back at him. "Swan?" he asked pointing at him.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 14:43:36  

He'd gotten it right in one! Nodding with excitement, pleased that Mowgli had understood him, Swan laughed, no sound coming from his throat, but his smile and body language spoke volumes. He wanted to know more about this stranger that understood him so well, but wondered how to get his questions across.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 14:58:57  

Mowgli couldn't help but beam in happiness. It usually took a few tries in every conversation to get each others' points across. Either they spoke too fast, Mowgli didn't understand, or he just couldn't find the right words to express himself. Swan however... Swan's body language was easy to read, and wasn't at all overshadowed by too many words. Like right now Mowgli could tell he wanted to ask more, but wasn't sure how to do it. Well, maybe Mowgli could find the words to tell him.

He gestured to the ground near the tree his loin cloth hung on, clearly asking if Swan wanted to sit there with him. Mowgli dropped back into a crouch, again more like animal than man, and thought before he said slowly, "I was not raised with man-people. I cannot talk like they can. But... body has way to speak. I know that way." The term body language was just out of reach, but Mowgli pressed on. "That is how I know what you said."
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 22:01:30  

Joining Mowgli, settling into a crouch much like the other man, though his was a bit more bird-like perch than anything else. He watched the other man as he spoke, concentrating on how he spoke as much as on what he said. It took a little inner interpretation, but he found he understood the meaning just fine. To show his comprehension, Swan nodded, touching the side of his head, gesturing to Mowgli, then touching his head once more.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 22:15:59  

He understood him! With what seemed like no trouble, even. Encouraged, Mowgli decided to turn the tables a little and try to find out more about Swan. He though for a moment and then, more in body language than in spoken words, asked, Are you alone here?

It was intriguing, this conversation of minimal words. Mowgli found that this was likely the most satisfying conversation he could remember having with a man, rather than an animal. And they'd barely begun to speak.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/13/2007 23:09:53  

It was as if Mowgli had spoken aloud, and Swan was excited that he could use body movement to express himself so clearly with another person. Usually it was so hard to get his meaning across.

Like now, when answer answering Mowgli's unspoken question, most people would have trouble figuring out what Swan meant when he pointed to himself, held up his fingers, then shook his head and closed his hand into a fist. He then pointed to himself, held up a single finger and gestured around the lake. All that to express that yes, he was alone.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/13/2007 23:14:59  

No. Not a bit of trouble. Mowgli nodded. So he was here alone. Mowgli looked back across the lake at the outline of a building, a cabin of sorts with a light in the window. It stood to reason...

Do you live there? Is that your home?
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/14/2007 10:59:46  

Swan started to nod, but hesitated, really considering the question. Was that truly his home? It had been, at least for a while, but now...Now, he hardly spent more time in its walls than he had to. It was a shelter, to be sure, but not what he could really call his home. The thought had his gaze clouding a bit and he wobbled his hand, equivocating. Sometimes. Not really.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/14/2007 11:04:54  

Mowgli understood. No, he really understood. He recognized the look on Swan's face, knew it had been similarly on his own. Mowgli reach out and laid a hand on Swan's shoulder, eyes commiserating. A gesture to indicate a negative and his mesagge read, I understand. I have no true home either.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/14/2007 11:36:25  

Looking up from the unexpected hand on his shoulder, Swan regarded Mowgli with something akin to surprise. The empathy was new. He'd come across plenty who'd sympathized with him, but none who truly understood that he had no real place to fit; caught between bird and man, he didn't really belong anywhere. Apparently, Mowgli had the same trouble and it was strangely comforting to know he wasn't the only one. Swan offered a small smile, thanks and understanding in that slight curve of lips.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/14/2007 11:48:59  

He was smiling again. It was a little one, no teeth, but Mowgli recognized the curve of lips. His own bloomed in return, before conscious thought allowed him to do so. Still looking for a home. And here Mowgli's body language grew a little hesitant, as if unsure he should ask, Maybe I could look near here?.

It was quiet here, for one thing. Not villages very near, no men calling loudly to one another, calling him words he didn't understand, expecting things of him he did not know. And even if the woods had that strange quailty, he still felt more comfortable here than he had anywhere else along his travels.

And then there was Swan. Mowgli thought Swan might be good company. They could talk to each other, without problems, and not once had Swan even pointed out Mowgli's odd behavior, his actions that were always more animal than man.

For the first time since Mowgli left what he'd thought was home, there was someplace he wanted to stay. If only a little while.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/14/2007 12:03:20  

At first the request was met with a blank stare, Swan too stunned to respond. But then the implication, the idea that Mowgli wanted to stay, broke through Swan's inital shock and he could barely contain his excitement. He bound to his feet grinning broadly and nodding so fast he nearly made himself dizzy. He gestured to the cabin, spread his arms to encompass the whole lake, then held his hands out to Mowgli as if presenting him with a gift. Please saty. This whole place is yours, if you'd like. He gestured to the cabin again, then mimed eating. Are you hungry? I have food at the cabin.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/14/2007 12:12:49  

Mowgli was completely suprised by the sudden burst of enthusiasm from Swan. He wanted him to tay. Really wanted him to stay. He couldn't help but laugh - Swan was behaving like an energetic wolf-cub, and his excitement was catching.

Mowgil wasn't that hungry, at least he hadn't been, but when Swan mimed eating, his stomach growled in response, and he nodded just as vehemently. Yes. I have some food, but not much left. You will share with me?

Some people - and animals, like Puss - had shared a meal with Mowgli along his way. It seemed to be a common trend. Perhaps he looked hungry to others?
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/14/2007 12:27:10  

A wolf cub? The comparison was as amusing as it was ironic. If only Mowgli knew the truth.

Swan let Mowgli know by way of broad smile and warm eyes that he'd be glad to share everything he had with the other man. More than food. Because Swann was starting to think, starting to hope, that maybe this time he was going to get it right.

Taking Mowgli's hand, he started tugging him, indicating they should go to the cabin.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/14/2007 12:51:40  

Mowgli let himself be tugged along - at first. And then he fell into step beside Swan, keeping pace, unable to keep the smile off his own face, not when one was lighting up Swan's like that.

There was something hopeful in the line of Swan's body, and Mowgli wasn't exactly sure what it applied to. He would have asked, but by then, they were reaching the cabin and Mowgli was getting a better look at it.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/14/2007 13:21:43  

It was a sturdy, well-built structure, large and sprawling, but seeming to be built to suit its environment rather than the toher way around. The interior was no different, room spacious and no walls except for those that encompassed the bedroom and the water closet. Sure, it was definitely need of cleaning, but it suited Swan's purposes just fine.

A small fire crackled cheerfully in the large fireplace, started by Swan earlier; it was one of the many things Siegfried had deigned to teach him. next to the hearth there was a small pile of potatoes, clean but uncooked and Swan offered one of the larger ones to Mowgli, a gift for his guest.
From: [info]man_cub Date: 02/14/2007 13:36:53  

Mowgli looked around the large cabin. It was larger than he expected, spacious, roomy. Lived in. There were few room divisions - everything was out in the open, and Mowgli found he like that. He looked back at Swan to find him handing him a potato, and with a thankful smile he took it. It was uncooked, but Mowgli didn't mind. Raw potatoes tasted much like unsweetened apples, and he bit right in, skin and all, chewing and swallowing before saying both "Thank you," and I like it here.
From: [info]cygnetsong Date: 02/14/2007 13:57:11  

I'm glad was in Swan's smile, relieved around the edges, and, no longer watching for Mowgli's estimation, he took a potato for himself and hunkered down to eat. Things seemed to be going well. Swan was silently hopefully they continued to do so and that maybe one day Mowgli would put an end to his half-existence.
Community: [info]pentamerone
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