Blackened tendrils spread ash-dipped fingers though the chilled and windless night. Outstretched palm encompassing and grasping as its thick billows rose higher and higher still. The stars which had once been like the glowing and hungry eyes of a thousand creatures in the deep, now nothing more but sickly and pale embers. It was all a diversion. For surely not even the Gods themselves could see into the deep of onyx and licking titian. The dry thatch crackled and whispered with the kiss of the flames. Lusty and consumptive as it beckoned for the next taste of the foliage. Yet, not even a hundred pyres could keep the Gods from hearing the calamity which had overtaken the village that night. Goats bleating and dogs bayed. Timber moaned as the fibers stretched and collapsed. Women screamed in primal howl as they were forced from their seeds. Men, women, children and elders divided amongst themselves. All while each structure was raided and searched. Rallying up the villagers like so many cattle. One by one, family by family onto the common green.
The rattling of the chains had never been a quiet past time. Even more so when they were meant to be broken all together. Livestock bayed and bellowed while hounds barked. Blue steam winding through taut lips drawn over slathering and snarling teeth. These dogs standing as tall as any man on their hindlegs. Thin coats of black fur outlining and drawn into the muscle coveting their structure. A dozen surrounding and standing as a ferocious warning for all those taunted with the idea of taking cover in the neighboring forests. Should that not be enough, they were matched and complimented by just as many armored knights in similar coats. Their exoskeletons forged black in the fire that created them. Said to be turned by the magic that embedded and the alchemy that forged it. Each divided by their duty but even in height. Entirely uniform from one to the next. Fearsomely large in helmets of the same black metal that made up the rest of their suits of war. A netting of chainmail connected to the bridge of the nose guard hid anything south of the cheekbones. The eyes standing unobstructed in sockets though each an unnerving shade of grayish-blue. Each soldier bearing a vertical slash of a scar flush through dark brows. Virtual imprints of the other with no way of knowing who was the stamp upon which the rest were pressed or who was a mere reproduction.
The mayors stay overlooked the hamlet like a older sibling. Ever astute, ever enviable in its stature and even more so its material. White washed stone that moss had yet to spread into. The earth had not yet reclaimed in and in that alone, it was an odd and eye drawing structure centered within its structure. A single candle glowed within the bedroom window. Its flame standing tall and straight like a sentinel within the stale and unmoving chamber. The breath of it not struggling to keep in the stir of human created breezes. Tauntingly looking onto the destruction that its brotherly fires cast. A town ablaze casting shades of orange onto that thick, foreign glass. The candles carnage contained in one pewter saucer coated in each thick drop of sweet scented wax.
Its vapors whispered through the caverns of his nostrils. So thickly coated in the mud and the blood that made it mud in the first place from mere dirt. Yet, it was the scent of luxury and even that could not coat the distinct wash of unkept bodies in sweet sin. Booted feet found each step slowly. Testing the wooden boards underneath that were so fresh off the trees they were cut from that they still retained their bend. Like the bend of cut fingernails just trimmed, bending when recently liberated from the body yet growing brittle with the more time away. His movement would betray no sound until he so desired it. Pupils dilating and absorbing the grey of his eyes while he cast a glance just a few feet from where he stood. A bed of four posters and fabric draped canopy. Two figures swaddled within though. The wheezing, snoring and red-faced man of particular interest to him. The young woman plotted mere inches on the bed nothing more than a casualty by this point.
Not far from the foot of the bed, there was a small scarred table bearing two goblets and a pitcher atop it. Turning his back upon his sleeping company, he’d approach. Eyes down to the thickening contents of the container where notes of purple and red became one. The silver interior stained with the paint of previous usage. Pouring himself a goblet where the lofty vintage sloshed audibly overtop the intakes of breath. A gauntleted hand overwhelmed the belly of the goblet as he’d lift it to his nose. Inhaling the scent curiously as a milk-fed dog may a scrap of rare meat. The bitterness flared the sides of his nostrils rendering it undrinkable. Disappointment flooded the youth in him. This was not sizing up to be as enjoyable as he thought it might have been. No surprise entrance, nothing to drink that he could choke down. The once formidable man who he had known in days before had grown fat, old and grey and maybe even deaf. The one who had mussed his hair with sunburnt hands the size of anvils. Whose war cry had been the stuff of the battle legends he had poured away upon in dusky and mold-eaten rooms. Who had had envisioned one day might kick down his door and save him from his imprisonment. Now vengeance dripped from his teeth and disappointment was not a feeling he was often well to overcome.
Irritation swelled his fingers, forcing them to curl around the goblet. Forearm drawn from his elbow before all the force in him launched it from behind his shoulder and forward. The cup striking with deadly accuracy the headboard above the sleeping pig with a sound remnant of cannon fire. Purple trickles dancing along his trajectory where the thickest collection of it seemed to explode across the wooden carvings. It was enough. Snorting and choking himself awake, the grey beast would attempt to wretch himself up from the sweat-stained sheets but too slowly. By then, the armored man had crossed the small space. Jumping, one long stride landing a boot to the footboard as he stood overtop of the bed while the other found a place on the mattress by his side. Dropping his knee and all of his weight into the tremendous, swollen sternum. One hand riveted in chainmail found the space between his chin and chest. Gripping the doughy neck onto the bed while his opponents hands clutched desperately to forearms covered in links. The breath wheezing right out of the other from the drop as his head was stilled. “I see you still won’t stand for me, aye?” the mouth hidden behind the mail would barter. Even with the better part of his face concealed, the older man would recognize him. Recognize his eyes and the color draining out of them. Recognize the scar tissue raised and red atop nearly translucent skin. Recognizing what that scar was from and who had applied it to the face of marble; the same hands clutching desperately for breath with flailing arms and legs. Forcing his bedmate to be tossed clean from the linens and onto the floor underneath.
“Then you shan’t breath for me either.” The younger man declared, the smile creeping up over his eyes where drawn brows would crease in the amusement the struggle betokened. The red-faced struggle seeming to force the milk of his eyes even whiter. Watching as blood vessels popped and ran through like the broken yok of an egg. Starbursts of deep red looking something like the sweetened wine which stained his tongue and breath. Veins widening under the compression as the deepening red meshed with a growing blue and as he discolored, so grew his satisfaction. His flailing slowed as all the air was compressed out of him. Lids growing heavy and drooping over black irises that seemed to have no direction between where the pupil began and ended before his eyes shifted. Seeming to look over the shoulder of the knight who had rode in on the hooves of death himself. Kaden had seen many of dying man cast their gaze towards the sky like tethers had been cast down from the heavens to draw them up. Maybe even he had done the same when hanging from the gallows’ tether. His eyes seemed to follow some figure far behind him. Another trace of blood swimming up his eyes like a trout in stream. “Look at me as you die, old man. I want you too l-“
Then all at once, a hammer struck the anvil in the cortex of his brain. The song of metal to metal colliding reverberated like chapel bells in his ears. Calling his mind to overload. Singing, screaming in hideous song. Seeming to echo against the walls of his skull. The surprise forcing him to lurch sideways from the shock of it all. Hands drawn from the airway of the man under him where his palms clasped to the sides of his helmet. Willing the all-encompassing and damnable ringing to stop with the insulation of his own flesh. It took scarcely a few seconds before Alger was tumbling to his feet. Knees thudding to the ground, scrambling to action. Swollen feet thudding against the wood like chunks of meat running back to its host. Yanking the helmet free from his head, he’d look back incredulously at the cause of his discomfort. The door launched open and splintering at the force as the stairs moaned as they were mounted. Irritated beyond words at the sudden intrusion, he yanked himself from the bed and towards the door. The discomfort meshing with disappointment making his face red. Questioning eyes searching the woman whose petite shoulders moved in complete aloof apathy. Dropping her weapon of choice as it collided with a shimmer much like the one in his head. Kicking it away in passing where the rebound sadly missed her. “It did the job well enough!” she’d holler back but by then he was already halfway down the steps. Pursuing his hunt as he squealed. Yanking down furniture in his wake to hide the scent of his path. Yet, the hunter was hot on his haunches. Unphased by the collision and falling of household furniture. Thumbing at the riband sash as he drew the excess from his chest and reached for the repeating crossbow mounting his shoulder. Kaden drew the wooden handle to the hilt and allowed the thread to notch, aiming his shot skillfully. Squeezing his finger down upon the latch and expelling the bolt which quickly found its wind. Like a bird of prey soaring with the jetstream, its velocity collided the sharpened head into the back of the knee. Expelling itself through the front of Alger’s kneecap where his mass collapsed all at once over his shattered knee.
“Who’d have thunk it? The greatest King in all of Cydonia was nearly undone by a fair maiden and a pitcher.” the feminine voice issued.